- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 13 June 2012
Introduction to the Lumagen Radiance XS-3D
Last year I looked at the Lumagen Radiance Mini-3D and its interaction with ChromaPure software for automated calibrations. Paired with an older projector, it was able to provide an accurate grayscale, gamut, and gamma providing an image that was far more accurate than without it. Since that is just scratching the surface of what the Radiance series can do I went back to write an in-depth review that covers the Radiance XS-3D model.
LUMAGEN RADIANCE XS-3D VIDEO PROCESSOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Inputs: 4x HDMI 1.4, 2x S-Video, 2x Component, 2x Composite, 1x RGBHV, 2x Optical Audio, 3x Coaxial Audio, 2x Stereo LR Audio, IR, RS232
- Outputs: 2x HDMI 1.4, 1x Coaxial Audio
- Features: 1080p Scaling, 3D and 2D CMS, De-interlacing, Mosquito and Block Artifact Noise Reduction, Adaptive Filtering
- MSRP: $2,995
- Secrets Tags: Video Processors, 3D
Design of the Lumagen Radiance XS-3D
The Radiance XS is unassuming on the front, with a single LED light. The back has a large array of inputs, both analog and digital. There are four HDMI 1.4a inputs and two outputs, allowing the XS to run two separate displays, or send one to a display and one to an audio processor. There are also component, composite, and S-Video inputs along with optical, coaxial, and analog audio inputs. For many people this will be enough to handle all of their video signals, allowing the processor or receiver to totally bypassed for switching video signals.
The performance of the Radiance XS is the same as the Mini or XE models, with the difference being on the inputs and outputs available. The Mini has only a pair of HDMI inputs and a single output and likely will be installed after a receiver or processor. The XE adds two more HDMI inputs, more analog inputs as well analog outputs, allowing it to serve as a complete input manager for a larger system with many legacy devices. You can optionally add a 3G-SDI input as well.
Setup of the Lumagen Radiance XS-3D
Setting up the Radiance, at the most basic level, is simply inserting it into the device chain and then setting it to the correct input. Taking full advantage of everything it can offer will take a long time so it may be wise to budget a weekend for this. Each input has its own bank of settings, allowing each item to be calibrated independently from the other. Additionally these can be tied to different resolutions or refresh rates, to be very exact in how sources are managed. Does the display handle 1080p24 and 1080p60 just slightly differently? The Radiance can calibrate for each of these settings to get the best from every source.
Many displays perform differently with 24p sources than 60p or 60i sources as they display them with a different refresh rate. With the Radiance they can be calibrated differently so that the grayscale and gamma are as perfect as possible for both of these options even if the black level is different. This allows for the best performance from film, video, and all other content instead of having to choose one.
Using a 2.40 screen in a theater provides that movie cinema feeling for cinemascope movies. What has recently started to happen is that IMAX releases like The Dark Knight that are mostly 2.39:1 but have sequences that are a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. With a 16:9 screen this is fine, but on a cinemascope screen the top and bottom of the frame now spill over onto the walls. The Radiance can setup masking for this image, which only allows the 2.35 or 2.40 area to be seen and cuts off the rest. This effectively crops out content, but that's how The Dark Knight was shown in non-IMAX theaters originally. It effectively removes the light spill and presents these hybrid titles as if they were native cinemascope.
Another 2.40 screen issue is that title screen of movies are typically 16:9, requiring a zoom out to use the menu and then a zoom back in for the movie. Just like with the masking the Radiance can create a preset that will scale the image to a smaller size, making the 16:9 menus fit in a 2.40 screen. You wouldn't want to do this with movie content, as it reduces resolution, but for menu selections it is fast and effective.
Many people won't use these features on the Radiance, but they might choose to use many others. Coaxial output is very use for those that are still using older receivers, and the S-Video and Composite inputs are there for those with library of VHS tapes or classic video game consoles. The real key is that the Radiance has all of this power and features and can grow with any system over time. Many features are there that might not be used when it is first installed, but will be there and available when the time comes.
Lumagen has also continued to enhance the test patterns available in their firmware to make it easier to setup a display correctly. Setting brightness and contrast is much easier, and there is a pattern to check for color clipping all the way up to peak levels in red, green, and blue. Calibrators will differ on what level they prefer to calibrate clipping so (some prefer 235, some 255, and some in-between), but these patterns make it easy to choose one. There is also a new pattern that can be set to any RGB value. This allows for programs like CalMan and ChromaPure to measure any color and saturation they want, not just primary or secondary and give you a much better idea of how the display performs.
The Lumagen Radiance XS-3D In Use
I tested the Radiance XS with a wide variety of displays. It was tested on a Sony VPL-VW95ES projector, JVC X30 projector, Samsung PN50B650 plasma, and an Epson 6500UB projector.
