Epson Ensemble HD 1080 A Complete Home Theater System Review: Summary, Pros and Cons
I've had dozens of people at least take a quick look at the Ensemble HD 1080 setup in my office/Theater 2 (T2 for short). Overall, they were all simply "blown away".
We even bought a new couch for the room, and moved out other stuff to take full advantage of this new home theater, but I digress.
As a good example, the in-laws were by for a barbeque the night before last. My brother-in-law (a successful doctor) got the 15+ minute tour before I had to fire up the steaks. After about 5-10 minutes of the Nicolas Cage movie, "Next", and about the same amount of time watching some of the Olympics - his take on the system - to paraphrase: "Someone I know is having his 50th birthday soon (he's talking about himself), and would really love a system like this." I asked if I should drop a hint with his wife and his answer was a definitive "Yes!"
Now many of my friends have had a chance to watch movies in my main theater, as well as football, the Olympics, Grammys, Emmy's, Oscars, American Idol, or even CSI or Boston Legal. Everyone of them would agree that my larger (128" diagonal) system, with a more expensive projector, plus a sound system alone, that easily would cost today, 3-4 times what the whole Ensemble HD costs, is more impressive than the Epson Ensemble HD. And that seems fair. That a far more expensive system is even more impressive, however, doesn't change the fact that they all loved the Ensemble HD. So far, by my count, it looks like two (including my brother-in-law) are very likely to buy an Ensemble HD very soon, one more friend is looking for spare change in his couch, and car seat, and a still another is trying to figure out which room in their home it might work in... Interestingly, and very important to the purchase decsion, is that the Ensemble seems to be almost immune to the "wife syndrome" - you know: "You're not putting all that junk in our family room."
The simplicity of buying and installing the system, for all of them, changes the dynamic. Not one of them ever cared enough in the past, about having a high quality home theater, to seriously consider taking on the challenge of going with a home theater projector based system. And that's with my friends knowing that could tap me for tons of advice.
Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Home Theater System: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Home Theater System: Pros
- Only complete system on the market, makes for easy, fast, and affordable installation
- Overall, a wonderful home theater experience, combining very good video and room filling audio
- Very good picture performance for movies (Blu-ray and standard DVD), TV/HDTV, and especially, HDTV sports (we do recommend a basic calibration)
- Audio is extremely impressive, providing the kind of sound that "rocks the house", on those great action movies, but also does a solid job when listening to music, and no lack of volume, under any circumstances
- Truly easy to use and operate. With this system, even my wife finds it simple to use
- Want to really shake the house with those special effects, Epson was thoughtful enough to provide an output so you can add a second subwoofer!
- One button operation to start up: Hit that power button on the universal remote, and the screen comes down, the projector and audio fires up, and you are ready to go
- Lots of inputs and outputs - two extra HDMI (ie. Blu-ray player and sat/cable), plus plenty of other inputs, including USB memory slot ("flash drives"), for viewing images from digital cameras, other devices.
- Midnight mode, and Headphone jack provide solutions for when (late night?) you can't "crank up" the audio
- Programmable remote - simplifies, and equally important, additional devices can be added to it, such as cable or satellite boxes and other devices
- Very good brightness - just the right amount of brightness to fill the included screen sufficiently for watching movies in a darkened room, but also plenty of lumens for watching - especially sports, with moderate ambient light
- Clean look and design, mimimal impact on the look of your room, when the system is off
- Included wiring channels are clean and unobtrusive (and can be painted) keeps installation simple, fast and affordable
- For those that choose to (like me) you can run all the wiring "in-wall" but most buyers, I suspect will choose not to, thanks to the neat channels
- A great 2 year warranty on most components
- Outstanding price performance - the complete integration should save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, compared to building your system piece by piece. (Although DIYers might disagree, since they don't seem to mind investing tons of hours installing their systems theirselves).
- Epiphany! The Epson Ensemble HD changes the world. Finally a real home theater (no tiny plasma/LCDTV), is now practical for millions of families
Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Home Theater System: Cons
- Only one screen size available, which combined with the projector's throw distance, requires a room at almost 12 feet deep at a minimum, and no larger screen (not that you need one), for those with really large rooms
- The lack of an option to purchase the system with the Home Cinema 1080 UB projector, instead of the standard Home Cinema 1080, for those willing to shell out some extra for an increase in black level performance
- Built in DVD player is not Blu-ray (as noted, we do not see that as a real disadvantage, since it's easy to add one to the system)
- Audio system, while really great for movies, is merely very good for music (still, considering the price... not that buyers will have a problem with the audio quality - remember - I'm "way over the top" when it comes to audio
- Heat - All projectors, like all surround sound amplifiers and powered subwoofers, like any AV Receiver controller, and DVD player, electronic devices give off heat. In a small room this is enough to raise the temperature a couple of degrees during the length of a movie, if doors are shut and your air conditioning isn't running. While this is typical, it's worth mentioning
Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Competitive Aspects
Ahh, this is pretty straightforward. The Epson Ensemble HD 1080 has no direct competition. Easy installation, and easy use, combined with high quality, is what it's about. While you can buy all kinds of high quality, the EASY has eluded home theater projector based theaters until now.
