Projection Screens, 3D AVRs, HDMI Cables

Diamonds Are a Light's Best Friend
I am installing a new home theater, starting with a Panasonic PT-AE4000U projector, and I wonder about which screen to use. I would like a 16:9 or 2.35:1 screen. The room has some ambient light, but it can be made totally dark. What do you think of the Screen Innovations Black Diamond II? I have seen some YouTube videos about it, and it really looks great, but I wonder if it's worth the high price?

Gene Roney

If you can completely darken your room, you don't need the Black Diamond II, which is designed to be used in the presence of some ambient light. Screen Innovations claims that it works great with no ambient light as well, reducing light scatter compared with conventional screens, but even if that's true, I don't think you need to spend the extra money for such a screen unless you want the option of watching the projector with some ambient light in the room. In that case, the extra money is probably worth it. (BTW, the Black Diamond II 1.4 is a lot more than, say, the Solar HD 1.3 white material from Screen Innovations—$2200 vs. $1200 for an 80-inch screen.) We haven't evaluated the Black Diamond II, but Tom Norton has one in for review, which should happen in the next few months.

If you watch a lot of movies on Blu-ray, I would definitely get a 2.35:1 screen, especially with the PT-AE4000U, which has lens memories that automatically adjust the zoom and focus for 16:9 or 2.35:1 at a constant height. As for screen materials in a completely light-controlled room, I really like Stewart's Studiotek 100, but only if the room has black or dark gray walls, ceiling, and floor. Otherwise, I recommend Studiotek 130, though its price is about the same as a Black Diamond II. In any event, try to avoid light-colored walls, ceiling, and floor in any dedicated home theater.

3D AVR 411
I've heard that home-theater receivers need to be "3D-ready" with HDMI 1.4. If I don't have a 3D-ready receiver, will 3D still work? I don't want to upgrade my receiver to view 3D.

Mike Polk

The short answer is that, in most cases, you do need a 3D-ready receiver to pass 3D data through to the display. The long answer is more complicated; here's what HDMI Licensing has to say about it:

First, there are some hardware requirements that any A/V receiver must meet to be able to pass through the 3D data structures. Naturally, the HDMI receiver/transmitter needs to have enough bandwidth, and the AVR needs the right kind of decoder hardware.

There are legacy receivers that have this hardware. These receivers then need a firmware upgrade to be able to understand the new video structures. It is possible that some receivers might be able to pass the frame-compatible structures (broadcast formats) without requiring a firmware upgrade, because these formats pack the left and right images into a frame that is compatible with existing formats. But even in this case, the metadata would not be passed through, so the user would have to manually select the correct 3D mode to get a 3D picture. A firmware upgrade would fix this.

In the end, HDMI Licensing maintains that 3D is a completely new way of sending video information. To be entirely sure that the system is optimized for 3D requires an HDMI 1.4a A/V receiver. However, not everyone wants to upgrade their receiver just to pass through 3D data. These consumers have two options:

1. Contact the receiver's manufacturer and inquire if the firmware can be upgraded.

2. For 3D content, connect the source directly to the TV.

If you go with option 2, the only way to hear lossless audio is to connect the multichannel analog outputs from the player to the receiver's corresponding inputs, assuming that both devices have these connections available. Upgrading to a 3D-capable receiver would be far more convenient if you're into 3D.

Update: Reader Jesse reminded me of a third alternative to replacing your AVR. The Panasonic DMP-BDT300 and BDT350 3D Blu-ray players provide two HDMI outputs, which lets you connect one directly to the 3D display and the other one to a legacy AVR. That way, you don't need to connect the multichannel analog outputs from the player to the AVR, and you will still hear lossless multichannel audio via HDMI. I don't know of any other 3D Blu-ray players with two HDMI outs, but I hope other manufacturers follow Panasonic's lead on this.

Perennial HDMI Question
I have a PS3, Yamaha RX-V565 receiver, and Klipsch Quintet speakers. I have everything connected via Rocketfish 10.2Gbps HDMI cables. Would Monster or AudioQuest Forest, Chocolate, or Cinnamon HDMI cables make a difference? Also, if I were to use an optical digital-audio cable instead of running audio through HDMI, will it be affected? Which is better?

Gilbert Rodriguez

If your HDMI cable can support a bandwidth of 10.2Gbps, which is the maximum that HDMI can handle at this point, I don't believe that a more-expensive cable will make any appreciable difference in the video or audio quality—at least as long as the cable is a reasonable length, say under 15 feet or so. If the HDMI cable you're using now works without problems, you won't see or hear an improvement by switching to more-expensive cables.

