Denon Cocoon Home review

Denon Cocoon Home review

This friendly looking white bean is a high-tech music system, playing internet radio, music from your local media server or directly from a docked iPhone. See all audio reviews.

A quick note about the full product name. Audiophiles, don't be confused by the DSD-500 label – this music centre is in no way capable of playing Sony's hi-resolution DSD music files. See also: Pioneer A3 XW-SMA3-W review.

An inset black OLED panel at front will gently slide out when pressed, to reveal a small platform with 30-pin dock connector for Apple iDevices up to the iPhone 4S and iPad 3. Models after that, you'll need the 30-pin to Lightning adaptor. Take a look at  Group test: what's the best speaker set?

The Denon Cocoon can be networked either through an ethernet port at the back or over 11n Wi-Fi. With a docked iPhone, it can even learn your wireless network password, saving you the pain of trying to input a long password with an alphanumeric remote control, for instance.

We had trouble getting this working initially, using this NetLink function for automatic wireless linking. Whether it was the Lightning adaptor we had to use for an iPhone 5, or just part of the sporadic flakiness of the Cocoon we can't be sure. An iPhone 4S finally sorted out the wireless connection for us though.

The Cocoon doesn't have the usual button-festooned remote issued with such all-singing devices. Instead you get a simple white plastic rounded pebble with compass-rose buttons, one music source button and on/off. Definitely a step in the right direction for simplicity.

You get to play with most of the Cocoon's other features through a dedicated iPhone app. The app's background wallpaper smartly mimics the Cocoon's porous textile front skin, adding two rows of four rounded buttons across the bottom. These give direct access to Music Player (your iPhone player, docked or wireless), Music Server (UPnP NAS drives, for example), Aux (jack in the back), and USB (thumbdrive in the back again).

The second row of buttons gives you Internet Radio (the usual roster of local and worldwide streaming services), and then Preset 1, 2, and 3. These let you store your favourite stations; and given how any internet-radio player will confront you with thousands of stations nestled in sub-menu after sub-menu, it really is handy to have your favourite two or three immediately to hand.

A neat touch is the app's volume control slider. There's a sweeping curve across its middle – just slide the button along to adjust. Shame though that there's a lag here which means you're like to overshoot in either direction until you learn its laggy foible.

You can control volume from backlit + and – touch-sensitive buttons on the Cocoon's top. But this is slow and tedious, requiring you to press and hold relatively insensitive surfaces to drop volume long enough to answer a phone, for instance. And the human-interface rules have been broken by the leaving out any on/off or standby button in easy reach. Instead you must fumble around the back for a hidden switch – or hunt down your phone to use the Standby soft button there.

Also from the app screen is a timer function in one corner. Here you're offered a Sleep Timer, Alarm and Nap functions. In our tests, sleep timing worked well to let the Cocoon play music later at night, switching itself off after presetting between 5 and 90 mins. The alarm failed to wake us in the morning on occasion though.

Denon Cocoon Home: Getting into the Cocoon

In normal use the Cocoon worked most of the time. It was fussy about music streamed from NAS, unable to play Apple Lossless or any digital music above 48kHz sample rate. It could play 24-bit/44.1kHz though.

When selecting a track from an album's folder, sometimes it would play that track and no more; other times it would continue to play the rest of the tracks in the same directory, the expected behaviour for a network player.

Internet radio worked mostly well, with occasional pauses. Sometimes these pauses turned into full-time stoppages, requiring the programme stream to be restarted.

USB stick playback was slow to load, and control is rudimentary with just skip buttons rather than a listed menu. Playback quality was relatively good through USB though.

AirPlay is another handy asset, letting you beam across music over Wi-Fi from any iPhone or computer playing iTunes.

Denon Coccon Home: Sound quality

Powered by four 25W Class D amplifiers, the Cocoon has plenty of headroom to control the stereo speakers, built around 40mm tweeters and 100mm mid-bass drivers. You can pull off the entire front of the bean, and see the layout, including front-firing bass reflex ports.

Bass is tubby, plumped up in the upper bass to give it a warmer ghetto-blaster kind of impact, especially when the volume's turned up.

Listening to rock and pop you get the drive and lower end oomph to fill the room. The downside is it gives an indistinct thump from which you really can't pick out any bass tunes. So plucked string bass for example sounds more like a tuneless tea chest complete with broom handle. On the plus side the switching ‘digital' amps have good control and the power reserves to pump the system loud with that pitch-free pulse.

Singing voices are carried across cleanly, also making spoken radio presenters and other dialogue easy to follow.

As you turn up the wick a fuzzy grain through the desert-dry treble becomes all too evident. The highest of high-frequency reproduction sounded cut off, with energy focused into a metallic jangle that gave much music a stilted mechanical effect.

On classical music, strings became all too two-dimensional, with sandpaper an unwelcome replacement for any natural sweetness.

Perhaps thanks to the rounded cabinet the sound dispersion was excellent, giving its natural best coverage across a wide range of listening positions. There was little obvious left-right stereo placement of instruments, just an enveloping cloud of sound overlying the bean's buxom thrum.

Denon Cocoon Home review: Specs

  • Stereo network audio music centre
  • 4x 25W Class D amplifiers
  • 2x 100mm bass-mid, 2x 40mm HF drivers
  • MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, FLAC playback
  • Apple AirPlay
  • iOS and Android apps
  • 10/100 ethernet
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • retractable 30-pin iPod dock
  • OLED scrolling display
  • touch-sensitive buttons for volume, source, skip forward
  • IR remote control
  • 451 x 236 x 170 mm
  • 5.4 kg
  • Stereo network audio music centre
  • 4x 25W Class D amplifiers
  • 2x 100mm bass-mid, 2x 40mm HF drivers
  • MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, FLAC playback
  • Apple AirPlay
  • iOS and Android apps
  • 10/100 ethernet
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • retractable 30-pin iPod dock
  • OLED scrolling display
  • touch-sensitive buttons for volume, source, skip forward
  • IR remote control
  • 451 x 236 x 170 mm
  • 5.4 kg

OUR VERDICT

The Denon Cocoon Home is a versatile one-box music centre that can play music from a variety of modern sources – plugged-in USB sticks, iPhones, anything else through a mini-jack – as well as play from internet radio, network music servers and AirPlay-capable devices. It's easy to operate through a well-designed smartphone app, and timer control makes it a good choice as a bedroom alarm clock radio. Sound quality was a letdown, a little gritty, and carrying an overall mechanical manner that let down any real musicality, leaving it particularly short of recommendation for its audio presentation.