The JVC X30 projector is a fantastic projector and comes highly recommended by me. One area that certainly is lacking was the CMS system. There is only a 2-point grayscale control, and the gamma control works with presets, but adjusting those causes bad posterization. With the Radiance connected, I could get a perfect grayscale and gamma, and bring in those color errors that had been present. One thing to keep in mind that is if your display has too large a colorspace, the Radiance can bring that in by pulling those points back, but it can't add luminance or saturation to a color that is too low in them.
Using the CMS and 21-point grayscale with the JVC took an already outstanding projector for the price to new highs. The grayscale, gamma and CMS were more accurate than with an X70 or X90 model and their internal CMS, and the additional features on the Radiance enabled the Lens Memory feature to be even more valuable. Paired with the Radiance the JVC goes from a fantastic projector for the price to one that can outperform anything for the same price as the pair.
The Sony VPL-VW95ES already has a full CMS built in, but it doesn't provide for 10-point or 21-point control over the grayscale, and the gamma had a bas bump at 90. Sony provides software to control the gamma, but it won't run on 64-bit versions of Windows so many people can't take advantage of it. While the CMS on the Sony is very good at improving the color dE, when individual saturations and intensities are measured they are not as good as when using the Radiance. With the Radiance the grayscale is dialed in perfectly, and almost no any adjustments to the primary or secondary colors are required to correct them. This doesn't use the full power of the Radiance, but the tint at the low end of the grayscale is gone and the image on the Sony is undeniably improved.
These intermediate saturations and intensities are often overlooked when evaluating a display or projector. Most reviews only cover the main primary and secondary points, which are 100% saturation and 75% or 100% intensity. Together with white, these make up seven out of millions of different colors. In theory every display should be able to get the other colors correct if these are, but practice is much different than theory. Here is where the Lumagen excels as it manages to perform these calculations perfectly, so intermediate saturations and intensities are displayed correctly and your color gamut is as good as your calibration report seems to indicate. Unfortunately many vendors seem to cut corners with their internal CMS systems so that the numbers in a review look great, but the overall performance leaves much to be desired.
Very few grayscale controls have the ability to get the grayscale perfectly flat along the whole spectrum. With 2-points or 10-points, they are often too coarse at any individual point to be everywhere, or the points interact with each other so you have to make a sacrifice somewhere in the spectrum. With very fine control at up to 21-points, and by having the points interact with each other far less than on a display, you can really dial in the grayscale and gamma to a level that usually isn't possible on a display CMS. As the basis of all images from Blu-ray to HDTV is a grayscale with color laid on top of it, having a totally neutral, accurate grayscale is often the single most important factor to having a quality image.
The simple fact is that the Radiance does one thing: It takes every other video component and pulls the absolute best performance out of it. DVDs upscale better, anamorphic systems work correctly, and the projector or display suddenly has an image that wasn't possible before. A fellow Secrets writer bought a Mini3D after I told him about using it and hooked it up to his Epson 6500UB, then had me calibrate it for him. The graphs of the grayscale and color improvements show you what the Radiance can do.
The green tint in the dark shadows of his projector is now gone, shadow detail was more apparent, colors are more accurate and flesh tones correct, and everything looks far better than before. Now he isn't worried about upgrading his projector, as the image looks as good or better than if he had upgraded
The scaling and processing of the Radiance was tested by using our standard Blu-ray Benchmark, using an Oppo BDP-93 in Source Direct mode as the source. Doing this the Radiance not only flew through the tests, but also provided the clearest, most noise-free scaling on the DVD sections of the testing that I have seen. Many people watch very little, if any, DVD content anymore but likely still watch SDTV or streaming content. The Radiance handles this content better than anything else I've tested and provides a sharp, detailed image but doesn't add halos or other artifacts that other processing can.
Conclusions about the Lumagen Radiance XS-3D
It's obvious that I love the Radiance XS-3D. There isn't a component that I used it with that wasn't improved by using it, nor a feature that I found it to be missing. There is so much inside of the Radiance products that any review that doesn't go for 10,000 words isn't going to be able to cover it all. Lumagen has packed their Radiance line with more features than anything else I've used and really brings something to any system you use it with.
Since I finished testing the Radiance just a couple weeks ago, Lumagen has improved it to allow you to convert to any of the 3D formats for output, made it easier to use Reference or Adjustable patterns, and they have plans to add even more feature going forward. In addition to offering these free updates at their website, they also run their own support forum as well as actively monitoring the forums at AVS to support their users. You can even call and actually talk to their employees to get support for your issues. Their website also has an archive of Tech Tips to help you setup certain features that might be fairly complex to do. With a device as capable but complex as the Radiance, this level of support is important and sometimes essential.
Unless a display is absolutely perfect in all aspects, and each component is as well, any theater can benefit from the Radiance. You may not use all the features, but it has the power and ability to grow as you change your system around. There have been very few products that I can enthusiastically recommend as highly as I can the Lumagen Radiance. It really is a component you need to try and see for yourself to understand the difference it can make.