First things first. When I heard about Epson's two complete packages - Ensembles - I was, to say the least, extremely skeptical. Yes, I know that both the Epson Home Cinema 400 (720p) and Home Cinema 1080 (1080p), are really nice projectors. The idea, though, that all the other components could be bundled together with the projectors and have it all work for a large (or at least significant) percentage of home theater enthusiasts, just didn't seem realistic.
Until I saw what Epson had done, watched it, listened to it, and thought about the practical aspects.
One Solution - Two Projector Choices: Epson Home Cinema 1080, Epson Home Cinema 400
Let's start with the projector choices. Both Epson projectors are similar in look and functionality, but the lower cost Home Cinema 400 sells by itself for not much more than $1000 and sports 720p resolution, while the higher performance Home Cinema 1080p sells for about $3000.
For complete reviews of these two projectors, click here: Home Cinema 400, Home Cinema 1080
The two Epson Ensemble HD complete systems, depending on your choice of Epson projector, are respectively $4999, and $6999. Everything about the two ensembles is identical, except for the projector and the price.
It's not a home theater projector, it's a ready to go home theater solution!
Actually, I think I'll refer to them as an Instant Home Theater.
Epson has tried to put just about everything you need, for a compete and fully functional home theater in your house. Oh, of course they missed a few things - notably walls, floor, ceiling, and an installation team to put it all together.
Just about everything else, however (we'll assume you do have the walls, floor, and ceiling), is included. That leaves finding the installation team, and a credit card or checkbook.
Because Epson put it together so thoroughly, though, they estimate that a complete installation will likely cost between $500 and $1000, about the same range as a large plasma TV, or LCDTV install with audio. Even places like Best Buy, and Circuit City, can handle installations like that, rather efficiently and affordably.
What's in the Box? The Ingredients of a Complete Home Theater
In addition to your choice of Epson projector, included is a 100" diagonal 16:9 aspect ratio screen. I'm not certain if this is the single most popular screen size, but experience tells me, that the vast majority of home theater projector installations have screens of 92", 100", 106", or 110" diagonal. My best guess, is that those four sizes, probably make up close to 90% of all installations, and since the other three sizes are clustered around the 100" size Epson chose, it's likely that most can use the 100" size, even if they might prefer a screen a touch larger.
Now, what's cool, is that there are three speakers built into the frame of the motorized screen. A front left, front right, and a center channel speaker. I was concerned about the speakers being above the screen surface (below is more common, behind, better still, but that requires special screens and is relatively rare). In sitting in Epson's demo room for a good 10 minutes or so, however, I found the sound of the complete system to fill the room, and was not conciously aware that the speakers were high up. (BTW, ceiling speakers in home theaters are not that rare.)
Serious Sound Quality - from Atlantic Technology - Included
I should note, here, that all the speakers integrated into the Epson Ensemble HD, are provided by Atlantic Technology, a highly regarded manufacturer of hi-fi, and home theater speakers. From my own experience, Atlantic Technology's strongest suite, is surround sound speaker systems in the $1000-$2500 range, and that's about the value proposition here. I have actually used some of their speakers in the past, and was most pleased (and I'm a "retired" audiophile).
OK, but three speakers in the front, alone, don't cut it for home theater. Consider, then, the included 150 watt sub-woofer, that has plenty of rumble, for those action flicks, and rock music videos
But, don't forget about the rear speakers, for a full 5.1 surround sound.
Epson got very clever here. They created a cradle, for lack of a better term, for the projector. This cradle can be shelf mounted on your back wall, or ceiling mounted (as shown in this photo).
Click to enlarge. SO close
The left and right rear speakers are integrated into the cradle. The speakers throw out the sound at an angle to bounce off walls for better surround sound, but that won't work in every room, especially if you have an "open area" into another room, where a wall normally might be. No problem, one or both speakers can be unmounted from the cradle and positioned for best sound.
Click Image to Enlarge
The Rest of the Epson Ensemble HD's Goodie Bag
Wait, there's still things missing? Speakers need an amplifier, and you need a way to control the system.
Not a problem.
As mentioned, there is a 150 watt amplifier for the subwoofer, but in reality, the subwoofer hosts the power for all six (counting the subwoofer) speakers. The subwoofer itself, has a 50 watt amplifier, and the other 5 channels share the remaining 100 watts
So that covers amplification. And that leaves us with needing to control the system.
There are two additional components, the tabletop console, which houses the up-converting DVD player, and, a pre-programmed, universal remote control that gives you full control of the entire Instant Home Theater. Everything, from projector, to sound, to DVD player, to raising and lowering the motorized screen is handled by the remote.
And, according to Epson, every cable you need, is included (including an HDMI cable). OK, if you decide to put this in a really huge room, you might need more cables, but the lengths provided seem most reasonable.
The console has inputs for your other devices, such as your cable TV box, or satellite box/tuner, and it even has two HDMI inputs that can be used for a true hi-definition DVD player, whether you chooe Blu-ray, or HD-DVD, plus your cable/satellite box choice!
All in all, one might argue that the system should have included a hi-def DVD player, but, with the war undecided, and prices for players plummeting, Epson was wise to just provide a good standard (SD) DVD player that upconverts.
