Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs HD-ILA Rear-Projection HDTVs
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Tuesday, 01 March 2005

When looking for a large TV, the usual suspects that are on the top of most people’s wish lists are plasmas, rear-projection DLPs, rear-projection LCDs and the ever-growing but still very expensive large direct view LCD displays. One technology that is sometimes overlooked is LCOS, which stands for Liquid Crystal On Silicon. Essentially a hybrid of LCD and DLP, LCOS uses liquid crystals that are applied to a reflective mirror; the light is modulated by the liquid crystals as it passes through them. DLP, on the other hand, uses a reflective technology that bounces the light either towards or away from the light by tilting the mirrors. JVC uses a type of LCOS called D-ILA, which stands for Direct-Drive Image Light Amplifier, in their rear projection TVs and stand-alone projectors. D-ILA uses three chips, one for red, one for green and one for blue, unlike DLP’s spinning color wheel.

The HD61Z575 is the largest TV in the current JVC lineup of HD-ILA TVs. It features three-chip D-ILA technology and has a seemingly endless list of features, including four-point color management, dynamic gamma correction circuitry, an HDMI/HDCP digital input, dual auto-sensing component-video inputs and JVC's D.I.S.T 720p (Digital Image Scaling Technology) and 75 MHz Digital Super Detail (DSD) Circuitry. The set features four sets of analog inputs, along with an HDMI-compatible input with HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) that offers an uncompressed digital connection for the transmission and display of high-definition audio/video signals. An NTSC tuner offers split-screen and multi-screen PIP viewing. The native resolution of the TV is 1280x720 for true HD resolution and the available aspect modes include 16:9, panorama, full-screen and cinema zoom.

Despite being a 61-inch set, the HD61Z575 will fit into more living rooms and media centers than you might guess. Many wives or girlfriends may cringe when the delivery truck arrives with a TV this large inside it, but sports nuts and movie junkies will begin salivating. If you haven’t kept up on what has been happening in rear projection TVs, you will be hard-pressed to believe that the delivery man was actually able to pick up the TV box and drag it into my home all by himself. I had to take the hinges off my door for him to get it inside, but weighing in at less than 100 pounds, the days of needing to bribe a small army of friends or neighbors to help you move the TV if an S Video cable falls out of the back are over. Picking up this TV is a simple job for even two moderately strong people. The exact dimensions of the set are 41.125 inches tall, 57.375 inches wide and 18.625 inches deep, with a total weight of 98 pounds.

Performance was important to me when purchasing a new TV. However, in the real world, other factors sometimes end up weighing more heavily than how good the TV looks. In my case, I had a predetermined space that I needed to fit a TV into and I wanted to find one that was a perfect fit, so that I could maximize the media niche in my home yet still allow room for air to pass by on the sides and allow myself to get my fingers along the sides just enough to grab the TV should it need to be moved. Using my trusty tape measure at a handful of audio/video retailers around Southern California, I found the best combination of perceived picture quality and a TV that was a perfect fit for my theater in the JVC HD61Z575.

Initial Reactions
With the TV set up and ready with the from-the-factory settings, I began to plug various sources into the TV with mixed results. I have heard stories about people being incredibly disappointed with their huge rear-projection TVs. This is most likely because these types of TVs are very much source-dependent. Analog cable or a poor over-the-air standard definition TV signal can look awful. Have any old VCR tapes that you want to watch? Sure, they will play, but every piece of video noise and grain in the tape is going to get magnified and will stick out like a sore thumb on a such a fantastically resolute new TV set. Remember those little flickers at the bottom of the screen when the tracking is bad? Imagine those at twice or three times the size.

I got my satellite dish hooked up to the TV and was not blown away at first glance. First off, there is a difference to watching any direct view picture that requires a period of adjustment. During my first few weeks of owning the TV, I spent many hours trying to figure out if the standard def picture could be improved upon. Because my house has a central hub for all of the Internet and satellite connections, and a series of satellite switches, I changed out coax cables and connectors that were included with my basic satellite installation. This improved the picture incrementally, but what I finally came to learn was that when I want to get the optimum picture out of a standard def program from my Dish Network satellite service, I have to go into the set-up menus of my Dish Network HD receiver and tell it to specifically output 480p, then watch the TV on an S-Video input. This takes some extra time, so when I’m just channel surfing and flipping between SD and HD broadcasts, I keep the receiver in 1080i mode, which the TV down-converts to 720p through the HDMI digital input. The standard def picture suffers and looks a little blurred, but the HD looks amazing in most cases.

