This CRT primer/FAQ was written by Curt Palme. Curt is a reseller of CRT projectors and one of the most knowledgeable guys that I know when it comes to CRT projectors. If you want to see what projectors he has for sale or would like to get on his mailing list please visit his website. www.curtpalme.com
Most of the projectors that I sell through Sound Solutions come from the US government and large corporations like Boeing, Disney and IBM that are liquidating the large 100-250 lb CRT projectors for the smaller 10 lb DLP and LCD models. These surplus CRT projectors date from 1988 to 1999, and most of the surplus units I get still have lots of life left in them. The ones that I scrap go into my parts stock
Most of the projectors that I sell go into home theatres, but pubs and sports bars do still purchase these from Sound Solutions. The following is my opinion and attempt to clarify the strengths and weaknesses of CRT, LCD and DLP projectors, and my attempt to clear up some of the myths surrounding CRT projectors. Again, the points and opinions that I offer below are my own. Like trying to get identical opinions from two car salesmen (no offense!), another CRT tech may completely disagree with comments I make below. My opinions come from having seen pictures and problems of almost every video projector model sold in North America. I have seen strengths and weaknesses in picture quality, ease of service (and getting parts), and common faults that occur with each brand and specific model. As I am an independent service rep, I have no ties to any manufacturer. (Should any manufacturer’s rep read this and take me to task on anything, the offending words were written by someone else!..:-)
Why CRT Projectors?
CRT projectors have been around since the dawn of television. An early electronics magazine that I have from the 1950’shows a large B/W video projector capable of projecting a 20′ wide image onto a wall. I have seen and operated an ancient tube chassis 3 gun 1000 lumen projector from the 1960’s that was used for the first Wrestlemania in 1986. Not a great picture, but at the time, an entire arena full of people paid $20.00 each to see Hulk Hogan duke it out on that projector.
Those of you that have seen a CRT projector in person will agree on one thing: they are large and heavy beasts. The lightest CRT projector weighs about 50 lbs and the heaviest that I have seen is about 250 lbs. There’s no getting away from the weight due to the glass picture tubes and the three lenses that these units require. Typical dimensions are about 24″ X 18″ X 12″ for a small projector, and a larger unit can be 40″ X 32″ X 16″.
Thanks to misinformed (and high commission ) LCD and DLP sales people, many myths surround the ‘mystique’ of the CRT projector. These include:
- expensive and short tube life
- CRT’s need constant adjustment
- CRT’s never give a good picture
- You need to call in a tech every time you need to adjust it.
As of this writing, CRT projectors still give the best quality image for a home theatre. The overall sharpness, focus, lifelike flesh tones and three dimensionality of the image still cannot be duplicated by any other type of video projector. To summarize the strengths and weaknesses of each type of projector:
- Excellent image quality
- No pixelation
- Excellent black levels
- Excellent flesh tones
- Long tube life
- Best $/hour performance ratio
- Relatively inexpensive to purchase used
- Most models are significantly quieter than LCD or DLP
- Tubes are expensive to replace when they wear out
- Not as bright as current LCD or DLP models
- Do require maintenance and ‘tweaking’ from time to time
- Not ‘plug and play’
- Require a complete set up for a change in screen size
- Small and light
- Simple 2 adjustment set up (plug and play)
- No drifting or alignment of projector
- Decent flesh tones on DLP
- Less pixelation on DLP than LCD
- Easy to change bulbs
- Recent models are significantly brighter than CRT
- Some are objectionably noisy for home theater use
- Short bulb life (1000-2000 hours typically)
- Expensive bulbs ($300-$500 USD)
- Noticeable pixelation (LCD only)
- Poor flesh tones on LCD
- Poor black levels
- Edge artifacting on most images
- Built as disposable units, you’re not likely to get these repaired out of warranty
- Many bulbs are not available 5-6 years after the model has been discontinued
- Rainbow effects from DLP’s can give some people headaches
Yes, there is a time and place for all types of projectors. It would appear that LCD technology has hit its peak about 2001-2002. Most manufacturers appear to be producing DLPs now more than LCD, and it is argued that the technology that will go one step better than CRT has not been invented yet.
If you are looking for a small portable and easy to set up projector for computer use, LCD or DLP are the way to go. There are literally thousands of models out there that are available on eBay or elsewhere. Keep in mind that the life span of any particular model seems to be about 6 months as the DLP and LCD race for technology improvements continues, so any model is replaced after about 6 months. There are numerous companies that have gone out of business making parts hard to get for certain models and makes, plus many bulbs are obsolete and are simply not available. Currently many manufacturers are offering 2000, 4000 and even 6000 hour bulbs to compete with the typical 10,000 hour life of a CRT tube. The problem is, many of these bulbs lose their brightness over time, and so the white areas of an image of an LCD or DLP projector may turn yellowish or other colors due to a lower light output of an aging bulb. I’ve been told by manufacturers’ reps that typically the light output of a bulb goes down by 20% at the half life point. This also means that the light output is no longer pure white, so your whites (hickey
ice!) turns yellow and the color spectrum changes significantly before the bulb dies. Depending on how picky you are depends on when you change the bulb.
As of the update to this document (Dec 2003), I have seen a number of LCD and DLP projectors come through my shop for repair. As stated above, these small < 10 lb projectors run very hot as the bulb is in very close proximity to the main circuit boards. While some of these projectors have come out of sports bars that do not clean the air filters and thus the internal temperature increases significantly and shortens bulb and set life, the fact remains that these small projectors simply cannot be serviced the way CRT projectors can. Digital projector circuit boards are treated the way a sound or video card is dealt with in your computer: Do not repair the board, throw it away and install another one. The problem is, unlike a $50.00 sound card for your computer, a video processing board can run almost as much as a replacement projector.
I’ve seen time and time again where I’ve checked into the availability of a replacement bulb for a > 5 year old digital projector, only to be told that they are no longer available. Therefore, if you’re shopping for a use digital projector, buy a spare bulb for it now while it is available, and keep the air filters in the unit clean.
While only a handful of CRT models are still being manufactured as of 2003, there are so many available parts, modules and used projectors that parts availability (with a few exceptions) is not a problem for even 15 year old models.
If you don’t mind the large case that houses a CRT video projector, some occasional ‘tweaking;’ and the best picture for a home theatre, then keep reading, as CRT is for you!
A CRT projector works on the same principles as your home TV does, with a few differences. Most video projectors do not have a TV tuner built in, so you need a VCR or satellite dish as your channel selector. The sound is routed through your home stereo or surround sound system rather than through the speakers built into the projector.
The video image is formed on three picture tubes, each of which produces one of the primary optical colors. High voltage within the set is required to excite the electron beam within the picture tube, which then generates light output when the electron beam hits the phosphor surface of the tube. The red, blue and green images are then aligned (or ‘converged’) on the screen to form one color integrated image.
