Continuing its home-theater development partnership with Atlantic Technologies, Epson America last week unveiled three Ensemble HD Home Cinema Systems for the A/V specialty, CE installation channels.
As with previous Ensemble Systems, the new models meld Atlantic's advanced audio technology with Epson's high-performance 3LCD HD front-projection technology.
Atlantic integrates the right, left and front speaker channels into a special 100-inch motorized projection screen that is part of the Ensemble package. The surround speakers are built into the projector's cradle mount.
“We wanted to create a complete turnkey solution that we could integrate into a home in about four hours, and allow dual use of the room — the screen would retract and fit within the décor,” said Jason Palmer, Epson America home entertainment marketing manager. “With the new upgrades we've made into the front projectors in the system, we have really made it an even greater value proposition.”
New this year was a design emphasis on being do-it-yourself friendly, Palmer said.
“We are still selling it through dealers who can install it, but if someone wanted to install it themselves, we have all sorts of tools from videos to manuals that will allow the individual DIY-er to go out and install this system and make it as trouble free as possible,” he said.
“We aren't changing our distribution strategy for this by adding DIY-friendly capability,” Palmer said. “We've just found that there are some videophiles who would rather install systems themselves.”
Each system ships with an A/V controller that connects to the projector via an HDMI cable. The controller houses a built-in DVD player, PixelWorks 1080p up-converting video processor (HQV Reon processing in the flagship 6500 model), AM/FM tuner, iPod/MP3 player port, two HDMI v1.3 inputs and one set of HD component video inputs. In addition, the system ships with a 10-inch subwoofer with 5.1 channels of built-in system amplification, and circuitry that will optimize the setup for any room environment.
“These are really easy to use, whether it is the DIY-er or a professional installer doing the installation,” Palmer said. “We've put these in a number of room environments, so we know some people are going to have higher ceilings and want to put the screen a little bit lower on the wall, and some people are going to have a flat-panel TV on a wall but will want to drop down the screen in front of it to show a big game or event, so they are going to mount the screen about 12 inches out from the wall. If they do that, they are going to want to re-equalize the sound for the room and the way it's designed.”
To accommodate this, Epson places a Boundary EQ dial on the back of the subwoofer with five settings to adjust where the projector is placed relative to the screen and surrounding walls.
Systems also ship with mount brackets, 17 meters of HDMI cable, amplifier coupler, an equipment cabinet that houses the subwoofer and a couple of additional components, and an MX350 universal remote control.
Differences between the packages are found primarily in the projectors. This year, Epson is offering two FullHD 1080p models in addition to the entry 720p model.
The new entry Ensemble HD Home Cinema System 720 ($4,999) includes a PowerLite 720 720p HD front projector. brightness is 1,600 lumens and the contrast ratio is 10,000:1.
The Ensemble HD Home Cinema System 6100 features Epson's entry-level 1080p PowerLite Home Cinema 6100 projector at a $6,999 street price. It offers 1,800 ANSI lumens of brightness and 18,000:1.
The Ensemble HD Home Cinema System 6500 ($7,999) includes Epson's PowerLite 6500 flagship 1080p projector. It features 1,600 ANSI lumens of brightness and a 75,000:1 contrast ratio. The projector was specially designed to retain black-level performance even with some ambient light in the room.
The throw range of the projectors is from 10 feet to 22 feet, offering a lot of installation flexibility, Epson said.