What is HEOS?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Setup and Control
HEOS Multiroom System Video Review
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.
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.
- 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 Review
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.
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