Elite Video EV-4600 CRT projector Page 2
The EV-4600's greatest strengths were at the extremes of light—peak white and deep black. It produced nearly 12 foot-Lamberts of peak white on the 6-foot-wide screen while holding black more accurately than most projectors. This created an extremely wide range of light dynamics, rendering outdoor scenes—especially high-definition sports—with extraordinary realism. I can't emphasize more strongly the need for black in a video image: improved shadow detail yields a more 3-dimensional picture.
In comparison, a carefully set-up 7-inch CRT projector on a screen of the same size usually can't shine brighter than 9fL, and, since they usually don't hold blacks as well, the picture, by comparison, is flat and uninvolving. I'm conservative with my peak white (or contrast) adjustments. Detail and depth of field suffer when the beam is driven into blooming, and I have found that those parameters are more important than peak white for a realistic picture—even though the market-research folks will tell you that "brightness sells." We all see our surroundings in a composite of detail, color, and depth of field, in addition to brightness; to pursue only one of these parameters is to ignore others, which makes the image less convincing.
Through the Faroudja Native Rate scaler, the EV-4600's DVD images were head and shoulders above those of the 7-inch CRTs with which I'm familiar. Details in hair and skin pores were much more pronounced through the Elite, and the clarity of focus extended deep into the image, drawing me into the performance. The EV-4600 yielded an involving image that I found difficult to turn off.
Installer Nicholas Grieco was able to run the Madrigal MP-9 (reviewed by TJN in the January 2002 Guide) up to 960p on a 7-foot-wide screen, leading me to believe that the MP-9 has better beam-spot focus than the Elite EV-4600—even though both have electromagnetic and dynamic focus. This active focus, as opposed to the cheaper electrostatic focus, allows the beam spot to be more fully controlled over the entire face of the tube. Without viewing the two projectors side by side, it's impossible to make a definitive claim, but at nearly twice the price, I'd expect the Madrigal would offer benefits in its performance.
While the EV-4600 was in my studio, I also had the now-discontinued Dwin HD-700 7-inch CRT projector, along with a collection of 1280x720 DLP units. One night, I had a few enthusiast friends over to view the Dwin vs. the SharpVision XV-Z9000U, Runco VX-1000c, and Marantz VP-12S1 DLPs. Everyone was wowed by the clarity and full-screen brightness of the DLPs, but the consensus was that the Dwin's 7-inch CRTs created a more relaxing and involving image. I already knew the value of a CRT projector's ability to get closer to true black when the source material required, and had easily demonstrated the Dwin's black-level superiority over the fixed-pixel units.
But I had no intention of showing my friends the EV-4600, for fear of spoiling them. After a few hours of switching back and forth, however, I couldn't resist, and popped the lens caps off the idling Elite. The difference was startling. The EV-4600 went another order of magnitude deeper into the blacks than the admittedly far less expensive Dwin, resolving a level of shadow detail the lesser CRT simply couldn't match. The Elite's superior resolution from its finer beam spot also allowed textures and fine detail to be readily seen, yielding an image that had more of the "Wow!" factor craved by high-end videophiles.
Nor did the Elite's black perfection change with picture level, even with severe shifts in overall scene illumination, rendering tires and referees' stripes the same whether they were in bright sunlight or in shadow. This alone brought a level of realism that none of the other projectors could display. So when we complain in the Guide that the new fixed-pixel units can't "do black," understand that this is no minor criticism. When blacks are rendered correctly, all of the darker colors, shadows, and even the depth of field improve greatly—all of which aid the re-creation of a realistic image. The image has varying degrees of light reflecting off of it, and as long as the object is 3-dimensional, this reflected light gradually dims to shadows. So improved black and near-black can help render 3-dimensional objects more thoroughly.
One thing I've noticed, with every DLP unit I've critically evaluated, is the eye fatigue or strain that accompanies prolonged viewing. It seems that my eyes take longer to adapt to changes in light after one of these sessions—seeing into shadows is harder. It's even worse if I try to go to sleep right away—when I close my eyes, I see a well-defined rectangle. I've spent a lot of time in front of tube projectors, and I've never experienced anything like this following a session with a CRT—another selling point for the old technology.
Solid-state projectors improve with each new generation, but they're still not as accurate or as involving as the tried-and-true CRT designs, however clumsy and high-maintenance. The Elite Video EV-4600 is big and heavy, and was a bit intimidating as it rested on a very strong table in the middle of my studio. It eventually reminded me of Shrek—huge and ugly, but reliable and extremely entertaining. After living with this impressive video projector for half a year, I recognized that this Shrek is a prince—though it may not reign as king, it has royal blood.
With performance approaching that of the very best in the projection business for at least $10,000 less, the rugged EV-4600 is a very good value. It might seem expensive to fans of DLPs and 7-inch CRTs, but if you want to get the most from high-definition broadcasts as well as witness the essence of liveness that 9-inch CRTs yield, then the EV-4600 is a very good choice. For those looking for an even better value, Elite Video mentions on their website that "B"-stock units with one-year warranties are available for less money.