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Michael Brown Jun 13, 2011

Logitech Z906 5.1 Speaker System

At A Glance

HDMI

Surround sound, a beefy subwoofer, and plenty of inputs.

TMI

Satellites have one-way drivers; no HDMI pass-through; cant decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.

A few key features shy of stellar

Logitech’s Z-5500 5.1-channel speaker system was legendary for its beefy amp and beastly subwoofer, its plethora of optical and digital input options, and its ability to decode popular surround-sound codecs. The 5.1-channel Z906 speaker system taking its place at the top of Logitech’s audio lineup is every bit its equal.

The Z-5500, however, hit the market in 2004. In the intervening seven years, HDTV, Blu-ray, high-definition surround sound, and Class D amplifiers have elevated our expectations. We’ve grown accustomed to consumer electronics that deliver price/performance ratios that were unimaginable in 2004.

The Z906’s satellite cabinets rest at an angle to direct the sound straight at your ears.

Our chief criticism of the Z906 is that Logitech positions the system as a suitable companion for a Blu-ray player, and we think a PC with a Blu-ray drive and an HDMI videocard fits that definition. But the Z906 doesn’t provide HDMI pass-through, and it can’t decode the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks that make Blu-ray movies sound as glorious as they look.

The Z906 is outfitted with three 1/8-inch analog stereo inputs, so you can still get HD audio if you connect the system to a PC or a Blu-ray player with discrete analog outputs, but that’s messy and not all Blu-ray players have those outputs. The Z906 also has three S/PDIF-outs (two optical and one coaxial), and it is capable of decoding DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, adding DVD players and videogame consoles to its list of supported devices.

Logitech puts long speaker cables in the box (12 feet for each of the front channels and 24 feet for each of the surrounds), but you can substitute your own because the Z906’s subwoofer and satellites are equipped with binding clips. The Z906’s seven-channel Class-D amp directs 67 watts to each of its five satellites and 165 watts (bridging two channels) to the 8-inch woofer in the sub. As with the Z-5500, the satellites are equipped with 3-inch, one-way drivers that must produce both high and midrange frequencies. Two-way configurations with discrete tweeters and midrange drivers, such as you’ll find in Corsair’s 2.1-channel SP2500 system, almost always deliver a more satisfactory sonic performance.

The Z906 delivered rock ’em, sock ’em performance with first-person shooters and other games, and it did a good job of filling our home theater with Blu-ray movie soundtracks. The limitations of those one-way drivers, however, surfaced as soon as we turned our focus to music. Listening to “If This Is Goodbye,” from the Mark Knopfler, Emmylou Harris collaboration All the Roadrunning, the Z906 rendered Ms. Harris’s angelic vocals with a slightly harsh edge. By the same token, the delicious piano work that figures so prominently in Julianna Raye’s “Slowly,” from her Dominoes album, came across as overly bright and brittle.

So the Z906 is a worthy successor to the vaunted Z-5500. It’s great with games and good with Blu-ray movies, but its weak musical performance, lack of HD-audio support, and the absence of HDMI pass-through deny it a Kick Ass award.

$500, www.logitech.com

Specifications
Satellite Speakers
3-inch full-range fiber composite with synthetic rubber surrounds
Satellite Enclosures
ABS plastic
Subwoofer
8-inch side-firing fiber-composite driver with foam surround in ported MDF enclosure
Amplifier
Class D (seven channels, with two bridged channels driving the subwoofer)
Stated Power Rating
500 watts RMS total: 67 watts to each of five satellites, 165 watts to subwoofer
Inputs
Six channel analog (three 1/8-inch analog stereo), three S/PDIF (two optical, one coaxial), two RCA analog stereo, and one 1/8-inch analog stereo
Outputs
1/8-inch headphone; binding clips for speakers
THE VERDICT

Logitech Z906 5.1 Speaker System

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