Loud as they are clear, the V20s could easily pass for an above average quality pair of powered speakers. The lightweight design and durable case make them a pleasure to carry around.
While there are a few exceptions, it should be taken as a general rule that laptop speakers sound terrible. Headphones fix this easily, but what about when you want to have people listen to that one awesome guitar solo in all its glory? Either you can lug around your 2.1 powered speakers, or a lightweight set that's powered by USB with minimal cabling. Out of courtesy for our backs, we'll go with the latter, and that's why today we're taking a look at the Logitech V20.
USB Speaker Design
Though they don't look it, the Logitech V20s are quite portable. Less than two pounds, they're extremely light weight, and can be toted quite easily when placed into the included hard-shell carrying case that's about the size of a 72 CD wallet. This makes it easy to toss them into a laptop bag without worrying about space constraints or whether or not they'll get damaged. I literally kicked the loaded case a good 15 feet through the air in a parking lot without the speakers suffering any damage and the case got off with only a few scuff marks, so durability isn't an issue here.
Taken out of the case and set up, the V20s look strikingly similar to Logitech's Z-2300 satellites, slanted in posture with a 3-tone color design. A kickstand folds out from the silvery-gray body, while the drivers themselves are protected by a black mesh guard with a silver trim. It's through the kickstand that the wires are routed from the speaker units to avoid cable clutter: the USB cable from the right and the 36" connecting wire from the left that plugs into the side of the right.
The V20 fits snugly in the bundled pouch.
The USB cable is less than 2' long, so when using the V20 in a desktop configuration you'll most likely need a USB extension cable, something that Logitech unfortunately neglected to include even though there's room to spare in the carrying case. The base of the unit is 3-1/8" by 4", on par with most satellite speakers in terms of desktop real estate.
The speakers' controls on the V20's right speaker.
On the right speaker is a set of basic media controls, something that I'm not accustomed to seeing on USB speakers. Play/Pause, Stop, Next, Previous, Mute, and Volume Up and Down are all there, although when used on a PC with iTunes or Winamp the track controls would only work if the player was the front application, which I find odd since my Logitech keyboards never had this problem. The buttons worked fine with Windows Media Player however, though I'll stick to iTunes for now. On a Mac the controls do absolutely nothing, but the speakers do in fact work once selected in the System Preferences. If your keyboard or laptop already has media controls, I'd recommend you use those instead - the controls are stiff and are generally unpleasant to use. Separating the track controls from the volume controls is a blue power indicator that turns red when the V20 USB speakers are muted.
A few of the fine advantages of USB speakers is pure digital audio. As discussed in my review of the Logitech Premium USB Headset 350, hissing noises commonly encountered with onboard audio are a thing of the past, and since the speakers are able to pull extra juice from the 5v rail, they can get quite loud. Not only that, but like all pure USB speakers, the V20s act as their own sound card, so you can listen to music through them while taking a VoIP call with a regular headset, or use them in case your onboard audio fails entirely.
Compared to my el cheapo $15 Norwood (CompUSA) USB speakers of old, the V20 speakers sound awesome - about three times as good and twice as loud. Though they used the same 2 watts (1 per channel) as my old speakers, they were inherently louder to the point where I no longer needed the iTunes preamp to fill a small room. In fact the V20s are loud enough at 80% volume to fill my entire apartment and leak outside with the doors and windows shut - nice!
Logitech should have capped the volume at 85% however; anything higher than that and the V20 USB speakers have too much kick for their own good. The LED will flicker as it doesn't get enough power, and the audio will begin to tear and stop entirely. Even at 80% the volume may be too much, there's a barely noticeable background hiss when no music is playing and the rubber feet and rubberized kickstands can't keep the speakers still at those levels when the bass kicks. While hardly practical, it's still fun to race the two speakers across the desk with the audio tearing and the LED flickering like there's no tomorrow... just take a look at this video of the action!
At moderate volume levels however, the V20 USB speakers sound excellent. Right off the bat I noticed superb bass response from the 3" drivers, in certain songs actually resonating enough that I could feel it through my mouse and desk. The highs in Rage Against the Machine's Ashes in the Fall were crisp and almost earsplitting thanks to the regular 2" drivers, although I noticed the midrange was slightly lacking when listening to various Pink Floyd and Evanescence tracks. Audio separation between the two channels amazingly clear, which came in especially handy when locating enemies in Call of Duty 2.
The Logitech V20 USB speakers are spectacular portable speakers that can easily fill an apartment with music and a crisp mix of highs and lows. The media controls are a welcome addition to portable USB speakers, although they could have been implemented better. Just be sure to keep the volume around 80% or you'll be in for an amusing performance. With street prices averaging $60, the V20s are a great deal and are heartily recommended for laptop owners and LAN party goers alike.