However, switching to an optical digital-audio cable will definitely degrade the audio. The only way to get multichannel lossless audio from the PS3 is via HDMI; the optical output has enough bandwidth only for 2-channel uncompressed PCM or 5.1-channel Dolby Digital or DTS, both of which are lossy codecs. The first-generation PS3 can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and send multichannel PCM via HDMI, while the new PS3 Slim can also send the encoded bitstreams, which the RX-V565 can decode. Either way, HDMI is the only way to get the best possible audio performance from the PS3.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to

Jesse's picture

In response to the "3D AVR 411" question, I recommend option 3: Buy a 3D bluray player (Panasonic makes one) that has 2 HDMI outputs. This will allow you to run the video directly to the 3D-TV and the uncompressed DTS-HD Master audio track to your 1.3a AVR.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Jesse, you are absolutely correct! I should have remembered this. In fact, I'll add it to the main text. Excellent suggestion!

how about an HDMI splitter's picture

how about an HDMI splitter

Donnie's picture

I picked up a Rocketfish HDMI cable to connect my new Onkyo receiver to my Sharp Aquos TV and I find that the video flickers sometimes when switching from standard definition channels to high definition. How do I know if it is the HDMI cable, my receiver or even my digital cable box thats the problem?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

An HDMI splitter might also do the trick, though its receiver/transmitter circuitry must conform to the criteria specified in the HDMI Licensing response above.Donnie, try connecting the cable box directly to the TV and see if it still happens. If so, try another HDMI cable. (You have at least two already—one from the cable box to the AVR and one from the AVR to the TV. Try them both from the cable box to the TV.) If it still happens, it's probably the cable box, or it might be the TV. If a direct connection from the cable box to the TV fixes it, the problem is in the receiver or cable. However, as long as the cables from the box to the AVR and AVR to the TV are of reasonable length, I doubt it's the cable's fault.

William Frank's picture

How would this work with a legacy Denon AVR, (4308CI) and the PS3 as the 3D blu-ray player?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

William, I've sent an inquiry to Denon about whether or not the 4308CI is capable of passing 3D, but I won't get an answer until late next week. I'll post a response as soon as I hear back.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

According to Denon, the 4308CI cannot pass 1080p 3D from a Blu-ray player, and there is no firmware update to allow it. Passing broadcast 3D (1080i) is theoretically possible, but no such tests have been performed, so they don't know if it will actually work.

Jarvis Streeter's picture

Instead of going with a projector and screen, how about the new Mitsubishi rear projection TVs at 73" and 82". Is there any reason not to go that route in terms of picture quality? It seems there's less need to worry about picture brightness and installation hassles.

marcello1963's picture

con i nuovi pre rotel 15 posso comprare il bluray 3d e un tv o priettore (quando saranno in commercio)3D PER VEDRE film e tv il tutto collegato a rotel ?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Jarvis, RPTVs do indeed offer the most bang for the buck in terms of screen size, and they are plenty bright with fewer installation issues (as long as you have the floor space for one). Also, the picture quality is generally quite good, at least on axis; moving off axis, it can look pretty funky.Marcello, unfortunately, I don't read Italian. If you resubmit your comment in English, I can respond.

Wayne Phillips's picture

I have an Onkyo TX-sr803 with all the HDMI and optic connections. I have the Bose 5.1 Cube speakers for my surround. I just purchased the Panosonic 3D VT25 and the Blueray 3D DVD player model 350. If I hook up all the HDMI cables is my AVR ok to handle 3D. Thanks

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Wayne, the TX-SR803 cannot pass 3D because it has HDMI 1.1 connections. However, the Panasonic player saves the day with its two HDMI outputs; connect one directly to the TV and the other one to the AVR for audio. But be sure to set the player to output PCM, not high-res bitstreams, since the AVR's HDMI inputs cannot accept Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD.

Richard Lang's picture

I have a Onkyo SR 805 connected to a Sony bdp 570 and a sony Bdp 960 going to a Mitsubishi 56" older DLP will it be able to project 3d ?Also have a Epson pro Cinema projector which we did use for the Carolina 3d and it seemed to work 103 inch screen,Am building a new theater and want to see what I can salvage. Thanks

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Richard, you don't specify the model number of the DLP rear-pro, so I don't know if it can display 3D, but Mits RPTVs have had that ability for several years now. However, you need the Mits 3D adaptor to convert the signal from the Sony BDP-S570 to the format used by the TV. The Onkyo TX-SR805 cannot pass 3D, so to see 3D, you'll need to connect the HDMI output from the player directly to the adaptor. (Also, make sure the player's firmware has been updated to include 3D capabilities.) As far as I know, the BDP-CX960 BD changer cannot play 3D, though I suppose it's possible that its firmware can be updated as well. The Epson projector cannot display 3D, so you must have been watching the 2D version of Caroline. Otherwise, I'm sure the Epson is a fine projector.

Nuri58's picture

I think there is a fourth alternative not to upgrade the AVR by using a HDMI split.

Dexter1110's picture

My current setup looks like William's: 3D BluRay from Sony PS3 -> A/V Receiver Denon AVR-4803CI -> 3D LED TV Samsung UN46D8000. I understand that the AVR cannot be upgraded to allow the 3D BluRay signal to pass through. Although the Panasonic double HDMI output BluRay player seems appealing I'm trying to limit the hardware due to space constraints. I'm also hoping to get more life out of the AVR considering its initial cost and build quality.

Two options are appealing at this point: 1) Splitting the HDMI signal coming out of the PS3 and sending one to the TV (video) and the other to the AVR (audio), or 2) Combining 2 outputs from the PS3, the first being HDMI to TV (video) and the second being optical to AVR (audio).

Has anyone been successful with these options? In addition to Donnie's problem above, I'm noticing some poor reviews of some HDMI 1.4 splitters where consumers complain that the split described above does not work. Alternately, the PS3 optical output generates 5.1, which is OK for my setup, but how will this affect the overall quality of sound coming out of the AVR?