Originally Posted by BobL
There is a difference and it is noticeable. The question comes down to value. In many ways screens are similar to speakers in that they are applications driven, you need to use the right ones for your application to get the best performance. They are also similar to speakers in that once you have a good one it will last a long time before you upgrade, unlike electronics which get changed much more frequently.
Comparisons are tough without seeing them side by side. You can order samples but that rarely gives a good idea. You have to see the whole screen, comparing samples would be like just listening to tweeters. However, if I were comparing them to speakers for value that is where they differ.
For example I don't think anyone would argue that if one spent $1000 on a receiver and $4000 on speakers it would have better performance than a $4000 receiver and $1000 speakers. It is not that the $4000 receiver isn't better it is, but you will get better performance by putting the money in the speakers.
Screens although similar to speakers for application they are more similar to electronics for value. If I were to take that same $5000 budget. I would get much better performance with a $4000 projector and $1000 screen then vice versa.
Now the budget can be scaled either way and this ratio will change depending on budget. With projectors once you start spending more than say $5000 on a projector I would put more money in the screen before I spent more to get to the next level of projector. Also, as projectors improve and get better and less expensive that $5000 figure might be $2500 in a few years.
I completely agree with you, but let's assume the source is the same. In my case this is a calibrated JVC RS-10. With speakers, I can easily hear the difference between a FLAC file played on $200 logitech speakers and my DIY speakers which the designer compared them to be nearly identical to a pair of $3000 monitors. However, I'm skeptical to think that a 4 (or 5!) figure Stewart 130 could really noticeably outperform a 1.3 gain white surface when the PJ is calibrated for each surface. While I don't doubt that the Stewart is better, given their optical coatings and whatever else they put onto the screen, I wonder if the difference would actually be noticeable when not done in a side-by-side study. Even in a side-by-side study, I would be curious to see if the stewart is worth a 5 figure increase in price over a simple da-lite or DIY solution. Has anyone actually done a comparison that could comment?
Lot's of times with high end equipment, there is a lot of snake-lil gibberish that makes a product sound outstandingly better than a cheaper solution, but real-world differences are pretty much nonexistent.
Originally Posted by Pete
Much depends on how much time and care goes into the manufacturing process. You can get a cheap Chinese import that's made of a basic white vinyl...the same vinyl that goes into making boat cushions...and to the average Joe it may not look that much different from a Stewart or Da-Lit or Vutec screen that costs twice as much. But the performance differences are not as subtle. Smoothness, uniformity, proper gray scale, absence of any color push...these are qualities that are not commonplace on rolls of OEM industrial vinyl. They come at the expense of much R&D, high-tech chemistry to develop optical coatings, special manufacturing processes, and rigorous QC. The very best screens disappear completely revealing only what the projector upstream of it is rendering.
So perhaps it's not so much the engineering of the product as it is the method of production. I imagine (or I at least hope so, for the sake of them justifying the price of their screens) Stewart manufactures small batches and has insane QC inspections and controls to make sure only the best screens are sold. What I hope isn't the case, is that they simply rebrand another vinyl as their own and mark up the price because people will listen to their measurements.
However, given the QC aspect of this discussion, I agree that da-lite probably doesn't have as high a QC as more expensive screens. Let's veer away for a moment from manufactured screens, to DIY screens. An experienced professional painter could likely paint a 99% uniform surface, provided the substrate is perfectly smooth (not hard to find given the options for laminate and other smooth surfaces), with a basic pure white paint. This nullifies the argument for the Stewart's QC.
I know I'm changing the original question a bit, but here's the new one:
Assuming QC and surface structure (smoothness, gain, etc. NOT special optical coatings) are the same, how much of an improvement would a Stewart actually measure? Do their proprietary screen designs and optics actually make for a measureably superior picture? I would love it if someone could test this, as it would shed some light on whether a high end screen is justified.
My hypothesis, based purely on speculation (no science or data to support this!) is that, even in a side-by-side test, one would be very hard-pressed to see a difference between a professionally painted DIY screen and a Stewart.