Sunday, November 08, 2009

KRP-500M and KRP-600M Patch and Calibration

As you all know by now, Pioneer will be done selling their amazing Kuro plasma displays by the end of 2009. The Elite models are becoming harder to find as dealers seek to trim their inventories. Now a model is emerging that wasn’t even on the radar six months ago, the KRP monitors. These were originally only sold in Europe but they became available in the US in early 2009. Even now there is no information on them on Pioneer’s US website.

Here’s the spec rundown:

  • 50” and 60” screen sizes
  • 1080p
  • Pure Cinema Standard, Smooth and Advance modes
  • Pure Mode (like the Elites)
  • Blue-only Mode (to set color and tint)
  • 1 – DVI input, 2 – HDMI inputs, 1 each component, composite and S-video input, PC input, ATSC tuner

Hardware-wise, these panels are identical to any other Kuro – same glass, same electronics. The only difference is software and that is where things get interesting. Thanks to some very creative engineering from ControlCAL, it is now possible to replace the firmware of the KRP monitors to enable the ISF modes just like the Elite models. The user modes are still available and all other features too. As you’ve read in my previous posts, the ISF modes are a real jump in quality because of their greater light output and contrast. The dead-on accuracy of color, gamma and grayscale is there too. The patch turns your KRP into an Elite Signature Monitor. The only thing you won’t have are the two additional HDMI inputs. I will be up front about one thing – you will likely void your warranty by applying the patch. My recommendation is to purchase a KRP and run it for a few weeks before applying the patch. Go through the break-in process and watch it in the Pure mode for a while to be sure there are no manufacturing defects. This is standard procedure for any TV you plan to have professionally calibrated. You don’t want to pay for calibration before you’re sure the TV is solid.

I recently patched and calibrated a KRP-500M with the amazing results typical of all Kuro TVs. The patching process takes about 10 minutes with a laptop and serial connection. Then the calibration proceeds just like any other ControlCAL workup. The two links below will open the color and grayscale reports I generated.

If you are interested in the patch here’s the pertinent info. Go to the Patcher Info page at Purchase the patch for $100 with the Pro calibration option. Then choose a supporting calibrator you intend to hire. This calibrator will make an appointment with you to install the patch and calibrate your monitor. I don’t charge extra to install the patch. The fee to me is still $300. The bottom line now is that you’ve turned a $1900 monitor into a $4500 monitor for only $400.

If you’re considering an HDTV purchase I can’t stress enough how you need to move fast if you want a Kuro. In a few months they’ll be gone with prices being so low. 50” KRPs are going for under $2000 and 60” models for under $3500. This is an amazing deal.

Please email me if you have questions and thanks for reading.

Enjoy the view!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

My Trip to CEDIA

I'm a little late with this report but I recently attended the CEDIA Expo in Atlanta. I was there to cover the show for Secrets. I focused primarily on new projector models and surround speaker systems.

The big news in projectors this Fall is LED light engines. Several manufacturers introduced LED models including SIM2, Projectiondesign, Digital Projection and Runco. The demos looked quite impressive. The main challenge with an LED light engine is achieving sufficient brightness. All the new units seemed to do just fine. I would have liked to see more varied scenes rather than the bright colorful content only. A best test of any display is how it renders darkness and shadow detail. I hope to get some of these new projectors in for review soon.

Here is a link to my reports on Secrets as well as those of the five other writers who were there:

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Anthem Statement D2v Processor and A5 Amplifier Review

My latest review has been published at Secrets. It's the second part of "Flagship Home Theater." I evaluated a system consisting of an LTX-500 LCoS Projector, SI Black Diamond 2 Screen and an Anthem Statement D2v Processor/A5 Amplifier combo. These are top of the line components with no flaws worth mentioning. The audio and video performance is simply wonderful. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anthem LTX-500 LCoS Projector and Black Diamond II Screen Review

My latest review was posted yesterday at Secrets. I spent several weeks with Anthem's new LTX-500 LCoS projector. This has turned out to be the best and most accurate display I have ever worked with. The benchmark results are simply stupendous. I liked it so much I bought at the end of the review period! Check it out.

Next Generation Home Products Remote Extender Review

Please check out my new article on the Next Generation Home Products Remote Extender. This innovative product converts any infra-red remote that accepts AA or AAA batteries into an RF unit. What does this mean? Why no pointing of course!

