With iTunes libraries bursting at the seams and subscription services like Rhapsody serving up millions of songs, it's no surprise that people increasingly listen to their music at their computer. What's holding a lot of people back is that the average computer speakers just don't cut it for any real listening, and nobody would call them stylish. With its Z-10 speakers ($150), Logitech tries to change that. With their exceedingly stylish glossy black finish and high-tech touch-sensitive controls, the Z-10 speakers certainly cut a nice figure on your desk. Sound-wise, we were mostly impressed with the Z-10s' performance--they delivered big sound for their size, and are a huge step up from standard computer speakers--but the claims of "studio-quality sound" are a bit exaggerated. While we loved the sound and style, we did have a few quibbles. For example, the cool-looking touch-sensitive controls could be a little finicky at times, taking a while to respond to our actions. And while the LCD screen that displays track information is a great feature, it only works in Windows with files playing in iTunes, Windows Media Player, Musicmatch Jukebox, Winamp and RealPlayer. We would have liked to see support for Macs, as well as for Rhapsody. The nitpicks aside, the Logitech Z-10 speakers sound great, look even better, and make enjoying your digital music a whole lot easier.
The Z-10 system consists of two speakers connected by a single cable out the back. The front of each speaker is graced by its glossy black finish, along with a 1-inch tweeter and a 3-inch woofer. Like almost every glossy black product we review, the Z-10 speakers are very sensitive to picking up fingerprint smudges, but Logitech is nice enough to include a cloth so you can kept them looking clean.
One of the speakers functions as the control center and features an LCD screen on the front. If you're connected to a computer using the digital USB connection, the LCD screen can display all sorts of information, including a clock, a computer performance monitor, a countdown timer, a POP3 e-mail monitor, and--most importantly--artist and track names. However, the display of artist and track names comes with the caveat that it only works with the aforementioned music players. Those who prefer to use a different program to listen to their digital music are out of luck regarding track information, but they'll still be able to listen to their music. Compatibility issues aside, we loved the ability to load up a bunch of songs, close our notebook computer and glance at the Z-10s to see what's playing.
Also on the control-center speaker are several touch-sensitive buttons that control several functions including volume, mute, play/pause, track skip and forward/back. A similar caveat about compatibility regarding LCD information applies here as well--front panel controls such as play and skip forward only work with the aforementioned software players, although volume works regardless of the music player. The touch-sensitive buttons definitely take a little getting used to, and we had some moments of frustration in the beginning. However, after skipping around and changing the volume for a while, we figured out how to touch the buttons the way that the Z-10s like it. Regular buttons would be preferable in terms of usability, but they wouldn't look as stylish. A great addition would have been a remote, so the Z-10s could keep their slick look and provide the user with an easier control interface.
On the front panel, the four numbered buttons correspond to Internet radio presets. The setup process is simple: dial into your favorite Internet radio station using a compatible music player, hold down one of the four buttons, and it's saved. Simply pressing the button brings up the appropriate player and logs into the stream. We had no problem saving a bunch of streams from the Live365 network, although we were a little disappointed that we couldn't get track information from the stations.