Dalite JKP Affinity HD Screen wins Editor's Choice Award

What constitutes a perfect home theater projection screen? In our view, a perfect screen is one that reflects the projected image back just as it comes from the projector, without adding any hint of visible artifacts or interpretive nuances. It is spectrally neutral and imparts no color shifts to the image. It has no significant gain, such that it has the widest diffusion of light possible with no hotspotting. It has a wide viewing angle, so that it looks almost as bright when viewed at an oblique angle as it does when viewed head on. It has no light loss due to blow-through which results in a dimmer picture than the projector is capable of delivering. But most importantly, a perfect projection screen is an invisible projection screen. All you see is the pure, uncompromised picture as it is created by the projector, with no indication that the screen is even there.

By this definition, the new JKP Affinity HD Screen from Da-lite Screen Company is as close to a perfect home theater projection screen as we have ever seen. It is touted as a "high definition" screen. What is that, you wonder? Well, the idea is that the material surface and optical coatings on conventional screens are grainy enough to compromise the integrity of detail on a 1080p HD image projected from a native 1080p projector. In theory, a screen with an exceptionally smooth surface will show better results. And in fact, the surface of the JKP Affinity is remarkably smooth. Run your fingertips over the surface of a Stewart Grayhawk RS, and it feels like very fine-grained sandpaper. Do the same on the Affinity and it feels smooth as a baby's bottom.

Okay, so the tactile difference is obvious. But does it really make a difference in the picture? To find out we set up the JKP Affinity against the Grayhawk side by side, and then fired up the Mitsubishi HC6500, the sharpest 1080p projector we have on hand. Before we get into the results, a couple of comments on these two screens. Both have a gain rating of 0.9, both have a very wide viewing angle, and both are gray screens. However, the JKP Affinity is a very light gray, whereas the Grayhawk is a light to moderate gray, with a noticeably darker surface. Thus, in any given situation, the Grayhawk will produce a somewhat blacker black, and also a somewhat dimmer picture.

But it is not black level or brightness we are most concerned with here, but rather image sharpness and detail. Is there anything to this claim of a screen being an HD screen? Since the Grayhawk has long been one of our favorite screens, we were eager to see what the JKP Affinity would look like up against it.

The results of the test were in fact a revelation, but not in a way we expected. We were initially looking for obvious improvements in image sharpness that would warrant the hype and the premium price. Though there were some scenes in which certain details appeared very slightly sharper, whiskers in a beard in a close up for example, there was certainly no significant difference in apparent image sharpness that would justify calling the JKP Affinity an HD screen and the Grayhawk a non HD screen.

However, with further viewing a separate phenomenon became apparent. The Affinity looked more "natural" in many scenes...the image was simply smoother and more real. There was a purity in the Affinity's image that the Grayhawk couldn't quite match. In comparison, we began to notice a very subtle grainy texture in the Grayhawk that we had never noticed before. And in some scenes the optical coating on the Grayhawk produced an occasional sparkle that we'd never paid much attention to. The bottom line is that there were subtle artifacts clearly present on the Grayhawk that were entirely absent on the JKP Affinity.

As odd as it may sound, the Grayhawk image began to look very slightly digital, whereas the JKP Affinity image looked more like continuous pristine analog. Thus, while there was not the dramatic improvement in image sharpness that we had set out to look for, there was definitely a boost in what we'd call apparent image reality. And this became more and more evident as we watched the two side by side over a period of time. This elusive quality of image reality that the JKP Affinity delivers is something you can gain a great appreciation for in a hurry, once you've seen it. And it does indeed justify the use of the phrase high definition when it comes to describing this screen.

Another noteworthy attribute of the JKP Affinity and Grayhawk screens is in their light diffusion properties. In practical terms, the question is how bright does the screen look when viewed at an oblique angle? Every screen is at it brightest when viewed head on. Technically, the amount of light you see when standing directly in front and center of any screen is referred to as "Peak Gain at Zero Degrees Axis." As you move to the side, the picture will begin to dim. On a high gain screen it dims rapidly as you move away from center, and on a low gain or no gain screen it dims more slowly.

As you move to the side, you will eventually get to a position at which the screen image appears half as bright as it did when you were at Zero Degrees Axis, or center position. The angle at which the image appears half as bright is known as the "Half Gain Viewing Angle." And in an ideal world, the Half Gain Viewing Angle is as wide as possible. That is because you want all of the viewers in your home theater to see the same picture in the same way no matter at what angle they are viewing the screen.

