Hyundai HY-Z-5100 Z 5.1 Speaker Review

I wanted a cheap bare bones 5.1 set of speakers, analog only, as my [ASRock330HT]? can do the digital->analog bit for me. I want to control everything from the PC's sound mixer and remote, so I just wanted speakers, nothing fancy. I bought these online for $51 from Crazy Sales. They pretty much exactly met my requirements, and were dirt cheap. I'd looked at many other reputable brand PC speaker systems like Logitech and Creative, but they all had too many fancy features and nasty design flaws like a special satellite speaker with volume control and fixed length special cable. And they cost much more...

So far these seem OK except for;

  1. Designers take note: bright blue LED's are NOT cool! FFS it's a goddamn speaker, not a lamp! I'll be painting that sucker black or ripping it out. Update: It's really hard to get at to paint, so right now I've covered it with duct-tape, but it's so bright it's still shining through.
  2. There is a tiny 50Hz hum from the subwoofer when the unit is on... very quiet, only heard when I had my ear to the speaker. It's actually much less than another 2.1 better quality speaker set I've used, but it might still be annoying to some with sensitive ears. Update: I've since moved house and in the new place there is no hum... must have been a power and/or RF noise issue.
  3. The manual mentions a green flashing LED when changing the volume. I see no such flashing LED. The only indication you get that the volume is changed is... the volume has changed. There is a tiny LED on the front near the volume control, but it seems to be the IR reciever for the remote and doesn't light up. There is no indication that the remote is working at all, or what the volume is set to, so you need to be playing something before you can notice if they are on and how loud they are.
  4. They seem to be muted on power-up, which means it takes some dicking around with the remote with no idea if anything is working before you get any sound. The only mute/unmute control is on the remote, which means you need a remote with batteries to turn them on. I didn't really want another remote, and I can't just set them and put this remote away, because I'll need to use it every time I turn them on.
  5. The only way to turn them on/off is a switch at the back of the subwoofer. The remote only has mute/unmute. The bright LED and maybe 50Hz hum makes you want to switch them off when unused, but the difficulty in reaching the switch and the fact they come back on muted discourages this.
  6. Audio to the FL and FR channels also seems to go to the subwoofer. This might be by design, either as some sort of Bass Management, or as a cheap hack way of including the woofer for 2 channel stereo output. If it's Bass Management, then it's a bit strange that the RR, RL, and centre channels don't also go to the subwoofer. This means when you do a speaker test the FR and FL speakers sound very different to the others. Personally I think I'd prefer the speakers to be a bit dumber and leave the bass management stuff up to the PC driving it.
  7. The included cables are a bit short (1.2m for front, 2.6m for rear), and fixed to the speakers. The connectors to the subwoofer are nice colour-coded standard RCA Audio connectors, but I would have liked RCA sockets on the satellite speakers too so I could use my own cables. Instead I'll have to cut/extend these to put the speakers where I want. Thankfully, unlike many other speaker systems, there are no special cables to a special satellite speaker with controls... all the satellite speakers are identical and all use standard 2-core speaker wires. Update: cables extended with a bit of soldering and shrink-wrap work, no probs.
  8. The satellite speakers are a bit boxy. I've mounted them on the wall using 3M Picture Hanging Removable Interlocking Fasteners and my girlfriend is not impressed with how they look. The'd probably look better if they were a bit thinner, and maybe white rather than black.
  9. Ubuntu 10.10 out of the box on the [ASRock330HT]? doesn't seem to correctly output to the centre channel (moving cables seems to confirm it's the PC with this problem, not the speakers). I think I'll need some ALSA or PulseAudio? config changes to make it work. Fixed: just needed the centre channel volume increased and unmuted using alsamixer.

I haven't used them much yet so I can't comment on the sound quality. However, I'm a bit of a heathen who grew up on a diet of badly scratched records played with blunt needles, so I don't think I'll care. I mostly want to watch movies, so provided they don't distort badly at medium volume and the sounds come from the right places, I'll be happy.

Update: The only sound quality issues I've noticed are not the fault of the speakers, but of Ubuntu 10.10's pulseaudio. When switched to 5.1 output, there is a mid-to-high pitched chirping/hissing sound that happens with some frequencies. This can be emphasised to unbearably noise in the Ubuntu sound control by turning the LFE down to zero and/or switching the front/back fader to the extreme front or back. This noise goes away when switched to 2-channel stereo output. There are plenty of reports online of this problem, so I'll be investigating and reporting it upstream till it's fixed.

An amusing thing that happened while setting them up; I unplugged one of the speakers from the subwoofer and I heard radio coming out of the speaker whenever I touched the plug... It seems I'm an AM receiver!

I'm kinda tempted to open them up to see if I can find a miss-wired green LED, disable the blue LED, disconnect the FR/FL and subwoofer interconnection, maybe supress the hum, and maybe add RCA socket connections to the satellites. However, at least the satellites are pretty sealed looking, and I dunno if I can be bothered.

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