HD-A2 Remote Viewing Tests and Conclusion
The remote control is pretty well laid out, except for the Stop button. I think they should have swapped it with the pause button. I found myself hitting stop when I meant to pause. Why is this a problem? If you hit Stop more than once, when you hit play again, the player starts the movie/disc from the beginning instead of from where you left off. It would have been easier to find the correct button if the remote was backlit, but there is no lighting on it at all. You just have to go by feel when you are in the dark, I guess.
Subjective Viewing Tests
I have watched dozens of normal DVDs and a handful of HD DVDs in the four months I've owned this projector. I currently have it connected to my Panasonic PT-AX100U projector. This is a 720p unit, which (as of this writing) recently replaced the popular Panasonic AE-900U. My new projector seems very picky with respect to HDMI and resolution. For example, I own an older Sony DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and it always needs to have the resolution manually set to 720p while it always worked fine with the older projector via the HDMI port. In any case, the HD-A2 HD DVD player always works correctly with my new projector and I never need to reboot it or mess with settings to get the picture looking perfect. For testing in my system, I utilized a Denon AVR-3805 receiver for audio and Infinity Kappa speakers for mains, center and surrounds. An SVS PB12-Plus/2 subwoofer took care of all low end duties. So, with a fairly new projector, and some older but still very good audio gear, I moved into the testing phase.
The start up time of this player is about 40 seconds from the time you hit the On button to the time you can eject the tray and put a disc in. That's really slow. If a disc is left in the player, it will auto start it upon power-up. There is an extra 15 seconds to load a standard DVD or an extra 25 seconds to load an HD DVD. It really does seem slow, but it is tolerable for me, especially since it takes about a minute for my projector bulb to warm up and get to its full brightness. Those who are firing of macros with a universal remote control or RF-based system probably won't notice the delay.
It had been several months since I had seen this film. I own both the HD DVD and the standard DVD and did a comparison by flipping between the HD-A2 with the HD version and my Oppo DV-971H with the standard DVD. To be honest, the video quality on this disc was a little disappointing. I could tell that things were a little bit cleaner, but it was certainly not worth the money I had paid. I have since learned that this particular disc had a lower quality transfer then most other discs, and it was obvious. However, I did notice a big improvement in the sound quality of this movie. The gun shots sounded clearer and the music was certainly better, as well. I was actually quite surprised at how much better the sound was. In any case, the player seemed to do its job, even if the movie didn’t have great video.
I was also able to compare this HD disc with the standard DVD. I could see a very noticeable improvement on the video during this test. The color seemed just a bit brighter and more pleasing. The scenes in New York with the cars and cabs were very clean and you could discern minor details that just weren’t available on the standard DVD. One huge difference was the quality of people’s eyes. Yes, that’s right, you could see that they weren’t just black and blue dots for eyes, but you could actually see some of the detail as well. This was especially nice on closers shots of people’s faces and it just made the whole experience seem more lifelike! Well, it was as lifelike as it can get with a giant computer animated gorilla…
If you have not seen this movie you probably should! The HD DVD version of this movie seems just as good as I remember from the local theater. Usually, my home theater is better than the local cineplex, but I drove 50 minutes to get to the best theater in the state of Iowa. So anyway, I’d like to stress that this movie was just as impressive on my home theater as it was in a state of the art, all digital, extremely well designed and equipped movie theater. You may read reviews about and how the movie is kind of grainy or how the color has been played with, but that’s the way they wanted it to be. You can watch the green screen version on the HD DVD in a small window while the main movie plays, if you like. That’ll give you a comparison with no artificial grain or color correction. Of course, there aren’t any background graphics, but it is very cool that the player can play two full bandwidth video streams at the same time! I was very impressed!
I watched this just a couple of days ago, and it’s a movie my whole family enjoys. I have gotten used to the video quality on HD DVD so taking a step back to normal DVD was a bit disappointing for me. However, I will say that the HD-A2 did a great job at the upconversion. The colors were good, and there was very little blocking. Of course, the sound and video detail wasn’t as good as a Dolby TrueHD movie, but it’s still very watchable.
