Up for review is the Silver Ticket WVS 125″ 2.35:1 Acoustically Transparent Projection Screen – $519.
An acoustically transparent (AT) screen is a difficult balance to strike. It has to be both a mirror to light and a window to sound. For decades, an AT screen, like those found at your local cinema and allowing you to hide conspicuous and often ungainly speakers behind it, would cost thousands of dollars. For most of that time period, an AT screen brought substantial image quality compromises due to perforations in solid vinyl or PVC to allow both for light to be reflected and sound to pass through. These perforations aren’t noticeable from 50 feet away on a 50-foot screen, but on a 120” screen at 10 feet away, they certainly were.
In the last decade or so, woven fabric has taken over the bulk of AT screens on offer, offering tight weaves that are far less visibly noticeable than perforations in a solid material, while offering similar sound transparency to the grille cloth on any traditional speaker. Unfortunately, until four or five years ago, prices have remained high and quality AT screens priced north of $2,000 were difficult to justify for someone spending roughly that or less on a projector in the first place.
About 5 years ago, Silver Ticket Products released a line that shifted many price vs. performance paradigms in the fixed projection screen market. One of those products was fixed screens, ranging in size from 92″ to 165″, utilizing their WAB woven acoustically transparent material that made such quality screens available to a new category of front projection users. More recently, Silver Ticket launched a slightly higher-end variation of that material which they’ve labeled WVS with a slightly tighter weave to further decrease the impact on 4K image quality. When I contacted Silver Ticket regarding a review sample of the WAB screen, they kindly let me know about the new WVS material and sent along a 125” 2.35:1 aspect ratio screen frame and samples of both screen materials.
This review isn’t going to be about the merits of a wider aspect ratio 2.35:1 ‘scope (short for Cinescope) screen since the vast majority of projectors on the market don’t support it… but I will enthusiastically say if you have a projector that supports it (via power/memory zoom/shift or an anamorphic lens), or are considering one that will in the near future, please do yourself the favor of also considering a ‘scope screen. The immersion offered compared to a 16:9 aspect ratio screen of the same height is thoroughly impressive in a way you can’t fully understand without experiencing it. I moved mountains, or more specifically gave up my B&W tower speakers and replaced them with Monoprice Monolith THX-LCR in-wall THX-ULTRA speakers, to accommodate the screen Silver Ticket sent me… and even if those speakers weren’t phenomenal (which they are), I still wouldn’t regret going ‘scope even for a minute.
Design, Build, and Assembly
One of the ways Silver Ticket keeps prices down is by selling directly to consumers both through their own website (www.silverticketproducts.com) and through Amazon. You might think those low prices include subpar or mediocre build quality… and you would be decidedly wrong. Silver Ticket’s fixed frame screens are made from extruded aluminum with beveled edges wrapped in crushed black velvet to hide any overspill from a less-than-perfect image. Once assembled, the joints where these pieces meet are barely visible from 1-2 feet and completely indistinguishable from viewing-distance.
What that low price also doesn’t include is a custom installer to assemble and hang the screen for you. You’ll be doing it yourself, but it’s not as daunting as it may seem at first pass. The outer screen frame arrives in 6 pieces easily joined by included hardware, along with two vertical spars to improve overall rigidity. The screen material is affixed to the frame through 50 or so small springs and a system of fiberglass rods that pull it taut without any wrinkles or waves. While assembly is not an intimidating process when you get into, you wouldn’t know it from looking at the include instructions or, more specifically, lack thereof. While the printed instructions are tertiary at best, Silver Ticket will quickly point you to a YouTube video detailing screen the screen assembly process, and rightfully so. The video is clear, concise, offers an obvious visual description of how all the pieces fit together. Everything the manual (leaflet really) included in the box doesn’t show, the how-to video shows clearly and without confusion.
Once the frame is assembled, it hangs on a set of two cleat-style brackets at the top and secured with two clamping brackets at the bottom. Getting all this hardware attached to the wall (either via a stud or the included anchors) is probably the trickiest part of the installation. Since the two cleats are independent of each other, they need to independently be hung at the same height. Taking measurements from the floor, baseboard, or ceiling leave room for error and it’s always possible those reference points aren’t level, to begin with, either. I highly recommend a laser level so you’re guided by gravity and a beam of light, but it can still be done successfully without one. The bottom brackets don’t need to be quite as exact as the top since there’s room to take up some slack in the clamping mechanism, but they do need to at least be in the ballpark. Still, once installed, the screen is extremely solid and secure.
As far as tooling is concerned, all you need for assembly is a Philips screwdriver. As far as actually getting the screen up on the wall, I’d say a power drill and tape measure is the bare minimum, and a stud-finder and laser-level would fall in the highly-recommended category. That said, if you hung the 65” LCD in your living room, you won’t have any trouble assembling or hanging a Silver Ticket screen. I’ll admit that this was not the first Silver Ticket screen I’ve assembled (the other being a 106” High Contrast Grey model around 3 years ago), but assembly was still complete in around 25 minutes, with another 20 minutes to hang and level the screen.
