Denon Home 550 Soundbar Review

Bringin' it all back home

SRP: £599.00
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Denon Home 550 Soundbar Review

The Denon Home 550 Soundbar produces an impressive two-channel performance with a delivery that's bigger than its compact cabinet, and a decent amount of bass - although it lacks the depth of a subwoofer. It supports HEOS multi-room with numerous music streaming services, and decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However the sense of immersion is minimal, and adding extra channels with Denon's wireless Home speakers and sub gets expensive. The 550 is a good soundbar, but there are better alternatives for the price.

The good

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Well-integrated bass
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • HEOS multi-room
  • Expansion options
  • Great build quality
  • Amazon Alexa built-in

The not so good

  • No upfiring drivers
  • No centre speaker
  • Bass is limited
  • Pricey

What is the Denon Home 550?

The Denon Home 550 Soundbar is the latest addition to the company's growing range of HEOS multi-room products. However, it not only supports multi-room functionality with other HEOS products, it can also use HEOS to create a 4.1-channel system with the Home 150, Home 250, and Home 350 wireless speakers as surrounds, and the DSW-1H as a wireless subwoofer.

The Home 550 is designed to be easy to install and set-up, and thanks to HEOS it offers access to music streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, and Deezer via Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth. It also has an Amazon Alexa smart assistant built-in, so along with the included remote and the HEOS app, you can also use your voice to control the Home 550.

This compact soundbar includes two tweeters, four full-range speakers, and three passive radiators, which means it should sound a lot bigger than it looks. The Home 550 supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, although in the absence of upfiring speakers it must be using psychoacoustic processing. It also has an HDMI input and output, with support for eARC, 4K/60p, HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

This soundbar was originally launched back in February, but it suffered the inevitable delays that appear to be affecting most consumer electronics products at the moment (for obvious reasons). But the review was largely delayed to allow for a firmware update at the end of September that added Amazon Alexa, HEOS 4.1-channel expansion, and an improved bass response.

The Denon Home 550 isn't cheap for a single-unit soundbar, and currently costs £599 as at the time of writing (October 2021). That price puts it up against some fairly serious competition in what is already a very crowded market place, so let's see if it has the performance to match.

Design, Control and Connections

The Denon Home 550 keeps things simple and elegant, with a curvy rectangular cabinet that has a black fabric grille wrapped around the front and sides. There's a matte black top plate with a gloss black section where the controls are located. Thanks to a proximity sensor these light up when your hand gets near, and you can play/pause and adjust the volume. There's also an indicator light at the front for both the soundbar itself and the built-in Alexa.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 display

The Home 550 is a fairly compact soundbar, measuring 650 x 75 x 120mm (WxHxD), but thanks to all the drivers Denon has built in, it's also fairly heavy at 3.5kg. You have a choice of stand or wall mounting, and there are spaces and a template for the latter. In the box you'll also find the remote control (plus batteries), a power cord, an HDMI cable, and an optical digital cable.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 connections

The connections are located in a recessed area at the rear, and here you'll find an HDMI input and an HDMI output. The latter supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel), while both can handle 4K/60p, HDR10 and Dolby Vision (we weren't able to test for HDR10+). There is also an optical digital input for TVs that don't support ARC, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, a USB port, and an Ethernet port for a wired connection. In terms of wireless connections there's built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth 3.0. There are also buttons for Wi-Fi setup and Bluetooth pairing.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 remote control

The Home 550 comes with a dedicated remote, which is good news because it means you're not forced to use the HEOS app as a controller. The bad news is the remote is the dinky kind often included with soundbars, and while it has all the buttons you need, it can be a bit fiddly to use (depending on the size of your hands). The HEOS app is actually quite an effective controller, and has the obvious advantage that it provides feedback on which modes and sources are selected, something that isn't always obvious when using the regular remote. Since Alexa is built-in, you also have a degree of voice control, which is handy if you just want to change source or the volume.

