In the list of things that we want science to solve I suspect the creation of a wireless 5.1 speaker system that is easy to use and set up ranks up there in between a cure for shingles and the colonization of Mars. Thankfully, there are people on the job.
Enclave Audio has been working on a wireless 5.1 sound system since 2013 and they recently released their first product at CES, the CineHome HD. The kit, which costs $1,100, is an an all-in-one solution with center speaker/receiver, two front speakers, two smaller rear speakers, and a subwoofer. Setup is simple: you connect the center speaker/switcher to the TV via HDMI and then plug in up to three HDMI-compatible devices. You can also plug an optical cable into the back or connect to the system via Bluetooth.
You then plug in all of the satellite speakers. Each speaker is fairly small – the rear satellites are about 4 inches tall and unobtrusive while the subwoofer is 17 inches tall. Each speaker connects to the center receiver wirelessly and automatically – there is no pairing process – and in theory the system will stay connected and power on out of standby when you’re ready to watch TV or play a game.
That’s basically it. Enclave doesn’t offer much in the way of position tuning beyond a noise generator to test each speaker in turn and the on screen setup is as spartan as the rest of the kit. It took me a about fifteen minutes to set things up in a spacious basement rumpus room and, aside from finding outlets for each power supply attached to each speaker, setup was worry-free.
I’m honestly pleased with the CineHome. It is a clever solution to a thorny problem and considering Sonos charges $1,700 for their solution and Klipsch charges over $5,000 for theirs the price for the Enclave is just right.
However there is a fairly annoying problem that might not be an issue for folks with more outlets on their walls. Enclave is using 2×3 inch wall warts for each speaker. This means you can only a fit a few on a power strip and if you have other stuff plugged in you’re out of luck. It’s the age-old dilemma: how can you make truly wireless speakers without wires? Sonos fixes this by putting the power supply into the speaker and offering a smaller cable rather than a wall wart. Enclave doesn’t.
Further, the system takes a bit of time to connect and start playing and the on-screen display is a bit laggy. It’s not bad enough to completely discount the system as a whole but it’s still slightly problematic. The remote control isn’t very responsive, either, which makes things seem laggier. It’s not a showstopper, but it’s a something to consider.
The home-theatre-in-a-box world is full of contenders vying for the space below your table. You can get really cheap wired systems for a few hundred dollars and you can get something like a Sonos for much, much more. Enclave offers two benefits: the price and the wireless speakers. The speakers themselves are just fine in terms of audio reproduction and the kit supports Dolby DTS 5.1 Digital Surround as well as other digital standards which means you’re going to hear the surround with enough clarity to count. These aren’t audiophile-quality speakers but they will make your movies sound great.
The remote mimics the buttons on top of the center speaker
5 speakers, 5 wall warts
Front speaker sitting on top of the sub
In the end a kit like the CineHome is a no-brainer if you’re trying to avoid (too many) wires. There are no truly wireless speakers. You always have to power them. Therefore a solution like Enclave’s is the next best thing and it works well. You’re getting a good, compact system with a nice frequency range and enough separation between front and back to feel like you’re in the middle of the action. The power supply issues notwithstanding Enclave did a good job with this product and they will be expanding their product by allowing you to add extra speakers for 7.1 sound down the line. The CineHome is a good start and a promising product like that could mean the end of wires if not the end of shingles and/or the colonization of Mars. A TV watch can dream, can’t she?
$1,100 5.1 wireless speaker system in a box
5-inch tall rear speakers, 8-inch tall front speakers
True 5.1 sound
Frustratingly large power supply
Slow to “boot”