Product Review (November 2003) - Marantz
VP-12S2 High-Definition DLP™ Projector

Marantz entered the high performance DLP market with the introduction of their first-generation VP-12S1. Since then, they've released their second-generation VP-12S2 projector based on the HD2 DLP DMD™ with significant video performance improvements, resulting in a higher contrast ratio (2600:1) with deeper black levels. The chassis design of the VP-12S2 is similar to its predecessor with all the interfaces including power on the rear panel. The VP-12S2 also includes a DVI-D connector that's fully HDCP compliant for protected digital content instead of the IEEE1394 connector used on the earlier VP-12S1. The current model continues to use the Faroudja chip set (decoder, deinterlacer and enhancer) for superb video performance free of interlacing and motion artifacts with practically any video source. The projector is fairly large measuring 16" wide and almost 19" deep. At 26 pounds the unit is quite a bit heavier than any of the other HD2 based projectors we've reviewed. The construction is solid with a large lens assembly that includes a lens shift mechanism. The design of the VP-12S2 lends itself well to custom theater installations with full user control of the projector via the RS232 interface on the rear of the unit.

DLP™ is revolutionary with respect to display technology. Pixels (1280 x 720) are individually controlled and determined by the incoming video signal. Each pixel toggles between two discrete states (on/off) and a high rate. In other words, the micro-mirrors don't tilt slightly, but rather tilt completely (12 degrees) from end-to-end. By varying the duty cycle (on-time versus off-time) and keeping the frequency fixed, the different levels of brightness or shades of gray are produced and synchronized with each of the three primary colors (red, green and blue) to create the picture. The end result is a beautiful, high contrast image, with no variation in picture size or geometry distortions found in CRT-based displays. Since there's no high-voltage to regulate as there is with the anode voltage in CRT displays, the picture is stable regardless of the APL (average picture level) changes that may occur. Furthermore, the picture continues to look good time after time with little degradation in quality. Unlike CRT-based displays, DLP™ projectors only require a lamp change after about 2000 hours of use. CRTs in general are prone to losing their ability to operate linearly over time, thereby degrading the image and color tracking.

The custom optics used on the VP-12S2 is designed by Minolta and results in an excellent picture. We received the long-throw version of the projector, which actually has fewer optical aberrations than the short throw version. The custom optics and mechanisms are double sealed to prevent light leakage. This prevents dust from entering into the light path and degrading the video quality. The VP-12S2 uses a 150-watt SHP lamp as a light source. Single DLP projectors require an internal color filter wheel to produce sequential red, green and blue images at a high rate on the screen. The natural persistence in our vision integrates these sequential images and produces a color picture on the screen. The faster the sequence, the easier it is for our eyes to integrate the colors. One of the problem associated with single DLP™ projectors is the "rainbow effect" often seen when the color sequence becomes apparent during fast motion or when the viewer's eyes move rapidly. Some people are more sensitive to this effect than others. To minimize this problem, the VP-12S2 uses a new six-segment color wheel (Red-Green-Blue-Red-Green-Blue) that runs at 9000 rpm. The result is video projecting the RGB color sequence 300 times per second or five times the 60-Hertz frame rate. These rapid sequences of colors help reduce the "rainbow effect" phenomenon for the vast majority of viewers. However, there are those who may still see a small amount of this with video content.