The Half Gain Viewing Angle of the JKP Affinity is ridiculously wide, to the point we were doubting whether our light meter was working. We pulled out a different meter and got the same results. The Half Gain Angle reading on our test sample was a whopping 78 degrees. (The spec is 70 degrees, but we were seeing more than that.) In practical terms, this means you can view the JKP Affinity from way off center axis, and you will perceive it as being almost as bright as if you were at dead center. This is remarkable performance. By comparison, the Grayhawk does an excellent job with this as well. We measured it a still excellent 68 degrees, but the JKP Affinity had an apparent edge.

When looking at screens, the spectral response is always a key factor. However, these two screens are superb in this regard. From a color accuracy perspective, there appeared to be no difference between the two. Both were outstanding, and color tones looked virtually identical between them. Neither has a competitive advantage over the other as far as color is concerned.

Da-lite produced this screen in collaboration with video technology consultant Joe Kane (JKP stands for Joe Kane Productions). Our sample arrived last week, and it only took about 30 minutes to pull it out of the box, bolt together the frame and snap the fabric into place. Assembly requires a little elbow grease, but you end up with a taut screen surface in a solid frame. The frame itself is 3.12" wide and wrapped in black, light-absorbing fabric. It is nicely beveled, with the screen surface inset from the face of the frame by 1.5".

All things considered, the JKP Affinity is a magnificent home theater screen. It is premium priced relative to Da-lite's other cinema home theater screen products, and more comparably priced with Stewart's classic home theater offerings. But it is well worth the money if you are seeking the best 1080p projection system you can get. If you want one, you'll need to consult your local CEDIA dealer, as the product is not sold online, nor is it available directly from Da-lite.

Despite the fact that the Affinity is technically a gray screen, it is very light gray. Thus, it is not a "high contrast" screen in the same way that other darker gray screens are. For best results, it should be used in a room that is entirely light controlled.

Viewing the JKP Affinity up close for the first time has been a remarkable and surprising experience. It takes the purity of a 1080p image to a new and unexpected level. It certainly exceeded our expectations, and we enthusiastically give it our highest honor, the Editor's Choice Award.

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Comments (10) Post a Comment
Damir Posted Dec 18, 2008 1:48 PM PST
The Affinity sounds great but I would be interested to know if the GreyHawk RS is the G3 version and how the Affinity performs in a room that is not light controlled? I called Da-lite and they told me the Affinity is not designed for rooms that are not light controlled. Is this true? If it is true would it not be better to test the Affiniy against the Studiotek 130 G3?
TonyG Posted Dec 18, 2008 2:04 PM PST
Was the light output from both screens measured? The darker color of the Stewart screen MAY indicate that it has a lower gain than the Da-lite. Evaluating screens without controlling for light output is similar to evaluating speakers without controlling for loudness. All other things being equal,the brighter screen (louder speaker) will typically be perceived as "better"--even by experts.

I'm not saying that the Da-lite is not in fact better, but I'm curious if any light measurement was a part of the test.
Crion Posted Dec 19, 2008 12:56 AM PST
I concur, test it against the Studiotek 130 G3 as that is the reference of screens.
John Posted Dec 19, 2008 8:03 AM PST
Actually testing it against StudioTek would be like comparing apples to oranges. The affinity screen is a matte GRAY screen with very little gain (.9). There is no technology behind this. It is the same type of screens that have been around since the 30's. StudioTek is a white screen with a gain of 1.3. This makes StudioTek 40% brighter than the Affinity screen. Graymatte from Stewart on the other hand is a matte gray screen. That would better represent what the affinity screen is TRYING to do. The difference is that Graymatte has been around much longer, has been perfected, and is generally used for different applications than home theaters. This would be the ideal material for edge blending applications due to the fact that it is a lambertian surface (has no half gain). The problem with this for home theaters is that people do not generally create black holes to watch their screen on. What happens then is your screen will reflect the light not only back to the viewer, but on the ceiling and walls as well. Please don't be fooled by all the hype. There is nothing new about this screen. It is just new to DaLite.
Stephen Smith Posted Dec 19, 2008 3:28 PM PST
In keeping with 1080P screen material options, have you looked at the SI Screens HD formulated screen products? In particular is an unusual entry into the WOW factor category called Black Diamond. This dark grey material has a 300% contrast ratio improvement over the Stewart Studiotek 130 with a 0.8 gain, making it useable in higher ambient light conditions than ANY other material we've seen and works miracles in dark environments by controlling light spill at the extremes so that the image literally floats in space unencumbered by the ceiling and side wall reflections. They call it "immersive" and they're not kidding.
Bill Posted Dec 23, 2008 12:59 PM PST
It would be interesting to compare this new DA-lite offering, and the SI Black Diamond against the optical DNP 08-85 (.8 gain) screen.

