Expensive Screens- what are you getting that's worth the $$?? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-22-2012, 04:54 PM - Thread Starter
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I find selecting an HT screen the most daunting task of building a theater and though I'm a ways from being in the position of actually having to pull the trigger on one, I figured some of the more experienced AVS Forum members might be willing to help educate me.

When I see the options for screens and corresponding pricing, I can't wrap my brain around why some screens are so inexpensive and some so pricey. What is the difference in price between brands like Carada, SMX, Elite, Vutec, and Stewart, to just name a few...

Are the big ones like Stewart just making money on the name and reputation and operating on exorbitant margins or do their screens actually look that dramatically better in terms of acurately displaying color and contrast than some of the less expensive brands?

What are you actually paying for with the more expensive screens other than name? I know this is probably a totally loaded question and I don't mean to open a can of worms, but I'd like to invest in a screen that last a long time, looks impeccable and presents the material being projected with the greatest level of accuracy.

Whatever I get back on this is appreciated.
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post #2 of 12 Old 06-22-2012, 08:07 PM
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Looking forward to read the answers!

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post #3 of 12 Old 06-22-2012, 08:41 PM
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Just like a kia compared to a lexus.. what are you paying for?
Take a read of umr's screen fabric report ..
http://accucalhd.com/documents/accucal_front_projection_screen_report.pdf
How neutral is the screen, does the AT screen really mess the sound up? Is the gain what it is advertised as? Then there is the mechanical build of the screen motor,roller, frame etc.. You got go the store once a week and do errands the kia will get the job done but if you gota drive 150 one way to work, the lexus would probably be better..
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post #4 of 12 Old 06-23-2012, 06:17 AM
 
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It is a loaded question but the simple answer is yes there is a difference. The Stewart screens are custom made even their "standard sizes" and quick ship screens are custom. They are meticulously manufactured and checked. This type of manufacturing, quality control simply costs a lot more. The cheaper screens I'm sure could make probably hundreds maybe thousands of screens in the time it takes Stewart to make one. Here is the difference.

A basic white screen is vinyl which is made by squeezing the vinyl between rollers. The thickness of the vinyl can vary causing screen uniformity problems but the more expensive companies have better machines to limit the thickness problems. After the vinyl is made the screen is coated with a gain material (if it is a gain screen) and this is put on with a squeegee machine and this can also cause uniformity problems. Again the better manufacturers limit these. The screen is cut to size and then the finishing touches are put on like the black masking and snaps or whatever they are using to attach screens. This is a pretty much automated process. But the better companies do a considerably better job of this by making their own vinyl and controlling the process. Da-lite would be an example of this. Other companies might not have as good control or buy regular vinyl and apply a coating if gain is need. By regular vinyl I mean it wasn't designed as screen material just cheap vinyl you can buy.

By comparison to Stewart their vinyl and gain are combined and sprayed onto a ceiling so nothing drips onto other parts of the screen. So the gain is part of the screen material, It is taken off the ceiling and examined on both sides meticulously under high power lights inch by inch for any imperfections and uniformity. This is a manual process and done by humans and not machines. It is not automated. After that the screen is hung to cure in a temperature controlled room for sometimes 2 weeks. Then it is meticulously examined again. In the mean time the case or frame is manually made, again custom not rolling off an assembly line. Then the screen is assembled manually and it is attached etc. Stewart does have their common materials that have already been through curing and quality checks ready to go. Where they will cut it, make the frame or case and do the finishing touches so it doesn't take weeks or a month to get a screen. But if you want a custom screen including custom gains they do it. It does cost more and it is not relying on their name to inflate prices.

Now the big question is does it perform better and is it worth it. The answer is Yes and it depends. First off to see these benefits you need to see the whole screen. Comparing screen samples doesn't cut it. We have done this and rolled whole screens in and out of place. That is when you can see the difference. If I put a 1 foot sample side by side of similar screens it is tough to see the difference. The other question is budget. If you are spending say $5000 you will get much better performance out of a $4000 projector and $1000 screen then you will with a $4000 screen and $1000 projector. But, if you are spending say more than $10,000 I would go a model less projector and get a better screen. As with anything there is the law of diminishing returns.

