Sony QUALIA 006 70-inch SXRD HDTV 
Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs SXRD Rear-Projection HDTVs
Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis   
Monday, 01 August 2005

Introduction
Have you ever imagined a television that made you really feel that the image is a window on your world of programming, achieving the sort of drop dead gorgeous quality that no one can look away from (unless the person just doesn’t care about TV or picture quality)? As someone who already owns two Sony QUALIA 004 front projectors, I naturally had high hopes and expectations when I decided to take the plunge and buy a QUALIA 006 rear projector for another room in my lab/home. The first of these expectations included an exceptionally sharp picture (even by comparison to 35mm film projected at the same size), as befits Sony’s new SXRD 1920 x 1080p three-chip reflective LCos technology. Another was outlandish light output (I measured 90 foot-lamberts with the bulb in the low mode and a contrast ratio of over 3000:1!). Finally, fantastic styling (like a Cartier Watch), as well as a wealth of the usual inputs, including two HDMI (one with separate L/R audio inputs) and two 1394 firewire four-pin (front and back), suitable for use with most camcorders, still cameras and video HDCP-compliant devices like Sony laptops and certain DVD players.

The Sony QUALIA 006 delivers on all of these expectations and much, much more in abundance. This massive and expensive 70-inch diagonal rear projector (MSRP $13,000) weighs in at 285 pounds and truly demands the recommended stand ($1,500). The character of the set is stunning. Its silver polished aluminum and plastic casing commands attention in any room. This is a great thing, because it looks like modern-day sculpture, something that would be at home at the Cooper-Hewitt or Museum of Modern Art. Yet when you turn this television on, its picture completely dwarfs its architecture, offering up an incredibly lifelike image that has to be seen to be believed.

Because this piece is a QUALIA it uses Sony’s proprietary reflective LCos technology (SXRD). This is similar to what JVC has created for its D-ILA projectors, but the two technologies look completely different. In comparisons I have made repeatedly, here in my lab and at customer’s homes, the SXRD is capable of resolving much more color information without looking the slightest bit unnatural. This undoubtedly is due in part to Sony’s choice of a 200-watt UHP bulb, which has a life span that potentially could extend beyond 2000 hours (user replacement cost $300). There is also Sony’s choice of color primaries, which define the size and accuracy of the color reproduction triangle. This, in combination with the bulb’s fairly neutral spectral response, allows this projector to recreate photographic realism in your home theater with aplomb and to your delight.

Set-up
You can well imagine that a television of this size is anything but easy to install. The box itself requires four people just to move or open it. When you invest in a QUALIA product from Sony, you get their “white glove” treatment, and to see these professionals move this into my living room was a feat to behold. Five people were necessary in the end to ensure that the set made it successfully up on its dedicated stand without a scratch (but a few fingerprints – no white gloves, unfortunately). The stand (185 pounds) comes in its own box, is styled in exactly the same way as the 006, and thoughtfully includes the entire area under the TV to be used to display your components – wire runners are included along the back to make the finished installation neat and tidy. A splendid-looking set of powered speakers are easily attached to the sides of the screen, and provide immediate sound in place of an outboard surround sound system.

The back apron of the set has six inputs, with a courtesy seventh on the front left below the screen. These include four banks of component/S-video/composite inputs and another two HDMI connections, one with analog L/R inputs compatible with the DVI output of a DVD player (which contains no audio). Finally, there are two antenna/cable inputs (for PIP windows) on F connectors that are Qualm Cable Card compatible (check with your cable company), meaning that you don’t have to use an outboard cable box to watch premium digitally scrambled programming – the cards they send you can be used by the TV directly, allowing you to use the set’s slender silver remote control to change channels or any other function that can be programmed into its 256 memory slots. There are also a pair of 1394 Firewire inputs on four-pin mini-jacks suitable for use with many digital cameras, video camcorders and some computers, at least the ones made by Sony. Interestingly, the Firewire worked perfectly with SD sources, but when I connected my QUALIA 002 HDTV camcorder, SDTV 480p sources showed clear through with sound, but not HDTV 720p or 1080i. The three JVC D-VHS decks I use could not play back anything other than 480i/p. But all other analog and digital inputs on the 006 performed flawlessly. I also particularly liked the fact the Sony lets you remove unused inputs from the scroll list, and you can assign a name from a short list of sources to any of the inputs, simplifying the changing of source inputs to a few clicks on the same remote button.

