- Written by Kris Deering
- Published on 18 January 2008
Installing the Marantz was quite easy. I used a Chief Universal Mount with horizontal sliders to center the image to my screen and dialed in the zoom and focus from there. The Marantz projectors always have a nice throw ratio, so getting the full image on my 120” diagonal screen wasn't an issue. Like the previous designs Marantz includes a nice cross hatch pattern that is perfect for zoom, focus, and leveling the image. Like the 11S1, the 15S1 includes a manual horizontal lens shift option and a manual focus lens. The lens shift worked nicely, and I didn't have any slip issues like I've seen on some other designs. I still prefer a powered focus option, as it allows you to focus the projector right at the screen, but I was still able to get a very crisp image from the 15S1 that was only a tad softer than the reference 11S1.
The remote is one of the better projector remotes out there and includes quick keys for just about everything. Users can select the lamp mode, color temperature, iris position, input, and user picture modes all from a click of a button, bypassing the need to enter the menus. The remote is backlit, with a small slider on the side providing lighting to all buttons anytime. You can also access the convenient cross hatch pattern and aspect ratio control. The menus are pretty much identical to the 11S1. Marantz includes the standard options such as brightness, contrast, color, and tint, as well as lamp mode, iris setting, and gamma. End users can set up multiple memories, allowing for separate calibrations for each source. Further along in the menus you'll find adjustments for grayscale, video processing, image cropping, chroma error processing, and the standard installation options like projector position.Like the 11S1 before it, the 15S1 needs little in the way of calibration. Marantz has not included a color management system on this design, but primaries were a bit more in line than we saw with the 11S1. Grayscale out of the box was nearly perfect but could be dialed in slightly, especially in the lower IREs. Marantz has included several gamma options in the main menu, and I was glad to see they've included some higher gamma settings. I still found the standard setting (about 2.2) gave the best tradeoff of shadow detail and blacks, but there are some interesting options for getting more of a CRT look with some tradeoff of shadow detail.
One thing I did notice is that setting the brightness changes dramatically depending on the color space that is input to the projector. If you send an YCbCr signal, the level of black is completely different than an RGB signal. Anyone having multiple devices that use both may want to adjust them individually and save their settings in the user memories. I also found that you need to set black level to Expand, to show below black information in a pluge pattern. Thankfully, I was able to get a below black pluge regardless of what colorspace I fed the projector, unlike the last two Marantz projectors I've used.
Marantz continues to favor the Gennum VXP video processing chip. The 15S1 includes the same chip as the 11S1, so there is no drop in quality in video processing. I've become a big fan of the Gennum chip over the last few years. I've been impressed with its performance in several projector designs and its incorporation in our reference Anthem Statement SSP. The Gennum VXP chip is a fully capable standard definition and high definition video processing solution. It does full interlace/progressive (I/P) conversion and scaling of both SD and HD sources. The chip is one of only a few that does true inverse telecine 2:3 and 2:2 pulldown with 1080i sources for film material and motion adaptive processing for video based sources. It also offers diagonal line processing for video based material, frame rate conversion, and chroma processing for sources that exhibit the famed “chroma bug” (CUE).I put the 15S1 through the paces with both our SD and HD video test suite, and it did a superb job in both. The 15S1 truly eliminates the need for an outboard video processing solution. This adds a lot of flexibility with outboard sources such as DVD players and HD players since you can rely on the projector for most of the processing duties and treat the sources more as transports. The 15S1 accepts all NTSC and ATSC video signals including 1080p24 with no issues at all. With a 24p signal, the unit displays the signal at 48 Hz, eliminating the judder commonly associated with the 2-3 pulldown process used for 60p. While you will still see some minor stuttering from the inherent 24fps film process, panning is quite a bit smoother than what we typically see from displays that do not support 24p playback in the correct multiple of 24 Hz.
When the 15S1 was initially announced, I was bombarded with speculation questions about it. When you compare the specs of the 11S1 and the 15S1, it would be easy to say that this projector is nearly the same and Marantz is just trying to gain more market share. Even I was a bit skeptical, but I've learned over the last few years that refinement can go a long way, and performance on paper rarely translates to real world use. The 15S1 does come a lot closer to the performance of the 11S1 than its price dictates though. In fact, I found the 15S1 a bit better in some areas. For one it is a quieter unit. One of the biggest annoyances I had with the 11S1 was the audible whine from the color wheel that was a bit too distracting during quieter passages of movies. The 15S1's fan makes it a bit louder than some of the quieter SXRD and LCoS projectors I've used, but it's considerably quieter than the 11S1 was, even in high lamp mode.
The 15S1 also handles 24p material better than the 11S1 I had. The Gennum video processing chip is shipped to customers with 24p set literally at 24 instead of 23.96. The 11S1 (and several other implementations I've seen) didn't fix the timing during its initial run (this was fixed later with firmware after our review), and we would see a frame drop on occasion. Not the case here as 24p playback is liquid smooth. You gain some more light output with the 15S1, but that has its tradeoffs as well. Obviously, contrast isn't quite as high as the 11S1, plus I saw more of the rainbow effect (RBE) with the 15S1 compared to my time with the 11S1. It is hard to say if this is from the lower speed of the color wheel or the higher brightness. It was still far lower than the 720p DLP projectors I've used, but enough that I noticed it in high contrast sequences on occasion. RBE has been a constant issue for me with 720p designs, and I will say I was pretty anti-DLP during those days due to this issue and the headaches it induced. These new 1080p projectors pretty much eliminate RBE, and I haven't had any headaches or distraction in use. Moving away from test patterns and measurements, the 15S1 delivered exceptional images with day to day use. I loved the inclusion of multiple iris positions. I would use the tight iris setting for movie playback, allowing for deep blacks and exceptional shadow detail, and the mid-iris position for playing games allowing for a punchier image with brighter sources.
I recently had the chance to review the new final cut of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner on Blu-ray. Just before this review, I was lucky enough to attend a screening in Seattle at the famed “Cinerama” downtown. I thought the new cut looked quite good there in 35mm, but watching it in HD on the 15S1 completely trumped it. Contrast levels of the 15S1 were far better than what the cinema experience offered, and the amount of depth and detail delivered by the digital projector was night and day. The film became far more involving for me this time around. Another favorite was the Blu-ray release of Pixar's gem Ratatouille. To date I don't think I've seen any animation on par with what Pixar has done here. The use of high dynamic lighting effects, detail, and dimension is second to none, and the 15S1 delivered it all in spades. You literally get that “window” effect watching video this good ,and you could swear that you could walk up to the screen and literally touch the objects.
I also had the chance to compare the 15S1 to one of the newer LCoS projectors available, the JVC HD-100. This new projector is a bit more refined then the first model in the line and is closer in performance to the better 1080p DLPs than what I saw with the HD-1. The Marantz trumped it in terms of detail and color accuracy though. Single chip DLP projectors are just unmatched in terms of sharpness and fine detail. Mixed contrast scenes also looked a bit more dimensional with the 15S1. The HD-100 did give it a run for its money in terms of light output, providing a more punchy image, and its native contrast lent to a more dimensional image with really low light images. Colors were a bit overblown with the JVC though. The question is whether the end user would like the results of the wider color gamut or not.
At half the price of the reference VP11S1, the Marantz 15S1 brings almost all of the performance at a far more reasonable price. You lose a bit of performance, but not nearly as much as the price would dictate. The 15S1 throws an exceptional image and could easily fit the needs of anyone looking for a reference grade 1080p projector. At a price point that is far more attractive to the average consumer, the VP15S1 represents a solid value and is highly recommended