Distributed audio has been around for a while now. Companies like Sonos and others have taken advantage of the advances in wireless technologies and music streaming services to offer unprecedented access to digital libraries. The market is developing rapidly and manufacturers are in race to provide the very best in functionality, ease of use, and reliability.
The Denon HEOS system is a scalable, expandable, and affordable distributed audio system for just about every conceivable domestic set up.The HEOS line up is comprehensive, with three speakers, an amplifier, a link, and an optional Wi-Fi extender.
The three speakers vary in shape and size. The $599 HEOS 7 is the largest speaker, with two tweeters, two midrange drivers, and one bass driver powered by five Class D amplifiers. Two passive radiators to supplement bass. The $399 HEOS 5 has two tweeters, two midrange drivers, four Class D amplifiers, a passive radiator, and a convenient carry handle. The $299 HEOS 3 is the smallest speaker, featuring two full-range drivers, dual amplifiers, and a rear port for added bass. It can be placed vertically or horizontally, or wall mounted; use two HEOS 3 speakers to create a stereo set up.
I also received the $349 HEOS Link and the $499 HEOS amp. The Link allows you to turn your existing stereo into a streaming monster. The Amp allows you to use your own set of speakers, connected via traditional binding posts. I will first discuss the speaker system, then the Link and Amp. Let me say upfront the HEOS products build quality, presentation, and packaging are first class.
Set Up And Listening
The set up and source possibilities for the HEOS are off the charts, so hold on to your hats. You can...
- Connect the speaker modules via ethernet or secure wireless network.
- Plug in a USB storage device like a thumb drive.
- Play music stored directly on an Android phone or tablet, or an iPhone or iPad.
- Use a mini jack cable to plug an analog source into an Aux input.
- Stream Spotify Connect (premium membership required), Rhapsody, over 70,000 internet radio stations via TuneIn, and Pandora.
- Or stream music from a NAS or computer running DLNA software.
In other words, you can basically distribute virtually millions of tracks around your house via a network.
I set up the HEOS 7 in my kitchen, the HEOS 5 the master bathroom, and the HEOS 3 in the den. Next I installed the HEOS app on all portable devices, including iPads, iPhones, and an Android tablet. Connecting to the network wirelessly was utterly painless and headache free. Each room is a customizable "zone."
Once each module is connected, you can apply EQ, control the volume, and stream music. You can simultaneously stream different sources to each room, so each family member can use a zone with absolutely no glitches or conflicts. During the review period, my wife and I often had different music streaming to a different HEOS zone. She was partial to Spotify and music stored on her iPad, and I mostly streamed my FLAC library stored on a networked Mac Mini I use as a NAS, running MiniMServer. No matter the source, we never experienced a single drop out or stutter. Impressive. Of course, this will be dependent on the robustness of your network.