Setting up the D2 is pretty much exactly the same as the D1. All of the
flexibility stays intact and all the things you could previously do with any
audio or video input remains the same. When you are setting up each
individual source you select which video input and audio input you want
associated with it and what sound decoding you want the input to default to
for each type of input signal. For example, for DVD you can select HDMI 1
for the video input but you can select any audio input whether it is analog
or digital. Then you go through the surround sound modes you want for each
input type. 6.0 PCM, 2.0 PCM, 2.0 surround sound flagged, Dolby Digital,
Dolby Digital EX, and DTS-ES Matrix can all have different post processing
applied including THX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx and so on (DTS-ES Discrete can
not have post-processing applied to it). All of the flexibility is still
With HD DVD and Blu-Ray there are new sound formats to deal with. These
include Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, and DTS-HD. As it stands right
now these formats need to be decoded to high resolution PCM inside the
player to take full advantage of them in your system. This means the decoded
PCM stream can be transported via either HDMI or analog multi-channel
outputs like we’ve had to do with DVD Audio and SACD in the past. Only
receivers or A/V processors with HDMI v1.1 compliant inputs will be able to
accept these signals via HDMI. The D2 does this and you can apply any post
processing format you want to it including ones like THX Ultra 2 and PLIIx.
Recently Anthem updated the D2 firmware to allow for setup of the default
for up to 6 discrete channels of PCM so you can apply different processing
on top of it. This allows me to take decoded Dolby Digital + 5.1 soundtracks
that have been decoded to high resolution PCM and add stuff like THX Ultra 2
or Dolby Pro-Logic IIx post processing to it.
Eventually these formats will have support for decoding inside receivers and
SSPs. This is rumored to happen with the introduction of the HDMI v1.3 spec
(or possibly even a v2.0). I haven’t spoken directly with Anthem on what
their plan is for this but they have mentioned in the past that they will
support any sound format that comes down the pipe and since the D2 has a
completely upgradeable DSP board, I imagine they will do this when it
becomes available and necessary. The only roadblock I see for this is the
HDMI receiver chips in the D2. I don’t think they can just be upgraded with
firmware to the 1.3 spec later down the line so I am not sure if another
hardware update would be necessary. I really don’t see this as much of an
issue though since all of the formats can be decoded within their respective
players. The only upside of HDMI 1.3 in my view would be support of SACD via
HDMI. SACD uses a 1-bit encoding format called Direct Stream Digital (DSD).
The HDMI 1.2 spec addressed the need for the transmission of this 1-bit data
stream and all further HDMI specs will incorporate the previous features.
There is a workaround for this though. DSD bitstreams are often converted to
PCM in most Universal DVD players for things like bass management and time
alignment. That PCM data could be passed over HDMI just like any other PCM
material making digital delivery of SACD possible. Right now I know of only
one player that does this, the Oppo 970HD.
In the main setup menu of the Anthem is a new selection for video output.
This is where you can select the main output configuration of the D2. There
are selections for output type, resolution, color space, data format,
letterboxing, synch and the Component 2 output (the D2 has two component
For output types you can chose from HDMI or component video. If you select
component then the selections that pertain to HDMI only will not be
accessible in the output setup menu.
The next setting is the output resolution. The D2 does not allow for custom
output resolutions but it does come pre-programmed with 21 different
resolutions in various refresh rates (frame rates) including 24, 25, 30, 50,
54, 60, 65, 70, 75 and 85Hz! (Refresh rates are output resolution dependant
and not all rates are supported with all resolutions.) There are plans in
the works to add 48Hz soon to some existing resolutions and new resolutions
can be added as necessary. During my review I used the D2 with output
resolutions of 720P and 1080P both at 60Hz.
The output color space is selectable and includes HDTV and SDTV depending on
the end display and what the user prefers. You can also select Auto. Many of
the displays on the market automatically use the HD color space (REC 709)
when they receive a signal higher than 480P, even if the original source was
mastered using an SD color space (REC 601, like most DVDs). The D2 allows
you to force a color conversion or let the EDID information from the display
For data format you can chose from YCbCr 4:2:2 or 4:4:4, RGB, or Extended
RGB. 4:2:2 YCbCr is the standard output of most DVD player’s MPEG decoders.
