My JVC DLA-RS1 Impressions-An Out of Box Experience



937897_20070328_screen031So there I was, deeply immersed in the Shivering Isles expansion pack for the acclaimed RPG adventure Oblivion on the Xbox 360. I had just completed a mission and headed back to the town of Bliss to sell off some of my collected bounty at The Missing Pauldron (external view shown above). After entering the shop and descending the stairs to the lower level of the building where the proprietor Dumag gro-Bonk conducted business I finished my transactions and turned to head back out for further adventures. As I ascended the stairs in the very dimly lit room I sensed that something was different, very different than in my many other trips to this place in the past. And it had absolutely nothing to do with the storyline of Oblivion. What was going on?

It then hit me. I could see the stairs! I’ve logged several hundred hours in Oblivion, mostly on my 58” HP MD5880n DLP rear projection monitor and many more using my Runco 720p CL-710 DLP front projector on the 110” Stewart Studiotek 130 screen in my home theater. And each time I reached the point described in the game I would literally grope in the dark to make my way up the stairs to find the exit from Dumag’s store. But this time as I turned the corner to head upward I didn’t need to grope. The pathway was visible in front of me! And what was different? This time I was using my new JVC DLA-RS1 1080p D-ILA (LCoS) front projector as the display. The unit had just arrived and I was putting it through its paces with various content (HDTV, SD movies, HD movies and, yes, even video games.) The picture looked great right out of the box (more about that later) but so had the picture on my smaller 1080p RPM and even my 720p DLP FP. But this was a subtle difference that clearly (no pun intended) was an example of the improvement in the overall viewing experience.

Some Reviews

The DLA-RS1 has an amazing contrast ratio and black detail as measured and reported on in various reviews. I direct your attention, in particular, to Tom Norton’s comprehensive analysis online at Ultimate AV here:


and, for a printed review, Greg Rogers’ Report in the May 2007 edition of Widescreen Review. (That review is not universally accessible online as far as I can tell without paying a fee.) Both reviews go into detail regarding the specifications and bench performance of the DLA-RS1 and it is not my intention here to duplicate those comprehensive efforts. Instead, I want to offer some insights as a Home Theater user who has owned several front projectors over the past eight years to give you some real world impressions and perspective. Incidentally, Tom Norton reviewed the functionally equivalent JVC DLA-HD1 (the DLA-RS1 was not available at the time of his review). The only difference between the two units is that the DLA-RS1 has a glossy black case (think “Pioneer Elite”) and carries a two year instead of one year warranty. Supposedly, the DLA-RS1 is carried in A/V shops whereas the DLA-HD1 is geared more to the mass market outlets. Since the price is the same (List at the time of writing is $6295, street probably under $5000 if you shop around a bit) there is no reason to opt for the DLA-HD1 unless you are in love with a silver case with black accents and the double length warranty doesn’t impress you.

Personal Impressions

Back to my personal impressions of my new display. I realize that many of you reading this probably don’t give a hoot about video games in general and Oblivion in particular (although there are probably more gamers out there than most people realize) and I didn’t mean to turn this into a game review. However, I couldn’t resist relating my experience with those dark scenes from this game as a means of giving a real world example regarding the sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences between my previous projectors and the DLA-RS1. It was one of those “eureka” moments that says a lot more than many test bench measurements. We can all read the reviews as we do our research into possible equipment purchases and competent articles do, of course, help in the decision making process. But it’s the little personal experiences that sometimes provide real world insight. I’m reminded of the first time I listened closely to SACD on my Sony DVP-S9000ES player seven years ago. Jacinta was singing a cappella and the sound was so clear that I thought I actually heard some “print through” from the master tape until I realized that this wasn’t print through at all (for those of you who remember reel to reel tapes) but the sound of the music monitor coming through the singer’s headphones! The clarity and dynamic range of SACD compared to regular CD was forever proven to me by this experience. And now with HD audio codecs on HD DVDs (both formats) we can experience the same quality audio as SACD and DVD-A to match the excellent HD video. To me, the attraction of HD audio is just as important as HD video in the new media. The point of all this is to show that until you use something on an extended basis in your own home you may not fully appreciate the capabilities (or deficiencies) of your equipment.

