Denon Heos 7

Score

Pros

  • Big room-filling sound with sumptuous detail
  • Weighty build quality
  • Easy-to-use smartphone app with a wide range of streaming services

Cons

  • No hi-res music support
  • Bluetooth not integrated
  • No track time slider

Key Features

  • Review Price: £499.90
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi and multiroom functionality
  • Five Class D amplifiers
  • 2 x mid-woofers, 2 x tweeters, 2 x passive radiators, 1 x subwoofer
  • Spotify, Deezer, Napster, SoundCloud, TIDAL, TuneIn and Rdio
  • Bluetooth support with supplied dongle

What is the Denon Heos 7?

The Heos 7 is Denon’s range-topping multiroom speaker, positioned above the £299 Heos 5, the £249 Heos 3 and the portable Heos 1.

Like Samsung and Sonos, Denon’s speakers are ordered by size and as the

largest speaker in the range Heos 7 is designed to fill big living

rooms and other open spaces.

My main criticism of the Heos 1

was that Bluetooth was only available as an optional extra, but since

then Denon has sensibly taken the decision to throw in a free Bluetooth

dongle with the Heos 3, 5 and 7, allowing you to stream music from a

wider range of devices at no extra cost.

Related: Best portable speakers 2016

Denon Heos 7

Denon Heos 7 – Design and Connections

Whereas

the Heos 1’s rugged compact enclosure was designed for portability,

Heos 7 has living room centrepiece written all over it. Its distinctive

angles and curves are pure eye candy, particularly with the gentle blue

light glowing underneath, while the black cloth and brushed metallic

apex form a striking combination. Even more impressive is the Heos 7’s

build quality – it’s solidly made and surprisingly heavy, easily

justifying every penny of the asking price. It’s relatively big for a

wireless speaker, but that’s because it has some big rooms to fill.

The

volume and mute controls are confined to the right-hand side, keeping

the cloth-covered front surface free from clutter. At the opposite end

is a 3.5mm headphone output (not found on the other Heos models) while

the back end houses a 3.5mm minijack input for non-wireless devices, a

USB port that lets you play music from external drives and an Ethernet

port. A button labelled Connect links Heos 7 to your router.

Denon Heos 7 – Features

Thanks

to its dual-band Wi-Fi connection, Heos 7 allows you to stream music

from smartphones, tablets, NAS drives, PCs… anything with an internet

connection basically. 

If you want to broaden your musical

horizons there’s a range of music streaming services inside Denon’s free

Heos app for iOS and Android. The generous selection includes regulars

like Spotify, Deezer, Napster, TuneIn and Rdio, plus less common apps

like TIDAL and SoundCloud. 

The key feature is multiroom

playback. Place Heos speakers in different rooms around the house and

you can use the app to beam music from various sources to any of them,

or group speakers together and play the same thing through them all.

Cleverly you can send music from devices connected to the USB or

analogue inputs to other speakers in the system. And don’t forget you

can beam music via Bluetooth using the supplied dongle, although it’s

still a shame that Bluetooth isn’t integrated as it would free up the

USB port.

Related: Best headphones 2016

Denon Heos 7

Heos

7 backs up this superb network functionality with some high-powered

audio tech. Five dedicated Class D amplifiers drive a large subwoofer,

two mid-woofers and two tweeters, all reinforced by two passive

radiators. 

The sound is enhanced further by Waves’

MaxxAudio processing, which uses ‘psychoacoustic science’ to provide

intelligent volume control, multiband equalisation, bass extension and

spatial expansion. Apparently this Technical Grammy award-winning

wizardry is used in the world’s top recording studios.

The

biggest let-down feature-wise is the lack of hi-res audio playback.

Attempts to stream hi-res FLAC files result in a ‘Playback error,

unsupported format’ message. 

Denon Heos 7 – Setup

Like

most multiroom speakers you need to install the Heos app and follow the

onscreen instructions. But Denon’s method is unusual in that you have

to connect your phone to Heos 7 using the supplied 3.5mm cable, which

transfers your router’s password to the speaker. It’s seems a bit old

fashioned but it works. 

Once you’ve connected the first

Heos, you can add further speakers by hitting the ‘Add Device’ option

and going through the process again, although this option is harder to

find than it should be.

