Posted on November 6, 2013 By Art Feierman
This is another topic that is pretty straightforward. The deciding factors when considering audible noise are four-fold:
First, how much audible noise each projector makes.
Second, where your projector is placed, relative to your seat. Obviously audible noise will be more of a factor if you’ve ceiling mounted your projector 4.5 feet directly above your head, as compared to, say, on a shelf in the back of your room, 6 feet up from your head and 6 feet behind you.
Third, whether you are running on a projector’s low, or high lamp modes. Low lamp mode is normally dramatically quieter. Many of the noisiest projectors are still quieter in low lamp mode, than many of the quieter ones are, in high lamp mode. I should mention high altitude settings. If you are living in Vail Colorado, or even in Denver, and maybe Albuquerque, you’ll likely run your projector in high altitude mode to keep it cool. High altitude modes tend to be very noisy. I can’t help you there, however, as I do my reviewing at only about 700 feet above sea level.
Fourth, and finally, your tolerance for noise. This is perhaps the biggest factor. There are those who are unhappy with any noise that can be heard during a quiet scene, no matter how low. .
Most of us are just not going to have a problem with projectors that claim 30db or less, as most do, today. (The loudest tend to claim 31-33 db). The vast majority of us are more than willing to live with a 30 db sound level (claims, not measured), and would be thrilled with 25 db or less.
The quietest few of today’s projectors run a virtually silent 19 – 25 db with their lamp power on high, and lower still in low power mode. Others are more in the 21/28 (low/high power) range, others with a range of 23/32.
Projectors aren’t getting quieter, because manufacturers are trying to push a lot more lumens out of them to handle 3D projection.
One last thought before the listings: Not all noise is fan based. DLP projectors have the noise of their spinning color wheels. Only in a very few cases is dynamic iris action really audible during normal viewing. For example a few people complain about the Epson irises. They could be quieter, sometimes rumble, but often it is the surface the projector is on, or the mount that resonates to make that noise more audible. There are ways to dampen that that vibration, for a quieter installation. The current HC5020UB here, does “rumble” a bit. It is currently sitting on a table 3 feet behind and to the center from my seat. I found putting pieces of a foam like material under each foot definitely reduced the rumble. Acoustic spacers could be used if the same issue is a problem with a ceiling mounted projectors. The audio industry has been inventing and selling vibration insulators since my early days in audio in the early ’70s.
Interestingly the more expensive the projector Class, the least likely the manufacturers are to give us full specs as in full power vs. eco-mode:
Not one of the projectors in this lower priced class is particularly quiet. The quietest is probably the Epson Home Cinema 8350. Today’s projectors tend to be a bit noisier than a couple of years ago. That, of course is due to 3D’s need for brighter projectors. The HC8350 is an older, LCD based projector that’s strictly 2D. Other than the Acer H6500, the loudest, and the HC8350, by spec, all of the rest claim to be within a modest 3 db of each other.
Then there’s the brightest projector in the group, Panasonic’s PT-AR100U which doesn’t publish a full power measurement. From reviewing it, it’s right up there, but I’d still say the Acer H6500 would be the noisier of the two.
At full power, and the Sony VPL-HW50ES and the Panasonic PT-AE8000U (one LCoS projector and one LCD projector) should be the two quietest. Quiet DLP projectors are pretty uncommon. I’ll concede, I use an Epson HC5020UB here a lot. It’s certainly not quiet at full power, but sitting 3 feet away, I normally only notice when I have muted my audio.I do infrequently hear the dynamic iris at work, but it seems to only really bother those particularly noise adverse.
These JVC’s aren’t quiet either. I would bet they are a touch quieter than their Epson competition, but when you have both running side by side it’s more a difference of pitch than volume.
Strange that Mitsubishi’s aren’t particularly quiet, although they are DLP projectors. They aren’t overly bright. Their DLP projectors are pretty small, so that may not be able to damp down the sound as well as larger designs.
Those high end projectors were all fairly quiet, leaving the JVC projectors as the noisiest in our top class. Still they’re not bad at all in my theater. I wouldn’t have any issue with a single projector here, except for the Optoma HD8300 which has a dynamic iris that will sometimes “clack” a bit.
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Bottom line: If you think you are particularly noise adverse, this can be a real deal breaker for a number of projectors. Remember to take into your consideration, where the projector will be relative to your seating (for example, your ears themselves are directional devices), and will notice more noise above you, than behind you.
Also consider that a projector on a shelf will allow the shelf to deflect some noise. By using a larger shelf and maybe some sound absorbing materials to cover it, that may make a dramatic difference.
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