Features and Specs

The Denon Home 550 is a compact single-unit two-channel soundbar where the emphasis is on sound quality. As a result, there is a 19mm tweeter and two 55mm full-range drivers for each channel, along three passive radiators (50x 90mm) – two front and centre and another at the rear. However, Denon hasn't disclosed how much amplification is built into this soundbar.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 exploded view

The Home 550 supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but given there are only two channels, the object-based decoding is using psychoacoustic processing, which is never as immersive as dedicated upfiring drivers. There are also three sound modes – Movies, Music and Pure. When using the HEOS app Pure is called Stereo and the Movie mode offers Dolby Surround or DTS Virtual:X.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 left-hand view

There are also ten-step controls for adjusting the treble and bass in the HEOS app, while the latter can also be accessed using the zapper. Both forms of control also offer a Night Mode and a Dialogue Enhancer. Finally, you'll find three quick select buttons on the remote control, and six on the more comprehensive HEOS app.

Denon Home 550
HEOS app

Denon's proprietary HEOS multi-room system provides access to music streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon Music HD, Tidal and Deezer, along with TuneIn Internet Radio. You can also play music via USB, smart devices or the home network, and the 550 supports WMA up to 192kbps, AAC and MP3 up to 320kbps, FLAC, WAV and ALAC up to 24-bit/ 192kHz, and DSD (2.8 and 5.6MHz).

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 with Home 150 wireless rear speakers

HEOS also provides an opportunity to create a multi-channel sound system using other products in the Home range. These include the Denon Home 150 (£189), Denon Home 250 (£349), and Denon Home 350 (£549) wireless speakers as surrounds, and the Denon DSW-1H (£599) wireless sub. The Home 150 speaker would seem the best choice for the rear channels, but at cost of £378 for two, plus the subwoofer, you're looking at a 4.1-channel system that costs £1,576, which is very pricey.

Set-up and Operation

The Denon Home 550 is a piece of cake to set-up, and all you need to do is decide whether you're going to stand or wall mount, then open the HEOS app and follow the instructions. If you do plan on wall mounting the 550, Denon includes a template and spacers to help you. If you're planning to stand mount, check the soundbar isn't blocking your TV's screen or IR receiver, because at 75mm the 550 is quite high. The HEOS app makes setting up the Wi-Fi easy (either using the connect button or AirPlay), and HDMI-ARC connected automatically, allowing for control via the TV remote.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 right-hand view

The Home 550 was tested with a Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray player, a Sony PS5 games console, a Manhattan T3-R Freeview PVR, and an LG 65C1 OLED TV. The latter's ARC capability with Atmos was tested using its Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+ apps, and its eARC capabilities were tested by sending lossless audio back via HDMI. The 4K player was connected directly to the 550 to test Atmos and DTS:X, along with its ability to pass 4K/60p, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. An iPhone X was also paired with the 550 to test the quality of streamed music via Bluetooth and AirPlay 2.

Performance

The Denon Home 550 proved to be an excellent two-channel soundbar, and since it forms part of the HEOS multi-room system it made sense to begin testing with some music. Interestingly, the Music mode sounded strange, whereas the Pure (Stereo) mode resulted in an impressive performance.

Listening to the Bernard Butler album People Move On revealed a capable performer, with the upbeat Not Alone sounding fantastic. The full-range drivers and well-integrated passive radiators delivered the song's driving bass and drums with an energetic gusto. The guitars are rendered with a pleasing tightness, while Butler's vocals are clean and precise. This sense of detailed extended to the simple acoustic guitar and vocals of I'm Tired, which the 550 handled with surprising skill, and it proved equally as adept when it came to high-frequency details.

The soundbar's ability to handle music with accuracy and clarity made it just as effective with general TV viewing. Once again the Pure mode proved most effective and, despite the lack of a dedicated centre speaker, dialogue was always clear and focused on the screen. If you find yourself struggling to understand someone, the Dialogue Enhancer can prove useful, while the Night mode is effective at compressing the dynamic range so as not to disturb the rest of the household. Overall, the 550 is a great all-rounder, with music spread across the front, and effects placed with accuracy.

Denon Home 550
Denon Home 550 stand mounted

Despite its relatively compact dimensions, the Home 550 does an impressive job of sounding bigger than it is. The passive radiators and full-range drivers also produce a decent amount of bass, although you should manage your expectations. The 550 can't get close to the the depths of a soundbar that uses a separate subwoofer, although at least there's the option to add one. The front soundstage is obviously limited by the physical width of the 'bar itself, but there is some decent separation, and enough power to sound dynamic, even if the 550 can never be called room-filling.