We projected the VP-12S2 onto a 100" diagonal 16:9 Stewart FireHawk screen mounted on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall. The Stewart FireHawk with its gray coated screen works well with this DLP™ projector by increasing the black level. While the FireHawk is known for its ability to resist ambient light, we found the VP-12S2 performed best in a completely dark room. We mounted the projector from the ceiling and positioned it to minimize geometric errors. We did this to avoid using the built-in digital horizontal and vertical keystone correction, as this tends to introduce undesired artifacts. The lens shift adjustment located on the top of the chassis is designed to provide full range shift from the top of the screen to the bottom. This allows the projector to be mounted anywhere between the top and bottom of the screen. The lens shift range is very similar to the SharpVision XV-Z10000U projector we reviewed a while back. Zoom and focus on the VP-12S2 are fully manual. The projector has a built-in crosshatch pattern that activates when the user presses the Focus button on the remote. This was a nice feature that made it easier to adjust the focus from a distance. Due to the long throw lens requirements, we had to position the projector about 20 feet from the screen, so it helped to have another person provide feedback from the screen position while the user tweaked the lens. We were able to get the geometry almost perfect with a slight over-scan on the screen which was completely absorbed by the VeLux material on the Luxus frame, resulting in a perfect looking 16:9 image from our seating position.

The rear panel of the VP-12S2 has a nice selection of inputs including both analog and digital interfaces, which make it compatible with virtually any video product. Composite and s-video inputs fully compatible with NTSC, PAL or SECAM standards are provided. There are also component (YPrPb, 3 RCA jacks) and 15-pin D-sub RGB inputs. The projector supports computer video up to XGA resolutions using the RGB interface. There's even a DVI-D interface that is fully DVI/HDCP compliant for encrypted video content. Additional connectors on the back of the unit include a pair of 12V triggers for screen control options, remote control in/out connections and an RS232 interface for serial commands. Professional installers may also take advantage of the serial interface for full control of the projector settings. There's even a small light switch on the back that illuminates the rear connectors so that it's easier to interface the video cables in poorly lit rooms.

The infrared remote supplied with the VP-12S2 is very small and not very exciting. The buttons are tiny and there is no backlighting. In other words, this projector has "Custom Installation" written all over it. Who needs the remote when you have a Crestron or AMX system running the theater? The IR remote had no problem reflecting off of the FireHawk screen and hitting the IR detector on the projector. The remote buttons are arranged logically, making it fairly easy to get used to. The
top right (red) button powers the projector ON while the top left button puts it into STANDBY (Off) mode. The four buttons just below these are arranged in a diamond configuration and used for navigation through the menus. The COMPONENT, VIDEO, S-VIDEO and RGB buttons select the corresponding video input on the back of the projector. The Aux button located at the bottom of the remote actually selects the DVI-D input. To the right of these is the MENU and ENTER buttons used to control the menu interface settings. There are three setting for each of the four viewing modes (Theater, Standard, Dynamic and User). The first three are dedicated buttons highlighted in blue to make it easier to identify. Four screen modes (Full, Normal, Zoom or Through) are available for optimizing the picture based on the input format. The screen mode operates a little differently depending on whether 16:9 or 4:3 screen format is selected.

This projector has excellent user control for the internal operation of the video processor. Under the Luminance menu there are controls for Detail Gain, Detail Threshold, Edge Gain and Edge Threshold for both horizontal and vertical processing. The Chrominance menu has adjustments for horizontal Edge Gain and Edge Threshold and for vertical Edge Gain. There are also Enhancement Gain and Chroma Delay controls in this menu. The Sub Menu has individual RGB adjustments for both contrast and brightness, which is needed for full color tracking calibration. Finally, the Miscellaneous menu has DCDi On/Off, Frame Rate Conversion control, Cross Color Suppression control and 3:2 Pulldown control.

Color Tracking
We calibrated the projector using our Sencore VP300 video generator connected to the 15-pin D-sub connector. Using 720p video in the RGB/HV mode, we set the black level using the PLUGE pattern and checked the stair step levels to ensure we had properly adjusted the display. Using the menu settings we selected the 6500 °K color temperature and proceeded to check color-tracking accuracy. Using our Sencore CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer, we measured the color temperature in 10 IRE increments starting with 20 IRE. The 6500 °K setting was very close to ideal across all measured IRE levels except the lowest levels. Using the Fine Menu for adjusting the sub-controls for contrast and brightness, we were able to fine-tune the color tracking to meet our 6500 °K requirements across all IRE levels.

