It's true and we're all aware of it: laptop speakers, with few exceptions, are horrible. They can be fine in a pinch, if you're just going to play a quick game on a LAN or just want to hear the audio on a YouTube video, but generally speaking the speakers built into your notebook—and you know they only get worse the smaller your notebook is—are awful and utterly inadequate for any but the most basic use. If you're a music or movie fan, they just aren't going to cut it.

You could always replace them with a dedicated speaker set for when you're at home, but what if you're traveling? What if you're away and you just want to unwind to some music? There are a healthy number of situations where you might want a better pair of speakers than what's built into your notebook, and some manufacturers recognize this. Hoping to offer a better alternative, Logitech brings us the Z515 Wireless Speaker.

Historically, Logitech has made some solid if unexceptional speakers. I actually used to own a pair of Z4's that I was pretty proud of; they produced excellent bass and in general use seemed to have a solid dynamic range. Since then I've upgraded to a pair of Bose Companion II speakers on my desktop, doing away with the subwoofer and getting my bass just from two small but powerful speakers. This is the part where a lot of audiophiles would be ripping their hair out, but hear me out: the Companion II's produce excellent bass and dynamic range provided they're connected to a good sound card. This is after going through a lot of different speaker sets.

Notebooks don't really have those luxuries, which is where the Z515 comes in. On paper, the Z515 is pretty awesome. What it brings to the table:

  • Plug and play wireless connectivity through an included USB adapter, no drivers necessary.
  • A built-in battery pack good for ten hours of wireless playback from a full charge.
  • A 3.5mm minijack for inputting audio from MP3 players.
  • Bluetooth connectivity with iPad, iPhone, or any other bluetooth device.
  • Two-inch drivers.
  • A claimed fifty foot range.

The Z515 comes with a black zipper carrying pouch, and the wireless receiver can be stored under a hatch on the back; that hatch folds out and works as a stand for the speaker. Of course, if you have a bluetooth-enabled notebook that may not be an issue for you. Logitech clearly designed the Z515 to be as flexible as humanly possible, so how does that work out?

The Z515 in Practice
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  • ckryan - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I ditched all manner of PC and home audio based audio solutions looking for good sound at my desk... including an expensive Bose Cinemate II, a Logitech 5.1 system, and a 2.1 system. I instead switched to some near field studio monitors designed for critical listening applications. While low end as far as professional audio goes -- the accuracy and input options are second to none. As far a ditching the sub goes, I think too much bass is the problem with a lot of the options out there. I prefer less but "higher quality" bass to way too much nasty, overwhelming bass. Balance is the key to most things.
  • Spivonious - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I totally agree with you, but Bose is overpriced crap, and Logitech systems are designed for video games. Not exactly the best options you could have chosen for music listening.

    What nearfield monitors did you get? I don't like boomy bass either, but most desktop speakers simply cannot reproduce frequencies much below 120Hz.
  • ckryan - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Not all Bose are terrible (just most), just overpriced, plus they were a Christmas present. I play pc and console games mainly with the monitors. Basically, they're a lot like wearing headphones. I don't listen to music too much with them, as you are absolutely correct -- they drop off precipitously below 120hz. As for the monitors, they're a long discontinued set of Roland's. They really aren't the accurate, razor flat, colorless monitors you'd want to use in a real studio. Their low end nature makes them great for general PC sound tasks -- they use a 5 1/4 inch driver with a dome style tweeter. They're self amplified, have rca, 1/4", optical AND coaxial digital inputs. They have their own D/A onboard, with a mono sub out.
  • Samus - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    M-Audio Studio Monitors FTW.
  • Devo2007 - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I like my M-Audio Studiophile AV-40s. It sure surprised me just how good they sounded despite not having a sub. I know they aren't anything special in terms of "monitors" but for me they work just fine.
  • Nataku - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I got the same AV-40s at home, my girl friend started complaining her speaker system wasn't good enough after lol, looks like I have to get another pair for her (and they aren't expensive either)
  • JPForums - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I'm currently using Creative Megaworks speakers. Side note: these are the direct result of the acquisition of Cambridge and are the successor to the Cambridge Soundworks series. (Gigaworks may have too much Creative influence though) Do not confuse these with the Creative Inspire junk. While the base on the Megaworks is overly powerful, it is fairly high quality and I find that at around a quarter volume, they strike a decent balance.

    The frequency response of the system is great for PC speakers, but leaves much to be desired in the studio world. With a good audio card it should allow you to adjust the power at particular frequencies, allowing you to flatten the frequency response of the system. I checked the response of my system by recording different combinations of frequencies output, including white noise, at my sitting position and running FFTs on the data in matlab. Then I adjusted the settings and tried again.

    I realize this isn't something everyone is willing to put the time out to do, and to be fair, I still intend to get some nearfield monitors studio monitors when I can afford them. However, it has allowed me to put off getting those monitors until I can afford the ones I really want.

    Keep in mind that the room you listen in can be just as important as the speakers you use. For this reason, I'll be adjusting the studio monitors as well, though I expect much less of an adjustment.
  • jkostans - Sunday, October 17, 2010 - link

    You should try Room Equalizer Wizard

    Amazing program that does everything you just listed without the matlab hassle. (must register on home theater shack or pro audio shack) Plus it lets you input equalizer settings (center frequency, Q and gain) and will show a corrected curve. I use an audigy card with the kxaudio drivers and the adjustments are dead on. It makes flattening a sound system for a room incredibly easy.

    Although you really should have a good measurement microphone otherwise you are assuming the microphone response is flat which is never the case.

    I'm very impressed with your knowledge and resourcefulness...
  • numberoneoppa - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    For a beginner setup, I'm usually hastily recommending the KRK Rokit series. Very good for the money.
  • Akdor 1154 - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    What's the latency like for the wireless methods? I get that it won't make much of a difference for music, but movies and games are quite sensitive to this.

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