Some of the newer upscaling DVD players will also output 4:4:4, which
enables for higher color sampling (keep in mind that DVD is mastered at
4:2:0 so the higher color sampling is essentially added information not
inherent in the original source, HD DVD and Blu-Ray use 4:2:0 as well). RGB
is the most common color scheme on the market and is supported by all
displays. Extended RGB re-maps the RGB luma levels so that black is moved
from digital 16 to 0 and white is moved from digital 235 to 255. This will
usually introduce banding and it also clips head and toe room in the image.
We do not recommend this setting unless you are using a display that clips
head and toe room anyways, which only a few do. For this review I used the
YCbCr 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 output modes as well as the RGB output with various
projectors. The Gennum VXP chip does a minimum of 10 bit processing but if
the HDMI output is selected for YCbCr 4:4:4 or RGB it is dithered and
truncated to 8 bit. The YCbCr 4:2:2 supports the full 10 bit resolution of
the VXP chip and is highly recommended for anyone using a digital display
featuring an HDMI input. This will help with the common “banding” and
“contouring” artifacts so typically seen with digital displays.
The output menu also lets you select the level of “gray” for pillar-boxing
or letterboxing applied to the image. There is a setting for adjusting the
synch of the HDMI output and for selecting the output of the second
component output. Component output 2 can be set to the same processed
resolution of Component 1, can be unprocessed, or be set for Zone 2 (which
is unprocessed). You can also turn the second component output off if you
But that is just the start of the video processing setup and tweaking. You
could just leave it at that but Anthem has taken full advantage of the
Gennum VXP processor. For this there is a completely different setup menu
that will overlay over the active onscreen image. The menu system is very
clean and intuitive and is separated into five main areas; Picture, Crop
Input, Scale Output, Pattern and Info. Processing like you’ll find in these
menus is what would normally be reserved for high-end stand-alone video
processors, not surround sound processors or audio/video receivers.
The Gennum VXP chip is not just a simple de-interlacing and scaling
solution; it is a full video processing solution similar to the recently
reviewed Silicon Optix Realta chip with HQV processing. In the past we’ve
been limited to chips that do a good job with certain things but required a
lot more processing for image processing beyond de-interlacing and scaling.
Things like chroma upsampling error (CUE) correction, picture controls, and
advanced picture controls (Y/C delay, pixel cropping, detail enhancement,
noise reduction) have been absent, which is why standalone video processors
have become so popular (and in our opinion necessary!). But just because a
chip offers a high level of flexibility in image processing doesn’t mean the
companies that use them take full advantage of them. We’ve seen this a lot
in our reviews and it’s not the case here.
All of the advanced picture options in the Gennum menu are adjustable for
EACH source. That means every input source can have separate tweaks applied.
As I go over the features in this menu you will see why this is so
For picture control the D2 offers a wide variety of options. Some are far
more useful than others and some most people will never use at all. Most of
the default settings are actually dead on and what we recommend but some of
the features are worth looking at to decide whether you can use them to
enhance your viewing experience. All of the settings apply equally to both
SD and HD input sources.
In the Picture menu you’ll find selections for input color space, image
color (contrast, brightness, saturation and hue), Film Mode (de-interlacing
mode), detail enhancement, noise reduction, and motion threshold.
Input color space is a selection few will use, as most people don’t know
what color space their devices output in. The options include HDTV YCbCr,
SDTV YCbCr, or Auto. This will force the input color space for those of you
who may be scaling a SD source in a DVD player but want the processing done
in the correct SD color space. The Gennum VXP does all of its video
processing in the RGB domain so no matter what all input signals are
converted to RGB and then converted back to the output color space selected
in the output video menu I commented on earlier. I used the auto feature and
never had a single issue.
Image color had the obligatory adjustments most find with any display but
since the D2 handles each incoming source separately this allows for the end
user to adjust for inconsistencies between each source. Since there is only
one HDMI output (and since most displays only have one digital input) the
need for separate picture adjustments for each source is imperative as most
manufacturers just can’t seem to get all on the same page, even in the
digital domain. Adjustments you’ll find here include Contrast, Brightness,
Saturation, and Color.
