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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.13.08]
Manufactured by: Logitech


Control Pod

One thing that makes computer speakers unique from say, "home theatre in a box" setups is that the controls usually have to be accessible from right beside the keyboard. Nobody wants to muck around with a remote control while playing games.

Having a well-designed control panel can make or break a computer speaker system's design. After all, we need to be able to see our volume setting as well as our subwoofer and surround levels. It's also a good opportunity to add features that may not be found on conventional speaker systems. In this case, Logitech pulled through with an excellent design.

The G51 control pod, although supports quite a few features and settings, is impressive in its simplicity. With just 5 buttons and one knob, the user is given control over the volume of essentially each pair of speakers (overall, rear, center, and subwoofer). This allows for a very fine-tuned experience.

Visual feedback is provided with gorgeous amber LEDs (YES! The absurd blue-LED craze is FINALLY OVER) which change with the individual Level channels you are setting. The center LED on the volume range has 2 brightness levels, which allows you to know where the exact center setting is. The knob spins with tactile feedback, with each 'bump' representing one change in setting.

Note that there are two input ports, and two mute buttons. Having a headphone port on the console is a necessity for those who game with a headset in stereo. Because of this, you will no longer have to reach to the PC to plug in your headphones; simply plug them into the control panel. The same can be done with the microphone, which even more people would run into problems with. I know I always hated having to reach to the back of my PC to plug in a microphone.

The dual mute buttons allow you to mute the microphone and speakers individually. Need to give out order in WoW without being interrupted by background noise? Mute the speakers and start barking! Having an embarassing conversation with your mom or spouse that you don't want your guild buddies to hear? Mute the microphone individually. Again, the gamer-oriented design of the G51 shows here.

Matrix Mode

One feature that audio device manufacturers always want to add, but users never use, are various types of "Matrix Mode". Basically, this upsamples stereo sound to use all 6 speakers in the G51 system. The problem with this is, usually if a source has stereo sound, that's the way it was intended to be heard. If a musician like Trent Reznor wants to make his material available in surround sound, he'll release a surround sound version. If not, it's in stereo and should remain that way. There is no advantage to listening to music or watching television with surround sound, if there are no discrete sounds coming from the extra channels anyway. Playing a stereo game with Matrix Mode enabled will not allow gamers to "hear enemies creep up behind them" as Logitech's press release insinuates. There will always be two channels of source audio, no matter how many speakers you split them to.

But for those who like to 'immerse' themselves in loud noises, I guess there is some appeal. I do admit that Matrix Mode sounds better than simply replicating the stereo sound on the rear channels. If you have a more advanced soundcard like a Creative Labs X-Fi, the "CMSS 3D Surround" feature is superior to the G51's Matrix Mode. I admit that I even turn it on occasionally, for loud ambient music ;)

Next Page: (Subjective Sound Quality; Conclusion)