Review ~ Logitech MX Sound system

Logitech’s MX Sound speakers bring Bluetooth audio to the desktop. MX Sound can deliver stereo audio from computer, smartphone or tablet.
These new speakers appear like greater and lesser pods fused together; the greater houses a forward-facing 70mm speaker and the lesser houses the rear-firing bass ports. The two pods make for a surprisingly stable platform thanks to weight distribution and two rubberised strips on their undersides. The right-hand speaker has the ports, power supply and controls on the back, and the left speaker has an attached cable that goes into one of the ports (only fits one) on the back of the right one. The other ports are headphones, power, PC (any stereo minipin connection, actually) and Aux, which will also take a signal from pretty much any source, again via stereo minipin, effectively giving you two swappable wired connections as well as two swappable wireless (thanks to Bluetooth switching).
With tailored drivers and rear-facing port tubes for bass (better bass tends to come off the backs of normal speakers, so if you port it out properly from the rear of a cabinet, bass response is improved).
A 10° backward tilt when their sitting on a flat surface is designed to point the speakers from a desktop position upwards towards your ears.

Control — Logitech has gone all minimal with these speakers, using a motion-activated and backlit touch-control interface to keep surfaces unblemished. Wave your hand about 5cm or less in front of the right speaker and three backlit controls appear: Bluetooth (press it to make it discoverable for pairing), and a plus and minus sign for volume volume up and down. This means the speakers stay discrete until you need to change the volume. The units self power-down after 20 minutes of non-use, by the way, to conserve power use.

Sound — Audio is well defined, rounded and surprisingly full, especially if you position the two speakers so the bass emanating from the speaker backs is unimpeded and, perhaps, can reflect back to you off a wall or something.
But very bass- and sub-bass-heavy tracks distort at higher volumes. For example with Rihanna’s Shut Up and Drive, bass surges can stop the trebles coming through. Normally, you won’t notice this, but since the highs roll off at a comparatively low 20MHz, what passed for definition at medium volumes suffers accordingly at higher. A song like Public Image by Public Image, with that wonderfully expansive Jah Wobble bass technique, sounds fine at medium volumes and not so god at loud. If you’re a painful twit, like me, with audio stuff, you will also notice the limitations of having one speaker in an enclosure at full extension: for example, in the sublime System Virtue by Emma Paki, at full volume, when the speakers have to produce a swell of that lovely bubbling bassline, the mids and highs will momentarily drop out. If you’ve ever wondered why bigger speaker enclosures have different drivers for different jobs, it’s partly to avoid this, and to produce a wider spectrum from low sounds to high.
Honestly, though, if you want music at high volumes, you should not be looking at a 12W system. For serious music listening and Logic work, I switch my sound through to a Rotel stereo amp and two-driver ELAC speakers, since Macs and iDevices certainly can and do deliver high quality sound.
I also tested it out delivering video soundtracks. The Western series Godless on Netflix certainly gave them a good workout with an extended gun battle that sounded extra convincing with better speakers. The expanded sound stage was very welcome on a holiday trip, although this pair of speakers is nowhere near as portable as some other solutions, including some excellent products from Logitech.
The other way to use speakers is, of course, for games. My current obsession, the World War Two shooter called Day of Infamy, is a good test. You need to be able to hear things to the left and right: you should be able to tell if an enemy is stalking you on the other side of a wall. You learn to identify Allied versus Axis weapon sounds so you can ‘stage’ where things are happening, which can be crucial to playing well. The speakers kept up well, and definitely made the game sound a lot better, and the staging was good, although you can’t beat headphones for truly dedicated play.
Here’s a tip, though: if game sound is too good and too loud, you might find you’ll be less distracted and rattled if you it down a bit, as games like this spend a lot of development on authentic and immersive sound stages.

The ports on the back of the right speaker (click the picture for a large view)

Switcheroo — Listen via Bluetooth and/or a wired connection, and seamlessly switch between to previously-connected devices thanks to the Logitech Easy-Switch feature, which stores details for two devices. It’s easy to use – pause music on one, press play on the other … however, it’s possible to have a wired connection playing at the same time as a Bluetooth one over the speakers at the same time since there’s no input switch to select one over the other, and one input doesn’t automatically cut out the other.
Apart from playing a playlist, say, from an iPad and then an iPhone, it also means you can have them connected to your Mac (or PC) yet have them play a selection direct from your smartphone.

Conclusion — A good offering at a reasonable price that will give you expanded stereo separation, more detail and much warmer midtones than built-in speakers for music, soundtracks and games at low-to-mid volumes.

What’s Great — Easy Bluetooth connection and a wired option; understated interface that only appears the you need it; subtle design which means they don’t draw too much visual attention.

What’s Not — If you’re playing Bluetooth audio and also send sound via wired, they’ll just both play at the same time. Strains at high volumes (as you’d expect from a 12 Watt system and single speakers).

Needs — Anyone who has room on a desk for speakers this big (about a hand’s length across for an average male hand) for a much better quality audio experience. They also sound good with TVs and their understated form is a bonus for this use, if you have the rom for them and just want better TV audio than stock, yet don’t want to go up to a full audio-visual sound system, for example in a small room or apartment.

Logitech MX Sound speakers, RRP NZ$169
System — Total Watt (in RMS) 12W with a Total Peak of 24W, connects via Bluetooth 4.1 up to 25 metres in line-of-sight range plus two 3.5mm inputs (a 3.5mm audio cable is supplied) plus a headphone jack.
Frequency response is 75Hz-20kHz (good headphones will go down to 12Hz, and subwoofers lower still, plus up to 25KHz).
160mm high (6.30 inches) by the same width and 83.4mm deep (3.28in). Weight: 1.72kgs (3.90lbs). Works with Bluetooth enabled devices and any device with a 3.5mm input including televisions, computers, smartphone, tablets and music players

Availability — The Logitech MX Sound system is available via and from selected retail stores for a suggested retail price of NZ$169 (I’ve seen them on Mighty Ape for NZ$139).

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