The Lost CEDIA Blog: Marantz VP-15S1 and VP-11S2
Getting back from CEDIA after being out of the office for a week is like traveling to a hurricane and finding out an earthquake happened while you were away. After two weeks back, I can actually see the top of my desk in spots, under all the receipts, press releases, mail from last week, bills and everything else that piled up on me over here.
There is always at least one compelling demo that slips through the cracks at these shows, and for me that was the demo I saw of the Marantz VP-11S2 front projector around noon on Sunday, just three hours ahead of the 3pm show close. I tried to double back to cover some of the stuff I saw and took notes on but didn't write up, but never got the to the Marantz. But here it is.
And yes, just so we're on the level here, I bought and own a Marantz VP-11S1 to use as my reference projector several months ago. And it still represents the best balance of strengths I've yet seen in a 1080p projector. Yes, you can get nearly as good for a lot less. But I've still not seen a PJ that excels it overall. So, it's with no small degree of interest that I made the effort to see the VP-11S2.
Before getting to the big boy, I should divulge some further details on the VP-15S1, Marantz' new $10K 1080p DLP projector, which looked spectacular in demo with an anamorphic lens and 2.35:1 screen (both projectors are pictured above, with the 15S1 being the one with the anamorphic lens sled).
The VP-15S1 is not a VP-11S1 for less money. There are significant and notable differences. Where the light engines used in the VP-11S1 are hand-picked for premium performance, the VP-15S1's engines will be more of an off the shelf thing. This isn't BS- there are tolerances that must be met in QC, and the VP-11S1 (And 11S2 when it comes out) will get the best of the best, those that are closest to ideal.
In addition, the new PJ will have a six-segment color wheel, not seven and will spin at 5x and not 6x. The VP-15S1 looks like a terrific projector at a friendlier price. It's not a VP-11S1 or 11S2 for less.
Both projectors, however, bring a new feature to the table that could be a difference maker- a dual iris. Marantz has always prioritized black level and contrast in a darkened theater environment for movie watching. Other PJs, from Sharp and others, have offered a multiplicity of lamp and iris adjustments that allow greater control over the light output. This allows some projectors to provide goosed up output when you want it- like when football season is sharing screen time with the movies in the fall. It also allows some flexibility when your bulb starts to age.
On the VP-11S2 pricing hasn't yet been announced, and it's important to note that the CEDIA demo used a hand built prototype, not a full production model by a long shot.
The big whoop here is that it will use hand-picked engines based on TI's new DarkChip4 DMD. According to TI, the chip backing has been darkened yet again, further damping stray light and dropping the blacks further and brightening the whites for increased chip level contrast. And if the contrast improves there, and the other elements in the light engine and optics don't let you down (and with Marantz they never do, in my experience), this should be an incrementally improved PJ, which is to say one of the very best will have gotten better still.
So, on to the demo. The material was the exact same material shown on the VP-15S1 a few days earlier, sans the anamorphic lens/2.35:1 combo. The VP-11S2 showed the same level of startling resolution I'm used to seeing on the VP-11S1 (my current reference), but clearly seemed to show some improvements in blacks and contrast. The blacks were inky and deep, but there was also some pop at the top end that I liked.
I've always liked Marantz' projectors because from the get-go they have emphasized blacks and contrast for superior movie playback performance. I wouldn't trade higher light output for the lighter blacks that come with some PJs. But, if Marantz can let me have both the dark blacks I've come to love, and also up the light output some, I'm all for that.
The VP-11S2 will be on sale in Q4 of this year or Q1 of 2008, worst case. We're already in line for review samples.