With three products in the Heos range (numbered 3, 5 and 7 -- rather than 1, 3, and 5) there's little doubt that Denon is gunning for a share of Sonos' Play series market space. In this first look, we put both systems side by side to see how they stack up. We'll give them a deeper dive at a later date, but for now we'll see how they compare.
With Heos, the bigger the number, the bigger (and more expensive) the speaker. Much like Sonos, the different sizes are designed for different sized rooms in your house. The prices are $300, $400 and $600.
The baby of the bunch is Heos 3 ($300). Here we see it side-by-side with Sonos' most diminutive speaker, the Play 1 ($200). The Heos 3 is much taller, but weighs about the same as the Play 1. Both have a dual-driver system, but unlike the Sonos, Denon added USB and 3.5mm inputs to its range of speakers. Denon's fabric finish is a throwback from home HiFi systems of the past. Sonos' metallic finish feels more robust.
The most important controls (volume and mute) are on the top side of the device. The Heos 3 can also sit horizontally giving you a choice of configurations. Unlike...
...the Play 1, which has two choices: vertical or tough luck. The Play 1 also has its controls on top. Both speakers have a 1/4-inch wall mount.
Denon has a lot more going on around the back. This includes more inputs (aux in, or MP3, FLAC, WMA, AAC and WAV over USB). Sonos hid the power connection underneath (and the adapter is internal, Denon's is external).
"For medium to large rooms" the Heos 5 ($400) is Denon's middle-child. As with the Heos 3, it's significantly larger than Sonos' equivalent Play 3 ($300).
Denon gave the Heos 5 four drivers (two tweeters and two mid-woofers). If you're keeping count, that's one more than the Play 3 (which has one tweeter and two mid-range drivers).
Once again, the Heos 5 has the additional inputs that you won't get on the Sonos. There's even a handy... handle for moving it about the room.
Unlike the Heos 3, the Heos 5 only has one position configuration. The teardrop shape means the controls can be found around the side. They're responsive (light action) though, so you won't move the device unintentionally when you want to change volume etc.
The big daddy of the bunch -- the Heos 7 ($600). Two custom tweeters and two mid-woofers; large subwoofer and two passive radiators is what you'll get for that princely price-tag (oh, and that metallic "apex" finishing touch).
When it comes to volume, the Heos 7 (with its extra drivers and amps) dominates the Play 5 ($400). If room (or patio, or garden)-filling sound is what you are after, the the Heos 7 is what you want.
...but this time, it's Sonos who wins on the handle front.
Side by side, Denon's largest speaker is much wider, but ever-so-slightly shallower than the Sonos Play 5.
Hardware features are one thing, but really it's all about the music. Denon might not have the comprehensive coverage that Sonos has, but with Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn and Rhapsody onboard at launch, it's not a bad start. More services will be added in the future we're assured. As for the apps? Heos is compatible with iOS and Android right now, but no desktop option just yet.
Right at the start we mentioned the difference in power adapters. Sonos has built all that inside, so you just have a regular plug cable between the speaker and the wall. Heos by Denon requires a separate power brick, something you'll need to hide behind the device if you want to keep things tidy.
In our early testing of the Heos range we were impressed by the audio. It's slightly heavier on the low frequencies compared to Sonos, so you'll need to decide which is more to your taste (especially if you find the Sonos sounding thin, or vice versa). The Heos range is handsome enough, but a perhaps a bit retro HiFi for some more modern tastes. The masculine design will suit some spaces more than others for sure.
When it comes to music selection and playback options, the Heos line doesn't do too badly (we'd expect more additions over time), and the option to play back from USB or line-in gives them welcome extra functionality.
The elephant in the room is the price. With each speaker in the range significantly more expensive than its Sonos rival, Denon really needs to give buyers a good reason to choose Heos. Extra volume and input options might be enough for some, but fewer streaming sources, the external power packs and less paper in your wallet won't be winning over the converted any time soon.