This is a pretty cool disc I recently picked up. It is a dual-sided disc with the original DVD version on one side and the new HD version on the other side. The HD side has a very well laid out menu, and is much more intuitive to use than the original. In any case, the player seemed very responsive as I flipped through the menus, and it would even continue playing content while it overlaid the menu system on top so you could find your next test. I was able to tweak my projector brightness a bit with this disc, and found that one of the default video modes was nearly perfect for color and hue. I did, however, verify that I was unable to get the HD-A2 to pass the blacker than black signal in my particular system.
After using the HD-A2 for the past 4 months, I would certainly recommend it to any user who is looking for high definition video and audio! Even though it is a little slow to start up and slightly cumbersome to fast forward or rewind during video, it does provide a very satisfying experience for the next generation of home movie watching. Of course, its upconversion for standard DVDs is very good, as well! Lastly, if you are still using a receiver or processor that doesn’t accept HDMI audio, then this unit will downconvert the HD audio to DTS to provide the highest bandwidth stream available for better quality sound. This unit can be had for less than the $299 MSRP in many places (rumor has it going for under $200 by the 2007 holidays) and it will certainly be even less with the HD-A3 on the market, so it is a great value for HD video and audio! Remember kids, in the first years of standard DVD, the nice players stayed in the $600 plus range, and they didn’t have nearly as many features as this unit. When it’s all said and done, I’d buy this player again!
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
|High Definition Video Performance|
|Standard Definition Video Performance|
|High Definition Audio Performance|
|Analogue Audio Performance|
|Deinterlacing & Scaling|
|Ergonomics & Usability|
|Ease of Setup|
|Fit and Finish|
The panasonics pass all the standard definition HQV tests. but these tests are essentially useless because you are probably not using a non progressive scan DVD player so your TV won't need to do any deinterlacing. You are likely passing it 480p and the TV scales it to it's native resolution and the DVD player does the Inverse Telecine and 3:2 pulldown to create a 480p/60 signal from the 480i/60 signal. If done right it does this by first performing a Inverse Telecine process that can reconstruct the original 480p/24 signal from the 480i/60 signal on the DVD. Then, in order to output it at the standard 480p/60 that your TV can accept, it has to pad the 24fps signal with extra frames to reach 60fps. So, your TV actually doesn't need to do anything special to play 480p and just scales it to your screen resolution. Problems DO occur when people buy these fancy new "upscaling" DVD players and set them to resolutions that do not match their TV's native resolution, resulting in double scaling which can reduce the picture quality. A general rule of thumb without getting into the specifics of upscaling, is to set your DVD player to output 480p and let the TV do the scaling. If your TV is fairly high quality, it will likely do a better job of upscaling the 480p to fit it's native resolution without running into any problems with double scaling, or even worse, when people set their upscaling DVD player to 1080i output and now the TV has to do another lossy deinterlace step that was completely unnessesary. So, just skip these problems and set your DVD player to 480p (progressive scan) output.
On standard cable or digital cable, the TV DOES need to do deinterlacing, but it does not do Inverse Telecine and pull the 480p/24 film matieral out of the 480i/60 signal because most TVs do not have adapative algorithms that determine whether there was actually a 480p/24 signal hidden in the 480i/60 signal. All you can do is turn Inverse Telecine on or off and you don't want to switch it on everytime you think you are watching film based content so everyone just leaves it off. This works fine for most content. So, the HQV tests are pretty useless on TVs except when they test a sets ability to do 480i/60 video based deinterlacing, which most sets now do properly.
Really, this whole thing is a complete mess and should have been standardized better than it was because it took me a year to sort all this stuff out so don't worry if you don't understand anything I just talked about.
Actually the tests were all done by Gary Merson, so I'm pretty sure he knows what he's doing.
It's using the high definition HQV Benchmark discs, not the DVD one, so it's outputting an interlaced test pattern at 1080i.
After adjusting the user controls I began video performance evaluations using test patterns created by a Sencore HD signal generator, the latest HD HQV Benchmark and the new HD DVD version of the Video Essentials disc. Testing revealed the TH-50PZ750 sends the full bandwidth of the source material to the panel. In other words, the Panasonic reveals every fine detail within a high definition program or movie. Though the red and blue color points were very close to the high definition standard, the green was oversaturated. but not as far from the ideal coordinates as other flat panels I have measured.
