How I Got Here
The DreamScreen UltraWeave v7 and XY Screens SoundMax 4K are two of the better performing acoustically transparent screen materials that came out of my recent comparison of 31 AT materials. The results can be found on AVS here, and on my own site with better formatting here. I liked the XY SoundMax 4K material so much I bought it to replace the spandex I had before it. I have since been a proponent of this screen material and have stated that I see almost no texture from seating distances. I also noticed in my tests that the XY Screens SoundMax 4K material looked sharper than the UltraWeave v7 on close inspection. Well, @Lygren respectfully challenged some of my conclusions and graciously sent me enough material to make a full screen to review and compare to the XY screen I already have. I now have the privilege to compare these two great materials in my own theater.
These two materials both deliver outstanding imagery while doing so in very different ways. The UltraWeave v7 is a custom knit material that is still very unique in the market. In fact, it is so unique that DreamScreen has a patent on its double front layer technology. I’ve seen a couple other materials similar to DreamScreen’s v6 screen, but nothing like the v7. The SoundMax 4K, on the other hand, isn’t all that special in construction. It is a woven screen that is coated to deliver a higher gain surface. I have actually come across another screen material that shares the same exact weave. Regardless of material technology, these two materials deliver a very similar aural and visual experience.
As aforementioned, more in-depth analysis of these two materials can be found in my screen comparison report. I have measurements for both 4″ and 12″ between the speaker and screen for both of these materials. The testing there was also much more stringent than in this test. This is due to the fact that it was logistically impossible for me to make sure the microphone was in the exact same position after moving the screens in and out. Nonetheless, I ran a sweep of my center channel and tried my best to keep the mic in the same position. The speaker was ~6″ behind the screen and the mic was a couple inches in front. Here are those results with psychoacoustic smoothing applied:
Now, in this case the SoundMax 4K does not have a black backing. My setup didn’t call for one. If added then there would be a slight drop of at most 0.5db. Interestingly, the SoundMax 4K attenuated more sound in this setup vs my test rig in my previous report. The setup is quite a bit different so I am not concerned much about it. The shape of the graph is really what I am concerned with since amplifier power is easy to come by; it’s the peaks and nulls of an AT screen that pose the bigger challenge. Both screens have a quite flat rate of attenuation. Subjectively, I was unable to differentiate these two screens during my testing.
I’ll give the nod to the UltraWeave v7 here since it does this with black backing and for it’s consistency between my previous test and here in a new setup.
As with the attenuation tests, my gain tests were not quite as stringent as in my report. I was curious to see if full size screen material cuts performed any differently than the samples I received so I did want to take some readings. In the end, the results reflected my previous examinations. Not much news here. The XY Screens SoundMax 4K does slightly edge out the UltraWeave v7. But, one should note that these differences come from a slight boost in my projectors natural shift toward green and blue. After calibration, these two screens will be nearly identical in brightness.
Now we are getting into the meat of the review. This is one of the areas that has been a bit debated after my final report. Going into this review I was quite curious to see if a full screen example of the UltraWeave v7 installed tightly in a frame would improve the slight softening of the image I had noted before. After quite a bit of examination from seating distances and pixel peeping a variety of content, including the Quick Brown Fox pattern, I can say that the reflected image is softened when compared to the SoundMax 4K. Is it substantially softened? No, not at all. It honestly takes quite a bit of visual effort to see the differences from reasonable seating distances. As I usually do, I recruited my wife to lend a
hand eye to confirm what I saw. We watched a few things and she confirmed with me that the SoundMax 4K was just a tad bit sharper from our sofa which is 11′ away, eyeballs to screen. I want to be clear that I wouldn’t consider the UltraWeave v7 blurry at all, it just is a bit below the sharpness of the SoundMax 4K.
This too was an area that came with great intrigue for me. It also will be mostly focused on the XY screen. The DreamScreen UltraWeave v7 shows no structure whatsoever. It doesn’t matter how close you sit. It’s just smooth.
Ok, now onto the SoundMax 4K. When I personally switched to the SoundMax 4K I was ever so slightly concerned about its potential of showing its weave in a full screen presentation. When I got it installed I was relieved to see what I couldn’t see…the weave. This confirmed my tests from the sample sizes…for the most part. After some forum discussions I started to pay really close attention to my screen and in the areas where the weave could be noticed. Bright, fast paced moving objects where you or the camera are tracking the object are probably the number one way to see the weave pattern of a screen. A great example of this is in sports. I did end up seeing the SoundMax 4K’s weave while watching some NFL Football. This was shortly after the forum discussions and when I was really focused on analyzing the screen. To be honest, I’ve been hard pressed to notice the weave since then, which includes more football.
