Denon CEOL mini hi-fi

This mini hi-fi suits the Wi-Fi, iPod-toting generation

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Denon CEOL

Pros

  • Smart design
  • Integrated iPod dock, Wi-Fi, AirPlay
  • Clear, powerful sound

Cons

  • No DAB+
  • Speakers lack bass

Bottom Line

Denon’s stereo speaker, mini hi-fi system is an old-fashioned device if you compare it to something like B&W’s Zeppelin. It’s following a tried-and-true formula, though, and it’s a versatile little system.

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Streaming music services have taken Australia by storm in the last year. Spotify’s first birthday is in a couple of weeks, and Rdio is another six months older than that. Both are incredibly popular, and users are listening on PCs, smartphones and tablets. The traditional living-room CD player has been neglected since; we know ours is just gathering dust in a corner.

The Denon CEOL is a mini hi-fi CD player — two stereo bookshelf speakers, and a receiver/amplifier control unit — which updates the once-classic, now-outdated design with an iPod dock up top, and Wi-Fi inside to connect a bevy of on-demand streaming music services.

Denon CEOL: Design, features, and setup

The CEOL is split into three pieces, with the control unit flanked by left and right bookshelf speakers. The CEOL we tested was a deep, glossy black, but it is also available in a high-gloss white.

The little control unit itself is a very well put together device — it’s built around the front-facing tray-loading CD drive, which sits above a multi-line LCD that displays track, artist and other info depending on what feature you’re using on the CEOL. Surrounding these two are various buttons, inputs and outputs — there’s a mass-storage USB port, audio input, headphone output, power, disc eject, and a five-way menu navigation trackpad.

The remote control bundled with the CEOL is small, but it has quick access to every different source, setting or menu level you might need. It’s laid out perfectly understandably, and each button is labeled legibly.

The back of the Denon CEOL control unit is as busy and complicated as any home theatre receiver/amplifier. There’s two analog audio inputs with an additional output to hook up another hi-fi system, an optical digital audio input, various radio antenna connectors — although no DAB+ digital radio, disappointingly — and a subwoofer pre-out. As well as built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to your home network, you can also use a wired Ethernet cable. There are four screw-style and banana-plug connectors for hooking up speaker wire.

Setting up the CEOL for the first time is a slightly arduous and involved process. This is mainly because of the amount of remote-tapping you’ll have to do to connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network — presuming you’re using it — and adding your Spotify Premium user details — if you have them. There’s a Denon CEOL app for iOS and Android devices which connects over Wi-Fi to control the system, making things a lot easier once you’re done with the initial setup.

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Denon CEOL: Performance and sound quality

When it comes to what it can actually do, the Denon CEOL blows any competitors it might possibly have out of the water. There’s an iPod dock — traditional 30-pin rather than Lightning — on the top of the control unit, so you can plug your iPod or previous-generation iPhone in and play your music collection directly. iPhone 5 and new iPod touch devices should also work with Apple’s $30 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter.

You can wirelessly stream saved music from those same iDevices using the CEOL’s built-in AirPlay, which works just as seamlessly as any other AirPlay device — as long as you’re on the same Wi-Fi network, it’s headache-free.

If you happen to be streaming music from Spotify, though, you may as well do it through the device itself. If you’ve got a Spotify Premium account synced to the Denon CEOL, you can play your Spotify playlists and search for tracks that you don’t already have listed — this is where the mobile app comes in handy.

The speakers that come with the Denon CEOL are quite small — measuring only 233mm tall — but they put out a surprisingly well-rounded sound, with great mid-range and treble response. They handle high quality tracks with aplomb, showing plenty of detail, but they’re probably a little wasted on streaming Spotify tracks. There’s very little proper bass to speak of, but we’re guessing that’s why Denon’s included the aforementioned subwoofer pre-out. Just buy a powered subwoofer, add it to the CEOL system, and you’re good to go. This Denon sounds like it’s worth its price tag when you turn it up — the little speakers sound clear and pleasantly warm.

Denon CEOL: Conclusion

The Denon CEOL is a small, but versatile, and powerful, mini hi-fi. If you spend your evenings listening to Spotify streamed through your phone’s tinny speaker, do yourself a favour and check it out.

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