Because I am a professional audio and video calibrator, I see and work on just about every type of technology made in the last 60 years. But when I lit this television up, it was like the sun came out on a rainy day. Everything I looked at was immediately sharper, brighter and more three-dimensional-looking than on any other commercially available rear projector to date. It is simply a stunning image. HD Cable and the anamorphic DVD equivalent were the first items up for bid, beginning with “SWAT.” Half an hour into the film, Samuel L. Jackson and Collin Farrell stop at a street-side food stand. The most striking thing about the 006 is its tremendous ability to delineate three-dimensionality. In this scene, the sense that you can see around the far sides of people and other objects is seriously palpable, even though no such actual biocular information is present. I find this effect similar to looking at 35mm slides projected at the same realistic light levels and proportional size.

A similar 35mm slide comparison can be made with respect to color fidelity. The 006 is nothing short of outstanding. In “Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat,” almost every scene in the movie is outrageously color-coordinated. Yet for each shot, the sheer detail, range of hues and level of saturation produced a vibrancy that is normally reserved for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) member screenings; these feature a fresh print and a properly calibrated 35mm motion picture and 6.1 sound system. The purple cupcake paint splotches on the yellow wall of the kitchen, the orange fish in the green clay teapot and the blue-haired Thing One and Thing Two and their fire engine-red transdimensional Transportalator are just three consecutive examples where color choices by the cinematographer and director can produce more stunning, more realistic results at home with the 006 then in 99 percent of motion picture theaters throughout the world. This is not an exaggeration. Unless you’re lucky enough to be or know an Academy member, this SXRD television is the closest and most affordable way to see HDTV from the director’s chair.

Testing
I immediately set about calibrating this most impressive display. I always leave a basic picture memory set-up as it came from the factory (one of three available with this set). This allows me to compare my calibrated results, A/B fashion, against the way “out-of-the-box” look. “The Big Chill” is a terrific HDTV transfer (also on DVD) with a considerable number of scenes in the credits and elsewhere containing high contrast, with near blacks in the middle of bright whites as well as the reverse, and long shots with tremendous forest color detail in the far distance amidst a continuous medium film grain; this is characteristic of the film when I witnessed it at an Academy Screening at The Museum of Modern Art in 1991. While completely believable and vastly superior to almost any other rear-projection system, including those that feature a front projector set-up in a room behind the screen, a thorough calibration improved the image quality noticeably, even to the untrained eye, as many of my friends and customers would testify. A strong bluish overloaded quality, apparent in the whites, and a slightly greenish cast to most black and white material was quickly and effectively removed. The color temperature, measured using my Konica/Minolta CS-100A Photo Spectrometer, was remarkably close to spot on at +11.2/-5.3 degrees Kelvin (less than most people can see) from 10 IRE (pretty dark) through 100 IRE (full white). The calibration improved upon what was already a very, very well-delineated image into an open pair of bay windows, 70 inches diagonal.

Fortunately, I happen to have a concealable window on an adjacent wall of the same lab (Ciné 2) that is about the same size as the screen on this TV. I was therefore able to point my QUALIA 002 HDTV Camcorder (1440 x 1080i at 10 times less cost than the pro models) out the window and compare the actual image with the one produced on the 006 through the HD camcorder. They looked a hell of a lot closer to each other than anything else I have evaluated recently. This set can demonstrate precise detail without adding unnecessary edge enhancement or equally can amplify a poor source to whatever extent required. Thus, the very slightly limited resolution of this HDTV camcorder versus the pro camera versions used on The Tonight Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brian could easily be seen and corrected using the various controls available to the user. Small differences in the quality of lighting, make-up and even lens choices were immediately obvious. If a source or transfer, such as “The Ladykillers,” looks unusually soft (the HDTV version on Starz is far softer than even the DVD), the Sony 006 has enough range and three separate memories for each source and format (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i) to allow anyone with the patience to adjust the image exactly to his or her liking.

The Downside
Even the most cutting edge products do have their shortcomings and the Sony 006 is no exception. The most egregious of these has been a shift in convergence. Starting in the first 50 hours of use, the red channel in the lower right corner began to tilt in, so that the station logos found on CBS of CNN could clearly be seen to have either a red or green shadow where there should be solid white logo on a black background. Perhaps if the problem had remained in that corner I could say it was a normal variation, but this convergence error has spread to the rest of the picture during the next 100 hours of use. It is now easily possible, if seated closer than 100 inches, to see credits in the middle of the screen (check out the end of “The Big Chill”) exhibit a red or green shadow rather than looking completely clean. Sony informed me the set may have been damaged during shipping and they will send a technician right away to have a look. Since these projectors are in such short supply, understandably so, I have not had any word back on exactly when the problem will be solved. But since this is the fourth QUALIA product I have purchased (at full price, not reviewer accommodation), I have faith that this elite division of Sony will make things right. Certainly customers have a right to expect as much when it comes to a $13,000 HD digital television, stand included.

