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Denon HEOS HomeCinema Soundbar Review

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The HEOS HomeCinema lives up to its name

by Steve Withers Jan 22, 2016

  • Home AV review

    2
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    Highly Recommended
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Soundbar Review
    SRP: £599.00

    What is the HEOS HomeCinema?

    The HomeCinema is not only part of Denon's HEOS multiroom range but is also the company's latest foray into the ever growing soundbar market. Since it's Denon that we're talking about the expectations will be high and if you're going to call a product the 'HomeCinema' it had better deliver. It all looks good on paper, the HEOS HomeCinema soundbar uses dual drivers and tweeters, along with Class D amplification and comes with an active subwoofer that uses two 5.25" woofer units. There's HDMI connectivity, Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, DSP processing and a remote app. Once you add in the music services, file support and the HEOS multiroom system, the HomeCinema goes a long way to justifying the asking price which, at the time of writing (January 2016), is £599. Still there's a lot of competition in the soundbar market and for that price you could even look at an end-of-line 5.1-channel system; so Denon's HEOS HomeCinema is going to have to deliver on the audio front. Let's find out...

    Design

    In terms of design the HEOS HomeCinema is decidedly old school with a straight forward soundbar and subwoofer combination. There are no curves or fancy displays and the main soundbar unit uses a simple black design with a cloth grille and a selection of two different types of feet for stand mounting. There are also key holes for wall mounting the HomeCinema and Denon include a template to make the process easier. There is a status light at the bottom middle that can be dimmed or turned off and an IR blaster in case the unit blocks the TV's sensor but otherwise the design is very minimalist. However that's a good thing because, in our view, a soundbar should just get on with the job and not draw attention to itself. The soundbar itself measures 82 x 1017 x 94mm (HxWxD) and weighs in at 2.8kg.
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Design
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Design

    In terms of the technology on the inside of the rear-ported soundbar, uses dual rounded rectangular 40 x 110mm mid-woofer drivers with composite Kevlar cones and a double magnet motor system for the highest efficiency and linearity. They're designed to deliver the upper bass and mid-range frequencies with precision; which should ensure clear fidelity, especially in the vocal ranges. There are also dual 20mm treated soft dome tweeters with neodymium magnets, which are designed to deliver extended treble response and wide dispersion out to 20kHz. In addition the bi-amplified soundbar uses four channels of Class D amplification to drive all the mid-woofers and tweeters.

    The HEOS HomeCinema includes a matching wireless active subwoofer that uses the same minimalist design and black finish, with a cloth grille. It includes dual 5.25-inch drivers in a compact rear-ported enclosure, that is designed to deliver deep bass with a flat response and low distortion thanks to precision DSP audio tuning. The subwoofer uses dedicated Class D amplification and a proprietary Dynamic Bass Boost is designed to tailor the frequency and dynamic range to deliver deeper bass without distorting due to excessive overload. The wireless subwoofer can be placed anywhere in the room, as long as there's a wall socket nearby, and it features time-aligned DSP processing for precision soundbar/subwoofer audio synchronisation. The subwoofer measures 313 x 172 x 332mm (HxWxD) and weighs in at 6.6kg.

    The HEOS HomeCinema uses a simple soundbar and subwoofer design but it's what's inside that counts.

    Connections & Control

    In terms of physical connections they are all at the rear of the soundbar in two separate recesses. The first recess contains an optical digital input, a coaxial digital input and a 3.5mm analogue audio jack. There is also a connector for the IR blaster, an Ethernet port for a wired connection and a USB port for connecting to a mass storage device. In the other recess there is an HDMI 1.4 input, an HDMI 1.4 output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and a connector for the AC power adapter. Since the HomeCinema is part of Denon's HEOS multiroom ecosystem it includes built-in WiFi compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n networks on 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Connections & Control
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Connections & Control

    There are minimal controls on the soundbar itself, with buttons for just volume up/down and mute on the right-hand edge. At the rear where the connections are, you'll also find a reset button that resets various settings to their factory default settings, a pairing button for re-pairing the soundbar with the subwoofer (these are pre-paired in the factory) and a connect button for WiFi setup. However, the HEOS HomeCinema doesn't come with its own a dedicated remote, instead all control is handled through the HEOS app or your TV remote.