Also included in the box is a black backing material, also acoustically transparent, that can be affixed to disguise any items behind the screen that might show through (like unpainted white in-wall speakers on a dark wall). With my flat-black screen wall and flat-black in-wall speakers, this was not needed and was not used.
Since I’m reviewing a 2.35:1 aspect ratio version of the Silver Ticket WVS screen, I had to do so with a projector capable of compensating for that aspect ratio. My Epson Home Cinema 4000 does so via a combination of programmable memory power zoom and lens shift. Via the projector’s remote, I adjust the screen to fit the screen’s height in a 16:9 aspect ratio, save that position in the projector’s memory, and then do the same for a 2.35:1 image. Out of pure preference, and to the chagrin of aspect ratio purists the internet over, I actually programmed my projector to fill the screen height with a 2.4:1 image with some spill to the left and right which I lopped off with the projector’s horizontal blanking adjustment. Much like the tiny black bars at the bottom of a 16:9 screen when viewing a 1.85:1 film, you get the same slivers of annoyance with 2.4:1 films on a 2.35:1 screen. More and more big-budget films (which, like the plebe I am, I enjoy profusely) are using the 2.4:1 aspect ratio these days, and the tiny black bars remaining at the bottom of a 2.35:1 screen are like nails on a chalk-board. Sue me.
After dialing in the projector’s aspect ratio memory (including stops for 1.85:1 and the increasingly-popular-on-streaming 2:1), I had Charles from CineTune AV in Atlanta come out to perform a full ISF calibration on my projector paired with the Silver Ticket screen. This is a process I’m going to write-up in more detail for HTF soon, but I’ll say here it’s an extremely in-depth process, and the results were wholly impressive. For quite a while I’d written off HDR on front projection as a fool’s errand. Projectors just don’t have the available brightness or contrast ratio to do it justice, so we should just hunker down with SDR and wait for lasers to fix everything… or so I thought. Having separate discrete calibrations for SDR and HDR saved in memory turned me around 180-degrees and I’m now convinced that, with proper calibration at least, HDR on even mid-range projectors can be quite impressive. I also thought that having the projector calibrated to this screen would give it the most fair-shake at a legitimate review, with no bias introduced from the projector not being as well-matched to it as possible.
One of the things that Charles immediately noticed as he set up his calibration equipment was how much he COULD NOT notice the weave of the WVS screen material. From 1-2 feet, it’s easy to tell it’s a woven material. From 3 feet, it simply looks slightly textured. From 4-5 feet, it’s nearly impossible to tell it’s a woven screen at all. All this to say that the woven WVS material does not impede the resolution of a 4K image (achieved via pixel-shifting, in my case) in the slightest.
I’ve had a fair share of screens made of different materials come through my theaters over the past 13 or so years as a front-projection user, and I’ve seen plenty of solid-surfaces (both DIY and commercial products) that have more perceivable texture than the Silver Ticket WVS screen material. A painted sheet-rock wall, which is by no means a gold-standard as a projection surface but a common one none-the-less, has more notable texture than the WVS screen. A DIY spandex screen, which comes with a notable hit to gain (how much light the screen reflects back to the viewer) but does the trick for AT on the cheap, has as much or more texture. A high-gain solid vinyl/PVC screen with Formica-based reflection enhancement definitely has a more visible texture. Basically, anything that is not a solid vinyl/PVC material without reflective enhancement is going to have as-much-or-more apparent texture than the WVS screen material, which has ever-so-slightly less than the slightly-cheaper WAB material that Silver Ticket also offers. This is a smooth screen with even reflectivity, no hot-spots, no moiré often associated with perforated AT screens… just a smooth, clear, clean image reflected back with as much apparent resolution as the projector beamed on it can muster. As such, it’s a pretty darn good mirror in one key way it needs to be.
Mirrors can, however, distort. Just as a fun-house mirror can make you look tall and skinny or short and fat, a screen can shift colors, enhance black levels with grey material, or reflect more light directly at the viewer than a matter white 1.0 gain material to enhance brightness. The Silver Ticket WVS material doesn’t try to do any of these things, and it succeeds spectacularly in the process. It’s matte white of roughly the same shade as a sheet of printer paper. Its manufacturer-quoted 1.1 gain may sound like it’s trying enhance brightness, but it really isn’t. There’s no shift in colors, brightness, or black levels in any meaningful way, or at least none that weren’t easily compensated for in the projector calibration process.