The main components of the video projector are the picture tubes. These are three tubes that produce a high amount of light on the phosphor surface which is then
projected through lenses onto the screen. Myths surround these picture tubes too. Here are the basic truths:
1) The life of most picture tubes is rated at 10,000 hours by the manufacturer. It is very rare that a picture tube will fail from one use to the next, although this is possible. Most often, the tubes will simply wear out over time, but many tubes can still be used at the 10K hour mark. Depending on the make and model, the blue tube usually wears first, then the green, then the red in last place. Usually, red tubes are useable well past the 20K hour mark. I have found that in CRT projectors rated over 800 lumens that the green wears first, then the blue, with the red again lasting the longest.
It is my opinion that the manufacturers came up with this 10,000 hour point due to the fact that after 10,000 hours, the picture quality will be compromised with regards to focus, picture quality and brightness. The fortunate thing is, the change in picture quality is so gradual that many people use their projector well past the 10,000 hour mark before changing the tubes. If you have ever been into a sports bar and seen a CRT projector that has pink hockey ice and a puck that is so out of focus that you cannot see it, you will be watching a projector that has in excess of 15-20K hours on it.
The good news is, a projector tube does not really wear if no light is projecting out of it, as it is the phosphor surface that wears generally, and not the electron gun of the CRT. So you can have a projector running for 10,000 hours with no light output out of it, and still have the equivalent wear on the tube of about 500 hours.
The bad news is, a tube wears faster with a higher contrast and brightness setting, so always run a projector at as low a setting as possible.
Another negative is, CRT projectors are very susceptible to static images that can burn themselves into the phosphor surface in as little as 1000 hours. This is why I have to junk a lot of projectors that come out of static image computer installations. I have had CRT projectors that came from railroad control centers with little railroad tracks permanently burned into the face of the tube, which are then projected along with the video image you are trying to view. This makes a moving video image impossible to watch.
As indicated, it is the phosphor surface that wears on a CRT tube. This phosphor is sprayed on the inside face of the tube, and cannot be repaired once burned or damaged. Over time, the phosphor becomes discolored and this results in decreased focus and light output. An imbalance in light output of the three tubes results in poor colors, and a pure white image is no longer capable of being produced.
Fortunately, the tubes do not wear evenly. In the projectors that I have worked on, either the green or blue tubes start to show wear first, with the red being a distant last. Blues and greens can show slight wear at as low as 2500 hours, reds typically last at least 20,000 hours. This makes complete tube replacement not
necessary, thus lowering the overall price of overhauling a set.
The final point at which someone decides to retube a projector lies with how picky a person is about the overall picture. To put it in perspective however, 2
hours of CRT viewing per night is equal to only 730 hours per year. At the rate that used CRT projectors are being sold for, it is not worth retubing a projector in my opinion, depending of course on how much you have into the set. A ‘freebie’ can always be worth retubing.
2) CRT sizes
For all intents and purposes,. CRT’s come in three sizes; 7, 8, and 9″. Yes, some Sony 7″ tubes have a useable 5.5″raster, but we’ll get to that later. So, assuming the three sizes, the larger the tube size, the more resolution the projector tube will be able to display as the picture that is being projected onto a large screen starts from a larger tube surface. In general, a larger tube will also produce more brightness.
Naturally, a larger tube also costs more to make, which is why 9″ projectors are expensive to buy and expensive to retube.
In general, most video only and entry level data grade projectors are 7″. Mid grade projectors use 8″ tubes and the top of the line are 9″.
3) Video vs Data grade
All video projectors are usually called video projectors, however a higher end projector will also display data grade (higher resolution) signals than the regular video signal that is sent from a VCR or DVD player.
A standard North American video (NTSC) video signal consists of 525 horizontal lines that make up the TV image. These 525 lines do not change whether you are watching a 14″ TV or a 10’screen. This is why many larger pictures look grainy, as the scanning lines become very visible on even a 33″ regular TV that is in good condition, and much more noticeably so on a projection TV.
A data grade video projector will accept (usually) an HDTV signal, a line doubled signal, a computer signal via the high resolution RGB inputs, as well as a regular video signal. HDTV or line doublers insert an additional scanning line in between each of the 525 lines of a standard video signal, thus filling in the space between the scanning lines. Note that while true HDTV does actually send more video information to the projector, a line doubler is averaging the video information of adjacent scanning lines, and does not improve the quality of the basic video signal. Thus as with computers, garbage in, garbage out. Start with a good video (or S-video) signal, and a line doubler will be of great benefit to improve the basic video image.
Note that a video projector has to scan twice as fast for a line doubled signal as compared to a standard video signal. A standard video signal scans at a horizontal frequency of 15.75 Khz, so rounded up, a line doubled signal needs 32 Khz scan rate. The maximum scan rate of a CRT projector can be found in the model’s specifications.
HDTV broadcasts 1080 scanning lines which are interlaced (alternate lines are projected, so 540 lines are being projected at during any one ‘field’ of video information, so HDTV requires a 36 Khz scan rate, or something just over line doubling.
Line triplers and quadruplers are also available, and require signals of 48 Khz and 64 Khz respectively. In my opinion, a lot of people can get hung up on specifications, and for most home theatre applications, a scanning frequency higher than 64 Khz is not required. Many high end data grade projectors originally designed for CADD applications or flight simulation can take signals up to 135Khz, but I do not think you’ll ever use frequencies this high in a home theater application.
Video input Connections
There are four types of analog connections that a video projector might have. Video, S-video , RGB and component.
Most CRT projectors have a video or S-video input connector that will accept what’s called a composite video signal. This is the RCA or S-video jack that’s found
on the back of most consumer electronic products. Note that most commercial grade projectors will have a BNC connector for the video connection on the input jack panel. This is a higher grade connector than the consumer RCA jack on the back of a DVD player, and Radio Shack sells a BNC to RCA adapter that will convert the connections. One trick is to use RG-6 cablevision cable as your video cable connection to the projector. That way you can run the video cable up to about 300 feet without loss of the video signal. Simply buy an RCA to F (cablevision connector) adapter at the video source end, and get a second adapter at the projector which is a BNC to F adapter. Then run your cablevision wire between the two.
Due to a B/W and a chroma signal being run separately within an S-video cable, the general recommended length of S-video cable is limited to 30 feet or less. Longer runs will show that the B/W and color images will not overlap completely on the screen, and the color portion of the signal can lag the B/W one by 1/4″ on the screen. I’ve seen this happen in one of my own installations, and the only cure is to use a shorter S-video cable (or buy a very expensive S-video signal booster with adjustable phasing controls on it).
Most data grade video projectors will use an RGB, RGBs or RGBHV signal going from the source to the projector. The RGBHV signal uses 5 cable runs from the source
and the projector, one for each primary color, and one each for the horizontal and vertical sync signals. Some older formats use four cables, one for each color and one for both the H and V sync signals, and even older formats run the sync signals along with the green video signal. All line doublers, triplers and scalers that I have seen can switch between RGB, RGBs and RGBHV signal formats on their output.
With the high grade video cable available today, you can run up to 100′ of high resolution RGB signals without additional booster amplifiers. Over 100′ usually will require some form of RGB amplifier in the high definition line.
