The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Epson Ensemble HD – Installation Finished – Excellent!

Greetings all, Sorry I’m late!

The installation of the complete Epson Ensemble HD system was finished on schedule, the second day. The two man installation team put in about five hours in day one, but before I go further, let me recap, and explain more of the plan. The Epson Ensemble HD is a very complete almost “instant projection based home theater in a box (or 8). The motorized screen has left, center and right front speakers in the screen housing. The housing for the projector – the Epson Home Cinema 1080 – holds the rear left and right speakers, and the cabinet has a built in subwoofer, the Console that controls everything and has a built in DVD player and FM tuner. The package also comes with wiring channels so you don’t have to open walls to run wiring. Also included is all the necessary cabling.

OK, the easy way to install the Epson Ensemble HD, is to use the wiring channels, which can be run along the wall and ceiling. For my installation, however, I requested an in wall wiring job. The channels are obviously much faster to install, and there aren’t surprises. I figure that the in wall, is tougher, and if it was fast and affordable, then the channels would be even more so.

So, back to the installation. The first day, they cut all the holes to run wire, and ran the wiring. (More detail in the full review next week.) After that was done, they patched the holes and did the drywalling. It needed to dry, so that was the end of day one.

Day two, the guys touched up the ceiling and wall paint, over all the drywalling, and while letting it dry, got the equipment ready.

They installed the bracket for the screen and the projector, set up the cabinet and console, and finally mounted the screen to the bracket, and the projector enclosure to its bracket. Next was plugging in the wiring, and finally, pressing the Power button on the universal remote control, which, with just one button – powered up the Console, lowered the screen, and powered up the projector. We popped in a DVD, and voila’ a beautiful picture. Note, we reviewed the Home Cinema 1080 in the spring of 2007, and the review is, of course, easily accessible. It’s not as spectacular a performer as the newer Home Cinema 1080 UB, but still a competent projector. it took barely 4 hours on day two until all work was done, and it was time to fire it up.Epson Home Cinema Projector, rear speakers, mounted

I started with the standard DVD of Hell Freezes Over, the Eagles music DVD. The sound filled the small room (about 9×18). The room was a builders conversion (option) for what otherwise would have been the 3rd car garage. The sound isn’t pure audiophile, but Atlantic technology did a good job. There was plenty of volume, very good sound quality, and the subwoofer was most competent. The bongos Hotel California were spectacular… I’ll go more into my thoughts on the sound quality in the review. (I used to manage some “esoteric” high end stereo stores in my youth.) Picture quality was exactly as expected, with the Epson bright and vibrant, but lacking the really deep blacks of the newer UB.

BTW in the image above, the screens behind the projector are the ones I use in this room, which is the “office and testing room”.

Men In Black image on the Epson Ensemble HDNext I popped in Lord of the Rings briefly, again, very good image (no, I hadn’t calibrated it yet), and great, room filling sound.

I couldn’t wait any longer, so I took advantage of the two extra HDMI inputs and hooked up my Sony PS3, and popped in Men In Black – Blu-ray edition. Wow! (BTW, it was daytime, you can see some light leaking in, through the blinds on the window sticking below the screen. The room wasn’t completely dark, but the image was bright enough, so that the room appears black.)

And all this, for $6999, plus a reasonable installation. There’s so much more to tell, so look for the review around August 15th.

Let’s just say Epson has made it easy and practical for people to have a really nice, 101″ diagonal home theater system. It is one that can be installed (with channels) in well less than a day, and a few hours more if you want in wall wiring.

Epson Ensemble control Console.I have only one real complaint. Even though most folks will be thrilled with the included Epson Home Cinema 1080 projector, those really into picture quality will be disappointed that Epson isn’t offering the Home Cinema 1080 UB as standard, or at least as an option. I suspect some folks will end up negotiating a trade up to the UB, when they buy the projector. Again, more about that, in the review!

This shows the control Console of the Ensemble HD, sitting on the included black cabinet, the sub-woofer is just below, but not visible in this image.

