Enclave Audio CineHome Pro review: A great home theater audio system—for the right audience
This true 5.1 surround-sound system is truly wireless, but it’s more suitable for streaming media than pairing with a Blu-ray player.
By Michael Brown
TechHiveMay 8, 2020 3:00 am PDT
Image: Enclave Audio
At a Glance
Six discrete wireless speakers (apart from power cords)
Monster-sized 10-inch powered subwoofer included
Supports ARC and (soon) eARC
Terrific app to control everything
Doesn’t support lossless codecs like Dolby ProHD or object-based codecs like Dolby Atmos
No support for the higher-resolution Bluetooth codecs aptX or aptX HD
No automatic calibration features
The only wires this powerful surround-sound system needs are power cords and an HDMI cable (provided) to connect to your TV. Enclave is targeting streamers more than folks who play physical media, so decide which camp you’re in before you pull the trigger.
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The Enclave Audio CineHome Pro is designed for people who crave a high-end home theater experience, but who are willing to sacrifice a skosh of high-end performance for near-absolute freedom from wires.
If soundbars have left you wanting, and you consume movies and music primarily via streaming services, you’ll dig what the company has to offer. If you prefer the uncompromised experience of physical media (or digital media streamed from a local server), you’ll be somewhat less interested. My bottom-line score assumes you’re in the former category, but I’ll go into detail about all of the system’s pluses and minuses so you can decide for yourself.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars, where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
The CineHome Pro (the full name of the product is CineHome Pro | CineHub Edition THX Certified) is a self-amplified genuine 5.1-channel surround sound system. The only wires you’ll need to deal with are the power cords for its six speakers: center, front left and right surround, rear left and right surround, a massive subwoofer, and the CineHub control box. You’ll connect the system to your TV’s HDMI ARC port with the provided cable (a Toslink port is provided in case your TV doesn’t have HDMI ARC, and there’s also a 3.5mm analog aux input—all the bases are covered). Enclave says it will push out a firmware update soon that enables HDMI eARC.
The CineHub doesn’t have an ethernet port, so you can’t connect it to your home network to stream media that you’ve ripped from disc or downloaded from an online music store. And it doesn’t support Wi-Fi, so you can’t use Chromecast or Apple AirPlay, or technology like Spotify Connect. That leaves Bluetooth for wireless streaming (although the system doesn’t support aptX or the higher-resolution aptX HD codecs), or any type of player that has either an HDMI or Toslink optical output (CD player, Blu-ray player, home-theater PC, etc.).
Enclave’s system assumes your TV is the center of your home theater experience, to the degree that the CineHome Pro doesn’t come with a remote control. You use your TV remote to control the volume, or Enclave’s excellent mobile app (available for Android and iOS) for volume control and a lot more. The CineHome Pro uses two types of Bluetooth connections when connecting to your smartphone or tablet (while the app is the same, I found the tablet experience—specifically, with an iPad mini—superior to using my Pixel 2 XL smartphone). Your interactions with the app’s user interface utilize Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), and music streamed from your mobile device to the CineHub utilizes Bluetooth’s A2DP profile.
Media coming into the system via cable or Bluetooth streams out to the speakers using WiSA (Wireless Speakers & Audio Association), a low-latency, wireless multi-channel technology that supports up to eight channels of uncompressed 24-bit audio at a sampling rate of 48kHz (the system supports up to 96kHz input sources). Because it uses unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz range that’s not used by Wi-Fi, the two networks won’t interfere with the other. You can read a lot more about WiSA in this article.
The CineHome Pro’s support for Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS Digital Surround points to the manufacturer’s focus on consumers who stream movies and music over the internet, via a smart TV/set-top box or a mobile device, versus playing digital media from discs. While PCM is also supported, there is no support for the lossless Blu-ray codecs Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio, and there won’t be even after Enclave pushes out the firmware update that will enable eARC support (regular ARC doesn’t have enough bandwidth to handle those codecs). Enclave, for its part, says “the audible difference to a listener between Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD would be nearly imperceptible.”
So, why bother to support eARC at all? Enclave says it supports eARC because the standard can handle more than two streams of PCM audio, where ARC cannot, and because eARC is less prone to CEC errors. CEC is the protocol that allows one home theater device or its accessories (e.g., a remote control) to operate another—in this case, over an HDMI cable.
