Setting up the Denon CEOL DRA-N5 is a simple procedure. A Quick Setup system runs through the key settings, including Wi-Fi connection. Ethernet is an easier and more reliable method, particularly if you plan to stream hi-res music, but having built-in Wi-Fi is a real boon.
Wireless setup involves keying in your password using the alphanumeric keys on the remote, which is a little laboured but you won’t have to do it again. The same applies when entering Spotify and Last.fm login credentials.
Day-to-day operation is easy, thanks largely to the excellent OLED display, which boasts bright, crisp text, cute icons and a simple structure. You can move backwards and forwards through menus and playlists simply by pressing the left and right keys.
Internet radio and Spotify adhere to the same straightforward structure, making it easy to find the tracks and stations you want. Long song titles scroll smoothly across the screen.
That said, we did find the DRA-N5 a little slow to respond at times, particularly when diving deep into our PC’s music folders, and it crashed a couple of times – hopefully that’s peculiar to our review sample.
The remote must be one of the longest ever made, but it’s stylishly designed in a coffee-table friendly gloss black finish. Its buttons are clearly labelled and helpfully arranged, with the direction pad bang in the middle, prominent volume keys and a group of clearly-labelled input selection buttons at the top.
We had no trouble using the zapper, but for a much more engaging experience try downloading Denon’s Remote App onto your iOS or Android device – it’s a great-looking app, making it easy to control every aspect of the system, search for music from any source and create playlists.
Rigged up to a pair of Teufel speakers, the DRA-N5 proves to be an assured performer. It is to music what Messi is to the football pitch, mesmerising you with finesse, agility and excitement.
We started with Jazzanova’s Funkhaus Studio Sessions – a 256kbps MP3 album on an iPod connected to the USB port – and the retro-soul sound is rich, detailed and busy without feeling congested.
The Denon presents the music within a spacious and beautifully balanced stereo soundstage. It brings focus to individual instruments and voices but never at the expense of the bigger picture – audio emerges as a solid, cohesive whole.
Seek out more uptempo tracks and the sound is dynamic and fulsome, bolstered by nimble yet weighty basslines and hi-hats that zip from the speakers with utter clarity. Better yet, even the most vigorous drums or screechy vocals can’t make the Denon sound harsh or hurried – the Denon is a wonderfully composed customer.
Lossless audio files played from a USB drive obviously show off the Denon at its best, bringing outstanding subtlety, clarity and depth to voices and instruments. It’s like the band is in the room.
But at the other end of the spectrum – internet radio – the Denon articulates the voices on talkSPORT and BBC 5 Live with great clarity, and even makes the 128k stream from Solar Radio sound enjoyable. Spotify sounds terrific too.
Overall the sound isn’t quite as sparky as the Naim UnitiQute 2 – a similar but more expensive all-in-one player – but at around a quarter of the price it’s quite an achievement that it even comes close.
The CEOL Piccolo is a remarkably good music system for the money. Its ability to play music from a wide range of sources, combined with its dreamy looks, sublime sound quality and user-friendly operating system, make it worth every penny of its price tag – even without Bluetooth, DAB and a CD drive.
CD lovers need not apply, but Denon’s compact, versatile music system delivers sublime sound from any source.