By this point in my audio reviewing career, I’ve auditioned numerous soundbar systems, and one thing I can categorically state is that soundbar audio has improved at an astonishing rate. To the point where now some of these bars are shockingly impressive. (I’m looking at you, Sennheiser AMBEO, you Mother-of-all-Bars!)
Technology has paved the wave for these improvements; whether adding upfiring drivers to create a Dolby Atmos effect, using psychoacoustic trickery combined with multiple drivers to create a wider soundstage, or employing wireless technology to beam sound to rear speakers for true surround. We are now at a point where “settling” for a soundbar doesn’t have to be too much of a settlement.
But let’s be real here: the person coming into your shop wanting a true surround system is doing so because they want more than what even the best soundbar can offer. They want separation between the front channels, something more substantial than a Coke-can-sized rear speaker, and perhaps serious SPL output for cinema-sized sound.
In effect, they want a home theater system, but they just might not want (or be able to physically have) all the wiring required, or might be turned off by the complexity that comes with traditional surround systems.
And that is what the Enclave CineHome PRO system will give them.
Enclave was on my review radar even before I ran into the company at CES this year. What put them on my radar was the price point of this WiSA-certified system; by far the lowest of any that I’m aware of. Fully equipped at under $1600, it comes in comparable to most of the premium soundbar offerings, and below a 5.1-channel solution from Sonos.
WiSA stands for Wireless Speaker & Audio, and it is a combination hardware and software technology that has been around for quite a few years and is supported by more than 60 manufacturers. WiSA’s big trick is greatly simplifying both system setup and operation, replacing the complex AV receiver with a simple hub, and using 24-bit/48–96 kHz wireless technology to beam up to eight channels of audio to individually powered speakers with virtually zero delay. (Synchronized to within 1/1,000,000 of a second, if you want to get picky.)
The promise is you literally plug the speakers into power, connect a source to the hub, and…done. You’ve just set up a surround system.
I don’t use the term “soundbar killer” lightly, but my first thought was that if the Enclave CineHome PRO system actually lives up to this promise, well, killer is exactly what it’s going to be.
And, spoiler: it totally does!
The system arrives in a substantial box, and toting that 66-pound beast into my house told me I wasn’t dealing with some puny rig. Opening the box you’re greeted by two smaller boxes labeled “A” and “B.” “A” contains all the speaker power cords, owner’s manual, and even a pair of white gloves so you can literally give yourself a true white-glove delivery, with “B” holding the Enclave CineHub along with its power supply and an HDMI cable.
However, the setup guide instructs you to leave these boxes alone for now, instead unpacking — with or without the white gloves — the speakers and subwoofer and placing them in their correct locations. Each of the speakers are clearly labeled in back, such as “Front Left,” to aid in placement.
The speakers have nice, glossy charcoal-black finish with a top titanium-colored accent, and metal grille that protects and conceals the drivers. The speakers have some decent heft that speaks to their build quality, with the front channels being dual-ported (top and bottom) design and the surrounds having a single port.
Two things about these speakers: They aren’t small, and they have a small footprint. Each speaker has a keyhole and threaded insert for wall-mounting — definitely the preferred solution — however, the trick is then dealing with each speaker’s power cable; something I haven’t found a really elegant solution for. (Enclave says, “Current customers who have wall mounted their systems use cord covers,” which I’m guessing wouldn’t be the first choice for most of our customers.) I imagine any solution you’ve successfully employed with wall-mounting Sonos speakers would also work here.
I set the speakers on traditional stands. However, with their height and small base, they are kind of precarious, and I was constantly yelling at my daughters, “DON’T BUMP THE SPEAKERS!” for fear they would topple over. Enclave does plan on introducing tabletop stands in Q2, which will be a welcome addition.
Also Reviewed by John Sciacca: Sennheiser SB01 AMBEO Soundbar
The CineHub is about the size of a small book, and includes connections for HDMI eARC, Toslink optical digital, and 3.5 mm stereo analog. It also includes Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless streaming.
Enclave’s preferred connection is HDMI using ARC and CEC to control system commands like volume, and while this should work with most modern displays, there are times when ARC might not be possible or desirable. Beyond the quirks of ARC and CEC, the 9G Pioneer Elite Plasma in my test room doesn’t have an ARC connection. So, I used the Toslink optical connection, which worked fine, except this meant there was no way to adjust volume except constantly pulling out my phone and opening the Enclave App, which was très inconvenient.
Enclave offers an optional IR remote control that can be used to control the CineHub (or teach commands to a third-party control system), and it’s a bummer the remote isn’t included. It’s also a bit of an oversight that you can’t teach the Hub volume commands from your cable or TV remote, as you can with many soundbars. [Enclave says it is looking into a firmware update that would allow the customer to use CEC to control the volume, even when optical is the audio source. —Ed.]
