Your first impression when you see the box is probably, “It’s in that?” The box is huge, and it alone made me giddy with excitement. The box is heavy: about 55 lbs, just to warn you.
Inside the box is an assortment of wires and speakers that seems sort of daunting. It actually took me about 45 minutes to set up the entire system in the room. You will spend most of your time routing the speaker wire and connecting it to the speakers with immersive sound.
The speakers are nicely sized and have a very handsome silver appearance to them. The control is bigger than I expected, but no so big that it is a hassle. The subwoofer, on the other hand, is huge. Simply huge. Compared to the sub that I was replacing from the logitech 540, the 10 inch woofer that comes with the z-5500 is nearly 4 times the size. Finding a spot for it might prove difficult in smaller rooms, but remember that this is housing not only a 10 inch sub, but also a 505-watt amplifier. Other things to note: the speaker wire is sufficiently long. The speakers come supplied with one shorter line for the center moniter, two mid length lines for the front speakers, and two long (probably 20 feet) lines for the rear. Once everything is hooked up to the sub and the lines run to your soundcard (you do have 5.1 capacity, right?) you are ready to hear some rumbling.
The clarity is incredible. From the standpoint of upgrading from a normal class 5.1 system to logitechs top of the line system, the speakers are immediately impressive. All five speakers emit crisp sound from techno to death metal, whether listening quietly or loudly. The term loudly is relative; the 505 watt system is not to be underestimated. To this moment I have not tured mine past about 60% volume, as even that is loud enough to rattle the entire house. The sub puts out bass at good tone and consistency. Highs could be a little bit better, but adjustment in your system equalizers can fix that problem.
This brings us to the control center. You can directly control four volumes; master volume, surround (rear speakers) , center, and sub. Also from the console you can control the sound output. The settings included in this are 6 channel direct, stereo, stereo x2, dolby digital movie, and dolby digital music. Unless you have a dolby capable system, I would recommend using the six channel direct setting for the best balance in sound.
The dolby sound experience is definitely something to note. I was skeptical about the reviews talking of the contract between direct sound and dolby digital sound with these speakers, however there is a definate difference. Footsteps sound as though as they are walking around you, symbols seem to clash as if over your shoulder, and movies and music seem clearer than ever. I was definately impressed over the incredible clarity through dolby, and it is definately an experience I’d recommend to anyone seeking the best sound possible out of the speakers.
In comparison to the logitech 540 5.1 system, the z-5500 blows its logitechs entry class 5.1 systems out of the water. Everything about this system screams “crank it” and the quality of sound will make you want to do it all the more. The most notable difference in my opinion is the sound output at higher volumes. On the cheaper system, as the volume is pushed from between halfway to max, there is little clarity. Guitars wail, drums hit, yes, but the overall quality isn’t the same. When the z-5500 is put loud enough that things are vibrating off of my desk, every little sound in every movie and song still plays out loud and clear.
While the speakers do look as good as they sound, the size of the subwoofer and control center definitely take away from the overall enjoyment of the system. The sub enclosure is big enough to cause inconvenience, and the console is tall enough that it can’t be placed on the front of a computer desk, less it would be a obstruct vision.
The sound is great on all levels, then an impression range of volume to boot. Dolby digital only extends this fact.
While it can hit hard…very hard, I wasn’t entirely impressed with the sub in the system. It has the power to rumble the house and is a definite step from most subwoofers, however in bringing out the highs properly, it takes enough fine tweaking to cause some annoyance. If you want the sub for bass heavy songs and you want to make your neighbors deaf, however, this sub will put a grin on your face for weeks.
Cons: Bulky, heavy subwoofer; generates a fair amount of heat; your neighbors will hate in within a week.
Other things to note: These speakers can also be used with home theaters and game consoles. Why buy a three hundred dollar home theater system when you can get the best of both worlds for around $250?
In conclusion, the z-5500 will make anyone looking to better their sound smile like a child. The features aren’t matched by other companies in the same price range, and the ability to control the sound directly through the console is a plus. The idea that speakers of the same level are sold in systems for much more money is a also bright side. These speakers let you listen to music in solitude, enjoy the subtle sounds of movies, or blast music through your house. You probably won’t even hear your neighbors telling you to turn it down.