The Denon CEOL is a well thought out, compact stereo system providing good-quality music from a wide range of sources, including your network and the internet.
The Denon CEOL network audio system is a compact, decent-quality stereo system that includes a CD player, FM radio, iPod dock and digital media player for USB and network content. Your AU$1000 gets you three components: two compact loudspeakers and one main box of electronics, plus a remote control. You have a choice of gloss black or white.
The main electronics unit provides a stereo amplifier with a built-in CD player, FM radio tuner and a range of network functions. There's an iPod/iPhone dock on top — using the old 30-pin connection, so for newer Apple devices, you'll need a Lightning adapter. You can't use the dock for an iPad, since the connector is recessed. iPads, new iPhones, iPod Touches and iPod Nanos can be plugged in, using their own cables, to the USB socket at the front. This USB port delivers enough oomph to charge an iPad. Or you can use that USB socket for music from any mass-storage media device.
Networking can be wired or Wi-Fi. The unit provides all of its visual feedback via the front display panel — there is no video output option for controlling the device via your TV. The network functionality supports Apple AirPlay, access to audio on your network via DLNA protocols, use of the Denon remote app on both iOS and Android devices and, of course, internet streaming services.
One of those services, Last.fm, won't work in Australia without manipulating your network location settings in some way. The other two, vTuner-based Internet Radio and the Spotify subscription music service, both work here.
Denon has made getting the system up and going easy. Taking notes from Apple, it seems, you open the carton and find right at the top a clearly laid-out pamphlet labelled "Start Here". The full manual is provided in the unit on a CD ROM if you need more detail.
Initially, this system sounded very strange indeed. It was unfocused, without clear localisation. Any experienced listener would recognise what was going immediately: the speakers were out of phase with each other. That is, the "positive" terminal on one, but not both, was connected to the "negative" terminal on the amplifier. So if you feed a mono signal to the stereo system, while one speaker cone is pushing out, the other one is pulling in, instead of them working together.