The surging popularity of MP3 music, video games, and computer-based DVD drives has spurred demand for high-quality multimedia speaker systems. One such product is Logitech's flagship Z-680, which comprises four identical satellites, a center speaker, and a ported subwoofer. Although the Z-680 was designed for PCs and game consoles, its solid build, standard speaker-wire connectors, and wall-mountable stands make the kit a candidate for small home theaters, as well. But note that the Z-680 costs more than many HTIBs.
Unlike much of the competition, the Z-680 comes with an external command module/preamp that serves as a kind of mini A/V receiver. It handles Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS processing, but since our Creative Labs Audigy 2 Platinum EX sound card includes a Dolby Digital decoder, the Z-680's processor was more of a convenience than a necessity for us. Just like the remote, the panel has straightforward controls with which you adjust levels and settings, as well as select from up to four audio sources. Unfortunately, we had to place the module so close to us that its 8.5-inch height obscured a slice of our computer monitor; increasing the distance made the two-line, blue-backlit LCD too hard to read.
Unlike some competitors' speakers, the Z-680's satellites and center aren't two-way, instead offering a single 3-inch driver mounted in a vented cabinet, but the system's sound doesn't suffer. The sub has a direct-firing 8-inch driver. Logitech's subwoofer-based amplifier has plenty of juice, delivering 188 watts to the sub, 62 watts to each sat, and 69 watts to the center.
We started our listening tests by playing Quake III. The satellites' accurate imaging helped us track enemies, and explosions pounded so hard that we had to lower the sub's level. When we fired up the Requiem for a Dream DVD, the soundstage had truly excellent depth, the surrounds integrated seamlessly, and center-speaker dialogue was clear.
On the negative side, the subwoofer sometimes came across as slightly boomy, particularly with dynamic music. Klipsch's ProMedia ensembles have tighter subs, but Klipsch sats typically don't sound as natural as the Z-680's. Despite its few imperfections, the Z-680 is a superlative multimedia speaker system.