If you walk into a room brimming with top audio manufacturers and their devices, there’s no doubt your attention would quickly turn to Edifier and their unique approach to product design. One can argue that Edifier’s craftsmanship serves as the industry standard for aesthetic innovation among audio hardware engineers today. One can also argue that Edifier’s latest e255 active speaker system, a surround sound version of the superb Luna Eclipse HD speakers, is the company's finest accomplishment to date.
The Edifier e255 surround sound system is an artistic marvel. It’s a piece of tech that doesn’t shy away from breaking norms. Who needs old-fashioned, boxy speakers when Edifier’s futuristic “eggs” provide so much more flexibility for differently sized entertainment setups. Whether you live in a 5000 sq ft villa or a 400 sq ft apartment, the audio performance is phenomenal across both wide and narrow spaces.
One thing to note is that the Edifier e255 system isn’t advised for audiophiles due to a lack of HDMI support, which is necessary for lossless surround PCM audio. Its optical connections are limited to compressed Digital Dolby and DTS, as well Dolby Pro Logic II for converting stereo to 5.1 surround. You can only get lossless stereo PCM via optical, but that’s rather pointless considering that this is a multi-speaker setup.
"One can also argue that Edifier’s latest e255 active speaker system, a surround sound version of the superb Luna Eclipse HD speakers, is the company's finest accomplishment to date."
Having said that, the audio performance is far beyond what’s normally expected from a compressed signal—not to mention wireless Bluetooth connectivity. I’ve been testing audio hardware for a few years now, and to put things in perspective, the e255 has the most impressive Bluetooth audio delivery to date. I have about half a dozen active Bluetooth devices laying around the same area as the e255, yet the audio signal has never been affected by distortions. So far, I’ve clocked at least 75-80 hours with the e255, and I never experienced a single audio hiccup—not a single time.
The 255’s powerful drivers deliver crystal clear detail and depth, and manual decibel adjustments for each speaker allow for more balanced volumetric shifts between quiet whispers and loud explosions. The audio is top-notch without the need for advanced calibrating. This makes the system perfect for users who seek high-end audio performance, but don’t have the technical know-how when it comes to advanced audio tuning.
"The 255’s powerful drivers deliver crystal clear detail and depth, and manual decibel adjustments for each speaker allow for more balanced volumetric shifts between quiet whispers and loud explosions."
Unboxing the Edifier e255 system is just as exciting as hearing its sound for the first time. Each speaker is wrapped in a protective cloth, and there’s a sense of grandeur and luxury when revealing the spherical design for the first time. Typical speakers are much larger and made out of wood to improve acoustics, but Edifiers engineers have found a way to preserve the audio fidelity while completely redefining long-standing speaker design standards.
During my testing, I’ve set up the system in three different environments: a large, open space equivalent to a medium-sized conference room, a larger gaming room/office where the speakers are placed close the listening area, as well as a typical living-room environment with speakers placed around 6 feet away from the center listening area. With some careful speaker positioning, it’s possible to achieve balanced audio performance regardless of room size and speaker placement. As expected, the larger space provides a little more room for the audio to spread, but the sound clarity at lower volumes and within tighter spaces is what truly sets the e255 from other surround systems.
The center speaker is the heart of the system. Front left and right speakers are connected directly to the center speaker, while everything else links up wirelessly once the Bluetooth signal goes live. This makes the setup process more liberating. As long as there are enough power outlets for each speaker, you can really play around with creative positioning without worrying about running out of wires. There are three optical inputs and a 3.5 mm audio input in the back of the center speaker. For testing purposes, I decided to stick with optical only as it delivers superior audio quality and will most likely be the go-to connection for the average user.
"Even without uncompressed PCM, the Edifier e255 delivers DTS with impressive precision and clarity."
Since all of my media apps are on PS4, I decided to use Sony’s console for most of my testing. Video games are great for pushing a system’s surround capabilities, especially competitive titles where audio locationing is imperative for success. Like everyone else lately, I’ve been obsessively playing Overwatch and figured it’d be the best way to get a taste of what the e255 offers. Five minutes into the game, and my way of playing the game changed entirely. Overwatch in surround sound is an otherworldly experience.
