TEST: Is it worth spending $400 on this audio system?
About a year ago, we had Sonos Playbase on test. A soundplane, if we could call it, overall, was quite so happy. HEOS by Denon is Sonos’ biggest competitor in this market and offers similar solutions, so it was quite natural to check out the latter’s systems.
Recently, we have had Denon’s impressive home cinema system inside the test bench. The setup consists of the following speakers:
- 1x HEOS at Denon Soundbar.
- 1x HEOS at Denon Subwoofer.
- 2x HEOS at Denon HEOS 1.
The price for this package is around $2200 and correspondingly from Sonos with two One Speakers, Playbar and Sub costs about the same. Not exactly small money, but both Denon and Sonos have shown that their products defend the high price.
HEOS BY DENON
Some of the things I like best with these systems are that they are virtually completely wireless. Yes, you do not get power cables and connection to the TV, but you do not have to pull wires around the living room. Some say that wireless speakers are not as good as wired, but by 2018 the difference is minimal, I mean.
My experience is that the layout of Sonos’ systems is playful easily, the experience was not as straight forward as the Denon facility. You download an app and follow the instructions there which means that you connect the supplied audio cable from the mobile phone to the speaker you want to set up, but it just did not work. Another solution is to connect the speaker with cable to the router, which went a lot better, but in many cases I received no confirmation in the app that the setup was successful. Either way, after it was done, it was easy to connect the four speakers together to a surround sound system.
The app has an overview of which speakers you have in your system and can easily change the settings. For example, things like adjusting the sound image, speaker status lights, grouping in rooms, increasing bass level, and the like. It is also here that you can set up music streaming like Spotify, Deezer and Tidal. One plus is that the speakers support Spotify Connect so that you can stream directly from the Spotify app.
You can also stream from your own music server, from local music on your mobile and from USB drives. And yes, the speakers support FLAC / FLAC HD. In summary, the service is quite advanced in terms of power options.
HEOS AT DENON AND SONOS
Enough with connectivity
Let’s take a closer look at the different speakers in the system and we can start with the actual soundtrack. It has three channels and consists of six bass speakers and three tweets. Not to mention DTS support. Among the connections it has:
- 4x HDMI input via HDCP 2.2 / ARC and 1x HDMI output with 4K support.
- Analogue audio input and USB.
- Optical fiber connector.
Soundbar has plenty of connectivity.
The “Passthrough” support is formidable. I have TV with only two HDMI inputs, annoying enough, and with Xbox One, Apple TV, PlayStation 4 and a TV box, it’s a power to switch between the contacts. This solves the Denon soundboard by connecting all the HDMI boxes to it and then connecting the speaker to the TV. Note that your TV must support “Audio Return Channel” (ARC) to take advantage of it.
HDMI source is easily changed with the following remote control. An additional plus to Denon include remote controls, by the way, as well as connecting the Apple TV controller to the home theater.
Next out, the Subwoofer consists of two-piece 5.25-inch long-throw elements.
Lastly, we have the HEOS 1 HS2 speakers that are similar to Sonos Play: 1 and One. These can be made completely wireless by purchasing a battery pack attached to the underside. Cool. It also has analogue audio input and LAN connector.
Common to all speakers in this system is that everyone has physical keys for volume and mute so no need to use the app or remote to adjust the sound.
What about the sound?
I have tested the HEOS City Denon facility for movies, gaming music and the audio experience is absolutely outstanding. We can start with the bass box, which in many ways looks like a desktop PC. It has, like the other speakers, a blue indicator light on the front. On the right side are the volume buttons while all of the connections are located on the backside.
It can also be placed vertically and horizontally. Depending on what you prefer and what you have of space.
The bass box, which is sold for $ 600 separately, delivers fun and fun for gaming and movie watching. The level is easy to control via the app, but in most cases the default layout is quite top with a rich and pure bass. Sometimes I had to lower the bass level to control neighboring complaints.
Furthermore, we have the soundtrack which we generally feel works better for games / movies than for music. You can correctly adjust the sound image in the app, just music mode, but I feel there is something missing. Then it is preferable to use the HS1 speakers only with the subwoofer.
As with the bass box, it’s good for the sound of Denon’s soundtrack. Often you can feel that voices disappear a bit in the sound, but that is not the case with the HEOS Soundbar. A separate voice mode helps you, for example, if you are watching a news broadcast or a TV series with a lot of dialogue.
It’s good with the trick in Denon’s bass box.
Overall, we feel that it is on track, if not better than Sonos Playbase, but remember that Denon’s platter costs the thousand-leaf more.
Lastly, we have the HEOS 1 speakers sold for $ 200 pieces separately. As mentioned above, these are great for music playback and I think you will not notice any audio difference from Sonos Play: 1 / One. In fact, they are in many ways identical to design and manufacturer. Designally, I prefer Sonos One , but these are two speakers, which in this case are mostly out of sight and have a discreet design,
In a surround sound system, HEOS 1 is superb with a nice middle tone, good bass and clear and clear dialogue. All I have to put on them is that they sometimes sound like Snipp and Snapp when the content you see does not support the surround sound.
HEOS 1 works well for rear speakers and stereo music.
The time with HEOS City Denon’s home cinema system has been totally brilliant and it is a real downturn to send it away. For movies, comics and games, the experience lifts up to 10 chores and becomes more all-encompassing. The Xbox One Headset My Astro A50 – as you can read more about here – has got a break lately, to say so.
However, everything is not rosy with the Denon system. Firstly, I found the speaker layout a little messy and time consuming. But when everything is set up, it works as well. Another thing is that the soundboard is not the best for music playing, so the experience is better with, for example, the HS1 duo alone or with the bass box.
The last thing is that the plant is quite expensive. Less than $ 2000 costs the system and there is no discount to buy all the products together – you get the same price if the speakers are purchased separately. We thought that Sonos Playbase was an expensive system for 7000 kroner and the HEOS Soundbar costs the thousands of chips without feeling that it’s so much better.
Either way, you should buy a wireless peripheral device with good power options, and the price is not a question, you can not mistake HEOS City Denon. The sound is absolutely unique.
+ Flow of connectivity.
+ An outstanding sound experience.
+ Easy to adjust the sound.
+ Remote controls included.
– A little messy layout.
– Soundbar is not quite optimal for music.
– High price / no discount to buy as set.