Need advice and reviews

Discussion in 'Projectors & Screens' started by db_newb, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. db_newb Audiophyte

    db_newb
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    My wife and I are currently building our dream home. We have no experience with projector TVs. We have a large basement room in the basement (18' x 36') with a screen planned at one end and windows at the other (East facing). The ceilings are just shy of 9 feet. We are working with 2 different AV contractors that have similar bids, but when it comes to the projector and screen, they seem to have different equipment.

    We have a large storage area behind the screen wall, so both contractors have suggested a rear projector. This fits in more with our viewing habits. We usually watch in dim light unless we have quests, and then the ambient light is brighter. The rear projector will negate the ambient light issue.

    1st contractor:
    Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6020UB
    Vutec 92" Fixed Rear Projection Screen

    2nd contractor:
    DPI Cine 260-HB w/1.85-2.40 lens
    DA-LITE 119" Da-Plex In-Wall Rear Projection Screen (DA-100 coating)

    We won't have a true theater room that is lights off movie only. It is more of a multi-purpose entertaining room that has the ability to become a movie room.

    From what I have read, it appears that the DPI projector is of higher quality. It appears that the bulb life 2000 hrs (1/2 of the Epson) and around twice the cost. Is the 2nd contractor option that much better? I know that I am opening myself up here, but hopefully, I can have some professional/semi-pro 3rd party advice.

    Thank you.
  2. BMXTRIX Audioholic Spartan

    BMXTRIX
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    The Epson is a very good projector, but a JVC or Sony model would be better and would be more competitive on cost. Digital Projection stuff is nice, but IMO should be used in specific installation circumstances, not for 'standard' screen sizes.

    Since the room is not dedicated, I have to ask how important image quality is, as any rear projection setup passing through a projection surface leads to diminished image quality. I'm not sure I would eve go as high end as the 6020, but may opt for a more economical solution which serves the purpose of a large display setup. You also will need to consider how much of that storage space you are truly willing to give up for the clear line-of-sight for projection.

    Front projection looks better overall, but certainly runs into issues with ambient light. Still, with proper light management you can have excellent results with some lights on for daytime viewing or sporting event viewing, while giving the best possible results for nighttime viewing.

    see: AV Integrated - Custom Audio Visual Integration In Washington DC Metropolitan Area

    Now, there is much more to all of this than just the projector and screen. While that is a major expense, you also need to look at your speakers, and what your intentions are there. In-ceiling speakers in any basement space should be avoided and no A/V contractor should be recommending them. If you are getting that as a recommendation, and it is your basement, then tell them you were recommended against in-ceiling speakers, but you weren't told why, and see if they know why. Then come back here and we can discuss how knowledgeable those A/V guys actually are.

    You also want to consider how much of a multi-purpose room this is and if you want it to be just like every other room of the house, or set apart. Hardwood floors are always a bad choice for good sound when in a basement. Far to bright, and ears often ring with people complaining about the sound. Carpet is great, but should be darker than typical if at all possible, and walls and ceiling should be darker than 'white' as well. These are front projection requirements for best results. I mean, really, rear projection helps deal with a bad room, but it doesn't fix a bad room. So, what level of quality you want is up to you.

    Screen size also matters. With a wall height of almost 9', and a long room, I would wonder what your typical viewing distance is. If you intend to have seats throughout the space, and perhaps a couch at 15' or so, then I would probably be shooting for a 144" or so screen size, not a mere 119". Under almost NO circumstance would I recommend 92". I mean, seriously! You can buy a 90" Sharp LCD screen for the price you likely would be paying for the projector. That would just be a waste of money to go that small.

