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, thewhich adds both Bluetooth and hi-res support.
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.
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.
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.
The last time we saw a portable Wi-Fi speaker was the, 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.
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.
The HEOS app offers a three-tab layout with rooms, music and now playing. It's a little clunky adding music to your mix compared with the slick Sonos control with its universal search, but the Denon still appears to work well.