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Madrigal MPD-1 HD-ILA Video Projector Print E-mail
Monday, 01 April 2002
Article Index
Madrigal MPD-1 HD-ILA Video Projector
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The Downside
D-ILA projectors at 1365 x 1024 struggle with 720p HDTV. The reason for this, according to Joe Kane, the author of the Video Essentials DVD, is that the actual math needed to upconvert a 720p signal found on, for example, an ABC HDTV broadcast is a very awkward calculation that causes a real struggle for the internal projector scaler. Remember, the Faroudja is just passing the signal through for HDTV and thus is powerless in solving this malady. The result is that 1080i looks better on the MPD-1 as compared with results in 720p. Kane says this just isn’t the case in a perfect world. For Kane, 720p looks far superior to 1080i, especially in terms of motion artifacts. No one who has seen my system would agree with him. 1080i found on PBS, HDNET, HBO and elsewhere looks far superior.

There are an entire range of inputs on the MPD-1. However, you’ll likely use SXGA 1 and HDTV 2 predominantly as your sources. The problem is that neither you nor your dealer can program the projector to automatically switch from one input to another. You have to switch inputs manually with the remote, going two levels deep into the menu. If you use a Faroudja, you also have to switch inputs there. The result makes you want to stay in whichever mode you are already in, because it is such a pain to make the switch from HDTV to NTSC.

The cost of doing business in the digital world is $1 per hour because of the longevity of the bulb used in the projector. The bulb lasts 1000 hours and automatically shuts off. Experts say the bulb lasts statistically 1800 hours, but because of the way it blows up when it burns out, JVC and Madrigal don’t let you go a minute past the 1000 hours limit. New bulbs are costly at about $1,000.

Going For The Ultimate Level of Performance
Out of the box, the Madrigal MPD-1 is a fine projector that can only be compared with the best nine-inch CRTs, but what if I told you that there was quite a bit of performance still left under the hood that JVC or Madrigal couldn’t get for you? Well, the performance is there, but it requires some work. Contrast is the biggest issue relating to D-ILA projectors and video guru William Phelps has written an entire suite of software dedicated to making your D-ILA look brighter, with more pop and more life. In the case of my projector, he was able to test the factory contrast at 335:1, despite claims of 550:1 on average from Madrigal. I had more than one MPD-1 in my home during the review process and the one I own is the best of the batch. Phelps ran his modifications on my projector, which got my contrast measurably up to 540:1. This alone is worth the $900 he charges for his services. He has many more tricks up his sleeve as well, including a software solution around the above-mentioned input switching problem. Phelps's services are performed mainly in his lab, so before you set your projector up, you send it to him for the mods. Luckily, the MPD-1 is so light that the shipping costs aren't prohibitive. Trust me on this one (and if you have read my reviews in the past, you know I am not some delusional audiophile tweaker) -- these modifications are worth every penny in a system with an MPD-1. Especially when DVDs are involved, the contrast improvement is like giving your car 50-horsepower boost.

You can go for yet another level of performance by installing a $2,500 Panamorhic Lens from Visual Systems Research. The lens mounts to the ceiling and focuses the picture more tightly on the screen without causing any throw distance problems. The result is a smoother, less pixilated anamorphic picture, perfect for movies in widescreen formats. When watching 4:3 sources like traditional TV, you simply slide the lens to the side. Faroudja used the lens with rave reviews at this winter’s CES tradeshow, but I wasn’t able to install it during my review period because of the difficulty I was having drilling into my cement ceiling. However, for those who are going all out with the system, the lens is worthy of consideration.

Lastly, you would be well served using a top notch AC power product with a projector like the Madrigal MPD-1. In my system I went with a $750 Richard Gray’s Power Company RGPC 400s which I installed, hidden in the ceiling near my projector. It ultimately ended up all neatly covered up with drywall. Video products more than audio demand consistent AC power and unfortunately in a condo like mine, clean AC is a luxury more than the norm. To see what the RGPC 400s does for your video all you have to do is swap the projectors plug from the main AC socket to the RGPC 400s. I found the colors more vibrant and alive with the RGPC in the loop. Another advantage of the 400s is having a surge protector of industrial capabilities in line between a lighting strike and my $26,000 projector. If you can’t pop for the $750 with the RGPC 400s I recommend the PS Audio Ultimate Outlet which also helped make the MPD-1 look incrementally better and is priced at under $300.

Nine-inch CRT projectors are still the absolute state of the art but their size, maintenance and cost are not worth the hassle anymore. D-ILA is one of the most important technologies to come along in the history of video and, as of today, you can use it to make a big, bright picture that is perfect for home theater applications. The Madrigal MPD-1 is the pinnacle of the D-ILA world. It is for those who want to go for the gold with the highest-performance projector in the fixed-pixel domain today. At $26,000, it is a significant investment, but considering its performance, diminutive size and relatively maintenance-free operation, many enthusiasts are making the decision to invest in D-ILA. I own my projector and, while I had to learn how to get it up to speed as an early adopter, the route to success with a D-ILA is pretty clear now. Enthusiasts, other reviewers and regular old friends and neighbors agree, the picture I have in my system is spectacular.

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