    Now, I'm not in your place, but I would want to have some serious discussion of your options. I know my setup is using a 161" screen, and I can have some lights on in my unfinished, poorly treated basement and I still have a very enjoyable image on screen. So, thinking that you can't get good results with some lights in play is folly. But, thinking you can light up the room like it is daytime and that it won't impact a rear projection setup is even more-so. Projection requires a compromise, and if you don't intend to give it, then don't go with projection. That compromise can just be accepting a loss in image quality, but really doesn't take a lot more. You don't have to be in a cave for good results, but for best results, you MUST be in a cave and front projection will always look better than rear projection in my experience because the image isn't passing through a semi-transparent surface.
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  3. db_newb Audiophyte

    db_newb
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    BMXTRIX, thank you for your response. It sounds like you know what you are talking about. Do you mind if I pick your brain a little more? It is nice to have an "unbaised" opinion from someone knowledgeable that doesn't have a vested interest in the project.

    First, let me give you a little background. I have never had a projector TV, nor personally viewed one in a residential setting, other than home tours. Up until 2 years ago, the biggest TV I had ever owned was a 40" LED. 2 years ago, I purchased a Samsung 59" plasma (PN59D8000). I really like this TV. It is currently in my basement as the main movie TV, but my new house is larger and needs something bigger for the media room. The Samsung will actually go in the hearth room on the main floor. So, as you can see, I have very limited experience, so your advice is helpful.

    I included an image of the basement plan. The plan is slightly incorrect in that it shows the projection screen listed on the North wall (let's assume top of page is North) instead of West wall. As you can see, I have a rather large storage area behind that West wall. That is why the suggestion of possibly a rear projection. If needed, the water heater could be relocated to not interfere with the rear projection. Main seating would be 14'-16' feet back. This room will be mainly a media room, but not a dedicated theater room. I can control the installation of the lighting so that I have total control over ambient light. The back of the room, near the windows will be for the children and also an area for entertaining, such as card night. When the TV is on playing a movie, the lights will be low, but probably never completely off. I would like to entertain for sports events. During that time, seating may go further back and more ambient light will be on. The floor will be carpeted. We haven't picked the color scheme for the carpet or walls, but I don't intend to do white or anything very dark. It sound like the darker the better.

    As for the sound, the plan is to put a 7.1 into the room. The front speakers would be in-wall with the surround being a combination of in-wall and in-ceiling. The ceiling is a 18" thick floor truss to hide duct work, plumbing, electrical, etc, so the ceiling will be one long continuous surface without breaks. I don't know what the problem of in-ceiling speakers in the basement would be. Maybe you can enlighten me.

    As for the projector and screen, it was suggested that maybe a rear projection would work best because of my planned viewing habits and the storage room. I agree that larger than 92" would be better. As for larger than 119", is that needed? For a bigger surface, doesn't that mean that the projector would have to throw the light farther and require more lumens for the same brightness? Also, how much does the rear projection affect the picture? I'm using my 59" Samsung to judge. Would the picture be worse, better, the same? What should I expect from rear projection vs front projection?

    Any advice is appreciated.

    [​IMG][/url][/IMG]
  4. db_newb Audiophyte

    db_newb
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    Well, my embedded image (floorplan) was working last night on my home computer when I posted the previous post, but now, at work, it appears that the image isn't working properly. Sorry about that.

    A question that I wasn't quite clear on is what projector set up are you suggesting? I am leaning towards the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6020UB, but you mention Sony and JVC. It sounds like the Epson will have the contrast edge over the DPI, but not the brightness. That being said, it appears the Epson should be plenty bright. Given a projector, what level of degradation would I see by using it in a rear projection mode vs. a front projection. Would the rear projection mode cause the picture to be less than what I see on my Samsung? Just trying to compare to something I know.

    Thank you.
  5. BMXTRIX Audioholic Spartan

    BMXTRIX
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    The screen location is good and likely what I would recommend. It lends itself to being viewed throughout the space.