The introduction of the component signal format has caused more confusion and frustration than any other signal format. Sometime in 1994 (I’m guessing), some brilliant engineer decided that the decades old RGB industry standard for commercial and industrial video was not good enough for the consumer industry, and thus the component format was invented. Even though the three wires that are colored red, green and blue for the component signal would indicate a plug and play connection to a CRT projector’s RGB input, a component signal and RGB signal are NOT compatible. If you connect a component signal to an RGB input, you’ll only get a green image.
In order to make a component signal compatible with an RGB input, you need to buy what’s called a TRANSCODER.. A transcoder will convert the component signal to an RGB one. These transcoders are available online for under $200.00 USD. Note that most CRT projectors do not have a component input. Several models like the Sony D 50, G 70, G 90, Barco 701s and 708 do have component inputs along with RGB connections.
Note also that a very few DVD players have RGB outputs and some HDTV boxes may be switched between component and RGB outputs, while some only have component outputs. Check your source material for compatibility with a CRT projector.
The latest addition to the somewhat confusing types of signal on the market is called the DVI connection. It is a true digital connection and was introduced to prevent unauthorized duplication of video software. I do not believe that there are any CRT projectors on the market that accept a DVI connection from a signal source, although there are some DVI to RGB converters available.
Since we’re in the area of various signals that will connect to your projector, it becomes obvious that you may need a variety of switchers to handle these signal sources. You might have:
- Camcorder (video, S-video, component)
- Video game (video, S-video, component)
- Video tape (video, S-video)
- Laserdisk (video, S-video)
- DVD (video, S-video, component or RGB)
- HDTV (component or RGB)
- Computer (RGB)
You have to plan carefully how to switch these various signals. Most line doublers or scalers will have a variety of inputs to select between your sources Some doublers and scalers will have an RGB pass through ,so that a HTV signal will bypass the signal processor and feed directly to the projector (you cannot line double an HDTV signal which is already line doubled). External video switchers are made by companies like Inline or Extron, and many of these high grade switchers can be found on eBay.
Note that obviously many A/V surround sound receivers have video switching built into them, but beware that many of the video switching found in these receivers is substandard and can actually noticeably degrade the video signal quality. It’s always best to use a commercial grade video switcher. For those wanting all switching to be done with the push of one or two buttons, many of these video switchers may be RS-232 controlled by a control system.
Analog vs digital convergence
As previously described, the images of the three CRT’s need to be precisely aligned on the screen to form a single picture. This is done by first physically aligning the projection tubes, and then adjusting up to 300 points on the image so that all three CRT images line up exactly.
While this sounds like a daunting task (thus one of the appeals of LCD or DLP), in most cases the full alignment can be completed without extra test equipment,
and nothing more than a screwdriver. Even a first time CRT owner should be able to get about 95% of the capability of a projector out of the set by completing
the alignment themselves without the help of a tech. Those not interested in learning the procedure can hire a tech to align or converge the projector for them. The last 5-10% of the image quality is done by a CRT tech, or those CRT owners that find pleasure in ‘tweaking’ the image from time to time, to compensate for tube wear or convergence drift. Note that these tweaking adjustments take only a few minutes to complete, but of course there are those CRT owners that tweak more than they watch the projector.
Analog convergence is found on older or entry level projectors, and typically consist of 30 to 50 controls under the cover of the projector to align the geometry and
convergence of the unit. This procedure is a little harder to learn than digital convergence, which is done via on screen menus that guide you through the procedure, and a wired or wireless remote control lets you go right up to the screen to perform exact convergence settings for an accurate picture.
While analog convergence is an older technology and a bit harder to learn, great deals can be had on projectors with analog convergence, and as long as the set was well built, I have not found that analog convergence drifts more than digital convergence.
Drifting convergence is usually as much due to a shifting earth’s magnetic field, physical jarring of the projector (vibration) as is due to drifting component values of the convergence board.
Mounting and Throw distances
All CRT projectors have a fixed throw distance for a set image size (width). Most projector use a throw distance of 1.5 X the width as measured to the lenses, so for an 8′ wide screen, the lenses need to be 12′ from the screen surface. The exception to this throw distance is the Zenith video projector line that use a throw distance of 1.2 X the width of the screen. This distance can be varied a bit via the height and width controls within the projector, but the idea is to use as much phosphor area of the tubes as possible to avoid premature wear.
The one exception of using too much tube phosphor area is if you buy a projector that has a bit of phosphor wear. If that is the case, the wear area of the phosphor will be a bit less bright than the virgin area. If you project an image onto partial virgin phosphor area, the edge(s) of the image that are into the virgin area will be slightly brighter than the worn area, and an uneven picture will result. The trick to get an acceptable picture from a worn tube is to project the new image within that slight wear area, so that only worn phosphor is used. This may mean shrinking the image down a bit, or moving the projector a bit further back from the
recommended throw distance.
All CRT projectors may be used in the floor or ceiling mounting mode, front or rear projection. As most projectors have a substantial weight to them, it is obviously important to safely mount the projector to ceiling studs. The other option is to leave the projector on the floor and build it into a custom coffee table or other cabinet. Leave enough room for the projector to get proper ventilation if you are building it into a cabinet.
If a throw distance is not possible due to a room layout, it is possible to bounce the image off an optical grade mirror, thus shortening the distance between the
projector and the screen. I have heard of one enterprising individual that mounted a projector behind a couch and then bounced the vertically mounted projector off a mirror located above the couch on top a screen, so that the large projector would not be readily visible.
In general, the projector must also be level with the top or bottom of the screen. If the projector is floor mounted, it must be about level with the bottom of the screen, and if ceiling mounted, the projector must be level with the top of the screen. This can be varied by about a foot or so, but the convergence and geometry alignment allowances within the projector are limited and it is not a good idea to reach the maximum points on a bunch of these settings.
There is no one perfect screen size for any projector. The die-hards say that one should never exceed a 7′ wide screen to get the perfect picture out of even a
9″ projector, but I used to use entry level 7″ video projectors at high school dances onto a 15’screen back in the mid 80’s with good results. Not a perfect picture, but completely watchable.
In general, I recommend between an 8′ and 10′ diagonal 4:3 screen for most home theatres and bars.
There is of course a catch with a video screen. Most DVD’s and HDTV material is in 16:9 widescreen mode, while most regular TV broadcasts and VHS tape are still in the standard TV 4:3 format. If you use a 16:9 screen, 4:3 images will be off the top and bottom of the screen, while a 16:9 image watched on a 4:3 screen will have blank space top and bottom of the screen. For those that have the room and budget, I recommend a fixed 16:9 screen permanently attached to the wall, while a second 4:3 screen may be lowered in front of the 16:9 for regular TV viewing.
CRT projectors do not have the capability to convert 16:9 into 4:3 images and vice versa. What you feed into a projector is what it will produce on the screen. Many line doublers or scalers have the ability to convert a 4:3 image to project within a 16:9 screen, so that the height of the image remains constant, but the 4:3 image will then be smaller than the wide 16:9 format screen. Note that a 16:9 screen will use less phosphor area of a CRT tube than a 4:3 screen. If you set up a 4:3 image
within a 16:9 screen, even less phosphor area is used, so it will depend on how many hours a year you watch either format and if you plan on changing tubes
down the road on your projector as to how you set up your projection screen. Generally speaking, you will most likely see some 4:3 wear within a 16:9 screen
after about 4000-5000 hours of use. Conversely, I would estimate that you would see some 16:9 wear within a 4:3 screen after 5000-6000 hours of use.
