|Lexicon RT-20 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Ben Shyman|
|Saturday, 01 April 2006|
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When Lexicon first introduced the RT-10 Universal Disc Player in 2003, it was considered by many an ambitious project. Subsequently, the Proceed Audio brand was discontinued and the Harman Specialty Group (HSG) was formed. Harman International formed HSG on the cornerstone of three key brands: Mark Levinson, Lexicon and Revel. The RT-10 would be scrutinized by home theater industry experts and consumers alike, not only because it was HSG’s first foray into source componentry – the Mark Levinson brand did not and still does not manufacture a video source component although the No. 51 will be available soon – but also because it came on the heels of Proceed’s $6,000 PMDT universal transport, which had a litany of reliability issues until it was eventually discontinued. In addition, Lexicon would enter this high-stakes reference-quality segment of the market by designing the RT-10 as a hybrid player featuring two new technologies: Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A).
I reviewed the RT-10 in September 2003 for AVRev.com and walked away impressed enough to keep it in my system, a place where it has proudly resided for two-and-a-half years. As far as sound and picture quality for a universal player were concerned, the RT-10 had no equal at the time for its price, but the glaring omission of an RS-232 port and a grossly flawed front panel display kept it out of the ranks of the elite. With a hefty price tag of $3,500, many consumers could rightly have been disappointed with the RT-10. It took several years of development, but Lexicon has introduced its replacement, the Lexicon RT-20 Universal Disc Player ($4,995). Much like the RT-10, the RT-20 was designed to play all current formats of audio and video discs, including but not limited to CD, CD-R, SACD, DVD-A, DVD-V and DVD-R. The RT-20 even handles MP3 and JPEG formats.
Andy Clark, director of marketing at HSG, explained to me that Lexicon had three main goals with the RT-20: add RS-232 compatibility, add a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) and improve the internal design by incorporating better quality parts, most notably with respect to the digital-to-analog converters (D/A). Engineers at HSG quickly recognized that in order to meet their design goals, they could not opt for a quick makeover of the RT-10, but rather would seek to completely re-engineer the RT-20 from the ground up.
Aesthetically, the RT-20 is similar to its predecessor, maintaining the brushed aluminum front panel and rugged chassis. In fact, before the player is turned on, the front panel of the RT-20 looks almost the same as the RT-10. Once I plugged the unit in, however, I was greeted by a newly designed LED display, which replaces the flawed design of that on the RT-10. Many of the biggest upgrades on the RT-20, however, are inside and on the back of the player. Evidence that Lexicon reengineered the RT-20 from the ground up is clear in the fact that the rear panel of the RT-20 looks nothing like the RT-10. Not only has Lexicon added new RS-232 and HDMI interfaces, but the standard connectors for BNC and RCA component video, S-Video and analog and digital audio outputs have all been dramatically moved from their previous positions on the back of the RT-10. Other upgrades include 14-bit/216 MHz D/A video converters (from 12-bit/108 MHz previously) and a far more user-friendly and functional array of set-up menus.
No doubt, the most notable improvement to the RT-20 is its support for HDMI. Arguably, HDMI is the future interface of high-definition connectivity. In my view, the benefits of HDMI accrue to both content providers, who can fully copy-protect their material, as well as to consumers, who experience 100% digital video that is free of the artifacts that are typically seen with digital-to-analog conversion. For consumers without an HDMI input on their displays, the Lexicon RT-20 has been equipped with state-of-the-art D/A video converters. HDMI is the preferred set-up option, however, and the one which I utilized for this evaluation. Since my Fujitsu Plasmavision has only a single DVI input and I was looking to run multiple HDMI sources to my display, I utilized a HDMI channel switcher from PureLink, model HDS-21R ($299 from http://www.dtrovision.com/). I was pleased that the PureLink switcher came with its own remote, is RS-232 compatible and has a high bandwidth that ensures it can easily handle future high-definition video. Using this switcher combined with HDMI cables from PureLink and a DVI cable and HDMI-to-DVI adaptor from Transparent, I was able to wire both the RT-20 and Scientific Atlanta 8300HD cable box to my display, using HDMI. I wired the RT-20 for audio no differently that I had the RT-10, using Transparent Cable interconnects on the analog outputs for SACD and DVD-A, as well as AES/EBU digital audio output to my Proceed AVP2.
I called upon the services of Imaging Sciences Foundation calibration guru and recently recruited AVRev.com staff writer, Kevin Miller (http://www.isftv.com/), to tweak my plasma picture to perfection. With both my cable box and the RT-20 utilizing the same DVI input on my plasma, it was necessary to first calibrate the display for HDTV and then utilize the RT-20’s complete suite of video calibration controls, which Lexicon calls its Video Adjust feature, to calibrate the picture for watching DVD. With Video Adjust, we were able to obtain exact control over chrominance, brightness, noise reduction, gamma, hue, chroma and sharpness, as well as black and white levels to obtain a properly calibrated picture for both the cable box with HDTV and the RT-20 for DVD. While the obvious drawback with this configuration is that my display remains uncalibrated for analog television, this remains unimportant to me, as I do not watch much analog television anyway.