    I would strongly encourage that you zone the lights into 4-5 zones or more with plenty of recessed lights that are well thought out and NOT an afterthought. Room lighting is, IMO, the most poorly implemented aspect of home theater that I ever see. Lighting isn't 'free', but it is something you do during construction and you can't easily do it later and changing it can be as difficult as installing it the first time. So, spending a fair bit of time thinking about where the lights will go and considering that the room SHOULD be treated as a darker space closer to the screen is a good plan.

    It may also be a good plan to try to find a good way to really darken the area nearest the screen, while having a bit lighter tone further from the screen. I'm not an interior decorator, so I don't have a great idea on this. I would put blackout shades on the windows along with drapes so that you can (but don't have to) completely eliminate light in the room if you want. If you choose not to use them, then you can adjust them as appropriate. We can discuss lighting a bit more if you want, but that's why I gave you the link in the prior response as it shows how you can have plenty of light in a room, as long as you are controlling that light adequately.

    What is your ceiling height?

    Now, screen size should be based upon viewing distance vs. personal preference in a typical movie theater.

    Where do you like to sit when you go to the movies? Center of the theater? A bit forward of center? Really close? Further back? Way back?

    Center of theater, in a properly designed theater, will be 1.5x the screen width (not diagonal) away. So, at a 12' viewing distance, you want a 8' wide screen (8 x 1.5 = 12) for 'center of theater' feel. But, perhaps you want a bit more immersion, will have a second row of seating, or expect heavy usage for people further back, in which case going to a 9' wide or 10' wide screen isn't unrealistic.

    In your case, at 14' the 'center of theater' requires a screen that is about 9'2" wide (110"). That's a 126" diagonal 16:9 screen and is the SMALLEST SIZE anyone should be recommending to you right off the bat. 92" is ridiculous. Even 119" is not the proper size for that room when you lay out the basics. But, we still have to consider that people may be further away and that you may be perfectly fine with having it a bit larger to accommodate those people. In which case, I would be looking at 133" to 150" as the diagonal size.

    So, now we have our 133" screen (let's say) and we are deciding between front a rear projection.

    The baseline you have is the 59D8000 - a very nice plasma display and one that won't be bested by a Sony or Sharp LCD and definitely not a projector. Let's be clear, movies in theaters don't look as good as your TV and they spend a great deal on the projection setup. But, the image quality is still full resolution 1920x1080 which is what your plasma has, just a lot bigger. It means the flaws are easier to spot... But only if you are close to the screen. In a dark room, front projection is spectacular, and you may want to give you location so you may be able to find someone near you who has a front projection setup you can take a look at (after dark). But, it isn't a direct view light source, so you aren't going to get the punchiness that you do out of a direct view display such as plasma or LCD. This is why front projectors need dark around the screen for best performance.

    Now, I like the concept of rear projection, but there is a bit of a quality hit. This is mostly due to the fact that the beam of light must pass through a surface, then be scattered on the other side, which either decreases brightness significantly or decreases viewing angles which can causing hotspotting and uneven image uniformity.

    Here is a list of rear projection screen surfaces from DaLite:
    Selecting the Right Screen

    You can see that while they have some positive gain rear screens, the viewing half angles tend to be about 35 degrees or less.
    In comparison: Selecting the Right Screen

    You can see that a 1.1 gain, high contrast screen, still maintains a 50 degree viewing angle.

    What does this mean? It means that front projection bounces light more easily back towards viewers and does so in a manner which gives a better image across a wider seating area with less chance of hotspotting and allows for a larger image to be delivered. The downside? Front projection demands less light in the room. Period. Rear projection certainly does hold up much better as long as the storage area with the projector and screen in it is 100% dark. If the rear projection area isn't dark, then it completely negates any value that would have been gained by using rear projection in the first place.

    Worth saying: Good rear projection screens cost a good deal more than most good front projection screens. A screen like the Black Diamond screen (front projection) is still a pretty pricey screen, but should run less than what rear projection will cost.