    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Unboxing Video


    Features & Specs

    Aside from the physical attributes of the soundbar and subwoofer that we've already covered, the HEOS HomeCinema also includes advanced DSP processing that features a powerful 400 MHz 32-bit floating point DSP engine. This is the same processor found in Denon's higher-end AV receivers and allows the HomeCinema to deliver exclusive virtual surround processing. The HomeCinema can decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS, and then use advanced psycho-acoustic DSP processing algorithms to create a more immersive surround experience. Denon claim that the HomeCinema can deliver precise front sound staging and enveloping surround sound without the need for external speakers. The HomeCinema includes an HDMI 1.4 input and output, so it doesn't support 4K/HDCP2.2, although that probably wouldn't be an issue for most people. There is no separate remote included but you can either use the HEOS app or your TV remote to control the soundbar - via CEC if connected using HDMI or though an IR learning feature if not. In addition, the HomeCinema package does include a HDMI cable, an optical digital cable, a 3.5mm setup cable, an Ethernet cable, an IR blaster, a power adapter and two power cables.
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Features & Specs
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Features & Specs

    The other big selling-point of the HomeCinema is that it forms part of the HEOS multiroom ecosystem, which means the soundbar can operate as a HEOS zone for music listening. It can also send the TV audio to other HEOS devices connected as part of the ecosystem. The HEOS App is compatible with iOS, Android and Kindle Fire and can be used to setup and control the HomeCinema. It can also be used to learn TV IR remote commands (when not connected via HDMI), automatically switch from a HEOS music source to the TV sound and automatically leave any HEOS group playing music when the TV is switched on. In addition the app allows you to select Movie and Music modes, a Night Mode and a Dialogue Enhancer. There is also an option to adjust the subwoofer level using the app. Finally the app allows you to stream from your favourite online music services (Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Napster, TuneIn, SoundCloud and Rdio) or listen to tracks directly from your smartphone, tablet or connected USB drive. In terms of file support the HEOS ecosystem can stream MP3, AAC and WMA Internet Radio, support JPG, PNG, BMP and GIF album art and support MP3, WMA, AAC, ALAC, WAV and FLAC music files up to 48kHz sampling rates.

    The HomeCinema includes plenty of features and forms a part of Denon's HEOS multiroom ecosystem.

    Setup

    Thanks to the highly effective HEOS app, setting up the HomeCinema couldn't be easier. All you need to do is install the soundbar under the TV, either on a stand using the provided feet or on the wall using the provided template. Then you just need to position the subwoofer somewhere, ideally at the front about halfway between the soundbar and a side wall, plug it in and turn it on (the sub will have been paired with the soundbar in the factory.) There are small rubber studs that can be applied to the rear of the subwoofer in cases where it is placed against a wall, just to stop vibrations and give the port some room to breath, though of course it is best to place it a little away from the wall if possible. Then all you need to do is install the HEOS App on your smart device and connect it to the soundbar using the 3.5mm cable provided.

    You then follow the instructions in the app, which includes a setup assistant, and once setup you can use the app to select inputs, choose the Movie and Music sound options and set the subwoofer level. You can also select the Night Mode which allows you to enjoy a full range audio experience at reduced volumes so as not to annoy other family members. There's also the Dialogue Enhancer which can improve the intelligibility of dialogue, which can be useful for TV shows or films with complex audio soundtracks. You can use the HEOS app to control your HomeCinema or, if your smart device isn't to hand and the TV is connected via HDMI, you can just use the TV remote control instead. If your TV isn't connect via HDMI you can still use your TV remote simply by setting up the various commands using the HEOS app.
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Setup
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Setup

    In terms of the HEOS ecosystem, in the settings menu of the app there are a number of different options, the first of which is Add Device, which you can use when you buy any more HEOS speakers. Then there's the My Device option, which allows you to customise the soundbar. You can also access all your Music Sources, as well as the Advanced Settings and the option to Check for Updates. The control of the system is as straightforward as setup, allowing you to select content from different sources and play it on different speakers. You also have the options of Play Now, Play Now & Replace Queue, Play Next or Add to End of Queue.

    You can also create and access your HEOS account, which remembers all your settings and preferences such as your music service logins and HEOS playlists. When you want to add multiple phone or tablet controllers to your system, you only need to sign in to each new device with your HEOS user name and password. Instantly all your music services and HEOS playlists are available in the new controller too. The system also supports multiple HEOS accounts in a single household and this way, each family member can enjoy their own personalized account settings and still share all the same speakers in the home.

    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Video Review


    Sound Quality

    We tested the HEOS HomeCinema with it connected to a TV via HDMI output and a number of different sources connected via the HDMI input and optical digital input. We watched a range of TV and movie content and also listened to music from online streaming services and from our connected devices using the HEOS multiroom ecosystem. We were immediately impressed by the audio capabilities of the HomeCinema and it delivered a lovely open front soundstage with nicely integrated bass. The mid-range drivers ensured that dialogue was clear and tonally balanced, whilst the tweeters delivered the higher frequencies without sounding sibilant. The combination of the four drivers in the soundbar and the active subwoofer, mean that the HomeCinema can go loud without distorting and thus fill even a large-sized room with sound.

