Now completed the training and have all the hands-on information, almost
It's ver y very good, a Sonos for those who want more performance, more interaction and, eventually, a bigger range of options.
Turned up to meet a very personable dutch guy from Denon Europe. He knew his stuff and had a great presentation. We started with the market background, where the hifi business is, increase in network solutions for music, the way we access music etc. People love music, vastly increased consumption through phones, online, low performance solutions, and how Denon wanted a product that accessed all these channels and at the same time addressed another desire for higher performance, better sound, with the same easy accessability.
Not an easy task if you want a complete solution. An earlier blog goes through the product line-up, so here is what it can do.
Every product will connect to your wireless network to access your itunes/music library, internet radio, and online services such as Spotify, Napster, etc. In any home you can access different music from any source in any room, or link them together to play the same music. Every user sets up their own Heos online account so you can store your own individual playlists, and this music history goes with you as it is cloud based.
If your wifi is a bit flakey Denon have a simple solution, the Heos Extend at £ 79 will fix it, larger homes may need two, and the system can even test your wifi for you, there is always a solution!
So how do you use it ? 1,2, 3
1 Launch the app on your phone or tablet, either apple or android work
2 Select the room you are in, even if there is just one room on the system you still need to select it
3 You then have the music choices and you are ready to play. The picture above is hard to make out, sorry, the simple options on this example are Spotify, Radio, This iPod, Local music (your computer), Playlists (music you have already saved as favourites), History (most recently played), and AUX input (another source you have plugged in, could be tv, cd player, anything really)
This simple control then allows you access a vast range of music very easily, and you can also connect and control music on a USB stick. Another clever feature when used across more rooms is that this USB is then available in any room! Clever!
The Spotify control is close to how Sonos do it, but slightly different. Sonos has the Spotify controls embedded in the Sonos software. While this means that the Heos has one more keystroke to access it the benefit is that you retain all your Spotify useability for new music and their playlists while the Sonos version is slightly stripped down.
The first products to arrive in August will be the Heos 3, 5, and 7 at £ 249, £349, and £ 499, along with the Extend. The launch is being rolled out slowly to be super careful that this product range is bulletproof so the amplifier and the link, to connect to an existing hifi system, will follow in September.
Similarly some features that are already onboard will be rolled out through software updates over the coming months, most noticeably Bluetooth and Airplay.
So the sound, the sound?
Using the Heos3 was easy and it sounded great. For a little box it is dynamic and punchy sounding and will do really well at just £ 249
The star of the show though is the Heos7 at £ 499, which is truly excellent. Fills a room with sound easily and with good clarity.
Also listened to the £ 299 link through a Denon amplifier. The app cleverly controls the new range of av amplifiers so you can truly integrate your music across various systems in every room around the house.
It also sounded really well, not Linn DS standard but not £ 999 either!
Really looking forward to these products arriving to give them a more thorough test, but so far....
I find no fault, and that's really not like me!
The new Rega £ 898 amplifier has arrived.
The first impression is that it is seriously heavy and well put together. It is in the same case as the £ 1598 Rega Elicit-R which is why it's so heavy, it's really solid.
Next we have to compare it to the excellent Rega Brio-R. The Brio-R is the best amp at £ 500-ish by a country mile and the new Elex uses very similar preamplifier stages and switching mated with a more powerful amp based on the Elicit-R.
Listening to Nina Simone through Rega RS7 speakers the difference is immediately obvious. The Elex's extra power gives greater bass weight, dynamics, and more sublety on Nina's soulful and emotional vocals. If you want some Nina in your collection buy the Gold double album, although I also love the Silk and Soul album.
The price difference of £250 for the Elex is well worth it if in the budget. This applies almost regardless of speakers as I also compared them through the compact Kef LS50s with the same results.
From left, Elicit-r with Saturn-r on top, Elex-r, and Brio-r
Moving on to the Elicit-R is miles better again. Lots more resolution of details and dynamics as Nina gets powerful on 'I wish I knew how it feels to be free' and 'Consummation'.
Playing music with more bass weight was interesting. Springsteen's '57 channels' is a good track for sorting out how articulate amplifiers and speakers can be.
This track confirmed earlier findings. Rega's engineers aren't stupid, the Elex is easily superior to the Brio but the Elicit is a leap up again. Well done guys!
If you want to hear the same comparison let me know, easy to set it up for you with any speaker you choose.