I'd like to make this clear right out of the gate: I am not an audiophile. I'm not one of those people who would spend a few thousand dollars on a sound system - not for my home, my car, or my PC. I'm more the kind of person whose jaw drops when he tries to understand how some people pay $50 per foot for premium speaker wire. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that if you're an enthusiast, but it is just not my cup of tea.
That's not to say that I don't enjoy high quality sound, because I really do. In fact, my lifelong love affair with the PC has really fostered my appreciation for higher quality audio over the years. For example, I was exposed to the wonders of what a subwoofer can do a few years before they became commonplace in the living rooms of America, because they are so common in PC speaker systems. I consider my Logitech Z-560s to be the best PC-related purchase in my life - as well as the longest lasting.
I guess I can sum things up this way: I might not be an audiophile, but I am the kind of guy who enjoys showing his buddies what some brutally graceful Z-560s can do. I like to crank up the volume and play the opening scene of "Ice Age" - you know, the part where "Scrat" is trying to escape from a couple of massive glacial avalanches? The scene is an awesome way to show off the bass and highs; the Z-560 subwoofer can literally shake knick-knacks off of shelves during this scene. My wife hates it...
My trusty Z-560's are still providing fantastic service, but they're starting to show their age. They're 4.1 instead of 5.1; they have no discrete subwoofer channel or wireless remote; and the only inputs are ¼" stereo jacks. They still rock my world, but thinking about them got me wondering... what has the PC audio industry accomplished in the last 5 years? What new speaker features have arrived to make our audible lives better?
To that end, we're going to be examining three new PC speaker systems with some unique and new functionality: Logitech's Z-5450, Creative's Gigaworks ProGamer 550W, and Altec Lansing's FX5051.