Display Primaries
We measured the primary colors produced by the VP-12S2 using the ColorFacts System from Milori Software. The system uses the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Spectrophotometer for color measurements. The CIE chart shows where the ideal primaries are located with the smaller three points making a dark triangle. The measured primary colors have the red, green and blue markers connected together with the white triangle. Only colors inside the latter triangle can be generated by the display. This projector produced accurate flesh tones with deep reds and rich blues. Greens were not as lush as I've seen on some displays, but still looked very good.

Faroudja Processing
It wasn't long ago that Faroudja only sold outboard processors for their high quality video processing. Thanks to standardized interfaces and the ability to implement large designs into ASICs, we can all enjoy this great technology in products from various manufacturers. The VP-12S2 utilizes Faroudja's patented DCDi™ Directional Correlational Deinterlacing technology that includes their decoder, deinterlacer and enhancer chips as part of its internal video processing. One of the common problems with film-based movies on DVD is properly deinterlacing the video to eliminate interlacing artifacts. The Faroudja video processor detects the 3-2 pulldown sequence by storing multiple fields of video and determining the original film frames. Once the original 24 fps (frames per second) film frames are recognized and reconstructed, 60-Hertz video frames can be generated with minimal artifacts. Faroudja's Cross Color Suppression detects and corrects cross color artifacts that often appear as 15-Hertz flashing colors or rainbow patterns. Advanced motion detection selectively performs temporal filtering only where there's no motion in the image. This technology works on all sources recorded from a composite video signal. Faroudja refers to these algorithms as their DCDi processing. The performance of this deinterlacer and scaler was excellent. Very few artifacts from the deinterlacing and scaling could be seen.

The 2-D adaptive comb filter and color decoder used in the Faroudja video chips performed well with the composite and s-video inputs. However, during the course of the review we primarily focused on the component, RGB and DVI interfaces. Our advice is to avoid the composite and s-video interface whenever possible. Luminance and chroma separation (from composite sources) always results in some artifacts and with this high-resolution projector you are almost guaranteed to see some of them. The s-video inputs looked better, but still require the color decoder to derive the component color signals. The picture didn't look nearly as good when compared to the component, RGB and DVI inputs on the projector.

We really enjoyed watching a variety of high-definition material on this projector. Using the component video inputs, we connected our JVC HM-DH30000U D-Theater D-VHS VCR. The only 720p video we had on hand was Joe Kane's Digital Video Essentials that has some excellent video patterns for calibrating the projector. All the other high definition content was in 1080i. All in all this setup worked very well and demonstrated how well this projector can reproduce black levels especially with the night racing scenes from The Fast and The Furious. Shadow detail was certainly better than we have seen on some projectors. We also tested DirecTV HD from our RCA DTC100 using the analog RGB interface. We watched several movies on the HBO HD channel and came to the conclusion that we didn't want to watch standard definition anymore. The picture clarity makes it easy to transition to high-definition and difficult to go back. We then moved to our Mitsubishi HD-5000 high-definition receiver that has a DVI-D output. Using a new 30-foot high performance Transparent Audio DVI cable, we finally had a digital source sending video data over a digital link to a digital projector. The mere thought was very satisfying. The Tonight Show broadcasted in HD here in Los Angeles has always looked great. The results were excellent with low noise (except from the broadcasters) and excellent resolution.

While DVD resolution is considerably lower than HD material, the picture quality still looked very good. The internal scaler did a great job converting 480p to the native 720p resolution with minimal artifacts. Scenes from Shakespeare in Love produced accurate flesh tones with good color saturation. Dark scenes had impressive shadow detail while still maintaining deep black levels.

