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Denon Home 550 review: A fully featured soundbar with underwhelming software

Our Rating :
£435.00 from
Price when reviewed : £450
inc VAT

Denon’s Home 550 soundbar has plenty going for it, but it falls short of an award due to its high price and a clunky mobile app


  • Compact design
  • Impressive Atmos audio
  • Alexa built-in


  • HEOS app is clunky
  • Sound can be a little boomy
  • Not cheap

Denon’s Home 550 is the only soundbar in the Japanese brand’s Home range. The company makes other soundbars, but if you’re after a truly smart Denon bar that offers voice control via Amazon Alexa, as well as working in conjunction with the HEOS mobile app to offer multiroom audio, this is your only option.

Like the excellent Home 250 smart speaker, the Home 550 looks and sounds great; it’s surprisingly compact, too. However, costing £450 at the time of writing, it’s up against some serious competition, mainly from the Sonos Beam 2. If you’re already invested in the HEOS ecosystem, the Denon Home 550 is a great choice; if not, you can find better options for the money.

Denon Home 550 review: What do you get for the money?

Despite its relatively compact design – it measures 650 x 120 x 75mm (WDH) – the Home 550 is no slouch in terms of its features and connectivity. In addition to supporting hi-res wireless streaming, there’s an optical input, two 4K HDMI ports (one input, one output with eARC) a USB-A port and finally a 3.5mm AUX input.

Compared to the Sonos Beam 2 (its closest competitor in price terms), you gain a 3.5mm input, a USB port and the option for an HDMI passthrough, meaning you won’t have to give up one of your TV’s precious HDMI ports if you’d prefer not to. Like the Sonos Beam, there’s support for Dolby Atmos, and you also get DTS:X support, whereas the Sonos only offers DTS Digital Surround.

As for wireless streaming, the Denon Home 550 supports most popular music streaming services including Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, Soundcloud and TIDAL via the HEOS app, and you can also play music from practically any other service or device via Airplay 2 and Bluetooth.

It’s an impressive feature set, and thanks to the inclusion of Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, you can also control the aforementioned inputs, along with the volume, using only your voice.

If you prefer not to speak to your soundbar or are concerned about it listening all the time, you can easily mute Alexa from the speaker’s touch-sensitive control panel and use the controls on there or the included mini remote instead.

What’s more, as well as supporting HDMI control functions via your TV remote, the Home 550 has been set to recognise remote controls from major TV manufacturers so that you can still control volume using your TV remote even if you’re not using the HDMI input.

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Denon Home 550 review: How does it sound?

The Denon Home 550’s sound belies its relatively compact stature and offers a huge upgrade on your TV’s built-in speakers (as you’d expect when spending close to £500). Support for Atmos adds an extra level of immersion to compatible content on streaming platforms such as Netflix, though its ability to articulate height effects is limited by the absence of up-firing drivers.

The soundbar instead comprises four forward-firing full-range 55mm drivers and two 19mm tweeters, along with three 50 x 90mm passive radiators. Although it can’t compete with a 5.1-channel system using discrete speakers, it has impressive presence for a soundbar its size and plenty of detail and separation even at lower volumes.

It’s worth noting that if you’re left wanting more there’s the option to add an external subwoofer, and you can also use Denon’s other Home speakers as rears, although as far as I can tell you’ll need to have two of the same speakers to act as left and right surround speakers.

I found the Home 550 offered a highly enjoyable listening experience on its own, and the supplied remote makes it relatively easy to tweak the sound according to your preference. For instance, you can switch between Movie and Music sound modes, and there are then options to enable Dialogue Enhancer or Night Mode.

The former has three different levels and boosts the vocal frequencies so you won’t struggle to hear the dialogue on more muffled recordings. The latter, meanwhile, compresses the dynamic range of whatever you’re listening to so that there aren’t any surprise bumps in volume that will wake anyone you share your home with.

There’s yet further control via the HEOS app if you need it. For starters, there’s a simple EQ that lets you adjust the treble and bass levels independently of the sound mode you’re using. There are also a number of further sound modes to choose from, along with the option to set up to six Quick Select presets, letting you enable any configuration for a particular source at the press of a button.

If I have any criticism of the soundbar’s sound it’s that it can sound a little boomy. This is more obvious when playing music, especially when compared to the Denon Home 250 smart speaker, which has a more balanced sound and greater clarity. It’s less of a problem when watching TV and can easily be fixed by reducing the bass in the EQ or choosing a sound mode that lets you use the Dialogue Enhancer, so the lower frequencies aren’t too overbearing.

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Denon Home 550 review: How could it be improved?

With its impressive presence and variety of connectivity options, it’s difficult to be too hard on the Denon Home 550, but my main complaint is that the HEOS app just isn’t very nice to use. Indeed, in design terms – to my mind, at least – it feels like everything is all over the place.

The app is split into three main screens – Rooms, Music and Now Playing – and that means to play music on one of your Denon speakers, you’ll need to select it from the Rooms screen, then jump to the Music screen to choose what you want to play. To control the playback, you’ll then need the Now Playing screen, so the process feels rather disjointed.

The Music screen, too, is a bit of a mess. Popular options such as Spotify and Amazon Music are at the top of the page, but you can also choose local playback via the This Phone or USB Music options. That makes some sense, but then other sources such as the AUX-in are hidden away in an option called Inputs.

When watching TV, it’s the Now Playing screen that you’ll need to change the sound modes, but for any other settings, including adding new devices, you rather confusingly have to select the Music screen and then choose the small Settings cog in the top-left corner. Once you’ve worked it all out, it’s functional, if not especially intuitive.

The other main complaint I have is the mini remote. While it’s good that you even get one, unlike with the Sonos Beam 2, it can be difficult to know whether you have the Dialogue Enhancer or Night Mode enabled or not without repeatedly pressing the buttons to toggle them on and off. To be really sure, you’ll need to use the HEOS app. What’s more, because you’ll likely use your TV remote to control the volume and the Denon remote is very small, you’ll also find you’re constantly misplacing it.

One other area in which it falls short compared to the Sonos Beam 2 is that it only offers support for Alexa and not Google Assistant. If you’re already familiar with Amazon’s smart assistant, that shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re invested in the Google ecosystem, you’re definitely better off choosing the Sonos.

Denon Home 550 review: Should you buy it?

There’s a lot to like about the Denon Home 550. It looks and sounds great and offers pretty much all of the features you’d want from a mid-range all-in-one soundbar. If you’re looking for a soundbar that drastically improves your TV’s sound without taking up too much space while also giving you numerous ways to connect to it, it’s a compelling option.

However, there are a few things that stop it from winning an award. The main one is that it’s not cheap. The other is that the HEOS app needs to be more user-friendly before I could recommend investing in one do-it-all smart speaker-cum-soundbar.

If you’re looking to use a soundbar primarily for TV and occasionally streaming Spotify and radio, I’d personally be more inclined towards the Sonos Beam 2, despite it having fewer connectivity options. However, before making the plunge, the Denon Home 550 is still worthy of your consideration, especially if you already own other Denon Home products.

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