Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Complete, Projector Based Home Theater System Review

Hooking everything up

At this point, the equipment cabinet (slightly misleading name, since it has no doors), with the subwoofer on the lower shelf, was put into position. They placed the Ensemble AV Controller on the top shelf and hooked up all the wiring.

Next, they placed the projector in its housing, and hooked up the power and the HDMI cable from the cables in the ceiling, and the wiring for the rear speakers. At this point, they put the back cover on the projector housing (it covers all the wiring, so you can’t see it). Note, in the image below, the back cover that will hide that wiring, is not yet in place.

Click Image to Enlarge

One, Two, Three, Go

At that point, everything was installed. Now, all that was left, was to adjust the projector. That consisted of them powering up the projector, adjusting the focus, then the zoom and lens shift, to perfectly position the image on the screen. A few minutes at the most.

In addition they adjusted the audio. Cleverly, the system let’s you tell it where you are sitting, relative to the projector housing/rear speakers, so as to properly adjust the surround sound speakers to be in best balance with the fronts, depending on where you sit. You simply punch in the number of feet that the projector sits from the screen, and the number of feet back that you are sitting from the screen.

Would you believe it? That’s all there is to it. Well, with one exception. The projector, ideally should be calibrated, for maximum performance, but that’s my job, in this case, not theirs (although this dealer has the ability). Ultimately, Mike and I (mostly Mike) did the calibration days later, as planned. If you get your dealer to calibrate the projector figure anywhere from $250 to $500? for the calibration

Meantime, in went the first DVD into the internal DVD player, and bingo, “Houston, we have lift-off”. I turned off the room lights, and voila, a beautiful image on the screen, and sound to match. The only thing to do at this point, was to offer the guys another beer, and finally thank them, and send them on their way.

If Only You Could See What I Saw

Early hat evening, I entered the room, pressed the Power button on the remote (twice actually to fully lower the screen), and popped a DVD into the AV Controller’s internal DVD player. I then watched parts of a couple of movies, starting with the SD-DVD (standard DVD) version of Men In Black, and then also put on a music video. Everything was just great. Sure, the movie and music video were standard DVD so the picture quality was not going to be as good as a Blu-ray movie, etc.

I wanted, however to see how the system performed out of the box, so I didn’t want to start off by hooking up my Sony PS3 as my Blu-ray DVD player, nor calibrate the system before looking. As expected, the colors and skin tones in Theater Black 1 (“best” movie mode), looked really good – and very acceptable, but not the best the projector was capable of. I also switched to Living Room mode, and Dynamic mode, and found them to be exactly as expected, which is to say, definitely, significantly inferior to Theater Black 1, and more seriously in need of a proper, if basic calibration. Dynamic mode has a definite shift to green, and the color temp of Living Room mode, out of the box, is strange.

Finally, late that night, I plugged in the Sony PS3 into one of the two available HDMI ports on the AV Controller. Naturally, I had to start with the Blu-ray version of Men In Black, since I already viewed the standard with the internal DVD player.

OMG! Anyone who tells you that there isn’t much difference between standard DVD and Blu-ray… stop listening to them! It’s not just more resolution but better color dynamics, that improve dramatically. The difference is usually stunning, to say the least.

Between then and now I’ve watched more than 30 hours on the system. For about a week, exactly as described above, then two more things happened:

First: The cable company finally shows up, a week late. Well the guys from My Custom Theater may have been on time and professional, but forget the cable company (Cox). They did a complete no show (then denied even finding a record of my call, to set it up), the first time, but finally came over, the following week and got my room set up (it had cable internet, but not cable TV running in that room, until then). They slid the new HD-DVR cable box on to the middle shelf of the equipment cabinet, and hooked it up to the cable feed, and out via HDMI into the 2nd available HDMI slot on the Epson Ensemble HD controller.

Outstanding! Now I have HDTV with a DVR rocking and rolling in T2 (as we now call theater 2, our office). Cable – finally! The Olympics had now been underway for several days, so I was delayed in determining how good the system would do on sports. Fortunately, I already have all these capabilities in T1, so I didn’t miss any Olympics, but since I’m an Olympics fanatic, I wanted to watch (and record) a good deal of it in T2.

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