My first projection screen some years ago was from a budding young screen company that, at the time, set out to make a name for itself, within a world dominated by
, by offering truly affordable front-projection screens. That company was
. While time has passed and there are now copious affordable solutions, the argument could be made that Elite was one of (if not the single foremost) companies that drove the industry towards embracing more competitive pricing. Elite Screens has come a long way since its simple beginnings, offering a vast array of products, some even competing favorably against costlier competition. I've owned a number of screens over the years, even an Elite or two in that time, though admittedly no Elite has served as a personal reference - until now.
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It's not that I've shunned Elite due to a lack of quality, but rather that my system has undergone a great many changes over the years and our paths just haven't crossed. Well, I recently moved into a new home and, with the move, decided to do a top-down rebuild of my personal home theater, which included not only a new screen, but a new type of screen. For years, I've been largely reliant upon drop-down screens, for my home theaters have always had to share space with a living or family room. Not so in my new house, where I got to build my very own dedicated screening room, albeit on a very tight budget. My goals for the room were simple: to recreate the commercial cinema experience in my home
. This meant I needed to find an acoustically transparent screen, for the one thing you don't see in a commercial cinema are loudspeakers next to or below the screen - they're behind it. Using an acoustically transparent screen also meant that I was going to be more focused on the story, as there would be no gear fighting for my attention within my direct (or indirect) field of view. With more focus being placed upon the screen, it was important that the screen not hinder the visuals in any way.
Enter Elite Screen's AcousticPro 4K acoustically transparent screen material. AcousticPro 4K is Elite's premier, top-of-the-line acoustically transparent screen material, featuring the company's tightest weave to date, which should well suit higher-resolution projectors, such as the VPL-VW1000ES
. It's not that the AcousticPro 4K is especially 4K-ready or compatible, as any flat surface is technically 4K-ready, it's just that the weave is so fine that it shouldn't result in moiré effects that would be visible in the otherwise heightened resolution image put forth by the upcoming crop of UltraHD and 4K projectors. If you have an HD projector, you can still use AcousticPro 4K. The AcousticPro 4K material is available in a variety of sizes as well and can be fitted to most of Elite Screen's fixed frame screens, such as ezFrame, Cinema235, Elite Prime Vision and Lunette. This also means that price will vary with size, as well as with your choice of frame, though in its least expensive configuration, the MSRP is $826 (84-inch diagonal ezFrame Series with AcousticPro 4K material). For that, you get a screen that has a gain of 1.1, with a reported viewing angle of 160 degrees. You also get a surface that offers (near) perfect color neutrality, as well as being moiré-free. The AcousticPro 4K comes with black backing that is said to help eliminate backlighting artifacts resulting from bleed-through. Furthermore, the AcousticPro 4K material is flame-resistant and complies with NFPA 701 and ASTME84 standards. Lastly, and this may come as a surprise (it did to me), the AcousticPro 4K material from Elite Screens is 100 percent manufactured in the USA.
In terms of performance, let me break it down into two parts, first sound and then picture. Because the AcousticPro 4K material is woven, it allows for sound to pass through it. Exactly how much sound was the question I needed answered. I put a pair of Tekton Design Pendragon loudspeakers
behind the screen and sent a calibration tone through each one. With my Radio Shack SPL meter, I actually could not detect enough of a difference to safely quantify how much of an effect the screen had on overall SPL. Keep in mind that the Pendragon speakers come standard without grilles, so in this instance the screen acted more or less like the speakers' grille cloth. Also, my room is not acoustically dead, meaning that even after level-matching each speaker, it wasn't uncommon to get my meter to fluctuate plus or minus a full dB. Does the AcousticPro 4K material have an effect on the sound? Only in terms of overall output, and even then, the difference in SPL is so small (if perceivable at all) that it shouldn't be an issue.
In terms of image quality, the AcousticPro 4K material performed more or less the way I've come to expect from a typical 1.1-gain surface. There screen's fine texture imparted little (if any) of itself onto the image, unlike earlier-generation woven screens. Some have noted that Elite's AcousticPro 4K material has a very subtle blue shift to it. This is difficult to measure outside of a laboratory as one's wall, ceiling, floors and even ambient light can color such bare screen measurements. Furthermore, if a slight blue shift is present, then it would be dealt with in the calibration stage of setting up your home theater, as any shift would be corrected for in the calibration of the projector. In other words, if such a shift is present, it too is largely a non-issue. If you're a person who deals in absolutes, then I suppose knowing such a shift may or may not exist might keep you from buying. For those who just want to get on with the show, I used the AcousticPro 4K with over half a dozen projectors of all makes and models; if such a shift exists, it didn't bother me or my THX calibration specialist, Ray Coronado Jr
One thing you have to be aware of when looking at any acoustically transparent screen is light loss. Because the AcousticPro 4K is not a solid surface, there is going to be some light lost to its woven DNA; on average, you can expect to see losses in the 12 to 15 percent range in measurable foot lamberts. In my tests, I found these general figures to be true. Again, this isn't a deal-breaker, as all acoustically transparent screens suffer from the same issue. It's just something to keep in mind if you're also shopping for a projector. If you already own a projector and know it to be a bit on the dull side, then you're either going to want to make doubly sure you can control the ambient light in the room or potentially move your projector closer, i.e., get a smaller screen to maximize your viewing experience, at least from an overall light output standpoint. Read about the high points and low points of the AcousticPro 4K on Page 2.