ezFrame AcousticPro1080 Fixed Frame Projector Screen Review

1/17/09 - Art Feierman, ProjectorReviews.com

ezFrame Fixed Frame AcousticPro1080 Projector Screen Overview

Back last February ('08) we reviewed Elite's Home2 Series Fixed Screen with Acoustic white surface. We gave that screen a Special Interest Award, rather than our normal Hot Product Award. This was due to certain limitations of the screen, that limited the number of potential users. That particular weakness was the lack of a dark backing resulting in too much light passing through the acoustic screen material, and, when a light surfaced wall is behind the screen, light reflected back through the screen, washing out the image. The screen did work well enough, however when the wall behind the screen is extremely dark. With white or off white walls, that screen's image was effectively ruined.
For those limitations, Elite has been on my case, for many months, to review their newer acoustic screen surface. This new surface is called AcousticPro1080 and it comes with a black mesh backing, which solves the problem mentioned above. It is definitely suitable for use with a light colored wall/surface behind the screen, as well, of course, as working well with a dark surface behind the screen.


For this review Elite provided this fixed frame screen in an 84 inch diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio version. The Elite part number for this size is: R84WH1-A1080. Realizing that 84 inch diagonal is a smaller size than most would buy (but very convenient for reviewing), below I list not only the info on the test screen size, but MSRP for several larger screen sizes as well. Elite offers this screen in huge sizes if needed, even 150 inch and larger. You'll get the idea. Dealers generally sell Elite screens with good discounts. 
The frame itself is a nicely beveled light absorbing black finish, about 2.5 inches thick. There are thicker screen frames, but this amount of border is enough to look good.

Overall, this Elite screen performed very well. Timing is such, that my main theater (which had off-white walls - unfortunately, until last week), was finally painted to a dark rust color. I had the opportunity to work with this Elite Screen with both light and dark wall color. It did a nice job, in both cases.
As I have mentioned in previous screen reviews, we are not really setup to measure and provide hard objective numbers (gain, acoustic properties, viewing cone, etc. This review is therefore subjective on these topics. 
To observe the acoustic properties, this screen was placed in my theater, below my Stewart Firehawk G3. Since I do not have a center speaker that would place behind the screen surface, I simply slid my two large front speakers a little closer together, and propped the screen frame up against the outer sides of each, allowing all the sound from the speakers to pass through the Elite screen surface. Putting a friend to work, I had him bring the top of the screen forward and down, moving it out of the way of the speakers, to see what differences/losses I could detect, with the screen in front of the speakers.
The photo below, of the setup was taken before the speakers were moved closer together:

Please note, I'm an old "audiophile" with a pair of what were, pretty state of the art conventional speakers from the early '70s (IMFs), and I still take my audio seriously. I watched/listened to several Blu-ray based concerts with this screen. 
On the other hand, I'm definitely "an old guy" relative to the ability to hear high frequencies. As such I can't comment on the amount of loss of extremely high frequencies as I doubt I can still hear above 13K or 14K (in the good old days, I could easily hear 19K). Those of you younger than I may well detect more loss of highs than I can. That said, Elite claims only a very modest loss of high frequencies - 2db at 20K, which if dead on, I would consider excellent.
The image immediately below of James bond (Casino Royale), projected onto the Elite screen with a calibrated Sanyo PLV-Z3000 projector. Looks good here, looked even better "live".

Elite Fixed AcousticPro1080 Screen Highlights

  • Black mesh backing allows screen to perform well, even mounted in front of a white or near white surfaced wall
  • Very limited loss of sound quality (high frequencies)
  • Texture is more coarse than some other acoustic screen surfaces
  • Elite Screens MSRP (list) prices seem to be well below the low street selling prices of other name brands like Da-lite and Draper. A quick comparison finds that Da-lite acoustic screens, for example, can sell for up to 50% more than the Elite with AcousticPro1080 surface
  • Very slight color shift toward yellow, (very correctable)

Elite AcousticPro1080 Screen Specifications

MSRP:
84 inch diagonal: $927
92 inch diagonal: $996
100 inch diagonal: $1080
106 inch diagonal: $1135
110 inch diagonal: $1252(available in March or April)
120 inch diagonal: $1344 (larger sizes are available as well)
Technology: Woven white surface acoustic material, 0.3mm perforations, square (but off-angle) pattern, black mesh backing
Gain: 1.0
Acoustic Properties: Maximum loss of 2db @ 20Khz
Warranty: 2 years parts and labor

Special Features

Unlike many other manufacturers, the Elite's long side frame pieces come in two pieces each, instead of single pieces. This allows the entire screen to be packed into a much smaller box, one that avoids the high extra shipping costs normally associated with fixed frame screens, due to their size requiring significant "oversized" box shipping charges.

