Technical & Editorial

Spears and Munsil HD Benchmark Setup and Test Disc - Version 2


For The Beginner

If you're new to the idea of calibration, or of optimizing a display, what does the Spears and Munsil disc offer you? The first two sections of the disc, Video Calibration and Audio Calibration, are designed to help you get the most out of your system with almost nothing extra required. By following the on-screen guides, or using the articles they have published on their website here, you can go through and properly set the Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, and Sharpness controls. Many of these patterns have 3D versions included, so you can calibrate a display for both 2D and 3D viewing.

Some of these use the included blue filter, though many displays have a Blue-only mode that makes them even easier to do. There is also a Color Space tool that helps you select the proper color space from a Blu-ray player, which people typically don't know.

Once these are set, there is a section called Equal Energy Gamma that helps you to correctly set the gamma of your display for midtones. Gamma is an area where people often disagree about what is correct, but a decent rule of thumb could be considered 2.2 for a normal room, and 2.2-2.4 for a darker, dedicated home theater room. If your display has a gamma control, the only way to get it perfect is using more advanced hardware, but this test pattern will let you choose the preset that gets the mid-tones closest to your gamma target.

This version of Spears and Munsil also includes audio test tones. I know most people have receivers now that have some sort of automated setup, but those should always be double-checked because the reliability of them isn't always great. I've also found that Audyssey gets confused if a speaker is in phase or out of phase, and test tones to verify that are included as well. Ideally you will have an SPL meter to do this section correctly, but there are SPL tools available now for smartphones that likely are as reliable as the small measurement microphones that Audyssey and others include with their systems. You can also verify if there is any audio delay in your system, and adjust it easily in your processor or receiver to eliminate that common issue.

Once you've gone through all of these screens, which might take you 60-90 minutes, your system will likely be better configured than it was before, and you can get more performance and enjoyment out of it than before.