When it released its new line in 2009, Logitech went away from the modern, squarish design of its USB-powered Z5 omnidirectional speakers and shifted to a more traditional PC speaker design. We can't say the Z523 looks or feels incredibly snazzy, but it's attractive enough, and the 4-inch subwoofer isn't imposing and is small enough to be tucked under a desk without standing out too much.
The right-hand speaker (shown from the side here) has a headphone jack and line input jack, as well as volume and bass controls. Both speakers have front- and rear-facing drivers. (Credit: CBS Interactive)
As far as dimensions and specs go, the satellites are 19.5x8.6x13.2cm with 2-inch dome drivers on the front and the rear. The subwoofer, meanwhile, features a 4-inch down-firing subwoofer as well as a side-mounted 6.5-inch passive pressure driver. Logitech rates the system at 40 Watts (it can play pretty loud) and touts the fact that the satellites offer omnidirectional or 360-degree sound, which means you hear them even if you're standing behind them (thanks to those rear-mounted drivers).
While the rear of the speaker isn't as attractive as the front, you could have the backs facing you and still get the same sound. Like the Logitech Z320 speakers (which doesn't include a subwoofer), these guys are designed to be placed in the centre of a room, though the majority of people will probably end up with the rear drivers reflecting sound off a wall since most people keep their speakers on a desk that faces a wall.
The rear of the subwoofer also has a stereo line-in jack (the red and white RCA jacks). (Credit: CBS Interactive)
Aside from its reasonable price tag, the Z523 has a couple of strengths. For starters, the compact sub does deliver a good amount of bass and we liked how you can adjust the bass levels with the knob on the right speaker (there's a volume control knob above it). On music, the Z523 delivers ample low-end and explosions in games and movies certainly pack some punch.
We also liked the connectivity options. Hard-wired into the back of the right speaker is a 3.5mm cord for connecting to your computer (or you could link directly to the headphone jack on your phone or music player). On top of that, you also get a headphone jack on the side of the right speaker and a 3.5mm audio input for hooking up other devices, such as an MP3 or DVD player. Finally, the sub has a set of RCA audio inputs for connecting additional devices, which could include a gaming system or a small TV. (You could, for instance, run a PS3 to an HDTV via HDMI, then run composite audio cables from the TV's analog outputs to the Z523's composite inputs).
In terms of shortcomings, the Z523 just doesn't offer all that much in the way of detail (ie, clarity). In other words, this little system sounds good for the money — and delivers ample bass — but don't expect high-end acoustics.
All in all, if you're looking for an affordable PC speaker system — and don't mind having to deal with placing a subwoofer on the floor — the Z523 makes for a good choice and is one of the better speaker systems in its price class. In case you're comparing it to the lower-priced Z320, this model offers significantly more oomph, but that's to be expected from a 2.1 system that features a separate subwoofer.