Denon HEOS Multiroom System Review
HEOS by Denon - enough said.
What is HEOS?HEOS by Denon is the company's first foray into the growing market for wireless multiroom sound systems. There are a number of different sized networked speakers, offering the ability to control all your music from anywhere in your home. To start building your HEOS system all you need is at least one HEOS speaker, although you can add up to 32, and the free HEOS App (iOS or Android). The system you build will give you access to all your music, either locally from your connected device, through your network, via internet radio or from your favourite streaming music service.
As with any multiroom system you can play one song in all rooms or any combination of rooms that you choose, as well as different songs in every room and you can also create playlists and personalise your experience. HEOS uses standard home wireless technology so you can use your existing router without the need for any new equipment such as a bridging device. This all sounds very interesting but in such a competitive and crowded market place, does HEOS do enough to distinguish itself from the crowd? Let's set up a full HEOS system using three different speakers and find out.
What's in the HEOS range?The HEOS range consists of a number of different sized speakers, designed to meet the needs of consumers regardless of their planned configuration or room sizes. There is the new HEOS 1, which is a compact wireless speaker intended to be used in smaller rooms. It can also be configured as a stereo pair and there's the optional HEOS GoPack, which provides a rechargeable battery pack, a Bluetooth adapter and splashguard to turn the HEOS 1 into a portable wireless speaker. The HEOS 1 retails for £199 and the optional GoPack is available for £79 (with a 50% discount if you buy it with a HEOS 1) and both are available in either black or white.
Moving up the range there's the HEOS 3, which offers the choice of either vertical or horizontal placement and the option of stereo pairing. The HEOS 3 includes dual custom full range drivers powered by two dedicated Class D amplifiers. It retails for £249, comes with a free Bluetooth dongle included and is also available in a choice of black or white. Next up is the larger HEOS 5 which includes two custom-designed tweeters and two mid-woofers all powered by four dedicated Class D amplifiers, along with a passive radiator. There's a handle for easier portability, a free Bluetooth dongle included, a choice of black or white and a list price of £349.
Finally in terms of speakers there's the top of the range HEOS 7 which includes two custom-designed tweeters, two mid-woofers and a subwoofer all powered by five dedicated Class D amplifiers, along with two passive radiators. The HEOS 7 is designed to deliver optimal sound performance from a wireless multiroom speaker and includes a headphone jack that is exclusive to this speaker, along with all the same features found on the other speakers. The HEOS 7 comes in a choice of black or white, includes a free Bluetooth dongle and retails for £499.
Aside from the speakers themselves and the GoPack, Denon also offer a number of other accessories as part of the HEOS range. There's the HEOS Amp which features the same wireless capacity as the speakers themselves, as well as 2 x 100W of Class D amplification in a compact chassis. There's analogue and optical digital inputs, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, a LAN port, a USB port and a subwoofer pre-out, along with terminals that allow you to turn any pair of speakers into a wireless zone. The HEOS Amp comes in a glossy black two-tone finish and has a list price of £399.
If you already have an amplifier but want to turn it into a wireless zone, then Denon also offer the HEOS Link. This is a wireless pre-amplifier that shares the same glossy black finish as the HEOS Amp. At the rear there's analogue and optical digital inputs, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, a LAN port, a USB port, an IR out and a 12V trigger. There's also analogue, optical and coaxial digital outputs, along with a subwoofer pre-out. At the side there are volume controls and a mute button, whilst the HEOS Link can also control the power, input and volume on connected Denon devices. The HEOS Link costs £299 but there is currently a 30% discount if you buy one with a Denon AVR.
Denon also offer two other HEOS related products, first there's the HEOS Extend, which is a WiFi extender that's designed to make your wireless network larger and stronger. You could obviously just buy a third party wireless extender but the HEOS Extend is clearly designed to match the rest of the HEOS range in terms of styling, comes in white and can be picked up for £79. Finally there's the HEOS Drive, which retails for £1,999 and is aimed at the custom install market, providing four separate HEOS zones and eight channels of Class D amplification.
HEOS offers a complete range of products that should meet the needs of consumers regardless of their requirements.
HEOS 1The newly released HEOS 1 has been designed to offer a more compact option within the range and also, in conjunction with the HEOS GoPack, provide portability. It's well-engineered with a weighty and robust construction, although some might feel it's a bit heavy for a portable speaker, especially with the HEOS GoPack attached. The HEOS 1 uses a dual driver system with a wide range mid-woofer and a soft dome tweeter driven by two channels of Class D digital amplification. At the top there are volume controls and a mute button, as well as an LED indicator at the bottom of the front grille.
