As the market for multi-room wireless speakers continues to expand, a new competitor aims to knock the pioneer of the genre, Sonos, from its throne. The seasoned audio veterans at Denon today unveiled a brand new line of wireless components looking to take on the multi-room audio champ, consisting of a three-speaker series dubbed HEOS.
For those unfamiliar, about 10 years ago Sonos created a line of extremely succinct wireless speakers that operate in tandem, allowing users to stream music over Wi-Fi from a single source to multiple rooms without latency, or send a different source to each speaker, all from an extremely intuitive and powerful app on a computer or mobile device. Since then, the genre has exploded, spawning copycats from the likes of Samsung, Bose, and others.
With HEOS, Denon appears to be making little effort to hide its mimicry of the popular system. Like Sonos, Denon’s gorgeous new speakers come in three sizes and price points, and offer minimalist designs. The teardrop-shaped components speak Wi-Fi, and offer easy access to cloud services, and hard drives, and streaming apps (though which apps are supported is yet to be announced). And the system is controlled over an iOS or Android app.
However, unlike previous challengers, the HEOS lineup is crafted by Denon – and that could mean that these babies offer some serious audio performance. Eight years in the making, Denon boasts its new lineup offers “audiophile-level synchronization” which suggests highly tuned clocking for playback. For its DSP setup, Denon has partnered with the digital gurus at Waves, offering the company’s proprietary MaxxAudio DSP system. And of course, the new speakers incorporate Denon’s century of audio design prowess.
In addition to the speakers, Denon offers HEOS Extend, which extends the range for larger homes, or those with poor Wi-Fi range. The company has also announced that in the near future, it will offer more speakers, as well as similarly controlled preamp and amplifier expansion packs, allowing users to transform their “dumb” systems into smart, multi-zone audio systems.
Users will have to ante up if they want a multi-room system with Denon’s considerable sound design prowess thrown into the mix, however. While exact pricing for the current lineup wasn’t fully disclosed (nor were names for each model, for that matter), Denon’s press release says the three speakers start at $300, and top out at $600. Using our superlative deductive reasoning skills, that pegs the middle-tier speaker at around $400, and puts the entire series $100 or more above Sonos’ Play:1, Play:3, and Play:5.
Will Denon’s new challenger offer audio performance worth shelling out the extra dough? We’ll find out soon enough, as we will be pulling the series in for a full review. If you can’t wait for our final verdict, however, you can buy Denon’s new HEOS speakers from Denon authorized dealers at the end of June.
Update 6/5/2014: Due to new information from Denon, this article has been updated to reflect that the HEOS does not offer NAS storage playback at this time, and will not be available until the end of June.