Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sony LCD Rear Projection, KDFEA10 Calibrations

I recently had the opportunity to calibrate 2 different Sony KDFEA10 LCD RP sets, a 50 inch and a 42 inch. These are excellent values for 720p HDTVs. They are discontinued now but many dealers still have them in stock. They have 2 component inputs and 1 HDMI input like other TVs of this type. Calibration is through the service menu and is global for all inputs. Grayscale can be set very precisely to track within 150k of D65. To adjust the color decoder, there is a "color axis" setting. This appears to rotate the gamut almost like a clock. There are about 50 different settings. I used the color analyzer to find the most accurate one. Once the grayscale and decoder is set, final tweaks are done with the iris controls. This varies the black level enough to affect the grayscale so I had to compromise to keep each input close to spec. In the end, I left the iris on its minimum setting for the component inputs and medium for HDMI. I also set different parameters for Black Corrector, Gamma and Advanced Iris to adjust for the grayscale shift through HDMI.

This TV was fairly difficult to work on because all the settings were interacting with each other. Luckily, the service and user menus are accessible at the same time. I went back and forth for quite awhile to get the results I wanted. I wound up with a great looking TV when I was finally done. I wish I could hide that awful Vivid picture mode. It's so bright and blue it's painful! Once you've become accustomed to a calibrated image, Vivid is downright offensive!

I still see these sets for sale at the big box stores. The prices are quite low. They're probably one of the best bargains for an HDTV right now. Even after adding the price of a calibration, you've still got a 50 inch HDTV for under $2000.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sony XBR960 CRT Calibration

Last week, I had the priviledge of calibrating an Sony 34-inch XBR960 CRT. This is probably the last truly great CRT HDTV. It has been discontinued but there are still some deals out there. MSRP is around $1800 but they can be found for under $1000. The first thing I noticed is the excellent black level. Not only are the blacks really black but it was totally stable through the different APL Pluge patterns. I had superb notes on this TV's service menu so I dove right in. Grayscale is adjusted for the Neutral color temp at 1080i. Then you adjust offsets for the other scan rates and color temp presets. A complete set of decoder controls is also available. Once again, I was able to use my Progressive Labs analyzer instead of filters to really achieve accuracy. I also adjusted the image position and overscan. When I had finished, the gamma curve was a perfect 2.2, not 2.19 or 2.21 but 2.2! Grayscale tracked within 200k of D65 with all Delta C* points below 1.

Needless to say, the customer and I were very pleased. He is very proud of this set and it was my pleasure to calibrate it for peak performance. Even though CRT is nearly gone from the marketplace, there is still a large base of customers with quality sets that have yet to realize their full performance potential. I look forward to the next one.

Sound and Harmony remote setup

Last night, I completed work on a customers home theater system. After calibrating his Sony A2000 on a previous visit, I spent about 8 hours total wiring a receiver, DVD player, Tivo, VCR, Xbox into the TV and surround speaker system. The speakers are interesting, they're Definitive Technology BP-2000s. The mains and center have built-in 15 inch subs with their own amps. The remaining drivers have high, mid and low wire terminals as well. My customer was going for mega bass so I wired the left and right subs and bi-wired all three front speakers. We fired up Super Speedway. With the subs turned up to half it was an earthquake! He says, "I need more." I went to the point of distortion and backed off a bit. At this point, my ears hurt and his enormous leather sectional was shaking. He said, "that's the bass I've been waiting for!" He'd had these speakers for several years and never wired them correctly. Once I got his Denon AVR-5700 configured, it was armageddon in there!

I completed the job by setting up a Harmony 890 remote for him. This is a slick piece. Logitech's code base covers over 175,000 products. Take that URC! I had it up and running in about 2 hours. I'm going to get one of these for myself. It supports RF so you can put your rack in a closet or behind the couch if you want.

Bottom line: the customer was happy, I was happy, I had fun. It was my first time doing an entire system setup. From here on out, I'll have a price schedule for sound system and remote control setups. I know there are a lot of people out there that need help with these products. They're so capable and so complicated. Why spend thousands of dollars on technology and not get the maximum performance possible?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Followup work on Sony KD-S60A2000

I first calibrated this TV about 2 weeks ago. Nice set but the color tracking is not quite as good as the KD-SR60XBR1. It does have excellent black level stability and far less edge enhancement artifacts though. The image quality from a good source is excellent. I was able to tame the red push with a little tweaking of the hue control and my trusty Progressive Labs analyzer. My customer just installed the HR-250 Tivo. The quality from this feed is spotty. Some channels like HDNet look fantastic. Others are just soft. Here in NY, all HD channels are fed over the dish, not over the air. I think quality has suffered as a result.

I'm also doing an audio setup and remote control setup for this customer. He has an excellent Denon AVR-5700 and some impressive DefTech speakers with built-in amplified subs. The wiring is a bit unusual but I've got it figured out and I'll be finishing it up next week. I did a basic setup on a Harmony 890 remote. This is a very well designed piece. I'm going to add one to my home very soon. After going through about a 20-minute process on the internet, the remote was programmed with the basics. All I have to do is reconfigure a few screens on it and I'll be done.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sony KDS-R60XBR1 Calibration

I've been wanting to do one of the Sony SXRDs for awhile and I just got my chance. Boy what a nice TV! It's quite a light cannon out of the box. It also adds major edge enhancement especially when scaling up DVD output from 480p. I put up the opening of Star Wars Episode I to see the text scrolling in the beginning. The letters had large white borders around them! The yellow color was almost completely covered. Needless to say, the sharpness was the first thing I worked on. I worked with this control and all the other enhancements available. I wound up turning everything off and dialing the sharpness down to almost the bottom. I could still resolve the 1080i pattern just fine without and extra video processing.

After setting the correct black and white levels, I moved on to the grayscale controls in the Advanced Video menu. I was able to achieve superb tracking (within 100k of D65) on both the component and HDMI inputs with a slightly better result on HDMI. The grayscale was so good, I barely had to touch the color and tint controls afterwards. The secondaries were almost perfectly aligned. Like other Sonys, this set did have a red push but it was easily tamed with a tweak of the hue control. My Progressive Labs analyzer makes it a breeze to get proper color and hue settings rather than using filters which are unreliable with displays other that CRT.

In the end, I increased the contrast ratio from 160:1 to 204:1 (measured with an ANSI checkerboard at 16 points on the screen). Color and grayscale were about as close to perfect as you could ask for. Super TV and even better with calibration.

Lost Season 2 DVD Review

I just got this set in the mail last Thursday and my wife and I have already watched 14 episodes! We're fans to put it mildly. There's no need to go into the specifics of the show, it's covered in a myriad of places on the internet. These DVDs are quite simply the best transfers I have ever seen! Of course, the original is shot in HD which helps. Honestly though, the difference between these DVDs and an HD broadcast is minimal. The sound is also top-notch. All scenes on the beach really show the surround effect with the wave noise enveloping the viewer. The balance of music, dialogue and sound effects is also superb. Dynamic range is excellent with no one element being either too loud or too soft.

From what I hear, these DVD sets can be found either online or in big-box stores for between $35 and $45. I say get 'em while they're hot! If you're even contemplating becoming a Lost fan, you won't be sorry!