Seymour Screen Excellence Ambient-Visionaire Black 1.2 Projection Screen Review

PRICE $2,257 as reviewed

Uncanny ability to make any projection technology look exemplary
Greatly enhances contrast and black level, even with budget projectors
Easy assembly with superb fit and finish
Performance enhancement that would be banned if projection video were a sport
Slightly pearlescent sheen with some high-brightness, fully saturated, high-motion scenes
That it has appeared only recently

If you need evidence that a high-quality ambient-light-rejecting screen can give spectacular results with an entry-level projector, look no further than the SSE Ambient-Visionaire Black 1.2.

“Is this heaven?” John Kinsella unwittingly asks his son, Ray, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. “It’s Iowa,” Ray answers. Turning slowly to walk away, John halts, replying, “Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.”

Nearly three hours west of Dyersville, Iowa, the movie-location site of that fantasy baseball field, is the town of Ames, where a bit of heaven-on-earth can be found, and not by dreaming. In the birthplace of the world’s first electronic digital computer, a unique projection-screen company is hitting home runs out of Ames in its own way. Seymour-Screen Excellence (hereafter SSE), a joint venture of U.S.-based Seymour AV and U.K.-based Screen Excellence, has been producing exceptional, acoustically transparent screens for professional and residential use since 2010. The company's ISF-certified, Enlightor-4K ultra-fine-weave material is an S&V Top Pick, selected by Tom Norton.

Accommodating 4K, though, is hardly the only technical challenge for screen makers today. The biggest buzz is for ambient-light-rejecting (ALR) screens, which are fast becoming many purveyors’ best- selling products. And while these were initially intended to deliver images in a lit-up living space at sizes larger than what flat panels could provide (or to do so more economically), ALR screens are increasingly being utilized in dark theater rooms as well.

To help us continue our look into ALR/sub-$2K-projector partnerships that began with our review of the Elite Prime Vision DarkStar 9, SSE’s Chris Seymour suggested the Ambient-Visionaire Black 1.2, one of his newer concoctions, whose description is something one might expect from a mad scientist at the nearby Ames Laboratory, a government think tank specializing in materials science. SSE says the screen has “an aggressive combination of carbon particles and stacked, dithered nano-mirrors layered upon a deep background,” with the result said to absorb 90 percent of ambient light from any direction while yielding a 12x (!) improvement in contrast ratios in environments “that are otherwise unsuited to front projection use, even outdoors.” A lofty promise, indeed, but would it hold up?

Unboxing the screen, I found it to be logically packaged, with all internal components well protected. My sample was the 2F90HD-AV12, featuring a Series-2 frame (2.6 inches wide x 1.2 inches deep on all sides) and measuring 90 inches wide in a 16:9 aspect ratio (103.2 inches diagonal). My jotted notes include: “This looks like it might have been made by Boeing. Even normally hidden joints in the aluminum frame are finely finished, exuding high quality. Looks defense contractor grade.” (As a side note: In my travels as a calibrator, I’ve encountered some of SSE’s largest motorized masking screens. These screens, massive by any description and extremely complex, always boast superlative fit and finish.)

The frame assembled easily with its perfectly mitered corners, and the light-sinking wrap on the frame was trimmed with equal precision, though it was only to be seen once, upon assembly. With foreign screens now flooding the U.S. market, a sense of pride swells when you see American craftsmanship still thriving.

Securing the screen material to the frame is accomplished with an easy, effective grommet-and-post scheme, looping tensioned bands of rubber through the grommet eye. The screen pulled taut and remained so, seating perfectly edge-to-edge in all directions. To mount the screen, a simple, beveled piece perhaps three-fifths the screen’s width affixes to the wall, onto which the screen applies tried-and-true gravity to remain in place. A nifty touch with this piece, which SSE calls the Hangman, is a built-in level. Unaided, I had the screen unpacked, configured, and mounted in less than an hour.

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My viewing room walls are a no-sheen equivalent to a 30-IRE shade of gray. (If you’re wondering, it’s just me and my dog, Schumi, he having picked the paint.) Not a black hole, yet eminently conducive to auditioning display devices, and otherwise a pleasing environment. To screen left is a windowed wall, covered most often by 100-percent light-blocking, black curtains replete with wraparound rods eliminating side leakage. Various types of lighting can be applied, forcing an ALR screen to deftly dance around the light photons and thus dutifully serve its purpose.

Seymour Screen Excellence
(515) 450-5694