Once the Hub is installed and powered up, it automatically scans for and adds all of the speakers, and, in my case, this worked exactly as advertised. After, you can use the Enclave Remote app to customize the sound in your room, such as setting distances to all speakers from 0–10 feet and setting channel levels from –6 to +6 dB in .5 dB steps. You can also tap on any speaker in the system to emit white noise for testing and level calibration.
Beyond source switching and volume control, the app is also used to set the Dolby Pro Logic upmixer to Off (for 2.1-channel listening), Movie, or Music modes, as well as turning Whole Room Stereo on and off.
The Enlcave CineHome PRO system is THX-certified as an Integrated System. Essentially this means it has passed “hundreds of different scientifically formulated tests in an acoustic chamber to ensure speaker response is uniform at any listening position and the system is efficient enough to produce cinema levels” in rooms where the viewing distance from the screen is 6–8 feet. As it is certified as a system, the CineHome PRO is only THX-certified when bundled with the CineHub.
I listened to dozens of movies and hours of music on the system and all I can say is, “Wow!” In fact, the system sounded so good, I constantly caught myself thinking things like, “Well, yeah, it sounds great, but the bass isn’t as tight and deep as my reference system.” Which, for the record, is a 7.2.6 system that includes two subwoofers — both of which cost a good deal more than the entire CineHome system!
Also Reviewed by John Sciacca: MantelMount MM860 Pro Series Motorized TV Mount
From a sound quality and performance standpoint, it dominated every soundbar I’ve ever listened to. You just can’t touch the soundstage of three independent front speakers, creating a huge front soundstage and impressive effects in movies like Ready Player One with the action traveling a space far wider than my 60-inch screen. Further, the left/right speakers produced such a convincing phantom center image on stereo listening I checked (twice!) that the center was indeed off!
I was repeatedly impressed by the amount of surround information detail I could pick out from the rears. From the little jungle sounds of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, to the machinery and rig sounds of Deepwater Horizon, to the sounds of drones whipping around in Oblivion, to the ambient plane noises and equipment jingling on a recent episode of SEAL Team, movie watching was always engaging and exciting.
As certified by THX, the system can indeed produce cinematic volume levels. I was reaching peaks over 103 dB while watching Jumanji and there was still plenty of gas left in the tank. However, as you start pushing volumes to extremes — especially with music — the speakers’ forward-sounding presentation starts sounding a bit strained.
I don’t typically do a lot of 5.1-channel listening, and the CineHome system re-established my belief in the immersive capabilities of a well-positioned, well-designed 5.1-speaker system.
If I picked any nits here, it would be with the sub. While it does a great job with music — whether the double-bass plucks of jazz or some deep pop synth — it just can’t quite plumb the depths of delivering truly tactile bass. Movies like John Wick, where he is pounding concrete with a sledgehammer, or the rocket launch in Apollo 13 just didn’t have that lowest octave of bass slam. But Enclave says you can add up to four subwoofers to the system, so there’s room to expand!
So is the CineHome PRO a soundbar killer as predicted? 100 percent yes. And also maybe a little no. Part of its strength — speaker size and performance — is also a bit of its weakness. Some people just won’t want three front speakers of this size. (For them, Enclave’s smaller-sized CineHome II would be a better option.) But for the client looking for great sound, performance, and simplicity beyond a single-bar solution, the Enclave CineHome PRO is a flat-out performance monster!
Kudos: Simple, fast setup; true soundbar-killer sound; cohesive and impressive surround effect
Concerns: Speaker size/mounting options; no remote included
- WiSA (Wireless Speaker & Audio) certified complete 5.1-channel surround system
- Simple plug-and-play installation of speakers and subwoofer
- THX-certified Integrated System
- Custom-tuned speakers with a total of 14 individually designed speaker drivers
- Front L/C/R features (2) 3-inch drivers and 1-inch tweeter; Surrounds feature 3-inch driver and 1-inch tweeter; Subwoofer 10-inch front firing driver
- Decodes LPCM, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II (Movie and Music modes), DTS Digital Surround, Analog and Bluetooth 5.0
- Controlled and setup via free Enclave app (iOS, Android)
- Connections (CineHub): Inputs: HDMI eARC/ARC, Toslink optical, 3.5mm analog audio; Outputs: power; Speakers/sub: power
- CineHome Pro L/C/R: 24.1 x 3.4 x 5.3 inches (HxWxD); 8 pounds
- CineHome Pro Surround: 16.4 x 3.4 x 5.3 inches (HxWxD); 5 pounds
- CineHome Pro Sub: 18.8 x 12 x 14.4 inches (HxWxD); 27 pounds
Want more stories like this delivered to your inbox every day? Then sign up for the free Residential Systems eNewsletter here.