The HEOS 1 includes built-in WiFi (802.11 including dual band "N"), along with a LAN port, a USB port and a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack at the rear. The speaker supports MP3, AAC, ALAC, WMA, FLAC and WAV up to 48kHz sampling rates and can be used on its own or as part of a stereo pair. In the box you'll find the HEOS 1 itself, a quick start guide, a 3.5mm setup cable, an Ethernet cable and the power adapter. The HEOS 1 measures 189 x 129 x 128mm (HxWxD), weighs in at 1.9kg (2.2kg with the HEOS GoPack attached) and there is the option to wall mount the speaker.
HEOS GoThe HEOS GoPack has been especially designed to turn the HEOS 1 into a portable speaker. The main part of the pack is a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that attaches to the base of the HEOS 1 using a simple twist on/twist off attachment. The battery can provide up to six hours of playback from a single charge and there are battery strength indicator LEDs, along with an on/off button, at the rear. The USB port on the HEOS 1 includes a 5V/1A output, the same as regular phone chargers, so if you need to you can also recharge your smartphone whilst away from home.
The pack also includes a Bluetooth USB dongle, that connects to the USB port on the rear of the HEOS 1, so that whilst outside the range of your wireless network you can still connect wirelessly to your HEOS 1. Although you could also use the speaker's USB port or 3.5mm auxiliary jack. The Bluetooth USB adapter includes a detachable silicon splashguard that fits over the connections at the rear to provide protection against water when the speaker is being used outdoors. The HEOS 1 itself is also water resistant so it can be used in damp environments like steamy bathrooms, as well as outside in wet weather.
HEOS 5The more expensive HEOS 5 has been designed to offer a degree of portability but also a higher level of audio performance than the more compact HEOS 1. As with all the speakers in the HEOS range it is well-engineered with a weighty and robust construction. The HEOS 5 uses a five driver design with two mid-woofers and two precision tweeters driven by four channels of Class D digital amplification. To add a bit more bass response, there is also a passive radiator built into the speaker.
On the right hand side, as you face the speaker, there are some volume controls and a mute button. At the bottom of the front grille there is a multi-colour status LED indicator and around the back, at the top, there's a carry handle. Also at the rear are the connections and here you'll find a LAN port for a wired connection, a USB port and a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack; although there is also a Bluetooth USB adapter included.
Whilst the HEOS 5 does include an Ethernet port for a wired connection, the main method of connecting with the speakers is the built-in WiFi (802.11 including dual band "N") and it supports MP3, AAC, ALAC, WMA, FLAC and WAV up to 48kHz sampling rates. In the box you'll find the HEOS 5 itself, a quick start guide, a 3.5mm setup cable, an Ethernet cable and the AC power adapter. The HEOS 5 comes in a choice of white or black, measures 209 x 294 x 166mm (HxWxD) and weighs in at 3kg.
The HEOS is a full-range wireless speaker that's designed to offer a premium audio experience within a multiroom system.
HEOS 7The flagship speaker in the range is the HEOS 7, which has been designed to offer a superior level of wireless performance and also enough power to fill larger rooms. As with all the speakers in the HEOS range it is attractively designed with a well-engineered and robust level of construction. The HEOS 7 uses a seven driver design with two mid-woofers, two precision tweeters and a subwoofer, all driven by five channels of Class D digital amplification, along with two passive radiators to provide additional bass augmentation.
On the right hand side, as you face the speaker, there are some volume controls and a mute button, whilst on the left hand side there is a 3.5mm headphone jack. At the bottom of the front grille there is a multi-colour status LED indicator and around the back you'll find all the connections. These include a LAN port for a wired connection, a USB port and a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack; although there is also a Bluetooth USB adapter included.
Despite the inclusion of an Ethernet port, the main method of connecting with the HEOS 7 is obviously meant to be the built-in WiFi (802.11 including dual band "N") and it supports MP3, AAC, ALAC, WMA, FLAC and WAV up to 48kHz sampling rates. In the box you'll find the HEOS 7 itself, a quick start guide, a 3.5mm setup cable, an Ethernet cable and the AC power adapter. The HEOS 7 is available in a choice of white or black, measures 203 x 479 x 164mm (HxWxD), and weighs in at 4.5kg.
HEOS AppThe HEOS App is freely available for both iOS and Android and overall it proved to be a well designed and intuitive user interface. The app allows you to setup each speaker and then control them, either individually or as a group. You can name each speaker to represent the specific room that it's in and then simply select it to play content on that speaker. If you want to group two or more speakers together you simply drag and drop one speaker with another and then you can play the same content in multiple rooms.
