Last week I wrote an opinion piece on you how the Denon Home Wireless 5.1 Home Theater System thoroughly impressed me, and declared it as my favorite soundbar. As a home theater setup that uses different types of speakers, the Home Sound Bar 550 along with the partnering Home Subwoofer are undoubtedly having the biggest influence on the system's performance.
But the Denon Home 150 speakers at the rear are playing their part too, and have quickly become my favorite entry-level smart speaker so far. Here's why.
In my setup, the surround speakers were placed just behind the sofa — one on a speaker plinth and the other on a side cabinet to bring them up to ear height when seated in front of the TV screen. Carrying out their surround sound speaker duties, they steer movie effects around the room to perfectly correlate with the on screen action
They also had enough bass output to ensure surround effects didn't lose any of their sonic character as they move from speaker to speaker — a rare characteristic indeed. But even in this minor home theatre role, I got a sense that the Home 150 pairing were a great-sounding set of speakers. So, I decided to give them a closer listen to see how they sounded in their own right.
Testing the Denon Home 150
Denon has plenty of know-how when it comes to doing home theater right, and its multi-channel amplifiers rank as some of the best AV receivers on the market. The company's longer established hi-fi heritage also means it knows a thing or two about stereo sound too. And with the HEOS platform making wireless connectivity and streaming as seamless as these things can possibly be, Denon has become one of the main rivals to Sonos when it comes to multi-room speaker systems with all the right smarts. And it's easy to understand why.
The Denon Home 150 is its entry-level smart speaker priced at $249 (opens in new tab) / £219 / AU$399 each. It stands 20mm taller than the Sonos One smart speaker (180mm for the Home 150 compared to 160mm for the Sonos One), but both measure the same 120mm in all other dimensions, making their footprint identical. Weight is similar too at 1.7 and 1.85kg respectively.
The Sonos is available for slightly less at $219. Both are available in black and white versions — although the Denon is covered in soft fabric and looks all the smarter for it in my opinion. The proximity sensor that lights up the controls on the Denon's top surface is also a neat touch.
As a Smart speaker, the Home 150 offers Alexa compatibility, as well as integration with popular streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, Soundcloud, Deezer, and Tune-In. These are all embedded in the HEOS ecosystem app that's used for setting up the wireless or wired system and to control the speakers.
Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 support are also onboard, and you can connect any music libraries stored locally. Should you wish to physically connect audio to the speaker directly, there's a 3.5mm jack or a USB port to oblige, making the Home 150's connectivity options more versatile than the Sonos One.
Seriously good sound
As with the Home Sound Bar 550, we haven't given the Home 150 speaker a full Tom's Guide review just yet. But based on what I've heard from this compact speaker so far, it sounds like a worthy challenger to the top-ranking best smart speakers around, and we're planning a full rated review to follow shortly.
In terms of sound output, the Home 150 goes remarkably loud for its compact dimensions. But what impresses me most is the low end it manages to bring to the party. OK, it doesn't have the low-end to resolve the full bass power of "Dangerous" by Big Data (feat. Joywave) as featured in my 5 best bass tracks to give your music system a workout, but it makes a fare stab at it.
What's more, Home 150 achieves all the rhythmic energy of the track and the song remains engaging even though it can't quite dig deep enough to reach the very lowest bass frequencies. Nevertheless, spin up something lighter like Newton Faulkener's "Teardrop", and there's plenty of bass gravitas, even if the midbass drum elements of the track lack a little authenticity.
Denon says the main driver measures 3.5-inches, but whatever digital signal processing is going on inside makes it sound bigger than that to me. The mid/bass driver is partnered to a 1-inch tweeter, but that's it. No bass ports or passive drivers to augment the lower frequencies are mentioned.
Bottom line: one of the best smart speakers ever
A single Home 150 speaker sounds narrow in terms of the soundstage it produces, but pair it to a second and performance opens up with the kind of soundstage that many would be surprised at if they're more used to listening on just a single speaker. To pair and listen in stereo, group the two speakers together in the Rooms tab on the HEOS app and then tap the Stereo Pair slider.
Elsewhere, the Denon puts in a good performance with vocals, and the Home 150 sounds more natural and musically voiced compared to the Sonos One. Treble is the only area where the frequency range seemed a little rolled off, but a quick twiddle with the EQ controls soon brought the frequency balance back into line for my ears.
Once again, my time with this Denon Home setup continues to satisfy with its balance of sonic finesse, dynamics, and a decent amount of energy. The Home 150 is a surprising speaker discovery, and looks to be shaping up to be one of the best-sounding entry-level smart speakers I've heard.
Read my full Denon Home 150 review (opens in new tab).