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Denon HEOS 1 review:

Wireless multiroom speaker with outdoor options

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The Good The Denon HEOS 1 offers a rugged build and decent audio quality in an affordable package. The HEOS app is easy to use and attractive-looking. The addition of the HEOS Go package for $99 offers a lot of flexibility including battery power, splashproofing and Bluetooth.

The Bad The HEOS without the Go pack isn't as compelling. Setup of wireless requires a proprietary cable. The app can behave oddly and the number of services pales in comparison to Sonos. For audiophiles there's no high-res support.

The Bottom Line The Denon HEOS 1 offers a rugged design and a great feature set to users who want the flexibility of both multiroom music and optional Bluetooth portability.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.1 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Sound 7.0
  • Value 8.0

The number of wireless multiroom systems on the market has exploded in the last 18 months, and it can be daunting wading through all the different ecosystems. While many designs are more or less clones of market leader Sonos, Denon is one of the first to offer something different with a portable wireless speaker, the HEOS 1.

It takes the company's HEOS multiroom music streaming system to more parts of the house than before, and it can even be taken with you. On its own at $199 (£199 in the UK; price unavailable for Australia) the base HEOS offers Wi-Fi streaming of your own music library and over a dozen music services, but pay an extra $99 (£79 in the UK), for the HEOS 1 Go Pack and the device really comes into its own. Not only do you get a splashproof guard for the ports but you also get a six-hour portable battery and the all-important Bluetooth capability.

Its build quality is superb, and sound quality is pretty consistent with other devices at the price, including the Sonos Play:1. If you're looking for a versatile streaming in a rugged package the Denon offers a good deal, but I'd personally like to see a simplified setup routine, and perhaps support for high-res music files as well.

Editor's note Sep 26, 2017: Since the review was written, the Denon Heos 1 has been updated to version HS2 which adds both Bluetooth and hi-res support.

Design

Sarah Tew/CNET

Part Bluetooth speaker, part kitchen counter buddy, the Denon is a compact, 8-inch-tall speaker with superb build quality. It comes in a choice of white or black, and is more stylish than most competitors with its angular speaker grille.

On the top of the device are just three controls - volume up, volume down, and mute -- and so if you just want to play music you'll need to use a separate device as a controller. This is a little disappointing as even the Sonos devices have a play button.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's got surprising heft at 3.13 lbs (1.42 kg) and its dimensions fill out at 7.44 inches by 5.08 inches by 5.04 inches (189 by 129 by 128 mm). If you add the optional Go Pack it adds a further inch to the height and 0.71lbs (320g) to the weight.

Features

Sarah Tew/CNET

Without the Go Pack, pictured above, the $199 HEOS 1 isn't very compelling when compared with the Sonos:1 with its significantly more capable ecosystem. But the ability to go portable and splashproof, not to mention stream Bluetooth, is worth the extra $99 and takes the speaker to places Sonos has never gone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The last time we saw a portable Wi-Fi speaker was the Logitech UE Smart Radio , but there are some significant differences between that device and the HEOS. While the Logitech device lacked waterproofing and Bluetooth, it was more like a traditional radio with a screen and a full set of controls; the HEOS can't be used without a smartphone or another source.

Sarah Tew/CNET

At the back of the device are an Ethernet input, an aux input and a USB port. The USB has dual uses: It can be used to power and play back from a phone or to connect the optional Bluetooth adapter.

Like the Sonos ecosystem, be aware that the HEOS will not play anything that's higher than CD quality, so audiophiles may need to keep looking.

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