Epson Premiere Ensemble, The Ultimate Do-It-Yourself Hi-Def Home Cinema System

Epson_Premiere.jpgHome cinema means high-def projector, surround-sound speakers, a booming subwoofer, and putting some custom installer's kid through college. Epson knows projector setup is a pain, so it has developed the Premiere Ensemble a system that's supposed to get you from in-the-box to in-the-couch in four hours. It's not cheap: the kit that includes a 1080p projector will cost $7,000 and the 720p option is $5,000. But as long as you've got a trusty studfinder and a B+ in shop class, you should be able to cobble it together. It's not just a do-it-yourself kit, either—hidden within the structure is an innovative 5.1 sound system that rather kicks ass. Get this: the front speakers are inside the 100-inch motorized screen. The rear surrounds point out from the projector mount itself. And all of the wiring from front to back is nestled inside a conduit that mounts surreptitiously to your ceiling. In addition to your choice of projector, there's a subwoofer, which contains all of the audio amplification. There's a universal remote preprogrammed with macros to get everything into movie mode. Then there's the command center, an integrated HDMI A/V controller with integrated DVD player. It also has all of the cables and mounting brackets, so no need for the salesman to sweet talk you into buying a box of overpriced add-ons.

The sound system was designed by Atlantic Technology, a favorite "affordable" brand among audiophiles. It's a 60-watt center channel, and 35 watts each for the other four speakers, but it gets nice and loud. The projector is great; at its core is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 we have raved about. The integrated DVD player upscales to the projector, but you still need to provide your own HD source, if you want it.

Bottom line is that this is a good value, but it's not the equivalent of an under-the-drywall pro installation—not that I recommend that. I guess what I'm really saying is that, if this thing is assembled and mounted with care, your friends will be impressed. But if you embark on the project with a beer in one hand and a power drill-driver in the other, your friends will totally know.

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