Many people have heard of acoustically transparent screens, and most of us may have seen it, but many aren’t aware that they’re looking at one. That’s because movie theaters usually use them and we’re not really at liberty to inspect one, right?
It’s a nice-to-have for your media room, but can you actually have one? Stick around to find out if it’s even possible to incorporate it with your home theater system. We’ll discuss acoustically transparent screens, the types that you can use, and the pros and cons of using one for your media room in great detail.
Check out my top picks for home theater projector screens.
What is an Acoustically Transparent Screen?
Most of us haven’t paid attention to it, but if you did, you’d notice that there are no speakers at the front and side of the screen in a movie theater. We can’t see it, but we know that we’re hearing heart-pounding, front-firing speakers. Well, that’s the idea behind an acoustically transparent screen!
Acoustically transparent screens are made up of woven material that allows sounds to pass through without distortion. These screens deliver a better experience because they create an illusion that the A/V is coming from one direction. You get the same quality, but not from the sides of the screen.
Its goal is to create a space that you can use to hide cumbersome, clunky speakers from sight without affecting the sound quality. Most acoustically transparent screens use woven or perforated fabric, but you can actually use any material. As long as it blocks light and doesn’t affect the sound quality, you can use it for your home theater system.
It’s probably the best type of projector screen that you can get for your media room, but they’re far more expensive than the other options we have. So it would be best if you know the advantages and disadvantages of using acoustically transparent screens before you actually use one.
Advantages of Acoustically Transparent Screens
If you can shell out extra cash for your home theater set up, an acoustically transparent screen should be on top of your list. Aside from providing you with a better viewing experience, here are the other things that’ll make you want one for your set up:
It makes your room less cluttered
With enough space behind your projector screen, you won’t have to worry about the cumbersome side and center speakers.
The video and audio are coming from the same direction
Unlike conventional setups where you place the speakers at the sides and below the screen, acoustically transparent screens create an illusion that the sounds are directly coming from the video.
Speaker installation is easier and cheaper
Since the speakers are out of sight, you can connect your speakers to the amplifier without worrying about how your setup looks! You can take it even further by using a wireless receiver for your rear speakers.
It creates more room for your speaker
Some media rooms don’t have enough space for edge-to-edge screens because of the speakers. However, acoustically transparent screens will let you have one because you have adequate space for speakers behind the screen.
The screen material is more durable than standard screens
You don’t have to worry about replacements, which could help you save more in the long run because woven or perforated fabric lasts longer than standard screen materials.
Without acoustically transparent screens, people will have to choose between having a smaller screen or a bigger room—both of which have compromises. All of these advantages only lead to one massive reason you should have this projector screen: a bigger screen without the need for a bigger room.
Disadvantages of Acoustically Transparent Screens
Acoustically transparent screens are great, but there are some disadvantages associated with it. In fact, some movie theaters opt to steer away from using this type of screen because of the image degradation that often comes with it.
Here are some of the things that you may want to consider before setting up your own acoustically transparent screen:
Your screen will be susceptible to the moiré effect
When the fabric that you’re using is slightly loose or has an incorrect pattern, it’ll create horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line patterns. Even if you’re using high-quality fabric and installed the screen correctly, some videos can still trigger the moiré effect, making your viewing experience less desirable.
You’ll experience image quality degradation
Although it’s barely noticeable in a lot of acoustically transparent screens, image quality degradation can happen. You’ll have to look for the best quality fabric for your screen, but even that doesn’t guarantee high image quality. And that leads us to the biggest deal-breaker of all…
You’ll deal with the high price tag and cost of set up
The fabric that you’re going to use for your acoustically transparent screen is woven or perforated, both of which carry a higher price tag than regular screen fabrics. Aside from that, you may have to try different materials to get rid of or minimize image degradation.
If you have a hard cap on your budget when setting up your screen, then getting the perfect acoustically transparent screen could be an issue. If you can get by with a smaller screen or don’t mind having your speakers at the sides or below your screen, you don’t have to spend as much for your home theater system.
Reasons to Use an Acoustically Transparent Screen
Sometimes, knowing the advantages and disadvantages of using an acoustically transparent screen may not be enough to figure out why you’d want one for your home theater setup (RELATED ARTICLE). So, to help you make a smarter choice—based on facts and not on hype—here are three of the most compelling reasons why you need this projector screen:
1. Freedom to place your speakers and subwoofers behind the projector screen
Since you don’t have to worry about the attention-grabbing speakers, you can have the biggest and most powerful speakers that you can afford—of course, without worrying about its aesthetics.
When watching a movie, most dialogues will come from the side and center speakers. So you can have a 100-inch screen with these speakers behind to take your viewing experience to the next level!
2. No need to choose between an easier installation or a cheaper setup
In most home theaters, owners only have two choices; either they opt for wireless connections, which could skyrocket the cost, or settle with cheaper options, then forget about the aesthetics of the room.
An acoustically transparent screen saves you from the trouble of choosing between the two. You can simply hide your clunky speakers and all the nasty connection wires behind the screen.
3. The screen can be as big as your wall
If you’re working with a standard projector screen, you always need to leave enough space for the front and side speakers. So you’ll have to choose between a better speaker or a bigger screen. However, if you opt for an acoustically transparent screen, you can have both without compromises in your viewing experience.
These reasons, however, don’t mean that you only have one option for projector screens. If you don’t plan on placing the speakers behind the screen or if you already have an ideal screen size (RELATED ARTICLE) or if you want to keep a strict budget when setting up your home theater then a standard projector screen will do just fine.
Perforated vs. Woven Fabric for Screens
If you decide to install an acoustically transparent screen in your media room, you’ll have another decision to make; choose between a perforated and woven fabric. These two are the most common materials that you’re apt to find in most acoustically transparent screens.