A good screen will last a long time and similar to speakers won't be replaced that often compared to projectors or other electronics in the system. So some might invest in a better screen knowing they will upgrade their PJ in the future.

Now all that being said, screens are application driven and NO manufacturer makes a screen for every situation. So make sure the screens you are considering fits your application. You do get what you pay for with screens.
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post #5 of 12 Old 06-23-2012, 06:58 AM
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I am no expect on the subject but I do own a number of screens and as such believe that there is a difference in performance as you move up the price ladder. My first screen was a DIY job that was easily bettered by a Da-Lite HCCV screen. I lived with this for a few years but as projectors improved in terms of contrast and brightness, I decided that the HCCV screen had too many negative attributes so moved over to an Elite Sable screen with mat-white finish. This is a rather nice screen actually performance wise but is a PITA to assemble - very time consuming. Build quality would be on par or better than the Da-Lite for a fraction of the cost HOWEVER Elite HAS had problems in the past with screen uniformity so it can be hit or miss if you end up with a quality one. Elite is very open to swapping out defective material so at least they stand behind their product.

I ended up moving houses and had to move to a motorized screen instead of a fixed frame so purchased an Elunevision Luna in cinema grey. To be blunt, this screen, along with a Grey Wolf II I owned previously, is the worst screen I have owned. It sparkles, has color uniformity issues and the texture is just too apparent for me to enjoy viewing on it. Luckily it was only a short term (2 year) solution. Now that I have gotten around to building out a proper theater room, I had initially decided to go back to the Elite Sable screen when a deal on a Stewart Firehawk popped up that I couldn't refuse. Let me just say that the difference between the Elita Sable and the Stewart is VERY apparent. Build quality is second to none, with the frame having excellent construction and literally taking minutes to assemble. The screen material itself is also in a different league, being much thicker and of higher quality. Again, installation of the material onto the frame is a snap (no pun intended) and mounting the screen is a breeze as well, securing soundly to the wall with no chance to knocking it down etc.

I am now on the hunt for a Stewart white 130. I like the Firehawk but just switch to a JVC LCOS projector so would like to have a mat white scene instead since the JVC already has excellent black levels.

Good luck with your hunt for a screen.
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post #6 of 12 Old 06-24-2012, 10:14 AM
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As far as Stewart is concerned, I DO think they are worth the extra money. I started out with a Severtsen HC grey screen which was a nice screen, but had some ugly hot spot issues and a few other material problems I did not like. Then moved on to Carada.........long story short, I owned 3 of them and (2 BW and a CCW) and could not keep any. Between the way they ship the material which at the time came in no seperate tube to protect from the frame members which meant wrinkle city when you unrolled it (the wrinkles never went away in the few weeks I had the screens) and some strange horizontal type pattern I could see in the material (very faint, but it drove me nuts), Carada did not work for me. Then I moved onto Stewart and I finally found a screen I truly loved. The craftsmanship, the care put into packaging, the TRUE 1.3 gain (Carada claims 1.4 for the BW which has been shown to be closer to ~1.1 real world) and they know how to roll a screen for packaging and stick it in protective tube so it actually comes out wrinkle free. Also, no strange material surface issues like I found with Carada. So yes, in my Experience, at least with Stewart, all these things added up to the screen being worth the extra $$$. I ended up buying a 2nd ST130 when I decided to move from a 1.78 screen to a 9' wide 2.35 I liked the screen so much.

Having said all that, I now use a DaLite HP 2.8 screen which I love as well. It has pros/cons vs my ST130 (which I am going to sell here pretty quick to some lucky buyer as it was bought new and only has 2 months of use on it!), but overall for my room and my viewing habbits, I prefer it. Both are fantastic screens though and I would highly recommend either one depending on the room/needs/setup.

JVC 3D: Been there, done that, bought a DLP
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post #7 of 12 Old 06-24-2012, 10:36 AM
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I have little experience with screens, owing only my first. But honestly I don't know what more I could ask from the Elunevision Reference AudioWeave. It's to me a good sweet spot in quality versus price.

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post #8 of 12 Old 06-25-2012, 10:08 AM
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Having worked with many screens I would say it is a buyer beware world. This is why I put out my screen material report to help people know what many of the real world differences between screens are. This does not address the mechanical issues which can be significant as well.