Assembling the ezFrame AcousticPro1080 fixed wall screen

It sure seems simple enough. I, however, am not one who looks forward to doing such things, so, of course, I convinced Elite to deliver the screen, along with someone who would assemble it in my presence. This works because Elite Screens is located less than an hour from my location. 
Basically it took about 15 minutes for the screen to be assembled. Dave Rodgers from Elite did all the work, while I watched. First step after unboxing the components (a nice small box), was to connect the pieces of the frame. Remember, Elite instead of using single long pieces for the frame, breaks the long sections down into two pieces. 

After the frame was assembled, the frame was placed face down on my floor. The screen surface and the black acoustic cloth were laid on top, and fastened into place by several dozen little white clips. The large number of clips is to insure even tension so that the screen surface remains perfectly flat.
It really was that simple. If I had done it, I would have run out of patience and probably tried to get everything to stay in place, using a minimum of clips, and then wondered why the screen ended up with waves in it. Dave does good work, the screen is very flat and taut.
Bottom line: Putting the screen together should not be a challenge for those willing to try.

Elite AcousticPro1080 fixed screen Image Properties

As mentioned in the overview, I did notice a slight shift towards a yellow/gold with the screen, and you can see the difference (though exaggerated) between it and the very neutral Stewart Firehawk G3, in the photo of the two screens with no image on them, back near the top of this page. When viewing normal material, however, it really is far more difficult to spot any color shift compared to my Firehawk G3.
Immediately below, is a photo of James Bond, from Casino Royale. You can see the narrow top part of the image is on the Firehawk, the lower part, on the Elite. Pretty hard to spot the color shift. You'll also notice some other differences, varying brightness, and contrast in the image. That however is due to the Firehawk being a high contrast gray surface, compared to a basic white surface.

Another good "split image" shot is this one of some football "signage" from an HDTV source. It's obvious that the two surfaces are very close:

The screen lived up to its claimed wide viewing angle. There was no hotspotting, and brightness appears uniform even from wider viewing angles than anyone would want normally want to sit at.
I was concerned about the texture of the screen surface, compared to the almost totally smooth and uniform Firehawk, or for that matter, my Carada Brilliant White and my Elite HC gray. Despite that, I didn't notice the texture during normal viewing. I'm sure it's enough to be detectable when looking for it, but I do believe this surface will satisfy all but the most critical. There are finer micro-perf screens out there, for those who may be concerned with this Elite surface. Note, the patterning of the material is finer, and a different "improved" pattern for this new surface, which Elite says is designed especially to work with 1080 projectors.
Here's one more split screen image with the Firehawk on top and this Elite AcousticPro1080 screen on the bottom. This is the very dark train scene from Casino Royale:

Acoustic Performance

As noted above, my hearing isn't what it was 30 years ago when managing high end audio stores. With that as a given, I spent hours listening to music videos, CD's and movies using this Elite ezFrame screen. At the most, I could only notice a very slight loss of sparkle on the high end, when having someone move the screen quickly into the path of the sound. I really enjoyed some superb performances with the screen in place, including the Moody Blues in concert (Blu-ray), and music videos on MTV's Palladia HD channel, as well as other music videos.
For typical movie watching (action oriented, talking, etc.), certainly this screen seems more than transparent enough. Any loss of overall gain (volume) is negligible, almost certainly no more than 2db, and probably a lot less than that.
The only question, one I can't answer without test equipment, is how much loss there actually is on the extreme high end (15K to 20K hertz) where I can no longer hear, but many of you younger folks can. For those not "tuned" into audio, we are talking extreme high frequencies - upper harmonics of vocal and musical instruments. This frequency range probably accounts for well less than 1% of audio content but does contribute to the sound quality for those with good hearing. According to Elite, they only lose 2db at the very top, and that seems to be a very reasonable (slight amount). In fact many (very good) speakers roll off the high end more than that.

