Over the past year, one product group in the field of home cinema has grown considerably; those of multiroom streaming products. The well-known audio companies have also launched speakers and audio systems with streaming functions, including Denon. The company brought the HEOS family to the market and in this review we look at the HEOS 5 speaker and HEOS Link.
Denon HEOS audio system
The Denon HEOS audio system is all about wireless streaming of music for all rooms in the house. Denon brings three speakers on the market for this but also comes with the Link and Amp, two devices with which existing audio systems and components can be connected. The speakers must be connected to the home network and music can be reproduced wirelessly from virtually any source.
The HEOS speakers and devices can be connected to the home network thanks to the familiar WiFi setup and are operated via the HEOS app that is available for both Android and iOS. The system is designed with a new technology so that the music has to run synchronously over all speakers and connected components in the house. In addition, Denon has joined forces with Waves Audio, a developer of professional audio plug-ins such as Digital Signal Processing (DSP). HEOS uses the integrated MaxxAudio from Waves, a suite for sound optimization.
The audio systems can wirelessly stream music from the cloud, and with playback via USB and NAS you can stream a music collection stored on a hard drive, thumb drive or NAS drive. Denon has brought three speakers to the market; the HEOS 3, HEOS 5 and HEOS 7. In this review we look at the middle model.
Denon HEOS 5
The three wireless multiroom speakers play all music from various online music services, including Spotify and Deezer, but also from home music sources, smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs and NAS devices on the home network. The speakers are executed in black with brushed metal accents.
The HEOS 5 has a speaker system with four drivers, two tweeters, two center / bass speakers and a passive radiator. All four active drivers are controlled by a digital class D amplifier. The speaker can handle all common formats, including audio files without loss of quality, such as AAC and FLAC. The HEOS 5 has a suggested retail price of 399 euros.
Denon HEOS Link
The HEOS Link adds HEOS audio functions to existing audio systems or amplified speakers. The Link Stereo Preamplifier only needs to be connected via an analog cable, digital coaxial cable or digital fiber optic cable to turn any existing home theater or music system into a wireless HEOS audio zone. You can also use the Link to control your existing receiver, amplifier or mini system via the HEOS app.
The Link has analog and digital outputs, a 12v trigger output for power control of external devices, an IR output, wireless ‘n’ dual-band WiFi, an ethernet jack, a USB jack, an optical digital input and a analogue 3.5 mm input. The HEOS Link has a suggested retail price of 349 euros.
Denon HEOS 5 and Link design
The Denon HEOS 5 is a speaker that is quite distinctly designed. The device has an angular design with a black upholstery for both the front and back and accents of brushed metal. The speaker looks neatly finished and looks beautiful. It is striking that a handle is incorporated in the back so that the speaker can be easily moved. On the front is the logo of HEOS and a status LED that indicates the status of the connection. On the right side are buttons for the volume and the mute button processed. At the back we see the ac connection, a reset button, a connect button, a USB port, an auxiliary input and a network connection.
The HEOS Link is a lot more compact and also less attractive, but is probably not in sight. The front is completely black and the rest of the housing has been given a silver finish. At the side of the device are buttons for the volume and at the back we see a large number of connections back, including optical, usb and analogue for inputs, and optical, coaxial and analogue for outputs. We also see pre-out and subwoofer-out connections, a network port and an aux input.
Denon HEOS 5 and Link installation
The installation of the HEOS 5 and HEOS Link should, if we believe the manufacturer’s brief manual, a piece of cake. This was indeed the case with the HEOS 5. You have two options; wireless via WiFi or wired via an ethernet cable. If you choose the first option, you must pair your smartphone with the speaker via a supplied jack cable and then go through a small number of steps in the HEOS app (download from the Play Store or App Store). Without any problems, the speaker connects to the network with which your smartphone is also connected. You have to enter the password once and then the connection remains.
With the HEOS Link, however, this option did not work, for whatever reason. The status LED continued to flash, so the only option was to connect an Ethernet cable. Once linked, the link was found directly in the HEOS app and you can then specify a wireless network for the Link in the settings. Then the device was still connected to the wireless network. A small detour so everything worked immediately right. We have linked the Link with a Marantz amplifier (and connected B & W speaker set) by means of an optical cable.