    I'm not telling you to do one or the other, I'm just laying things out. I actually think rear projection is very good if your intent is to have more light in the room most of the time and you want to maximize quality under those circumstances. But, you will give up the overall quality a bit (and just a bit) because of the issues noted above related to rear projection.

    I would probably recommend the High Contrast Cinema Vision if you went front projection, and I would recommend the DA-100 WA if going with rear projection. Unfortunately, Black Diamond screens are still size limited and wouldn't really be appropriate in your room unless you wanted to give up some size, which is not something I would recommend.

    Finally, projectors:
    Projectors cost more as the feature set and quality goes up... for the most part.

    Here's the rub: The best projectors are completely amazing looking in a theater.

    You do not have a theater! You have a rec room. Don't play a suckers game and get caught up with the better projectors that cost a lot more because at the end of it all, you don't have a fully dark room, and the use of rear projection would compromise image quality further. Even with front projection, you would have to compromise the room a great deal to get the most out of a better projector.

    I would actually recommend a 'family room' projector. These models are brighter, but don't have quite the black levels of dedicated theater projectors. But they do still have good black levels and they have outstanding brightness.

    Here's a list of projectors under $2,000 which are full 3D and 1080p models:
    Find Projectors By Feature

    They are sorted by brightness, and frankly, I would lean towards a few specific models:
    The Optoma HD131x
    Optoma Projectors: Optoma HD131Xe DLP projector

    It's bright, it's inexpensive, it has solid reviews, it does 3D, and isn't a terribly short throw lens which will improve image quality for both front and rear projection. Note: Rear projection does far better with longer throw lenses than shorter throw lenses. Yes, you give up more space, but you improve image quality significantly.

    Optoma HD25-LV
    Optoma Projectors: Optoma HD25-LV DLP projector
    This one is a light cannon. Also well reviewed, but perhaps not as good the the 131x.

    BenQ W1500
    BenQ Projectors: BenQ W1500 DLP projector
    Highly comparable to the others with a slightly different lens configuration. May work better/worse for your setup needs depending on the room itself and the final configuration which is decided upon.

    I'm gonna let you rear this a dozen times and come up with more questions. Let me know if you ever move to DC and need a theater installed. :D
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  6. db_newb Audiophyte

    db_newb
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    BMXTRIX, thank you for your help. Hopefully, you have some time to respond again with your opinion.

    I have decided to go with front projection. I just don't think the trade offs for rear projection are worth it after studying up a little on it.

    Now seeing the room, it is quite large. I have told the vendors that I want the screen to be 133". I think that will look best on the size of wall that is available.

    I have since brought in a couple more vendors to get more competition going for the job, plus it gives me more ideas of what is out there.

    A new question I have is about the screen wall. It backs to an unfinished section of the basement. The geothermal HVAC unit will be on the other side of the wall. I had one vendor propose framing a false wall and extending 8-12" into the room. That way front stand alone speakers could be built into the wall and hidden. He suggested that for the same price, stand alone speakers will produce a better sound than in-the-wall speakers. Potentially, I could get similar sound or better for less cost with stand alone speakers and they would still be hidden (not protruding or sitting in front of the wall). What is your opinion on that? Or anyone else's for that matter. Please remember, I am not an audiophile, so the difference between a good speaker and a great speaker will probably be lost on me. I think that is a problem with one of our vendors. Their idea of adequate/acceptable audio is way above my listening habits.

    For whole home audio, between the four vendors, 1 is promoting Savant, 2 are promoting Elan, and the fourth is promoting a Sonos set up. The Sonos set up is coming in for less, but not by a huge margin, so I wanted opinions on that. The Savant and Elan systems, while very cool but they also seem to require ongoing support from the installer, while the Sonos systems seems to be fairly easy to understand and is less complex. Opinions?