A woven projector screen uses a fabric that is similar to what we use on textiles. It’s the only fabric that you can use for acoustically transparent screens that has a natural variation in patterns and spacing. However, to be effective in allowing sounds to pass through, the weave pattern should be at an exact diagonal angle.
On the other hand, a perforated projector screen uses a highly durable fabric with thousands of small perforated holes in it. The spacing and pattern may be unnatural with this fabric, but with thousands of small holes, sound can still pass through without significantly distorting the image quality.
One isn’t better than the other because both are susceptible to issues that you may experience while watching. So you’ll have to weigh in on the possible issues that you may encounter when using both of these fabrics.
Possible Issues With Woven Screens
Woven fabric is the most common material that we use for acoustically transparent screens because it has the most natural patterns that allow sounds to pass through. However, if you decide to use this screen for your home theater, you’ll have to deal with the following issues:
Unintended color temperature variations
Since this is a natural fabric, it’s prone to having slightly bigger clusters of materials. It’s similar to dead pixels on television, but in this case, it appears brighter than other areas of the screen. That’s why the color temperature in woven screens tend to have brighter shades of red, blue, green, and yellow.
You’ll have to constantly adjust the color temperature or deal with the unintended color variance throughout the video.
Screen may be susceptible to “Double Imaging”
Some woven fabric may not be thick enough to block out the light coming from the projector. When it happens, the projection will pass through the screen and then produce a second image on the wall.
Double imaging is very distracting, and it ruins the viewing experience because of an “unwatchable” video. There’s an easy fix to it, though, because placing a black acoustically transparent material behind your screen could block out the double image.
Using a woven fabric at a wrong angle can trigger the moiré effect
When projecting images to an acoustically transparent screen, there’s a high possibility that you’ll experience the moiré effect. It’s a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line pattern that appears on your screen, and is caused by an error in the weave of the material.
When a projector throws images onto the screen, it creates lines of light. If the weave is slightly loose or if you place it at a wrong angle, these lines of light will match the pattern, creating an undesirable viewing experience.
Possible Issues With Perforated Screens
When it comes to visuals, perforated screens are better. It’s also more durable, but a bit more expensive than woven fabric. However, being a better screen for visuals doesn’t make it the best choice for everyone.
Here are some of the possible issues that you may encounter when using perforated acoustically transparent screens:
It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get rid of the moiré effect
As we know by now, lines of light can match the holes on an acoustically transparent screen. When you project images to a screen, it can create unintended patterns that can affect your viewing experience.
This effect is more common when using perforated fabrics because the holes follow the same pattern and have a minimal variance in spacing. You can minimize this effect with a high-end perforated screen, but even that won’t guarantee a “moiré effect-less” viewing experience.
It can slightly degrade the audio quality
There are thousands of small holes that make up a perforated screen, but it only covers a small portion of the screen’s real estate.
There won’t be much room for the sound to pass through, so your audio may be susceptible to audio dampening. Most of the frequencies you’ll hear from speakers will bounce off the screen instead of passing through. So you’ll have to make a lot of adjustments with your speakers to achieve your desired sound quality.
DIY Acoustically Transparent Screen
With all the options available in the market, together with the things that you need to consider, it can be tough to choose the best material for your set up. Aside from this, you’ll have to decide the screen ratio, the size of your screen, and what you’ll gain from converting to an acoustically transparent screen.
Add all of these with the exuberant pricing that you’ll find in most acoustically transparent screens. That’s a lot of decisions to make just for your screen alone. So, why don’t we try to build our own and have one that follows our exact specifications for less than $200?
Here are some simple steps that you can follow to build a projector screen that you want to have:
1. Pick the material that you’ll need for the screen
Woven is cheaper than perforated, and since we’re trying to create an acoustically transparent screen on a budget, woven is, obviously, a better choice. Sure, if you can shell out a bit more cash to purchase high-end perforated fabric, then, by all means, go for it.
I recommend the Elite Screens Designer Cut Series (check price on Amazon).
2. Build the frame for your screen
Remember, the size of your screen should always be congruent with the size of your room. The further the distance of the screen from the projector, the bigger screen you’ll need. You can use this handy-dandy projection calculator to figure out the distance you’ll need based on your projector.
3. Wrap the frame in a black cloth or cover it with felt tape
You’re building a frame to create an illusion of a screen, but it’ll reflect light if you don’t cover it with a black cloth or felt tape such as the Pllieay 1.96″ felt tape (Amazon).
4. Stretch the screen before you permanently staple it on the edges
Your screen should be tight with the frame of your screen. The more imperfections there are in your fabric, the more distortions there’ll be when watching. So, be sure to eliminate all creases, folds, waves, or loose parts before you permanently staple it on the edges.
5. Mount the screen on the wall for testing
You may have to make several adjustments to ensure that you’re getting the right projection and sound without degradation. You’ll also have to perform a few tweaks in your projector and speakers to achieve the viewing experience that you want for your media room.
Building an acoustically transparent screen on your own can be tricky, and we can’t recommend it for people who don’t like to deal with complications. However, it can be an excellent side project for anyone, especially if you’re a DIYer. By working on this, you’re off to having the best acoustically transparent screen ever!
An acoustically transparent projector screen is probably the single biggest improvement you can make in your media room. Without a lot of setups and configurations, you can have a bigger screen, better speakers, and a less cluttered room. You don’t have to make compromises to get the features that you want, which can have a massive impact on your viewing experience.
The biggest decision that you’d have to make when upgrading to an acoustically transparent projector screen is the fabric. Both woven and perforated have different advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll have to weigh in on them to find a better material for your media room.
- Stewart: Acoustically Transparent Screens – Heard Not Seen
- Acoustically Transparent Projection Screens
- Screen Perforation Explained – Technical Articles
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.