2003 Editor's Choice Awards Page 3
Reference Imaging CinePro 9x Elite
($64,500; reviewed by Thomas J. Norton, October 2002)
Every once in a while we come across a product that provides an unquestioned benchmark, and the Reference Imaging CinePro 9x Elite projector does just that. Its 9-inch CRTs produce images to die for. No words can do them justice—they simply must be experienced. The 9x Elite works great with any first-rate scaler, but to get the pictures we saw, you must use it with Teranex's HDX Cinema MX video processor and a full digital video source-to-processor-to-projector link. The cost of the Teranex is not included in the above price, which makes the combination—never mind the projector alone—a dream that might never come true for most of us. But technology has a way of coming through in the long run. In a few years, we wouldn't be surprised to see this sort of imaging filter come down to the price of, say, an entry-level luxury car (rather than a Rolls). It won't happen tomorrow, but it could happen if enough video engineers get to experience these products in action and see the target they should be aiming for.
($12,449; reviewed by Michael Fremer, July/August 2002)
Of the eight or so fixed-pixel video projectors, LCD or DLP, to pass through TJN's studio in the past year and a half, the Marantz VP-12S1 DLP was his favorite. Michael Fremer, who reviewed the Marantz, was strongly impressed by it as well. Its factory-set color temperature was spot-on in the Standard setting. "The pictures from DVD and HD sources were sensational, offering rich, saturated, differentiated color, high contrast and brightness, outstanding clarity and stability, and satisfactory black levels," said MF. He did notice some jagged edge artifacts, which largely disappeared when he switched from the component to the RGB input. But TJN couldn't duplicate the artifacts, and, using a Stewart FireHawk screen, he zeroed in on the bright, true colors, superb sharpness, and dark, rich blacks. A good CRT will still provide better detail in the blacks and better overall contrast than this or any other DLP, but in the "affordable" price range, this new technology is making genuine inroads.
Teranex HDX Cinema MX
($49,500; reviewed by Thomas J. Norton, October 2002)
All that needs to be said about this remarkable product was said in the discussion of the Reference Imaging CinePro 9x Elite projector, except this: At the recent CEDIA Expo 2002, a Teranex/Reference Imaging setup looked even better than we remembered. There have been a few updates to the system that we haven't yet sorted out, but the folks at Teranex clearly have a few more aces up their sleeves.
($5199; reviewed by John J. Gannon, October 2002)
If all you need in a scaler is 480p, if you don't need inputs for sources other than DVDs, and if you can do without RGBHV outputs, then look for the best progressive-scan DVD player you can find. But most owners of separate projectors need a scaler that will give them higher scan rates. John Gannon found the Rock+ from Theater Automation Wow! (TAW) to be one of the best he's seen; it produced images that were "nothing short of amazing." Its proprietary Judder Terminator is designed to smooth motion on slow pans; JJG found that it worked better on CRT projectors than DLPs. An optional serial digital link, for connection to TAW's DigiLink player, is available for an additional $800.
Zenith DTV 1080
($799; reviewed by Joel Brinkley, May 2002)
DTV tuners are something of a moving target, and all those we've reviewed to date, including this one, have now been replaced by newer, sometimes cheaper models. But that doesn't negate the high quality of this set-top box. With its flexible menus, ability to output 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i, component and VGA outputs, optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, quiet operation (no fan), terrestrial and DirecTV reception, good sensitivity, and topnotch picture quality, the new generation of receivers could do a lot worse than duplicate the capabilities of the Zenith DTV 1080.
Balanced Audio Technology VK-6200
($10,000, 5-channel version; reviewed by Fred Manteghian, March/April 2002)
Dynamic. If asked to pick a single word to describe the sound of BAT's VK-6200, that's the one reviewer Fred Manteghian would choose. Sure, its 200Wpc handles the big stuff with ease. But it also handles microdynamics—those subtle details that make reproduced sound come alive—beautifully.
"But the BAT was no one-trick pony," FM emphasized. "It was also endowed with excellent resolution and depth. . . . music emerged from a dark, velvety chasm where the absence of sound was black and the only colors were the notes themselves." And the BAT does its thing equally well on music and films. Yes, it's expensive. And yes, in its 5-channel form, it's monstrously heavy at 180 pounds. But its sound is worth the forklift rental. It's a great multichannel amp that even the 2-channel purist can love. In fact, it's modular—you can fit it out with anywhere from two to six channels.
Anthem PVA 7
($1499; reviewed by Robert Deutsch, May 2002)
Bob Deutsch was seriously impressed by the value offered in this 7-channel amp. Yes, that's right—the Anthem is ready for those new rear channels. No need to pull the old 2-channel amp out of the closet. Dynamic and quiet, the PVA 7 was not embarrassed at all in comparison to much more expensive amps. "A standout in its own field," RD enthused after auditioning the PVA 7 with Anthem's equally impressive AVM 20 surround processor; "together, they offer what is probably an unbeatable combination of sound quality and value in today's home-theater market."