Monday, July 13, 2009

CalMAN Calibration Software Review

My latest review has been posted at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. CalMAN is the analysis software I use to calibrate displays of all types. For an in-depth look at the power of this package and how I use it, follow the link below to my article.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pioneer 5020 and 6020 Calibrations

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it is now possible to calibrate the 9th-generation Pioneer non-Elite displays thanks to ControlCAL. Without this software, there is no access to white balance controls in the service menu making it impossible to calibrate these TVs any other way. It’s a good thing too because with a proper calibration, the 5020 and 6020 sets can nearly match the performance of an Elite TV in the Pure mode. While not quite the equal of an Elite display in ISF mode, you can save a bit of money purchasing the non-Elite TV and a pro calibration.

The procedure for calibrating these sets is similar to the Elites. ControlCAL accesses the service menu through the RS232 interface. Once activated, I am able to navigate the service menus and record all default settings before starting the actual calibration. It is important to note that the calibrated picture mode is Movie with Pure Cinema turned off. Turning on Pure Cinema after the calibration will actually change the grayscale settings. It’s not permanent but the calibration will obviously be affected as long as Pure Cinema is on. This is not a great loss as 24p material will still be displayed at 72hz with the proper 3:3 cadence. The only thing you will lose is inverse-telecine deinterlacing of 480i and 1080i material. You also must use Movie mode because the grayscale adjustments are global and affect all picture modes. All the modes will look a bit different but only Movie will have the proper D65 color temperature. The calibration is also global for all inputs. You cannot have separate setups per input or per picture mode. As most modern video source components are pretty much the same in terms of color, grayscale and gamma output, this is not a big deal. I saw excellent results with both cable/satellite sources and DVD/Blu-ray. I was able to verify that components such as the PS3 and the Pioneer BDP-51 Blu-ray player perfectly matched my signal generator.

Color performance is very good before calibration. The gamut is not quite as accurate as an Elite but it’s very close. Secondaries line up perfectly after calibration. I typically have not had to adjust the color or tint controls from the factory defaults. Luminances are also very close to perfect. Gamma is very flat but a bit under 2.2. It tracked closer to 2.1. Contrast performance is also excellent. I measured the same minimum black level of .001fl with a peak white level of 41.727fl. This translates to a measured On/Off contrast ratio of 41,727:1.

Once calibrated, the performance of the non-Elite TVs is still better than any other display I’ve worked on save the Elites. For a substantial savings over the Elite displays you still get the second-best TV in the world, and only by a small margin. While I heartily recommend the Elite for ultimate performance, the 5020 and 6020 represent a phenomenal performance bargain right now. The 5020 (50-inch) TV can be found for around $2000 and a 6020 (60-inch) can be had for just over $4000. Even adding in a pro calibration, you’re still ahead. Now that these displays can be properly calibrated with ControlCAL, they are well worth considering.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

DreamVision Dream'E LCoS Projector Review

My latest projector review of the new DreamVision Dream'E was just published over at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. You can read all about my experiences with it and check out all the measurement data by clicking on the link below.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pioneer PRO-111FD Review and Calibration

Recently something wonderful has happened in the plasma TV market. Pioneer has dropped prices on their 9th-generation displays to levels never before imagined. I was incredibly fortunate just a few weeks ago to pick up a PRO-111FD for a mere $2900. Six months ago this was a $5000 display. The funny thing is it’s worth every penny of $5000. At $2900, I’m practically stealing it!

The plain truth is the 9th-generation Kuro plasmas are the best performing televisions you can buy. That is no exaggeration. Their color accuracy, clarity, video processing and most importantly, dynamic range, are without equal. I’ll throw out a number right now: 51,080 to 1 On/Off Contrast Ratio. This is literally what I measured in the ISF Day mode. Minimum black - .001fl, maximum white – 51.080fl, incredible! Color accuracy was equally amazing. The measured color gamut is a perfect overlay of the Rec 709 HD colorspace. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll continue with these amazing performance specs a bit later.

The PRO-111FD is the 50-inch model in the Elite line. There is also a 60-inch panel, the PRO151FD and monitors in 50 and 60-inch sizes, the PRO-101 and 141. Everything about the set exudes quality. The base and bezel are finished in a high-gloss hard plastic. The back of the panel is all metal. There are four HDMI inputs (one side-mounted), one component input and two S-video and composite inputs. There is a side-mounted USB input for the Home Media Gallery feature. This allows you to show photos and videos from a USB device directly on the display, very slick. There is also an optical digital audio input which can handle a Dolby Digital or DTS bitstream and downmix it for the TV’s speakers. These speakers by the way are the best I’ve ever heard on a television. They certainly won’t replace a 5.1 surround system but they blow away any other speakers built into a display. Pioneer thoughtfully made them removable as they add about eight inches to the overall width of the set. The remote is also of excellent build quality. The face is brushed aluminum and all buttons are backlit. It can be programmed to operate other components.

