The most common problem with setting up a surround-sound speaker system is that you have to string cables across the floor to the surround channels. Logitech’s Z-5450 uses a frequency-hopping 2.4GHz transmitter to wirelessly send audio to the surrounds, but this introduces a whole other problem: hiss.
We suspected this would be an issue, but we held out hope that Logitech had achieved some technological breakthrough. THX certification notwithstanding, that’s not the case. We tested the Z-5450 system with a variety of games and DVD-Audio discs, and the speakers sounded good, but not great. The hiss emanating from the wireless surround channels, however, was intolerable.
Actually, describing the surround channels as “wireless” is not entirely accurate, either. You still have to plug each speaker into an AC outlet, because it wouldn’t be practical to use batteries to power the amps and wireless receivers in each cabinet. The front channels and the subwoofer are powered by the amp in the subwoofer.
Although the Z-5450 is $100 more expensive than Logitech’s top-of-the-line Z-5500 Digital ($500 vs. $400), the speakers use drivers that are very similar to the company’s $200 Z-5300e system. Unlike its cheaper stable mate, however, the Z-5450 comes with a wireless remote and an elegant control center with a digital LCD and a plethora of inputs and outputs.
The Z-5450 offers hardware decoding for a variety of digital audio formats, including Dolby Digital, DTS, and DTS 96/24 (perfect for decoding DVD-Audio discs). The decoder is redundant, however, if you’re hooking up this system to a PC outfitted with a Sound Blaster Audigy, an X-Fi, or Intel’s HD Audio.
If you’re looking for a powerful surround-sound system with a built-in decoder, look at Logitech’s Z-5500: It’s cheaper and more powerful than the Z-5450. You’ll have to put up with wires, but that’s better than tolerating hiss.
— Michael Brown
Month Reviewed: January 2006