What this experience made me realize is why I visit so many homes that have HDTVs that look absolutely horrible. Combine the complexity of getting the correct output signal from the receiver to the TV with the fact that most people want to “fill up” their 16:9 aspect ratio TVs with 4:3 programming in stretch mode, and you quickly learn that there are many ways to make an HD set look pretty lame. The trick is to learn how to get the optimum setting and aspect ratio on the screen for each source.

Professional Calibration
Out of the box after finding the optimum setting for watching SD and HD programming, the set looked pretty good, and I lived with my own settings for a while. However, the next level of performance was achieved when ISF certified calibrator David Abrams came in to calibrate the set. He found the colors to be amazingly accurate straight out of the box and, after fine-tuning this, he next went to work improving the grayscale and black levels. One of LCOS’s weaknesses is its lower black levels and, despite being calibrated, there are simply some limitations to this technology and this, combined with a slightly weak video processor, causes moments in very dark scenes where the TV stumbles. On standard definition signals, when an image has a gradient that moves from dark to light, often you will see steps rather than a completely smooth transition from dark to light. This can also happen occasionally on HD broadcasts, typically in scenes with darker backgrounds, but it is rare.

Abrams also found that while my new TV comes equipped with technologies like Dynamic Gamma Correction and Digital Noise Clear Circuitry, the set performed better with these setting simply turned to “off.” Video technologies like these certainly make for an interesting demo at the store and make the picture look different when you select them, but that does not mean that they make the picture look better.

Doing my own research, looking at hundreds of sets in various locations around the Los Angeles area, I found time and time again that no matter how the TVs were set up, any time I ran across the JVC HD61Z575, the colors seemed to be more natural that those of the other sets around it. When the calibration was being performed, it turns out that the factory settings for color were almost spot-on to ISF specifications. This is not to say that all of these TVs will come this way, but this was definitely a factor as to why I found this TV to have the most realistic colors, compared to the DLP and LCD rear-projection sets I looked at in stores.

Another thing I learned during the calibration process was the obscene amount of light output this TV was able to achieve. This makes TVs like this stand out in the showroom vs. others, but ultimately too much light causes fine details to get washed out. Without touching a thing, the TV was outputting an average of somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 foot lamberts, which is a measurement of light output for a display. The ISF standard is 30, so out of the box the HD61Z575 was about five times too bright. Many people feel that ISF calibrated displays tend to be on the dark side and they adjust for only optimum room settings. My room gets a lot of ambient light during the day and I typically don’t like to watch at night in the dark, so Abrams adjusted the TV to average 50 foot lamberts. The brightness at the edges of the screen rolls off just slightly, as do most rear-projection units, but the amount is hardly noticeably to the untrained eye. The viewing angle is much wider than any rear-projection set that I have seen before, so much that I can sit at my kitchen table that is almost at a 90-degree angle to the TV and still see what is on the screen.

Each of the five video inputs has their own settings for picture and sound. After tweaking some internal settings in the service menu that affect the TV across the board, Abrams then went into each of the input menus and optimized the picture settings for each input. JVC has four picture options for each input, including “standard,” “dynamic,” “movie” and “game.” The “Movie “and “Game” settings were left as is and Abrams made the “standard” setting optimized for dark room viewing. I then took his settings and lightened them up a touch on the “dynamic” setting for watching during the daytime or when the room’s lights are on.

Testing DVDs
Using my reference Adcom DVD player on the 480p component output into the TV, I spun up the superbit version of “Spider-Man 2” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment). All the days of torment of trying to figure out how to improve the standard definition picture from my satellite were soon forgotten. When you play a disc with an excellent transfer through a high-quality transport, the JVC model really shines (remember my statement that this TV is highly source-dependent). The black levels still are a little underwhelming at times, but in scenes like the runaway subway train sequence. where Spider-Man fights Doc Ock as a commuter train is barreling towards the end of a dead-end track, the ability for this TV to make you feel like you are back at the movie theater is spectacular. I noticed no motion artifacts in this fast-paced scene and small details, like Spider-Man’s webs attaching to buildings along the sides of train tracks as he attempts to stop the runaway train, are spectacular.