Denon Heos 7 – Heos App

The

Heos smartphone app is one of the best around. The layout is fancy but

uncomplicated, using familiar icons and legible text on every page. My

music library contains over 17,000 songs but the Heos app scrolled down

the list at great speed – a far cry from Samsung’s app, which pauses

after every swipe to load the next batch of songs or albums.

There

are three tabs at the bottom of the screen – Rooms, Music and Now

Playing. The Rooms tab displays all connected Heos speakers, which can

be grouped together by dragging and dropping the tiles onto each other.

You can even play music in stereo through two grouped speakers.

Denon Heos 7

I

linked up a Heos 7, 5 and 1 in a three-way multiroom system and the

whole thing was a breeze from start to finish. The app found each

speaker immediately, and there were no problems grouping them together. I

sent a track from Spotify to the Heos 7 in the living room while

playing songs from my NAS drive on the Heos 5 and 1 in different

bedrooms, and the app wasn’t phased in the slightest by these multiroom

gymnastics.

The Music tab displays all available streaming

services and sources. Each tile is clearly labelled to help you find

your music (‘This Phone’, ‘Music Servers’ and so on). The Now Playing

screen packs in all the info you need, accompanied by cover art,

transport controls and a volume slider. On the downside there’s no time

slider for skipping to the middle of a track.

The app saves

every track you play in the playlist queue, unless you select the ‘Play

Now & Replace Queue’ option when you select a track. Otherwise it

repeats tracks you just played, which can be annoying. 

Regular

Spotify users shouldn’t need to visit the Heos app very often, as

playback is controlled from the Spotify app. Just tap the Spotify

Connect logo and the Heos 7 is listed in the ‘Devices Available’ menu.

Denon Heos 7 – Performance

It

should come as no surprise given Denon’s enviable hi-fi heritage but

the Heos 7 is a cracking performer. What strikes me first is the sheer

density of the sound, with thick, tightly-fused bass giving everything a

warm and punchy quality. 

That’s a real bonus when playing

bass-heavy stuff like hip-hop or house – Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle

album sounds remarkably muscular, with those buzzy basslines and tight

kick drums pumping into every corner of the room. If I’m being picky, it

perhaps overplays the bass aspect, which means fans of a leaner sound

might find it a little overbearing, but you can always tweak the bass

and treble settings in the setup menu.

This

room-filling talent is one of the Heos 7’s key features and a

compelling reason to select it over the Heos 5 or 3 if your living room

is particularly cavernous. It uses those five amps and formidable

drivers to deliver a hugely powerful soundstage, and that’s with the

volume just over half-way – I didn’t have the nerve to crank it any

further for fear of the police getting involved.

But it’s

not all about power. Heos 7 also offers an abundance of sonic detail,

which lends pleasing texture and authenticity, as well as making the

soundstage open and airy. The busy Latin percussion in Brand New Day by

Louie Vega is a real treat, with crisply-rendered shakers, bongos and

hi-hats rhythmically interweaving within the spacious stage while other

instruments fill the gaps in between. There’s clear separation and a

lovely sense of width thanks to the generously spaced left and right

drivers (another benefit of the Heos 7’s size).

What’s more,

excellent dynamics give uptempo songs lots of energy, while the solid,

detailed midrange makes voices sound engaging and intimate. And the best

part is that the Denon treats music from any source with the same

respect despite the fluctuation in quality, be it Spotify, DLNA or a

device hooked up to the analogue jack.

Denon Heos 7

Should I buy the Denon Heos 7?

Heos

7 is not a cheap wireless speaker by any stretch of the imagination,

but it easily justifies its price tag with a refined, room-filling sound,

superb design and a top-drawer feature set – now enhanced by the

sensible inclusion of a free Bluetooth dongle.

I love the

stylish, versatile Heos app, which handles seemingly complex multiroom

operations in its sleep while providing access to a generous range of

music sources and streaming services. What impressed me most is how it

navigates through huge music libraries so quickly and obediently. Setup

is easy too, despite using an old-fashioned cable as part of the

process.
  

But in the end it comes back to that killer sound

quality, which makes Heos 7 a top choice for those who want to fill a

big room with sweet, sweet music.

Denon Heos 7 – Verdict

This

stylish, luxurious multiroom speaker delivers a big sound for big

rooms, backed up by a slick and professional phone app that lets you

access a wide range of streaming services and music sources

Overall Score

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