When it comes to getting sound out of your computer, Logitech is a beast. Logitech is one of the biggest players in the game. Ironically, though, the company has never released a set of gaming speakers – until now. This spring, Logitech finally put out the G560 2.1 Lightsync speakers, the first speaker system in its Logitech G line of gaming peripherals. With headsets, mice, keyboards and even some specialized sim equipment, to match the speakers, Logitech can now completely dominate the battlestation arena in a way no one else can. At least, they’ll be able to if the G560s live up to the reputation put forward by the legion of more general audio equipment the company has put out over the last couple decades.
Unlike mice and keyboards, though, speakers aren’t quite so much about performance. Yeah, they have to sound good, but delivering accurate highs and huggably-warm bass isn’t going to up your gaming experience. People who want directional audio are already rocking headsets. Speakers, then, are a comfort or fashion item. They’re about improving the experience of gaming more than they are about squeezing a few extra frames per second or actions per minute out of a game.
More than just a pair of speakers, the G560s are a sensory experience. And at $199, they’re not a cheap one.
Light up my life
In fact, I would say the audio is almost a secondary selling point of these speakers. That’s not to say they don’t sound great, but their sound isn’t the first thing anyone is going to notice. The G560s, despite their science-experiment-like name, are a flashy fashion statement.
Instead of the desktop obelisk look of so many computer speakers, Logitech has gone with a decidedly organic look that looks like a melting orb more than a speaker set. It clearly takes cues from the company’s own MX Sound speakers, but it does its own thing.
On the lower part and the back of these speakers are two sets of very bright RGB LED lights that can light up in any variety of wild colors and levels of brightness, reflecting light off the wall that sits behind so many of our computers.
This light is going to be the make-or-break feature of the G560s for a large portion of those considering them. If your computer is near a window or faces out into the room, the lighting is more likely to annoy people than to please you. Others like a clean look and don’t want to mess around with lighting.
I do have a wall behind my computer, though, and I do like bright flashy lights. I was pretty excited for some lighting that might accent my setup.
The lighting with these can function a few different ways. Unlike many speaker systems, Logitech’s G560s operate over USB rather than a 3.5mm jack, though they can work that way, as well.
When plugged in through USB, though, the speakers will show up in your Logitech Gaming Software interface. There you can run them through any of a number of options including things like static light colors, breathing, and cycling colors. But there are also more interactive elements. A visualizer option is built into the software that lets it play based on whatever music you’re playing.
More interesting, though, is the option for the speakers to plug into whatever’s happening on your screen and dynamically change color based on that.
A limited number of games make particularly good use of this feature by hooking directly into the software and forcing lighting based on certain conditions. In Grand Theft Auto V for example, a police chase will turn your lights into berries and cherries, turning your whole room red and blue.
The list of compatible games is pretty small, though, and most of the time you’ll see more benefit from using the built-in screen sampler. With this, you can pick out spaces on your screen for the Logitech software to sample:
Yeah, that’s a Max Payne 3 wallpaper.
This provides a visual effect more often, but it’s somewhat of a mixed bag.
When you have a particularly colorful video to watch, such as Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel”, the trailer for Jet Li’s Hero, or even this ultra-primitive four-color video I cobbled together, it absolutely does enhance the viewing experience. Watching some of those videos above, I was really impressed with what I saw! Even games that don’t make use of the Logitech APIs directly can look incredible. Sea of Thieves‘ wide open skies and rough seas make for some impressive sights when paired with the G560s.
But then I started to watch some talking-head style videos on YouTube. When you’re watching our own Jon Rettinger’s beautiful face talking about the latest phones, or someone like Marques Brownlee introducing some obscure new camera tech, the sampler’s weakness starts to show.
The sampler works by capturing whatever’s in the space and, best I can tell, averaging it out. So even as I sit and watch someone standing stock still and talking calmly about something, the lights behind my computer are flashing like I’m in a rave. You can set the four lights to sample from any box-shaped area of your screen, though, so you could sync them all to change based on the full screen, on the four full quadrants, or even four small squares. Depending on how you use all of this, your mileage may vary somewhat.
Even cooler is that if you have a Logitech keyboard and mouse that use customizable RGB LEDs, they can be set to sync up with the speakers, surrounding you in light.
That’s not all that the software does for the speakers, though. Despite the G560s being some bulky hardware, most of what you’ll do with them happens in Logitech’s LGS application.
In addition to controlling lights, you can select from premade and custom EQs and customize the G button on top of the right-hand speaker.
While I’ve generally been a fan of Logitech’s software and hardware, the G560s fell flat for me in the usability department.
First is the G button. I actually like the default setting – toggling the brightness of those LED lights – but I couldn’t get it to work consistently. Despite multiple reboots, software versions, and clean reinstalls, I found that, eventually, the G button would stop working. I had to restart the LGS application to get the button to start working again. Despite working with Logitech’s (excellent) support, I was never able to resolve this.
