|Marantz VP-12S3 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Thursday, 01 July 2004|
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It has been a little over a half-century since Saul Marantz started a small company, aptly named Marantz, dedicated to producing the highest performance vacuum-tube audio electronics of the era. Revered by many, these products defined state-of-the-art audio during that early period, helping usher in the age of high-fidelity sound. Since then, the company has gone through many transitions, expanding into a global leader in both high-performance audio and video products, continuing to be recognized for their engineering and manufacturing innovations. The Marantz company has entered the 21st-century dawn of digital video with an aggressive assault on the hotly contested and rapidly advancing DLP projector arena. Their latest single-chip high-definition DLP projector, the VP-12S3, which is now in its third generation, incorporates the strengths of its predecessors, culminating with the most recent technological advancements. The VP-12S3 supports a host of new innovative features, including the latest Texas Instruments HD2+ DMD chip, new sophisticated video processing technologies and an extremely impressive custom-designed lens assembly from Minolta. Aimed squarely at the high-end home theater market, Marantz offers the projector in two configurations, the standard VP-12S3 short-throw model, retailing at a suggested price of $12,999, and the VP-12S3L long-throw version offered at a suggested $15,999.
Aesthetically, the VP-12S3 is extremely attractive. Its high-quality fit and finish inspired an initial sense of confidence. Infused with graceful lines and balanced proportions, the design team at Marantz is to be commended for effectively blending the VP-12S3’s classy, elegant form with the projector’s vital mechanical functions. The projector’s double-sealed, diecast metal enclosure is substantial in its construction and medium titanium gray in color, with a fine, slightly sparkly sand-cast finish. Overall, the VP-12S3 is larger than most DLP projectors I have recently used, measuring in at 15-and-15/16ths inches wide, by 18-and-9/16ths inches deep, by six-and-one-eighth inches high, excluding feet. Heavier than the average DLP, net weight for the VP-12S3 is a relatively hefty 26.1 pounds.
This latest generation projector incorporates several technical advancements and mechanical improvements over its predecessors, the VP-12S1 and VP-12S2. Utilizing the highly touted Texas Instruments 16:9 high-definition HD2+ DMD chip, which has a native resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels, Marantz realized significant enhancements in both sharpness and color accuracy. Supported video formats include PAL, SECAM, NTSC/NTSC 4.43DTV (Digital TV): 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i. The VP-12S3 also features progressive scan output with true 3:2 pull-down detection, 10-bit digital gamma processing, and Faroudja’s three-chip Directional Correlational Deinterlacing (DCDi) technology. Standard picture modes include Theater, Standard, Dynamic, and Cinema, with three additional user modes that are highly adjustable. Furthermore, there are five preset user Gamma curves, 18 picture memories, along with four aspect modes that include full (4:3), normal (16:9 anamorphic), zoom (16:9 letterbox) and through (pixel for pixel).
With a reported contrast ratio of 3800:1, Marantz has made a substantial improvement in black levels over the VP-12S1 (1200:1) and VP-12S2 (2600:1). The overall brightness rating for the VP-12S3 is greater than 700 ANSI lumens. To enhance brightness levels and light uniformity, the VP-12S3 utilizes a new super high-pressure 200-watt DC lamp, with an average 2,000 hours lamp life. The DC lamp offers benefits over conventional AC-type lamps due to the reduction of potential “flicker.” From the high output lamp, the light of the projector then passes through Marantz’s proprietary ORCA (Optically Reproducing Color Accurately) filter, which is designed to improve light purity. Images are sent through the projector’s newly developed 5x, seven-segment color wheel, incorporating an additional dark green ND (neutral density) filter segment to the wheel’s three primary colors in order to reduce green video noise in dark scenes. To ensure optimal performance and image quality, Marantz employed world-renowned optics manufacturer Minolta to create a custom optical system for the VP-12S3. The assembly features a 13-section, 14-lens system that uses anomalous dispersion glass to minimize color aberrations. Additional features include double-sealed optics, and improved mechanisms to eliminate light leakage. Lens throw distance for the short throw VP-12S3 is two-and-six-tenths to three times the picture height, a long-throw version equating at four to five-and-a-half times the picture, with an overall picture size that ranges from 40 to 250 inches.
The VP-12S3’s connectivity is very accommodating, allowing it to interface with a wide variety of digital and analog video hardware devices. Located on the back panel are two sets of high-definition component video inputs, as well as a DVI digital video input with HDCP (High-Definition Content Protection). A substantial benefit of the DVI output is to maintain an unadulterated direct digital signal path between the source device and the projector. In addition, the VP-12S3 provides S-video, composite video and analog RGB connections for other video and computer devices. To support custom installation, the VP-12S3 includes a remote input and output connection for integrating other Marantz electronics, an RS-232C control port and two DC trigger connections for initiating different operations. As an example, this can be used to reconfigure a dual-aspect ratio projection screen whenever the aspect ratio of the program source changes from 16:9 to 4:3. The VP-12S3 features an expanded range of installer and user adjustments, including an additional iris setting for greater control of brightness and contrast and a wide range of color temperature and gamma settings. The remote control is fairly minimal but intuitive. It was easy to navigate through its wealth of functions, including a variety of direct access buttons specifically for source inputs, picture modes and aspect ratios. Only parts of the remote functions are backlit, limiting easy negotiation in a darkened room. As a standout accessory, Marantz included an automatic color temperature adjustment system, which uses a removable sensor to accurately calibrate the unit to the standard 6500 degrees Kelvin color temperature. These design advancements and improvements help the VP-12S3 facilitate seamless integration into a multitude of viewing environments.
Physical set-up of the projector is easy and was completed in less than 30 minutes. I installed the VP-12S3 inside my existing hush box, located slightly behind my main viewing area, and approximately 78 inches from the floor to the center of the projector’s lens. This worked well with my 103-inch diagonal, 16:9 Stewart Studiotech 130, positioning the projector slightly below the top of the screen. The VP-12S3 image can be moved up or down via the manual lens shift knob located on the top panel. If the manual shift is not sufficient to center the image on your screen, the projector can be tilted and the resulting non-rectangular picture corrected by the vertical keystone adjustment in the set-up menu. Equally helpful is the electronic horizontal keystone correction, which is extremely useful when dealing with installations that require off-center projector placement. Although the electronic corrections can be very helpful, I recommend using proper placement and manual adjustments as much as possible to minimize any potential distortion of the image that can be a byproduct of electronic keystone processing. The standard VP-12S3 comes with a relatively short throw lens and a somewhat limited 1.2 times zoom, so prospective buyers should account for this when considering the placement of this projector. In some rooms, this can be challenging, resulting in an optimal projector position that is in the middle of the room. Fortunately, there is a long-throw version of the VP-12S3; unfortunately, it costs a considerable amount more. Focus and zoom on the Minolta lens can only be adjusted manually, so it required two persons to fine-tune these functions in my set-up.