The Denon CEOL RCD-N7 is a sort of hybrid system. From the outside it looks like a traditional mini hi-fi system, using a standard CD tray and simple 3-line OLED display. However, if this is all you want from a system you might as well opt for a cheaper CD/DAB solution like the Denon DF107DAB .
Connect the CEOL to a wireless network though and it can stream a music library from your PC, from Napster or Last.FM and connect to the thousands of internet radio stations littering the web. It’s a universe of content far more expansive than you’d get from a non-connected system, but it isn’t without holes.
The most glaring of them is the lack of Spotify, which is included in Logitech’s Squeezebox Touch streamer. You can play Spotify through the CEOL using the built-in Airplay feature, effectively streaming content from your iPhone/iPod Touch to the Denon, but we’d much rather have direct access to the service. Access to Naptser, and to a lesser extent Last.FM, somewhat make up for this, but as a free service, Spotify is still one of the most desirable.
We found the initial setup process, of getting the Denon CEOL connected to the Wi-Fi network, to be puzzlingly slow and laborious, but at least the majority of it won’t have to be repeated. As there is no keyboard built into the front controls or remote, you have to scroll through the alphabet in order to input each character of a WEP key, for instance. There was also a surprising amount of waiting around as the handshake between network and Hi-Fi took place, although this may be in part down to our Wi-Fi connection as well as the CEOL.
Once you’ve soldiered through these initial headaches, performance improves hugely. Navigating through menus, using either the front D-pad or the remote control, is quick and content pulled off the web displays near-instantaneously. For iPhone and iPod Touch owners there’s a bonus feature too – the Denon CEOL RCD-N7 is compatible with the Denon Remote App, letting you control the hi-fi completely from your iOS device.
Airplay functionality is flawless too. Airplay is an Apple feature that lets you stream music to compatible devices from your iPad, iPhone, iMac et al. It’s controlled using the Apple device itself, leaving the Denon CEOL as the dumb performer for your music.
Features like Airplay are more successful than the Napster and Last.FM streaming here, because the standard interface methods – the simple display, the remote control and physical front buttons – aren’t perfectly suited for browsing a gargantuan multi-million track library of music, and with Airplay you can avoid using these. That said, the controls are more than capable of handling internet radio or your own streamed music library, where there’s less involved searching required.
Switching between services is blissfully simple too, with a main menu that lists them all in a straightforward manner and those dedicated remote control buttons to speed up navigation even further. The one feature that seems to have been lopped off in favour of the CEOL’s connected skills is DAB radio – which is present in most of Denon’s other CD mini systems. There are arguments both for and against its inclusion but we’d err on the side of wanting to see it included.