News And Comments

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  • Max

    Hi Art, just wondering when you will be posting review of Infocus X10? cheers

    Maxim

    ***************

    I love the IN83. I’ve asked InFocus if I can keep it for an extended period. I’ve got the JVC RS1 here, and though it has better black levels I now favor the sharpness and brightness (and even better color) of the IN83. I’ve also got an Epson UB here, also with better black levels.

    Despite that, the IN83 is my current favorite. I don’t plan to buy one (hey, even I can’t afford a new projector every year), But my wish list for my next purchase would be an IN83, with the addition of a dynamic iris so that at its best it can match or beat the Epson, the Sony VW60 or the even better JVC RS1. If it can do that, I won’t care if it can’t match the JVC RS2.

    Whether InFocus does something like that in a year, or someone else provides the equivalent product, that is when I’ll shell out the dollars again. Meantime, I’m willing to modify my wall mount to inverse mount the projector to the bottom of the shelf, and sell off the RS1, if they will let me keep it for a while.

    I think that pretty much answers your question. -art

  • Jim Mahoney

    Art,

    I also think the Ensemble is an absolutely great idea. It should introduce many new people to home theaters, both the audio and video sides. However I do have a couple of problems with the systems.

    1) I think they list for $1000 too much. I’d like to see them at $3995 and $5995, including basic installation with the channels. Adding up the prices of the individual components, the present prices are simply a little too high. Including basic installation also gets people to not worry about what they’d have to do to get these things in their homes. Ultimately, it makes their decision easier.

    2) They’ve got to include a Blu-ray drive. If this is meant to be an all-in-one solution, the lack of Blu-ray is inexcusable. In addition, this would also make the systems look far better once the homeowner started using them, and that would allow Epson to sell more of these, when friends see the picture. Epson has to make the viewing experience top notch and that must include a Blu-ray drive.

    Overall though, I like the Ensemble. I think it’s an idea whose tie has come. If Epson handles this correctly, they could put a lot of these in people’s homes.

    Jim

    On a side note, it looks like you may have an illegal installation there. You can’t run a power cable through the ceiling (or the wall for that matter). I can’t tell from the picture if this is the case or not, but it certainly looks like it. This is becoming a big problem because of all the plasmas and LCDs mounted on walls. Although you can pass plenum rated signal cables through walls and ceilings, that is never the case with power cables.

    *******************

    Ahh, last first. Yes, I am aware of wiring codes. The guys put in romex, and attached the traditional three prong power cord connector back outside the walls.

    OK, Can’t argue pricing with you – lower is better. On the other hand, I don’t find any price discrepency when you add up the individual components.

    Beside the projector, you have a motorized screen, you’ve got 5 Atlantic Technology speakers (which aren’t high end audiophile, I know. Still, the cost of really serious speakers for high end music audio, (like mine my front left and right speakers in my bigger theater) can cost far more than what a complete installed Ensemble HD system sells for. The Ensemble HD sound is most impressive for movies, and quite honestly, not bad at all for my music DVDs which I listen/watch frequently.

    Then there’s the Atlantic subwoofer, the amplifier, with Tuner and dvd player, wiring, etc.

    OK, that takes us to your comment about Blu-ray. Again, I have no problem with what Epson has done. Sure, a blu-ray player would have been better, but, they provide two extra HDMI ports, and I have my cable box now running into one, and a PS3 for Blu-ray, for the other.

    Try to remember, that Epson may have just started shipping the product in the last month or so, but they’ve been showing the product for almost a year (early last Sept.), which means development of the product goes back probably at least 18 months. Would you have been happy if it had an HD-DVD player instead of Blu-ray? That would have been almost as likely, based on when the system was designed. Worse, with the exception of the PS3, and a couple of $1000+ Blu-ray players (Pioneer…), none of the units around when this product was designed, were even able to go online to receive upgrades. Thus, most likely you’d end up with a blu-ray player that could only support Blu-ray 1.0, 1.1, and though unlikely, 1.2, and Certainly, no blu-ray 2.0.