Commercially available screens come in various screen ‘gains’, i.e. how much light they reflect back at you. Generally, CRT’s are best suited for screen gains 1.8 or
less. Higher gain screens tend to develop ‘hot spots’, so that sections of the image look brighter than another, or the viewing angle of a high gain screen may be limited. That’s fine if you alone are watching the projector. But if a group of friends are over to watch sports, the ones off axis to the screen will get a lower brightness level.
Most of the screens that we sell are Draper 1.3 gain, and they have worked out fine in all applications. Da-lite and Stewart are also popular screen manufacturers.
High gain screens are usually also known as glass bead, and will not work properly with CRT projectors. These are the screens also used for movie and slide projectors, so if you have an old tripod screen gathering dust that you want to use for a CRT projector, you’re better off letting it continue to gather dust and spring for a new matte white A/V screen.
Note that if you find a used screen, and do not know if it is glass bead or not, run your fingernail over the surface of the screen. If it feels smooth or like canvas, then it is fine. If it feels like sandpaper, then it is a glass bead and cannot be used.
There is no question that CRT projectors require a dim or dark room for proper viewing. While the image will look best in a pitch black room, a low level light may be on without detracting from the image. Fluorescent lights are very bad for a video image as is sunlight or any light coming in from windows. Neon signs such as bar signs tint an image terribly, and often a bar must relocate such a neon sign when we install a projector.
In general, most CRT projectors put out a minimum of 550 lumens, which is adequate for a 7-8′ screen. The brightest CRT projector that I know of has rated at about 1500 lumens, which was the Barco 1001, but tube failure was common on these and several other Barco models. I do not believe that an average home theatre needs more than 1200 lumens.
The larger the tubes surface, the more area there is to project an image on, and in theory the slower a tube will wear out. Naturally, the larger tubes are rated for more light output than a smaller tube, and thus a larger tube is driven harder than a small tube. Hence, all picture tubes last about the same amount of time.
ES vs EM focus
Most projectors made until about 1994 used an electrostatic focusing method. This consisted of one electronic focusing control as well as several magnets located
around the neck of the picture tube for focusing fine tuning. This was a perfectly acceptable method of focusing, and standard TV sets and non HDTV rear projectors still use this method of focusing today.
In about 1993-1994, Electromagnetic focusing was introduced. This consisted of the main electronic focusing as well as the magnets around the CRT’s, however an additional focus coil. was added around the neck of the picture tube. This allowed the electron beam to be focused more than with ES focus, and projectors with EM focus will allow specific areas of the screen to be focused independently. Found in all current mid to high end date grade projectors, and is desirable to have (but also adds to the price of a used projector).
7″ ES focus sets:
- Electrohome ECP series
- Barco 400,. 500, 600, 700, 701, 708
- NEC DP-1200, GP-3000
- Sony 10XX series
- Zenith PV 800, 810, 820, 830. PRO 840, 841, 851, 880, 895, 900, 900x
- AmPro 1500, 2000, 1100, 1200
8″ ES focus sets:
- Sony 12XX series (sometime referred as 7″ sets)
- Barco 800, 801, 801s
9″ ES focus sets:
- Barco 1000, 1001, 1101, 1500, 1600
- AmPro 4000
7″ EM focus sets:
- AmPro 2300, 2600
- Sony D 50
- NEC PG series sets (actually about 7 1/2″ )
- Barco Cine 7
8″ EM focus sets:
- AmPro 3300, 3600
- Barco 808, 1208, Cine 8
- Electrohome Marquee 8XXX series
- NEC PG Xtra, XG series
- Sony G 70
9″ EM focus sets:
- AmPro 4200, 4300, 4600
- Electrohome Marquee 9XXX series
- Sony G 90
- NEC 10 PG
- Barco 1200, 1209, Cine 9
Projector ‘Sweet Spot’
Each CRT projector model has what is known as a ‘sweet spot’, depending on the tube size and construction, as well as the quality of the internal circuitry. Speaking in very general terms, it is possible to feed too much video information to a projector, so much so that the circuitry and the tubes cannot accurately process the large amount of video information fed to it. A less detailed picture results, and some loss of detail may be noticed if the ‘sweet spot’ is exceeded.
For example, a 7″ CRT system with ES focusing is best suited for line doubling or tripling if the tubes are in good shape. Feeding a line quadrupled signal into one of these projectors will show less detail and a bit of smearing will occur on occasion.
The below settings are approximately what I have found are the best signal to be fed to the projectors. Naturally these findings are subject to interpretation, and your own experimentation is encouraged to find the picture that is best for you.
7″ tubes- line doubling or tripling
8″ tubes-line tripling
9″tubes- line quadrupling
7″ tubes-line tripling
8″tubes-line tripling or quadrupling
9″tubes-line quadrupling and above
CRT tube replacement and rebuilding
There are many brands of CRT video projectors out there, however there are far fewer CRT tube manufacturers. The main four tube manufacturers are: Sony, NEC, MEC
(Panasonic), and Zenith.
Zenith and NEC only make tubes for their own projectors, and did not subcontract their tubes out to other brands. Sony and MEC make tubes for many other manufacturers.
Sony tubes can be found in:
- Barco-Electrohome ECP series
- AmPro 2000, 2300, 4000
MEC tubes can be found in:
- Electrohome Marquee series
- Panasonic-AmPro – all but 2000, 2300, 4000
Some CRT tubes can be rebuilt. Rebuilding consists of stripping the old glass envelope of the electron gun, removing the worn phosphor from the inside tubes surface of the tube, recoating a new phosphor coating inside the tube and then installing a new electron gun on the neck of the tube. This is a very exacting process, in fact I understand that the rephosphoring machine is worth about $2 million dollars, so I know of only one company that rebuilds picture tubes in the US. This company can rebuild Zenith, NEC, MEC and some Sony tubes. 7 and 8″ rebuilt tubes are quite reliable, although I have had to return several rebuilt tubes that were out of spec. I have not tried any rebuilt 9″ tubes, although I understand that the rebuilding process has not been perfected yet (but getting very close).
Expect to pay somewhere between $500.00 to $800.00 USD per tube for a rebuild, and $750.00 to $3500.00 for a new tube, depending on the size and source of the tubes. Zenith tubes for video grade projectors are somewhat below the $400.00 USD mark per tube.