Review continues below this advertisement.
If you were trying to compare picking everything out separately, the question is, can you do better for the same or less money. I personally seriously doubt you can. OK, if you plan to do all the installation yourself, you might be able to, but you will be spending a lot more hours doing your room than the Epson system (using the wiring channels) will take. If you don't assign a value to your time, then that levels the pricing out.
The included projector, I could say, is about as good as any other 1080p projector selling for $2500 or less. The sound system (including A/V receiver functions), is likely as good as about anything you can pick out for $2000 to $2500, and better than most. A nice motorized screen with full remote control figure $500 - $1000. Then there's the built-in, upscaling DVD player ($100 for an equivalent), the programmable remote itself (I'm guessing under $150), plus, probably $200 to pay someone to program it to the level of functionality that it comes with in this system. Add it all up, and using the low numbers, excluding installation, and setup of all the equipment, I still come up with about $5500, and add $500 for good wiring. $6000 before you take the first step toward installing it! Plus if you want unobtrusive speakers (in-walls or in ceiling - considering that the Ensemble HD's speakers are essentially invisible, in that they are in the screen and projector's housings), more expense and installation time. So, as I see it, assuming you pay someone even $100/hour for labor, and have to go in-wall, I really don't see how you can get the job done for under $7000 - $8000. Worse, since nothing is pre-integrated, the installation is definitely going to drag out!
So, bottom line: No real competition. You can spend more, and get the same quality, or better, but, again, unless you have the skills (and electrical license) to do it all up to code, and don't count your time and effort, I don't see how you can get this level of system for this price or less.
Again, though the real issue here, is the ease of going from "I want a real home theater" to Having A Real Home Theater! Nothing could be simpler, or faster, than the Epson Ensemble HD!
Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Complete Home Theater Projector System: Summary
When Epson announced the Ensemble HD a year ago at CEDIA, my mind immediately shouted to me: This is a phenomenal idea!
Review continues below this advertisement:
I couldn't wait for it to hit the market. The only real disappointment, in my book was the choice of the standard Home Cinema 1080 instead of the UB version. At the same time, I knew before, and still know after extensive watching of the Ensemble HD, that the included projector should really please just about everyone considering the system. I know some of the video enthusiasts may be disappointed, but they may be able do get a dealer to upgrade them, for significant extra money.
Other than that, Epson can also widen its reach, by offering a 2nd screen size (I'd recommend something in the 84" to 90" diagonal range for smaller rooms - primarily "bedroom conversions", and one size larger screen would also be nice, (106 or 110 inches diagonal), but most won't care about larger. (100" diagonal is the sweet spot in the market.)
Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Complete Home Theater Projector Based System - Bottom Line:
This is so easy! if you always wanted a real home theater system (plasmas and LCDTV's are way too small), you don't want to contemplate the huge job of deciding on the many individual components, and you can scrape up the roughly $7000 to $8000, then my recommendation is to get off the internet, and go buy the Epson Ensemble HD!
People, this is exactly why you have credit cards!
This can definitely be one of the great "impluse buys" of all time!
Less than a one day installation - talk about instant gratification!
Epson has, to put it simply, has made great home theater something that millions can have - right away, with the absolute minimum of fuss, stressing and aggravation.
I do believe there is a scientific theorem that applies to the Epson Ensemble HD1080 Home Theater System:
Desire for a theater + a usable room + Easy wife approval (meaning no "you can't clutter up the room with all that junk" issues) + $7000 and change + <24 hours = OMG!
Back in my high school days, we learned in math to do Proofs of theorems, to acertain their validity (and prove we had brains). Well, everyone, I can say, right now, the final Proof, is fully operational in my 2nd Theater room (T2).
Congratuations to EPSON for an extremely well deserved HOT PRODUCT Award, and our first ever OUTSTANDING PRODUCT Award, for the Ensemble HD 1080 Home Theater System!
A last word:
Great Home Theater for the Masses: Epson Ensemble HD 1080 - Buy one, it's good for the economy, and great for your soul!