This is not sponsored content – the screen was purchased at full cost by us for our Simple Home Cinema re-build. Selby did not ask us for a review, but we were so impressed with the product’s quality at this price that we decided to do one.
As I mention in my review of Krix’s Wall of Sound, we were thinking of designing and building a custom DIY speaker system that could accomplish something similar to the Krix system without the steep cost.
In addition, we wanted speakers that had really high efficiency – preferably with compression drivers as used in Krix’s high-end speaker systems for commercial cinemas – and their top of the range consumer systems. You will hear about the fruits of our labour soon hopefully, so do subscribe.
In any case, to accomplish this, I needed to rebuild the front wall of my home theatre to accommodate the speakers – and with that install an acoustically transparent screen.
A bit of a preview below which only shows the half-height 30 litre boxes for now, but watch this space...I'll also note here that the treatment for the enclave is carpet and acoustic foam, but this is only temporary as the boxes will be built up full-height as well as subs built and installed. If this wasn't the case, the enclave would need to be treated with R4 or R6 insulation everywhere there are no speakers - basically called a baffle wall. So don't take this as good practice but work in progress...
Choosing a Projector Screen
I have had some bad experience with commercial screens before, so I was not exactly looking forward to picking yet another one. I was especially concerned about surface texture, brightness uniformity and any other visual artefacts that could pop up. Another consideration was the possible light loss you get with an AT screen.
We do have quite a few local options here in Australia. However, after reading an excellent thread on AVSForum that tested different acoustically transparent materials, it was clear that there was a lot of variation both in terms of acoustical performance and visual performance.
Add to this the fact that I have a JVC NZ8 projector in my home theatre and most of the screens aren’t really tested with an 8K projector, let alone certified to that standard.
However, after reading said thread, it was clear to me that XYScreens Soundmax 4K screen material seemed to be the right trade-off between visual fidelity, acceptable light loss and audio fidelity. Of course, as the name suggests, the material is rated for 4K.
Now the question was whether I would import the material and build a custom screen – not a small job – or I could find a local retailer with a screen that had similar performance.
Selby Encore Acoustically Transparent Screen
After reviewing all the local options, I came across Selby’s Encore AT screen range, on which the weave looked eerily familiar. If you have a look at the two images below and zoom in, you’ll see what I mean. The weave between the Selby screen and the Soundmax 4K is virtually identical as far as the images go.
Now whether they are identical in terms of their weave is probably immaterial. The question is whether the performance matches the Soundmax 4K.
I ended up ordering the 125″ 16:9 screen as I already had top masking installed so I could lower the mask and make it into any sort of aspect ratio I would need.
Packaging and Assembly
The screen arrived in a couple of days very well packed. I was dreading the installation but I was pleasantly surprised:
- The material was very well packed, and it was obvious it had been handled with care in the factory.
- The frame was quick to put together and was very solid.
- The mounting system used springs, which is actually the best mounting system you can have for a screen as it reduces the risk of over-stretching the fabric which can cause stretch marks or lines on the screen. Thankfully, this screen had neither.
- The wall brackets were easy to mount on the wall
Due to the spring mounting system, there was no need to stretch the fabric in any way, which is what I disliked in a few previous commercial screens that I had. In fact, this was the easiest installation I have had with a projector screen.
The only challenging thing – with any screen – are the tensioning rods in the middle of the screen, which need to be put in place after the fabric has been mounted onto the frame. The tensioning bars did require a bit of force and removal of a few spring hooks to get them in place, but I managed in the end.
Once done, we hung the screen on the wall and turned the projector on… and held my breath.
Moment of Truth…
- Was I going to notice the brightness drop?
- Was I going to be find any damage on the screen material due to manufacturing or assembly?
- Was it going to have a screen texture?
- Was it going to resolve 4K properly? What about 8K?
