- Written by Kris Deering
- Published on 18 January 2008
The Marantz VP11S1 is one of the best projectors I’ve had the opportunity to review. It recently won our Secrets Best of 2007 award in the projector category, and in my opinion is still one of the best reference projectors on the market today. But the 11S1 does come with a steep price tag compared to a lot of the 1080p projectors on the market. Well, Marantz decided to trim the design down just a touch and bring most of what made the 11S1 such a great design into a more affordable package, the VP15S1.
I got the chance to see the VP15S1 at CEDIA when Dan Miller did a spectacular presentation of the model at the show. I don’t think anyone who went to the demo walked away unimpressed. Dan was showing the projector with the optional anamorphic lens kit and a wide variety of HD material. While demos are always fun, I was anxious to get a chance to tinker with the projector personally, and after reviewing the VP12S4 and later the VP11S1, I was excited to see what Marantz had in store next.
- Imaging Device: One Texas Instruments 0.95" DLP
- Native Resolution: 1,920x1,080
- Brightness: 1,000 ANSI Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1
- Lens: Made by Konica-Minolta; 1.45x Zoom
- Lens Shift: Vertical
- Inputs: (2) HDMI, (2) Component, (1) S-Video, (1) Composite
- Accepts 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p60, 1080p24
- Gennum VXP Video Processing
- Dimensions: 5" H x 15.9" W x 18" D
- Weight: 29 Pounds
- MSRP: $10,000 USA
The 15S1 shares a lot of its traits with the 11S1. In fact, unless you look closely, they are almost indistinguishable from each other. The biggest difference cosmetically is the orientation of the logos on the main chassis. Marantz changed the silk-screens on top of the projector, so you could read them regardless of the way the projector was used (table mounted or ceiling mounted). Beyond that, you have to look pretty close to spot any real differences.
Once again Marantz uses a custom Konika/Minolta lens and a rugged chassis that is both heavy and elegant. I didn’t notice any real differences in the performance of the lens. Marantz claims that the lens is identical to the one found on the 11S12 except that it is not hand picked. Chromatic aberration was pretty much a non-issue, and I only saw a tinge of it with red at the extreme ends of the image, similar to what I saw with the 11S1. Focus uniformity wasn’t quite as good as I saw with the 11S1 though. I had a hard time getting both sides of the image just as sharp, so there was a bit of a trade-off in full screen focus compared to the 11S1.With a close inspection of the screen I also thought per pixel focus wasn’t quite as tight as it was with the 11S1. The pixels didn’t look quite as sharp as they did at the screen. From a normal sitting difference, this wasn’t too much of an issue, but it’s that level of refinement that still has me looking back at the 11S1 in some categories.
The back panel is nearly identical to the previous Marantz designs with the exception of lighting. I guess the small light was one of the options that had to go with this new lower cost design. The back panel features two HDMI inputs (v1.3), two component inputs, an S-Video input, composite video input, and a D-Sub 15 pin input for RGB-HV. They also got rid of the RS-232 input on the back panel, so connecting this projector to a serial command system is not an option.Inside not a lot has changed.Marantz continues to use an 0.95” Texas Instruments’ 1920x1080 Dark Chip 3 DMD, just like they used in the 11S1 design. Like the lens situation, the 15S1 doesn’t have handpicked DMDs, but rather "standard" stock. I’ve actually heard from several other projector manufacturers that there are varying degrees of quality when it comes to DMDs. The color wheel is also a bit slower, with only a 5x speed, 6-segment color wheel. This cuts down on the noise of the color wheel a bit, but can also add to the “rainbow effect” for those sensitive to the artifact.
One of the biggest design changes is in the form of the irises. The 11S1 used a single iris combined with an ND filter built into the color wheel to act as a pseudo second iris. This new design uses two physical irises, one near the lamp and the other near the lens. When I wrote my review of the 11S1, I praised its contrast, but thought that the inclusion of a second iris might help things out a bit. We’ve reviewed quite a few projectors here at Secrets and a few have used a dual iris system with great results. The 15S1 uses a dual iris configuration with three fixed positions. There is a shut down position for the best contrast performance (which has a lower lumen output), a mid-point for a mix of good contrast (and higher light output), and an open position for maximizing light output. The 15S1 is a brighter projector than the 11S1, so even when I used the tightest iris setting; it still delivered enough light for my 120” Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130. My room is completely dark and has 100% light control and little if no reflective surfaces, so I was able to achieve light levels in line with what I had with the 11S1.
I was hoping that the new irises would increase contrast ratio over the 11S1, but in this case we didn’t see it. With the 11S1 calibrated and contrast and brightness set correctly (head room preserved), we got a measurement of about 3300:1 On/Off CR. With the 15S1, we measured about 2500:1 On/Off CR in the same conditions. I guess the better DMDs and ND filter delivered a better native contrast ratio off the panel. It will be interesting to see how the 11S2 will fare as it incorporates TI’s new DarkChip 4 DMD and a dual iris configuration. My only guess as to why the dual iris configuration didn’t work as well as previous designs we’ve seen with this feature is the alignment of the irises in relation to each other. It is extremely important that the irises line up perfectly with each other to gain the most benefit from the design. Since this is the first time Marantz has used a configuration like this, I would expect later designs to improve on the design.
Despite the lower contrast level, I still thought the 15S1 delivered very solid blacks that were comparable to anything else I’ve seen out there in the DLP world. With the increase in brightness, perceived contrast actually went up. I watched a lot of material in iris position 2 (mid-point) and found it to be a nice mix. The high ANSI contrast afforded by the design made depth of image and intra scene contrast exceptional and more than made up for On/Off contrast limitations. In fact, I had the chance to compare this projector to the new JVC HD-100, and while the HD-100 was a bit brighter, contrast levels didn’t make a huge difference despite the substantial measured difference. The JVC was a bit tighter in some really low level shots in the Blu-ray release of Underworld, but not enough to be a deal breaker. After awhile, I went back to the tightest iris position and ran the projector in high lamp mode and got the best of both worlds. The projector ran a bit louder, but contrast was exceptional and the image had more than enough punch with the increased brightness.