When shopping for speakers, the paradox of choice is on full throttle. You have literally thousands of options, and when you get into mixing and matching, the options become even more endless. It can be intimidating to decide on a brand and eventually a speaker set, but with the right information, you can get it done much more quickly.
The easiest way to start the hunt for a set of speakers is to work with brands you know. Logitech and Boston Acoustics are two of the most popular speaker brands out today, and they both make excellent choices. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, so which will you choose? Which ones will give you more bang for buck? Which will you end up buying?
Logitech is extremely well known for their mouses, and keyboards, but the product they really excel at is speakers. It was back in 2001 that Logitech acquired Labtec, instantly boosting their status in the audio business. Ever since, Logitech has produced award-winning PC speakers, competing in the high end and the low end of the market. When people shop for computer speakers, one of the first products to be considered is Logitech.
Logitech Z623 - The Newest in THX-certified 2.1 Audio
Logitech always has a flagship 2.1 Audio sytem, and that system is currently the Z623. The Z623 delivers 200 watts of THX certified power to the satellite speakers and subwoofers. It produces a rich sound that rivals that of Bose and Boston Acoustic. It has a kick that few rival products can compare to.
What is THX, anyway?
A lot of people think THX has to do with sound, but it doesn't. THX is named after Tomlinson Holman, who ensured George Lucas that the speakers in the movie theaters would accurately reproduce the soundtrack for the Star Wars film: Return of the Jedi. The "X" stands for crossover. So what does it mean?
THX is about quality standards - ensuring that the sound you hear is near or exactly what the recording engineers intended you to hear. When you see the THX logo on Logitech's speakers, it means you're in for a treat with whatever you're about to watch (and hear).
So do you run out and get it?
Because the Z623 meets THX standards, it is an excellent choice for a 2.1 sound system. It has 3.5mm and RCA inputs, but no optical input. Since it only produces 2.1 stereo sound, though, it's okay that it's missing an optical input.
The Z623 retails for $149.99, but it can be found cheaper at different outlets on the web.
But what if you want more channels and more power?
Logitech Z906 - The Newest in THX-certified 5.1 Audio
The Z906 has some big shoes to fill, as it is the successor of the wildly popular Z-5500 speaker set. People have used Z-5500's for years, and still had no problems with them. They are some of, if not the best computer speakers on the market. Does the Z906 live up to it's predecessor's fame?
The Z906 packs a powerful punch, coming in at 500 watts of THX certified power. It sends this power to five satellite speakers and one subwoofer. The Z-5500 was rated at 550 watts - and 50 watts can make a lot of difference - but the Z906 comes with a few more improvements to make up for the lack of power.
One of the biggest downsides of the Z-5500 was that it only had one optical input. The Z906 has two optical inputs, along with a 3.5mm input, RCA input, digital coaxial input, and six-channel direct input (to come from a PC).
Besides the added optical input, the only other riveting change in the system from the previous Z-5500 is the redesigned fascia. The control pod is much more minimalistic than it's predecessor, and everything is is black - no more silver.
How does it sound?
Initial reports are that the Z906 sounds great. However, great isn't enough to best the jaw-dropping sound of the Z-5500. The system produces rich highs and solid lows, but it's a bit more restrained than its predecessor. This isn't an issue if you haven't heard the Z-5500, but if you have, it will be tough to make this upgrade.
Should you buy it?
It's really up to you, whether you buy this system or not. Logitech has been around for a long time, and their products are all high quality. Whether or not this 5.1 system is for you is up to you and your ears. You'll get plenty of bang for your buck, but it might not live up to what you'd wished for.
It sells for $399.99 MSRP, and it can be found a bit cheaper at a few other online retailers. The MSRP is a bit high for its lack of options and decreased power, but it's a solid system that will last for a long time.
Boston Acoustics has been around for a long time in the speaker game. If you need a speaker for just about anything, Boston Acoustics has you covered. They make everything from computer speakers to home theater speakers to car audio, but one area where they really accel is in the home theater department.
Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 2.1 Stereo Speakers
The SoundWare XS 2.1 is a high quality 2.1 stereo setup with two satellite speakers and a 100-watt powered subwoofer. The satellite speakers are not powered like in the Logitech setups, but the speakers just might have enough extra kick to justify grabbing an amp for them.
The nice thing about this set of speakers is that you can mount them nearly anywhere. Don't have a lot of room? That's okay - these speakers are tiny, and they'll go nearly anywhere. However, their small size doesn't mean they don't sound fantastic.
How Do They Sound?
These speakers won't compete with floor-standing speakers, but for their size, they sound fantastic. The satellites will take anywhere from 10-100 watts of RMS power, and their clarity is brilliant. The subwoofer uses BassTrac circuitry to provide powerful bass without distortion. Once you hook them up to an amp, get ready for some serious high quality sound.
Should You Buy Them?
The XS 2.1's cost $399.99 retail and can be found a bit cheaper at other online retailers. They are quite pricy for not including an amp for the speakers, but the sound quality they produce makes them well worth their asking price. These won't be speakers that you'll feel like sending back for a refund - they'll be the ones you keep for years and years.
Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1 Surround Speakers
When you want a high quality 5.1 surround system, and you want to save space too, the SoundWare 5.1 setup is the way to go. The speakers and subwoofer are exactly the same as in the SoundWare 2.1 setup, except now instead of two satellites, you get five.
How Do They Sound?
When you listen to these speakers, you'll be surprised at their clarity and richness - since the satellites are so tiny. I mean really tiny. To really test the system, you can crank the volume up to hear when they finally distort... but they don't. They just don't distort even when you crank them almost to their max. It's really impressive what Boston has done with these speakers.
The only weakness is the subwoofer. Bigger, more expensive subs will react quicker than this one, but that's to be expected for more size and more price.
Should You Buy Them?
These are some fantastic speakers, and when paired with the right amp, they will really shine. They sell for $499.99, and you still have to add an amp, so that's most likely another $100. If you have an extremely discerning ear and a lack of space, these are the speakers for you. However, if you want something a bit cheaper and more all-in-one, you should stick with a set of Logitech speakers.
Logitech and Boston Acoustics both produce a fantastic product. Their speakers will carress your ears with dulcet tones, and you will never look back to generic brand speakers again. However, there is a choice to be made, and one of them must come out the winner.
For someone with less disposable income and a desire to simply have great-sounding audio, Logitech wins it. Their speakers are all-in-one, and they don't require any extra parts. They are easy to set up, and they sound fantastic once they're pumping watts. They are high-quality speakers, and they'll last you for a long, long time.
For an audiophile who will settle for nothing less than the best, Boston Acoustics takes the cake. Boston Acoustics speakers are some of the highest quality speakers in the market today, and they will reproduce sounds that you never knew existed in your music/movies/games. They will never cease to surprise you, and they will undoubtedly last longer than you will.