Established in 1910, Denon is a Japanese company with an established name in audio products. They are well known to audiophiles, and they excel when it comes to manufacturing top class AV receivers, amplifiers and high-fidelity systems. But as the top end market begins to stagnate, we are seeing quality brands begin to apply their expertise to growing market segments such as consumer audio products, in line with what other brands like Nakamichi and Audio Technica have adopted. At their first event held in Singapore, Denon has introduced new docking speakers and headphones to capitalize on the latest trends for audio devices.
As the presentation smartly pointed out, packaged music has lost out to digital. Almost everyone now uses either their smartphones or a dedicated portable music player to host their music collection. In addition, the consumption of media has morphed with the user exerting greater control on how, when, where and why they access content. This has lead to audio manufacturers changing their product categories to cater to such needs. The same reasons explain the widespread popularity of docking stations such as the excellent Fidelio DS9/10 or the portable Bluetooth speakers such as the Bose SoundLink.
With their new Cocoon speakers, Denon is aiming to grab a slice of that pie. A product specialist at the event stated that the company's pursuit of real sound and unique designs to be the main inspiration behind the new products. One look at the Cocoon Docking Speakers and you can see that they've definitely achieved the last aim. Sculpted and curved, the Cocoon looks like a pebble that has been eroded to complete smoothness by a flowing river. The sensuous curves of the product are pleasing to the eye and will definitely ensure that this device fits in with any modern decor.
Further proof of the lofty ambitions of the Cocoon products is provided by the fact that they come equipped with AirPlay. This means that users with Apple products can stream their music wirelessly. Android users should have no complaints either as the device can play back content from any Android device that is connected to same wireless network with the help of a free application. The same is also true for Windows 8 mobile devices. Unfortunately, they will have to do without docking since the Cocoon does not have the requisite micro-USB connector on the cradle. However, a USB port is available to help charge your device with the proper cables.
The Cocoon comes in two versions, namely the Home and the Portable. In order to check whether Denon lives up to the billing of “real sound” and “easy operability” we had a little hands on in the limited time period we had with the devices on the premises.
As the name suggests, the Denon Cocoon Home is intended for indoor use. The unique shape is not just meant for aesthetic purposes but also provides a large acoustic chamber to help the device deliver volume that can fill out expansive spaces. In addition the device features two 3-inch drivers along with bass reflex ports to help out with the lower end of the sound spectrum. Rounding off the list of features is a four channel D-class amplification unit.
The docking connector is part of a spring-loaded connector which pops out with a slight push. A remote is provided to access controls, while touch-sensitive buttons on the device itself accomplish the same goals. It is also important to note that the Denon Cocoon Home comes with a free application that can be used to access further goodies such as access to Internet radio.
We tested out the Denon Cocoon Home Docking Station with tracks from our standard test suite and threw in some of our favorites as well for good measure. Melt My Heart To Stone was reproduced with great clarity and good warmth. Adele’s voice sounded great amongst the organ piano and the emotion of the song was well captured. The bass reflex ports earned their keep as well when we tested the speakers out with Ratatat’s Loud Pipes. The lower frequencies packed a punch without lacking definition. Similarly Elements Of Life by Tiesto has sufficient oomph without turning into a muddy mess.
But what impressed us was the transient response shown on hard rock tracks such as Everlong by The Foo Fighters. The distortion guitars had great volume but the intricate drumming and cymbal crashes behind the wail of guitars was audible. The Cocoon Home speakers gave a good first impression of themselves and we would definitely like to see how they fare when subjected to a more strenuous examination.
The Denon Cocoon Portable can be considered the Home’s smaller brother. In shape, it resembles the latter, but there are some critical differences. First of all, the Portable is 25 percent smaller than the Home. This means that it has a smaller acoustic chamber, would need to be cranked up higher to achieve the same volume levels.
Furthermore the device comes with a rubberdized corners and a certain degree of waterproofing, according to Denon, which should make it hardier when facing the elements. It does not feature any bass reflex ports, while the two 3-inch drivers are tuned to handle the full range of audio by themselves. But the real difference is the fact that the Portable comes with a handle as well as a built-in Lithium-ion battery, which means you can carry it around with you on your travels.
With respect to performance, the Denon Cocoon Portable behaves similarly to the Home Docking Station. The same warmth and clarity was heard on Melt My Heart To Stone. However, Elements Of Life by Tiesto lacked the atmosphere that the Home delivered, quite possibly due to the lack of bass reflex ports. The same level of detail and definition could not be delivered on Everlong either. It seems that while the Cocoon Portable is, for lack of a better word, more portable, its portability does come at the slight expense of audio performance and quality.
Both the Denon Cocoon Home and the Denon Cocoon Portable will cost S$799 and will be available in mid-August 2012. The timing for the new docking station seems a bit weird seeing that the new iPhone 5 should be around the corner and is purported to come with a new connector. However, as explained by the Denon product specialist on hand, they believe the market penetration of the iPhone 4S and older models should still make the Cocoon a profitable venture. Also, since both Cocoon models come with AirPlay capabilities, the next generation of iPhones will still be able to wirelessly stream music to the speakers.