Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sony KDS-60A3000 Calibration

History is replete with examples of products that were discontinued just when the manufacturer got them right. The latest victim of this injustice is Sony’s SXRD line of rear-projection TVs. These displays have always had benchmark status starting back with the Qualia series and its lower-priced successors, A2000, A2020 and A3000. Only the A3000 really got everything right. All the aspects of a quality TV are there; stable black levels, accurate color, good optics, 1080p/24 capability and correct gamma. Previous sets had most of these qualities but the A3000 finally had something I’d not seen since the last XBR960 I calibrated: accurate primary and secondary colors. This was the first Sony display, in my experience, with correct color out of the box.

My client was running his sources through an Anthem Statement D2 processor. This unit has Gennum VXP video processing so I ran my patterns through it to be sure of accurate results. As with most Sony TVs, all the controls needed are in the user menu. I started by setting the iris to a fixed aperture so it wouldn’t affect gamma and black level measurements. All enhancements were turned off. Black levels remained stable throughout the complete luminance range. Color space was left on standard. This set like many others supports an extended gamut (xvYCC) but no content is encoded with this colorspace. Engaging the wider gamut results in a cartoon-like picture with overblown color saturation. I did find use for the Live Color control. With the control set on medium, the CIE points were almost perfect and color separation seemed better. Since it had a positive effect, I left it on. Previous Sony products with this control do not benefit from its use.

Grayscale was easy to dial in with user menu controls as well. Tracking was within 100k of D65 after calibration, excellent performance. Gamma improved greatly from 1.7 to 2.1 after calibration. The gamma control did not have a positive effect so I left it off. Using it served only to raise the bottom of the curve. All adjustments were made with the Iris set on minimum. This ultimately hurt peak light output so I set in on Auto 2. Shadow detail was still excellent but peak luminance doubled to over 21 foot-lamberts. A 0 IRE field measured .008 fl for a contrast ratio of 2725:1. This was an ideal range for the room the TV was in. This TV is capable of prodigious light output but in a darkened room, anything over 20 fl will result in viewing fatigue. If ambient light had been an issue in this case, I would have opened up the iris to a larger, fixed aperture. I am a fan of automatic irises when you don’t see their operation. This is the case with the A3000. You don’t see the iris doing its thing when viewing content. Black level quality and shadow detail are excellent and you only notice the iris if you turn it off.

Once all adjustments to the Sony were complete, I dialed in the different sources using the Anthem’s adjustments. The Gennum VXP video processor has controls for everything except color management and grayscale. Small tweaks were made to brightness and some of the edge enhancement controls. DVD from the clients Oppo player was excellent and HDDVD played from an Xbox 360 looked stunning. Once you’ve experienced Blu-ray or HDDVD, you won’t want to watch any other format! For anyone considering a big TV like this, please hurry. Since Sony has ceased manufacturing this model, they won’t last long. I’ve seen them selling for under $2000. Imagine a 60-inch TV for under 2 grand! This has to be the video bargain of the century. As of today (March 9), Circuit City no longer has them in stock. If you already have one of these excellent displays, grab an extra bulb and consider a professional calibration. You should have no problem getting many years out of this TV.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!

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