HEOS was one of the first of the new wave of wireless multiroom systems, reassuringly backed by the audio heritage of Denon and the D&M stable, and developed in part here in Australia from the ‘Avega’ system of wireless speakers going back almost a decade.
The HEOS ecosystem originally launched with three wireless speakers of rising size (numbered HEOS 3, HEOS 5 and HEOS 7; the middle unit is pictured above), plus two receiver units, one with amplification so you just add speakers (called the Amp) and one without amplification so you plug it into an input on any existing sound system (the Link). Since then the range has expanded with a soundbar and sub solution, a smaller speaker to which a portable battery pack can be added, and something unique so far among these consumer systems — the HEOS Drive, which incorporates four full zones of amplification in a single box, something which makes the HEOS system attractive to custom installers and those designing a properly cabled distributed music system.
All these units are available in a white or black finish, and all of them have useful auxiliary inputs which can be shared with all other HEOS units in the home — one analogue minijack input, and one USB slot into which sticks or hard drives of music can be plugged, and which are then shared to other HEOS players. There is one last family member — the HEOS Extend, a unit that can usefully boost your Wi-Fi network if and where required.
But assuming you tick the modern family smartphone-savvy box, the app is very easy to use with large button sizes friendly to smartphone operation.
So the HEOS 1 is the smaller wireless speaker unit among the HEOS range. And we were delighted by the sound quality of the little HEOS 1 speaker — the top half of its response is delightfully open and non-fizzy, and there is enough bass to deliver an enjoyable overall balance; we didn’t feel the urge to mess with EQ as we have done with larger HEOS units.
Close up it delivered quite the impact, and even half a room away it was pushing Leonard Cohen’s vocal on ‘Going Home’ forth into the room out in front of the simple backing, and holding together the vocal’s bass content with the higher rasping (so easily split into different elements by lesser speakers). We sat the HEOS 1 right next to Bose’s SoundLink Mini II and flipped our Bluetooth from one to the other — the HEOS 1 delivered a slightly larger sound, and left the Bose sounding as if it pinched the mids a little thin. The Bose is cheaper of course, smaller and lacks the multiroom and app side of things, but it’s useful as a widely known reference, and good as it is, the HEOS 1 clearly sounds better, wider, broader, and a tad more relaxed.
The optional GoPack attaches neatly to the HEOS 1 — you unscrew the existing baseplate (and store it somewhere safely!) then twist on the Go Pack battery platform, which adds a couple of centimetres of height. This charges automatically whenever the HEOS 1 is plugged into the mains.
That’s the power sorted, but how to stream to the HEOS 1 when you’re outside your home Wi-Fi range — there is no built-in Bluetooth in HEOS products, remember. Well, also provided is a neat combination of USB Bluetooth dongle and rubber splashguard (pictured), which can plug into the rear USB port and thereby provide a Bluetooth connection while also protecting against dirt and water ingress during travel. (It’s rated to IPX4.)
Portable, compact, and sonically well-pitched, the HEOS 1 is another valuable addition to the HEOS range.
HEOS 1 + GoPack wireless speaker with portable pack
Price: $379 (HEOS 1) + $179 (optional GoPack)
+ Small speaker at home, portable speaker on the go
+ Full HEOS abilities
+ Surprising sound for one so small
- Portability an extra-cost option
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