Logitech Z515 Wireless Speakers: Because Your Laptop Speakers Suckby Dustin Sklavos on October 14, 2010 2:00 AM EST
Getting started with the Z515 is actually as simple in practice as Logitech makes it out to be, at least if you're using the 3.5mm minijack or the wireless dongle. Obviously using the audio jack doesn't require any driver installation, but the wireless dongle did work as advertised. All you have to do is plug it in to whichever computer you want to use, and it automatically installs and is up and running, no sweat. Unplug it again and the computer is back to whichever default sound hardware it was using beforehand. Even unplugging it during midplayback produces a minor jump, but WinAMP at least didn't seem to mind.
The Bluetooth support, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Using the internal bluetooth on a Lenovo ThinkPad X100e or an external Bluetooth dongle with a Dell Studio 17 achieved the same net result: the Z515 was recognized, identified as a "Z515 Speaker" bluetooth headset, and then promptly needed a Bluetooth Peripheral Driver that wasn't available. A trip to Google was able to find me a driver—the first entry on the page, actually—and after that the Z515's were up and running, producing sound indistinguishable from the wireless dongle.
If you're looking for better sound than your laptop speakers, you'll get it from the Z515, but beyond that is a bit of a mixed bag. I gave the Z515 a legitimate challenge by comparing it against the excellent (by notebook standards) speaker system in my Dell Studio 17. The Studio 17's main speakers are smaller, but the notebook itself boasts a subwoofer. The Z515's were also compared to the aforementioned Bose Companion II speakers connected to an Asus Xonar DX—not a fair comparison as the Companion IIs aren't designed to be portable and you can't buy a Xonar DX for a laptop—but it's one worth making anyhow. For playback I principally used the song "Spitfire" by The Prodigy, which—in addition to being awesome—has excellent and distinct highs, mids, and lows.
First impressions: the Z515 is capable of producing bass. Not a whole lot, but at least some, which signals a definite upgrade. Most notebook speakers simply aren't capable of hitting deep bass, and the bottom tends to fall out of most music. The Z515 doesn't have that problem. Where it loses points is the unfortunate fact that these are still comparatively small speakers, and they can't work miracles. Sound is still tinny, and the range between highs, mids, and lows isn't very clear. While "Spitfire" played back fairly well, something busier like "Shallow Grave" by The Birthday Massacre doesn't fare nearly as well and starts to get a bit muddy. On my desktop, where I have the privilege of a pair of Bose connected to a Xonar DX, the instrumentation and vocals on "Shallow Grave" separate much, much better than they do on the Z515. The difference is night and day.
But the Z515 wasn't designed to compete with quality desktop audio, it was designed to replace notebook audio, and in that position it fares much better. The Dell Studio 17 has the benefit of a subwoofer, and while it produces excellent sound for a notebook playback has a hollower quality than it does on the Z515. Sound quality is actually pretty close, but the Z515 seems to hit higher highs and lower lows. Given that the Studio 17 is a 17" notebook with the best speakers I've ever heard on a laptop (miles better than the competition), it's fair to say the Z515 would be a definite upgrade over any built-in notebook speakers. As for being able to pair with an iPhone, iPad, or other bluetooth-enabled device? Given how small those are, they're an easy win for the Z515.
Here's where I was really impressed by the Z515. While the wireless MX3200 keyboard and mouse set on my media center have dismal wireless range using the same 2.4GHz wireless technology, making them usable by at most four feet from the receiver, the Z515's claimed fifty foot range actually winds up being fairly conservative. While carrying the Z515, I was able to leave my apartment, walk down the stairs, and cross the street before the sound started to cut out. This was true using either Bluetooth or the wireless dongle: if you want to run music from a computer on the other side of the house, you can do it with the Z515. You can probably bring it over to the neighbor's house.