Speaking of the stand, it looks great, but seems to be dipping very slightly in the front, directly under the center of the screen. This is an area where there is no center support – which looks fantastic – but the bulk of the set’s 285-pound weight is in the front, right over this area. While somewhat minor, it does concern me that the stand is not structurally more solid. Also, there are eight wheels on the bottom of the base that will not lock in place or park. I am sure that some installations will find that the whole set and stand may move across the floor due to high levels of bass vibration, which can frequently be found in today’s surround sound mixes. I personally chose to put the entire projector/stand combination up on a platform, removing the wheels and letting the complete bottom of the stand be supported by the platform. Naturally, I adjusted my seating height upward to be dead center, which brings me to me next point.

Seating height has been carefully considered in the design of this television and its dedicated stand. A couch seating height of 28 inches on average is the target for most of the focused light output from the three-layer composite screen. If you sit more than six inches above or below the center of the screen, there is a noticeable loss in light at the farthest side of the screen. Similarly, sitting off-center more than 30 degrees will result in one side of the image being noticeably brighter than its opposite. This may bother some people more than others, but it is a standard characteristic of rear-projection in general. I comment on this because the image is so solid, bright, three-dimensional and beautifully rendered when seated head-on that anything less is immediately noticeable.

Like all super high-quality displays, garbage in, garbage out. So if you’re watching a bad laserDisc, VHS or Beta tape, or of course analog cable or over-compressed satellite, results will vary by a wide, wide margin. The adjustment range of the user controls (not to mention the service level controls) allows for a considerable opportunity for improvement. But I wish that the 006 shared the six memories available in the 004 and many other standard Sony projectors like the Sony HS-51 $3,500 projector I reviewed in June 2005. That way, three more variations in picture settings could be programmed in to be available at the touch of a button.

As mentioned earlier, I was very puzzled that the two IEEE-1394 FireWire inputs would not respond to high-definition sources (720p and 1080i), but instead only respond to SD (480i/p). The three JVC D-VHS recorders I own all lock onto and can even record the HDTV signal now available from Sony and JVC. My belief as a consumer is that a 1080p television with FireWire inputs should display HD sources automatically, particularly from other QUALIA components, like the 002 HD camcorder. Perhaps a software upgrade would work, but I don’t know where one might make the connection.

Lastly, the overscan (lost picture information) was close to four-and-a-half percent on all sides, even through the HDMI inputs. Normally, the analog component, S-Video and composite inputs are subject to overscan, but two percent is more typical in these days of increased digital signals. This I find to be of equal importance as the convergence error, but most consumers are usually unaware of how much actual viewable picture is left to simply fall off the sides of the screen. This was particularly apparent in the HBO-HD and DVD versions of “Contact.” Many scenes include lots of extras (non-speaking actors) off to the sides, who can be clearly seen at a news conference on my QUALIA 004. These extras on the side are a significant part of the action and feeling created by the cinematographer and director to elicit a feeling of claustrophobia. With those extras lost to overscan, the composition changes to become a close-up of the action rather than a long shot. The scene becomes entirely different in character and is just one example of why, in our digital age, overscan should be standardized to zero. There simply is no excuse for it.

Conclusion
The Sony QUALIA 006 is the finest rear-projection set ever to be offered to the consumer. Its light output is astonishing for a device of its size (well over 82 foot-lamberts calibrated to SMPTE standards), easily presents a realistically bright image of great HDTV sources as though you had installed a new bay window 70 inches diagonal. It comes with powered speakers, which are of the same silver metal and plastic design that is the character of this set. There are more than enough input options for most videophiles and the television can be calibrated to produce almost perfect results. Its resolution is a full 1920 x 1080p, with a great on-board scaler that is just slightly less than that found in the Sony 004, which is slightly less than the visual capability of the Faroudja, Terranax and Snell & Wilcox scalers (in that order), costing as much or more than this rear projector. To see the image created by this piece, before or after a calibration, is absolutely mesmerizing. Words do not do justice to the SXRD rear-projection technology, which clearly offers much more fidelity than any other rear projection system currently available.

Jeremy R. Kipnis has been producing, evaluating and calibrating home and commercial theaters for over 30 years. His many credits include over 200 audiophile recordings, using minimalist microphones, released on the Chesky and Epiphany labels. Currently pushing for a new and much higher quality three-dimension picture and sound standard, he travels the world calibrating the perfect picture and sound under the auspices of Visual Calibration Laboratories, a dedicated audio and video evaluation and calibration resource center.
Manufacturer Sony
Model QUALIA 006 70-inch SXRD HDTV
Reviewer Jeremy Kipnis
Diagonal Screen Size More than 56-inches





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