Denon HEOS 1 & GO Pack Review
|Pros||Competent and clean sounding speaker that, once portable with the GO Pack addition, sounds far better sound than a typical Bluetooth speaker.|
|Cons||Needs the right placement to sound its best; portable, but not built to be thrown around; think around the house v. at the park.|
|Summary||If you are looking to bridge the gap between small, highly portable Bluetooth speakers and less flexible, larger whole home speakers, the HEOS 1/GO Pack deserves a look.|
Earlier this year we tested Denon’s entry into the fairly crowded multi-room home audio market. We like the Heos system, albeit with a few caveats. Denon has expanded the Heos line and I had the opportunity to test the compact Denon HEOS 1 speaker coupled with the optional GO Pack. While a little pricey at $300 for the set, I found the HEOS 1/GO Pack package to be an incredibly capable little speaker offering good sound in the right set-up, and great flexibility for moving around to wherever you need music.
The HEOS 1, in it’s simplest form, possesses the same set of features as its larger brothers that we reviewed at RHT earlier this year. The speaker is compact at ~8” high, but feels quite sturdy for its size. The HEOS 1 GO Pack is a battery pack that mates with the bottom of the speaker. When coupled, the HEOS 1 can be moved around the house to wherever audio is desired, without the need to be tied to an outlet. The GO Pack also adds Bluetooth capabilities should you want to use the speaker in an area where you have no access to WiFi.
I started with the HEOS 1 in my apartment. I love to cook and have always wanted music in the kitchen during those endeavors. The HEOS 1 is a stylish and subtle looking speaker – and given it comes in both white and black, gives some flexibility in terms of where the speaker “looks” appropriate. I tucked the HEOS 1 in the corner out of the way, at the base of our kitchen counter and below our cabinets.
We covered the Heos app in our prior review. The app is adequate, though not as slick as others that have been in the game longer. Set-up of the HEOS system is easy using, in my case, my iPhone6. Within just a few minutes the HEOS 1 was connected to my wireless network and I was streaming music through Spotify. While the HEOS 1 has plenty of power, my initial impression of was that the bass was muddy and boomy to the point of distraction. There is an EQ built into the HEOS 1 app, and I was able to improve things to the point of listenability using these capabilities. Clarity still wasn’t great, but at least I was ready to get down to cooking our Sunday dinner.
Given we have a relatively small apartment, I felt we might get more out of the HEOS 1’s portability during vacation at the beach. That house has a relatively open floor plan and I set-up the HEOS 1 on an end table facing the living room and kitchen. Again queuing up Spotify, I was immediately shocked by the change in character versus the tight space in our kitchen. Given room to breathe, the HEOS 1 no longer sounds muddy and boomy. The sound is clean, detailed and balanced. This is a speaker where good positioning is necessary to achieve optimum results. Despite its size, the HEOS 1 has power to fill the living room. While I can achieve a fuller sound with a larger member of the Heos family, the HEOS 1 has enough backbone to provide background music while hanging out.
The GO Pack
Prior to the arrival of the HEOS 1, if we wanted music outside, we’d be stuck using various small Bluetooth speakers. Most of these are functional but generally sound poor. Moving the HEOS 1 with the GO Pack out to the pool means we can get far better sound than we’d previously had. Outside isn’t an area for critical listening, but I am happy with how the HEOS 1 sounds perched on top of a small end table. The sound far surpassed any of the previous solutions we had tried. And given the HEOS 1 has Spotify Connect possibilities, any guest was able to throw music to the speaker even without the HEOS 1 app being installed. With the GO Pack installed the HEOS 1 is splash-proof letting you listen without worry outside.
While the HEOS 1/GO Pack package together is definitely portable, this isn’t a set-up one would be looking to throw in a bag to be brought to the beach. The HEOS 1 isn’t built to sustain major impacts, and the overall package is a bit heavy and awkward to fill that niche. As mentioned earlier, the GO Pack also adds Bluetooth connectability to the HEOS 1 and in tests, the connection works well with an iPhone6.
The HEOS 1/GoPack was a very welcome addition to our vacation. The speaker can sound a bit underwhelming when placed in the wrong spot, but in more open settings it provides clean, pleasing sound with the power to fill a room. The GO Pack added flexibility that was welcome at the pool and easily outperformed other options we’d used for music out there. While the combination isn’t designed for ultra-portability, it is flexible enough to add music to wherever we needed it. If you are looking to bridge the gap between small, highly portable Bluetooth speakers and less flexible, larger whole home speakers, the HEOS 1/GO Pack deserves a look.