I’ve now had my DLA-RS1 for a little over a month and am basically using it in “out of the box” mode. Installation was extremely simple. The Runco (and its ceiling mount) came down and the JVC went up. Mounting was done with a Sanus Universal FP mount (Their VMBR1b Visionmount in black). One word about this mount – if you plan to use it with the DLA-RS1 make sure that you get two extra extension arms and screws (two are included). The footprint of the DLA-RS1 is larger than my other two projectors and four extension arms are required with this mount. Sanus promptly sent me the additional parts at no additional cost when I explained the situation and the installation went very smoothly. And, being a “universal” mount, I fully expect that my next projector (yes, that day will probably come even though I find it hard to believe that the DLA-RS1 will be surpassed in picture quality) will be able to use the same Sanus mount. By the way, I said the same thing about each of my previous two front projectors so I’m just being a realist here. 2K, then 4K with Deep Color thrown in for good measure – it never ends.

The only adjustment that I made was to move the red pixels down vertically one pixel width to align the three sources (this is a three chip model, unlike my one chip DLP Runco). The alignment process was very convenient thanks to an intuitive menu system and remote control. One of the reviews mentioned a similar adjustment so this is probably a fairly common situation and easily corrected. Other than that, I’ve done nothing at all. There are various preset colors (Cinema, Natural and Dynamic) as well as at least three user definable settings. In addition, the DLA-RS1 provides default settings for the Cinema, Natural and Dynamic modes in case you tinker your way away from the original factory settings and want to hit the “oops!” button. I’ll defer to the formal reviews to go into more detail regarding the various options available to tweak the picture even more.

My plan is to put several hundred hours on the bulb essentially “as is” before any further adjustments. I’m going to be borrowing a friend’s Datacolor SpyderTV Colorimeter to further refine the calibration process and, finally, will be asking an ISF friend to do a full calibration once the unit has matured. Honestly, I can’t see how the picture is going to get any better than out of the box but I realize that this is probably said by many before ISF calibration. Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying all types of source material on the DLA-RS1 in full 1080p glory.

Which brings up another point. As our displays get better, they also are capable of distinguishing more between good and great sources and the DLA-RS1 is no exception. A good 1080p display will be able to extract every last ounce of content out of a good 1080p source as well as showing the lack of picture quality from a lesser source. We’ve all seen this when we purchased our first HDTVs. SD material just doesn’t live up to HD material and it shows on HD sets. And while my previous two FPs (the Sony VW10HT and the Runco CL-710) were both HD capable there is a noticeable difference between the quality of the picture from the same source when shown on the DLA-RS1. And I think that my Oblivion experience was just one manifestation of that reality. I feed all my sources through a DVDO VP50 video processor (outputting 1080p to the DLA-RS1, thereby bypassing the internal video processor of the projector) and while the VP50 does an excellent job of upscaling even SD DVDs (which I feed into it for the original 480i source via HDMI) there is a limit to how much you can do to 480i native material. On the Runco (I didn’t have an external video processor in my Sony VW10HT days) upconverted SD DVDs look very good and while they still look good on the DLA-RS1 I can now readily see the difference between SD and HD sources. In fact, I can even see the difference between 1080i sources and 1080p sources – although the difference is much less noticeable in that case. And then there are video games from my Xbox 360 and my PS3 (which doubles as my Blu-ray player). Let’s just say that prior to owning the DLA-RS1, video gaming on the big screen via the Runco CL-710 was more of a novelty than an every day experience. I usually defaulted to the 58” HP 1080p RPM for gaming because one lost some brightness and crispness on the larger 720p screen rendition. With the DLA-RS1 I find myself playing video games – all types – much, much more on the big screen than on the “little” 58” screen. The increased brightness, contrast, clarity - you name it – of the DLA-RS1 has made it my display of choice. When I used to go from the 58” HP to the 110” Runco I noticed a drop in brightness but with the DLA-RS1 I don’t see that much of a difference. It just feels so much more comfortable (and enveloping) gaming in a 1080p 110” environment.

Other Things

Let’s talk a little more about some of the other things mentioned regarding the DLA-RS1 in several other publications. I’m referring specifically to the various “shootouts” that have been conducted recently. Most of the time the two combatants are the JVC DLA-RS1 and the Sony VW50 (the “Pearl”) - another LCoS machine. Sometimes a third FP such as the Mitsubishi HC-5000 is added to this 1080p rodeo (as was recently done in the June 2007 Home Theater magazine). There is general agreement that the DLA-RS1 provides the best blacks and contrast of the bunch. Two areas where some people favor the other contenders are internal video processing and fan noise level. Let me address each issue in turn.

