One minute review

There's no shortage of big, expensive Dolby Atmos soundbars vying for your attention and your money. And there's no shortage of smaller, cheap soundbars to make up for your TV's poor sound either. But what if you want Dolby Atmos-style audio thrills from a smaller soundbar, but aren't interested in hearing people suggest you get a Sonos Beam (Gen Two)?

Denon thinks the Home Sound Bar 550 is going to make your dreams come true, and to a degree, it can. It's a compact, well-detailed soundbar that looks pretty wise but sounds just the opposite. Offering plenty of connectivity options, a detailed spec (including Hi-Res Audio capability and some processing wizardry to deliver a sense of spatial audio), and a true music speaker-like setup… it all sounds pretty good on paper, right? TRUE? Well, it also sounds great in action. Up to a certain point.

As long as you hold your hopes up for realistic object-based volume and audio levels, there's not much to complain about here. The sound offered by the Denon is loud and quite extensive, so while it's as loyal to Dolby Atmos as the aforementioned Sonos (which is to say, not much), the Home 550 is intoxicating and entertaining. However, expose an arm when it comes to volume and things quickly get out of hand: the Home 550 quickly shows its teeth and can become quite belligerent.

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

  • Denon Home Sound Bar 550 (Denon) at Best Buy for €649.99

Denon Home Sound Bar 550 cost and launch date

  • Available now
  • € five hundred and forty-nine / € five hundred and ninety-nine / AU € eight hundred and ninety-nine
  • free discounts

The Denon Home 550 is on sale now and can be picked up in the UK for around €XNUMX, which is a decent reduction on its €XNUMX cost at launch. In the US it costs €XNUMX, while Australian customers of the service should be willing to part with AU€XNUMX or so.

This, as anyone with even a passing interest in the soundbar market knows, is Sonos Beam (Gen Two) territory. As our review abundantly shows, the Sonos is far from perfect.

However, a combination of decent performance and the company's often flawless ergonomics put it at the top of the list of alternative options. All of this means that Denon's XNUMX+ years of experience may matter less than you think.

denon home 550 sound bar

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

Design and features

  • subtle looks
  • Great connectivity
  • No pilots to shoot up

It's a sound bar. You don't want me to draw attention to you, do you? After all, it will be sitting next to your TV, where the real action is.

As such, the "Home" style of the Denon family is ideal. The Home 550 is quiet, reserved and helpfully solid in the vein of the Sonos Beam (Gen Two), measuring just seventy-five x six hundred and fifty x one hundred and twenty mm. It is ideal for anyone with a forty to fifty-five inch TV. The build quality is acceptable, although the plastics do not look like anything unique, and the dark gray acoustic canvas runs on both sides of the circuit. Look, instead of playing, and with the Home 550 it seems like you get what you pay for.

On the back is a cutout where any and all physical connections live, and the Denon is more helpful and flexible about it than the Sonos you want to usurp. Like Sonos, the Home 550 includes the precise HDMI eARC to support a premium soundtrack from your TV; but there's also a second HDMI, which is handy if you run out of HDMI inputs on your TV.

a close up of the denon home 550 sound bar

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

The HDMI sockets are compatible with 4K, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and are accompanied by a digital optical input, an Ethernet socket, a XNUMXmm analog input and a USB socket. Throw in dual-band Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth ('only' thirty, no doubt) for wireless connectivity, and it's pretty hard to lay a glove on the Denon the way it's packed.

Whichever way you use to get your embedded audio data, the Home 550 is ready to handle file sizes up to 192-bit/5.6kHz, as well as DSD4 and Dolby Atmos and DTS:X; if you also want to treat your soundbar as a hi-res audio player, go for it. The decoded audio is then output via a pair of 3mm tweeters, XNUMX XNUMXmm full range drivers and XNUMX "race track" passive radiators (XNUMX x XNUMXmm).

denon home 550 sound bar ports

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

However, neither of these pilots is facing up. Like the Sonos Beam (Gen Two), the Denon Home 550 relies on elaborate processing to deliver the sonic height and breadth that a spatial audio soundtrack is all about.

Like most Sonos speakers, the Beam (Gen Two) puts a significant distance between itself and its nominal competition when it comes to control and usability, but the Denon Home 550 is better suited for the showdown than most. Between a smaller yet fully-featured remote, Amazon Alexa voice control, and an overly brief set of buttons on a proximity-sensing panel above the bar, it's simple to make the house follow your commands. . And in the HEOS app that Denon shares with its sister company Marantz, you can integrate rich music streaming services, access Internet radio and network storage, and enjoy a little equalizer adjustment…

the heos app

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

audio performance

  • Impressively deep low frequencies
  • a certain sense of height
  • Excellent voice handling

If ever there was a set of 2 halves, it's the Denon Home 550. Or, more precisely, it's a set of 2 volume levels.

Let's first look at how the Home 550 performs at what we'll describe as "normal" volume levels. At this volume, the kind of level you might find acceptable for enjoying a movie in a fairly standard-sized room, the Denon has a lot to offer.

By the standards of soundbars that get by without the aid of a subwoofer, it delivers impressively deep low-end that's nicely textured and quite informative. The punch demanded by the Dolby Atmos soundtrack from Blade Runner 550 is practically there, and the bass offered by the Home XNUMX is well controlled, detailed enough, and appropriately defined when it comes to the attack and decay of individual sounds.

a close up of the denon home 550 sound bar

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

There is a related organization and control evident at the opposite end of the frequency range, where high-pitched sounds are bright and substantial. Exactly the same level of rectilinear control is evident, as are the finer levels of detail. And in the midrange, probably even more essential for a movie soundtrack than a piece of music, the Denon projects the vocals well in front of the main stage, while integrating them seamlessly into the overall performance. Again, there is a lot of detail on display and the kind of attention to texture and tone that makes the voices their own and different.

Active headroom (from a "whispering exposure" sense to a "full-screen blast" sense) is more than convenient, and the Home 550 is confident enough to sustain its clumpy, punchy presentation even when things get really hectic. . In truth, the more competing elements there are in a soundtrack, the more Denon seems to like it.

However, when it comes to object-based spatial audio, the Home 550 is a somewhat more mixed success. If Sonos Beam (Gen Two) has taught us anything, it's that we can't expect a particularly compelling Dolby Atmos effect from a soundbar without face-up speakers. In its defense, the Home 550 is a bit more successful than the Sonos in this regard; Naturally, it can't produce a sense of airy sound, but there's a nice height to its presentation. When it comes to filling the wall your TV hangs with sound, the Home 550 is a slick, hard-hitting listener.

a close up of the denon home 550 sound bar

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

Switch to music and it's a related story. Listened at neighboring volume levels, PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love is a fairly robust and well-arranged listen, with a lot of emphasis on muting and low-end analog grind. It's not quite up there with a similarly priced Bluetooth speakerphone, but in context it's not bad at all. The presentation is clinging and fairly well unified, and the expensive pacing is handled well.

The drawbacks start if you are optimistic enough to turn up the volume. Denon's previously assertive, more controlled sound takes a turn for the shrieks, with the high end losing its freshness and the low end sacrificing even more. Threatened by both sides, the midrange springs into action, getting hard and restless. It's a pretty essential change in attitude and emphasis, and there's no guarantee that you'll find this new stance less violent.

Should I get the Denon 550 Home Soundbar?

a close up of the denon home 550 sound bar

(Image credit: LaComparacion)

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