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.