When it comes to a movie like Wrath of Man, the 550 does a good job of delivering the energy and visceral impact of the 5.1 soundtrack, but its limitations become more apparent. The delivery in Pure mode is very front-focused, with no sense of surround envelopment. The dialogue is clear, and the gunfire has a nice low-end kick, but the really deep bass is missing. You could engage the Movie mode and apply upmixing, but that just makes the audio feel a bit more spacious, it certainly doesn't suddenly turn the 550 into a multi-channel system. But you can do exactly that by adding Home wireless speakers at the rear – although that gets expensive, especially when you include the sub.

The Home 550 can decode both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but since it doesn't have upward-firing drivers it's just using the two front channels and digital signal processing to create the illusion of greater immersion. Watching Fast & Furious 9, the Atmos track does sound more dimensional, but there are no rear or overhead effects. The same is true when watching a DTS:X movie like Atomic Blonde, and while the music sounds good and the action retains some of its bone-crunching brutality, there's no real sense of immersion. While the 550 can give you a more involving experience with object-based audio, there are plenty of soundbars that are superior in this regard.

Conclusion

Denon Home 550 Soundbar Review

Should I buy one?

The Denon Home 550 is a very capable two-channel soundbar that delivers a detailed performance with excellent midrange and well-defined highlights. The bass is also nicely integrated, and while reasonably good for a single unit, it doesn't go as deep as soundbars with a separate subwoofer. The lack of a centre speaker doesn't appear to have aversely affected dialogue, which remains clear and focused on the screen. Whether it's TV, movies, games or music the 550 is a great all-rounder.

The build quality is excellent, and there's a decent set of connections, but the remote is a bit small and fiddly. However, the HEOS app is very effective and makes for a good alternative controller. It also makes set-up easy, as well as providing access to music streaming apps, local files, and other HEOS devices, plus the ability to create a wireless 4.1-channel system. There's even built-in Amazon Alexa, turning the soundbar into a smart assistant with voice control.

The Home 550 decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, plus it includes the Dolby Surround and DTS Virtual:X upmixers. However, it only has two channels, with no upfiring drivers, so the sense of immersion is provided through psychoacoustic processing. While object-based mixes do feel more spacious, the effect isn't really that immersive. There are also other sound modes like Movie, Music, Pure, Night, and Dialogue Enhancer, which deliver with varying degrees of success.

Ultimately, the Denon Home 550 proves to be an accomplished soundbar, with plenty of useful features, and if you're already invested in the HEOS ecosystem it makes a sensible choice. It certainly does enough to warrant a recommendation, but at £599 there are plenty of alternatives.

What are my alternatives?

The soundbar market is saturated, which means there's no shortage of alternatives. The Sonos Arc is definitely a popular choice at £799, and while it only supports Dolby Atmos, it has a dedicated centre speaker and upfiring drivers. You obviously get the Sonos ecosystem, along with AirPlay 2, room correction, and built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. There's no subwoofer included, but you can add one, plus there are optional rear speakers for a full (if expensive) 5.1.2-channel system.

Another alternative is the LG SP8YA, which only costs £699. This 3.1.2-channel soundbar includes a 7-inch subwoofer, and supports Atmos and DTS:X. It works with Alexa and Google Assistant, plus it supports AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. There's also eARC, Hi-Res audio support, an option to add wireless rear speakers, and a handy AI room calibration feature. The only thing missing is HDR10+ passthrough, but otherwise this is a great-value package.

Finally, there's the Samsung HW-Q800A, which costs £799 and also delivers a 3.1.2-channel speaker layout with an 8-inch wireless subwoofer. There's support for Atmos and DTS:X, along with built-in Alexa, eARC, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ passthrough, and AirPlay 2. There's a host of proprietary Samsung features like Q Symphony and Tap Sound, plus Hi-Res audio support, an option to add wireless rear speakers, and SpaceFit Sound for easier setup with Samsung TVs.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Our Review Ethos

Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges.

To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

Related Content

Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar Review
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
JBL Bar 5.0 Soundbar Review
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
Panasonic SC-HTB490 Soundbar Review
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
Hisense HS214 Soundbar Review
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
Yamaha SR-C20A Soundbar Review
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published

Latest Headlines

Samsung launches The Freestyle portable projector
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
LG unveils S95QR flagship soundbar for 2022
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
AVForums Podcast: The 2021 Christmas Special
  • By Phil Hinton
  • Published
Polk Audio introduces Signa S4 Dolby Atmos soundbar
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Top Bottom