Ever wonder where the speakers are inside a movie theater? Yes, it’s kind of dark even when the lights are on, but you don’t see any speakers in the front of the theater. You don’t see any speakers in the front because they are actually behind the screen through the use of an acoustically transparent screen.
An acoustically transparent screen gives you the ability to place speakers behind a projector screen. An acoustically transparent screen is usually made of a woven material that blocks light from passing through but allows sound to pass through without being distorted.
They are very useful for placing the speakers out of direct sight and behind the screen. Voices and other sounds have the effect of coming from the picture itself, rather than from the sides and below the projector screen.
There are many aspects to an acoustically transparent projector screen. You should consider a few different things before purchasing this type of screen, as they are typically more expensive than normal projector screens. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of the different types of acoustically transparent screens, reasons to use this type of screen, and more. We actually have an acoustically transparent screen in our living room, and we couldn’t be happier with it!
Pros and Cons of an Acoustically Transparent Screen
Pros of Acoustically Transparent Projector Screens:
- Ability to hide speakers behind the projector screen.
- You perceive both the image and sounds as coming directly from the screen. This is unmatched when compared to a system with speakers below and to the sides of the screen.
- The speakers are out of sight and out of mind. The speaker installation doesn’t need to look outstanding, as they are hidden with a permanent projector screen.
- Saves space. An acoustically transparent projector screen can fill a wall edge to edge if desired.
- The screen material is usually of a higher quality than standard screens.
Cons of Acoustically Transparent Projector Screens:
- Higher price tag. The material itself is usually woven which makes it more expensive than normal material.
- Possible moiré effect (visible lines in the screen), depending on a few factors.
- Slight degradation of image quality, depending on the quality of the screen used.
Reasons to Use an Acoustically Transparent Screen
There are a few reasons to use an acoustically transparent projector screen over a normal projector screen.
- Speakers Behind the Projector Screen: The Sound Comes from the Screen – Sound effects and dialog are both typically produced by the center, left, and right front channel speakers. An acoustically transparent screen lets you perceive the sounds as coming directly from the screen. Picture this, you have a large 100″+ image being projected in front of you with loads of sound coming directly from the screen. This really pulls you into the experience of the movie, show, etc. It’s truly an unmatched experience to when compared to a normal projector screen.
- Easier Speaker Installation – With a normal screen, you must deal with installing speakers in a good location but ensure the speakers are still pointing towards the viewers. Installing speakers beside and underneath the screen properly can be very difficult, especially if space is limited. You also don’t need to worry about how the speakers look because they are hidden. Using speakers behind the projector screen is how a home theater should be designed. Almost all actual movie theaters use this method because it is by far the best option!
- Bigger Screen Size – You can actually use a bigger sized projector screen in most cases because you no longer need room for speakers on the outside or around the screen. All speakers are simply located behind the screen, so if desired, you could use a projector screen that covers an entire wall!
Keep in mind, if you don’t plan on putting speakers behind the projector screen, then there really isn’t any reason to use an acoustically transparent screen over a standard projector screen. It’s going to cost you more money with almost no added benefits. If you’re looking for a normal projector screen, then take a look at our recommended projector screens page. This page is updated regularly to include the best price for quality projector screens on the market.
Woven vs Perforated Acoustically Transparent Screens
The two main types of acoustically transparent screens you’ll see are woven and perforated. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Next, we’ll explain exactly what a woven and perforated screen are, as well as, their pros and cons. There are tons of options for both woven and perforated projector screens out on the market. So, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for before you decide to make a large purchase.
Woven Projector Screens
A woven projector screen is made on a loom similar to how textiles are created. This woven effect provides a natural variation in the spacing and patterns on the screen. The pattern of the weave should be at a very precise diagonal angle.
A woven projector screen tends to allow sound to pass through better than a perforated screen. Most people believe woven screens are better than perforated screens when it comes to acoustic transparency, but this is a controversial topic and has no clear winner. Certain frequencies tend to be absorbed into the screen, but this is fixable by adjusting the eq of the speakers, so don’t worry too much about that. In general, woven projector screens do a pretty good job of allowing sound to pass through while blocking light from passing through the screen. However, there are a few issues that can occur with woven screens.
Possible Issues with Woven Screens
- Poor Color Temperature – The color temperature of red, blue, green, and yellow can appear brighter than intended. This happens because of slightly larger clusters of material in the woven fabric. Kind of like a dead pixel on a television that appears brighter than the other pixels. This larger cluster of material allows more light to be reflected off of it.
- Moiré Effect – The moiré effect is a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line pattern caused by an error in the weave of the material. If the weave is slightly loose or at an incorrect angle, it can match the lines of light produced by the projector. This is an undesirable effect on the screen as it is very distracting and a strain on your eyes. Higher quality woven screens will have a precise weave pattern to minimize this effect as much as possible.
