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Denon CEOL RCD-N9 review




  • Recommended by TR

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Denon CEOL N9 3
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  • Denon CEOL N9 5
  • Denon CEOL N9 6


Our Score:



  • All the connectivity you could hope for
  • Superb sound quality
  • Can be used to boost TV audio


  • Speakers not included

Key Features

  • 2 x 65W power output; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, NFC, USB, Ethernet; CD player; DAB/DAB+/FM/AM radio; 2 optical inputs; subwoofer out
  • Manufacturer: Denon
  • Review Price: £349.00

What is the Denon CEOL RCD-N9?

The CEOL N9 is pretty much as connected a slice of hi-fi as you could hope for. It's a micro system that marries the traditional functions of CD playing and radio receiving with new-fangled streaming tech. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay support, Spotify Connect, NFC, USB, Ethernet... The whole nine yards. You can even control it via an app, if you so wish.

What it doesn't have is speakers, with Denon's optional matching pair adding £100 to a price that isn't exactly super-cheap to start with.

Related: Best Wireless Speakers

Denon CEOL N9

Denon CEOL RCD-N9 – Design and Features

The CEOL N9 I tested was a gorgeous gloss black, but it's also available in similarly shiny white. It shares a lot of design traits with its predecessor, the Denon CEOL RCD-N8 – a little smaller than a shoebox, with gently curved side corners.

There have been plenty of changes, though, not least of which is that the N8's top-mounted iPhone/iPod dock has gone. Meh, who docks an iThingy these days, eh?

The top plate isn't totally bare, however, with many of the controls moved up there to create an altogether more modern-looking unit. Volume up/down, a source selection button, the menu D-pad and the play/pause controls are all up top, while the front panel features the power button, CD open/close control, a USB socket, a 3.5mm headphones socket, the CD drawer and a three-line OLED display. All the essentials and nothing more. It's neat.

Denon CEOL N9 2

It's surprising how light the CEOL N9 is. To be honest, it feels a little plasticky. But we're not talking top-end hi-fi prices here, so perhaps I'm expecting too much. It just doesn't feel as luxurious as it looks.

Around the back are the speaker terminals – a variation of the plastic spring-clip type – as well as one stereo RCA input, a subwoofer output, two S/PDIF optical inputs, FM and AM antenna sockets, and an Ethernet connection. There are also buttons for simple WPS Wi-Fi network connection and AirPlay pairing.

Denon CEOL N9 6

Those optical inputs will be especially interesting for anyone looking to upgrade their TV's sound. Most modern TVs have an optical output that you can hook up to the CEOL N9, so you can use the N9 as an alternative to a soundbar or soundbase.

The CEOL's remote control isn't exactly inspiring, but it's armed with everything you could need. The most important buttons are also coloured white to distinguish them, which is a nice touch.

Denon CEOL RCD-N9 – Performance

Getting the N9 set up and connected to my Wi-Fi network was incredibly simple, as was pairing a phone. The OLED display is bright and easy to read. I did have to sit through a firmware update at one point, but that's just part of tech life these days, and it didn't take more than a few minutes.

Denon CEOL N9 1

I didn't have Denon's matching SC-N9 speakers to hand, but I did try it out with a few appropriate pairs I had lying around – mostly some old B&W DM601 S3s, and also some funky Scandyna Minipods. There are plenty of bookshelf speakers around the £100-300 mark that would partner the N9 nicely, without putting too much strain on its 2 x 65W output.

Denon micro systems have always punched above their weight for sound quality, and the CEOL N9 is no exception. Like the N8 before it, the N9 puts in a stellar performance for this price level. Treble is sparkling and the mid-range isn't too thick. It doesn't suck all the life out of the music like many micros do.

It's very comfortable with all types of music, too, thanks to striking an enviable sonic balance and neutrality.

Denon CEOL N9 5

Should I buy the Denon CEOL RCD-N9?

There are some incredibly cheap micro systems out there which are packing Bluetooth for easy streaming from phones. There are also so many Bluetooth speakers to choose from that we couldn't get them all tested if we had a century to do it.

What there isn't is any audio system so comprehensively equipped as the CEOL N9. For versatility it just can't be beaten, and the sound quality is impressive at this price. Shop around and you'll even find it well under the RRP.

Related: Best Soundbars


There's life in the micro system yet. Just about the most versatile hi-fi you'll find – once you've added suitable speakers, of course.

Overall Score



January 25, 2016, 5:19 pm

The problem is "who are Denon these days?" - They were a high quality brand in the 90s but there has been a lot of mergers of the old names in the last decade, and some of them have got a little lost in their brand "marketing proposition" within their new multibrand groups...


January 25, 2016, 7:01 pm

Denon was, and still is, a major player in the A/V receiver market, so what's your point?


January 25, 2016, 8:36 pm

why don't you know what the point was? it's part of d&m, which means it is not independent of design but a positioning of design to a price and market point... a more dedicated group than say the group that owns sansui/akai/ross(and others) that labels things they make as the design price point or retail outlet is best suited... even pioneer is becoming a brand alternative to onkyo rather than a design. sony absorbed aiwa (after briefly making it a cheaper youth targeted brand)... jvc & kenwood the same merged shadows of their past... these companies are like vw... its the same basic car, but you can have it positioned with a bit of marketing lead tweaking for a skoda/seat/vw/audi/porsche label rather than a dedicated unique design from each... so where are denon aimed at when they "tweak" a group design for a price point and a marketing style.. i have some very average denon headphones that really do not live up to their heritage - have they been consistent in their positioning aim over the last decade or inconsistent as they try to find a new price point market for their brand to compete in ?


January 25, 2016, 9:43 pm

Even when Denon were independent they still designed to a price and market point, that's what every company does! So yes, Denon receivers share core designs with Marantz, but the two products are still different, not only in looks, but also in their analogue output stage, which means they are "voiced" differently and will sound different. There are fewer brands to choose from for sure, but the brands that still exist, at least in the markets that Denon occupy, are still sufficiently varied. As to why Denon's headphones are not as good as their older models, who knows? There may be other factors involved, such as a shift in focus and directing resources to more profitable departments. It would not be the first time a successful brand has dropped the ball with a product that used to be very good.

The Near Side

January 26, 2016, 6:35 pm

You say it has dab and dab+. Does it?


July 21, 2016, 10:17 am

According to denon website it does not...


February 20, 2017, 10:30 pm

DAB isn't that worthwhile on a Hi-Fi. I think that as DAB has such poor sound quality it is only worth having on a portable radio. Compare Classic FM on a decent stereo like this and DAB and you will agree!

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