Last Updated on January 15, 2021 by admin
The annual shindig that is CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) is now upon us and this year it’s being delivered digitally because of the pandemic. I’m not going to attempt to report on all the presentations that I attend during CES, but I will be sifting through them to pick out what I think are the standout products at the show that you need to know about.
My first report is on a brand-new soundbar from Denon. The Denon Sound Bar 550 is the latest member of the company’s family of Home wireless speakers that use Denon’s HEOS system and can build into a whole-home audio system that has the technology and audio quality to challenge Sonos. And now that the Denon Home range has a brilliant new soundbar, it can be combined with other Denon Home speakers to create a full 5.1 surround sound system without the need for any speaker wires.
The new Denon Home Sound Bar 550 is a high-performance, compact soundbar that brings TV audio to the Denon Home family of products for the first time. Boasting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D surround sound, plus a sophisticated six-driver array of speakers, the new soundbar has been designed to make movies, TV, and music sound as exciting and as enveloping as a full-fat 5.1 home cinema setup. The 550 can also be used to stream high-resolution music from streaming services or even local music libraries of digital music files using the HEOS Built-in protocol and app.
The Denon Sound Bar 550 can be used as a standalone device or expanded using other members of the Denon Home family of wireless speakers, including the Denon Home 150, 250, and 350. Any of these speakers can be paired with the Sound Bar 550 to work as rear-channel surrounds. The only stipulation is that the rear speakers must match each other. Listeners who crave an even bigger bass can add a Denon Home DSW-1H wireless subwoofer into the mix if needed.
I’ve had personal experience reviewing the Denon Home system of wireless speakers and I can vouch for their sound quality. These compact speakers don’t look especially striking with their gray fabric coverings, but Denon’s engineers have used some advanced acoustic hardware with digital signal processing and premium drivers to produce a sound that is far bigger than the speakers’ physical dimensions would indicate.
Each of the six speakers built into the Denon Sound Bar 550 has its amplifier and DSP (digital signal processor) for a full 3D surround sound effect. At just 65cm wide and only 7.5cm high, the Sound Bar 550 is small enough to place in front of most TVs without obscuring the screen. Thanks to support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing, along with 4K video compatibility, the Sound Bar 550 is a great way of getting a 3D cinematic sound experience without the need for separate speakers around the room.
Thanks to a proximity sensor, the 550’s control panel automatically lights up as soon as a hand approaches it, enabling functions like volume adjustment, play/pause, muting Alexa, and skipping or restarting songs without needing to use the HEOS app or the supplied remote control. Both the remote and HEOS app have three Quick Select buttons for storing a user’s favorite streaming services or Internet radio stations that can be recalled at the touch of a button.
The Denon Sound Bar 550 also includes support for Apple AirPlay 2 so users can easily stream audio from Apple devices and group speakers together in groups. To ensure integration with popular smart home ecosystems, the Denon Sound Bar 550 is the first Denon soundbar to have onboard software drivers for Control4, Crestron, URC, Elan, and more.
In addition to the new Sound Bar 550, the existing Denon Home speaker lineup includes three wireless multiroom speakers that can work alongside the 550. All Denon Home models, including the Sound Bar 550, provide native support for streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music HD, TIDAL, plus they can play high-resolution files stored on a smartphone or network via Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, or Bluetooth. The 550 can handle audio files up to 192kHz at the 24-bit resolution as well as DSD 5.6 files. There’s not much this beast can’t handle. There’s an option of connecting to the home network using WiFi or Ethernet, however, there’s no support for WiFi 6.
When it comes to external connections, the Denon Sound Bar 550 has just about every input imaginable. There are two HDMI ports, one is an eARC connection while the other is a 4K pass-through port for connecting Blue-Ray players or an Amazon Firestick. There are also inputs for optical, analog, and USB devices so that a hard drive can be added with a library of music. The sound bar’s remote is also able to learn commands from other devices so that even an old TV with only an optical output can have its volume controlled in the same way as an HDMI ARC connection.
When it goes on sale, the Denon Sound Bar 550 won’t support Amazon Alexa, but a firmware update coming in the Spring will bring direct Alexa support to the entire Denon Home speaker range. The microphones and circuitry are already built-in and ready to go. Denon representatives say that Google Assistant support may be added in the future and that Apple AirPlay 2 means there’s already support for Siri.
If the Denon Sound Bar 550, with its 3D Atmos support, sounds as good as its designers say, then it could be the Holy Grail for all those people who want the best home cinema sound quality but without installing rear speakers, subwoofers, and cables everywhere. I can wait to hear it as with all the features it has, this could be the soundbar to storm the burgeoning home cinema market that’s grown like crazy since the pandemic caused so many of us to stay at home.
Pricing: The Denon Home Sound Bar 550 can be ordered at the beginning of February and will sell for €649 / £599 / $599.