If you watch movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the like through your smart TV or set-top box (a Roku or Amazon Fire TV, for instance), you’ll be satisfied with this level of support. If you’re using a Blu-ray or 4K UHD Blu-ray player, on the other hand, you might not be satisfied with listening to a lossy codec. Then again, your dissatisfaction could just stem from the fact that you know you’re listening to a lossy codec, not that you can actually hear the difference. On the third hand, object-based Dolby Atmos soundtracks are becoming increasingly common, and the CineHome Pro doesn’t support that codec. And you will notice that, because you won’t get height-based cues.
Speaker and amplifier configuration
The CineHome Pro is a major step up from most soundbars, including the higher-end models that come with wireless rear surround speakers (or that offer them as an added-cost option). As I’ve already indicated, this is a 5.1 system with discrete self-powered speakers for each channel. The center speaker measures 5.3 x 24.1 x 3.4 inches (DxWxH) and just barely impinged on the bottom of the 55-inch Samsung QN55Q7FAMF quantum dot TV I used for this review (you can read our review of the 65-inch model of this TV here).
The center channel’s MDF enclosure houses a pair of 3-inch paper-composite midranges and a 1-inch cloth tweeter. These are driven by a two-channel Class D amplifier (the mid-ranges are driven by one channel and the tweeter by the other). Enclave declined to provide amplifier output ratings, which is an increasingly common stance among audio component manufacturers these days. Truth be told, modern amplifiers are so efficient that output numbers can be misleading, so just let your ears decide. I will say that the system was significantly more powerful than I needed to fill my 9 x 12 x 17-foot (HxWxD) home theater with sound.
The front surround speakers are also in MDF cabinets, these measuring 5.3 x 3.4 x 24.1 inches and housing the same driver and amplifier configuration. The speakers are intended to be vertically oriented, so there are rubber feet on only one end. But because they are two feet high and lack a plinth to provide stability, I’d encourage anyone buying this system to mount them on the wall using either the keyholes or the threaded mounts inset into the back of the cabinet, lest someone bump into them and knock them over. Enclave says it has stands and other accessories on its roadmap, but I checked the threaded mounts and they should work with just about any third-party hardware.
The same is true of the rear surrounds, except these cabinets are fabricated from plastic and they house one 3-inch paper-composite mid-range along with a 1-inch cloth tweeter. The rear surrounds are slightly shorter at 16.4 inches tall (depth and width are the same as the front surrounds). The center and all four surround channels have front ports (two each in the center and front surrounds, one in each of the rear surrounds) and are covered with metal grills.
The powered subwoofer Enclave bundles with the CineHome Pro is quite large, hosting a front-firing 10-inch, paper-composite driver with a port on the bottom of an MDF cabinet. It’s driven by a bridged two-channel amp. Remember what I said about trusting your ears? While I found the satellite speakers to deliver perfectly fine performances without using Enclave’s app to tweak them, I needed to boost the subwoofer’s output by 8dB before I was satisfied. WiSA technology has enough bandwidth to allow Enclave’s system to support a 5.4 configuration (yes, you can add three more subwoofers to the system if you so choose).
The CineHub app
Enclave doesn’t provide a remote control with the CineHome Pro, and you don’t really need one. You can use your TV remote to control the volume (unless your TV doesn’t support ARC or eARC, that is), and you can gain full access to the system using Enclave’s excellent app, which is available for Android and iOS. That’s vastly superior to deciphering inscrutable hieroglyphics printed on rubber buttons.
As I’ve already mentioned, the CineHome Pro doesn’t support Wi-Fi, so Enclave’s app communicates with the system using Bluetooth LE. The app is very responsive while interacting with the system, but there is one minor drawback to this approach: Each time you use the app, you need to unlock the device it’s installed on, bring the app to the fore, and then wait for it to scan your environment to locate the system. Once it has found it, you tap a button to connect. The whole process takes just a second or two, but the experience takes some getting used to—and you of course need to be within Bluetooth range to use the app at all.
Once the system is powered up, the app’s home screen presents a line drawing of a typical home theater environment with a TV on a credenza, a sofa, and the CineHub speakers. Tapping on any of the speaker representations streams white noise to them, so you can verify that they’re working. In another part of the app, you can provide the distance from each speaker to your listening position. This enables the system to compute the appropriate degree of audio delay. You can also manually adjust the volume level for each speaker by specifying a decibel value or by tapping on plus and minus symbols to boost or cut the speaker’s output. There is no calibration mic or advanced software for this purpose, but this is better than nothing if you really want to dial in your audio experience.