If you are looking at a unity gain screen then there are many options that can work well. Once you introduce a significant level of screen gain or acoustically transparent material the options that deliver good results becomes much more restricted.

In the end always get a sample of the material you are interested in and look at it in your room with your projector before purchasing anything and compare it to one of the best on my list in that category to see how it really stacks up.
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post #9 of 12 Old 06-27-2012, 05:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I went down to a distributor I work with locally and had the chance to watch them play a JVC-X70 PJ on a Screen Innovations Black Diamond curved screen. I don't know a lot about that screen, but it was a dark grey screen material and looked brilliant in both full light and in darkened viewing.

My concerns were that the curve was evident the whole time and didn't add much to the experience. I always thought I liked curved screens but after closely analyzing it, I could see light spilling onto the felt bezel of the screen where the curve happened. I didn't care for that. On a purely image basis, I did like what I saw, but it maybe looked a little dark. Blacks were awesome, but whites seemed less brilliant than they should be. I don't have much to compare it to, but they carried SI, Vutec and DaLite. Unfortunately, only the SI BD was on display. I'm not sure if I'm better off looking at these brands or going with a Stewart.

If my budget is about $10K for projector and screen, and I'm thinking of the JVC LCOS PJ's like the X70, for instance, in a fully light-controlled room (75% films on Blu Ray and 25% HD cable TV), does it really get much better than getting a Stewart? I've never heard one bad thing about their quality, and I'd rather save up a little longer to get something that I'll stick with for years, rather than upgrade three or four times to get up to that screen. I've done that before on things and it's cost prohibitive. I have also read a litlle about SMX and their Acoustically transparent screens seem to get very good reviews and comments, as well.

Thanks for all of the great information to everyone who contributed! It is extremely helpful!
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post #10 of 12 Old 06-28-2012, 04:59 AM
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I would get the best and largest screen you possibly can.

Trying to sell even a great screen on the secondary market is torture... trust me, I know from experience.

You'll be lucky to get 25% of retail even if you've only had it a month! There are so many variables that come into play... size, material, AT, brand. You need to find exactly the right person to buy it for what it's worth. Otherwise, you need to lower the price so far so that someone will take a chance on it even though it's not exactly what they were looking for.

Just my .02
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post #11 of 12 Old 06-28-2012, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NuDLP View Post

and looked brilliant in both full light and in darkened viewing.

that in itself is worth some bucks, if you ask me. not all of us have the luxury of having a dedicated bat cave.
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post #12 of 12 Old 06-29-2012, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NuDLP View Post

Well, I went down to a distributor I work with locally and had the chance to watch them play a JVC-X70 PJ on a Screen Innovations Black Diamond curved screen. I don't know a lot about that screen, but it was a dark grey screen material and looked brilliant in both full light and in darkened viewing.
My concerns were that the curve was evident the whole time and didn't add much to the experience. I always thought I liked curved screens but after closely analyzing it, I could see light spilling onto the felt bezel of the screen where the curve happened. I didn't care for that. On a purely image basis, I did like what I saw, but it maybe looked a little dark. Blacks were awesome, but whites seemed less brilliant than they should be. I don't have much to compare it to, but they carried SI, Vutec and DaLite. Unfortunately, only the SI BD was on display. I'm not sure if I'm better off looking at these brands or going with a Stewart.
If my budget is about $10K for projector and screen, and I'm thinking of the JVC LCOS PJ's like the X70, for instance, in a fully light-controlled room (75% films on Blu Ray and 25% HD cable TV), does it really get much better than getting a Stewart? I've never heard one bad thing about their quality, and I'd rather save up a little longer to get something that I'll stick with for years, rather than upgrade three or four times to get up to that screen. I've done that before on things and it's cost prohibitive. I have also read a litlle about SMX and their Acoustically transparent screens seem to get very good reviews and comments, as well.
Thanks for all of the great information to everyone who contributed! It is extremely helpful!

With a dedicated light controlled room, I would go with a white screen every time for movie watching. Now if you are wanting to do a lot of sports and or gaming with the lights on, then I would consider a specialty screen.

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