(Note: the Panasonic press release for this model refers to a “reference mode” but there is no setting as such, so perhaps the TH-50PZ750 is always in this mode. The HD Guru is patiently waiting for an owner’s manual and an explanation from Panasonic, so watch for an update).
The TH-50PZ750 properly deinterlaces 1080i signals into progressive, maintaining all 1080 lines. This was confirmed using the HQV test disc. Measuring brightness levels within Vivid (dealer showroom) mode maxed out at a blazing 57.5 ft lamberts. With the user controls (Custom mode) adjusted properly, maximum brightness came in at 22 ft. lamberts. This is quite bright for normal in-home lighting conditions. Black level was too low to measure accurately with my test equipment; in fact it was the lowest of any plasma I have tested to date. (This is not a contradiction, I know the spec of my meter’s accuracy and this panel was significantly below that level). The high brightness and low black level create a high contrast ratio, which was evident during viewing evaluations.
There has been a huge increase in the past year in the amount of HD availability. There are now hundreds of Blu-ray and HD DVD titles available, more HD channels are on many cable systems (including my choice, Verizon FIOS) and broadcast television has added local news in HD. NBC, CBS and ABC News in New York are all now in HD.
The TH-50PZ750 placed side by side with the Pioneer PRO-FHD1 made for an interesting comparison. How did the Panasonic’s image look? In a word: WOW. The overall picture quality excelled in reproducing dark and bright level details with a high contrast ratio.
The TH-50PZ750’s color accuracy was the best I have seen on a plasma display and it was the only panel evaluated that produces a true red. Comparing the Pioneer when viewing The Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift on HD DVD clearly showed the difference between Panasonic red and Pioneer red. The same car is red on the TH-50PZ750 and orange on the Pioneer. Ditto for the neon signs and lights of the Ginza in Tokyo at night, where red lights appear crimson versus Pioneer’s orange-y reds. Speaking of night scenes, the Panasonic’s deeper blacks revealed details that the Pioneer (and other plasmas) obscured, as if a veil had been lifted off the Pioneer’s panel.
Jay Leno’s blue sport jacket’s pinstripes provided a fine example of the Panasonic’s superior image. Both panels reproduced the pinstripes; but they were more distinct on the TH-50PZ750. The effect is not subtle; five friends performed the side-by-side tests with a variety of source material. They all picked the Panasonic as the best panel.
In conclusion, the Panasonic TH-50PZ750 is simply the best high definition display I have ever reviewed. With a retail of $3999 and an expected street price that will be even lower, I would also consider it a bargain.
How much benefit would the HD-A2 player provide to those of us with HDMI version 1.1 receivers (like my Denon AVR-3806)? The DD+ and TrueHD capabilities in receivers didn't begin until HDMI version 1.3 correct?
If the player converts the DD+ or TrueHD signal to PCM and sent it over HDMI, would that conversion to PCM be at the same quality (96 kHz / 24-bit or whatever the source is) as the lossless signal if sent to a TrueHD or DD+ compatible receiver? Just wondering if we'd be losing out on any audio quality by not having a HDMI 1.3 receiver trying to use HD audio formats.
Edit: Also, how noisy is the transport for everybody else? I saw Clint's review said his was audible from 20 feet away. Is it THAT bad for everybody else?
The door/transport opening/closing is kind of clunky but that's it. I mean, it's just heard while loading and unloading right? I can live with that for sure. The fan noise is not bad for me either. Not audible when source playing and audible from a few feet away in a dead quiet room. All these 'noises' are left up to the user as acceptable or not. I personally am not that picky when it comes to these issues mentioned.
The A2 downmixes the new hi-rez audio tracks down to 1.5mbps DTS over toslink optical and it sounds fantastic. I run my A2 with analog component video and toslink optical to my Yamaha RX-V2400.
For now, HDMI is not an issue for me.
It's not an issue until you hear the difference. I am glad you are happy but certain you'd notice the difference with the True HD.
Ditto here. We were actually watching TMNT on HD DVD the other night. I checked the audio settings and didn't realize it was on DD. I changed it to True HD and noticed a HUGE difference. Now I will check every disc before watching it to make sure this is what is selected.