Header Ads

Breaking News

Denon Home 150 - Review 2021

Most of the smart speakers we’ve reviewed so far seem to put the smarts ahead of the speaker. They sound good, sure, but often they don’t sound as good as similarly priced speakers without the “smart” capabilities. The $249 Denon Home 150 aims to change this, with the ability to stream hi-res audio. Unfortunately, it currently doesn’t deliver on the smart half of the equation, as the promised voice control functionality isn’t yet active. And while it can indeed stream hi-res audio, heavy-handed DSP (digital signal processing) negates any advantage there. For $50 less, the Sonos One offers a better smart speaker experience all around.

Design and Features

Measuring 7.4 by 4.7 by 4.7 inches (HWD), the 3.8-pound Home 150 is a rounded rectangular speaker with gray wraparound clothe grille. The Denon logo and a status LED are situated at the base of the front panel, and the speaker otherwise appears devoid of any markings or controls, but they are cleverly hidden. 

The top panel of the Home 150 is sensitive to touch, and when you aren’t touching it, the surface is dark. Place a hand near the top panel, and the under-lit controls magically appear. There’s a play/pause button, as well as plus/minus buttons for volume. On the top row of the panel, the numbers 1, 2, and 3 are quick selection buttons that can be assigned using the app.

Denon Home 150

Beneath the grille, the Home 150 employs one 1-inch tweeter, one 3.5-inch woofer, and dual amps to deliver the audio. The speaker is capable of gapless playback of high-resolution audio files, including 192kHz/24-bit FLAC, WAV, ALAC, and DSD 2.8/5.6MHz (streaming or via USB). This, however, is tempered by the fact that the speaker is mono.

The speaker’s back panel houses a manual Connect button, an Ethernet port, a USB-A port, a 3.5mm aux input, a Bluetooth pairing button, and the connection for the included power cable. There are no cables included aside from the one for power. The back panel is threaded for wall-mounting. 

The Heos app for Android and iOS is essential to operation of the Home 150, at least to unlock most of its features. The app walks you through the setup process for the speaker and essentially does all of the work for you, connecting it to your Wi-Fi network using your mobile device’s information. Once connected, you have access to Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and a host of other music streaming services—of course, you need accounts in order to use them, but they’re integrated into the Heos app.

The app also works with other Denon Heos speakers, not just Home 150 speakers, which can be paired in groups, but also Heos soundbars or larger speakers. The app allows for multi-room control of all of the Heos speakers in your house. Assuming, however, that the only speaker you have is this one, the app is still useful, as it provides access to the streaming services mentioned, as well as firmware updates. For what it’s worth, we found it easier to stream audio from an iPhone via AirPlay 2 than the Heos app, which occasionally had some streaming hiccups and didn’t work as well as Apple’s native streaming does.

The Home 150 supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, and is AirPlay 2 compatible. You can opt to use the Home 150 as a Bluetooth speaker and skip the Wi-Fi experience.

Denon promises voice control support via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but it isn’t yet available. According to a company spokesperson, these features should be activated in the second quarter of 2021.

Audio Performance: Lots of DSP

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Home 150 delivers impressive low-frequency depth for a speaker this size. At top volumes, it doesn’t distort, thanks to DSP (digital signal processing) kicking in and thinning things out to a degree. Thus, you get a beefier bass sound at roughly 75% volume than you do at maximum volume. Either way, the lows here are sturdy; not subwoofer-like, but strong.

denon home 150 angled

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Home 150’s general sound signature. Again, DSP comes into play in a prominent way. The bass drum sounds powerful at middle volume levels, but at top volumes, we can hear the DSP’s compression squashing anything that could possibly cause distortion—namely, the drums. The irony is that, had the drums not been wildly boosted in the lows to begin with, they wouldn’t need the dynamic squashing at top volume levels. So, the Home 150 tends to sound a little more full, lively, and rich at 50 to 75% volumes. When at these levels, the bass-boosted drums are balanced out with bright acoustic guitar strums and higher-register percussive hits.

See How We Test SpeakersSee How We Test Speakers

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives an ideal amount of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness. The sub-bass synth hits are more implied than delivered, however. Most of the bass depth here is relegated to the drum loop’s sustain, which gets a little more beefed up than usual. The vocals on this track are delivered relatively cleanly and clearly, but there is some added sibilance in the mix.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, seem to get a little too much boosting in the lows and low-mids. It’s not over the top, but it highlights the lower-register instrumentation in a way that can sound unnatural at times. Regardless, the spotlight is always on the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals.

Intriguing, But Flawed

The main thing to consider about the Denon Home 150 is that at different volumes, its sound signature is altered notably by the DSP. Bass can sound powerful at one volume level and thin at another. In the fine print of the manual, you see that the Home 150 works as a rear surround speaker for a Denon Heos home theater audio system, and this makes sense—the drivers are capable, but they seem like a better fit as part of a system rather than as a standalone speaker. Another option is to use the Home 150 as part of a stereo pair, but then we’re talking about a $500 purchase, and I’m not sure that’s the route I’d go with $500 to burn on a stereo system. And considering the promised smart features aren’t yet available, we suggest investing your money in a different speaker.

For this price, you can go in a few different directions. There are solid wireless speakers with actual left/right stereo channels, like the $250 Sony SRS-XB43. As for standalone mono smart speakers, we’re bigger fans of the aforementioned Sonos One, which works with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands, and the $200 Amazon Echo Studio, which works with Alexa. Even if/when Denon activates the smart features here, it’s hard to imagine our feelings about the Home 150 changing dramatically given the heavy DSP and relatively high price.

Source Link

No comments