Regarding internal video processing in the DLA-RS1, I wouldn’t know how this performs because I use an external video processor (the DVDO VP50) feeding a 1080p signal directly to the DLA-RS1 into its 1080p HDMI input. Whether the internal processing of the DLA-RS1 is good or not is a non-issue for me so it doesn’t lose any points on that score. (For the record, none of the reviews said that the DLA-RS1 video processing was bad – some just preferred how it was done on other units). This brings up something else that I’ve been advocating for some time. I greatly prefer to use an external video processing component approach to home theater and this just serves as a practical example which proves my point. While I choose to use a DVDO VP50 you can select the processor of your own choosing such as a Lumagen or others if you prefer their features. The nice thing is that this is something that you are free to change as technologies evolve without locking yourself into all the internal video processors on more and more equipment. For those interested, I go into this whole concept in great detail in an article I published here:


And as to fan “noise level” I honestly don’t know what critics are talking about. Let’s just say that I’ve owned three front projectors so far and the DLA-RS1 is the quietest of the bunch. None of my units were loud in any practical sense of the word. I would say that the Sony VW10HT was the loudest (but still not distracting) with the Runco CL-710 the second loudest and the new DLA-RS1 the quietest. All three were mounted in the exact same location ( about 5 feet above and 3 feet behind my seat) and never did I have the impression that any of them were affecting my HT experience – even in quiet passages. My first Runco (which was exchanged under warranty for a logic board issue) did have a weird “breathing” sound that would occur on occasion but that was cured with the replacement unit. And the Runco also went into high speed fan mode for cool down once you turned it off and you would hear it for about 2 minutes until it shut itself off. But the DLA-RS1 has been whisper quiet for me. In fact, the first time I turned it off after a viewing session I thought that the fan had shut off immediately. This concerned me because I know that these UHP halogen bulbs need a cool down cycle to extend their life. However, my concerns were alleviated when I discovered that the fan was, in fact, still on – but one just couldn’t hear it. Placing my hand near the fan exhaust verified this for me. There is also a “High” position for the bulb on the DLA-RS1 and in that position the fan is more noticeable – but still not what I would call objectionable by any means. I would rate it as loud as the VW10HT and my first CL-710 in that setting. However, while the “normal” setting (the one I use) is only 70% as bright as the “high” setting it is still brighter than any other FP I’ve owned by a long shot and more than adequate for all my viewing. It would take a room with very little control of ambient light to ever need the “high” setting, in my opinion. The fact that you increase bulb life is far more important to me. Therefore, in my estimation the DLA-RS1 noise level is not anything to be concerned with at all unless there is great sample to sample variation – which I doubt.

Some Historical Perspective

There are many more things that I could mention and I’ll probably revisit these remarks once I get several more months under my belt with the JVC DLA-RS1. Like I said previously, I’ll leave the bench testing to those with the resources to do a more complete job. What I offer, as usual, is the personal perspective which, in the final analysis, is what counts for each individual. I will conclude by noting that when I first started my search for an ideal Home Theater in 1999 I was seriously considering a “refurbished” Barco CRT or similar because it was within my price range (if I stretched the budget a little) and CRTs indisputably produced the best blacks in the industry. The downside of the CRT experience, of course, included the weight, the frequent maintenance and the costly parts. When Sony’s first native 16:9 panel LCD projector (the VW10HT) hit the market I found that it offered a reasonable compromise at the time. While the blacks weren’t “CRT black” they were still, if conditions were right in one’s HT, acceptable considering the easier installation and much, much lower maintenance cost. And the Sony LCD was uniformly brighter than CRT projectors. When I was lucky enough to win a Runco one chip DLP 720p projector on a Home Theater Cruise, my HT took another step forward in performance and it has served me well. With the introduction of “affordable” 1080p projectors and the availability of multiple HD sources (including 1080p) it was time to take the next step and, to my surprise, the DLA-RS1 not only provides 3 chip 1080p performance but is, as more than one person has stated, the first projector that reminds one of the blacks formerly reserved for CRT devices. While there will always be people who advocate CRT projectors, a much stronger argument can be made for digital projectors than ever before. The playing field has been leveled in the area of blacks and the other advantages of digital projectors tilts the scale in favor of the digital technology as far as I’m concerned.

Concluding Remarks

In closing, I find it amazing – after eight years as an HT owner – that one can now provide a projector (like the DLA-RS1), a video processor (like the VP50 or a unit of your choice such as a Lumagen) and a quality motorized screen (like the Stewart Studiotek 130 or, once again, your screen of choice) for under $10,000 (street prices). While this is still beyond the budgets of many it is certainly well within the reach of many more people than just a few years ago. And for the HT aficionado, I find it hard to rationalize investing much more than that (maybe anamorphic 2.35:1 presentations would be one viable option) without spending, as Dire Straits sang, “Money for Nothing.”

I want my HDTV!

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