The app allows you to access content on a connected device, whether that device is connected via WiFi, Bluetooth, USB or the 3.5mm auxiliary jack. It also allows you to access content from your network (either via WiFi or Ethernet) and various music streaming services. The app can be used to queue tracks up, create playlists and personalise your experience. Along the bottom there are options for Rooms, Music and Now Playing.
FeaturesAside from the speakers, accessories and app that we've already mentioned, the HEOS system as a whole incorporates a number of other useful features. Each HEOS system is engineered in-house at Denon and composed of meticulously chosen components that are designed to harmonise together and deliver a superior musical performance. To create an audiophile listening experience with multiple HEOS players at once, each HEOS player must be synchronised to an extremely high degree. Denon have used years of detailed research to allow their HEOS system to deliver an unparalleled syncronisation performance within microseconds.
Denon also include MaxxAudio by Waves in order to enhance the sound of the HEOS speakers with the same professional sound technologies used in recording studios the world over. MaxxAudio uses psychoacoustic science and technologies in order to provide intelligent volume control, multiband equalisation, bass extension and spatial expansion to create a perception of higher definition, deeper bass, crisper highs and an enveloping sound field. As part of the HEOS app you can stream various cloud sources like Spotify, Deezer, TIDAL, Napster, TuneIn, SoundCloud and Rdio.
Setup was very straightforward and the HEOS App is attractively designed and intuitive to use.
Setup and ControlIf there is one area that's vitally important to any multiroom system it's the setup because to really succeed it needs to be as simple as possible. Since the HEOS system uses your wireless router to create its multiroom network there's no need for a bridge, which certainly keeps the process simple. All you need to do is install the HEOS App on your smart device and attach it to the speaker using the 3.5mm cable provided. You then follow the instructions in the app and within a couple of minutes your speaker is connected.
In the settings menu of the app there are a number of different options, the first of which is Add Device, which obviously you can use when you buy more HEOS speakers. Then there's the My Device option, which allows you to customise the attached speakers. 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.
HEOS Multiroom System Video Review
PerformanceWe began by setting up the system for review with a HEOS 1 in one room, a HEOS 5 in another room and a HEOS 7 in a third. We also tried the HEOS Extend and attached the HEOS Link to a Denon AV receiver, allowing us to create a multiroom system with four wireless zones. We then customised each location, created a HEOS Account and experimented with different music being played in different rooms or a single track being played in two or more rooms. We also used the App to access music on our smart device and from our music server as well as from devices connected via Bluetooth, USB and the 3.5mm auxiliary jack.
The first thing to note is that the system was very easy to setup, with all the various speakers connected to our network within minutes and the remote app effectively controlling them all. This is important for any mass market multiroom system and HEOS certainly scores points in this area. The overall design and build quality of the speakers themselves is also important and all three of the models we were testing certainly felt well made and looked attractive in the various rooms in which we positioned them. The app was also very intuitive, making it easy to find and play music in different rooms or all the rooms with ease. We ran through all our different sources and file types, which the HEOS system managed with ease, proving to be a highly effective platform.
Of course all this is meaningless if the speakers themselves can't deliver in terms of sound quality and thankfully Denon have really delivered in this area, using all their experience to create great sounding multiroom speakers. Starting with the HEOS 1, we found that despite its compact size it still managed to deliver a surprisingly big and detailed sound. The nature of the speaker's design means there is no real stereo separation but the HEOS 1 still managed to sound much bigger than it actually was. This is undoubtedly helped by the fact that it's well made and it also retains that trademark Denon warmth, making it a great little speaker.
The HEOS 1 also delivers a nice degree of flexibility in terms of its use, with the option to place it just about anywhere where there's a plug. It's also water resistant, so you can use it in places where it might get steamy like kitchens or bathrooms. There's also the option to mount it on the wall and, although we weren't able to test this, you can use two of them as a stereo pair. The addition of the HEOS GoPack does make the HEOS 1 genuinely portable, if a little heavy, and the speaker's ability to sound bigger than it is really came into play as we moved it from location to location.
We then moved on the the larger HEOS 5 which, whilst not as genuinely portable as the HEOS 1, has been designed to be easily moved from room to room. There's a handle at the back to make it easier to carry and as long as there's a plug nearby, you can position the speaker in most places in a room. The speaker produced a bigger sound than the smaller HEOS 1, with a greater sense of stereo separation and more bass presence. The speaker could deliver a nicely detailed sound and a surprisingly big soundstage considering its size, with a pleasing warmth that made it ideal for listening to music as a background to other tasks. Since that's how music is often consumed these days, almost as a soundtrack to our lives, it's important that a speaker can deliver a sound that isn't fatiguing to listen to for long periods.
