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Denon Ceol Piccolo review

Kat Orphanides
20 Aug 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
400
inc VAT

This sleek, easy-to-use streaming music system is the perfect mini hi-fi for the modern home

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If you’re tired of listening to your digital music through your headphones or low-quality computer speakers, the Denon Ceol Piccolo could be for you, as it lets you stream audio from local and online sources. It has an iPod dock and you use your Spotify and Last.fm accounts with it. It also plays MP3, AAC, WMA and ALAC files, as well as high-resolution WAV and FLAC files.

Denon Ceol Piccolo

The standard Ceol Piccolo comes in two parts: the main unit and a 60W pair of six-ohm SC-N5 passive speakers. The DRA-N5 music system's integrated amplifier can handle speakers with an impedance of between 4 and 16 ohms, so you can connect alternative speakers should you wish. There's also a single RCA connector for a subwoofer and, at the front, a 3.5mm headphone output. It also has two auxiliary inputs, a stereo pair of RCA outputs and an optical S/PDIF input.

Denon Ceol Piccolo

The Piccolo also has an iPod dock neatly hidden beneath a flap at the top of the main unit. This uses the old 32-pin iPod connector, but doesn't come with a converter for the Lightning connector used by the iPhone 5.

Denon Ceol Piccolo

You can also connect iOS devices by connecting their cable to the USB port at the front. You can control it directly or browse its contents using a different mobile device and the Denon Remote Control app. Connecting our iPod in this way also allowed us to use higher-quality audio apps such as FLAC player, and also plug our iPads into the Ceol Piccolo. Conveniently, you can also use Android devices and simple USB drives with the same port.

Denon Ceol Piccolo

WI-FI AND STREAMING

Once you've powered on the DRA-N5, you'll be prompted to connect it to your wireless network, if you haven't already connected via Ethernet. It supports WPS push-button configuration, but you can also search for and enter the password of your Wi-Fi network either by entering it using the remote control's numeric keypad or using the directional controls on the main unit. A large mono OLED screen makes it easy to see what you're doing during configuration.

You enter your Spotify and Last.fm account details in a similar fashion. Alternatively, you can use Denon's Remote Control app for iOS and Android to log in to your Spotify account. Note that you'll need premium accounts to be able to access these services via the streamer.

The mobile app is one of the best we've used, making it easy to browse and search our streaming media services, network sources and local devices. Unlike many rivals' apps, everything you need can be reached within a couple of button presses from the main screen. It was sometimes a little slow to load titles from our massive lists of media, with a wait of a second or so.

As for local streaming, the Piccolo immediately found content on the DLNA music server installed on our NAS, and it supports Apple's AirPlay standard. This means that you can stream content to it wirelessly, from iTunes as well as iOS devices.

It's easy to tune in internet radio, too, and we were pleased to find a full list of BBC live and podcast streams available as soon as we selected United Kingdom menu in the app. Assuming you've got even a half-decent internet connection, this is an adequate alternative to traditional FM or DAB radio.

AUDIO QUALITY

Its overall audio quality is outstanding, particularly given the compact nature of the speakers. Positioning them alongside the main unit on our living table left a little to be desired in terms of stereo separation, but we were very pleased by their detailed sound, which was surprisingly punchy with a decent amount of bass to it. The system can produce plenty of volume without distorting, and still sounds good at low volumes.

The clarity and balance of the sound is excellent, although we preferred them without speaker grilles, as we found they damped the top end of the sound and emphasised bass. We also found that disabling Speaker Optimisation in the settings menu helped rectify this and brought the sound more in line with our taste.

The improvements were particularly audible in mellow tracks with a wide frequency range, such as Ulver's Shadows of the Sun. Meanwhile, the intimate harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence were light and airy, with every part of the music easy to pick out. Acapella vocals do well, too, with plenty of resonant detail in Coope, Boyes and Simpson's Jerusalem Revisited, although it wasn't quite as spacious as it sounds our much more expensive reference Kef X300 speakers.

The slap of drum skins and pulsing bass were clearly audible in Dark Tranquillity's Endtime Hearts. The various elements of the busy mid-range were easy to pick out, here, and the system also does brilliantly with bombastic tracks like Turisas's rock orchestral End of an Empire and Lady Gaga's highly compressed and synth-wrapped Bad Romance. Both really filled the room.

Indeed, our entire collection sounded fantastic. We've heard better audio quality, but this is among the best we've encountered at this price.

CONCLUSION

The combined streamer and speaker set costs £400. If you already have speakers, or wish to buy a different set, you can buy the DRA-N5 streamer for around £270. That's a fair price for a streaming media player of this quality. It sounds good and has great onscreen, remote control and app-based interfaces. We'd have liked a DAB+ radio too, the Denon Ceol Piccolo is fantastic even without one.

Basic Specifications

Rating*****
Media Streamer typeaudio streaming device

Audio Compatibility

Audio MP3 playbackYes
Audio WMA playbackYes
Audio WMA-DRM playbackNo
Audio AAC playbackYes
Audio Protected AAC playbackNo
Audio OGG playbackNo
Audio WAV playbackYes
Audio Audible playbackNo
Other audio formatsFLAC 192/24, WAV 192/24, ALAC

Video Compatibility

Other video formatsN/A

Image Compatibility

Image BMP supportNo
Image JPEG supportNo
Image TIFF supportNo

Network Interfaces

Wired network ports1x 10/100
Wireless networking supportYes

AV Interfaces

Minijack line outputs0
Minijack headphone outputs1
Stereo phono outputs0
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs0
Optical S/PDIF outputs0
Total SCART sockets0
HDMI outputs0
Component outputs0
S-video output0
Composite outputs0
Other connectorsUSB

Physical

Size90x180x234mm
Power consumption standby3W
Power consumption on12W

Server Compatibility

Software includedDenon Remote App for Android and iOS
UPnPYes
iTunesYes
SlimServerNo
SMBNo

Buying Information

Price£400
Warrantytwo years RTB
Supplierhttp://www.johnlewis.com
Detailswww.denon.co.uk

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