- “Double Imaging” – A “double image” is caused when light from the projector passes through the screen and shines on the wall behind the projector screen. The light shining through the screen produces a second image on the wall which gives this double image effect that can be seen by the viewer. This effect is highly distracting and can completely ruin someones viewing experience. To fix this issue, simply add a black acoustically transparent fabric behind the screen. You could even paint the wall behind the screen a matte black to reduce or eliminate the double imaging.
Perforated Projector Screen
A perforated projector screen is made of a very strong material with thousands of very small perforated holes in it. (Perforated means to pierce and make a hole or holes in). Essentially there’s a ridiculous amount of holes poked in the material which allows sound to pass through the screen.
The material is typically made of a very strong PVC with holes that are usually less than .3mm in diameter. You are less likely to experience the double image effect with a perforated screen because the light does not pass through the screen very well. Woven materials have more space for light to pass through than a perforated screen, thus the likelihood of a double image is greater with a woven material than a perforated projector screen. Perforated projector screens do a better job than woven screens in regards to reflecting the projector’s light and not allowing it to pass through the material. However, perforated screens have different and sometimes more severe downsides than woven projector screens.
Possible Issues with Perforated Screens
- Moiré Effect – A perforated screen is more likely to experience the moiré effect than a woven screen. The projector’s image is more likely to match the lines pattern because the holes are typically not varied and very uniform. Cheaper perforated screens will easily fall victim to the moiré effect. Only high-end screens will perform exactly as intended with the least amount of trouble.
- Less Effective Acoustic Transparency – Perforated screens have small holes covering up to 10% of the total screen. Even with the thousands and thousands of holes, there is still not a whole lot of room for sound to move through. It’s hard to imagine these tiny holes allowing all of the sounds through without hearing a considerable amount of dampening. A lot of the sound at certain frequencies will bounce off of the screen rather than pass through. A perforated screen will definitely require you to adjust the eq and other settings to achieve the best results.
What is the Moiré Effect?
The moiré effect occurs when the pixel patterns of the projected image align precisely with the natural pattern of the projector screen. What occurs is a line or lines that run the length of the screen. These lines are very distracting and difficult on the eyes. The resolution of the projector is usually a large factor in causing this effect. A projector with a higher resolution is going to have more pixel lines in an area. For example, a 1080p (1920×1080) projector has 1920 pixel lines running horizontally and 1080 pixel lines running vertically. A 4K (3840×2160) projector has 3840 pixel lines running horizontally and 2160 pixels lines running vertically. A 4K projector’s pixel lines are more likely to match a projector screen’s pattern because of sheer volume.
The cause of the moiré effect is either the projector screen or the projected image. If you are able to see the pixel issue at a very short distance from the screen, then it is usually the projector causing the effect. If you are unable to see the pixel issue from a short distance from the screen, then it is likely the projector screen causing the issue.
How to Avoid the Moiré Effect on Acoustically Transparent Projector Screens
You can avoid the moiré effect on acoustically transparent screens by using a high-quality and smooth projector screen. Most of the newer AT screens on the market are what they call “4K” ready and should not have many issues with 4K or 1080p projectors. It’s best to look at the quality of both the projector and projector screen before making any decisions. If the resolutions match up and the build quality of the screen is good, then you should be okay. If you do experience the moiré effect, you can possibly eliminate it by adjusting the zoom/focus of the projector. This can misalign the pixel line and texture pattern enough to fix the issue. Check out our article on how to adjust the image of a projector, this will be extremely helpful if you happen to experience the moiré effect.
Choosing the Best Acoustically Transparent Projector Screen for Your Setup
There are many different brands of acoustically transparent projector screens out there and choosing one can be a difficult task. Should you choose a woven or perforated screen? What ratio should the projector screen be? What size screen should you get? How much gain should the screen have? These are some of the most common questions when picking a projector screen, and below I will do my best to answer them.
In general, I would suggest using an acoustically transparent screen from either Elite Screens (product on Amazon) or Silver Ticket Products (product on Amazon). Elite Screens and Silver Ticket Products manufacture high-quality screens at a fraction of the cost compared to the big name brands. Both of the linked screens are highly reviewed and come with easily assembled frames that even a complete beginner should be able to handle.
Should You Use Woven or Perforated Projector Screen?
After reading the descriptions and issues about both types of screens, you may be wondering, which should I use? Woven or Perforated? In my opinion, a woven acoustically transparent screen is the best option at this time.
Woven screens are much cheaper than perforated screens and still account for an amazing viewing experience. There may be a little more work involved to get rid of double imaging effect. But most of the woven screens on the market include a built-in black background. This fabric absorbs the extra light reflecting off of the wall behind the screen. The speakers will also perform better behind a woven screen when compared to a perforated screen at the same price point.
