Ensemble HD 1080 Sound Quality
Before I get started: As a reviewer of home theater projectors, in one sense, I'm out of my depth a bit, analysing sound quality of the complete system. On the other hand, my "mispent youth" (my twenties), consisted of managing several very high end, and esoteric audio shops around the US (California, Delaware, Pennsylvania/New Jersey). Let's just say, that I know what good, and great sound systems sound like. On the other hand, it's been a long time, and my hearing just "ain't what it used to be".
I'm still into phenomenal sound, and my main speakers in my theater (left and right) are the same IMF Reference IV speakers I bought in the early 70's, by the way, back then, they cost about the same as a Porche 911s. Those, along with my high end tube components cost about as much as a small house back then, and the speakers may well still be comparable to some of today's $50,000 speakers.
Now that we have that out of the way, keep in mind that your room will have a lot to do with the final sound. Epson seems to think, based on their volume spec, that the Ensemble HD should be comfortable in rooms of at least 3000 cubic feet (if I did the math right, approximately 85 cubic meters). They report the system can hit 105 db, in that sized room (they provide no further specifics).
My room is smaller - measuring roughly 17 feet deep, by 10.5 feet wide, and 9 feet high.
When I crank up the system for movies, the room rocks. We are talking the same kind of volumes as in a typical movie theater when handling all those special effects. When I pop in a music video of a good rock band, it won't match the loudest bands I've heard live, but has enough volume to chase most people out of the room.
The ported 10 inch sub-woofer provides plenty of "shake the house" bass.
The combination of the three front speakers located in the projection screen housing, and the two rear surround sound speakers, truly suceed in providing room filling sound. It's everywhere!
And, get this, if the subwoofer doen't shake your room enough, the AV Controller is already set up to handle a second subwoofer. All I can say to that, is "how thoughtful of them."
Ok so what we have is generally an audio system that has the muscle, it has plenty to spare for me, in my room.
Quality of the sound:
This is where I get into trouble. I'm so spoiled by the nearly perfect accuracy, the flawless soundstage images, and clean (down to sub-sonics) bass of my primary system, that when listening to music, that I fear anything I say may give you the misconception that I have a problem with the Ensemble HD's audio. That certainly isn't true.
I come from a audio perfectionist standpoint. If you think I'm picky about home theater projectors, you have no idea how insane I was about music perfection, for many years. I'll bet you never listened and hand picked vaccuum tubes (for my old tube pre-amp), nor listened to different (multi-hundred dollar) phono cartridges on indentical turntables to see which sounded the best. OK you get the idea. (By the way, I'm presuming most of you know what turntables, phono cartridges, and vaccuum tubes are.) (When I mentioned phono cartridge to my teenage daughter, I got a blank stare from her.)
From an audiophile perspective, the system is respectable for high quality music reproduction, but no more than that. I mean it sounds better, probably than 96% of the population has ever owned, especially when you add in the fact that it is a good 5.1 surround system, not that "old fashioned" (but still better in many ways) stereo. From what little I know of Atlantic Technology, the folks that partnered with Epson for the audio, they are definitely very good at 5.1 systems, and I believe I have heard that their 'sweet spot" is around $1000 - $2000+ for a full surround setup (just the 5 speakers, + powered subwoofer, but not including a receiver). And that's about what I think we have here. I've heard $1000 and $1500 Home theater in a box systems (including amp and DVD), and this pretty much blows those away.
Getting critical, I find the bass to be a bit muddy, in the higher ranges of the sub-woofer (I will eventually see if I can tweak it a bit), and that does detract from mid-range detail. Highs are solid but lack the razor sharp precision really high end speakers can produce. In all fairness, a big, muddy bottom end (bass) is the stuff that gives you that movie theater type of room rumbling sound, so that can be a good thing for your movie watching.
Oh, don't worry, before the movie comes on, when they put on that DTS or Dolby audio demonstration, crank it up, your friends will just drop their jaws.
Don't get me wrong, I've listened quite a bit to music on the system in this past week and change, including a few music DVD's on Blu-ray (Moody Blues, Yes, Incubus, Led Zepplin, etc.) I can definitely live with the overall sound quality.
When it comes to the mid-range itself, for those into the whole audiophile thing (which, of course this product is NOT designed for), it seems a little peaky. As I said, I'm rusty when it comes to analysing speakers but there does seem to be a peak in the upper mid-range. It's there, but not really bad, it is just enough, that I can notice that a male vocal has a slightly different tonal quality than on my main system. Don't worry, Elton still sounds like Elton, Justin Hayward still sounds like Justin, and so on.
Overall, the sound system is a blast. No question about it. The experience was - well, a great experience!
The audio is not comparable to a $10,000 audio system, but then that would be too much to ask for. I use a THX receiver (I miss those much better sounding tubes), in my main system, for amplification, and, hey, most full THX receivers cost $3000+ to begin with.
What we have here, is an audio system that really does complement the video. Together, on movies, it's a rather spectacular combination considering the overall cost. If you are a music purist, guess what, you'll probably get by just fine, unless you are the type willing to spend more on audio, than this whole Ensemble HD costs!