|Proceed PMDT Modular DVD Transport and PVP Video Processor|
|Home Theater Video Players DVD Players|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Friday, 01 February 2002|
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Music and Movies
On Van Halen’s "Beautiful Girls" from Van Halen II (Warner) Eddie’s legendary brown sound was appropriately "brown" (meaning dull because of 1970 guitar pedals and special Marshall amp modifications) however his fingerwork has never sounded more exciting on my system. What was more surprising was the exacting depths of bass that I could hear with the PMDT over my former reference Theta transport. Both with Michael Anthony’s bass notes and some kick drum work from Alex Van Halen, my subwoofers were given a real test from a record not know for great bass. The bass was not sloppy and loose as I have heard elsewhere. It had that in-the-studio feel that makes you want to keep bumping up the volume. On the higher frequencies, Diamond David Lee Roth’s yelps, screeches and other vocal stylings had an air and life to them not heard on my Theta. The effect described is the kind that has you looking deep into your collection for music that you love not recordings that sound good.
Another example of digging deep into the collection was spinning Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul (Fantasy) and the track "Hyberbolicsyllabiclsesquedalymistic." To me Ike’s backup band, The Barkay’s, never sounded better than when played back on the PMDT. There was an openness between the instruments and a space normally reserved for master tape that opened the recording up in ways other transports can not.
Having cut my teeth in audio-video retail in the early 1990’s the album Brother’s In Arms took the Top Gun or Jurassic Park award for Most Played Out Demo Material yet during my listening sessions with the PMDT I was inspired to walk down to Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard and purchase another copy. I guess enough time had passed and I was ready to hear some of the old standards. I heard some of the deepest bass I have heard to date from my system on "So Far Away" although the snare sounded thin and brittle even on the remastered version of the recording. This was a detail that I didn’t remember the from way back when. On "Money For Nothing" the classic intro built up to a feverish pace at nearly deafening levels to lead to a drum fill that actually scared me. I didn’t need to change my shorts or anything but I was truly startled. Mark Knoplelfer’s chops had a live presence to them but the same tinny sound prevailed on this track as well. I would likely mark it up to the mastering and the recording because the Isaac Hayes and Van Halen didn’t show this malady.
Some people knock the PMDT for its lack of DVD-Audio playback. Madrigal says they are waiting for the digital transmission method but has told AudioRevolution.com directly that the PMDT will play DVD-Audio discs eventually. The upgrade will be at an additional expense and for the earliest PMDT units, may require an update to the physical transport. For the rest of us, DVD-Audio will be a card based upgrade. You can play DVD-Audio disc and use the default surround mix as I did on many occasions for disc like the new Bjork and or Metallica’s Black Album. The problem with most of the default tracks are that they are mastered in Dolby Digital which for music playback in a high performance system, is simply inadequate. Some DVD-A discs come with DTS as the default surround mode like Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature but unfortunately that record sucks.
More of my critical listening came with DTS CDs which are mastered for 5.1 and in many cases are 24 bit 96 kHz. The PMDT didn’t seem to like these discs at first. It would spit distortion at the beginning and then pick up with music a few seconds later. Madrigal made software changes based on complaints however I am not sure this intermitted problem is fully resolved although it is better that it was upon first listening. It is a shame because once the music starts it sounds absolutely amazing with lively ambience and a presence simply not found on any 16 bit CD in stereo.
For movies the PMDT set my reference for video playback, competing favorably with the Camelot Technologies Roundtable progressive DVD-Video player priced at $3,995. I gave the Mission To Mir documentary a spin because of it being originally shot in Imax 70 millimeter film which frequently provides stellar transfers to DVD even at 480i. During the launch of the Soyuz rocket the detail of the launch pad was intense. All of the supporting architecture did suffer from dot crawl as you will find when looking at complicated video sources such as a big oak tree blowing in the wind or the twinkling lights of a big city. It takes HDTV to really get past much of that noise. What really caught my attention was the way the PMDT could reproduce the orange colors found in the launch rig. Orange can be a terribly difficult color to make took bright and lively as you will find it on the PMDT. On my Pioneer Elite DV-05, the oranges were darker and seemingly more two dimensional however the dot crawl was still present. The audio on the launch was loaded with colon loosening bass and off-the-hook dynamics.
It is too bad Mission Impossible II isn’t a better movie because it is one hell of a transfer to DVD. During the introduction scene and the later car chase scene the colors of the landscapes were deep and the skin tones looked realistic to me however there were issues with the shadows on the dark scenes looking too dark. This is likely an effect of the D-ILA projector because it wasn’t evident on my old Sony 7 inch CRT. Unfortunately, I was not able to get past the issue with my tweaking on my Faroudja NR Series scaler although I am waiting to have video guru, William Phelps install a gamma correction software fix for my projector that may ameliorate the problem. For now I am not sure if it was the player or the projector. My instincts point towards the projector but it is worthy to note.
With the PVP in the loop, I had to take note of how good animated TV shows looked even through TiVo. I was able to do a shootout with a few episodes of South Park on both DVD and recorded on my Sony SAT T-60. While more noisy than the Faroudja, the PVP did great with the over-the-top colors of the South Park cast. The pop was there and on the big 100 inch screen with an ultra-bright D-ILA projector, the image was gorgeous.
The Proceed PMDT is uncharacteristically plagued with non-performance oriented bugs, a trait I have never experienced with a Madrigal product. Most of the maladies that I dealt with have been fixed and or are being fixed thanks to software updates that can be installed by a Madrigal dealer through your RS 232 communication port. Some of the problems include a burst of noise when starting a DTS CD and communication problems between the AVP and PMDT. More than once I had to hard restart both the PMDT and the AVP to get the input switching to work correctly.
While some dealer friends of mine dealt with some problem with select DVD titles not playing on the PMDT, I never encountered one single problem. My problem was with CDs. I had a pile of CDs that literally wouldn’t play or would crap out on me when they got to a certain spot. Some of these stereo CDs failed on their first plays fresh out of the jewel case thus the idea of scratches or disc blemishes are highly unlikely. Madrigal did come out and replace a logic board because there was a batch of bad ones that caused some CD playback problems. Since then things have been far more stable with the PMDT for music.
The Proceed PMDT is one of the highest performance DVD players available on the market despite its flaws. The picture quality is the best I have seen in my system on both of my projectors to date and as a CD transport it performs musically far beyond my expectations. The PVP for $1,500 is an excellent option for those who aren’t pushing the land-speed record with video with investments in costly video processors.
Knowing the clear advantages and the perhaps not so clear disadvantages to the PMDT will prepare you for ownership of the unit. While software updates and improvements have been made, the unit isn’t perfect. When it is working it is amongst the sweetest players going for music, movies and sources in the need of 480p scaling. Whether you buy a PMDT now or if you already have one in your system, be sure to have your dealer install the latest software and you are likely to be in business for years to come. Most of the problems with the PMDT are small, annoying and are being dealt with by programmers at Madrigal however you have to weigh some glitchyness versus absolute level music and video playback. When I did, I wrote a check. The PMDT is now my reference CD and DVD transport.