What I was greeted with was just a superbly sharp and bright image with excellent contrast and zero texture from any sane seating distance – anything over 1 metre.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I sat down to watch some familiar material and invited my partner in for the demo. His first comment was: “Oh that looks bright… I mean in all the right places!”. Yes, maybe a slightly amusing comment from a layman, but it sums it up perfectly; I can confirm that visually, there was no noticeable drop of brightness from a 1.0 gain screen surface. Of course, I will provide some measurements at the bottom of this article for a more objective evaluation, but by eye, there was no damage done to brightness, and I do like a bright image.
Ultimately, I increased the manual iris from -8 to -6 on the NZ8 which by eye looked about equivalent compared to the previous unity gain screen.
As I said earlier, there were no visual anomalies to the screen that I could see, and I have watched around 50hrs of content on this screen so far. Time and again, I am struck by the transparency of the projected image and lack of visual artefacts: no texture, no lines, no moire on challenging material, no distractions. This is coming from someone who is incredibly picky with any sort of visual anomalies, and hence my unfavourable review of Elitescreens’ Cinegrey 3D and 5D. We are talking about a totally different league here – even just in terms of care taken with manufacturing.
In terms of sharpness, it is sharper than my previous projection surface and can easily resolve 4K. In fact, switching eShiftX 8K on and off is obvious on this screen, which wasn’t at all obvious on the previous projection surface, which means the screen can resolve better than 4K, even if not all the way to 8K. I don’t have 8K test tools with me to verify. However, I can report it visibly does better than 4K.
HDR performance is also great with highlights popping and colours looking appropriately saturated and very well defined.
I have tried the screen with and without its black backing. While it sounds a little better without the black backing, removing it destroyed contrast due to backlighting, which is the phenomenon of projected light passing through the screen and reflecting back from behind it.
You would need triple velvet behind the screen to really achieve minimal backlighting, and even then there would be some (around 2-3% reduction of contrast at the minimum). This is not unique to this screen but happens with all acoustically transparent screens.
So my opinion is to keep the black backing on, which is how these screens are designed. Instead, while I was waiting for the new speakers to be CNC-ed and then putting them together, I decided to take the speaker grills off my current set and aim them at a slight angle into the screen. The left and right speakers were slightly toed in and pointed upwards while the centre speaker was pointed slightly upwards with the slightest of angle to the left.
This improved audio substantially to the point where the audio quality loss due to the interference from the screen was not obvious. In fact, the centre speaker being behind the screen projected the audio forward with a lot more authority and clarity than prior from under the screen. This was most obvious in the back row seats where the sound no longer had trouble clearing the headrest of the couch in front.
In addition, steering in the front sound stage became a lot more stable due to all front speakers being at the same height: there was no longer a strange dip down into the centre speaker as sound was panning left to right – or vice versa.
All of these positives really negate the very slight loss of audio quality, which happens with all acoustically transparent screens. However, once the much larger – and more efficient speakers were put behind the screen, there was a substantial increase of audio quality. This wouldn’t have been possible without an AT screen as I wouldn’t have been able to accommodate such large speakers without it. But there’s more to come in terms of speaker upgrades with the ability to go full height – accommodating 60 litre boxes, as well as two large matching subwoofers behind the screen. All of this enabled by the new AT screen material.
So I promised some measurements and here they are:
- Unity grain white screen: 72nits (100%)
- Selby Encore AT Screen: 60nits (83%) – 18% light loss
- Another popular AT screen: 57nits (79%) – 21% light loss (there’s definitely additional light loss compared to the Encore of around 3%).
So I would conclude that since my measurements are VERY close to XY Screen’s Soundmax 4K, and since the weave looks identical, I would say that the material either comes from the same supplier or they have arrived at the same weave through testing. We should remember that EliteScreens uses the same weave for their AcousticPro UHD screen as well, so it is obviously a popular design.
The other AT screen used for the control point is a unique design, with a looser weave, more light loss, less apparent sharpness and costs about 30% more compared to the Encore.