Stuff goes through wireless speakers the way that other companies go through newspapers in the break-room (you do have a break-room, don’t you?) and for that reason, we’ve gotten very picky about the sound quality in the office. Even the non-editorial staff can tell the difference between a good, great and disappointing speaker – long story short, there’s a bit of a bar that has been set at Stuff Towers.
Denon’s HEOS 5, a wireless speaker that is part of a larger set and is designed for multi-room use, manages to cross this bar but it won’t be displacing the Harmon Kardon Aura‘s blinky lights and easy connectivity in taking over our playlists any time soon. It shouldn’t really be competing against a Bluetooth speaker like the Aura but, taken alone, that’s what we’re forced to stack it up against. As a set, it would be vying for our affections against the brilliance that is the Sonos collection of devices.
A Drop in the Ocean
Denon have given the HEOS 5 a strange enough shape to stand out, though you’re going to want to display it at an angle in order to get folks to notice it. The side-on view is a teardrop shape, which makes a nice change from the squat, rectangular speakers we’ve inundated with without sacrificing that low center of gravity that keeps them from falling off the desk when an errant nudge pokes them.
On one side are the controls, for volume and mute, with the rest of the inputs, like the 3.5mm audio, USB and ethernet ports, living at the rear of the speaker near the base. Out of the way, where we can’t do too much damage. While we wouldn’t like to drop it, those side angles make us nervous about structural integrity, it’s solidly-constructed enough to withstand a knock or two. Not that we’re recommending you mistreat it, the HEOS 5 is fairly expensive for a speaker.
Connectivity: 3.5mm audio jack, Ethernet port, WiFi, USB
Dimensions: 209mm x 294 x 166
Setting up the HEOS 5, physically, takes no effect at all. Actually connecting to it, using the office WiFi, was another story but that’s because it’s deceptively simple.
We’re used to speakers that broadcast a wireless signal of some kind, whether it’s Bluetooth or actual WiFi. The HEOS is different in that you will need to download Denon’s HEOS app (Android, iOS) and, once the app is on your mobile device of choice, physically connect to the speaker using the included 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable in order to complete setup. Once that’s done you’re just following on-screen prompts to put connection info into the speaker but it still threw us slightly. We’re very just to just plugging a speaker in and hitting ‘search’ in the Bluetooth menu.
Once you have the app working, music can be streamed over WiFi to the speaker itself using the app, which will stream from one of several services as well as from local devices. You can also cut out the middle-man and connect a smartphone or USB to the speaker directly. The question is: do you want to?
And the answer to that is: perhaps not. When taken as a standalone speaker, the HEOS 5 battles in comparison to units designed expressly for that purpose. Part of it is the connectivity, which isn’t as broad or convenient as we’ve seen in competing speakers, but it’s also the HEOS 5’s bass response. We’ve managed to crush the speaker with bass-heavy tracks that the HK Aura just brushes aside, though the mid-range and high-end is as clear and detailed as you could want. There’s a reason for that.
We didn’t have a chance to really see what this speaker setup can do in its native habitat. As mentioned, the HEOS 5 is designed for use in conjunction with the other products in the line, the HEOS 3 and 7, in order for the full impact of the audio to be heard, and the inclusion of the HEOS 7 would alleviate the bass concerns we have here thanks to its woofer. But we’ll have that in a short while, local distributor Homemation have promised us another crack at the HEOS 5 with the 3 and 7 present to give it some support.
You’re probably not going to want to replace your standalone streaming speaker for the HEOS 5 on its own, unless you’re really fond of Spotify and want to make the setup a permanent fixture in your home. We’re still holding out complete judgement until we’ve had time with the complete speaker system from Denon though, as we can see where the HEOS 5 fits in in a multi-room system. We just need a few more pieces of the puzzle.