Even without uncompressed PCM, the Edifier e255 delivers DTS with impressive precision and clarity. I personally prefer DTS due to lower compression and better surround balancing, but whether you choose DTS or Dolby Digital, you’re in for a real treat. The Overwatch audio engineers have implemented carefully tuned audio cues that only become apparent once a proper sound system is in place. Enemy footsteps, for example, are heavier and louder than your team’s, and being able to differentiate the running weight between characters during a heated fight is inexplicably helpful in a game like this.
"Shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones sound marvelous in surround. The e255 system makes Ramin Djawadi’s iconic soundtrack even more impactful and mesmerizing."
Little details like this stand out regardless of what game I throw at the e255. The Witcher 3 is another great example of a transformative experience. When you’re out in the wild, you can hear the grass crunching underneath your boot, you can hear the wind cutting through trees, and most importantly, you can hear wild beasts rummaging in the distance, giving you a better window of opportunity to prepare your potions and gear.
When it comes to movies and TV shows, things get a little trickier when testing because the surround-sound quality isn’t solely depended on hardware, but rather how much effort the creators’ put into balancing the different channels. Shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones sound marvelous in surround. The e255 system makes Ramin Djawadi’s iconic soundtrack even more impactful and mesmerizing.
When watching Raising Hope on Netflix, on the other hand, the center speaker carries most of the weight. The audio, particularly the dialogue, is too centered and makes the show sound more hollow compared to audio mixed to 2.1 channels. This isn’t a speaker criticism, but a surround-sound criticism in general. It’s an issue a lot of audio connoisseurs face, and it’s a problem that’s been plaguing the industry for decades. I decided to have a little fun with the settings, and found that the e255’s Dolby Pro Logic II feature can be used to mitigate the problem. Since Pro Logic II creates 5.1 channels from a 2.1 channel signal, I changed the console audio source to 2.1 PCM, and then enabled the Pro Logic II to split the audio across all the speakers. In a way, this partially fixes the problem with center-heavy audio in certain media. While the surround accuracy doesn’t translate as well, it still sounds better when watching media where the surround sound implementation is handled sloppily.
"Since Pro Logic II creates 5.1 channels from a 2.1 channel signal, I changed the console audio source to 2.1 PCM, and then enabled the Pro Logic II to split the audio across all the speakers. In a way, this partially fixes the problem with center-heavy audio in certain media."
While the Edifier e255 doesn’t boast advance equalizer settings, it’s packed with a handful of neat surround modes when Digital Dolby Pro Logic II is engaged. You can choose between music, movie, emul, matrix, virt and game modes. Each setting is designed to convert stereo to surround differently based on the media. For the most part, the labels are self explanatory. Music mode, for example, makes you feel like you’re surrounded by the performers. Movie mode increases the dynamic range, which makes explosions and action scenes particularly loud.
"If you’re someone who’s seeking practicality without any sacrifice in sound performance, the Edifier e255 is the most luxurious-yet-affordable option for surround sound in 2016."
The quirky Matrix setting, on the other hand, splits all audio evenly across every speaker, making it seem like you’re entirely enveloped by whatever you’re watching. While this setting doesn’t work well in movies and TV shows, it’s a fantastic feature for nature documentaries. Game mode is equivalent to Scout Mode found in most surround sound headsets, but I’m still not sure I can see a benefit ( or much difference for that matter) between the emulation and virtual modes. But aside from these two settings, I found the other presets to be surprisingly useful when switching between different content on TV.
It’s been about two weeks since I installed the Edifier e255 in our office, and I can’t imagine using any other audio device for our gaming and movie testing going forward. The lack of 5.1 PCM support is definitely a big letdown for audiophiles, but if you’re someone who’s seeking practicality without any sacrifice in sound performance, the Edifier e255 is the most luxurious-yet-affordable option for surround sound in 2016.