Most home theater owners would consider keeping two projectors installed at the same time overkill. However, doing so has allowed me to feel pretty confident that even if something went wrong with one, I’d have a backup at the ready until I could get the other fixed. Of course, that doesn’t work so out so well if both projectors decide to die in quick succession, which just happened to me. I’m dead in the water here.
Why did I ever have two projectors in the first place? I use them for different purposes. My venerable JVC DLA-RS40 (purchased back in 2011) still puts out a hell of a nice picture despite being a little long in the tooth. I keep that as my reference projector for watching and reviewing Blu-rays. Unfortunately, the RS40 pretty much sucks at 3D, suffering severe crosstalk artifacts that get worse as the lamp ages. It’s also always been a finnicky device that occasionally locks up when switching HDMI sources and won’t respond to any commands or power down without hard-unplugging it.
In 2013, I purchased a Sharp XV-Z30000 DLP projector as part of a closeout deal from Woot. DLP is the only display technology immune to 3D crosstalk, and it greatly improved my 3D viewing experience. I also soon found myself using the Z30000 for general TV watching in order to preserve lamp hours on the JVC and reduce the likelihood of HDMI lockups. The Sharp’s picture quality isn’t quite as good as JVC’s, but it’s perfectly fine for TV. Over time, I put a lot more hours on the Sharp than on the JVC. I kept the two projectors installed in my home theater one on top of the other – the JVC mounted to the ceiling and the Sharp on a shelf below it, as you can see in this photo from a few years ago.
Both of these projectors have given me issues at various times. As I wrote in a post last year, the Sharp Z30000 had a repeated problem with overheating and premature shutdowns due to an intermittent fan error. I debated at the time whether to have it serviced, but the problem seemed to go away on its own after I replaced the lamp. I made it almost another year without incident until the projector suddenly gave up the ghost a few months ago and would not power back on no matter what I tried. I shipped it to Mendtronix for servicing and it’s been there for a while. Last week, a company rep informed me that they couldn’t obtain a replacement part from Sharp (which no longer makes home theater projectors) and will be returning the unit to me unfixed.
As disappointing as that news was, I at least still had my reference projector working. That took over TV watching duties while the Sharp was out of service, and because it’s the better of my two projectors anyway, I’ve been biding my time while deciding what to do about the Sharp.
The JVC has not had a sterling track record either, sadly. In fact, the RS40 is a notorious model for premature lamp failure, usually preceded by flickering in the image for a time until the lamp cuts out entirely. My first lamp died on me after just 507 hours of use out of a rated 3,000. I thought I had solved that problem and the HDMI lockups last year, after I was informed about a design defect involving an IR receiver chip that was installed backwards. Ever since fixing that, I had no more flickering or lockup problems, and everything seemed to be great with the RS40… until this week.
On Monday night, I powered on the projector to watch some TV. While it was warming up, I turned my attention to something else for a few minutes. When I turned back, the projector was off. I felt my heart drop in my chest. That simply shouldn’t happen. I tried to turn it back on. Nothing happened. I unplugged it, waited a few minutes, and tried again. Nothing. Several more attempts all failed.
The front panel has three warning lights, and the one labeled “Lamp” is blinking. Naturally, my first assumption was that another lamp died early. That’s troubling, but I remained hopeful that I could get the projector working again by ordering a replacement lamp. Before doing that, however, I checked the RS40 owner’s thread at AVSForum and found a few other people who’d experienced the same problem. The news wasn’t good. The pattern that the light is blinking indicates not just a lamp issue, but a failure of the projector’s ballast component. I called JVC the next morning and confirmed. Something inside the projector is broken, and it’s beyond my abilities to fix this one myself. It needs professional servicing.
Dammit. The timing of all this is terrible.
At the moment, I am down two projectors, one of which may not be fixable at all. I have to decide soon whether to try to get the RS40 repaired, or to scrap it and buy a new model. Honestly, it’s probably about time I upgraded to a newer projector anyway. Now is just not a great time financially for me to do so (not that there’s ever a good time). A friend has gotten me a lead on a reasonable deal for a 2018 JVC, but with the CEDIA conference literally happening next week, I kind of want to see what the company announces for next year. I’d kick myself if I bought a 2018 model today only to learn that some huge improvement (like native 4k pixel panels) is happening in January. On the other hand, I don’t think I can make it months without any working projector. I need something in here ASAP!
This is quite an unfortunate predicament.