Anthem AVM50v Audio/Video Processor


Setup: The (updated) Video Processor

Finally we get to what is really new in the AVM50v (and D2v for that matter): The new Sigma Designs chip. All incoming video is funneled into this chip with a selectable output up to and including 1080p60 (24 frames per second is now also supported). Custom resolutions are supported (via an attached PC running Live Video Settings Editor) but it is more than likely that the one you want will be among the 21 different standard ones to chose from within the unit itself.

The output color space is selectable between HDTV, SDTV, and auto. Many display devices forcibly use the HD color space (REC 709) when fed anything above 480P (even though most DVD material is metered in, and output by the player in, SD color space, REC 601). So the Anthem allows you to force a color conversion or let the EDID information from the display dictate.

For data format you can chose from YCbCr 4:2:2 or 4:4:4, RGB, or Extended RGB. As Kris explained in our original review of the D1, 4:2:2 YCbCr is the standard output of most MPEG decoders, is what DVD and Blu-ray is mastered at, supports the full 10bit resolution of the VXP chip, and thus is the recommend setting for just about everyone (despite the academic benefits sited of the other settings).

The output menu also lets you select the level of "gray" for pillar-boxing or letterboxing applied to the image, adjust the sync of the HDMI output, and select the output of the second component output (same processed resolution of Component 1, unprocessed, or set for Zone 2 which is also unprocessed).

Thus far we have been within the realm of Anthem's text based setup menu. Tapping into the VXP itself takes us to its on-chip GUI in full color and high resolution. When invoked, five basic tabs appear: Picture, Crop Input, Scale Out, Output, Pattern, and Info. All of these advanced picture options in the VXP are independent for each source, important given the granularity of what can be done here.

In the Picture menu you'll find selections for Input Color Space, Image Color (contrast, brightness, saturation and hue), Film Mode (de-interlacing mode), detail enhancement, noise reduction, and motion threshold. Input color space includes choice of HDTV YCbCr, SDTV YCbCr, or Auto. The VXP does all of its video processing in the RGB domain so regardless of this setting all input signals are converted to RGB and then converted back to the output color space selected in the output video menu. Auto continues to be the recommended setting.

Also in the in the Picture menu are Film Mode and Motion Threshold. Film mode is either On or Off (no real reason to ever turn it off), and since the VXP is proven to do an an excellent job picking up cadences and locking on, its default setting remains satisfactory.

Anthem AVM50v Audio/Video Processor

Next up are Detail Enhancement and Noise Reduction, the latter of which has been upgraded since the original. I personally am a fan of neither, especially detail enhancement, since they are by any definition a distortion, but for the sake of completeness I do test them and found not much has changed since Kris's original review.

Detail enhancement is broken down into detail level and noise threshold. While the detail enhancement can be a subjective benefit for poorly mastered DVDs, it's real easy to get carried away and the VXP really lets you go to an extreme so try not to be tempted to the farther reaches of these sliders. On the other hand the noise reduction, which I do appreciate the option of when watching the occasional really, REALLY bad signal quality material, is borderline benign. Adjustments are broken down into Block Noise and Mosquito Noise. While other such systems permit a latitude of adjustment which goes from nothing to so over processed that the image takes on a water color painting look to it, the VXP just did not do enough for me to call it useful in this regard. Even with the slider pegged at max, only what I would call a moderate noise reduction was witnessed. Comparing it to the Oppo BD-83's own noise reduction, the latter proved superior, though decidedly less practical since you have to dig into a setup menu as opposed to setting up a pseudo input on the Anthem which has noise reduction cranked up.

The Crop Input menu remains unchanged and still includes the ability to mask the borders of the image. With players like the Oppos' actually sending us ALL the picture with no pixel cropping, and digital displays which NO over scan, it's nice to have the option for that odd time (such as poorly done cable or DSS feeds) to Crop for 1-20 pixels if you find distracting garbage in the margins. Comprehensive letterbox settings, scaled output options, and pre-rendered test patterns round out the offerings.

Scale Out gives a comprehensive set of controls for scaling and positioning the input signal within the output.

Output is new since the original D1 and consists of gamma compensation controls. Instrumentation is really not an option for tapping into this stuff, but for those with the hardware, it's a slick addition to the tool chest.

The last menu is the Info menu, which provides input and output resolution, timing, and color format data. Kris had found in the original implementation that this info was not always accurate. I unfortunately had no way to conclusively test whether Anthem has fixed this.