Opinion: This week I attended an event about Denon Home which has already been broken down into an explanation of the Denon streaming service HEOS.
Anyone and everyone working in the hi-fi world will notice the increasing convergence of devices across streaming applications. Arguably Sonos got there first and set the standard to get there, its app is rightly the envy of its competitors because it just works.
And when something works as smoothly as an app, it’s like magic; And when others try to achieve the same and it doesn’t work, he feels uncomfortable like the salon trick has failed.
That was the problem with the Denon HEOS when it first launched, a buggy attempt that didn’t make a good first impression. But that was years ago, and this is now, and HEOS is in much better shape as it has joined the likes of BluOS, Google Home, and AirPlay 2 as streaming options.
The main focus of the event was the effort to merge old-fashioned traditional hi-fi technology into the lifestyle, the casual masses interested in wireless headphones and the like, and the fact that you can unite these two somewhat disparate realms with wireless connectivity. You’d think this was an obvious thing already achieved, but thinking about it more, that convergence didn’t quite happen.
AirPlay focuses on Apple devices, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs, and then comes external stuff like wireless speakers and TVs. BluOS more for audio enthusiasts: music streaming devices, high-end wireless speakers, speakers with high-resolution audio support. Sonos are basically wireless speakers and, more recently, subwoofers. Google Home is a smart automation that also happens to support your speakers.
Think about it and there isn’t a single option that covers traditional, casual, hi-fi, and chic; You need a combination of the above options to create this kind of interconnected system; Perhaps a combination of BluOS and AirPlay or HEOS and Google Home.
With the increased focus on communication in recent years, I’d say the message conveyed wasn’t the right one. You always see those blueprints of broken-down homes, speakers scattered all over the house with music playing from them, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a group like this or someone who has this setup in their house. Let’s say doing this in a London apartment would be difficult (and ultimately futile).
These diagrams come as an easy and simple way to explain the idea of multiple rooms, but they also make it seem like a far-fetched concept. Why would I want someone to randomly play their music on the speaker in my room and vice versa? It might be great for house parties but how often does that happen.
So the concept of multiple rooms or what to be, which are interconnected devices with less exciting sound, has to be about connecting diverse products and unifying them into a whole. The turntables are played on wireless speakers via a music streaming device, a 5.1 movie system that can downsize to a 2.0 music system as Denon HEOS explained. This seems to me a more plausible idea.
I think what multiple rooms want to push is the idea that we listen to music in a variety of ways, when we all really listen to music in specific ways, on a few devices and simply want to maintain that quality across everything we listen to. Headphones and smartphones are compatible together, laptops and HD speakers etc, and devices connected to each other provide a way to extend them to another device in the chain. The idea of having multiple devices around the house talking to each other sounds great, but I’m not convinced that’s how we listen to music.
This is the direction I hope this interconnected era is headed in. Less about flashy numbers for the many devices you can connect and more about what kind of devices that you can connect. Although I will admit that a wall of 16 Denon Home 350 speakers grouped together and casting Billie Eilish’s voice at you is impressive.