Setup is quite easy. If you use the internal tuner, you can scan for available channels. If not, simply connect your components to the generous selection of inputs. There are seven picture modes: Standard, Optimum, Performance, Sport, Movie, Game and Pure. Pure is the most calibration-ready mode. It has the most accurate colorspace and a perfectly flat gamma of 2.2. You will need to calibrate the grayscale as it runs a bit warm out of the box. Movie is similar but it has a slightly expanded colorspace. Some people prefer this but it’s really not necessary with this TV. The color saturation and tint are dead-on accurate at the factory default settings in Pure mode. There is no need to pump up the color since the luminances are close to perfect.

The user menus are quite extensive offering a large variety of calibration options and other features. You can find the white balance settings and color management system in the Pro Adjust submenu. This is also where you can make choices for Pure Cinema, Noise Reduction and other image enhancements. There is a very handy Tools menu that has its own button on the remote. This menu lets you change the AV Selection (picture mode), Screen Size (aspect ratio), blank the screen and other options. You can view your current input resolution, AV Selection, input number and Screen Size by pressing Display on the remote.

The real reason to go for the Elite TVs is the available ISF modes. These can only be unlocked by connecting a laptop to the RS232 port and using ISFccc software like ControlCAL. There are two modes, Day and Night. They can be set up any way you like. You can have a Night mode with less light output. You can have a black & white mode with a 5500k grayscale, whatever you want. This can be done independently per input. After activation the ISF modes appear in the AV Selection list and in the Tools menu. All user adjustments are locked out when the ISF modes are engaged. This way no one can tamper with the modes you paid good money to have calibrated. The ISF modes can also increase the peak light output. On my set, the peak reading went from 38fl in the Pure mode to 51fl in ISF. This makes a huge difference in picture quality. The Pure mode seems dull and drab by comparison. That extra output is nice in rooms that have some ambient light coming in. I have no trouble watching on a bright sunny day.

Since I’m calibrating this TV through a control interface, the procedure is somewhat different than other displays. I began by connecting my laptop to the RS232 port. After cycling the power, I was able to establish communication with the TV through ControlCAL’s ISFccc connection. This gives me complete control over the calibration plus video processing and aspect ratio. There is a color management system, settings for the Pure Cinema modes and a 9-point RGB gamma control. After activating each ISF mode (Day and Night), I performed a separate calibration for each. Using ControlCAL along with Calman calibration software makes for a very smooth setup. With both applications on screen and Calman controlling my signal generator, I could literally calibrate this TV without looking at it! Controls behaved exactly as they should with no interaction.

The ISF Night mode was set about 15fl lower, peak output. Otherwise, I left all other settings the same. I set the Pure Cinema to Advanced. This allows for 72hz operation with 24p content from Blu-ray disc. It also performs inverse-telecine deinterlacing from 480i and 1080i sources. With film-mode DVDs, motion is much smoother since the repeated frames are discarded. Blu-rays play with a 3:3 pulldown. Frame interpolation is available if you select Pure Cinema Smooth. I find this look to be unnatural. It makes film look like soap opera video. It also introduces annoying artifacts and judder in content that isn’t mastered correctly. My recommendation is to go with Advanced and leave it at that. I set the Screen Size (aspect ratio) to Dot By Dot. This is a true 1:1 pixel mode with no overscan or pixel blanking. Test patterns confirmed that every pixel was rendered. Screen uniformity was visually perfect.

As previously stated, On/Off Contrast measured 51,080:1 in ISF Day mode. This is phenomenal performance. Gamma was ruler-flat at 2.2. Grayscale tracking measured within 75k of D65. Delta E* was under 1 for all stimulus levels. A Delta E* of 3 is the point where errors are visible to the eye. The color measurements were of comparable accuracy. Primaries and secondaries were within a whisker of perfect and luminances were also nearly perfect. You can see all the results below. I used Calman 3.3 and an EyeOne Pro meter for all measurements. Patterns were provided by an Accupel HDG-3000 signal generator.

Once complete, I closed out the ISFccc interface and all settings were saved. I was able to set up the other inputs just as easily and accurately with ControlCAL. Disc-based test patterns were used to adjust and verify my Denon and Panasonic disc players. When exiting ControlCAL, calibration information is saved to the display that can be viewed by the user. It’s cool to hold down the Display key on the remote and see my name, calibration date and phone number. I save this same data to all clients’ displays.

