Marantz VP-12S1 High-Defintition DLP projector Measurements & Comments
The Marantz VP-12S1 was measured after Michael Fremer completed his review.
The Marantz VP-12S1 has no user-accessible gray-scale controls. And while there is a service menu, Marantz is unusually restrictive about giving out the access codes, even to the press. Most service menus provide a way to adjust the gray scale at the top and bottom of the brightness range, and experienced calibrators are accustomed to working with such controls. But according to Marantz, the VP-12S1's service-level adjustments include a single set of red, green, and blue controls intended to be used in conjunction with gamma adjustments. Marantz is apparently concerned that calibrators will experiment with the Gamma control, which can seriously degrade the image if used incorrectly. Few technicians, even those who are ISF-certified, are trained in gamma adjustment. While I'm a little put off by Marantz's secretiveness, it should work out as long as each projector is adjusted properly in the factory.
Our sample of the VP-12S1 performed well right out of the box. The High color-temperature setting measured 8700 kelvins at full brightness (100 IRE) and 10,300K at low output (30 IRE)—clearly, too blue. But the Middle setting, shown in the accompanying figure, was extremely close to the optimum 6500K (or, more precisely, D6500). The results from the Low setting are shown as well; clearly the Middle setting, not the Low, is the most accurate, contrary to what MF was told. The actual CIE red and blue color points were comparable in accuracy to those measured on the SIM2 HT300, with the reds in both projectors shifting deeper into red than the standard and the blue shifting toward greenish-blue. Green shifted more toward yellow-green in the Marantz, but none of these deviations was obvious in normal use.
On my 80-inch-wide Stewart FireHawk screen (measured gain: 1.08 relative to 1.3 gain on the Stewart StudioTek 130), the VP-12S1's usable peak-white light output was 13.1 foot-Lamberts (High Brightness control Off, Lamp Mode High). This was about 2ft-L more output than I obtained from the SIM2 Séleco HT300, and about 1ft-L less than produced by our review sample of the SharpVision XV-Z9000U.
On the FireHawk screen I measured a full-on/full-off contrast of 736. Alternately, comparing the peak white output from a 100 IRE window pattern with an average of five readings taken in the middle of the black border surrounding it, the contrast measured 334. We have, for the present, dropped the checkerboard contrast measurement. The measurements made from each square on that test, particularly on the white squares, have proven so varied that the averaged reading may not be particularly significant.
As measured on the Video Essentials and Avia Guide to Home Theater test DVDs, the VP-12S1 resolved a full 525 horizontal lines, and its response extended up to 6.75MHz, though that frequency appeared to be well down in level. Overscan measured 2% left, 2% right, 0% top, and 1% bottom. Black-level retention was excellent, as was geometry.
I encountered one unusual compatibility problem. When I attempted to connect the Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 DVD player to the projector's component input, the Marantz would accept only the luma (Y) channel. When I tried to connect B-Y or R-Y, the image would go blank and the "no signal" indication would come up on the screen. But the projector worked fine with the Integra DPS-7.1 player (not yet reviewed) I used for most of my measurements and auditioning.
I spent much less time with the Marantz than did MF, but found its picture stunning on a variety of top-quality DVDs, from The Fifth Element to *61. Colors on all were bright, the image was superbly sharp and detailed, and blacks were dark and rich. But, as with all fixed-pixel projectors we've seen so far, there wasn't as much detail in those black areas as you'll get from a good CRT projector. In that respect, the Marantz was not very different from the SIM2 Séleco HT300 and SharpVision XV-Z9000 (reviewed in the June and February 2002 issues of SGHT, respectively). All things considered, I believe its performance to be as good as either of those other projectors. It may even have the edge with respect to an overall balance of strengths: color, sharpness, blacks, noise, light integrity (freedom from stray light exiting the case), and lack of rainbows (I saw them only rarely). Daylight scenes from the Marantz were always convincingly bright, with richly saturated color. And as good as DVDs looked, high-definition material was better still. All of my viewing was on the FireHawk screen; I definitely recommend it for the VP-12S1.
The Marantz was also very quiet. Not completely silent, of course, but never annoying, even from less than 2 feet away. All of the noise appeared to come from the fan; there was a slight whir from the rotating color wheel, but no high-pitched whine.
MF noted one serious problem with the Marantz: jagged edges on some material. I found this surprising, since the Faroudja deinterlacing in the projector is among the best in providing smooth, artifact-free images. He also saw jaggies on HD material (see the figures), which was even more surprising.
I tried all of my usual line-doubler tests and killer discs with the Marantz in an attempt to isolate this problem. The "Montage of Images" from Video Essentials proceeded without a hitch, from the transitions between film and video material to the waving flag and road stripes alongside a speeding car. The only slight artifacts I saw were on the slow zoom into the leaves and across the steps in the city park. But the opening, desert scene of The Fifth Element had no jagged edges. And a new test disc from Faroudja—designed to show the effectiveness of a scaler's 3:2 pulldown recognition, cross-color suppression, mixed-mode film/video performance, and bad-edit detection—played flawlessly.
Then I pulled out Titanic. This, as it turned out, may well be the King of the Test Discs for scaler performance. With the Marantz, I saw artifacts in a number of scenes, primarily on the ship's railings. They were by no means severe, but not hard to spot. Next I switched to the Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 progressive-scan DVD player and watched the same scenes. Using this player, I could feed the Marantz a 480i signal or send it 480p by using the Kenwood's own progressive mode. The deinterlacing circuits in this player are the same Faroudja chips as are used in the Marantz, and have proven to perform superbly with several other video displays.
In either mode with the VP-12S1, the artifacts were still there. As noted earlier, the Marantz would produce a picture only with the luma (Y) signal from the Kenwood, but that was all I needed to perform this test.
What, I wondered, would happen if I fed the Marantz a 720p signal—the same as its native resolution? A 720p hi-def source would work for this, but to limit the number of variables I played a DVD through a Faroudja DVP-3000, a variable-rate scaler I set for a 720p component output. The result: The artifacts were still there, in the same places and to the same degree.
But I saw the same artifacts—though to a slightly lesser extent—from this same DVD on the Sony Grand Wega KF-60DX100 LCD rear projector (see review in this issue), using either the interlaced or progressive-scan output of the Kenwood. So the Marantz was not the only display to have problems passing this difficult test.
It remains a puzzle why I didn't see all the artifacts MF saw. But I spent just two evenings with the Marantz, running the measurements and viewing 480i, 720p, and 1080i program material; MF spent several weeks. While Marantz may want to investigate this issue further, based on my experience, I wouldn't discourage potential buyers from seriously considering making the VP-12S1 a permanent fixture in their home theaters. —Thomas J. Norton