Specific CRT Projector information
The following is a summary of features and problems with specific CRT models as I have experienced them. The main four projector brands that I sell and that are on the market in general are Barco, Sony, NEC and Electrohome. Other brands are Zenith, AmPro, Seleco, Vidikron, Runco, GE, Knoll and Kloss. I will detail the less popular models at the end of this section
Several manufacturers (Electrohome, Barco and NEC) offered an option that automatically converges the blue and red tubes to the green, thus speeding up the set up time of a projector. Electrohome called their option ACON, whereas Barco called theirs the IRIS. NEC calls theirs ACAT. The option consists of a small camera mounted on the front of the projector, that sees the test pattern image, and automatically adjusts the electronic convergence parameters for you. This is useful if you do not want to learn how to converge yourself, but in my opinion while the camera units work well, you can always do a better job of converging manually. An ACON, IRIS or ACAT usually adds at least $300.00 USD to the price of a used projector and were $1500 to $2500 when new.
Barco projectors are made in Belgium, and are long known in the pro video industry as a very high end of projectors. I understand that Barco has recently archived a lot of specifications of discontinued models on their website. Barco is still one of two or three manufacturers making CRT projectors.
Barco started with video projectors around 1983-1984 with the Barco Vision, Barco Data and Vstar lines. I understand that the Vstar models were made specifically
for the airline industry and the all of the projectors that I have seen from this era have weak tubes and usually have numerous circuit problems due to their age. I do not actively sell projectors that are this old, although I do have the service manuals and some parts for these sets.
Barco then came out with the Barco 400 and Barco 600 video projectors. The 400 and 600 are very similar in design and performance. They use 7″ SD-187 Sony tubes with ES focus, have analog convergence, and scan up to 64 Khz (depending on the exact model number) with 600 lumens light output. Thousands have been sold, and many are on the surplus market. These projectors must be used in conjunction with either a little plug in controller module on the back of the projector, or with a Barco RCVDS 4 switcher unit that acts as a video selector and video to RGB decoder. Note that these two projectors usually only have the RGB inputs working despite the fact that they have video input connectors on the projector. The video card was an option on these sets, and hardly any of the sets I get in have had the video card
installed. Also, most of the surplus projectors do not come with the plug in controller or with the RCVDS 4 unit, so you may end up needing more components before you get a watchable picture.
Barco 1000, 1001, 1500 and 1600. These are a series of 9″ analog convergence projectors that Barco came out with from about 1989 to 1993. All very similar to the Barco 600 chassis, but used 9″ Sony ES focus tubes, called the SD-146A. A great picture when properly set up, but Barco drove these tubes quite hard, and sudden tube failures were common. These tubes are hard to find on the used market, and are insanely expensive if purchased new. 64 Khz scan rate, 1000 to 1500 lumens.
In around 1990, Barco came out with the 500 and 800 models. The 500 is a 7″ version of the 8″ Barco 800. The 500 put out 600 lumens, the 800 put out 825 lumens. The projectors have digital convergence which is very easy to set up, and lots of on screen menus to guide you through the setup procedure. ES focus on all of these sets.
In about 1993 Barco came out with the Barco 801. The 801 was very similar to the 800, but had an extra circuit called AKB that compensates for picture tube wear. Basically the same overall picture as the Barco 800. ES focus on this set as well.
There are two versions of Barco 500 and 800 as well as other Barco models. There are Graphics and Data models of most projectors. The Data models use hybrid lenses
and do not scan as high as the Graphics versions, which also have all glass lenses. The Graphics are somewhat more desirable, but in most cases the scan rate of the Data projectors is more than adequate for home theatre use.
The Data 500, 800 and 801 scan to 58 Khz, (line tripling), the Graphics scan to 92 Khz.
In 1992 to 1994 Barco had a model called the Barco 700 and 701. This was designed more for the home market as the case was small and very streamlined looking. 7″ Sony ES focus tubes, about 600-700 lumens, and scan rates varying from 36 Khz to 60 Khz depending on the model. This unit had digital convergence, and a very nice picture if the tubes are in good shape. This model was not as modular as other Barco modules, requiring the projector to be sent in as a whole when servicing was required.
A higher end version of the 701 is the 701s followed by the 708. The 701s and 708 used 1000 lumen ES focus Toshiba tubes, and both sets came with component inputs along with RGB, video and S-video.
In late 1993 Barco introduced a new series of video projectors, the 808, 1208, 1200, 1209, and 1101. The 808 and 1208 were 8″ tubes with the improved EM focus, the 1101, 1200 and 1209 used 9″tubes with EM focus. Many of these models also had Data and Graphics models, with varying scan rates, and all were rated at 1000 lumens or above. Digital convergence on all of these models and lots of on screen menus.
Depending on the production run, the 808 either used Sony or MEC tubes. The MEC’s are rebuildable and the Sony are not. The Sony tubes are at least $1800.00 USD each
to replace, the MEC’s can be rebuilt for $600.00 USD each.
All of these sets give an excellent picture and have been a popular seller when I get them in. I get far fewer 9″ projectors in, but the 808 and 1208 are usually in stock.
The Barco 808 was made until about 1998, and has been replaced with the Barco Cine 7 and Cine 8. I have not worked with these projectors as I have never had any in on the used market yet. Very high end projectors though.
In general, the Barcos have held up very well, other than the 1XXX series as noted above. Barcos are very modular, and about 98% of the components can be changed out without picking up a soldering iron. Most Barcos have a series of diagnostic lights within the chassis that make it easy to narrow down the problem area of a projector if it fails. I have serviced and repaired many Barco projectors via email or phone, with about 80% of the projectors being repaired the first time I send out refurbished boards.
Barcos are known to develop bad solder connections, specifically in the main power supply area. The Barco 500, 800 and 801 have the unique problem that if a certain solder connection fails on the power supply, all three tubes can be burnt instantly. Once the solder joint is repaired however, the problem never appears. I make a habit of resoldering all solder connections prior to selling these sets, and any power supply sent to me for repair has all connections resoldered as well..
Barco parts are insanely expensive from Barco themselves, however thanks to the large amount of projectors on the surplus market, several resellers such as myself
have a large inventory of rebuild modules and other parts in stock at a fraction of the original purchase price. I sell all parts on an exchange basis; you send me back the defective module so I can rebuild it and sell it at a later date.
Barco projectors with digital convergence are very easy to set up for convergence, and the manuals are very well written.
Sony basically was one of the pioneers of flat screen front projection TV’s. Sony made a series of wooden box KP-XXXX in the early to mid 1980’s that were designed to be projected onto a 6′ curved screen, and later these could also be used on a flat screen. Video only projectors, and most had a speaker and TV tuner built in. Very reliable sets, but I have not seen one in years.
Sony came out with their first flat screen CRT video projector in about 1983-1984 called the VPH-722. Later this model became the VPH-1020 and 2020, with little
differences between each of these. 7″ Sony Es focus tubes, analog convergence, 500 lumens or so. Convection cooled, very reliable, and occasionally I still sell these sets.
Between 1986 and 1996 Sony came out with a number of their 10XX series, including the VPH-1020, 2020, 1030, 1031, 1040, 1041, 1042, 1044, 1000, and 1001. With the
exception of the 1030 and 1031, these were all video grade sets, had analog convergence and had slight variations between the models. Some had S-video inputs, some had slightly brighter tubes, etc. etc. All very reliable sets, small footprint, and most had 2 or 3 small cooling fans in them. 600 to 750 lumens. In general, the higher the model number, the newer it was, but that changed with the introduction of the 1000 and 1001 in about 1995. I have no idea why Sony changed their numbering sequence…All of the above sets used Sony 7″ ES focus tubes.
