The Denon CEOL RCD-N7 is a music system designed very much for the digital age. Networking capabilities let it access your home music server, web radio and music services and Apple’s AirPlay tech, while there’s also an iPod dock, USB port, CD player and, er, FM/AM radio tuner. That’s a lot to stuff into a compact music system, so how does it shape up? Read our full Denon CEOL RCD-N7 review to find out.
AirPlay and networking
Apple AirPlay compatibility is available as a £39 upgrade for the Denon CEOL RCD-N7 (Instructions can be found on Denon’s site here). It works brilliantly. Get a CEOL (or several, up to six) hooked up to your home network and you can then wirelessly stream music to it (or them) from an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or computer running iTunes – in anything up to Apple Lossless quality.
The iTunes version is impressive enough (when you adjust the volume on your computer it changes on the CEOL too), but AirPlay’s iOS implementation is even better, because it’s not restricted to simply the iPod function: you can stream audio from any app with a volume bar: Last.fm, Spotify, YouTube… it’s brilliant. You can also use Apple’s Remote app to control AirPlay playback on a PC or Mac.
The networking function also opens up Last.fm and Napster playback (subscriptions required), Internet radio and standard DLNA audio streaming, so even without AirPlay there’s plenty to admire.
The Denon CEOL RCD-N7 can be twinned with any pair of speakers, but Denon offers a package including a brace of small, similarly white-finished boxes. They produce good detail but don’t shift much bass. We hooked up a larger pair of Denon speakers and had better, more fully rounded results, so if you’re trying to fill a larger room you may want to skip the small speakers.
We can’t quibble about AirPlay either, which is, in general, rock solid with no sign of compression or harshness. In many hours of wireless AirPlay use we had one instance where the signal dropped for a moment, leading to a stutter in the playback, but that was it.
The Denon CEOL RCD-N7 eschews the brushed aluminium look, instead opting for clean, Apple-style white plastic. But don’t fret: it still feels like a quality product, oozing solidity and sturdiness.
There’s a three-line LED panel on the front to display information such as the current track number/name (this works with AirPlay, so you can see what you’re listening to). It also aids with setup, allowing you to input your Wi-Fi key or Last.fm login details.
Up top there’s an iPod/iPhone dock hidden under a flap, while connections include USB, line-in and headphone (on the front) and three sets of audio inputs (one optical digital), Ethernet and a subwoofer output at the back.
Have you tossed out most of your physical music media in favour of MP3s? Then you are the market for the Denon CEOL RCD-N7. Sure, it plays CDs and there’s a radio, but there are far cheaper systems that perform just as well if you want that – the real draw here is the ability to draw on music from your Apple gear, your home server and the web.
The system isn’t cheap, costing around £500 alone or £600 with the matched speakers. But this isn’t some tinny/bass-heavy iPod speaker dock – it’s a finely tuned mini system with good sound quality and some excellent features. If you’re looking for something that can take your digital music and do something special with it, the Denon CEOL RCD-N7 is a perfect choice.