The Marantz VP-12S2 is a fantastic projector with impressive build quality that produced a wonderful high definition picture from multiple sources. Its ability to accept 1080i, 720p, 480p or 480i along with excellent built-in deinterlacing and scaling, makes this projector an excellent choice for any high-end home theater. The contrast ratio of the VP-12S2 is much better than the first generation HD1 DMD projectors and when coupled with a high-performance Stewart FireHawk screen, the performance is maximized. We were particularly impressed with the color tracking right out of the box and happy to see the controls to bring the grayscale dead nuts on 6500 °K once we calibrated the display. One other aspect of this projector that I found desirable was the reduced noise level. Out of all the projectors that we've recently reviewed, the VP-12S2 was the least noisy.

- Kevin Nakano

Special Note: Marantz has just introduced the all-new VP-12S3 that incorporates the leading edge Texas Instruments HD2+ DMD™ chip. This new projector boasts an incredible 3800:1 contrast ratio. We hope to see this soon in our Product Review section.

Review System

Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" Luxus Deluxe FireHawk Screenwall
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box #1: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
Set-top Box #2: RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
HDTV Receiver/Controller: Mitsubishi HD-5000 Receiver
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ethereal A/V Cables
DVI Cable: Transparent Audio High Performance 30-foot DVI-D Cable
DVI Extender: Gefen DVI 1000HD DVI Extender Systsem
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer #1:
Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Colorphotometer with ColorFacts Software

Review - At a Glance

Marantz - High-Definition DLP™ Front Projector

Digital Light Processing Texas Instrument Digital Light Processing™ Technology
DMD Type 1280 x 720 HD2 "Mustang" Chipset
DMD Size 0.85 Inch 16:9
HD Formats Compatible with all 18 ATSC formats
Lamp 150 watt SHP
Lens Structure Custom Optics by Minolta specifically designed for Marantz
Seal Cabinet Structure No Light Leakage (Double Sealed Cabinet Structure)
Construction Diecast chassis with completely sealed light path
Long Life Lamp Average 2000 Hours
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Contrast Ratio 2600:1
Brightness 700 ANSI Lumens
Lens Throw Distance Short (~2.6 to 3 x Pic height), Long (~4 to 5.5 x Pic height)
Projection Size 40 to 250 inches
Light Output 700 ANSI LUMENs (MAX)
Operating Temperature 5°C to 35°C
Operating humidity 30% to 85%

3:2 Pull Down Yes
Progressive Scan Yes
Gamma Processing 10-Bit
Keystone Correction Yes
Picture Modes Theater, Standard, Dynamic, User
Picture Memories 12
Aspect Modes 4x3, 16x9 anamorphic, 16x9 letterbox, pixel for pixel (thru)
Color Temperatures Low, Middle, High
Black Level Selection 0 IRE, 7.5 IRE
System Control RS232C or RC-5

Composite Video In 1 (RCA)
S-Video In 1 (4-pin mini DIN)
Component In 1 (3 x RCA)
RGB/HD In (VGA D-Sub 15)
AUX DV In DVI w/HCDP replaces IEEE1394
RS232C 1 (D-Sub 9)
DC Trigger Out 2 (3.5 mm mini jacks)
RMC In 1 (3.5 mm mini jack)
RMC Out 1 (3.5 mm mini jack)

Lens Cap 1
Control Adaptor Cable 1 (Mini Jack To RCA)
Ferrite Cores 2

Color Charcoal Grey/Violet
Chassis Diecast Metal
Remote Control RC-12VPS2
Power Requirement AC 100-120 V/ 220-240 V, 50/60 Hz
Power Consumption <250 W
Standby Consumption <3.3 W
Dimensions Inch (W x D x H) 15 15/16" X 18 9/16" X 5 3/16"
Feet Adjustment 5/8" x 2 7/16"
Weight 26.1 lbs.

Company Information
Marantz America, Inc.
1100 Maplewood Drive
Itasca, IL 60143
Phone: 630-741-0300
Fax: 630-741-0301

Source: Manufacture loan
Model Number: VP-12S2
MSRP: $12,500 (Short throw lens)

Size: 15 15/16" X 18 9/16" X 5 3/16" (WxDxH)
Weight: 26.1 pounds (5.7 kg)
Warranty: 1 year parts and labor


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