The setup and configuration process will be somewhat easier if you’re a Roku TV user, given that (as of October 2020) the CineHome Pro is a Roku TV Ready device. That means your Roku TV will identify the CineHome Pro once you connect it to the display, and the Roku interface will guide you through the setup process as well as allow you to pick sound modes and trim individual speaker levels. (Incidentally, the step-down CineHome II is now Roku TV Ready-certified, as well.)
Modern audio technology can do a lot to fool your ears into thinking sounds are coming from locations where there are no physical speakers, but there’s no getting around physics. The less perfect your listening environment is, the more difficult that challenge becomes. That’s a long way of saying there’s no substitute for an audio system with discrete surround, center, and rear surround speakers. And if you’re listening to movies or music encoded with Dolby Atmos, you’ll get the best experience from speakers mounted in your ceiling.
One of the occupational hazards of reviewing home theater equipment is that you can’t always have your own equipment hooked up and operational. So, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to use my own surround system, which is anchored by an Onkyo A/V receiver, Klipsch RF-series home theater speakers, and a Boston Acoustics PV500 subwoofer. Watching the 4K HD Blu-ray version of Mad Max: Fury Road played on a Cambridge Audio CXUHD disc player connected to Enclave’s system reminded me of what I’ve been missing.
That movie, a two-hour chase scene interspersed with explosions and car crashes, gave the CineHub system plenty of opportunity to show its stuff. The subwoofer in particular delivered the type of visceral, ground-pounding experience it’s made for. It was particularly fun to hear when the War Boys initiate the chase after the renegade Furiosa in their heavily modified hot rods, with groups of them pounding on massive kettle drums hanging off the back of monster trucks. Dialogue, delivered mostly through the center channel, was well defined in both the action sequences and the scenes in which the ghosts haunting Max’s memories whisper to him. I could even hear the flies buzzing around the huddled mass anxiously waiting for Immortan Joe to open the massive gates to his cliff-top reservoir.
Listening to CDs played on the CXUHD was a slightly less enjoyable experience, depending on the style of music I was playing. In straight stereo mode, using the left and right front surround channels and the subwoofer, the system is a little too bright for my taste. Listening to Adele’s “Rumour Has It,” from her album 21, the speakers rendered Adele’s vocals a wee bit brittle. I had a similar reaction while playing “Love and Happiness,” from the Mark Knopfler, Emmylou Harris album All the Roadrunning. Harris lends her beautiful voice to harmonies on many of the tracks, but she sings lead on this one, and I had to turn the volume down a bit. Knopfler’s mellifluous voice, by comparison, came across perfectly through the entire album. I’ve listened to this album on countless audio systems and haven’t experienced this contrast before.
The CineHub’s bright character was much less of an issue with other tracks on this album, and it proved to be an asset on a different one: Tower of Power’s What is Hip? The band’s famous horns and the vocals—all male—sounded incredible on the title track and the rest of the record. If you like listening to music in surround sound, the CineHub supports Dolby Pro Logic Music, and there’s a Whole Room Stereo mode that utilizes all five satellite speakers (both of those settings also utilize the subwoofer). Those aren’t my cups of tea, but they might be yours.
WiSA technology is pretty amazing—or maybe it’s just Enclave’s implementation that’s so outstanding. Either way, I never experienced a single dropout or instance of lag with the CineHome Pro, which is very impressive when you consider the system needs to keep six wireless speakers in perfect sync with the action happening on your TV screen. Enclave’s app is very well done, too—it even instantly reflected volume changes made with my TV’s remote.
If you want more of a home theater experience than the typical soundbar can provide, but you don’t want to deal with pulling wires through your walls (or having your robot vacuum getting entangled in them because you had to leave them on the floor), this 5.1 system will deliver it. It doesn’t offer Dolby Atmos support, but it’s $1,000 cheaper than the Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar (which doesn’t come with discrete surround speakers or a subwoofer), and it’s significantly more powerful than the JBL Bar 9.1 (which achieves its wireless status with battery-powered rear surrounds).
I had a better overall experience with movies than I did with music using the CineHome Pro, but watching movies is what I do most in my home theater anyway. Some people will like the system’s bright nature. That said, I’d like this speaker system even more if it supported lossless codecs like Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos, but that would probably drive the price higher. You’ll need to decide for yourself which trade-offs are acceptable.
Updated on October 28, 2020 to note that the CineHome Pro is now Roku TV Ready-certified.
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