Classy Hatha Light works well in home theatre environments - and even better outside them
By Jim Bray
Light. If you want to see well, or grow stuff, or bask in the afternoon sun, light can be your best friend. If you're building a front projection home theatre, however, light is your enemy. Outside light, anyway.
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Having too much light in the room can also be a factor if you're using a flat panel, depending upon where the light comes from and where the panel is placed, but it really raises its ugly head with the front projection systems which, like the movie theatres on which they're based, need a darkened room to illuminate the screen properly. Too much light coming from other than the projector - or the wrong light pointing the wrong way - can wash out the projected picture, sacrificing the black levels that are vital for the best picture quality.
This means that if you have too much light, the Blu-ray that popped off the screen on your flat panel can look, well, flat on the bigger projection screen.
I've been dealing with this issue ever since I built my big home theatre in my basement. I have fine equipment and after dark the room is terrific. During the day, however, enough sunlight comes in via the staircase down to the room and the window behind the roll down tab-tethered screen to achieve the same kind of washing out of the blacks that can be caused by the wrong room lighting. To combat the stairwell spillage, my wife made a heavy curtain I can draw across the archway at the top of the steps, and it works quite well. Alas, that isn't the worst part of my fight with light. She is!
My dear wife doesn't like sitting in the dark of the home theatre (or a commercial theatre, either, come to think of it). Needless to say, getting her downstairs to enjoy a movie in our home theatre is a major operation.
To help facilitate her joining me downstairs, I've tried a number of lighting products over the years, looking for that magic product that will give her the light she needs without washing out the home theatre I love. Besides desk lamps and floor lamps, I've tried ones that clip onto your book or tablet and even some that you wear on your forehead. Some have come fairly close - such as the otherwise terrific Element LED I reviewed about five years ago - but none have yet offered that balance I seek.
And now along comes BenQ.
BenQ is known mostly around here for offering affordable video products such as projectors and panels, so when I was offered a chance to try their $450 QisDesign Hatha lamp I jumped at the chance to set it up downstairs in the dungeon. Would this lamp be my magic bullet, finally?
Here's how BenQ describes the product: "QisDesign by BenQ creates evocative LED lighting products for the world's leading interior decor markets." They claim the Hatha lamp is inspired by "the fluid grace and balance of the Hatha yoga masters," noting that the lamp features "a bendable rubber spine that can be stretched and positioned in a range of angles to illuminate any interior space." And they're right about that; it's a pretty nifty lamp!
Even better, if you're interested in saving the world, "the Hatha lamp expresses an environmental conscience along with its effortless beauty thanks to a bulb lifetime estimated at 40,000 hours and maximum energy consumption of just 6 watts." That's about five years of constant use before you have to replace the LED, which doesn't look like it would be an easy task for a thumb-fingered oaf like me.
I first tried the lamp's warm white light in a more conventional location in our living room, and it not only looks great there but I really like how flexible it is - in that you can not only pose it in interesting positions, it can be aimed easily to illuminate the area where you're sitting with your book (or whatever) without the light spilling excessively elsewhere. In other words, thanks to the lamp's flexible spine, my wife can read without the lamp's glare washing out a portion of the flat panel we have there, the way our normal lamp does. That's obviously a plus.
As mentioned ad nauseam above, however, I really wanted to try the Hatha lamp in the home theatre, so that's where I took it next. And you know what? This is the best lamp I've tried there to date. Oh, if you leave it on fully bright it still washes out the blacks to a certain extent, but the light is emitted into a pretty tight beam that does more to illuminate immediately below it than it does to spill light all over the place. And that's a great big step forward in my particular application.
But it still wasn't good enough to cure my anal angst about my home theatre lighting. That's because, while its own light is focused nicely, the pages of the book or magazine being upon which it shines can reflect the light back into the room, which isn't good. I think the only way around that would be to cover my dear wife with a big, dark blanket while she's down there, but I'd be a dead man if I tried that. And I'd rather see her lovely face anyway.
Ah, but the lamp can dim! You just press and hold the on/off button to adjust the brightness, and that changes things for the better. At its dimmest it's pretty close to my idea of perfection. Not quite there yet, but the best to date - and part of the reason it isn't perfect is those damn reflections off the pages. Perhaps printing companies should start putting their prose on black paper. I'll hold my breath…
The Hatha lamp isn't designed specifically for home theatre use, of course, so I can't blame it for not being perfect down in the lower deck section of Chateau Bray. And thanks to the lamp's bendability it can work well in a dizzying number of applications elsewhere in the home or office. Heck, you can even lie it down flat, stretching the lamp part horizontally so it looks kind of like a big bottle opener (the base) with a long black tongue stretching away from it (the lamp).
I can't see how useful that would be except as a conversation piece (and, hey, there's nothing wrong with a conversation piece), but set up more conventionally the lamp could be as ideal for the bedside table as it is for an end table in the living room - and because it twists as well as bends you can set it up in locations where you might need illumination for a specific location where there isn't room for a conventional table lamp. You really need to bend and twist it to see the possibilities.
So while I have yet to find my perfect home theatre lamp - and I'm beginning to think it may not exist short of banning books in the home theatre - BenQ's classy Hatha lamp, while expensive, can be a lovely addition to any number of decors.
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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