    In fact, congrats are in order, the system supports goodies that weren’t supported in almost any product back 18 months ago, like hdmi 1.3 with deep color, and also 24fps…

    So, grab a PS3, and the blu-ray issue goes away. And then, as you point out, this is perhaps the first real projector based, mass market appeal product except for some “all-in-one” projectors from Epson, Optoma, and Toshiba, only one of which is even HD resolution.

    From my end, I have several complaints – but none are critical for most buyers. Most importantly, I would have liked to see the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB in there instead of the older Epson Home Cinema 1080. Those of us, really into projector performance will miss the “UB” black levels, but, most will never care. I just those local dealers selling the Ensemble HD, are in a position to occasionally do a trade up to the UB. I don’t know how that would play out with Epson warranty, but Epson has (IMO), always been first class when it comes to after sale support.

    Myself, I would love to see the option to get the UB for $500 more, but expect that if a dealer does it on their own (if practical), that it will likely cost a buyer more like $1000. Still, even that is less than 15% more when you consider the total system price. I know I would pay the extra, but, I’ve been watching this system for probably 25-30 hours now, including movies, music DVD’s and even some Olympics (and the pre-season Panthers/Eagles game on as I write this). And most everyone of our friends who I have walked through the room, in the last two weeks, has said, “this is great, I need to get one”, and the primary question is: “How much?” Now most of these people have had a chance to watch lots of hours at my house, on my JVC, the Epson UB, InFocus IN83, and everything else I’ve reviewed (but those three add up to at least 85% of all the hours in my theater in the last year), so it’s not like they’ve never seen/heard, an excellent projector based home theater system.

    On my short list, I also think Epson should offer a 92″ screen option, as well as either a 106″ or 110″, and, who knows, maybe they will make it more modular, if it proves to be truly successful.

    OK, enough for now, and I’ll have to repeat most of this in the actual review, which I will start writing up tomorrow, and hopefully publish by next Tuesday.

    have fun! -art

  • http://iron-man-movie-online.blogspot.com/ BigBan

    Oh, Thanks! Really amazing. keep working!

  • F1fan2

    Hi Art,

    Great info on the “Ensemble”. Last month I upgraded to the IN83 from the Optoma Hd6800 (Costco brand for Optoma HD72). I love this IN83. However, I will be relocating to a condo with less space than my current house, so I am giving the Ensemble some serious consideration. Looking forward to your followup comments.

    Bob

    ************

    Bob, in case you missed it, here’s a link to the full review of the Epson Ensemble HD 1080:

  • http://www.elationav.com Jim

    Hi Art,

    Thanks for the good words on the Ensemble HD. I agree with pretty much all your points. We are an Ensemble HD dealer and we have been watching the system for a few months now. We offer customers a Blu-Ray player as a system option and we are also going to offer the Epson UB projector as another upgrade. THe UB projector gets pricey, because first we have to order an Ensemble 720 system including the 720P projector, then add on the UB.

    The really important point of this system is… “it’s easy” easy for the customer to understand, easy to sell, easy to install, easy to use. It is intended for people who just want to enjoy it. It’s priced so almost anyone can afford one, even with installation cost included.

    Our customers are embracing it at an unbelievable rate. People who would NEVER have even considered a front projection system before are drawn to this product. They love the fact that the screen goes up when you turn it off. Try that with a flat panel installation.

