USB Speakers: Logitech Z-5 beats Insignia 2.0

Today I finally settled on speakers for my laptop. I had wanted a set of USB speakers that I could use both to listen to ordinary YouTube music or CD’s, and also something that would be both loud enough and lightweight enough to bring to the classroom to play music for my ESL students.

speakers-insignia1First I decided on the Insignia 2.0 Portable USB Speaker System (2-piece). It was in the $50 range at Bestbuy, had a case for carrying, and was lightweight enough to pack easily in a bag that fills up with heavy books and papers pretty quickly. But when I got it home and plugged into the USB port (and it played in Vista immediately without installing any software), the sound just wasn’t right.  Maybe it would have been all right for voice, but after listening to some music on YouTube and one of the CD’s I use for the students, I found I just wasn’t enjoying the sound of the music. It wasn’t just the lack of good bass, the music just didn’t have any depth of tone. Some reviewers who bought this speaker were satisfied with the sound, but I wasn’t. If you don’t enjoy it, why listen?

speakers2Fortunately Bestbuy has a good customer service, and I was able to return it for the Logitech Z-5, a 2-speaker set. They had just set one up in the store and I was able to listen to it before buying, although it was plugged into the headphone output and not the USB port.  This speaker was a bit larger and heavier, but was on sale for eighty-something dollars. Unwrapping the speakers at home, I plugged them into the USB port and installed the software from the CD that comes with it. Ah, much better.

speakers-box1As you can see, everything runs from one USB port without any external power source. The cord between the two speakers is about 45 inches, the cord to the USB port about 75 inches. Long enough to put on a shelf above the desk, but not across the room.  The accoutrements that come with it are a mystery cord, presumably to plug into a speaker output (one of the speakers has an external jack for “iPod or external music player”), a software CD, and a terminally cute remote control (smaller than a deck of cards) so you can change the volume and stop and start the player from across the room.  I’m so in love with this little remote; I know it will fit in my sport jacket pocket without a bulge.  I have yet to test the speakers in the classroom, but at home they are loud enough to hear in the next room.

As I write this, I am listening to some folk music from Sur Sudha I bought in Nepal that I haven’t heard for years because it was skipping on the CD player.  I can hear every sitar string twang and the bongos actually sound like drums.  The flute is so clear you can tell it’s not a western metal flute.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  I am definitely NOT going to miss the extra money I spent on these speakers.


4 Responses to “USB Speakers: Logitech Z-5 beats Insignia 2.0”

  1. DocMacPS Says:

    Great to read your favorable impressions and experience of the Logitech Z-5s recently added to this list of the best-sounding USB-powered portable computer speakers. Logitech is really engineering top-quality components blended with smart, world-class design. In a sea of disposable import computer junk, Logitech (in many ways like Apple computer) makes superior computer accessories across their entire product line. Makes it easy to buy and enjoy any Logitech product with no regrets.

  2. Nijma Says:

    Classroom field test:
    Having now tried these out in the classroom, they are not quite as impressive in a large room, although still nice. I have used them for Christmas music at parties (CDs only) and although they do not have as good a sound as the boom box I used to bring, they are easier to carry in a packpack, with the laptop in a separate messenger bag.

    Not good for YouTube, though. Some of the classrooms I use are wired for internet capability, but trying to play music from YouTube doesn’t work out as well–the volume just isn’t loud enough. YouTube can still work if it’s a very small class–put the 5 or 6 desks in a circle with the laptop on one of the desks so the students can see it.

    The remote is cute, but in practice you have to be within two or three feet of the speakers to get it to work.

    For music, you might want to try this children’s version of Santa Claus is coming to town with the lyrics right on the screen or the Mariah Carey version with a terminally cute animation-my students enjoyed both.

  3. xDice316x Says:

    so like when you were in the store, are you saying you can still plug a cd/mp3 player via the AUX cable and still use the speakers just at a lower sound level WITHOUT having to have the USB pluged in?

  4. Nijma Says:

    xDice316x, I didn’t see it with any mp3 player, it was hooked up to a desktop computer as a demo. They were using the desktop’s headphone output and not a USB port, but they said the sound would be the same. It was, pretty much. But yes, you use either the headphone output or the USB output, but not both together.

    I only use them with my laptop USB port. I have larger Logitech speakers for my desktop.

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