DENON HEOS BAR FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

HEOS started life as Denon’s wire­less mul­ti­room au­dio sys­tem and a di­rect com­peti­tor to Sonos. These days, it’s a lit­tle more than that.

SoundMag - - Review / Heos - Ced Yuen (Trusted Re­views)

Now HEOS ex­ists as a brand in its own right, with prod­ucts sep­a­rate from Denon’s range. This is HEOS’s crack at an all-singing, all-dancing sound­bar. It will have to be rather spe­cial, as there’s no get­ting away from the fact that there’s only one other real com­peti­tor on the mar­ket: the Sonos Play­bar.

I got to have a play and a lis­ten to the HEOS Bar at a launch event – here are my ini­tial im­pres­sions while I wait for my re­view sam­ple.

DE­SIGN AND FEA­TURES

Take one look at the de­sign and it’s clear HEOS is try­ing to dis­tance it­self, aes­thet­i­cally at least, from Denon. While Denon tends to go for sim­ple straight lines with a slightly retro look, HEOS goes fu­tur­is­tic with a bunch of an­gles that wouldn’t look out of place on the back end of a Lam­borgh­ini. I like it.

It’s not all for show, ei­ther. The HEOS Bar’s driv­ers sit at 45 de­grees in­stead of fir­ing di­rectly for­wards, which helps with po­si­tion­ing flex­i­bil­ity. The idea is that you can sit it un­der your TV and it will fire slightly up­wards to­wards your sofa. Or you can wall mount it, ei­ther un­der or above your TV.

The HEOS logo at­tached by mag­nets, so you can rip it off and flip it around. The idea is that it will look up­right whichever way you place it. That’s lovely, and scores points against the more con­ven­tional box shape of the Sonos Play­bar.

The speaker grille is fixed on, but if you were in­clined to rip it off you’ll find three chan­nels, each with two mid-bass driv­ers and one tweeter. On the back you’ll find four HDMI 2.0a in­puts, with HDCP 2.2 sup­port. It will pass through HDR with 4:4:4 colour.

There’s HDMI ARC sup­port for feed­ing sound back from your TV, but if that’s not your thing there are also digital op­ti­cal and coax­ial in­puts. Then there’s a 3.5mm in­put, a USB port for con­nect­ing to ex­ter­nal hard drives, plus an Eth­er­net socket.

On the in­side? The HEOS Bar sup­ports Blue­tooth, plus a bunch of on­line stream­ing ser­vices: Spo­tify, Tidal, Ama­zon Mu­sic, Deezer, Pan­dora, Nap­ster and TuneIn Ra­dio. There is also sup­port for Hi-Res Au­dio up to 24-bit/192kHz.

Sound­bars are known for block­ing off the IR sig­nal to TVs, but the HEOS Bar gets past this by in­clud­ing four IR re­peaters at the back. Your TV re­mote’s sig­nal will get through just fine.

If the HEOS Bar isn’t enough for you, you can also add ex­tra com­po­nents – pair with the HEOS Sub­woofer (£599) for a 3.1 setup, or add the sub plus a pair of HEOS speak­ers and go

5.1. The com­po­nents con­nect di­rectly to the bar with a 5GHz wire­less sig­nal, rather than go­ing through your home’s Wi-Fi.

I’m told the sys­tem has a 10m range and min­i­mal la­tency.

All of the com­po­nents can be con­trolled by the HEOS app, so you can lis­ten to the HEOS Bar on its own for mu­sic, then add the other bits for movie night.

Speak­ing of con­trol, there are a few meth­ods you can use to play with the HEOS Bar. Be­sides the app, there’s a bun­dled re­mote con­trol. It’s a palm-sized thing, a lit­tle pla­s­ticky but a lot nicer than the bub­ble-button rubbish that you usu­ally get with sound­bars. You can also use your TV re­mote, as well as the few but­tons built into the sound­bar’s side.

Bot­tom line: as far as fea­tures are con­cerned, the HEOS Bar gives you a lot more than Sonos.

PER­FOR­MANCE

How does the HEOS Bar sound? Pretty darn good, both on its own and also in full 5.1 con­fig­u­ra­tion with the HEOS Sub­woofer and a pair of HEOS 1s. And that’s in a mas­sive trade show hall with plenty of back­ground noise – I ex­pect to be even more im­pressed when I get a re­view sam­ple for proper test­ing.

The first thing that struck me was the size of the sound. The HEOS

Bar isn’t the big­gest sound­bar I’ve seen, but its pre­sen­ta­tion is very spa­cious. I was in a hall five times the size of your av­er­age liv­ing room, but the bar had no prob­lem fill­ing it.

It’s not just got a big sound, ei­ther – it’s pre­cise too. The stereo im­age is nicely de­fined. Lis­ten to Pink Floyd’s Money and the cash-reg­is­ter sound ef­fects in the in­tro are pre­sented on the left and right, while the main riff was locked to the cen­tre.

Then there’s the power and en­ergy. Even in this early demon­stra­tion I felt the HEOS Bar of­fers more at­tack and ex­cite­ment than the Sonos Play­bar, which has a smoother, laid­back de­meanour. Tonal bal­ance is spot on as well – I al­ways felt the Sonos Play­bar was a lit­tle too warm.

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

This wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly in-depth demon­stra­tion, but I came away very im­pressed. I think Denon is re­ally onto some­thing here, and it looks like the com­pany has achieved its goal of an all-singing, all­danc­ing sound sys­tem. I’ll get into it more in my fi­nal re­view, but for now I think Sonos should be very, very wor­ried.

Price: $1,299

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