As stated, I sit 11′ away from my 123″ projected image. When I lean in to about 8′ the weave can be seen when really looking for it or when focusing on one of those fast paced bright objects. I still have yet to notice the weave when relaxing and watching a movie.
Up to this point most of this review has been focused on measurements and pixel peeping. This was not the entirety of my review process. I also watched some content from various sources to see if any of these differences presented themselves in real world content. A new show I found on Apple TV+, Tiny World, was just visually spectacular. Great color, surprisingly great audio, and also great detail. This show presented some great comparison shots for me to go back and forth on. Here is normally where one would note the differences between two things that were being compared. Honestly, it was very hard to tell which screen I was watching. They both looked great and there was no way I could tell the difference sonically. There was no brightness uniformity differences, no texture and only the smallest difference in sharpness was present.
I proceeded to throw a bunch of content at the screens. NFL Football, 4K snowboarding clips on YouTube (which are always stunning), animated 4K HDR films from Disney, and of course some live action feature films. I really had a hard time differentiating these screens from my sofa. They both look great.
From eight feet away, when focusing I could see some of the weave on the SoundMax 4K. At about that distance the sharpness difference between the two also became a bit more noticeable. There’s a bit of a quandary as you move closer to the screen. The UltraWeave v7 is smoother, but the SoundMax 4K is sharper. Personally I would most likely select the UltraWeave v7 in this case as texture is more distracting to me since it comes and goes. Whereas a slightly softened image is consistent. My goal in making a theater experience is to never be removed from the content I’m watching.
Unpacking and Install
Both screens were delivered very quickly relative to their origin. Actually, the DreamScreen was delivered to me in Michigan from Europe in about 48 hours. That was insane. Both were also very well packed in a way that would make damage quite unlikely. I installed both screens around two custom built wood frames. They are different materials but neither presented much issue during the actual install. It is a bit stressful maneuvering materials this nice and this large; so make sure you have plenty of room. DreamScreen included some custom plastic rails for install but I found I didn’t need them with my preferred method of attaching the screen material to the frame. Since my frames are wood I actually like to use tacks to hold the screen. Many use staples but I find tacks, a lot of tacks, hold well and allow for easy readjustment.
The UltraWeave v7 came with a protective white cloth rolled inside to protect the white front from the black back. This material caused some creasing, or indentations, to appear in the front of the screen. I have been told that these creases can easily be removed by using a steamer but it should be noted that this was not present with the SoundMax 4K.
In my own experience with the UltraWeave v7 I have noticed it shows some marks more than the SoundMax 4K. I have a single particular mark that I am unable to get out as of now. I am not sure how this came about so I can’t fully say if it is the screens fault or my own. I feel that it should be mentioned, but I don’t want to make a big deal of it. With this knowledge I’d be a bit careful with how the screen is handled. Manual masking comes to mind as an area I’d take some caution in. My current masking touches the screen. With the UltraWeave v7 I’d be sure to design it so that doesn’t happen.
It is hard to not mention the one major differentiator between these two materials: the price. Raw material alone, the UltraWeave v7 costs 5x more for a screen my size. These are two materials that are extremely similar in performance from the most common seating positions. There is an obvious leader when all things considered and that’s the SoundMax 4K. That isn’t to say the UltraWeave v7 doesn’t have it’s advantages. It does. The integrated black backing and smooth surface make it a very safe choice. The screen will perform well in every situation a solid white screen would. There is no concern about what is behind your screen; paint it white if you want. There is no concern about sitting too close and being distracted by weave, perforations, or shimmer and grain. It’s a peaceful screen. The founder is also an enthusiast just like us. He is here on the forums and that leads to great service. I cannot say the same for XY Screens. While my correspondence with XY Screens has been splendid, I do not get the impression of the same level of passion and care that I do from DreamScreen.
For me, if I were to pick a screen for my theater, I would pick the SoundMax 4K. I already had. Price is of course a factor but the minor advantage in sharpness is something that I appreciate. That may be because my Epson 5050UB could use that extra advantage compared to today’s native 4K and DLP XRP projectors. My two young kids not being able to stop being kids also is a factor after seeing the UltraWeave v7 take marks in my environment. DreamScreen’s TextileShield PRO option would probably rectify that concern though.
At the end of the day, these are both great screen materials and there isn’t a wrong choice.
If you are interested in finding out more about the XY Screens SoundMax 4K then please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you say Andy from Pixel Home Theater sent you and you may receive a slight discount.