  In “Star Wars: Episode Two – Attack of the Clones” (20th Century Fox), when Yoda finally shows off his light saber prowess, I was fearful that the black levels in the dark cave scene would not live up to my expectations. After Count Dooku handles Obi Wan and Anakin, Yoda enters the scene and his bright green lightsaber absolutely lights up the room. As he begins flipping around the room at warp speed, this TV/DVD player combo was so accurately able to reproduce the movement that I again felt transported back to Mann’s Chinese Theater, where originally saw this film. The only hints of video processing problems appeared when the cave starts crumbling and a very dark pattern between the cracks showed a touch of video noise on the edges of the cracks and the aforementioned gradient issue was slightly apparent.

I did not have an HDMI output DVD player at the time of this review. However, the concept of having a direct digital connection available straight from the DVD player to the TV is an exciting one. I learned during the calibration that the fine details are significantly cleaner on the HDMI input of the TV, with all of the test patterns being rock solid except for the very finest at the top of the frequency list. Unfortunately, the TV only has one HDMI input on the back, so some kind of switching system, whether through a receiver, AV preamp or dedicated outboard box, will be required for me to run both my satellite receiver and DVD player when I add this to the system.

Testing HDTV
When I want to wow friends with my TV, I cue up some scenes from the 2003 horseracing epic “Seabiscuit” (Universal). Red is an important color in this film. From the bright red hair of Toby Maguire’s character Red Pollard to the red racing silks of Charles Howard’s stable to the dark red of Seabiscuit's coat, the quality and richness of the colors are where this three-chip technology really stands out. As Red Pollard rides Seabiscuit across an old bridge and around the property of horse owner Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), the green grass, autumn leaves and blue sky make for a sensory overload that I have never seen on a DLP or anything less than the best plasmas.

On ESPN’s HD broadcast of the show “Tilt,” an original series about three young hotshot poker players vying to take down a Vegas card shark known as the Matador, the resolution of the TV is so good that you can see clearly see the makeup and any imperfections on the actors’ faces. Makeup artists are going to have to step up their game as TVs and HDTV feeds get better and better.

“Tilt” is very dialogue-driven and much of the action takes place in dark hotel and card rooms. The SD version exhibits some awful black level problems. However, this is markedly improved on the HD broadcast. Having caught a glimpse of “Tilt” on a next-generation JVC standalone projector costing $13,000, where the black levels and internal video processing are even further improved, it made me wish just a little that I had waited for this technology to trickle down into the next round of rear-projection TVs. However, other than a few times where an actor in a dark suit blends a little too much with the background, the HD61Z575 is able to make watching a show like “Tilt” a truly engaging experience.

Sports on the HD61Z575 are outstanding. I have had a chance to watch some football games on the competing Samsung next-generation DLPs and I always got the sense that the screen was flickering slightly. It’s a subtle phenomenon that some people are not bothered by, but the picture on the three-chip HD-ILA is much more stable to my eye, especially during fast-moving sports like football and hockey. It is rumored that video guru Joe Kane’s tweaking will make it into the next generation of Samsung DLP rear-projection sets, but it is hard to even guess when they will be in stores. The JVC is ready for delivery today from local dealers and authorized Internet retailers like OneCall.com.

I was pulling hard for the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX and, despite being highly disappointed by their devastating three-point loss, I was able to blow my guests’ minds with Fox’s HD broadcast of the big game that was beamed into my system via an attic-mounted antenna. I watch all of my HD in the fully digital mode through the HDMI input and the only signs of video noise that I ever notice during a good-quality football broadcast from Fox or CBS is an occasional flicker on the white yardage lines when the camera takes the sideline view. Slow-motion replays and the other camera angles that typically zoom in closer show astounding detail and clarity. You could see bits and pieces of grass fly up and running backs make cut moves on the field. During instant replays with my Dish Network PVR, I have a much better chance than the referees of making the right call, rewinding and slowing down the plays on the screen of the JCV HD61Z575.