Elite Screens AcousticPro1080 Projector Screen - The Bottom Line

As I see it there are four major aspects to this screens performance: Image, Sound transparency, setup and physical attributes, and finally price. Let's run through them.

Image:
This Elite seems to be a real improvement over the earlier screen surface I reviewed. The black mesh backing and new surface solve the problem of reflected light, even with white walls. There is, as I pointed out, that very slight color shift, but as you can see from the images provided, it is barely detectable, even comparing side by side with the Firehawk. The shift is probably well within the normal differences from one movie to the next in color balance. It is subtle and should be easy to correct for, if you so choose.
Elite claims a gain of 1.0. That seems very believable.

Sound Transparency
No significant acoustic problems are audible to my ears, although as mentioned, I can no longer hear the highest audible frequencies. Loss of volume, is definitely negligible, just enough to be noticed when the screen is quickly moved out of the sound path. 
While listening to a favorite music video, I did find the high end a touch muted, compared to when the screen was out of the way, but it is only noticeable when quickly switched. No way I could walk into the room and tell by sound if the AcousticPro1080 was in front of the speakers or not.

Setup and Operation
As I stated earlier, the setup really is straightforward - (easy to say, when I was just watching it being done). 15 minutes should do it, once the parts are out of the box. Once assembled, the surface appears nice and taut, comparable, no, actually a bit stiffer than that of the Carada Brilliant White surface I use as my primary screen in the testing room. There's not a sign, anywhere, of a wave or wrinkle in the screen surface.
The screen surface is easily cleanable, with a water moistened cotton cloth.(Nice!)

Pricing
Elite traditionally sells their screens for less than the older, well established names like Da-Lite and Draper. That is just as true for this acoustic screen as with their other surfaces. A quick search online shows the 106 inch version of this screen selling typically for well under $700. By comparison, names like Da-lite will cost you about $1000 or more for their acoustic solutions in a fixed frame.

In Conclusion:
It certainly looks like Elite has a very good product in this fixed frame screen with their AcousticPro1080 surface with black mesh material backing. While I am no expert on acoustic screen surfaces (that's the truth), this screen seems to perform very nicely as a video screen, while allowing high quality sound to pass through it from a center channel speaker, or even all three front speakers. There are definitely other acoustic screens with a finer texture to the screen surface, but I really didn't see any issue, from normal seating distances, while viewing at a distance of just beyond nine feet - a reasonable distance for smaller screens such as this 84 inch or maybe even a much larger 106 inches. 
When everything is considered, pricing becomes an important aspect in determining value, and this Elite is very strong on pricing. While the pricing is still significantly more than non-acoustic screens from elite, most sizes of this screen sell for about the same price as non-acoustic screens from bigger "old-time" brands, and far less than those companies charge for their acoustic screens.
Add it all up, and I do believe Elite has an excellent overall value proposition. For that reason, it earns our Hot Product Award.

Elite Screens AcousticPro1080 Projector Screen: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities

Elite Screens AcousticPro1080 Projector Screen: Pros

  • Very low price compared to most major brands
  • Easy to assemble
  • Nice appearance with beveled black velvet frame
  • Any loss of sound quality passing through the screen seems very minimal
  • Good color accuracy
  • Two year warranty

Elite Screens AcousticPro1080 Projector Screen: Cons

  • Screen texture is more visible than on some more expensive micro-perf acoustic screens (although I did not notice during normal viewing)
  • Some might like a larger frame (the Elite is about 2.5 inches, larger ones from other brands often are in the 3.5 to 4 inch thick range.)

  • Elite Response: Elite Screens will also carry the AcousticPro1080 in the Elite Prime Vision® Fixed Frame Series which has a 3.5” width frame in all the standard sizes.
  • Less choices of screen sizes than some other brands

  • Elite response: At the time of the review the AcousticPro1080 larger sizes were not officially confirmed to be available, but will now be available up to 200” diagonal (16:9) and in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in diagonal sizes 85”, 96”, 103” 115”, 125”, and 138”.

Elite Screens AcousticPro1080 Projector Screen: Typical Capabilities

  • Offers screens in most common sizes (they do make custom sizes but we did not investigate)
  • Very limited loss of audible gain (volume) and high frequencies