    Another question about our 2nd floor. We have children's bedrooms and a bonus room (children's activity/toy room) on the 2nd floor. Everyone wants to run cable/cat6 cable to the bedrooms even if we don't use it. We have very small children. My opinion is no TV in any children's rooms. In 10-15 years when they are high school aged, I honestly don't see the need to coaxial cable and a CAT6 cable in the bedrooms. Chances are if they are watching anything in the bedroom it will be some form of advanced wifi. I think this would just be money wasted. Your opinion? We are building this home at the one we will grow our family and retire in, so resell value is not a priority for me.

    Thank you for advice.
  7. BMXTRIX Audioholic Spartan

    BMXTRIX
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    If building a false wall, you get into the acoustics of it all. A floor standing speaker shouldn't be shoved right up against a wall or into a nook. This typically isn't good for the sound. So, there is typically several feet of space between a false wall and the screen wall, and then you would often go with an acoustically transparent wall and put things like some equipment into the wall. It certainly sounds great, but, IMO, is more than you are asking for. Perhaps some decent in-wall speakers and an acoustically transparent screen may be solid choices, but I wouldn't do the wall build out. I would consider of some important the noise level from the HVAC system which may come right into the room you will be in. This is where a double wall can be very nice... But, expense ramifications come into play and your personal choice for a bit less in the way of audio is important. It depends on the overall quality you are looking for. It is very typical for vendors to upsell you on equipment as that is where a lot of their profit comes from. Do NOT discount someone who seems to really know what they are talking about. This is often a difficult area as sales guys often don't have a clue, and I think that reflects on the quality of installation you should expect.

    For whole home audio, there are a number of solutions including what you have listed. There are some simpler systems out there, including the Home Theater Direct package which can give you (I think) 6 sources in up to 12 zones. www.htd.com Their systems seem to be user serviceable and really follow industry standards for wiring which is nice. A cat-5e to every keypad, and 14/4 wiring to each stereo speaker pair. Add speakers as you choose, add up to 6 sources. They have a version which also allows you to provide a local source. This is very cool because in a room you could plug in your phone and play it back locally. Great for bedrooms, especially as the kids grow up.
    Introducing the Lync Whole-House Audio System

    Anyway, the Sonos system is well reviewed and a very good product, but depending on the number of zones you need, it isn't necessarily inexpensive to deliver. It may be able to get by with local Sonos units instead of centralized units, but as things change in the future, this could come back to bite you. Elan has a pretty good history, and if all you are after is standard audio control, then it's a good option. The Savant system I am guessing is from the same guy who wants to build out your wall. It's a higher level control system in line with Control 4. It's not cheap, and it can do a whole lot more than distributed audio, and is typically more pricey. I often do Crestron systems, but I buy used, test it, and sell it for pretty good pricing so it works out to be similar to others but phenomenally reliable.

    For your home, and the second floor, I would strongly suggest that you wire it. Every room should be wired, at the very least, with coaxial and cat-6 network cabling. Forgetting the rest, this is really a standard, and isn't expensive. I can see the argument that you never expect a TV in there, ever... But, there may be a time when the kids are much older and have reason to come home while in college, or preparing to buy their own home when they just want a private area to watch TV. Certainly there are scenarios where having that coaxial connection makes sense.

    As far as network (cat-6), that's a no brainer. Laptops and other computer devices should always be hard wired whenever possible. Putting the network wiring in place and ensuring it all is connected and distributed from a central gigabit switch just makes sense. It increases the wireless speed as not as many people will be using the wireless, and it increases speed and reliability across the network throughout your home. IMO, the only debatable connection would be the coax wire, and I'm one of those people who would say that you should just run it.

    Actually, I'm one of those people that run conduit between my basement rack area and the attic so I don't run it, but I leave myself a way to run it later if I want to. That's actually money better spent... Put in conduit instead! It helps if you are a bit of a DiY'er and willing to buy a few tools if needed so you can run some wiring later if you want to.

    I will retire in the home I'm in now, and I'm doing it all in Aces as much as I can. Better to have something nice, and some unused cables than to wish I had a cable in place that I didn't run.

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