Screens have a problem: you can’t see through them. Ok, so this isn’t a problem per se, but more like a feature that allows them to function as a screen. The light from a projector has to bounce off something for you to see it, and using your retina for this is ill advised.
The Enlightor 4K from Seymour Screen Excellence features an unique woven screen material.
So a well-designed reflective surface will reflect the light and maybe aim it a bit so that more of the light bounces toward your eyes and less toward the ceiling. This is all well and good, but if you want a big screen, where do you put the speakers? Putting them in front of the screen causes shadows, of course, so your options are placing them next to the screen or behind it. The larger the screen, the farther apart the speakers have to go if placed next to the screen, and this may create extra installation or sonic challenges. Behind the screen is appealing, especially because it puts the sound in line with the visuals. A normal screen, though, with its dense material, will muffle the sound of any speaker, limiting audio fidelity.
A long time ago, people far smarter than I am figured out that you can poke tiny holes in a screen, and from a distance, the holes are invisible, and the sound comes out mildly unmolested. This worked great for a long time, and most movie theaters use “perf” screens to this day. The pixels of digital projection, though, poked some holes in the, um, holes. The pesky pixels often “interacted” with the holes in the screen, causing moiré patterns. Moiré is a French word that means “crap that makes my eyes hurt.”
There were two fixes: smaller holes or woven screen materials. A few companies have found success with “micro-perf” designs, while other companies have developed screens woven with tiny fibers. This creates a random perforation ensuring there’s no interaction with the projector. The Enlightor 4K from Seymour Screen Excellence is of this variety, and up close, it is unlike any screen you’ve ever seen. Even with your face on it, you can’t really tell it’s a woven screen material.
In my initial talks with SSE about this review, I mentioned that I had a 12-foot wide, 2.35:1 dropdown screen. The 16 x 9 image was 102 inches, and my speakers were below and to either side of the screen. I was told: “You know, with an acoustically transparent screen like ours, you can go much larger because you don’t need to worry about speaker placement.”
“Larger, you say? Go on…”
So my review screen is a 131.9-inch, 16 x 9 behemoth. The screen is taller than I am. Placing the speakers behind it means that it’s further into the room than my reference screen, so I am sitting eight feet away. This is 1.5 times the picture height, and it’s awesome. It provides all that is good about sitting near the front of a movie theater (nearly your entire field of vision filled) with none of the bad (a stiff neck).
So with the screen in place, there were three main things for me to test: possible sound loss, possible light loss, and any noticeable improvement in enjoyment with the voices coming from the screen instead of below or beside it. Regarding the latter, it’s a subtle difference that’s more akin to a movie theater than I realized. The disconnect between faces and voices isn’t as big a deal in most cases, but lining them up is pretty cool.
From the light loss side, I measured roughly 24-percent less light with the same size image as compared to my 1.0-gain “regular” screen. SSE tells me that this is slightly more loss than others have found with their screens, though given the variables inherent in brightness measurements, I stand by my results. Regardless, as long as this potential light loss is incorporated into what size screen and projector you choose, I honestly don’t think it’s a big deal.
Even with your face on it (or Abe Lincoln’s in this case), you can’t really tell that Seymour Screen Excellence’s Enlightor 4K projection screen features a woven screen material.
The Enlightor 4K is an extremely thin material, so anything reflective or lit behind the screen will be visible to eyeballs in front of the screen. The black center bracing required of larger screen frames casts overt shadows if there’s a lot of light behind the screen. An optional black fabric backing is shipped with the 4K to minimize this light leakage, but this fabric adds a problem of its own.
No screen can be truly acoustically transparent, and despite SSE’s claims, there is a noticeable dulling of high frequencies, exacerbated by the optional thick black backing fabric. It was as if the screen was taking the edge off and tapping down the treble. Was the change substantial? No, but it was a change. Those seeking pure fidelity likely wouldn’t put their speakers behind a screen to begin with, but this mild dampening was perceptible enough for mention.
For certain installs, the best option is placing the speakers behind the screen. This allows for much larger screens in many rooms, plus voices come from faces. You potentially could get much larger speakers, given they won’t block the screen. You lose some light and audio fidelity going this route, but in case of the SSE screen, there are no overtly objectionable artifacts.
There are going to be tradeoffs with any theater setup. With SSE’s Enlightor 4K, you must weigh the flexibility–and hidden nature–of speaker placement and size versus what some may perceive as a less bright (or smaller) video image and potentially duller high-frequency audio.
No visible texture or interactions with a projector. Voices come from faces.
Material thinness lets any light behind the screen come through. Reduces high frequencies somewhat. Less light than 1.0 gain screen.
■ Up to 20-foot maximum screen height
■ 0.98 screen gain (claimed)
■ Also available retractable and with masking
■ As tested: $4,309, fixed frame Enlightor 4K screens start at $2,500 up to approximately $5,000