    Jim

  • Lg

    I have been a projector user longer than I can remember…Way before 720p…I had a Runco something I can’t even remember the model #….but my point is this…The Projector industry has serious marketing and dealer problems..The average person has no clue that you can even set up a projector and get incredible quality for an affordable price…I have never seen an all in one system that anyone ultimately cared about because each install is different. The problem isn’t having a simple set up…it is the dealers..The majority are unfriendly, overpriced, and limited in products they carry…I have never been able to buy a projector or screen from my local dealer, because they never had the newer products, and they also never cared to carry the reasonably priced systems. The issue isn’t all in one systems. The problem is getting the local dealers to sell affordable products, that don’t require thousands of dollars in install fees, or…just carry some items that the regular person can afford, and stop looking down your nose if the customer doesn’t have a zillion dollar home where the unit will be installed. Not everyone cares or worries about THX, IFS, or any other thing other than watching the game on a huge screen, or playing XBOX and PS3 in giant fun size…Plenty of us don’t care if the install is imperfect….we’d rather have a bigger picture, than a clean wire run! Until the dealers address the reasonably priced products that are starting to proliferate, the projector industry will remain a tiny niche, that shamefully, noone knows much about, and how much fun it can be…even if the wires are hanging down the side of the screen!

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Greetings LG,

      Well, I have to mostly disagree with you. You make a couple of good points, but blaming the dealers won’t get the job done. I hate to point a finger at the audience, but let’s just say, that “a few rotten apples” ruin it for a lot of folk. That’s one part of it, which I will address. The second one is the manufacturers. They market all different ways.

      Panasonic, Optoma, and Epson’s Home Cinema line market primarily online, though volume dealers. The lower overhead model allows a lower overall selling price, which is critical to getting products down to sweet spot pricing, where the volume is. A projector like the Panasonic PT-AE4000 would probably have to command a $3K price instead of a $2K price to allow local dealers to make enough to make a living…
      Others like JVC Epson’s Pro line, some Mitsubishis, Optomas BenQs etc, are only offered to local installing dealers, and in general, because of the pricing differences, aren’t typically price competitive to someone not wanting/needing installation, buying everything for one source, etc.

      I was a dealer, I know a decent number of dealers. I can’t speak for others. But I know the dynamics. My company was primarily online, some of you guys probably remember presentingsolutions.com Well, we also did local biz, including home theater and installations, even though the bulk of our business was online projector sales.

      Well, as I said, we had a demo room. Well, as we all know, online dealers have lower overhead than brick and mortar shops. My best sales people could sell 8-10 projectors a day on a good day and 3 or 4 on a slow one.

      Well, that’s just great, but we’d get a steady flow of people driving in from as far away as LA (50 miles) because we had the Pannys the Sanyos the Epsons BenQs Optoma’s Marantz, JVC, in our showroom. They would come in, and want to compare this one to that one, etc. some would bring in half a dozen DVDs. Half of them were prepared to take up hours of our sales people’s time.

      OK, fair enough, we’d work with them. But then, more often or not, they’d decide on a projector. At that point the conversation would end up something like this. “I’d like to buy it from you, but I can by it online from projectorfolks.com for $xyz.

      OK, I was a “big online dealer” paying the same amount as the other big guys, I could match the price. But, I’ll tell you, if I was a “local dealer”, I’d be paying 10-15% or more than a high volume online dealer that’s buying 100 or more at a crack. On most of the big name models the margins are thin to begin with. Small dealers often are paying as much as large dealers sell them for. Hey, local dealers sometimes buy from the large dealers.

      You know what though? Most wouldn’t buy it from us even matching the price: I’d hear a lot of, “but projectorfolks is located out of state, if I buy from you I’ve got to pay 8% sales tax. So, if you cover the tax… I’ll buy from you.

      Forget that rubbish, I changed the program – $150 to come use our demo room. 100% of it can be applied toward the purchase of a projector. Well, that dried up the traffic. Ultimately we closed the demo room to the public.

      Being a medium or high end local installing dealer is a hazardous occupation, in terms of long term survival. I’m sympathetic.

      There is a need, and that’s for under $5K projectors to be findable by consumers, locally, but, the market is very small, only about 100,000 units a year in the US, compared to many millions of LCDTV and Plasma.

      3D, and Gaming offer the opportunity to grow the projector segment. I think new entries like LG (I’ll be reviewing a 3D projector of theirs that should be able to do 3D blu-ray movies as they come out… we shall see.