The Sony 1030 and 1031 scanned to 26 Khz and 36 Khz respectively. With a small modification (I have not tried it), the 1030 could also accept a 32 Khz line doubled signal. Other than that, the overall picture was very similar to the rest of the 10XX series.
In 1990, Sony introduced a higher end model, the 1270. It came out in 5 different versions from 1990 to 1997, the 1270, 1271, 272, 1251 and 1252. All had slight
variations of the same basic chassis, and all used Sony 8″ ES focusing tubes. The 1270 had 650 lumens and 75 Khz scanning rate, the 1251 had 56 Khz scanning rate and 750 lumens, the 1252 had 61,5 Khz scanning rate and 750 lumens.
Each of these sets had 9 zones of fine convergence adjustments within the digital convergence settings.
The 1271 and 1272 had 65 and 92 Khz scanning rate respectively, and had 21 points of fine tuning, making these sets a bit more desirable for high definition installations. For all intents and purposes though, the entire 12XX line had identical pictures up to line tripling.
The Sony 1292 was introduced in 1995 as Sony’s flagship model. 110 Khz scan rate, 1200 lumens, 21 point digital convergence, and 9″ EM focus tubes. the basic image was very similar to the 12XX series, but the larger tubes and EM focus made for a razor sharp picture. Very large and heavy beasts.
The entire Sony 12XX line of projectors is known to be quite noisy due to the fans used to cool the projector. The 1292 is even noisier than the other models due to a total of 14 fans. A hush box is recommended for these Sonys if the noise bothers you.
In about 1997, Sony changed their projector lineup, and introduced the Sony D 50, D 70, G 70 and G 90 models, The D series was 7″, the G 70 was 8″ and the G 90 was 9″. All were significantly quieter than the 12XX series, had expanded digital convergence set ups, and gave an excellent picture. I have only to date worked with the D 50 and G 70, and they had stunning pictures.
Sony strengths and weaknesses:
The entire Sony lineup of projectors is known for their reliability, and failures during normal use are far and few between. The 10XX series and 12XX were not really designed as a modular set, and thus in field troubleshooting and repair is difficult. Almost all of these sets have to be sent to a service tech when a failure occurs.
Failures of fans have been seen, bad solder joints occur, and the odd component failure does happen, but in general Sony parts from Sony are less expensive than the
equivalent from Barco. Again, there are many surplus Sony projectors on the market, and good used parts are easy to find.
The Sony manuals are extremely well written and setup is almost as easy as the Barcos.
The first version of NEC CRT projector that I am familiar with is the 1988-1990 DP-1200. This is a video projector with ES focus 7″ tubes, and puts out 475 lumens. A fairly compact and reliable projector, this one is a challenge to set up and converge, but if you follow the instructions, you will get the hang of it. It uses digital convergence in conjunction with a wired or wireless remote control, and these remotes have been discontinued and are hard to find, whereas the projectors are relatively common. The tube life is exceptionally long in this projector model to the fact that they were not being driven very hard.
The GP-3000 and GP-5000 came out in 1990 to about 1992. The GP-300 was a 7″ ES focus and the GP-5000 was a 9″ projector. Both had digital convergence similar to the DP-1200, and they were rated at 600 and 650 lumens respectively. Again, a little hard to converge and set up, but they were a stable projector once they were set up.
the wired or wireless remotes are mandatory for the set up of this projector. Currently NEC does not support the above projectors, and all parts must be obtained on the surplus market.
In 1993, the PG series of projectors came out, this included the 6 PG, the 6 PG Plus, the 6 PG Xtra and the 9 PG, 9 PG Plus and 9 PG Xtra.
The base model 6 and 9 Pg were 7″ EM focus with 800 lumens, and digital convergence, The basic 6 PG only had RGB inputs; the video and S-video inputs required an optional video card. the 6 PG scans to 60 Khz, the 9 PG to 90 Khz. The 9 PG came with a point convergence card that allowed fine tuning of the convergence parameters. The 9 PG also came with the optional video and S-video card.
The 6 and 9 PG Plus had slightly higher scanning rates of 64 and 94 Khz, and had a higher video bandwidth for a slightly improved picture.
The 6 and 9 PG Xtra used different picture tubes that offered 1000 lumens instead of the 800 lumens of the basic model.
Again, the NEC’s needed the wireless remote to set the projector up. These are currently still available from NEC.
In late 1996 the XG series of projectors replaced the PG line. The XG models came out as the XG 75, 85, 110 and 135. The number within the model number indicated the max scan rate of the projector, so the XG-75 was 75 Khz, etc. True 8″ EM focus tubes, video, S-video and RGB inputs, digital convergence, and 1200 lumens. One of my favorite projector series of all time due to their great flesh tones.
Lots of convergence parameters to set up, which result in an excellent picture.
The XG-110 and XG-135 also came in a liquid coupled version, which is harder to find than the non LC version. The LC adds a layer of fluid between the tube surface and the lens, giving more contrast to the picture, but reducing the brightness slightly. These LC tubes are also more expensive than the non LC versions.
NEC strengths and weaknesses
All NEC projectors in general are very reliable, with the exception of the GP-3000 which are now known for sudden power supply failures. There is a custom chip in the GP-3000 power supplies that has long been discontinued, and when that chip blows, the power supply is a write off. Working supplies are hard to come by on the surplus market.
NEC in general used an outside vendor for all of their power supplies, and are therefore sold as a whole assembly from NEC. Fortunately, failures of other than the GP-3000 power supply appear to be rare.
The NEC PG and XG series occasionally has failures of the convergence and focus output board as well as the deflection board, but these boards are easily and cheaply repaired.
The phosphor appears to wear faster on the PG and XG series due to the high amount of light output from these sets, which is why I usually retube these sets prior to selling them.
In general however, NEC’s are an excellent bet as a used projector.
Electrohome is a Canadian based company and made two series of projectors (excluding the very early models), the ECP and Marquee lines.
The ECP line came out in about 1984 starting with the ECP 2000. This was a 32 Khz RGB projector only using an older style of Sony ES focus tube, and had a large optical system within the projector that combined the light output of all three tubes and projected to one large lens. Apparently there was a video input board available for the ECP 2000, but I have never seen one. This model is now considered obsolete, but complete working units can be found on eBay if you’re looking for spare parts.
After the ECP 2000 came the ECP 3000 and 4000. In fact, every model from the ECP 3000 and up is very similar, with circuit and specification changes differing somewhat. The basic look of all of these is the same.
The 3000 and 4000 used Sony SD-187 tubes, the same found in a number of Sony and Barco sets. ES focus, they were called 7″ tubes and have a 5.5″ usable phosphor area. The 3000 scanned to 55 Khz, the 4000 to 80 Khz. Both have digital convergence and were relatively easy to set up. Many of the components were on PC board modules, making field service simple. The ECP series is taller than most projectors, making ceiling installation difficult if the room does not have a lot of height to it. The ECP 3000 and 4000 were made from around 1988-1990.
