Projector Reviews

Installation of the Epson Ensemble HD Home Theater System

Finally, real home theater for everyone. The Epson Ensemble HD 1080 puts almost everything together in one neat package, making the purchase decision nice, and straightforward. Better still, Epson designed the system for simple installation. This is a system that even most novice do-it-yourselfers, can install, but more importantly, for the typical family, one that can be quickly and affordably installed by your local home theater dealer.

I know that Epson has rolled out the Ensemble HD systems through their authorized home theater dealer network, but sooner or later, I imagine the system will be available from places like Best Buy, and Circuit City, and maybe even Staples and other office supply stores.

What I really like is that the installation is really so easy, that even those “basic” installation teams (Geek Squad, Firedog, etc.) that the big box houses have, should be handle this type of installation, without difficulty.

Installing the Epson Ensemble HD in my Office/Testing Room/Theater 2

First, a little about the room. Our house is a 10 year old, typical So. California tract home. These homes had a builder’s option regarding the garage. The house could have a two car garage, and a separate one car garage, or the one car garage could be an office/extra room. Our home came with that one car garage converted into an office (complete with lots of built-ins, as this was one of the original model homes. The point is, the dimensions of the room, are that of a typical one car garage, in this case roughly 10 feet wide, by 17 feet long, and it happens to have a 9 foot ceiling.

I must admit, that it is nearly the perfect size for a theater like this, although if the room was a few feet wider and deeper, that would have been just fine!

OK, let’s get started. In this case, I behave like a typical consumer. Once the decision was made, to “buy” the Epson Ensemble, I got in touch with an Epson authorized AV dealer here, in the LA area. Because I am reviewing this, they came down a day in advance, to check out the room, and discuss the few options with me.

Now, for this room, I would have been perfectly happy not cutting into the walls, and just using the provided wiring channel system. But, because this was to be a full review, I decided, that since going “in-wall” on the installation, would be more complex, and possibly encounter some problems, it made sense to got that route, to better report to all you folks.

When Kory (from My Custom Theater, in Torrance California) arrived, I already knew where the screen, equipment cabinet/subwoofer, and console would go. It was obvious, as it would be in most people’s rooms.

We discussed the option of going channels or in-wall, and I told him, for review purposes, in-wall was the better choice (although if I wasn’t reviewing I wouldn’t have gone in-wall). One interesting thing we discussed, was where to mount the projector and its housing. Because I have built-in – up to the ceiling cabinets on one side, we decided to mount the projector slightly off-center, relative to the screen, so that it would look more centered in the room. Thanks to the Epson’s wide range of lens-shift, this was not a problem. We also discussed how far back to put the projector. I decided to mount it almost 3 feet from the back wall, as that is my screen wall for testing (with a fixed Carada screen, and a motorized Elite screen), and I wanted a few feet of clearance, as I occasionally switch out screens.

With the Epson screen size, the front of the Epson projector could be as far back as 21 feet from the screen, but we settled on just over 12.5 feet (measured to the lens).

I happened to have left over paint cans in the garage, matching the paint on the walls, and the ceiling, and the installation team also does drywalling and paint touch up, so we had all the bases covered.

Because of the in-wall installation, we decided that they would do the job in two, half day sessions. Had I opted to use the channels, they told me the installation would take no more than 5 hours, in one afternoon. With going in wall, they estimated 11 hours or less, depending on what surprises lie inside the walls and ceiling, to complicate things.

Home Theater Installation: Day One

The plan was to open the walls, and run all the wiring. Since they would have to drywall, and let it dry, before touching up the paint, once the wiring was completed, they would drywall, and call it a day.

As agreed, the two man team arrived shortly after 10am. The first thing they did, was unload all the boxes from their van, brought in their ladders, and tools, and started organizing. After they pulled out what they needed for day one, they stashed everything else in my garage about 6 boxes, including the long screen box.

Then, the work began. Because of the “in wall” installation, (mostly “in ceiling, actually), they first opened the wall, and the ceiling up where the wires to the screen would go just a few inches from the screen wall so the wiring coming out would be hidden behind the screen.

Bingo, at that point, they discovered Problem #1.

Because our house’s second floor sets back a couple of feet from the first floor, it seems that local building codes require that the ceiling have wood in the ceiling in that area (1/2 inch thick) running the length of that wall, they had no access to the open area above. (see image to the right) They widened the cut to about three feet from the wall, to find out how thick the board was. Once finding it’s end, they cut open the board (two spots, as you can see), to allow access for the wires. That was the first additional chunk of labor needed, compared to a more typical ceiling without that board ( required by local building/fire code, no doubt). Still, it didn’t add that much additional time (about a half hour, perhaps).

Next they opened the wall down below, for where the wires would run in, and out of the AV Controller and sub-woofer (the sub-woofer has the amplification for all the speakers).

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Problem #2

As I warned them, I believed that local fire laws also required homes to have firebreak 2x4s running horizontally every four feet (I believe) in height, so they also had to add an additional cut, between the lower cut and the ceiling. We can call that problem #2, an extra cut, and therefore a little extra drywalling, etc.