The Z-5500 Digital's control module incorporates Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, and DTS 96/24 processing, facilitating direct connection to DVD players and game consoles without using an A/V receiver. You may, however, require an adapter to add digital outputs to your game console.
Measuring 9 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide, the control module includes a tabletop stand. The unit has a backlit, two-line text display and six buttons that make it easy to configure settings. A big, easy-to-find silver knob makes it easy to adjust the volume without looking away from your monitor. Despite its small size, the well-designed remote lets you control almost all of the system's features.
The Logitech Z-5500 Digital has an impressive assortment of jacks that allow you to connect up to six source devices simultaneously. The control module's rear panel boasts optical and coaxial digital-audio inputs as well as three 1/8-inch analog minijack inputs. You can configure the three minijacks as a group to connect a 5.1-channel PC sound card or independently to connect up to three separate stereo sources. The control module's side panel hosts a 1/8-inch headphone output and a 1/8-inch auxiliary input for playing a device such as an iPod. We've seen home audio receivers with fewer inputs--a testament to the flexibility of this setup.
All four of the identical satellite speakers and the matching (though horizontally oriented) center speaker include desk stands that swivel and conveniently convert into wall mounts. Each of the speakers incorporates a single 3-inch driver as opposed to the dual-driver, two-way designs employed by Klipsch's competing ProMedia Ultra 5.1 system, but performance doesn't suffer.
Logitech claims that the system outputs a very impressive 505 watts (RMS), with 62 watts going to each of satellites, 69 watts dedicated to the center, and 188 watts allocated to the behemoth subwoofer's 10-inch driver. Although the sub, which houses the system's amp, is a front-firing type, a big bass port contributes to its tendency towards occasional sloppiness. As a point of comparison, the Z-680 utilized a smaller 8-inch sub driver but had the same amount of amplifier power.
The Z-5500's subwoofer is larger and more powerful than many home-theater subs, and the benefits of its brawn are clear when you fire up an intense video game or DVD. For instance, during a fierce firefight in Unreal Tournament 2004, missiles impacted the ground with palpable force as heavily armored vehicles thunderously lumbered across the battlefield. The Jurassic Park DVD's Tyrannosaurus rex scene proved no less enthralling, with the giant dinosaur's footsteps sending shockwaves through our office. The satellite speakers do a surprisingly good job with treble; music sounds exceptionally airy and three-dimensional. Midrange is arguably the system's greatest weakness, because of a somewhat noticeable disconnect between the subwoofer and the satellites.
Other than its very high price, there's not much to dislike about the Logitech Z-5500 Digital 5.1 speakers. Recognizing the Z-680's success, Logitech wisely chose not to reinvent the wheel here, instead focusing on aesthetic updates and a few added input connections. If it could tidy up the midrange and the occasional messy bass, these speakers would be an unqualified success.