The ECP 3100 and 4100 were made from around 1991-1994. These sets improved on the convergence software, and other PC board changes were made, Some boards are interchangeable throughout the ECP line, others are model specific.
The ECP 3500 and 4500 used brighter and newer Sony 07MS tubes for an extra 100 lumens brightness along with sharper focus. The focus boards that were notorious for drifting in the earlier ECP’s were completely redesigned (although it is a simple task to repair and modify the older boards), the 3500’s and 4500’s were made from about 1994 to 1997. These sets are still very popular and command a good resale value on the used market.
Electrohome is still making their Marquee series of projectors. These came out in 1993 as a high end 8 and 9″ 1000 lumen EM focus projector. All have digital convergence, on screen menus, and work exceptionally well. The Marquee 8XXX series designates the 8″ model, the 9XXX the 9″ model.
The Marquee 8000 came out in 1993 to 1995. Versions prior to July 1994 had older software without an internal hour meter, the later ones improved and expanded on the internal menus.
The 8110 came out in 1996-1998 and furthered circuit changes and software. The 8500 came out in 1996 and is still a current model to my understanding. The light output was upped to 1200 lumens by increasing the high voltage.
The 9XXX series came out in 1995 (I believe) and used 9″ tubes. These sets provided better resolution than the 8XXX series. The Marquee 9500LC is the flagship model in the Marquee line, retailing for over $40K USD when new These sets are used as the industry standard for very high end flight simulators. Modular construction is used throughout the set for simple filed service for most failures.
The Marquee series come in an ‘LC’ version for both the 8 and 9″ versions, which improves contrast. These sets are hard to find, and go for a premium price, even with worn out tubes.
Strength and weaknesses ECP:
The ECP’s have had numerous problems with them, most of which are inexpensive to repair, but cause annoying downtime. These include: bad Dallas chips (the main memory of the entire projector) which should be replaced every 8 years or so, bad focus resistors in the earlier ECP’s, bad IC connections in their sockets and bad LV and HV power supplies.
The only real concern are the failure of the power supplies, which while rare, cannot generally be easily repaired as Electrohome subcontracted the supplies, and does not provide individual parts or circuit diagrams for them. When they fail, they must generally be replaced as an entire assembly. ECP’s are plentiful though, and some power supplies can be interchanged between models.
The ECP 3000 and 4000 are now about 12-13 years old, and are becoming unreliable with the above described problems. The later models are still a good bet as a small data grade projector.
Strength and weaknesses Marquees
Similar to the ECP’s, the Marquees have the odd power supply failure, and the high voltage power supply is a sealed unit which cannot be repaired unless you’re really lucky. These supplies are in demand, as many people want to stock a spare in case of a failure. Again, they do not fail often, and overall the Marquees have been reliable. Some of the 8500’s had a power supply design flaw, which would destroy tubes by supplying them with too much voltage. It’s best to check if an 8500 that you are considering has been modified to repair this design flaw.
I consider the above 4 brands to be the ‘top 4’ for used CRT projectors that we resell and service. Below are other brands that will sound familiar or that you should at least be aware of:
Zenith came out with their entry level flat screen front projector in 1985, and at approximately $2500.00 retail, undercut their competitors like Sony by at least 50%. These were video only projectors, had crude analog convergence, but tens of thousands were sold from 1985- 1994, making them the most popular CRT projector ever for the sports bar and home markets. Various changes were made throughout the years, with the model numbers being: PV 800, 810, 820, 830, 840, and 851. Tuner models were also made in some years that incorporated 125 channel tuners and small stereo amplifiers for those people who did not want a complicated set up to watch a large screen picture. The final couple of models turned into very decent video only sets, with accurate convergence and very nice pictures for a very inexpensive price. All of these sets were convection cooled for silent operation.
In about 1996, the PRO 851 was replaced with a PRO 880, a completely redesigned video only set. This 880 had sharper tubes, digital convergence and an overall better picture than the earlier sets. The unit however was very difficult to converge until you learned how to do it, and made it difficult for the user to set up themselves.
Zenith also came out with a data grade version that scanned to 48 Khz , called the Pro 900. The early PRO 900’s had mis-designed power supplies and had 100% failure rate of these within 2 years. Zenith redesigned the set, and the PRO 900x solved the problems of the earlier PRO 900. A very nice picture from a 7″ tube.
Currently, Zenith is still making projectors, and rumor has it that Barco is actually manufacturing the top of the line Zenith set, the 1200, although Zenith Canada has stopped bringing in projectors, so I have not seen these.
Zenith Strengths and weaknesses
While Zenith made excellent sets with the exception of the 1989-1990 PV 830 which has premature CRT failure, service literature is scarce from Zenith. Even a set up manual is hard to find. Zenith relied on their large dealer network to service these sets, but many TV shops are unwilling to do service calls to sports clubs, and lack the knowledge to properly converge and set up a CRT projector.
Zenith’s policy is to do PC board swaps only, and in general do not sell parts for these boards. The upside is that replacement boards are cheaper than every other brand of set, and replacing an entire board is cheaper than spending the time to find the $10.00 chip or transistor that has failed. Without proper service literature available however, finding the right defective board the first time is the challenge..
All Zenith sets are 100 % modular, and should not require more than a screwdriver to service. I have serviced 100’s of sets in nicotine covered pubs and bars, and all models have stood up well. It’s common for me to retube these sets after a good 15,000 hours of service, only to have them last another 15,000 hours. A great bang for the buck. Many of these sets are in home theaters, and can be had at a good price from people upgrading to data projectors.
Zenith is discontinuing some modules and parts, but parts and service should be available for the life of most of these sets, thanks to the large number of these sets that have been sold in the past.
Zenith is still making CRT projectors, and the PRO 895 is being sold at attractive prices. Make sure you find a dealer that knows CRT’s though; many of these sets are being sold by electronics stores that cannot assist you with the installation and service.
AmPro was a US made CRT series of projectors from 1984 to 1998 when they went out of business.. AmPro was known also as: ESP, Gretag Image Systems, and Esprit depending of the year of manufacture. In general, the picture quality was excellent out of all AmPro projectors, but have a somewhat lower than average reliability record. There are many Ampro projectors in the surplus market now, so parts availability is excellent, and great deals are to be had, as Ampros sell for less than the equivalent model from a company that is still in business. The image out of an Ampro is at least equal to that of the ‘big 4’ name brand sets, and are easy to set up.
AmPro made 7″, 8″ and 9″ projectors. The 7″ models were:
-1400, 1500- video only
-2000 D and G- data grade
-2300, 2600- EM focus data grade
The 8″ were:
-3300, 3600- 8″ EM focus data grade
The 9″ were:
-4000- 9″ ES focus data grade
4200, 4300, 4600- EM focus data grade.
All of the AmPros required a serial computer interface or a custom AmPro wired or wireless remote to operate and set up. Without either, the projector is useless.
