Denon unveils HEOS multi-room audio system

posted on Thursday, 12th June 2014 by Steve May

Multi-room  Streaming  Events  AWE Europe 

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Denon has waded into the multi-room wireless market with HEOS, a wireless speaker system said to be "even easier to install and use than Sonos." Unveiled at the brand's annual dealer convention, held recently in Marbella, the DLNA-compliant system comprises a trio of active speakers, the HEOS 3, 5 and 7, plus associated electronics.

It was clear from CEO Jim Caudill's convention keynote that the HEOS introduction represnts a major change of direction for the brand. "Fixed media formats, while large in size today, are experiencing a slowdown as the consumer re-orientates themselves to digital media platforms," he told a gathering of European dealers. "As part of that, we're seeing the streaming business, whether it's the traditional streaming business under Bluetooth or this whole new format which Sonos helped invent called multi-room audio, absolutely exploding around the world. When we look at that picture we have to think about how we reorient our portfolio for future growth."

App

The HEOS system is built upon standard Wi-Fi (both 2.4 and 5GHz), rather than a dedicated mesh network. There is no Bluetooth support. The smaller HEOS 3 (pictured above) can be placed horizontally or vertically, and either stand or wall-mounted. The unit, which will retail for £249, has an integrated two-channel amp. Two HEOS 3's can be paired to create a stereo system. The somewhat larger HEOS 5 (£349) features four class D amplifiers, two custom-designed tweeters, midrange drivers and a passive radiator for improved bass response. The flagship HEOS 7 (£499) features an additional channel of amplification, plus a headphone jack. Supporting its streaming functionality across the range are local inputs for aux and USB. If you add a USB hard drive to any of the networked speakers you can play content from it across the entire HEOS system. All units come in either black or white finishes.

The system is versatile. Local music sources and music services such as Spotify (available on HEOS in Spotify Connect form), Deezer and Internet Radio can be directed at multiple zones simultaneously, or to individual zones, via a dedicated app for iOS or Android. The app is also used during setup, allowing zones to be designated quickly and efficiently. All can be renamed and grouped, for universal playback. System control is comprehensive. A clever 'Pinch to player' feature allows multiple zones to be grouped together on the fly, should the user want to get into a whole house party mode. An installer should be able to have an entire multi-room package deployed in a few minutes. Those specifying a larger property should note that up to 32 HEOS units can be run on a single network. File support appears to cover most popular formats, up to FLAC, but not DSD.

Heos Pre Amp

Completing the range is the HEOS amplifier and HEOS Link pre-amp (pictured above). Future HEOS components suggested include soundbar and soundbase solutions. It's clear from the brand positioning (HEOS by Denon) that owner D+M intends to keep its multi-room proposition seperate from its traditional AV business, at least for the time being. However a spokesman didn't rule out at some point integrating Heos into the brand's AV receivers, allowing an AVR and by default ahome cinema system to become part of the HEOS multi room audio ecosystem.

The HEOS amp allows any conventional speaker to be connected to the system. It also sports a subwoofer output and an digital optical input for source components; attaching this to the optical output of a TV would allow for broadcast audio to be easily played around the house.

Heos 7

To demonstrate the system, Denon created a faux show home at its convention to demonstrate just how versatile the package can be. The system appears to have remarkable syncronisation between zones, a testament to the proprietary low-latency technology developed for the system. "It's far more accurate than what you'll find on the competition," Inside CI was told. DSP optimisation is via MaxxAudio licensed from Waves Audio. Unsurprisingly, audio performance was far more difficult to access in the chaotic environment.

HEOS by Denon launches worldwide this summer.

Denon is distributed by AWE. For more on AWE's product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here.

Also read:
Denon announces Wi-Fi Bluetooth AV receiver fleet

Denon to launch wireless audio system

D+M inks distro deal for Polk and Definitive Audio

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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