The word reflection might as well be a four letter one when talking to an AV enthusiast. Be it picture or sound, it seems reflections are public enemy number one. The other night I was reminded of this when I became reacquainted with a reflection I had since forgotten since switching from a traditional HDTV setup to a front projection one. My main living room setup used to feature a 70-inch Vizio E-Series HDTV display, which I then replaced with a 100-inch, CineGrey 5D projection screen from Elite Screens. While I’ve always said that the Vizio -specifically its screen material -handled reflections better than most, it’s no match for any front projection screen surface, least of all the CineGrey 5D. However two days ago, thanks to my getting ready to move, I re-installed another HDTV into my living room system -albeit temporarily -in the form of my 50-inch, Panasonic plasma.

While I generally believe that a) Panasonic makes some of the finest displays available and b) my plasma is bloody brilliant, my God does it suck when it comes to showcasing reflections. It might as well be a mirror in all but completely darkened environments. For the past year or so my Panasonic plasma has resided in my master bedroom, where, surprise, surprise, it was viewed almost exclusively in a darkened environment. Hence how I had forgotten about the reflectivity issue(s). In my living room, which opens to my kitchen in the rear of the room, the Panasonic is all but unwatchable. The slightest bit of stray light emanating from anywhere off screen within a reasonable viewing angle is shown back at me with near equal fervor. Oddly enough, even with a non-ambient light rejecting screen surface, this level of reflectivity isn’t as large a concern. But larger than life HDTV or UltraHD displays? Oh, it’s a problem.

With screen sizes stretching to upwards of 80 or more inches, a display’s reflectivity is of growing concern. Walls opposite of said display, at least with regards to the treatment of them, become increasingly important. Take for instance my setup which features a large open space -i.e. my kitchen -opposite my flat panel display. If I were one who believes in investing in the absolute best video quality that I can -and I am -then I’d likely spring for a VT or even ZT Series plasma from Panasonic down the road. I’d also want the largest display I could afford as well as accommodate. Going off of my GT Series plasma’s reflectivity issues, a larger display, even one as good/great as the VT or ZT Series plasma, would only compound the issue. Moreover, failure to treat or address any and all reflectivity issues could undermine all the benefits stemming from spending more on a higher quality display such as Panasonic VT or ZT Series plasma. Not trying to pick a fight, but in my room, again, not trying to pick a fight, but an E-Series Vizio would likely outperform a ZT day-to-day, all things considered due to its less reflective screen surface.

And this is what I’m getting at when I pause to reflect on reflections. We often want the best performing gear we can reasonably afford, and  yet, once we have it, we don’t realize how much of our day-to-day living environment is hindering its performance. This is how statements like, it didn’t look or sound the same in my home,  have become commonplace among enthusiasts. A great display can be made to look like s–t simply by turning on a reading lamp. Same can be true of a loudspeaker placed too close to a wall or window.

I know this should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many of us just blindly pull the trigger without thinking about things as simple as reflections. It’s true. While I’m not going to be ditching my Panasonic GT Series plasma anytime soon, it will NOT be my reference display in my new living room setup. Not because it’s not worthy, but rather, because I like openness and light in my main living quarters -two things that hinder my Panasonic’s performance. So back to the bedroom it will go. But this is what I mean, knowing this about myself and my living space, only helps to guide me in my buying decision in the future. For my new living room I’m likely an ideal candidate for an LED HDTV or UltraHD display, especially if the display in question has a matte or semi-gloss screen surface.

This is why, before spending any amount of money one MUST take into consideration their living environment and really weigh what changes -if any -you’re willing to make. Then, and ONLY then, should you begin purchasing equipment.

As always I thank you all so very much for reading. Until next time, take care and stay tuned…

Andrew