Overall , however, many Ampros were sold, and they are plentiful on the surplus market. I was told that Ampro started because of NASA, and continued to be their largest customer.
Ampro Strengths and Weaknesses:
The biggest weakness of course is that the company is out of business. Factory support is nonexistent, and aftermarket parts specific to the AmPros are found only on the surplus market and from one or two companies consisting of ex-Ampro employees. . The upside is that Ampros generally sell for less due to this than equivalent Sony, Barco, NEC or Electrohome models.
Common faults with the Ampros are bad solder joints, and high voltage arcing can cause havoc with the microprocessor circuits. CRT socket cards are a common problem (repaired easily), but the HV power supply is made by the same company that sells them to Electrohome, and failures are usually only solved by replacing the entire supply.
One of the most common brands of consumer high end projectors is Runco. However, Runco is not a CRT projector manufacturer in the truest sense; Runco takes CRT projectors from Zenith, NEC and Barco, paints them black, and relabels them,. True, Runco has custom ordered stripped down Zenith PRO 900x projectors, installed a line doubler and changed components on the microprocessor board, but the specs of the projector by and large still remain true to the original Zenith chassis.
Runco has been a very successful marketing company, but parts pricing is up to 3 X what it would be from Barco and NEC or Zenith. Runco does make their own line doublers and other signal processors. Check out Runco projectors, then check out NEC’s Barcos and Zeniths. If the case style looks the same, it will be a set that was supplied by one of the larger manufacturers to Runcos specifications.
The upside is that while Runcos are expensive to purchase either new or used, their resale value does hold up. For example, I sell NEC 9 PG Extra projectors for around $3000.00. An equivalent used Runco 980 Ultra sold on eBay in March of 2002 for $7100.00.
Similar to Runco, Vidikron only ever manufactured one or two models. Electrohome made the bulk of their sets for them. Vidikron changed the case style, marked them up accordingly and sold lots to the high end consumer markets. See ‘Electrohome’ for their pros and cons. The original Vidikron projector was a video only 7″ ES focus set, and threw a good picture, comparable to the Sony 10XX series or Zenith Pro 851.
Seleco, GE, Knoll, Ultravision, Cinemabeam, and others
Seleco made a few of their own sets, I have only ever seen one, and as I could get no information on it, I scrapped it. I understand that they are a well respected company in Europe, but not well marketed and supported in North America.
GE never made their own sets, rather had sets made by Zenith, Panasonic and NEC. The cases were charcoal gray and overall were good sets.
Ultravision was a small company that rebadged Zenith projectors. I have no idea how many they sold, I have only ever seen one.
Cinemabeam- This was Runco’s first entry into the large screen projection market before they were known as Runco. These sets were made by Matsushita, and Runco added a wired remote to them. These sets were popular in 1984-1986 and are now considered obsolete.
“What’s best for me?”
This is a common question that I get emailed daily on, and the answer is that you really need to come up with some guidelines as to budget, and how important a home theater is to you. I generally tell people to budget $1.00 per hour of use for a projector. That covers the purchase price and any maintenance of the projector. Now naturally if you buy a retubed projector, you’d expect to get 10,000 hours of use out of the tubes, so that $1.00 per hour of run time should come way down, but if you figure on $1.00 per hour, you can easily decide whether it’s worth $3.00 to watch that 3 hour Survivor special or whether you’ll watch it on your good old 27″ TV.
Decide whether a home theater will replace you going out to the movies, or whether it will only be used a few times a month. IN general from known resellers online and on eBay, you get what you pay for. If you see two identical projector makes models from the same reseller, and one is a few hundred dollars more than the other,
you can bet that the more expensive one has tubes in better shape, or has some optional feature that brings the value of the set up.
I’ve outlined many of the parameters to consider above when deciding on a projector. Nothing beats seeing a CRT (or digital) projector in action, so seek out someone that has a unit installed, and take a close look to see whether you’d be happy with the picture. If you’re looking at a digital, view a brightly colored scene like an outdoor sports game, and also look at a dark movie to see whether the blacks are truly black and whether you can see rainbows in the dark scenes on a DLP unit. Check out the focus of an ES set vs an EM CRT.
An excellent resource for more information is www.avsforum.com. I’m in the CRT forum often, and there are many other forums that deal with signal processors, screens and source material that I’ve only quickly touched on above.
Generally speaking though, if you compare similarly spec’ed sets, such as comparing one 8″ EM focus set to another, as long as the sets are in the same overall condition, you will see some slight differences between makes and models. If you put 100 people in a room to compare these sets, you will get more or less an even split as to which is the favorite projector. You will not get 90% of the people pointing at one set saying that it’s the best or worst compared to the others.
Why buy from Sound Solutions?
Aha, here’s the small sales pitch at the end of the document!
There are thousands, no, make that tens of thousands of used CRT projectors available for purchase through eBay and various other outlets. Many people that sell on eBay obtain their projectors as part of large computer shipments bought as government surplus. Many of these resellers have no interest in the CRT projectors and will put them on ebay in as-is condition. While the odd one might be in perfect shape, chances are much more likely that they need some major repair work or tube replacement before these sets produce a watchable image. Sound Solutions buys these projectors in bulk and weeds out the wheat from the chaff. While we do sell ‘as is’ projectors occasionally for people that are looking for parts units, our projectors are tested carefully to ensure proper working condition to as close to factory original as possible.
While CRT projectors are going for a small fraction of what they were once sold new for, the replacement parts are still full retail from the manufacturer. It’s therefore not uncommon to buy a projector for a few hundred dollars, but then find out from the manufacturer that the power supply that the set needs costs $1500.00. Like buying a high end sports car, you can’t take a projector to a local TV shop (usually) for a $50.00 tune-up. Few people know these sets down to a circuit board level like we do, and we have the parts and service manuals to restore these sets to proper working condition.
In addition to thoroughly testing these sets, we replace a number of components that are prone to failure before selling these sets. Many of these parts are upgraded with a better quality unit to ensure a high mean time between failures. Sometimes the failure of a 50 cent part will wipe out that set of pristine set of CRT’s, so we ensure that these critical parts are new or in perfect working order before a set ships out.
Occasionally a set will get damaged in transit. We ensure that any shipping damage is dealt with immediately, as we all know, courier and trucking damage claims can take months to resolve, and that’s not a problem that you should get stuck with.
Sound Solutions maintains good relationships with other CRT resellers and suppliers, Should there be a rare time that we do not have a part in stock, we will buy a part or module from another supplier to ensure that your set is up and running as quickly as possible.
Sound Solutions carries a large part inventory. We estimate that we scrap two sets for every one that we sell.
Sales pitch over!..
That about does it for now. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments about areas not covered by this document. I’d be happy to
add to it as I have time.
Note last note: before you buy, ask questions, and take a close look at a well set up CRT system. Not everyone will buy CRT, but those that do appreciate the pictures that this ‘old’ technology projects, despite what the high commission ‘bulb’ projector salesmen may tell you..
Looking to buy a CRT Projector? Then check out my CRT Projector store!