Since calibration, I have lived with this excellent display for several weeks. Even though I have the Night mode available, I find myself leaving the TV on Day mode. I never have my room totally dark and I am sitting about ten feet away. I like a bright image and 51fl is quite comfortable for my wife and me. There is no question that I have purchased the finest flat-panel display available. By activating the ISF modes, I have tapped into its full potential. There is literally nothing I could wish for with this TV. All performance specs are a close to perfect as my instruments can measure. Perceived picture quality is simply unparalleled. This is truly a TV that makes you want to watch your entire movie collection over again. With an artifact-free image, perfect color and stupendous contrast performance the Pioneer Elite PRO-111FD is literally without flaw. Now that prices have dropped within reach of most of us, there is no better time to add one of these fine TVs to your viewing room.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SVS PB-12Plus Subwoofer Review

About the two months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the PB-12Plus subwoofer from SVS. The article is now published on Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pioneer Plasma Calibrations, ControlCAL and ISF Modes

Since my last article, I have had a lot of opportunities to calibrate many different models of Pioneer plasma TVs. ControlCAL has allowed me unprecedented access to the ISF interface on Elite displays and the service menu of the non-Elite sets. Calibration results have been in a word, astounding. There is truly no more accurate or better performing direct-view television available today.

Results have been comparable between 8th and 9th generation TVs. The 9th gen displays have a bit lower black level but the difference is small. Black level stability and gamma are excellent across both lines. Similiarly, results are very close between Elite and non-Elite sets. The one big advantage to the Elites is the ISF interface. Using this, I can engage two extra picture modes, ISF Day and ISF Night. They can be set to anything the client desires. Usually I set ISF Night about 15fl lower than ISF Day. But I can also use it for a seperate grayscale say D55 for watching black & white movies. The other really cool thing about the ISF modes is they are brighter than either the Pure or Movie modes. You get a perfect color gamut, ruler flat gamma and over 50fl peak light output! It also locks in all settings. Once enabled, ISF Day and ISF Night are in your AV Selection menu and can be called up at any time.

I have in my toolkit all available display profiles for ControlCAL. This means I can use it to calibrate ALL 9th generation displays, ALL 8th generation displays and 7th generation Elite displays. If you would like to see data from my calibrations, just send me an email and I'll send you the grayscale and color gamut charts.

As most of you know, Pioneer is exiting the TV market at the end of the year. Right now there are incredible deals on all Pioneer plasma TVs. I recently picked a PRO-111 for myself for $2900. This is truly a reference display. I'll post a full review shortly. With the low prices and a pro calibration, a Pioneer plasma will have no peer in picture quality. If you would like to book an appointment with me, please send me an email. I service the New York Hudson Valley Region from Albany to Westchester County, New York Metro, New Jersey, Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pioneer 8G and 9G Plasma Calibrations

After calibrating many Pioneer plasmas over the last two years, I can say without reservation that this line of displays is the finest available. Impeccable build quality and a superb picture make these plasmas the ones to beat. While the Elite line includes all controls necessary for a professional calibration, the non-Elite TVs do not. The eighth-generation sets have grayscale controls in the service menu but the ninth-generations ones have none. This is unfortunate because the potential in image quality is the same for all Pioneer plasma displays.

I'm happy to say this has now changed. I recently acquired an application called ControlCAL. This windows program allows me to access the RS-232 interface available on ALL Pioneer plasma TVs. Through this interface, I have the ability to do a full calibration on ANY Pioneer plasma from both the eighth and ninth generation lines. ControlCAL allows access to the ISF Day and Night modes on the Elite models (eighth-gen PRO-110, 150 & 950; ninth-gen PRO-111, 151, 101 & 141) with all calibration controls in play. ControlCAL also allows a higher contrast setting on Elites so you can have a true daylight mode without any compromises. With these ISF memories properly calibrated, a user can simply select the appropriate mode with the remote to lock in all calibration settings with one button press.

The best part of all this is how inexpensive the ninth-generation non-Elite models have become. You can get the 50-inch 5020FD for around $2500 and the 60-inch 6020FD for around $3800. This is an incredible deal. There is no difference in picture quality between these and the more expensive Elite TVs. Now with ControlCAL, you can buy the cheaper set and pay for a professional calibration for hundreds less than just buying an Elite display. Of course, ControlCAL can be used with great success on Elite TVs including the new Elite monitors, the PRO-101 and 141. ControlCAL is the only way to activate the ISF modes, view panel hours or change the level of the side masks on Elite displays.

If you've lusted after a Pioneer Kuro as I have, now is your best chance to acquire one. You can save about $1000 by going for the 5020 or the 6020. ControlCAL now makes it possible to calibrate these displays for maximum performance. If you have any questions or you'd like to book a calibration appointment, please email me.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!