Marantz VP-11S2 DLP Projector Page 2
You can set up multiple memories that allow for separate calibrations for each source. Further along in the menus, you’ll find adjustments for gray scale, video processing, image cropping, chroma error processing, and the standard installation options like projector position.
The VP-11S2 does not have a color management system, so you’ll need an outboard video processor to calibrate the color primaries and secondaries. Green was out farther than any color, and red was also a bit oversaturated. This adds a bit more punch and vividness to the color palette at the expense of accuracy. I compared the colors to the JVC DLA-RS2, and the difference was quite noticeable. The JVC’s color palette is even further out, and reds and greens had far more saturation. Neither could be a reference for color accuracy, but the Marantz was a bit more subtle and realistic.
Marantz includes several gamma options in the main menu, but I preferred the standard gamma setting, which has a pretty linear 2.2 level. This gave the best combination of shadow detail and blacks.
The VP-11S2 has two different black modes, Normal and Expand. Normal is for standard video material that’s mastered at studio RGB levels (black at 16 and white at 235), while Expand is for RGB-PC levels (with black at 0 and white at 255). The Marantz clips toe room (digital information encoded below black) in the Normal mode, regardless of the input color space. It also clips into the video range above digital 16, which sets the black threshold at digital 17. This clips the intended video signal just above black. The Expand mode doesn’t have this problem, but if you change the brightness and contrast settings to be correct with this setting, it will alter the gamma curve. This is the third projector I’ve seen from Marantz that has this issue, so a fix would be welcome.
Another anomaly was the obvious banding with a gray ramp. Regardless of where I set the contrast, the Marantz displayed obvious vertical lines in the gray ramp instead of the smooth contouring you should see. When I adjusted the contrast control to compensate, it never completely eliminated them. The VP-11S1 and VP-15S1 had some of the smoothest gray-scale ramps I’ve seen to date, so it’s surprising to see that the new flagship didn’t match that performance. And it appears this carried over with program material. I looked at some animation that has banding in the source to see if the VP-11S2 exaggerated the issue, and the false contouring was a bit more noticeable. Pixar’s Boundin’ is a great test piece for this; its banding was clearly evident in the skyline. This only shows up with a few samples of certain types of material, but I wish I could say the VP-11S2 was as free of this artifact as the company’s earlier projectors.
The VP-11S2 includes the same Gennum VXP video processing chip as Marantz’s previous 1080p designs. It upholds the quality standard throughout the line.
The Gennum VXP chip is a fully capable standard-definition and high-definition video processing solution. It fully deinterlaces and scales both SD and HD sources. The chip is one of only a few that does true inverse telecine 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down with 1080i sources for film material and motion-adaptive processing for video-based sources. It also offers diagonal line processing for video-based material, frame-rate conversion, and chroma processing.
I put the VP-11S2 through the paces with both our SD and HD video test suite, and it did a superb job in both. This projector truly eliminates the need for an outboard video processor. It adds a lot of flexibility with outboard sources such as DVD players and HD players since you can rely on the projector for the processing duties and treat the sources more as transports. It also does linear stretching for an anamorphic lens, which Marantz offers as an optional accessory. (Tom Norton wrote a great piece about this in our October issue.)
The VP-11S2 accepts all NTSC and ATSC video signals, including 1080p/24, with no issues at all. With a 24p signal, the unit displays the signal at 48 hertz, which eliminates the judder that’s commonly associated with the 2:3 pulldown process used for 60p.
It’s been over a year since I first saw this projector at CEDIA in 2007. I’ve been excited to see how it stacks up against the market since 1080p designs have been getting better and, thankfully, cheaper.
The VP-11S2 is not the quietest PJ I’ve ever used, but it’s slightly quieter than the previous VP-11S1. In low lamp mode with the color wheel at 5x, the noise level was all right and only somewhat audible in normal viewing. When I switched to high lamp mode, it turned the fan on, which caught my attention more often than it should in normal viewing. Using the 6x speed on the color wheel produced a very audible whine that was too distracting for normal use, and the higher color wheel speed produced obvious color artifacts. I left it at 5x for my viewing.
I found the multiple iris positions great for everyday use. For movies, I used Iris 1 to maximize the contrast ratio. If I wanted a brighter image for games or other video, I simply changed the iris position to Iris 2. This sacrificed contrast but provided a punchier image.
Whatever Marantz used for the lens coating, it definitely delivers as advertised. I compared the VP-11S2’s contrast performance directly against my JVC DLA-RS2, and it did a great job. Marantz has a slightly modified 2.2 gamma curve in the standard setting, which is tapered at the lower end to increase shadow detail. This brought out a bit more detail with really dark material than the JVC did. Black levels were still a tad better with the JVC, resulting in a more realistic black floor in dark areas. But you have to sacrifice a bit of shadow detail to get them. With mixed material, the Marantz had incredible depth and definition. I watched some sequences from the new Blu-ray releases of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Speed Racer. I was floored by the sense of depth in darker sequences with nice highlights. Despite the lower on/off contrast ratio compared with the JVC, I didn’t feel like the VP-11S2 was giving up much.
I began my critical viewing with an extreme torture test, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. This is an extremely dark movie with sequences that some displays just can’t play back in any usable way. Strong contrast performance and shadow detail are a requirement to make the most of this movie. The VP-11S2 showed great chops throughout the film. Shadow detail was as good as any projector I’ve seen to date, and some of the most difficult sequences still showed considerable detail and definition. Absolute blacks fell a bit short of my JVC DLA-RS2, but the difference wasn’t nearly as large as you’d expect with its claimed contrast ratios. Compared with other DLPs I’ve used to view this film, the VP-11S2 was by far the best. Dimensionality and small details in the darkest sequences were still great. The closest contender I’ve seen with DLP-based projectors would be Planar’s excellent PD8150. It delivered slightly better blacks but didn’t have quite the level of shadow detail in extremely low-level sequences.
I used a couple of demo selections for detail, including the recent release of Speed Racer and Baraka. Baraka is sourced from an 8k scan of a 65mm film print, and the level of fine detail and dimensionality is almost unparalleled. The VP-11S2 did an exquisite job with fine object detail and image depth. Here, the benefits of the handpicked lens and superior crispness of a single-chip display solution really shined.
Speed Racer is a frantic mix of uber-sharp imagery and crazy colors. I was amazed by the level of depth and vibrancy the VP-11S2 delivered. To say this film is chock-full of eye candy would be an understatement, and the VP-11S2’s wide color gamut made the vibrant use of color a real treat.
Marantz has lowered the price of its flagship design, but its made clear improvements in its overall performance. The level of detail the VP-11S2 delivered was staggering; you’d be hard-pressed to find better shadow detail anywhere. Although Marantz needs to put some refinement into its accuracy for both color and clipping, it will still be tough to find a better image out there.