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Product Review - Faroudja VP-100 TV Enhancer - June, 1997

By Stacey Spears

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Faroudja VP-100 TV Enhancer; 1 Composite input; 1 Composite output, 2 S-Video outputs; 1 Detail Control, 1 Delay Control; 6.1"W x 1.6"H x 5.9"D; Weight 1.5 lbs.; External power supply (120VAC, 60 Hz, 20 W, 9 VDC @ 650 mA); $799; Faroudja Laboratories, Inc.; 750 Palomar Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94806; Telephone: (408) 735-1492; Fax: (408) 735-8571

My First Faroudja

When it comes to video products, Faroudja has the reputation of being the best. The VP-100 is the first, "affordable for mere mortals" product to hit the market. Essentially what Faroudja has done here is take the first part of processing out of their line-doubler component and package it as a stand-alone product. The VP-100 is a 2D adaptive comb filter much like the Audio Alchemy VRE. A comparison between these two products will come later in this article. In addition to the comb filter, Faroudja has also added their patented detail processing and color alignment.

The VP-100 is an all-metal 6.1 x 1.6 x 5.9-inch box (small), finished in black. The VP-100 uses an external power supply (Wall Wart). I would have preferred a power supply that has the box in the middle and a little cord on the end. This would have allowed me to plug it in my power strip more easily. The wall wart requires you to use a bottom plug, or take up two spots. Both the VP-100 and the power supply run hot, so they should be placed where they will have proper ventilation.

On the Front

There are two very important knobs on the front of the VP-100: one called "DETAIL" the other "DELAY". First, turn down the detail setting, because in the default position it is set too high. The default value for "DETAIL" is "4", the range is from "0" to "7.5" in "0.5" increments. To help set the detail, I used the Sharpness pattern [Click here to see pattern] on Video Essentials (VE) [Frame: 27960]. When using this pattern, you turn the detail up to the point just before any artificial edges are added. This usually means seeing the edges, then backing off a notch. The artificial edges look like white outlines around the black lines. Other sources that are also helpful include the multiburst [Click here to see pattern] on VE [Frame: 46619] or A Video Standard (AVS) [Frame: 5060, 14384, 50790, and 50816], and the sweep pattern [Click here to see pattern] from VE [Frame: 46622]. When looking at the burst, you want to make sure the background is equal in intensity across the entire pattern. With the sharpness or detail processing turned up too high you will see a lot of video noise in the higher frequency area. (Towards the right side of the pattern) To see what I am talking about, set the detail to "0", and then flip over to "7". You should see a HUGE difference, lots of noise, which you do not want (at least, I don't).

If you have a DVD player in your system, I recommend setting the sharpness on your TV based on your DVD player, because DVD has the most high frequency information and will require the lowest sharpness setting. (VE on DVD will aid you in this process, when it becomes available) Then you can switch over to your LD player or VCR and turn up the detail setting on the VP-100 to the point just before noise starts to appear. Unlike conventional sharpness controls that only effect the horizontal direction, the VP-100 also effects (sharpens) the vertical direction.

"Delay" is cool, so why isn't this feature on all TV's? Every piece in your system can effect the delay between the Chroma and Luma signals. This includes your LD player, cables, and TV. I had two TVs on hand: the Pioneer Elite Pro-77 and Toshiba TW40F80. I ended up using "-1" for the Pioneer and "1" for the Toshiba. Each TV caused delay; the Pioneer was shifted to the right and the Toshiba to the left. If you are the owner of a CLD-95, you will love this feature. The CLD-95 actually separates the composite to S-Video, does some digital processing, and then joins the signal back together before giving you the composite output. Some major delay is added that the VP-100 will cure. To accurately set the "DELAY" function, I used the delay pattern [Click here to see pattern] on VE [Frame: 46625 and 46676], AVS [Frame: 50791, 50793, and 50794]. What you want to do is turn the knob the opposite direction of the color smearing on the pattern. Turn it just enough to sharpen up the image. If you turn it too much, you will add delay and smear the other side.

The two knobs on the front are the set-it and forget-it kind. Once your system is tweaked, there will be no reason to change these, unless you are using multiple sources, such as a second LD player or VCR. If this is the case, just write down the settings for each source and change them every time you switch to that source. The reason I went into detail about properly adjusting the controls is because they are EXTREMELY powerful (the "DETAIL" enhancement in particular), and while they allow you to clean up the picture, when set wrong they can DEGRADE the picture.

DVD and DSS through the VP-100

There is one thing I would like to say about the instruction manual that I disagree with. On page 4, it shows the user running DVD, DSS, VHS, and LD though a switcher, then into the VP-100. I can think of absolutely ZERO reasons that you would want to run your DVD or DSS through the VP-100! Both of these reside in the component domain, putting them through the VP-100 forces them DVD or DSS) to be converted to composite, then the VP-100 has to convert them back to S-Video. This is unnecessary processing and will degrade the picture quality. While writing this review, I was at a local LD store talking to someone whot had purchased the VP-100, and who was running his DVD player though it, just like page 4 told him to. He has since re-routed the DVD player straight to his TV and is much happier.

What about 3D?

TV manufactures are always promoting the latest technology, naturally. Reading through the literature, you will probably notice that most new TVs this year are sporting 3D-Motion adaptive comb filters (comb filters separate the luminance "Y" from the chroma "C"). While these look fantastic on "static" images, when its time for motion, they must resort back to 2D processing. The logic that must decide when to switch from 3D to 2D is far from perfect, and often exhibits errors. A good example of the kind of errors I am talking about can be found on A Video Standard at the beginning of the disc. This is a color bar pattern with one bar that is changing colors. With a 3D filter, the bar exhibits a checkerboard-like pattern. The fact is that these 3D filters spend more time doing 2D work, and this is their weak point. Since your TV is spending more time in the 2D world, you want the BEST 2D filter you can get.

