Wolf PRO-617 4K/UHD DLP Projector at CES 2018

wolf pro-617

Most of the 4K/UHD DLP projectors I’ve seen have been underwhelming, with poor contrast and, in many cases, lots of rainbow artifacts. However, I saw one at CES 2018 that far exceeded my expectations: the Wolf PRO-617.

Wolf Cinema is probably best known for its home-theater projectors based on LCoS—or, more specifically, JVC’s D-ILA imaging technology. But the company also offers models based on DLP and even LCD. The PRO-617 is a DLP model co-designed and sourced by Wolf from a leading Asian production team.

The Wolf PRO-617 utilizes Texas Instruments’ 0.67″ 4K/UHD DMD (Digital Micromirror Device), which has 4 million micromirrors that are quickly wiggled back and forth to generate 8 million pixels on the screen. A single chip reproduces the red, green, and blue color components of the image sequentially with an RGBRGB color-filter wheel. The 240W UHP lamp is spec’d to produce 2200 ANSI lumens, with a lifespan from 4000 to 15,000 hours, depending on the mode. The dynamic contrast ratio is said to be 800,000:1.

The throw range extends from 1.40 to 2.25 times the screen width, and a manual vertical lens-shift control has a range of about 15%. There is no horizontal lens shift. Inputs include one HDMI 1.4a and one HDMI 2.0/MHL 2.1 with HDCP 2.2 that can operate at 18 Gbps. The Wolf PRO-617 can reproduce HDR10 high dynamic range, and it offers an HDR-emulation mode for SDR sources.

At CES 2018, Wolf was mostly demonstrating its $50,000 flagship TXF-5000 laser-illuminated D-ILA projector, which is based on the JVC DLA-RS4500. The screen was a 130-inch-wide, 2.39:1 Seymour-Screen Excellence Ambient-Visionaire Black 1.2 with SSE’s new bias-lighting kit, which is a sweet piece I will write about separately. The source was a Kaleidescape Strato 4K movie server, and the audio was provided by AudioControl electronics and a 5.2 Dynaudio speaker system.

That system looked and sounded fantastic, as any demo in which Wolf is involved usually does. But as I was about to leave, Jim McGall, Director of Sales at Wolf Cinema, said he also had a Wolf PRO-617 on hand and asked if I wanted to see it. Given my previous experience with 4K/UHD DLP projectors, I wasn’t too hopeful, but I said, “Sure, why not?”

He took it out of the box, pointed it at the screen, did a very rough alignment, and connected it to a RedRay 4K movie server. The projector was in its out-of-box condition; Jim did no calibration whatsoever. However, he pointed out that all Wolf Cinema projectors are calibrated at the factory before being shipped.

We watched some clips from Lucy in 4K SDR, and I was amazed at the image quality. The blacks were much deeper than I’ve seen from just about any other 4K/UHD DLP projector, the detail was nice and sharp without being over-enhanced, and the colors were very natural. Also, I saw almost no rainbows at all, even in shots that would normally bring them out! I could have watched that image all day.

Then he told me the price: $5995. Wait, what? That’s very inexpensive for a Wolf projector and in the same ballpark as a midrange JVC or Sony. Even better, it’s been shipping for three months already.

In the next two months or so, the Wolf PRO-617 will be joined by a laser-illuminated version, the PRO-817, for $9995. It’s spec’d to produce 3000 ANSI lumens with a dynamic contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 and a light-engine lifespan of 20,000 hours, but everything else will be about the same as the PRO-617. I expect the laser light engine to look even better than the lamp-based version, so I can’t wait to see it for myself.