Epson and Atlantic Technology introduced here last Tuesday a new value-oriented complete home theater system that they collaborated on to bring together high-performance audio sound, simplified professional installation and high-definition 3LCD front projection.
The system, called the Ensemble 1080, is "the world's first complete home cinema system designed for the consumer market," said Rajeev Mishra, Epson new ventures group director. The highlighted package incorporates a 1080p 3LCD front projector, although Epson will also make available a 720p version to hit more affordable price points.
The 1080p system will ship to dealers in November at a $6,999 suggested retail. The 720p version will be tagged at $4,999.
Mishra said the system will be targeted at a "prosumer" audience and will be distributed exclusively through traditional A/V specialists and custom A/V installers. The packages will have "unilateral pricing," as the company seeks to preserve margin opportunities for dealers suffering from collapsing profitability on flat-panel products, and Epson said it will assist dealers in providing financing programs for consumers who require it.
Mishra said Epson will not seek to sell the system through big-box accounts or other high-volume dealers.
For now, Epson will handle distribution, but Mishra said he will be working with Atlantic Technology president Peter Tribeman to see if, or how, the high-performance audio system manufacturer may participate in distributing the product through its own A/V specialty and custom installation accounts.
Mishra said Epson is looking to bring a new level of customer to home theater specialists by offering a product they can quickly and easily install and sell at lower entry prices than their typical installations. The pricing will afford better margin opportunities than typical high-volume goods while increasing their customer traffic, Mishra said.
Mishra said Epson will be working harder to increase awareness to "the value proposition" that the system offers consumers, getting around one of the key objections to front projection purchases. Meanwhile, the package approach also gets around the "complexity" issue that some consumers perceive.
"The approach was pretty straight forward," Mishra explained of the Ensemble 1080 strategy. "Give the consumer a complete solution. Do the thinking for them. Make it easy to buy, and give them an experience that is more than what they think home theater is today."
Mishra said dealers will need to re-educate consumers on what a true home theater experience is, noting that a plasma TV with a home theater in box "is not what the home theater experience is all about."
Mishra said the system design was developed to work with most room décors, and will enable a room to have dual uses, instead of tying up a room as a dedicated home theater. Wiring clutter is also eliminated through wire management designed into the screen.
For its part, Atlantic Technology is contributing an integrated surround speaker system that hides the left, right and center channel speakers inside a specially designed 100-inch electronic front-projection screen, while the rear left and right surround speakers are integrated into a ceiling-mounted cradle bracket that also carries the projector. The rear speakers are detachable, said Peter Tribeman, Atlantic Technologies president, but he added that the system sound is actually better in the cradle-mounted position in many situations.
Speakers in the screen include a 4.5-inch long-throw woofer and a one-inch horn-loaded tweeter. In the center are two 4.5-inch woofers and one tweeter, "because that requires an enormous amount of power," Tribeman said. Surrounds include single drivers.
Other components include a control console with up-converting DVD player and a 150-watt subwoofer that also carries amplification for the sound system. The system includes HDMI inputs that will accept connection to other components, such as cable or satellite boxes and Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD players, but the system is designed to up-convert all video input to the 1080p format.
Cable management is handled with HDMI cables that run out from the subwoofer and up to the speakers in the screen. The remote was designed to operate all system functions without the need for multiple remotes.