I imagine that the Ensemble concept will prove most successful, so we likely will see the next generation with a built in hi-def player. We shall see. Meantime, though, these Epson Ensembles allow you to hook up a hi-def player, so...no problem!
Black and White. No, not the picture, but the screen assembly is white, including speakers, as are the projectors, cradle and rear speakers. The sub-woofer's face, and the console are finished in black. As you can see from the photo above, the Epson Ensemble makes a very attractive, and neutral statement, that should work in most rooms. Note, that's the console, sitting on the table under the screen, and the subwoofer is on the floor to its left.
Epson Ensemble HD - The Integrated Home Cinema System - Bottom line:
I fully intend to review the complete Epson Ensemble HD with the Home Cinema 1080 projector. Oh, I won't make it permanent, but shouldn't have a problem getting it working in our testing room, or my den.
Afterall, this is more than a projector, its a home theater, and its success is predicated on several factors:
The overall experience - including picture and sound quality
Ease and low cost nature of its installation
Ability to get a real "home theater" up in running in 24 - 48 hours instead of weeks or months
The value proposition - the combination of a great projector, good price, low cost installation, and simplicity in using it all
Looks like Epson just may have something here. These Instant Home Theaters may take projector based home theaters from something mostly purchased by the rich, the techie, and the do-it-yourselfer, to a solution that will be hugely popular with hundreds of thousands, no, millions of consumers.
Epson's full Epson Ensemble HD press release
EPSON AMERICA AND ATLANTIC TECHNOLOGY INTRODUCE EPSON ENSEMBLE HD
THE INDUSTRY’S FIRST COMPLETE HOME CINEMA INSTALLATION SOLUTION FOR GENERAL CONSUMERS
DENVER, Colo. – Sept. 4, 2007 – Epson America Inc. and Atlantic Technology have joined forces to introduce the Epson Ensemble HD Home Cinema System, a complete and unique home theater solution, available in two versions, that makes the dream of having a high-end movie theater in the home a reality for more than just ultra-rich consumers. Beyond attractively priced, high-performance technology, Epson Ensemble HD is uniquely designed to transform virtually any home’s living/family room into a dual-purpose living and entertainment area without compromising space or the room’s decorative integrity. It’s also designed to become an attractive offering for A/V specialty dealers and installers, providing a complete and easy-to-sell package that dramatically reduces the amount of time and technical expertise needed to secure sales and complete installations.
The Epson Ensemble HD Home Cinema System features an attractive contemporary design and comes with virtually everything necessary for proper installation and maximum performance. Elements include:
- Choice of Epson PowerLite® 3LCD (three-chip) high definition multimedia projector with either true 1080p native resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) or a more affordably priced 720p option
- Unique 100-inch motorized screen that quietly lowers and retracts within the unique front channel ceiling mounted speaker system
- Audio/video controller with integrated upconverting DVD player
- Newly engineered Atlantic Technology speaker system and a proprietary 150-watt subwoofer containing all 5.1 channels of amplification
- Universal remote that controls the entire system including the motorized screen
- All necessary mounting brackets
- Every audio, video and power cable needed to complete the installation while maximizing performance (including HDMI)
- Unique wire management track system that hides all of the included cables from the site of users
The Epson Ensemble HD Home Cinema System represents a significant milestone for this industry not just because of the incredible multimedia experience it delivers at these price points, but more importantly because of the doors it will open to an entirely new and dramatically broader range of consumers,” said Rajeev Mishra, director, New Ventures Group, Epson America. “There’s an enormous and ever-growing base of cinema fans and HD-inspired consumers entering the market today who have no idea that such a powerful yet visually unobtrusive home entertainment solution is about to fall within their grasp. So we’re obviously very excited to be introducing these customers to this solution and helping them discover entirely new possibilities.”
“This product is the first of its kind and is a real win-win for both consumers and dealers,” said Peter Tribeman, president and CEO, Atlantic Technology. “Consumers get a complete, high performance cinema experience at an affordable price; dealers can still make a profit on the sale, the system installs quickly, and the product will expand their market.”
The Epson Ensemble HD Home Cinema System will begin shipping to dealers nationwide in November with a suggested retail price of $6,999 for the 1080p system, and $4,999 for the 720p version. For more details about Epson Ensemble HD or becoming an authorized dealer, please visit www.epson.com/ensemblehd.
About Epson America Inc.
Epson offers an extensive array of award-winning image capture and image output products for the consumer, business, photography, and graphic arts markets. The company is also a leading supplier of value-added point-of-sale (POS) printers and transaction terminals for the retail market. Founded in 1975, Epson America Inc. is the U.S. affiliate of Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, a global manufacturer and supplier of high-quality technology products that meet customer demands for increased functionality, compactness, systems integration and energy efficiency. Epson America Inc. is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif.
About Atlantic Technology
From its inception in 1989, Atlantic Technology's mission has been to produce home entertainment products that exemplify the very best in both performance and value. The company specializes in complete high-performance multi-channel speaker systems, state-of-the-art home theater electronics components, and products for custom audio/video installation. For more information on Atlantic Technology and its many fine products for home theater and custom audio/video installation, visit www.atlantictechnology.com or call 781-762-6300.