The logical solution.
We're constantly bombarded with hype surrounding graphics. Fancy terms like tri-linear filtering, z-buffering and bump-mapping nab hardcore gaming headlines day in, day out. However, any real gamer will tell you that equally important to a game's delivery is its sound, and in some cases it's actually more important. Games like Counterstrike, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and recent hit Splinter Cell rely on sound as an essential gameplay feature to really draw you into the experience, and all three succeed marvelously in this regard.
But most gamers don't spend much time worrying about sound when they make a gaming buy, nor do they spend much money going for great sound. It's a shame, really, since it can totally change the experience.
And when it comes to change, no company has adapted as well as Logitech, who for years provided mainly low- to mid-range solutions for gaming sound. But to keep up with an ever-growing army of PC and console gamers looking for top notch sound to match the top notch graphics, the company has decided to take an extra step by implementing startling new design and accessibility into their newest line of speakers, the Z-680. The result is the most impressive and versatile speaker system in town
Logitech's Z-680 Speaker System
The Z-680 differs drastically from older Logitech sets in several ways, the most notable being diversity. This 5.1 surround system is designed to work with both a PC and your home consoles - and, if need be, all at the same time.
First, the facts. The Z-680 packs a monstrous 450 watts under the hood - each of the four satellites and the center speaker rings in at 53 watts while the subwoofer carries a whopping 185. This is a LOUD system, for sure, but it's also a complete one, featuring true 5.1 digital sound with built-in Dolby Digital and DTS hardware decoding, as well as Dolby Pro Logic II. Your surround sound needs are covered.
The hardware itself is very solid. The remote satellites are fairly compact and feature a dual function stand, which can also be used as a wall mount with a simple twist. The subwoofer is also a decent size, certainly smaller than the giganto woofers we've seen from Altec Lansing. The speaker wires themselves are a bit on the short side; those with a larger living room might find it tough to adequately wire it for surround sound. However, the system uses regular stereo wires, so you can always pick up something longer should you need it.
The real prize here is the mini-receiver control panel, dubbed the Digital SoundTouch Control Center. This puppy will take care of all your connection needs for both your PC AND two consoles. It also comes with a plethora of settings to tweak, including the ability to individually tailor the levels for the main, front and rear speakers, decoding options on the fly and a few preset listening modes.
Logitech obviously thought this out very carefully, as it also comes equipped with a fully functional remote as well as a headphone jack built into the front of the control panel. A bright LED screen keeps you informed, so you don't have to guess what settings your using.
Take one look at the connection possibilities and you'll see that the Z-680 excels at diversity. You've got six-channel analog ins for a PC sound card and both kinds of digital-ins (coax and optical). If you want, you can actually hook up your PC, your Xbox and your PS2 to the Z-680 at the same time and simply toggle between them when you need to. A Gamecube will require the additional purchase of an RCA to 1/8 inch adapter, but that's about a 5 dollar commitment.
Of course, very few people have their homes designed around using all the jacks at once. And even if your PC and home entertainment center is in the same room, you'll have to constantly move the speakers back and forth for optimum sound, unless your PC monitor is right next to your TV, which it probably isn't.
But the point is that the Z-680 works equally well with your consoles or your PC, which means they will stick around for a long, long time. Let's say you don't have an Xbox or PS2 yet. You can hook the Z-680 up to your PC for more power than you'll ever need for PC gaming, then if you find yourself with a console a year later, you can simply move them over. Likewise, you can start these off in your living room, then move them to the PC if you happen upon another set of surround speakers for the living room. The versatility here is terrific.
I found very little to complain about regarding sound quality. The Z-680 is a workhorse and gives you way, way more power than you'll really ever need for your PC, unless you spend a lot of time watching DVDs on your monitor. Movies and console games sound great; the subwoofer really packs a sweet bass punch. The system as a whole, for that matter, seems more attenuated to bass-driven material, as it tends to fall off ever so slightly when the music requires more mids or highs. But unless you're the kind of audiophile that spends 10 hours a day listening to John Coltrane's Giant Steps, you won't notice much of a letdown, regardless of the CD.
All this does come at a price, though...400 bucks. Given, that's a decent price for this kind of setup, but it's still a big dip in the wallet if you're only using them for your PC and already have a surround sound solution for your living room. However, the shelf life and versatility of these speakers is unrivaled, leading to about as solid a speaker investment as you'll find anywhere. And if you do not have any kind of surround sound at all, then it's just a terrific, cheaper alternative to buying a whole home entertainment package.
If you have the means, the Logitech Z-680 is really a no-brainer. Outstanding design and awesome power secure Logitech's place as the one to beat.