Acoustical Imager Concept & Build Quality
Installing a full-blown front projection system in a home can be a rewarding yet frustrating experience. Having the room and the budget to accommodate a large screen, speakers, and a projector in a home is difficult. Selling the idea to your better half may be impossible. All of you that have significant others with minimalist design criteria know what I am talking about. The conversation about your new home theater still rings freshly in your mind "Honey that 27 inch TV and those little cube speaker would be perfect in our family room!" Ugggg!
Fortunately for those of you with a smaller budget and design concerns from the other half, a new product recently introduced by Da-Lite may make your dream of having a cinema-sized screen in your home a reality. Da-Lite Screen has partnered with JBL Audio and recently introduced the Da-Lite Acoustical Imager Screen. This is a fixed wall mount screen that incorporates the front left, center, and right speakers directly into the frame of the screen. The screen also comes complete from the manufacturer with a 10 inch, 150 watt powered subwoofer and two small satellite speakers to be used as the surrounds. This ingenious innovation now makes it possible to have a front projection system in just about any room for about the same price as a cube speaker system.
For the purposes of this review, I wanted to keep the budget to an absolute minimum. I ordered the 45 x 80 (92 inches diagonal) 1:78:1 screen with the High Contrast Cinema Vision material. This is a light gray material with 1.1 gain. This is the perfect size for my family room and my seated viewing position of about 15 feet back from the screen. From this distance one of the new low priced 854x480 models like the Optoma H31 DLP Projector will yield spectacular results. If you have a primary seated viewing position that is closer, a smaller screen may be necessary with a lower resolution projector. Smaller and larger sizes are available from Da-Lite.
Before unpacking the screen I recommend laying down a clean soft cotton bed sheet or drop cloth to prevent damaging or marring the velvet coating on the screen frame. Make sure you have clean hands or wear clean soft cotton gloves when handling the fame or screen material.
Upon opening the Da-Lite Acoustical Imager Screen box I found the contents well packed. The box contained the screen frame, screen material, frame mounting plate, instruction manual and five pieces of 18 AWG speaker wire. The manual is well written and easy to comprehend. The speaker wire supplied with the screen will work but I recommend the use of a larger gauge OFC wire. Laying out the frame upside down on the sheet, I noted that the frame was very well built. The speaker terminals mounted on the back of the frame are 5-way binding posts Though 14 gauge wire was the largest size that could be threaded though the post hole. If you use large diameter wire you will need to use spade or banana connections. Using a low torque cordless screw gun I was able to assemble the screen frame in just a few minutes.
Moving along, I carefully unpacked the screen material, leaving it rolled up. I began snapping it to the frame, unrolling the material a little at a time and alternating from top to bottom as I snapped. Using this method you are less likely to scratch the screen. Installing the screen frame was pretty straightforward. You will need at least two people to accomplish this task because the Da-Lite Acoustical Imager screen is fairly heavy. With the weight in mind, you will also want to attach the supplied mounting bracket to at least two wall studs and use heavy-duty wall anchors for any mounting holes that do not line up with studs. Once the wall bracket was attached to the wall, leveled, and at the correct height, the screen could be lifted onto the bracket.
Now that the screen frame was assembled and the screen material installed on the frame, I gave the front of the screen a close visual inspection. The Screen frame is contoured like a picture frame and the black Pro Trim velvet coating made the entire frame look elegant and refined. The black velvet Pro Trim not only looks nice but it also absorbs spill-over and reflected light. The center bottom frame rail and the center side frame rails house the JBL speakers. The speakers incorporate dual 3-inch midrange drivers and one 0.5-inch titanium laminate tweeter. The grills are removable but leaving them in place allows them to blend perfectly with the black Pro Trim, making them virtually invisible from the seated viewing position. Only a small JBL logo on each grill gives away their location.
I then unpacked the second box which contained the 10 inch subwoofer and the two surround satellite speakers. The satellite speakers use the same D'Appolito driver topography as the speakers mounted in the screen frame: two 3-inch midrange drivers and one 0.5-inch titanium laminate tweeter. Frequency response is listed as 100Hz-20kHz (-6dB) with a sensitivity of 88dB and nominal impedance of 8-ohms.
I want to be the first to congratulate and pat the back of the persons responsible for the design of this system. With regards to the satellite speakers, Da-Lite has thought of every possible installation scenario. The satellite speakers can be stand mounted or wall mounted. Da-Lite has even included the flexible wall mounts.
Here you see the speaker stand and the flexible ball mount provided with the kit. I commend the forward thinking by Da-lite for providing these options for installation. Standing only 11.5" tall x 4" wide x 3.5" deep, the satellite speakers' small, unobtrusive footprint make them easy to incorporate into any décor. Their elegant shapely design and modern silver/gray color should please even the most sophisticated designer.
The stand provided with the satellite speakers included cable management and concealed the spring post speaker terminals.
As is expected at Audioholics, we like to see how products, regardless of cost, are constructed. Removing the hidden screws and separating the enclosure, revealed the inner workings of the satellite speaker.
I was very surprised and even a little taken aback to see very good components used in the construction of the speakers, considering the cost of the kit. Note the use of enclosed shielded drivers and crossover placed between the midrange drivers and above the tweeter. High quality, high strand count speaker wire was used from the connection terminal to the crossover. The ABS molded enclosure was very solid and well-built.