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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  • name99 - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I second this question. Let's recall that Apple introduced a sorta similar system with Airport Express many years and, I'm sorry, but it SUCKED because the latency was so awful. When I tried it again last year, with the newest HW at the time it still sucked.

    Point is
    - latency really matters for these devices. I'm not an obsessive audiophile and I'm not complaining for the sake of complaining. I want this functionality, but was not prepared to put up with Apple's lousy implementation.
    - if Apple (who usually get the details correct) screwed this up, one is not immediately optimistic that Logitech can do better. On the other hand, they have the chance to learn from Apple's mistakes --- if they are willing to learn.

    So, let's have it, Anand --- what's the latency like?
  • Welshtrog - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Wall*Mart 2.97 Dollars ?? they should go like hot cakes
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Are there some objective pages missing here? I can't believe I'm reading a review on hardware with no actual numbers but merely relying on a "feel" for how the sound quality is. How about a frequency response curve on the speakers (takes all of a minute or two per run)?

    How can Anandtech go from "Audiophile Journeys with a PC" to this puff piece?

    Sorry guys but I'm really dissapointed with this "review".
  • mentatstrategy - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I agree, I see the author decided to sprinkle in his musical tastes, ramble about a bunch of stuff we don't care about and not give us any clear numbers.

    One number is clear - the price... it's high... too high...
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    First of all, just about anyone, given the opportunity, is going to share about their tastes in art. I'm no more a criminal for that than someone driving down the street with their windows rolled down. That, and frankly I'm in a position where I can give a small band I like a little shout out without being a blatant advertisement. No harm there.

    As for numbers, I have to be honest...if you really want numbers on a hundred dollar sound kit from Logitech, you're barking up the wrong tree and this kit clearly isn't for you. Getting hard figures for comparatively inexpensive consumer sound products would require investing in gear that honestly just isn't worth the outlay.
  • f4phantom2500 - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    i think its pretty clear...they don't produce much bass, they sound tinny and hollow, and while better than what you'll find in any given notebook, the sound quality leaves much to be desired. basically, these things don't offer good sound quality and aren't worth buying, imo, since you can get quite a nice pair of headphones for $100.

    ironically, most of what you can easily learn about a pair of speakers/headphones without actually listening to them is from subjective descriptions; numbers like frequency response don't really tell you anything, as it's not unusual to find cheap/crappy speakers/headphones with a good frequency response graph.

    in the end, though, if you want to buy a set of speakers/headphones and you really want to know what it sounds like, there's no way around it, you gotta listen to them first hand.
  • AMDJunkie - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    But... but...

    The quality of ANYTHING must be able to measured in quantifiable, objective numbers or else it's meaningless! How can I know that something is enjoyable or even good if it doesn't have ratings based on some arbitrary scale designed to measure just one aspect of performance that may or may not be pertinent to experience of actually using the product?
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Be gone, sir! Take your logic and "science" from this place of audiophelia!
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Note: replying to the original poster, not the other comments (and jokes and such).

    You'll note that Dustin is part of our laptop reviewing crew, though I've also shoveled off desktop systems on him as well. Anyway, Logitech sent us a press release about these new "laptop replacement speakers" and there was a clause in there stating something to the effect of, "If you'd be interested in a review sample, let us know." As Dustin states from the outset, this is really an article looking at their claim of being good laptop speakers.

    The answer to that is sort of yes, but do you really want external laptop speakers? Anyway, we're really talking about some low hanging fruit here. "Hey, we sound better than laptop speakers" is about as revolutionary as saying, "Hey, we have a laptop that's faster than Atom netbooks!" But there are people that are interested in getting something like this, so we've got a review of sorts. We didn't even go anywhere near the audiophile segment, because these are clearly not intended for such users.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the reply Jarred (and Dustin above). While my comment drew some jokes and criticism I really was being serious. I didn't expect it to be at the level of the audiophile article, just needing a bit of balance from all the "feel's like" comments.

    When someone says, "the Z515 is capable of producing bass. Not a whole lot, but at least some", that tells me nothing other than the bass isn't great. More beneficial would be to say it rolls off 10dB at 60Hz.....or 70Hz.....or 80Hz. That unknown could be a big factor in a purchasing decision for someone that realizes their not going to get tower speaker quality sound, but also want it to be better than a $20 pair of Radio Shack speakers.

    I guess for me it wasn't so much that the review was short and incomplete (if this had been a single page blog update like some of the other product introductions I wouldn't have even commented), it was that it seemed to be focusing on areas not really related to the speakers themselves.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and take these comments with a grain of salt.

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