The HEOS streaming multiroom platform was the first of the new wave which arrived to rival Sonos, and in many ways it’s been the most consistent of them ever since. Its ecosystem of wireless speakers, preamp, amps and soundbars has evolved to include new models and new generations, including the latest ‘HS2’ versions which include high-resolution audio support and integrated Bluetooth. But the physical designs have not been radically revamped, as some rivals have felt the need to do. And while the available music services have been extended, the app design remains as simple and solid (see below) as the day the range was launched. And we might note proudly that a significant part of HEOS development took place here in Australia.
What has changed is the extended availability of the HEOS platform in other products from Denon and Marantz, so that today if you have, say, a Marantz hi-fi amp with HEOS inside, you can use that as the kicking-off point for a whole home of HEOS extensions, whether all bought together or added gradually as funds allow.
This HEOS 5 (HS2 version) might be just the thing for a medium-sized room, a study or bedroom or attic. It is the second largest of the four HEOS wireless speakers (see below), 29cm wide, delivering stereo sound through twin unspecified tweeters and mid-woofers that are powered by individual channels of Class-D power, and supported by a passive bass radiator to augment the bass response.
As with most ecosystems of streaming speakers you download the app to set it up; as with many ecosystems the wireless set-up here failed repeatedly from two different devices, but the HEOS app is very good in leading you through alternative options, including set-up via a direct connection using a supplied minijack cable into the iPhone headphone socket. Once set up, you remove the cable and it’s ready to stream. And it proved stable thereafter throughout our testing.
The HEOS app remains a fine example of simplicity in design — big clear choices on the music screen (right), with two other options at the bottom taking you to ‘Rooms’ (where you can set up multiroom groups), and ‘Now Playing’. Settings are under the top left cogwheel and these are unusually simple to navigate as well, without anything apparently omitted through this simplicity.
Set-up done we were playing in moments, starting with the HEOS 5 HS2 on a stand in a room where it had quite a long throw to the listening position. While it sounded powerful and solid, the bass was sounding a little on the pushed-EQ side, tending to dominate modern music in particular. But some of this was room effect; the HEOS 5 HS2 sounded far better in relatively close-up listening where this balance works especially well, delivering a real soundstage with depth as much as width to be enjoyed. From just a metre distance, in a desktop/study or bedroom scenario, say, it delivered highly enjoyable results. Our daily Spotify playlist was delivered with punch after punch, 10cc’s I’m Mandy Fly Me sounding not light pop but full and pumping rock, the Linn drums under Kate Bush’s delightful Delius both full-toned and punchy; ELO’s Evil Woman sounding simply huge. It may not be entirely natural, but it surely rocks. Nor did modern bass levels overwhelm at this closer range; indeed we never tweaked the (rather hidden away) bass and treble settings for the HEOS 5; we liked what we were getting.
Coming off Spotify and streaming from CD-quality network music shares improved things further in slightly unstodging the bass and clarifying treble; we’re fully aware that most people will use Bluetooth and Spotify, but really, proper files played via the network (or Tidal’s Hi-Fi level subscription if you can afford it) can sound significantly better, and it’s usually worth the slight drop in convenience for the rise in quality. The HEOS app also allows access to the music on your device (including iOS via confirmation), which will head to the HEOS at full quality, so that’s just as convenient as Bluetooth, with the quality dividend. We even got Alexa working with HEOS easily enough, though we still prefer Google Assistant’s easier set-up and syntax.
Looking back to our notes on the earliest HEOS systems, we see that back then the HEOS 5 was our choice of sweet-spot among its wireless speakers. We remain delighted with the latest HS2 version, and with the evolved abilities and sound of both player and HEOS platform.