It has been a trailblazing year for Logitech, which introduced its innovative Bluetooth Wireless Headphones for iPod in June before extending the concept to wireless headphones that work with non-Apple MP3 players. Now Logitech brings its wireless initiative to multimedia speakers with the new Z-5450 Digital 5.1 speaker system, the first 5.1-channel multimedia speaker set to incorporate wireless surround speakers. With the Z-5450, you can experience true surround sound from your PC or videogame console without running messy wires all over the place. Despite having a high price and being outmuscled by the less expensive (though wired) Z-5500 (£223) system, the Z-5450's (£279) unbeatable convenience makes it a winner.
The Logitech Z-5450 comprises six speakers -- two front speakers, two rear-channel surround speakers, a centre-channel speaker and a subwoofer. You operate the Z-5450 either via its wired control module, which functions as a preamp and a wireless transmitter rolled into one, or with the included 19-button remote control. The control module incorporates Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS and DTS 96/24 processing, allowing direct connection to devices such as appropriately equipped PC sound cards, DVD players and videogame consoles (you may need an adaptor, however, to add digital outputs to your game console).
The Z-5450's control module measures 216 by 76 by 140mm. Shaped like a typical wireless router, it has an antenna attached to its rear panel. It also has a 2-line-by-20-character luminescent text display, a large front-panel volume knob and buttons for power, input, effects, settings, level and mute. Together, the buttons provide easy control over the system's features and functions.
Featuring removable black-cloth grilles and black cabinets with silver accents, the attractive front and surround speakers each measure 114 by 190 by 89mm, including their stands. The matching centre-channel speaker measures 159 by 127 by 89mm and has the horizontal orientation you'd expect for a centre speaker. The centre speaker's stand tilts up or down so that it can perch on top of or below your computer monitor. The front and surround speakers have nonadjustable desktop stands that conveniently convert into wall mounts. Unlike the other satellites, the centre-channel speaker cannot be wall mounted.
The Z-5500 impressed us with its AV receiver-like assortment of inputs. The Z-5450 takes connectivity a step further. Its control module offers not one but two optical digital audio inputs, one coaxial digital audio input, and three 3.5mm analogue minijack inputs. You can configure the three minijacks as a group to connect a 5.1-channel PC sound card or independently to connect up to three separate stereo sources. The control module's side panel hosts a 3.5mm headphone output and a 3.5mm auxiliary input for playing a device such as an iPod.
According to Logitech, the system provides 38W RMS for each of the front speakers, 42 watts for the centre speaker and 40.5W for each of the surrounds. Each surround speaker has a single 64mm aluminium driver mounted in a vented cabinet. The Z-5450 dedicates 116W to pushing the sub's 165mm driver. By comparison, Logitech's acclaimed Z-5500 5.1-channel system has more powerful amplification, a larger and better-designed subwoofer and 76mm satellite drivers, but it doesn't have wireless surround speakers.
In less than 15 minutes, we easily set up the Logitech Z-5450 Digital 5.1 speaker system and plugged it into our PC's 5.1-channel Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card. To Logitech's credit, the Z-5450 has standard binding-post wire connectors for the front and centre speakers. As a result, you can easily replace the speaker cables if necessary. To set up the rear-left and rear-right wireless surround speakers, we placed them on tables behind our listening position and plugged each of them into a power outlet. Each rear speaker has a hardwired power cord measuring approximately three metres long, so you probably won't need extension cords to plug them in. Because of the power cables, the rear speakers are not 100 per cent wireless, but we think connecting directly to a power outlet is the best solution. Batteries need to be changed, and they deliver questionable power output. At least with power cables you can get creative about where you plug them in. Shedding the speaker wire without degrading performance is still impressive in our book.