We’ve been following the latest advancements from the Wireless Speaker Association (WiSA) for over five years. Their technology enables home theater enthusiasts to create a complete surround sound environment without running speaker wires all around the room and without needing a large and expensive audio-video receiver. While WiSA was always the team creating the technology, they left it up to partner companies to produce the actual hardware that enabled this. That was the case until they took matters into their own hands and introduced the SoundSend. We previewed the SoundSend in our CES coverage this year and now we’ve been able to review it in our home theater.
The SoundSend from WiSA is a small black disc that connects to a TV through an HDMI (with ARC or eARC) or optical cable. It then communicates to WiSA-enabled speakers completely wirelessly. The setup process is only a little more work than connecting a soundbar but the results can be dramatically better!
One of the great things about the WiSA ecosystem is that you can mix and match components from any of the manufacturers that create WiSA devices. We used the wireless speakers from our Axiim Q review. There are many partners from which to choose. You can get speakers from Klipsch, Harman Kardon, Bang & Olufsen, and many other manufacturers.
It’s pretty simple to set up the SoundSend. Download the SoundSend app to your phone or tablet. It’s available for iOS and Android and only requires your mobile device to be within Bluetooth range of the SoundSend. Plug all of your speakers into power outlets. Connect the SoundSend to your TV with an HDMI cable. Make sure to connect to the HDMI input that has an ARC label. Plug the SoundSend into a power outlet.
The speakers should automatically connect to the SoundSend. Turn on your television and configure it to use the ARC connection. At this point, you should hear TV audio through the speakers but it may not be sending audio to the correct speakers. Grab the mobile device on which you installed the SoundSend app.
Once you’ve launched the app, head straight to the Advanced Settings tab. First, tap the Speaker Config button and select the correct setting. For example, if you have five speakers and a subwoofer then select Speakers 5.1. Next tap Channel Check. Tap on a speaker (like Front Left) and it will make that speaker emit a sound. There’s a decent chance that it assigned some of your speakers to the wrong channel. After hearing where they are, just drag and drop the speaker icons to the correct channel.
The SoundSend can also customize speaker distance by going to the MyZone section of the app. Tap on a speaker and use the plus and minus buttons to specify how far from your ideal seating position the speaker is. You can control individual speaker volumes and many other settings from the app.
The simplicity of setting up the SoundSend and using your television remote to control the volume is probably the biggest feature but there are others. The device supports multiple arrangments from 2.0, to 7.1, to 5.1.2 for Dolby Atmos. It is able to decode Dolby Digital and Digital+, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Atmos.
Once everything is all set up with the SoundSend, usage couldn’t be easier. There isn’t a separate audio-video receiver to power up or control with yet another remote. All the sound coming out of your TV, whether it’s from streaming apps on the TV, a cable box, video game console, or streaming device, automatically output the audio to the wireless speakers. The volume is controlled with the TV remote control. The SoundSend is powered up whenever the TV is turned on. We didn’t have any troubles using it with an LG C1 OLED. With an older Vizio, we did need to configure the TV to turn on all HDMI CEC devices (not just soundbars) for the TV to reliably control the SoundSend’s power.
How your system sounds will be entirely dependent on what speakers you choose. The SoundSend will deliver the audio to the speakers with such low latency that you’re not likely to notice it. This isn’t using Bluetooth after all.
One of the downsides to the SoundSend is that it doesn’t natively support DTS audio. You’ll still hear content that uses the format, but the SoundSend will down-mix it to a stereo signal. That signal is then sent to all of your speakers. So it won’t offer a true surround sound experience with DTS audio. Fortunately, most movies and TV shows use Dolby instead of DTS. If all of your favorite movies are encoded with DTS then you could also use a device like an Xbox which can transcode DTS to Dolby on the fly.
The SoundSend from WiSA provides the flexibility of a full surround sound system with the simplicity of a soundbar. You can start small and add more speakers as your budget allows, or you can jump straight into a 5.1.2 Atmos setup. The SoundSend retails for $179 and doesn’t include speakers. There are many packages that include the SoundSend with five speakers and a subwoofer.
The lack of DTS support is unfortunate but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most. If it is important, don’t get your hopes up. We don’t expect WiSA to add the feature via a software update. We presume it’s not available due to the notoriously high licensing fees DTS charges.
Overall, we love what the SoundSend offers. It’s hard to overstate the benefits of getting surround sound from a system that doesn’t require an audio-video receiver. The SoundSend is so small that it can easily be hidden behind the television. This system means you also don’t need to pay a contractor to run speaker wires all around your home theater. While most simple systems don’t offer much customization or flexibility, the SoundSend is dead-simple but still offers lots of customization for hard-core enthusiasts.
Thanks to WiSA for providing the SoundSend for review purposes.