A man’s cave is his castle! In fact, a properly equipped man cave can keep most of us in hibernation for a millennium.

Two of the most important components for the perfect cave are the ability to lose ourselves in video and sound — hence we need a decent projector and audio/video receiver.

We’ve been playing with a new projector from Epson and receiver from Onkyo that could be the a viable option for fellow cave dwellers.

The Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 3500 ($1,699) delivers 2,500 lumens of brightness to any screen (or wall). We tested it using a 92-inch Stewart screen, but it can project an image up to 300 inches diagonally.

A lumen, according to Wikipedia, is a measure of the total “amount” of visible light emitted by a single source. Hence, the higher the number of lumens, the more light the source produces.

We tested the Powerlite 3500 under various lighting conditions and with several video connections, ranging from HDMI to analog video and it came through with a beautiful “picture” every time. The projector is equipped to handle everything from PCs to BlueRay players and was able to detect which video source we were using. And, if you have the proper components, its reproduction of 3D video is stunning.

The Powerlite 3500 is also a bit smaller than other projectors we’ve used, which meant we couldn’t mount it in the same position as its predecessors (it needed to be closer to the screen to adapt to the 92-inch screen). A minor inconvenience at best.

It also features seven color modes to give you the best picture for different lighting conditions, including:

  • Auto, which uses a built-in sensor to detect lighting in the room
  • Dynamic, for projecting in a bright room
  • Living Room, for projecting in a room with a closed curtain
  • Cinema, for movies projected in a dark room
  • Natural, for projecting other video or images in a dark room
  • 3D Dynamic, for projecting 3D content in a dark room
  • 3D Cinema. fro projecting 3D content in a dark room

The projector also comes with two pairs of rechargeable RF glasses that automatically synchronize with it when viewing anything in 3D. The glasses need a recharge after about 40 hours of use, another minor inconvenience when compared with non-RF glasses that come with many 3D TV sets. Truthfully, the difference in the reproduction of the 3D image is worth the recharging time. A quick three-minute recharge can be used for yp to three hours of 3D viewing time.

Other key features include:

  • Two HDMI inputs, which allow you to view content from two sources simultaneously (picture-in-picture)
  • An MHL-enabled HDMI port for game consoles and streaming media players
  • Two built-in 10 watt speakers
  • Front or rear projection
  • A USB port
  • A computer port
  • Audio in ports and an audio out port

The TX-NR646 Network AV Receiver from Onkyo ($699) also handled anything we threw at it, ranging from streaming music and video to 3D movies from our BlueRay player. We’ve come to expect superior sound from Onkyo products, but its reproduction of Dolby and Dolby Atmos sound needs to be experienced to be believed.

Dolby Atmos is a format that allows sound to “travel” 360 degrees, giving us true surround sound, especially when used with a 5.1 setup (five speakers plus one subwoofer). We used it with a 7.2 setup.

The receiver is also equipped to handle 4K video, which is much clearer and brighter than 1080p high definition.

One of the features we had to get used was the lack of a composite video “out” jack. The receiver takes the signal of composite and component video inputs and upconverts it to low-resolution HDMI. This means you don’t have to switch the video source on your projector or TV to use component or composite components such as an old music server.

Setting up the receiver was also simplified through the use of a menu that can be used for everything from configuring speakers to setting up a wireless network.

Other key features include:

  • Output of 170 watts per channel
  • DTS:X compatibility, which allows you to select how you want to hear your movies, TV, etc. For example you can just turn up the dialog track when watching a movie
  • Built-in Bluetooth and WIFI enabling you to stream audio from the Internet and mobile devices
  • Powered Zone 2 and Zone 2 Line-outs, enabling you to play audio in another room equipped with speakers
  • Two HDMI out and seven HDMI in ports
  • A USB port
  • Component and composite video and audio in jacks
  • A digital in coaxial/optical jack
  • An Ethernet port

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