    The HomeCinema can handle TV programmes in its stride, delivering clear dialogue and plenty of stereo separation. Once a more complex soundtrack comes along the soundbar steps up a gear, producing a wide soundstage with some precise localisation and excellent clarity. Music is well rendered and sound effects positioned across the front, whilst the bass is effectively supported by the subwoofer. Watching films on Blu-ray the HomeCinema handled the more dynamic multi-channel tracks well, producing an enjoyable and nicely enveloping audio experience. The dinosaurs of Jurassic World felt suitably large whilst the soundscapes of a miniaturised Ant-Man were produced with a nice feeling of immersion. The HomeCinema won't replace a real multi-channel setup but it did a great job of making audio feel larger than the soundbar itself.
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Sound Quality
    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Sound Quality

    The Movie mode definitely helps make the HomeCinema feel bigger and more immersive, utilising psychoacoustics and DSP processing to give the sensation of a surround experience, even though there obviously aren't actually any rear speakers. Of course you can't always watch films with the soundbar blasting and the subwoofer rumbling, so if you want to watch content late at night, the Night Mode proved very effective, delivering a complete audio experience but at a reduced volume. The Dialogue Enhancer also worked well for bringing out dialogue from more complex mixes that might be useful for those that struggle to understand what's being said in many modern movies.

    Since the HomeCinema also forms part of Denon's HEOS multiroom ecosystem, it's more likely to be used for listening to music than your average soundbar. Thankfully the HomeCinema was just as adept at music as it was with TV and movies, meaning that you could happily listen to your favourite songs whilst in the lounge. The Music mode effectively employed the DSP processing to deliver an impressively wide front soundstage whilst retaining a nice sense of clarity. Listening to The Waterboys Modern Blues, the Denon reproduced Mike Scott's complex arrangements but it also handled the slower, world weary country rock of Don Henley's Cass County just as well. The female vocals of Adele's The One and Only or Kate Bush's This Woman's Work were also effectively rendered by the HomeCinema, retaining the higher frequencies without sounding sibilant. As a result the HEOS HomeCinema is a soundbar that can work just as well whether your watching TV, enjoying a movie to listening to music.

    The HEOS HomeCinema delivered a great audio performance with an open soundstage and well integrated bass.

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Great sound quality
    • Well integrated sub
    • Useful features
    • Solidly built
    • Attractive design
    • Effective remote app

    Cons

    • No separate remote control
    • Limited HDMI inputs
    • No 4K/HDCP2.2 Support
    You own this Total 2
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Denon HEOS HomeCinema Soundbar Review

    Should I buy one?


    If you're in the market for a soundbar then Denon's HEOS HomeCinema should definitely be on your short list. It's attractively designed and solidly constructed without being flashy or drawing attention to itself. The classic look of the black soundbar and subwoofer combination will match most TVs and the connections include an HDMI input and an HDMI output with ARC. It's a shame they don't support 4K/HDCP2.2 but in reality it's unlikely to be an issue for most people and although the HomeCinema doesn't come with a separate remote, you can either use the excellent HEOS App or your TV controller. The HomeCinema includes built-in WiFi and forms part of Denon's HEOS multiroom ecosystem, allowing you to listen to your favourite music streaming services or play music from connected devices. You can also send the TV audio to other speakers connected to the HEOS ecosystem, which might prove useful during live events. You have the option of stand or wall mounting the soundbar and there are plenty of accessories included with the HomeCinema.

    Setup is very straightforward, with the HEOS App taking you through the entire process. You can select different inputs, choose sound modes and set the subwoofer level using the app and there are other features available including a Night Mode and a Dialogue Enhancer. However it's the sound quality that really matters and here Denon have delivered with a clear and precise sound that is capable of an open front soundstage and plenty of deep, well integrated bass. The mid-range is nicely defined, maintaining dialogue fidelity; whilst the higher frequencies are also handled well ensuring that sounds don't become sibilant. The HomeCinema can go loud without distorting and, combined with the subwoofer, it can produce an excellent room filling sound. Whether it's TV, film or music, the HEOS HomeCinema is an extremely capable soundbar and subwoofer combination that is a worthy addition to Denon's current line-up of products.

    What are my alternatives?


    It's probably worth pointing out that for £599 you could almost buy a full 5.1-channel system, with one of Denon's entry level AV receivers and a speaker package like the Tannoy HTS 101XP only setting you back about £900 by comparison. However if you're looking at soundbars then you probably don't want speakers and wires all over your lounge and are prepared to forgo the real surround experience in exchange for a tidier audio solution. In terms of alternative soundbars, Yamaha's excellent YSP-2500 can be picked up for about the same amount and it includes more HDMI inputs, 4K support and sound projection technology to create a more immersive experience. The Denon and Yamaha soundbars are a great choice if you have a flat screen but on the other hand, if you have a curved screen you might want to consider the Samsung HW-J7500 which supports that company's multiroom system includes plenty of features and delivers a great audio performance. Whatever you ultimately choose, there are a number of great soundbars available at the moment and Denon's HEOS HomeCinema is certainly one of them.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of use

    9

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    9

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    9

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