|Marantz VP-12S4 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Thursday, 01 December 2005|
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Is the Marantz VP-12S4 the best single-chip DLP projector on the market? It is a question that has been asked many times before in many showrooms and many online home theater forums. The VP-12S4 at $14,499 is the latest and most expensive in Marantz’s line of VP-12 DLP projectors. The S4 builds upon the proven platform that has utilized the Texas Instruments HD2+ DLP chipset. The S4 uses the latest iteration, the DarkChip 3, which increases the fill factor by reducing the space between pixels. This chipset also features improved contrast and faster operating speed over the prior chipset (the DC2). Other major changes between the S3 and the S4 include the addition of a new lens option and a change from Faroudja to Gennum video processing.
The VP-12S4 is a full-featured projector. In addition to the above described features, the S4 has three Konica-Minolta lens options to fit nearly every possible throw range, vertical lens shift of up to 80 percent of screen height above the screen, O.R.C.A. (Optically Reproducing Color Accurately) filter, 4500:1 contrast ratio, 700 ANSI lumens, 200-watt SHP lamp, seven-segment color wheel, adjustable iris, sealed optical path, double-sealed cabinet to prevent light leakage and insure low noise, vertical keystone correction, auto color temperature calibration system, black level selection and more.
The cabinet is a pearlescent off-white, with a dark gray bezel that surrounds the large lens assembly which is offset just to the left of center. The overall design is quite stylish and, for those who do not want an off-white projector, Marantz now offers black cabinets as an option. The cabinet top features the lens shift, status lights and other flush-mounted controls and the back panel has a lit input/output panel that features two HDMI terminals, two multi-scan component video terminals, two DV trigger outputs, IEC power cord, D-Bus 3.5mm connection, composite video, S-Video, RGB/HD (via D-Sub 15 pin), and lastly an RS-232C port. The entire cabinet measures approximately 16 inches wide, 18.5 inches deep and just over five inches tall without the adjustable leveling feet. The S4 weighs in at 28.6 pounds, a lot more than many other similarly-sized projectors. My guess is most of the additional weight is due to the high-quality lens system.
The projector’s physical light engine is only half of the package. Without good video processing, even a topnotch light engine can be rendered nearly unwatchable. The new S4 Marantz comes with the Gennum GF9350 processor. According to Marantz’s video product guru Dan Miller, this was the only processor available that would provide both the level of performance and flexibility that Marantz demanded. The Gennum processor has many features, such as true 10-bit processing, 4:4:4 processing, true motion adaptive deinterlacing of all non-progressive sources, noise reduction, image enhancement, adaptive edge correction and more. The Gennum chip also provides flexibility to allow many user adjustments and, of particular note, user upgrades.
I placed the projector on a high stand between my two couches that brought it to the level of the screen bottom, slightly behind and between the viewing positions. The projector has no noticeable light spill and, while not the quietest projector on the market, it is pretty close. Even with the projector in the brighter of the two lamp modes, the noise was not objectionable and, on the dimmer setting, barely noticeable.
The S4 sample that I reviewed featured the new medium throw lens, which meant that in my relatively small room (approximately 10.5 feet of throw from lens to screen), the largest picture I could obtain was 84 inches; with the short throw lens, I would have been able to obtain a 100-inch image at the same distance.
I continued to use the screen that Stewart Filmscreen was kind enough to lend me. The screen I chose was their new GreyHawk Reference, which has a gain of .95 (the higher the gain, the brighter the screen, with 1.0 being neutral). This screen material has a neutral gray material, which helps with reproducing darker images, a traditional problem area for DLP projectors. As I have mentioned in my other projector reviews, proper screen selection is critical in obtaining optimal picture quality. Make sure that you pick a screen that is properly matched to both your projector and room. If you do not, you will never be able to obtain the best possible picture, no matter how much you time and money you spend on tweaks and high-resolution sources.
I connected the projector directly to a Marantz DV-9500 and DirecTV high-definition TiVo unit via HDMI cables and then I connected to my Krell HTS 7.1 via component video cables, which allowed me to compare digital and analog signals. The VP-12S4 had a wide range of vertical lens shift, which provided a lot of flexibility in positioning. The focus control is manual, so you either need two people or you need to go back and forth between the projector and screen while you get the focus dialed in.
There are 12 picture modes: Theater, Dynamic, Standard and nine user presets. In addition, there are many fine adjustment menus, including color temperature, aspect ratio, gamma and more. The picture menus allow numerous adjustments that will keep the video tweaker quite busy. I found that I liked to turn up the noise reduction a bit on some of the lower-quality sources, which appeared to be turned off on the standard presets.
Shortly after I received the S4, Marantz announced an upgrade to the video processor. Unlike most other processors that are hardwired, the Gennum processor is software upgradeable to take advantage of new developments. I downloaded the software to my computer, which was connected to the projector’s control port and followed the instructions. The picture was already good, but the upgrade made noticeable improvements and the open architecture of the Gennum makes more future upgrades possible.
The VP-12 is the only projector that I am aware of that includes its own color calibration system. The calibration system looks like an oversized lens cap that is attached to the RS-232 port. The whole process took me just a few minutes and was quite simple.