The Downside
I have almost no regrets about owning this TV. However, I can see after living with it for almost half a year that there are some pretty major improvements that can be made. Having only a single HDMI input on the TV required me to order a $250 HDMI switcher box, which will allow me to run a DVD player with an HDMI out, as well as my HD satellite receiver. I could get around this problem by running either the DVD player or the satellite receiver component into the TV, but after seeing the quality difference between the pictures when using HDMI vs. component, I don’t want to live with this option once I get my HDMI output DVD player. They both look great, but as the video calibration test patterns proved, the picture was markedly improved on the HDMI input of the TV. HDMI switching in receivers is slowly becoming a more viable option, but I like the idea of switching the video directly on the TV to avoid having to degrade the signal by looping it through a receiver or AV preamp. There are times I just want to watch TV and not have to turn other stuff on, so two direct HDMI inputs would be a huge improvement.

The lack of ultra-high-end video processing that manifests itself if some black level issues and the dark to light gradient issue are small sources of contention that I have about this set, but the solid picture, great color balance and lack of rainbow effect compared to DLP sets still leaves me satisfied with the overall performance of the TV in HD mode. I will flat-out say that the standard definition satellite signal on this TV is still a little disappointing. The TV is taking a 480p signal and is scaling it up to fill the screen. The larger a TV is, the more source-dependent it is. When the incoming signal is native 720p or a higher resolution like 1080i that is scaled back down to 720p for the TV, the picture can be absolutely stunning. As you move down the line to the smaller TVs, including the 52-inch model, you’ll find that that standard definition signal improves. This is purely due to the fact that the image is not being stretched as far. Also, if you are going to put a 61-inch TV in your living room, you are going to need to be able to sit at least 11 to 13 feet away from the screen, if not farther. You might find a TV this large to be too big for your room, so think about the size in advance. I am sure Faroudja reps will be making a call to JVC in Japan after reading this review to pitch their excellent internal video processor technologies. If my set had Faroudja’s video processing, I am certain it would be much better on SD sources.

Since this is essentially a projector in a fancy box with a screen attached, turning the set on and off isn’t like turning on a tube set. It takes almost a minute to power up and, when turning off or unplugging the TV after it has been used, it must activate the cooling fan and properly cool off first. This may not sound like a big deal, but remember that you’ll want to get some kind of battery backup system to protect the bulb from getting too hot should the power go off and the cooling fan becomes inactive. I can easily live with these little quirks, but I have found that some people are a little put off by having to wait so long for a TV to turn on. APS has some cost-effective solutions. However, the best solution I’ve found is to run a $2,000 Audiophile APS Pure Power AC regeneration device with full battery backup. Either solution allows the set to survive a power outage without fear of damage to the expensive bulb. In my case, I borrowed a Richard Gray’s RGPC 400s from Audio Video Revolution publisher Jerry Del Colliano and used that with pretty nice results. The easiest way to see the differences was to power the set down and watch without the RGPC. You could see discernable differences in the black levels. Nevertheless, I need some level of battery backup beyond the RGPC, which I will add soon.

Video calibrator David Abrams made an interesting point about shopping for TVs that really makes a lot of sense. When modern displays are properly set up and calibrated, they all look pretty damn amazing. In the end, there are subtle differences and all of them do certain things better than others, but the real deciding factor is if you like the aesthetics, the number and type of inputs and the physical size. If black levels are more important than rich accurate colors, you might consider a DLP. If size is an issue and you need a TV flush-mounted on the wall, plasma and the larger LCDs are what you should think about. We are still far from the day when the ultimate display is in the budget of the average consumer. At just a shade over $3,000, you don’t get a perfect set with the JVC HD61Z575, but in the right conditions, your friends will think you have the best-looking TV they have ever laid eyes on for the price. And they would be right.
Manufacturer JVC
Model HD-61Z575 HD-ILA HDTV
Reviewer Bryan Dailey
Diagonal Screen Size More than 56-inches

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