While Charles from CineTune AV did an extremely thoroughly good job dialing in the SDR color-space of the projector/screen combination, the minimal amount of deviation from the projectors already reportedly decent out-of-the-box calibration (a delta E of ~8 pre-calibration, where anything over 3 is visible) to get it in-line (delta E of ~2.2 post-calibration, i.e. not perceptible to the human eye) was a testament to how little the screen impacted the image shown on it. You get back from it what you shine on it, nothing more and nothing less.
Through the course of my Monolith THX-LCR review, I tested those speakers both behind this AT screen with their grilles off for film content as well as without the screen but with their metal grilles on. In further listening with the screen re-installed, I revisited the same music material for comparison. I heard absolutely no difference in the speakers’ performance with the screen in-place and sans speaker grilles vs. just the speakers with their included grilles. While I’m somewhat equipped to take audio measurements (with possession of a Dayton UMM-6 calibrated measurement microphone and a fledgling understanding of Room EQ Wizard measurement software), I’m not convinced any sonic impact from the screen (quoted by the manufacture at less then 0.02db) would even be measurable, obfuscated by the fact that my room’s frequency response would dominate the results far more than any impact of the screen. Long-and-short is the screen has no greater impact on the sound of the speakers behind it than the aesthetic grilles the speaker manufacturer themselves included in the box. Or, in other words, a clear window to the sound behind it.
While this review focuses solely on the slightly (~20% at current pricing) more expensive WVS screen material, I did also take a look at the less expensive WAB material. While, under close inspection, I could see a discernable difference in the tightness of the weave of these two materials, I’m not sure it would be at-all visible from 5 feet and surely not from a regular viewing distance. I can’t comment on the sonic qualities of the WAB material, but both are quoted with the same 0.02db drop in SPL. They are also quoted as having the same 1.1 gain in brightness. In fact, the Silver Ticket website is completely devoid of any distinguishing characteristics between the two other than the slightly tighter weave of the WVS material. Silver Ticket says both the WVS and WAB material will co-exist in their product offerings. With such close pricing and little technical differentiation, I would be surprised if that is the case long-term. While it’s purely conjecture, I would expect that either the WVS material’s pricing will increase or the WAB material will be phased out. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong with either offering at their current prices… or even 50% more than what they’re currently selling for.
Much like the two-way glass in a Law and Order interrogation room, the Silver Ticket WVS Acoustically Transparent screen is both completely successful in being a mirror for what you want to see and a window for what you want to hear. It’s not trying to do any magic to improve your projector’s image… that’s not its job. It’s simply reflecting what you shine on it unaltered while also letting sound pass through unhindered and uncolored. That word, uncolored, is the best way to describe the WVS screen material’s performance in every way that matters. In the context of what it’s supposed to do, I don’t think there’s a better compliment to pay it, either.
While the included printed documentation is severely lacking, it still serves an important purpose. It’s an excellent coaster for the beer you’ll crack open while assembling the screen. Luckily, this is a one-beer job once you give Silver Ticket’s extremely helpful assembly and installation video a watch… quick enough that the condensation won’t even soak through the paper.
If you’re a DIY type that wouldn’t be caught dead farming out a job to a custom-installer, a Silver Ticket screen is for you. Better yet, if you can put together an Ikea bookshelf, a Silver Ticket screen is probably for you. If you can’t remember right-tightey/lefty-loosey, I’m pretty sure you could still cobble a Silver Ticket screen together with only a few swear words. If you’ve already hung your projector on the ceiling or assembled the shelf it’s currently sitting on, ditching the beige wall you’re currently projecting on should be high on your to-do list, and a Silver Ticket screen is the way to do it… and at a price you can easily stomach in relation to how much you paid for the projector you’re using with it. That uneven beige wall is a disservice to even a $500 projector when less than $200 will get you a fixed screen that will elevate your viewing experience and rob you of only 45-minutes of your time.
- Unbeatable price/performance ratio
- Extremely tight weave, indistinguishable from a solid screen material from 4-5’
- No perceivable impact on sound quality from speakers placed behind the screen
- Solid build quality with no deviations in screen material flatness or visible seams/joints in the frame
- One-beer ease of assembly and installation
- Nearly useless printed instructions
- Some tooling required for best results hanging the screen level-and-true
- Minimal manufacture differentiation between WAB and WVS materials
- Epson HC 4000 Projector, ISF Calibrated by Charles of CineTune AV, Atlanta, GA
- Monoprice Monolith THX-LCR In-Wall THX-ULTRA Speakers
- Marantz SR6011 AVR
- Emotiva XPA-3 Gen1 3-Channel Amplifier
- Panasonic UB420 UHD Blu-Ray Player
- Nvidia Shield TV Pro 2017
- Fluance RP80 Turntable
- Monoprice Ultra-Slim 18.2gbps Short HDMI Interconnects
- Amazon Basics Fiberoptic 18.2gbps Long HDMI to Projector
- Revelation Neo/Nova/Trilogy Analog Interconnects
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