Saving the best until last, we finally moved on to the HEOS 7 and this proved to be a superb performer that produced a big and room-filling sound. The speaker takes full advantage of it twin tweeters, twin mid-range drivers and built-in subwoofer, all driven by five dedicated channels of digital amplification. Once you add in the two passive radiators you have a speaker that can handle the high's and the lows with ease and the enclosure is big enough to retain a genuine sense of stereo separation. The sound was detailed and there was a lovely sense of clarity, whilst still retaining a degree of warmth that stopped the speaker sounding clinical. It's undoubtedly a matter of personal preference but we really liked the sound of the HEOS 7 and, regardless of it's multiroom functionality, it can hold its own as a standalone wireless speaker.
What is impressive with all three speakers is how they seamlessly integrate into a cohesive multiroom system, so although each has a different design and purpose they still feel part of a whole. The synchronisation is also flawless, which is good news if you plan on using either the HEOS 1 or HEOS 3 as a stereo pair. However this synchronisation also meant that when playing the same song in two or more rooms, the speakers filled the house with music perfectly, allowing us to take full advantage of the system's multiroom capabilities.
As we mentioned earlier in the review, there are a number of accessories in the HEOS range, including the HEOS Extend which is designed to strengthen and widen your wireless network. It's relatively cheap and works, so if you want to buy a HEOS branded product that's your prerogative but there are plenty of third-party devices that can do the same thing. Of more use is the HEOS Link which allows you to add a receiver or amplifier to the network. Since we had a Denon AV receiver on hand, we used the HEOS Link in conjunction with it and overall it proved an effective way of creating another zone within the HEOS system.
Our only complaints with regards to the HEOS Link relate to its price, £299 is fairly steep when you consider you can buy a Denon AV receiver for that, and its design. The HEOS Link doesn't really match anything aside from the HEOS Amp and is difficult to fit into an equipment rack. What would make more sense from Denon's perspective would be to take a leaf out of Yamaha's MusicCast book and include HEOS in their receivers and amplifiers.
The HEOS system is effective, flexible and great sounding with the HEOS 7 as the stand-out performer.
- Great sound
- Easy to setup
- Effective control app
- Attractive design
- Excellent build quality
- Flexible range of speakers
- Locked into HEOS system
- Not supported in other Denon products
Denon HEOS Multiroom System ReviewDenon's HEOS multiroom system marks an excellent debut into this particular market by the Japanese manufacturer and the overall combination of quality, flexibility and performance marks it out amongst all the competition. The system itself uses your existing WiFi network, so no need for a bridge, which makes setup very easy and that's an important factor with any multiroom system aimed at the mass market. The free HEOS App is well designed and intuitive to use, making it simple to control and customise your multiroom system and access music from just about anywhere.
Denon have also made sure that there are plenty of different speakers available, ensuring that there's a model to meet your needs, and their ability to synchronise was flawless. The flagship HEOS 7 is a superb performer, with a build quality and lovely room-filing sound that more than justifies its price tag. The HEOS 1 proved to be an effective portable speaker, even if it is a little on the heavy side. However this level of build quality does mean that the compact speaker can deliver a decent level of sound quality wherever you use it and you also have the option of running two of the speakers as a stereo pair.
The third speaker we reviewed - the HEOS 5 - somewhat fell between two stools, neither having the big sound of the HEOS 7 nor the convenience and portability of the HEOS 1. That's not to say that it isn't a decent wireless speaker and the HEOS 5 would certainly be a good choice for a smaller room, where it can provide a pleasant musical background. Multiroom speakers often sacrifice musicality in favour of convenience or cosmetics but we were pleased to discover that Denon have managed to combine both these factors whilst retaining the kind of sound quality we expect from the manufacturer.
The other accessories in the range include the HEOS Extend, which just boosts your existing WiFi network and could easily be replaced by a third-party extender and the HEOS Link, which allows you to add your receiver or amplifier to the multiroom network. The latter worked well and does give you the option of bringing any amplifier or receiver into the HEOS system but it would have made more sense to include HEOS within Denon's own AV receivers and amplifiers in the same way that Yamaha have with their MusicCast multiroom system.
However, similarities in the name notwithstanding, HEOS certainly has the right combination of choice, simplicity, flexibility and performance to compete with market leader Sonos. The pricing is also competitive and whilst, like most multiroom setups, you are essentially locked into Denon's ecosystem, HEOS manages to deliver the overall levels of performance that make it worthy of a highly recommended award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £199.00
Value For Money8
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