Marantz VP-12S4 Darkchip 3 DLP Home Theater Projector

Marantz VP-12S4: Performance

Sound Levels

Time to lower the boom. This Marantz projector is not perfect. In fact, it is shocking how much noise it produces. I don’t have equipment to measure sound levels, but I would guess, that in full power mode the Marantz is probably around 29 to 32 decibels. (They claim 28 decibels). Today there are far less expensive projectors as low as 25 decibels in full power mode, and as low as 23 decibels in economy mode.

The question is – is this a problem? If your projector is mounted 8-10 feet from where you sit, and what you are watching is completely quiet, you will be able to detect the fan noise. I don’t believe this is a problem. Even if you notice it at first, (and its louder when first turned on), once you settle into your movie or other source I’m sure it will be come completely unobtrusive. Even with just minor conversation or background noise coming from the audio half of your system, the noise should not be noticeable. Of note, you cannot hear any whine from the color filter wheel. This is a good thing as the whine is normally higher pitched than fan noise, and therefore more noticeable even at the same noise level.

It’s just surprising that this projector which compares so favorably – at everything, compared to the competition, should actually be a slight bit louder than most other home theater projectors.

Lenses

I have tested the standard VP-12S4, however there is another version available with a longer throw lens. The L version is, I believe, about $1000 more expensive than the standard unit I tested. There is also a short throw version available (all are zoom lenses).

Lens Shift

The Marantz, as noted earlier has manual lens shift, and it has a lot of range. According to Marantz provided specifications, the range of shift is exceptional. They say it allows the projector to be mounted up to 50% of the screen height above the top of the screen. Let me try that again in English. If you have a 110″ diagonal screen, then your screen height is just fractionally less than 55″ high. That means that the center of the lens of the Marantz projector can be mounted about 27″ above the top of the screen. And that means pretty much flush mounting on the ceiling for everyone lacking really tall ceilings. That’s a real plus, as afterall, who would rather have a projector hanging down almost 3 feet on a pipe instead of ceiling flush, or down a few inches.

Note, in their brochure, at one point it says it can be mounted up to 80% of screen height above the screen. That would be even more ideal for some. I will try to clarify which spec is correct

Light Leaks?

click to enlarge. Sorry, none to report. If this projector leaks any light of any significance, it is probably unavoidable light leaving the lens. The fan vents are compared to other projectors – dark.

Remote Control

Alas, another flaw! I don’t know why anyone would build a home theater projector remote that doesn’t have every button back lit. The Marantz, however only illuminates 4 of the major buttons. Other than that, the remote does the job well, but does it matter?

I suspect that anyone plunking down over $10,000 on a projector is going to want a single remote to run their entire system. Whether they choose a relatively low cost learning remote ($200 up for decent), Marantz’s RC9500 portable touch screen remote, or a full blown room control system, it sure isn’t likely that the provided Marantz remote will be in use. Let’s forgive them this one.

That said, the remote has descrete buttons for each input source, separate buttons for each image mode (Theater, Standard and Dynamic, as well as 3 buttons for user modes (each one toggles between 3 different saved settings). A large button allows you to quickly change the aspect ratio, and a comfortable disc pad lets you navigate the menus.

Sealed Light Path and Optics

Like many DLP projectors, the Marantz has a sealed light path, which prevents dust and dirt from getting between the light source, the DLP chip and the lens. This means you don’t have to worry about dust and dirt being visible (usually as a small blurry area) on the screen.

Click Image to Enlarge

Menus

There are lots of menus, and they are pretty well laid out. I really don’t care for menus that cover a large portion of the screen, but at least these are partially transparent. Most of the everyday action is on the Picture adjust menu (on the right). In addition there are two fine menus (one apparently is active when doing user settings only).

Below left is a shot of Fine Menu 2, which is responsible for adjusting IRE levels, black levels, luminance, etc.

All in all, there is plenty of control over the settings of this projector. Those who like to tinker and tweak, or just those doing a one time calibration, should be more than satisfied with the range of control. Lastly I have photographed the Config menu . Here you can see the settings for screen

triggers, the color calibration area.
(The Marantz comes with its own color calibration system,


but I did not have the time to see how it stacks up against the Avia disk I use.

menus
Fine Menu 2
Config menu

Lamp Life

In full power mode the Marantz lamps are rated 2000 hours. According to Marantz the final quality control on the lamp occurs after being placed in the projector. As a result (according to their manual), a brand new unit will show a few hours already on the lamp.

Well, that about wraps it up for my commentary on the projectors performance. Time to move on to other matters.

Color Filter Wheel - Rainbow Effect

This DLP projector uses a 5x speed, 7 segment color filter wheel. That is fast enough to prevent all but the tiniest segment of the market from seeing any “rainbow effect”

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