Projector Screen Ratio
Choosing the projector screen ratio is extremely simple. Your projector ratio and screen ratio should be the exact same! For example, if your projector has a native aspect ratio of 16:9 then your projector screen should also have a ratio of 16:9. If you use mismatching ratios, then you will end up with black bars on the top, bottom, and/or sides of the image. This will hinder the viewing experience and may cause all sorts of issues. Almost all non-commercial projectors have a native aspect ratio of 16:9. But make sure you know your projectors ratio before purchasing any projector screen!
Projector Screen Size
Choosing a screen size is very dependant upon the size of the room it will be located in. The size projector screen you can use is also determined by your projector. To calculate the widest screen size possible, take the distance from the projector placement to the screen divided by the throw ratio. For example, if your projector with a throw ratio of 1.25 and is positioned 12 feet (144 inches) from the wall, then the maximum screen width is 9.6 feet (115 inches). Notice that this is the maximum screen width not the diagonal measurement of the screen. So yes, you will need to do some math to get everything close enough, then you can utilize your projector’s zoom capability to make the final adjustments. Most projectors have a zoom capability, just be aware of how much it is able to zoom. Some projectors do not have a zoom capability. If this is the case, then your measurements will need to be very precise. Check out our helpful article on short throw projectors and using the throw ratio to calculate screen size and projector placement.
Projector Screen Gain
The projector screen gain is a measurement of how well the screen reflects light. Most projector screens have a gain between 1 – 1.2. As long as your projector has around 1500+ lumens, then you should be perfectly fine with a gain of 1 – 1.2, as long as there isn’t a ton of light entering the room. Gain really isn’t that big of a deal as long as the projector can produce plenty of light. To learn more about projector lumens, which is also correlated to projector screen gain, we have an extremely informative article all about projector lumens and how it relates to different situations.
Best Acoustically Transparent Screen for the Price
My top recommendation for an acoustically transparent screen is the Fixed Frame Screen with a Woven Acoustic Material (Amazon) by Silver Ticket Products.
This is an outstanding quality product for the price tag! It comes with a full 6-piece fixed frameset that includes all parts and materials needed with easy assembly instructions. The frame uses a 3 and 1/4 inch black velvet wrapped frame to absorb any overhanging light from the projector. A black border makes the image look much crisper and adds contrast to the image itself. It’s available from 92 inches all the way up to 150 inches. The frame uses two adjustable vertical support beams which allow you to move them out of the direct line of the speakers behind the projector screen.
It’s essential to not block any of the beautiful sounds being produced by the speakers behind a projector screen. The acoustical transparency of the screen is great and allows sound through with very little to no sound reduction. This kit even comes with a black backing to reduce any double imaging effect that may occur. The cloth is acoustically transparent as well and can be attached directly to the back of the screen if necessary. There are also 4 mounting brackets to securely attach the frame to the wall. I highly recommend this product for anyone that is looking for an acoustically transparent screen, is not extremely handy, and doesn’t have a massive budget.
DIY Acoustically Transparent Screen: How to Build Your Own
If you are a true DIYer, then you may want to build your own screen! This is a perfectly fine and viable option, just know, it is a long and tedious process to do this correctly. And you will need to have quite a bit of handiness to accomplish this task.
Here are some simple instructions for building your own acoustically transparent projector screen. This should be doable with a budget of less than $200, as long as you have all of the tools necessary.
- Get the material you want to use for the projector screen. As I mentioned earlier, woven screens are notoriously cheaper than perforated screens. A high-quality perforated screen is going to cost a pretty penny, but a nice woven screen is reasonably priced. Find the material you want, some manufacturers will let you purchase samples.
- Once you have the material, you will need to build some type of frame for it. The frame should match the aspect ratio of your projector as well, so keep that in mind.
- Wrap the frame in a black cloth or velvet so it absorbs the excess light from the projector. Stretching the material is probably the most difficult part of this process. The material must be tight across the entire area, otherwise, the screen will look “wavy” when an image is projected onto it. You can secure the material by stapling it into place.
- Once the material is tight and secured into place, finish the frame assembly and mount it on the wall.
I wouldn’t recommend building your own frame unless you really know what you are doing. There are many complications with it and it’s very difficult. But if you love projects like this, then, by all means, go for it!
In all, using an acoustically transparent projector screen is a great way to completely transform the home theater experience. The ability to place speakers behind the projector screen provides an immersive experience to the viewer. It’s how it should be done! So ditch the normal projector screen and get yourself an acoustically transparent screen. If an acoustically transparent projector screen won’t work for you and you want a different type of screen, then check out my recommended projector screens page.