Do you have any plans to do that?
Laurence Russo Posted Mar 30, 2009 10:30 AM PST
It's amazing to me how many people tried to push me to purchase a Stewart screen. I had to make several attempts to look even get a chance to see the JKP screen. It seams to be the Stewart screens are the "go to" item for all of the custom theater shops. I was happy to find the owner of a Northern California dealer who had 40 years in the custom install business who really was an impartial voice when it came time to finally get a screen for our room.

We purchased the JKP Affinity after reading your review and listening to someone who I think has years of experience. I also got to see it in action vs a Stewart screen.

I have to agree that the material is smooth. It creates a really nice open picture from all angles and has just met my expectations for a pleasing crisp picture. I went in to see the only Northern California display of this JKP screen. I had to take into account that the projector shooting at it was above $30K and I have an older Panasonic 900AE.

Looking at the Stewart screen room then back to the JKP display I just found it more pleasing a picture. I would add that I lost the screen feel or that I am looking at a screen when I viewed the JKP. To me this was the goal. On the Stewart, you just had a few moments here and there that the sparkle would show through and that for me sealed my wanting the JKP screen.

Also, I like the idea that my kids won't be able to scuff any glitter off of it since it has no surface material to damage. Should also help in keeping it clean and damaged free.

It arrived well packed and the fit of the fixed frame was great. We were very pleased with the quality and ease of assembly.

Wife and I are very pleased with the picture and the look of the beveled frame.
Darin Posted Apr 3, 2009 12:53 AM PST
I am curious how this would compare to a Carada Classic Cinema white with black behind the screen. I have a sample of the Affinity material from CEDIA last September, but I'm sure it isn't the final formula. I believe the Carada is at least as smooth to my eyes and the gain probably isn't that different with the Carada Classic Cinema White being around 1.0 or a little under. I haven't measured them myself, but somebody else who measured a sample of the Affinity and the Carada Classic Cinema White actually got better color balance measurements from the Carada. The formula for the Affinity likely changed since then, but from that person's measurements the Carada Classic Cinema White was already very color balanced. I realize that the Carada material probably lets some light through, but that is one reason I mentioned situations where the wall behind it is dark or some black material has been added.

As far as the Grayhawk RS, based on the above results for viewing angles and things it looks like the Grayhawk RS would retain ANSI CR better in a light colored room, but that comes with more hotspotting possible and grainier look.
Laurence Russo Posted Apr 14, 2009 7:37 PM PST
Did Afinity/JKP send you a brand new screen to review? Or, is it one that showed signs of being sent around for evaluation? I wonder if you could comment on the grey/white "fiines" that appear up close. How far off do you think an average person could see them in low lighting such as may exist in a movie room that is not a "Bat Cave". Also, would you mind setting up a comparison of screens that are in the grey segment. Love the work you guys do!
Harv Schneider Posted Nov 12, 2012 11:58 AM PST
I am seeking advice to choose the right screen material for a 125" (49 x 115) 2:35 screen with the PTAE-8000U. The projector which is set at the back wall, likely has less than 600 ANSI LUMENS (and possibly approching only 500 Lumens), which works out to 15 (@ 600) & 12.777 (close to bare min.) - (Cinema 1 mode likley). It is a dark room (no reflection issues, black wall and furniture. If I choose the JKP 0.9 Gain I risk falling below the recommended min light level (SMPTE min. 12 FL.). I am therfore inclined to choose the JKP 1.1 gain. Does anyone know if the blacks will be noticably compromised with the 1.1 Gain screen? Also is the screen finish and sharpness as good with the 1.1 screen? Pehaps the Studio Tek 130 G3 is the best choice. 3D will be used and I am betting that (as per another PTAE8000 review) setting the projector to Dynamic and calibrating it will provide enough light.

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