Review: Logitech Z Cinéma Advanced Surround Sound System

When I first saw these speakers I thought that they looked great, and the fact that they came with a remote was a bonus.  Let’s see if they stand up to my standards in regards to audio quality and compatibility with my favorite OS, Linux.

In the package was a sub woofer with two satellite speakers, as well as a Windows Media Center compatible IR remote control.

The speakers connected to my computer via USB; they can connect to media players and other devices by a set of 1/8 inch jacks on the side of the right speaker.

Once the software is installed on Windows, you can control various media players as well as adjust the bass, treble and more via the remote control.  The remote is designed to work with Windows Media Center, but it does work on Windows XP as well.

The speakers have SRS® TruSurround HD™ built in which is supposed to put you in the middle of the music and movies you see.  While it did sound better when in SRS mode, it didn’t sound that bad in normal mode.

I tried plugging iPod into the right speaker, and it worked as advertised.  You do have to switch the connection from USB to aux to get the speakers to produce sound so that you can leave them connected to your computer when you want to plug other devices into them, using the remote to switch back and forth.  You can also use the 1/8 inch jack to plug a computer into them, but you will not get any remote functions other than changing the speakers’ volume.

I tried to use the speakers on Ubuntu Linux, in both Gutsy and Hardy; while they were able to be seen by Alsa, there was a problem with the “é” that was built into the speaker’s firmware.  The gnome audio mixer responded with an error regarding the UTF-8 character set.  If Logitech removed this and just put “Cinema” in the firmware, odds are it would work with Linux.  Alsamixer picked it up as a standard USB sound card, but the firmware was the likely culprit.   If I had a longer time with the speakers, I might have been able to get them to work. But I just plugged it into the built in soundcard instead.  It’s a real shame as Logitech’s mice, keyboards and other equipment all generally work fine on Linux.  One good thing was that the remote did perform some functions in Linux without any effort;  I was able to adjust the volume of the primary sound card with the remote.  Note: Logitech said it was compatible with only Windows so there was no guarantee that these would work with Linux, but I thought I would try it anyway.  Sometimes these things just work on Linux.  Sometimes they don’t.

I need to mention something that was a problem – not just on my unit, but on others as well. The speakers were cracked, and there was a hole in the side of the subwoofer.  When I looked at the packaging it came in, I saw that the corner was crushed a little. But the thing that really concerned me was the padding Logitech used, as it didn’t look very robust.  I want to say again, I am not the only one who has seen this issue with the speakers. You would have to work with the shipper to send another unit if you bought these yourself.  If buying this in a big box store, I would suggest looking for pristine packaging, and if they don’t mind – opening it up and checking the subwoofer for damage.  With that said, the sub woofer sounded fine to me.

So would I get these?  Maybe.  They sounded okay, but the one thing that was a negative for me was that they didn’t work in Linux. Although it did appear that should the firmware remove the accent on the e, it would work.  If you’re a Windows user, I would still say “maybe”.  They sound good enough for me, but I wouldn’t say they were audiophile quality.

SRS made it sound better, but not earth shatteringly better than normal mode.  To me, SRS probably isn’t a good enough reason enough to go buy them.
The Logitech Z Cinéma Advanced Surround Sound System is available from the manufacturer and other retailers.
MSRP: $299.99
What I Like: The design was beautiful.  The fit in with most computers.  The remote worked great.
What Needs Improvement: Not really a negative, but I would really like to see an attempt by some companies to get speakers such as these working on Linux.  With the ease of building a Myth TV box, these would work great on one stuck in a dorm room or in a bedroom even if the sub woofer was a bit bulky.  All that would be needed is US Audio support.  Also, I would like to see improved packing material so that they can take the bumps of shipping.  Logitech should take some notes from Apple on this one.

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