HEOS gets a High-Res Audio upgrade
An early challenger to SONOS, HEOS by Denon is back with a second generation mid-range upgrade
Denon’s HEOS line of wireless active speakers was the first real audio alternative to multiroom market leader SONOS. At launch there was barely a wafer-thin mint between the two rivals – Denon’s speakers occupied similar product space to SONOS and installation was just as straightforward - but with a new generation of HEOS models, and more universal support, there’s now clear blue sky between them.
This evolved range of HEOS speakers is dubbed HS2. They may look unchanged from their predecessors, but beneath the hood there’s considerably more processing power on tap, which has opened the door to High-Res Audio support.
All HS2 models also now offer Bluetooth, which makes it a doddle for anyone to share tracks. Curiously though, this Bluetooth implementation lacks high bandwidth aptX support. Apparently this is down to a limitation of the chipset used across the entire HS2 range.
We’re focusing on the HEOS 5 HS2 here. It’s a mid-range model positioned below the table-rocking HEOS 7, but above the diddy HEOS 1 and stand-up HEOS 3.
We like Denon’s HEOS aesthetic. Sure, the triangular design may be a little idiosyncratic for some, but at least it’s different. At 3kg, the HEOS 5 HS2 is impressively weighty, and undeniably well finished.
Connections include a USB port, 3.5mm audio jack and Ethernet. The only on-body controls are volume and mute. Compact at 294 x 166 x 209mm, it can be parked almost anywhere (kitchen counter, shelf, coffee table, office table), but you will need to accommodate a power brick. It sports a carry handle on the rear, but isn’t battery powered.
A HEOS system can officially support 32 speakers, so if you want to fill your home with dozens of HEOS 5 models feel free. But if variety’s more your thing, it’s also interoperable with a range of HEOS compatible components, including select Denon soundbars and AV receivers, a provision that launched with the nine-channel AVR-X4300H and the eleven-channel AVR-X6300H. It should be noted that the choice for wireless audio system builders is considerably better than with SONOS or Bluesound, but not quite as broad as Yamaha’s MusicCast.
Set-up and control is via the HEOS app, available for iOS and Android.
Few wireless multiroom speaker systems are as easy to install and configure. Just connect the HEOS 5 HS2 to a smartphone by the supplied 3.5mm cable, then update it with your network password. Once on-line, the 3.5mm cable is no longer required.
App services include Tidal, dal, Soundcloud, Napster, Deezer and Tunein radio. Spotify is via Spotify ify Connect. If you have music on your smartphone, on a DLNA NAS or in an iTunes library, the HEOS app will discover it. You can also play tunes locally from a USB thumbdrive.
True to form, the speaker er allows you to play multiple sources in multiple rooms simultaneously,taneously, depending on how your wireless sound system stem is configured. The choice is ultimately dictated by how many HEOS speakers you have and how robust your Wi-Fii-Fi network is. Synchronicity between units is excellent. ent. We paired the HEOS 5 in one room with a HEOSOS 1 elsewhere, and had no problems syncing them em without a timing echo. While all HEOS speakerseakers are dual band Wi-Fi compatible, they don’t use any form of MESH infrastructure, so you may need to employ Wi-Fi extendersers to get all your music around larger propertiesoperties without dropouts.
Sonically, the HEOS 5 is a cracking all-in-one. It’s a two-way y speaker design, with dual tweeters ers and woofers, powered by quartet uartet of Class D amp modules. s. A passive radiator is used to enhance bass, to considerable effect. Given the size of the speaker you wouldn’t expect it to sound particularly stereophonic. However, you can pair it with a second HEOS 5 for a proper two-channel performance, although that’s quite an expensive indulgence.
While I’d hesitate to describe any of the dedicated HEOS speaker line as audiophile grade, you really can hear the improvements offered by 24bit source material. High-Res Audio tracks play back with extra focus and
File support is excellent. In addition to MP3, AAC AAC, ALAC and 16-bit FLAC, our HEOS 5 also played uncompressed WAV, ALAC, AIFF and FLAC up to 24-bit 192kHz plus DSD 2 2.8Mhz and 5.6Mhz. Basically, whatever you have can prob probably be played.
That said, the speaker is not MQA co compatible.
As with SONOS, Denon declines to publish any specification for its HEOS models,mode but we can confirm, rather unscientificall unscientifically, that the HEOS 5 plays loud and goes deep. ByB way of evidence we invite you to listen to S Seventies reggae classic Double Barrel, by Dave and Ansil Collins, as well as club anthema How Do You Do, by Cascada. Th There’s nothing mild-mannered abou about its presentation
Those smallish driversd can get overwhelmed withw big riffs though – Iron Maiden’sMaiden Can I Play With Madness mayma be metal, but here it sounds a little too leaden for
its own g good.
There’s no doubt that this newly reborn rn HEOS HS2 offering represents a significant step-uptep-up in convenience and sonic quality from m the first models to wear the badge. The additionon of Hi-Res Audio support, plus Bluetooth, gives the line-up the moral high-ground when it comes to specification, and if you’re looking to build a multiroom system, this mid-ranger wouldould seem like a sensible place to start. The HEOSS 5 HS2 is a solid mid-range active loudspeaker. It’s ’s a tempting gateway into the HEOS ecosystem. system.
On the downside, the speaker can sound und a little monophonic, and the lack of aptX tX is unfortunate given the Hi-Res Audio nature ature of the upgrade. Still these are minor quibbles. uibbles. HS2 is a step in the right direction for Denon, and the HEOS 5 HS2 is definitely worth auditioning. ditioning.
• Connec Connections: Ethernet, USB port, 3.5mm audio jack
• Wireles Wireless support: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
• DLNA support:s yes
• Dimensions:Dimen 294 x 166 x 209mm
• Weight:Weight 3kg