Denon HEOS 5 and Link – use
It is of course a matter of playing music, preferably in several rooms. When both the speaker and the Link are seen in the app you can give them their own name, for example ‘bedroom’ and ‘living room’. You can then drag one HEOS device into the other within the app, after which they are grouped. This means that the audio being played back on all grouped devices is displayed. In our case the home cinema set with Marantz amplifier and the separate HEOS 5 speaker. Disconnection is just as easy so you can only listen to music in the bedroom. In the app of your choice, for example the Spotify app, you can select the desired HEOS speaker but pay attention that when they are grouped they will also be shown as grouped in your music app.
External sources can be connected to both the HEOS 5 and the Link. The HEOS 5 offers the possibility to connect a USB disk or stick, just like a media player that is connected with a jack cable. The Link also offers the possibility to connect a device via a line-input or optical connection. In principle you can also connect your TV to show the audio over your HEOS system. In terms of outputs, there are also sufficient possibilities, as described above, to be able to connect a home cinema set or receiver of your choice. Striking is the IR-out and a trigger-link to operate receivers.
What is a pity and we still want to explain is that there is no direct possibility (for example an app) to play music from your Mac or Windows PC. Everything has to be done via the smartphone or tablet, something that we can understand, but it is sometimes easier to use your music directly from behind your computer or laptop.
Denon HEOS 5 and Link app
The HEOS app, which is free to download for Android and iOS users, we have already mentioned a few times but is the central point for your HEOS system. The app offers three tabs that give you access to the rooms (linked HEOS devices), your music and the current view. In the tab for the rooms you can group or disconnect devices / speakers, in the tab you can select the source (streaming services, local music via DLNA or music on your mobile device) and in the tab ‘current’ you can see the current view control, for example in terms of volume and play / pause. At the top right of the ‘Music’ tab there is another icon for the settings. Here you can add a new HEOS device, manage your linked devices (also by means of an equalizer), create a HEOS account (not required for proper functioning), and have it checked for updates for the HEOS devices.
The app is well-organized and beautifully designed, and also works fairly smoothly. When you mainly use music streaming services like Spotify and Deezer, or occasionally play music from your mobile device, you will not encounter any problems. Navigation is smooth, devices are immediately recognized and music is played almost immediately. However, the media player for music via DLNA (upnp) is not optimal. Searching for files on a computer or NAS is not possible, loading is a bit slow and the overview here is hard to find, especially when you have lots of files.
When you stream music via Spotify you have the option to control music in the app of the service or in the ‘current’ tab of the HEOS app. The possibilities for operation in the HEOS app have not been extended. For example, it is not possible to switch playlists, for this you have to be in the Spotify app. You can, however, skip a song and adjust the volume. Incidentally, thanks to Spotify Connect support, the HEOS app does not need to be active or installed at all (when a friend comes by) to select the HEOS speakers and play music via Spotify. This is of course the case when you want to play music from your mobile device or external computer (or USB storage medium). Apart from Spotify and Deezer, Napster and TuneIN are also supported within HEOS.
Denon HEOS 5 and Link – audio quality
With the ease of use, the design and the possibilities of the HEOS products it is therefore good, but the most important of course is the audio quality. Denon is known as a brand that pays a lot of attention to optimal audio reproduction and also the HEOS speakers have to meet the high demands.
We used the HEOS 5 in both the office and the bedroom and connected the HEOS Link to a home theater system with Marantz receiver and B & W CM-series speakers. Both devices have fortunately managed to surprise us positively and that is also allowed when we look at the price tags.
The HEOS 5 is an excellent stand-alone speaker for a small to medium sized room, with sufficient power in the low tones, a clear reproduction of middle and high tones, and an overall dynamic reproduction. Initially, the speaker just too much (dominating) low but with a simple adjustment in the equalizer was this right to draw.
The HEOS Link is a very handy device to integrate your existing HiFi or home theater system into your multiroom setup. We connected the device to the Marantz receiver by means of an optical cable and were presented with a clear, dynamic and especially full and powerful sound. The nice thing is that the Link and HEOS 5 also work well together so there is no delay. The devices run perfectly synchronously.
Denon HEOS 5 and Link – conclusion
All in all, we must label the HEOS 5 and HEOS Link as ideal components for a multi-room audio system. They are not perfect, but they are very important. The HEOS 5 is an ideal speaker for the bedroom or office, with a beautiful design and impressive audio quality. The HEOS Link ensures that your existing installation can be connected with all your music and, even better, your music can be played together with the HEOS speakers. The installation is a piece of cake, the application is user-friendly and beautifully designed, and music can be played from almost any source. With a total price of around 750 euros, this set is not cheap, but for quality you just have to pay. In addition, the brand in the multiroom area, Sonos, has a formidable competitor.