Q: The Nebula Capsule Max 720p projector you reviewed recently seems like a great portable projector, but I am looking for a 1080p home theater projector. Can I get good quality for $500 or so?
A: You definitely can, and I recently experienced how very good it can be. Early in the summer, a friend and I created a backyard drive-in theater for his son's graduation party. We started with a Visual Apex 120HD 120-inch indoor-outdoor screen (visualapexscreens.com). It is $189 and includes a sturdy stand and carrying bag. Setup takes a bit of finger strength to snap the screen taut on the frame, but you are rewarded with a flat projection surface that yields a bright, sharp image.
For the projector, we purchased an Optoma's HD143X (optoma.com/us) for $431. The phenomenal Panasonic UB820 UltraHD Blu-ray player (na.panasonic.com/us), available for $499 (although we already had one), played the movie from 1080p Blu-ray Discs. An HDMI cable went to the projector for the picture. For sound, the player's audio outputs were connected to a receiver that drove tower speakers placed on either side of the screen.
Although the 120-inch image was "just" 1080p, the color and sharpness from this projector/screen combination was spectacular, especially as the evening went on and it got darker. The guests raved about how beautiful the picture looked, even from far away. The evening concluded with the younger guests playing Nintendo games on the projected image, and again the sharpness, depth and color looked stunning.
If you want to take the picture quality to an even higher level, I recommend the $579 Optoma HD27HDR. It is a 1080p projector that processes and displays high dynamic range (HDR) information from 4K sources. The improvement from HDR is more noticeable than the improvement from going from 1080p to 4K, so the HD27HDR provides you the best of all worlds with a super-sharp 1080p picture, HDR for a deeper, more nuanced image with better color and a reasonable price (true 4K projectors are extremely expensive).
Q: I purchased the Vessel A3SE cartridge (the pre-mounted version) to use on my Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable. I love it, but have to turn up the receiver volume more than before. Is this normal?
A: It is normal. Electrical output between models of cartridges varies widely, and the output of the Vessel cartridges is on the lower end of the range for cartridges of its type. You just turn up the volume a bit to compensate, and it is of no real consequence.
If you're set on getting the output from your turntable back to what it was before, check out the $149 Music Hall Mini Plus phono preamp (musichallaudio.com). It sounds noticeably better than the turntable's built-in preamp and has an adjustable volume control to increase the volume before the signal goes to the amplifier. It also has adjustable capacitance to match the cartridge's electrical characteristics to the phono preamp, which is practically unheard of at the price point. It's the best phono preamp you can buy for under $150, and a natural upgrade for Vessel owners.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.