When it comes down to it, games and other multimedia feed on all of your senses-except for taste and smell, but I'm sure companies are working on that. Typically, if you want a fully immersive experience while playing games, watching movies, or listening to music, it requires more than fancy looking graphics to "ooh" and "ahh" the masses. And that's where sound quality comes in, as high fidelity is a necessity for any gamer. With production values ever on the rise in the industry, sound-effects and soundtracks play a major role in eliciting a whole range of emotions. Logitech's G51 speaker system is one that offers-up such enticing sound quality to gamers, and although it's not the top of the barrel for all-around application, it's certainly one of the best deals out there for your listening pleasure.
No, it doesn't take a specialized mold to make your speaker special...
For the consumer, functionality isn't the only important thing when it comes to shopping around for their hardware, as clashing design issues can make or break many-a-deal. Luckily, the G51 system is not only functional, but will fit in nicely with any setup as long as it's not tan or some pastel color. Yes, a simple black finish, wrapped in a silver clam make up the five-speakers in this setup, and is completed with a fully black subwoofer.
Ultimately, the scheme is simple in itself, but there's more than meets the eye! For those that love customizability, Logitech has crafted each satellite with the ability to add "G-skin mods." Essentially, each of the four satellites has a clear plastic cover that can be removed, and by either downloading pre-made designs, or by making your own, you're able to slip them onto the speaker to add your own touch each one. It's a bit gimmicky, but given the setup is geared towards gamers, it's a nod to a crowd that enjoys "modding" their hardware.
Seriously, some LEGO challenges are more complex than this...
If it's one thing computer-based surround sound systems have on home theater setups, it's simplicity. We performed most of our testing on a TV and console, but rest assured, the G51 is a great addition to any laptop or tower, and can augment visuals delivered on both types of screens, right out of the box. Each speaker is color-coded so there's no confusion on which plug goes where, and attached to each speaker-wire is a Velcro strap to make sure you don't bird's-nest your wires.
Unfortunately, the wires come pre-attached to the speakers, so those amateur electricians out there will have to get more involved if they want to fiddle with cord lengths-though both the two front channels and the center speaker have adequate length for any desk, and the rear speakers have more than enough cable to accommodate a recommended six-foot distance to the rear. However, if you're setting this up for console use-and I can't imagine the person who skimps on the audio side of things if they have an amazing home theater awaiting some Dolby-Pro Logic-THX XXII surround sound-you're going to have to think about how you want to position everything so that you have enough give in your cables. For the console-inclined, the system is really more of a cost effective alternative for students or those living in a room with a house full of roommates.
The control unit itself is just as simple to use, but a limited cord length makes it more suited to desktop play, less you want to continually get up from the couch to toy with the settings. A single dial illuminates red LEDs which displays for volume, bass, surround levels and centering settings. Most notable is the extra care given to PC gamers on this control center: you have the option to separately mute the speakers, your microphone or headset.
I choose the blue pill...right...or is it the red one...
Either way, the control center also includes a variable option for output modes: gaming or music matrix. While legacy games use simple stereo sound, and some music is recorded in stereo, it's possible to upmix the output into 5.1. Although the rhetoric sounds enticing, there isn't that much of a noticeable upgrade in sound quality when choosing either matrix; if a source was created in stereo, it's going to stay that way, and the boost only simulates a full surround sound effect. For the audiophile, the modes aren't going to overly impress, but for those looking for an affordable surround sound setup, the matrices get the job done.
Traditionally, while relatively reasonably priced headphones have reigned superiorly over high-priced surround sound options, the G51 model delivers reliable 5.1 acoustics for not a lot of dough. To get the most out of the speakers however, you're going to need a six-channel sound card. While it is possible to get surrounded by sound with nothing but a single headphone jack, you're not going to be able to reproduce the same shoulder-checking reactions spawned from truly discrete surround sound.
Set on the gaming matrix side, you'll be able to hear everything from footsteps to wind behind your shoulders. However, while the bass booms with explosions and thunderous soundtracks, there are some issues with the loose bass taking precedent over some fainter effects. In a game like Guitar Hero 3, where the higher riffs of the lead guitar should be distinguishable from the rest of the band, the bass can really overpower. Yet, if you end up trying to compensate for the bass by turning it down, you end up feeling detached from the immersion and left with nothing special.
How does that cliché go again?...
That isn't to say however, that games with full-on orchestrated soundtracks and detailed sound effects aren't brilliantly captured with the G51; it couldn't be farther from the truth. While it's entirely possible to thump around to hip-hop tracks or immerse yourself in raucous movies, you're best bet is to pick the G51 system up if you're looking to get the most out of your gaming (especially on your PC) for an extremely reasonable price. With the ability to find the speakers for just over $100, Logitech's FDD2-infused speakers will deliver the most bang for your buck.
+ Highly affordable, game-oriented setup
+ Independently mutable input/outputs
+ Ease of installation
Oh, hell no:
- Fixed cable lengths
- Overpowering bass textures
- Overly-touted matrices.