My other interface-related issue comes from the volume buttons.
Logitech has chosen an entirely software approach for controlling volume with the G560s. When you hit the volume buttons on the top of the speaker, you’re turning the Windows volume up and down, with all the responsiveness you can expect from Windows volume control. That means if your computer locks up playing a particularly loud sound, if your computer hangs you may have to wait a moment while Windows figures out what it wants to do.
This is, for me, a huge annoyance. I typically leave my Windows volume and app volumes somewhere around the 50% mark, and it’s once in a blue moon that I’ll head into the Windows volume mixer to tweak volume on an app-by-app basis. Instead, I just adjust the volume as necessary. If a work call comes in, I quickly turn the volume knob down. I might adjust the volume a bit here and there throughout the day to fit various apps, but generally I don’t mess with it much.
With the G560s, I found myself constantly having to tweak three separate volume settings. The speakers seem to run pretty loud for whatever reason, and I often had the volume setting in the mixer and on whatever app I was using set to around 25%, while the Windows volume sat at around 2-6. And remember, the Windows volume meter doesn’t go up to 11 – it goes up to 100. And because it’s a digital volume meter instead of an analog one, the steps are not even. I can’t tell if it was Windows being unresponsive or the drivers being wonky, but the jumps in volume seemed almost random at times, and unreliable to the point of frustration.
One solution to this is to switch to using the Aux input located on the back of the subwoofer, but then the lighting feature is off the table completely.
I’ll get into the qualities of the sound itself below, but I’ll say here that this could’ve been mitigated with some onboard volume knobs to let me control the volume of the hardware independently from that of the software. I tend to think of Logitech a function-first company, and their hardware has borne that out over and over throughout the years, but this seemed like a huge misstep to me. If future patches improve the volume issues, I might take more kindly to the software-only volume, but right now, it’s a frustrating aspect of some really nice hardware.
Looking around online, I see that it’s not just me experiencing this, and I hope Logitech will look into solutions quickly.
Make some Noise
I want to start with how loud these things are. I talked about this a bit above while discussing the interface. They’re really, really loud. They’re so loud that I wonder if the team behind the product was only testing them in a house and not taking into account apartment dwellers like myself. Even with that volume setting turned almost all the way down. The bass in these is ultra heavy in every pre-made EQ. Further, the bass adjustment controls are unavailable in those pre-made options, and you’ll have to set up your own EQ setting to be able to manually adjust that bass. I figured it out, but it’s hardly intuitive. Even then, it still feels a little bassy when I’m putting it in “night mode.”
The subwoofer for this set is huge. It’s almost a foot wide, 8-inches deep, and over 16-inches tall, with a downward-firing driver that’s sure to drive your neighbors insane if you don’t hop into the settings.
Those that live in a house or military bunker, though, will be able to get some truly butt-kicking noise out of that subwoofer.
So how does it sound aside from the volume? Really good, actually. One benefit of the USB connection is that these speakers won’t use your motherboard’s on-board Digital-Audio Converter. If you aren’t rocking a fancy motherboard, there’s no promise that hardware isn’t crap. I’ve been using a separate FiiO DAC and Amp for the last few years for both headphone and speaker control and input, and loved the improvement in sound it offered, so this is one thing I do appreciate about the G560s.
I ran the system through a battery of music including Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” and Yes’ “Roundabout” to get a feel for how it handled bass, Metallica’s “Of Wolf and Man” and NOFX’s “Linoleum” to get a feel for how it does with highs like cymbals, and a lot of Aesop Rock and Wu-Tang Clan for the mids. In general, it handles everything pretty well. The detail is all there.
The only thing I would say is that that bass affects the feel of just about everything you listen to. Everything is a little bit warm on these.
In games, that butt-kicking bass is awesome. If you live in the kind of place where you can boost the bass and dive into a session with DOOM, the feeling of pounding shotgun rounds into demons is even more visceral and intense. It’s really, really cool. Skip the 7.1 Virtual Surround, though. It muddles the general sound in-game and out, and a headset is going to do you much better justice for positional sound anyway.
There’s a lot to like about the G560s despite my complaints. The hardware is beautiful. The lighting is bright and colorful, and when it’s working, it’s really cool. The sound, while loud, is still pretty good overall.
And further, a lot of these problems can be fixed through software. Better volume control. EQ settings that are easier to understand. A better screen sampler and more games that hook directly into the lighting API. These are all things that can be fixed and improved upon, and that’s one thing I’m optimistic about. My hope is that, a year from now, the user experience on these speakers will be wildly different from what it’s like right now.
As I write this though, those caveats are there. The G560s are hard to recommend to those of you in apartments, and the volume thing is something to keep in mind. Even back when I was living in a house, I think I would’ve gotten complaints about the volume this thing wants to put out. If you like that kind of noise, though, these are going to deliver massive audio and they’re going to look really good doing it.
DISCLAIMER: We received a review unit from the manufacturer and used it as our main source of PC audio for a month before writing this review.