You’ll find controls for the Gennum’s de-interlacing capabilities in the
Picture menu under Film Mode and Motion Threshhold. Film mode is either On
or Off and we didn’t find a single reason to turn this off. The Gennum does
an excellent job picking up cadences and locking on. Motion Threshold sets
the level of detection and its default setting did fine with all of our
The Gennum offers some more advanced video processing similar to the Silicon
Optix Realta chip including detail enhancement and noise reduction. The HQV
Benchmark DVD has some excellent video clips to test these functions with so
I relied on it for all my subjective testing.
The Detail Enhancement feature did a good job with the “staircase and
bridge” scene on the HQV chip but the Gennum offers a LOT of range for this
setting. I found that if you went to high, things got bad. Be careful what
you do here. Detail chips essentially add high frequency information that is
not really in the image and normally to get something you have to give it.
While it may look good in certain scenes, it may also hurt others. A great
test pattern to use for this feature is an overscan pattern from Snell and
Wilcox. This pattern is used a lot for setting sharpness in calibrations and
you will see how changing detail settings (or sharpness) will add ringing
into an image to make things seem sharper.
On the noise reduction side the Gennum does okay but not nearly as good as
the Realta HQV chip. Even turning the Gennum to its max setting did not
clear up the test sequences on the HQV test disc as well as the Realta
processor. There was still some underlying noise apparent. The same was true
for the motion adaptive noise reduction tests. The Gennum just cannot
compete with the Realta chip in this case, but it did better than most
consumer noise reduction features I’ve seen. About half of the noise was
The Crop Input menu has some very cool options including the ability to mask
the borders of the image. Most people do not understand the importance of
this feature because unfortunately most people’s displays have a certain
amount of overscan that cannot be undone. What this means is the display is
cutting out a certain percentage of the active image. Normally this is right
around 3-5% but I’ve seen even worse than that before. Personally I prefer
my display to have 0% overscan. I want the entire active image. This is
pretty much essential for reviewing purposes since we test things like pixel
cropping, but I also like the piece of mind of knowing that my display is
actually showing me everything that is supposed to be there. But there are
occasions that this is not a good thing. With some cable or satellite
broadcasts you will start to see information in the upper boarders that is
random noise. This is usually copyright coding and it can be distracting.
Anthem has addressed this issue with a user specified amount of pixel
cropping from 1-20 pixels. This worked exceptionally well with HBO-HD. That
channel is always fine with movies and shows but the commercials in between
always have a lot of garbage in the outer frame.
You’ll also find adjustments for your letterbox settings. The Anthem allows
you to letterbox or pillarbox any image you want or have a straight bypass
The next menu, Scale Output, allows you to adjust the size and position of
the active image. It also lets you stretch the image or set a bypass for the
scaler. So if you want 480P information to just pass through without
scaling, it will do it. Same goes for any other resolution. This is a great
feature on a per input basis for someone like me that tests a lot of
different video sources.
The Pattern menu has some pre-rendered calibration patterns that some people
may find useful. Most of the patterns are various color ramps in stepped
form. Recently they added a SMPTE color bar pattern as well. While these
patterns may be useful for some, I didn’t get much out of them personally. I
use very specific patterns for calibrating my display and unfortunately
these don’t encompass the things I look for.
The last menu is the Info menu, which provides input and output information
for your sources. There were a couple of occasions when the input video
source displayed the wrong colorspace information. I honestly hope that
Anthem does a bit more with this menu in the future.
During the course of the review I used various source devices and
projectors. Sources included DVD players, an HD PVR Cable box, a D-VHS
player, an HD DVD player and a home video game console. I used a BenQ 8720
DLP projector, Sony VPL-VW100 (Ruby) 1080P projector, Marantz VP12S4 720P
DLP, and a Panasonic AE-900 through the course of the testing. This allowed
me to test out the various color space outputs as well as evaluate the D2
for 1080i de-interlacing to 1080P into the Sony Ruby. All DVD sources were
output at 480i. HD sources were set to 1080i output and the home game
console was outputting 720P.
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