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Marantz VP-11S1 1080p Single-Chip DLP Projector

Part II

November, 2007

Kris Deering

 

Installation

Since the VP-11S1 is exactly the same in form as my previous S4, I was able to use the same mount. The S1 does not have horizontal lens shift, so mounting the projector in line with the screen correctly can be a bit of a pain. The lens is not quite centerline with the chassis, so if you are not using Marantz's mount you have to compensate for the offset.

Once you do get the projector mounted correctly, there is a built-in test pattern that can be used for alignment, focus, and lens shift. This is the same crosshatch pattern the S4 used and is an interactive pattern in that it changes color if you are outside of the recommended range of the zoom and lens shift. If the S1 is in its intended operating range, the crosshatch lines are uniformly white. Once you start exceeding the limits the lines turn green. This was never a problem in my experience with the projector.

Features

Rather than do a full calibration right out of the box, I broke the projector in for a few weeks. I wanted to get at least 50 hours on the bulb before starting in on grayscale just to make sure the bulb had settled in a bit. The S1 is shipped with the bulb already at 15 hours so it didn't take too long if I left it on for a while even when not in use.

I did do some cursory adjustments such as brightness and contrast using a variety of high definition test discs. It was here that I ran into my first problems with the projector.

When I tested the S4, I noticed that the projector clips head and toe room when it's fed a 4:2:2 YCbCr input signal. This is odd since this is the most common color space associated with DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray. Well, the S1 turned out to have the same issue, only worse. It clipped head and toe room with a 4:4:4 signal as well. That means that all video being fed to the projector needs to be converted to RGB before it's sent to the projector to ensure that the projector retains the full dynamic range.

This is a problem for two reasons. First, very few players on the market allow you to change the output color space. Second, RGB is limited to 8-bits, so you've just negated the value of those high-end DVD players and video processors with 10-bit processing. This is a limitation of the HDMI receiver chip the S1 uses and we've seen the same problem with a lot of other projectors on the market, but at this price point, such things should be worked out.

I've yet to use an LCD projector that had this problem. The Sony VPL-HS51 ($1999) that I had in my office would accept any form of YCbCr via HDMI with no issues at all. (I am not sure if this has been addressed with the newer 11S1 with 1.3a compliance, but I was sent a firmware update that at least allowed for YCbCr 4:4:4 support with no clipping.)

Head and toe room are important for video calibration as they set the boundaries for the upper and lower end of contrast and brightness. These controls are not arbitrary, and you nned a defined point where you should stop adjusting either. With brightness you want the mirrors to stop dithering at digital 16. If you have a SMPTE color bar pattern, there is a strip at the bottom of the image that represents the image just below that point. By setting the brightness so that the mirrors are off in the black area surrounding this strip (and not one level lower!) you are setting the off point of the mirrors to 16. Since the Marantz clips this information with a 4:2:2 input, you may not ever see this strip. You can compensate for this by just evaluating when the mirrors stop moving though (dithering) in the black area and just stopping there. This should give you the same result.

Contrast is a bit trickier though. Knowing the proper clip point for white is extremely important. Not only does it ensure that you are not overdriving white, it prevents color distortion as a result of having your contrast too high. This is very common in my experience. I can't tell you how many people set their contrast wrong and clip their whites. This is exaggerated by the fact that there aren't very many test patterns out there that are good for setting contrast. Currently we recommend using a Reverse XX ramp like the one found on AVIA Pro (Main Menu -> Grayscale -> Ramps -> Reverse XX Ramp). The new HD version of Digital Video Essentials also has a ramp pattern that is good for setting contrast at the appropriate level, but the AVIA Pro version is a bit more user friendly.

I overcame these issues by using my Anthem D2 A/V processor. It allows me to change the output color space to anything I want.  The video processors I've evaluated from DVDO, Lumagen, and Crystallio offer this feature as well, but again, I don't think you should even need to invest in a video processor with a projector at this price point, especially one that already has an extremely capable video processing chip inside it.

After I had put some hours on the projector, I hired David Abrams from Avical (www.avical.com) to perform a full ISF calibration on the projector. Dave is one of the most highly regarded calibrators in the industry and uses some of the best calibration equipment money can buy. As always, regardless of what you spend on a display, you should always budget in for a good calibration to make the most of your investment. Typical ISF certified calibrators charge between about $300-500 for a full calibration, and it is money well spent the majority of the time.

The biggest gripe I have with the 11S1 is its rather limited adjustability when it comes to calibration. I understand everyone has their taste in image quality, but there are some of us who really want to see the image the way it is supposed to be. This means conforming to the SMPTE standards and allowing the projector to be adjusted to meet these standards. The Marantz does give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to grayscale, scaling, and standard brightness and contrast adjustments, but it lacks controls to dial in the color primaries and gamma. These are just as important as grayscale in my opinion.

When we measured the 11S1 color primaries and secondaries, we found them to be a bit off from the reference. Thankfully, the deviation wasn't near as large as what we've seen from some 1080p LCoS projectors on the market, but we still like to see at least the option for accuracy if the end user wants it. There are a few DLP projectors offering primary color adjustment (some even offer secondary adjustments), and I would expect a projector at this price point and level of performance to offer no less. The 11S1's color decoder was dead on though, which is also very important, and it's an issue we've found with some other DLP projectors out there.

Gamma for the 11S1 was far more satisfying than the 12S4. We measured a gamma level of 2.2 with the 11S1 but could not achieve a gamma level any higher than 1.85 with the S4. We would still like to see adjustments allowing for a higher gamma (closer to 2.4 would be preferred), but we are happy to see Marantz at least moving in the right direction.

Gray scale out of the box was already quite good. Using the Photoresearch spectra radiometer, it was nearly perfect. In all reality, due to the excellent grayscale out of the box and lack of calibration options for color and gamma, the expense of having a full calibration may be unnecessary. Ultimately, that is up to the end user, but with the limited options for calibration and outstanding grayscale out of the box, your money may be better spent somewhere else.

Go to Part III.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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