I compared the VP-100 to the 3D filter built into the Toshiba TW40F80 and the 3D filter in the Pioneer Elite CLD-99 LD player. Both the Pioneer and Toshiba performed well on static images; the Pioneer was a little better on the Snell & Wilcox (S&W) [Frame: 29939 to 30798] test pattern on Video Essentials. At the top of the S&W test pattern are two boxes with diagonal lines (Diagonal frequency response check). The Toshiba had a few artifacts in the box on the right side, while the Pioneer was cleaner in this area. The VP-100 had a rainbow waterfall just like the VRE does. This is one area that 3D filters shine, but this is only a test pattern, and the real world has lots of motion, much like that of the moving ball on the S&W pattern. On the ball, both the 2D and 3D filters look the same. The 3D filter does clean up the image when the ball pauses for a second, and then back to the rainbow it goes.

For those of you who have seen the Faroudja line-doubler and line-quadrupler products on this pattern, you will notice that the two boxes at the top with the diagonal lines are almost as clean as the 3D filters. This is because there are a few additional levels of processing going on that actually filter diagonal lines and eliminate cross-color. This feature is only on their line-doubler and line-quadrupler products, not the VP-100.

Battle of the Comb Filters

I put the VP-100 head-to-head with the VRE. They both have their virtues and faults. In the final analysis, after weighing all the differences, I give the nod to the VP-100. The addition of the patented detail processing and color alignment are what push the Faroudja out in front.

First things first, the VRE had a slightly better Chroma Frequency response. When looking at the S&W test pattern on VE, the 1.5 Chroma frequency response bars show less dot crawl with the VRE than with the VP-100. With the VRE, there is slight dot crawl on the first bar, but the other bars are clean (just a little wavy). On the VP-100 there is dot crawl on all of the bars. The same can be seen when looking at the color bars at the beginning of chapter 15 of VE. With the VRE, the dot crawl is almost non-existent between the color bars, while on the VP-100 it is very evident. These color bars are very intense, and are intended to show dot crawl. Neither of these comb filters shows dot crawl on "standard" color bars, so both comb filters do an excellent job.

The VP-100 jumped ahead of the VRE with the addition of the patented detail processing and color alignment. These two features really help to give you the best possible picture; they allow you to extract every nuance from your LD player or VCR. While the VRE faired well against the VP-100, it is now off the market and no longer available. The reason I put them head-to-head is for the VRE owners out there who are curious as to how good the VP-100 is. After extensive use, I feel the VP-100 is the best comb filter available. (If you have their doubler of quadrupler product, then you will not need the VP-100.) I only wish the VP-100 had supplied an S-Video pass-through so that it would allow the use of the color alignment feature to improve other sources.

Associated Equipment

Along with the VP-100 and Audio Alchemy Visual Reality Engine (VRE), I used the Pioneer Elite Pro-77 45" TV, the Toshiba TW40F80 40" 16:9 TV; The Pioneer CLD-99, CLD-97, and CLD-59 LD players. All Video cables were Monster M Series M1000V (Composite) and M1000SV (S-Video). Various LDs were employed, including Video Essentials, A Video Standard, THX WOW disc, and others with animation. (Animations show very little cross-color, but they aid in finding dot crawl and really illustrate the importance of color alignment.)

Conclusion

Using the Faroudja VP-100, I was able to see improvements on some of the top TV sets out there. The effect is even greater on lower quality sets, and in fact, it is MUCH greater. At $799.00, the Faroudja is far from cheap, but if you do not have the $10k to spend on the doubler plus the $10-20k for the projector, but do want great TV images, the VP-100 will bring you a few steps closer to Video Nirvana. I suggest getting a loaner from a dealer and putting it between your LD player and your TV, to try it out. I am sure that once you see the improvement, you are not going to want to remove it.

Stacey Spears

Faroudja responds:

I received a copy of your article from Bryan Stanton on the VP-100. Thanks for the great review! Here are a few comments:

First you mention how to set the unit using test patterns. Our target market for this product is mainly people who do not use test patterns. Most people will turn the detail to a level that looks best for their system. Setting the detail by just viewing an image, i.e., getting the most detail without enhancing the noise, will result in the knob positioned at the 12:00 or 1:00 setting. You should try this to see if you can get more detail in your picture while not perceiving an increase in noise.

When using the multi-burst, if the pattern is of equal intensity across the pattern, it means there is no enhancement in the signal. For example, if you use a multi-burst pattern with our doublers, you would find the background of the middle frequencies becoming brighter than the other areas when the unit is in the preset position.

You commented on the owner's manual showing a DVD running composite through a switcher. I agree that DVD and DSS should be kept in the Y/C domain. However, as said before, the primary market for this unit is the average consumer where convenience often has precedence over accuracy. The diagram in the manual is just a suggestion for that type of installation.

You also compared the VP-100 to the VRE. The VP-100 detail should be set to "0" for this comparison. Since the VRE has no enhancement, the presence of dot crawl can be hidden by a soft picture.

As a side note, we have found the VP-100 can make a big improvement with LCD projectors as well.

Thank you again for taking the time to evaluate this product. We will keep you up to date on any new products we introduce.

Peter W. Halenbeck
Product Manager
Faroudja Laboratories


Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
Frames from Video Essentials, and A Video Standard, Copyright Joe Kane
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