Krell DVD Standard DVD player Page 2
Here's how the review process works: I receive a component and use it for a bit, then I write the review and send it in. I then box up the product and send it to Los Angeles, where Tom Norton and his elves take pictures and give it the ol' alien probe. Then we send the pictures and the words and the probe results to press and, a few weeks later, you open your mailbox and get the results. So while you're getting all excited reading about some product, I'm sitting on a park bench in the rain, caressing a product brochure, full of longing and memories, muttering something about "We'll always have Paris." That's why I'd like to publicly apologize to Krell for taking so long with this review. The DVD Standard is the nicest DVD player I've had in my system since the Theta David II, and I'm only human.
Because my projector was completely Gannonized by our former technical editor and ISF savant, John J. Gannon, it's a scary-good tool and a wonder to behold. The Krell DVD Standard made every movie I watched an event. With it, I could easily and impressively toss around terms like "overenhanced" and "great black level" and know from whence I spoke. That's not to say the Krell made the bad worse, a phenomenon all too common in high-end audio. Even movies with warts came off as enjoyable, provided the player's internal controls were set properly.
The Krell's Faroudja circuitry lets you select among increasing degrees of "enhancements," beginning with Off and proceeding through Low, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and High. As soon as I got the player, I found the Low setting to my liking, and though I occasionally selected 1 or Off, Low turned out to be the best compromise. All the other settings were, on a properly calibrated display, too edgy to be useful.
The player also lets you select from different TV Modes of operation, including Standard, Cinema, Animation, Sports, and Black and White. The otherwise excellently written manual is woefully terse on most technical details, referring to the TV Modes feature as a way of modifying the player's "Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness settings." However, when I changed the modes, there were no changes made to the Enhancement parameter of the Faroudja processing menu, so I'm not sure why Krell mentions the Sharpness setting. My guess is the control simply modifies the gamma level, effectively stretching the picture's dynamic range at low IRE settings, to provide varying amounts of detail and crush in black level. I selected Cinema and stuck with it.
Faroudja is known for their motion-compensation technology, which they developed and staunchly defend. But their competition hasn't stood still. I couldn't see much difference between the three settings of Full and Adaptive motion-detection correction, so I left it in the latter. Faroudja 3:2 pulldown mode can be turned off, but it appears to still detect 3:2 pulldown and to automatically enable itself when film is detected, regardless of what the menu shows, which is fine. I just left it on. Perhaps when Steven Soderberg's latest film, Full Frontal, which was shot mostly on digital video, comes out on DVD, this feature will come in handy. All I can say is, Faroudja's reputation for motion-detection technology is well-deserved.
Turning to the test signals from the Video Essentials test DVD: The Standard's chroma delay was only average via the interlaced outputs, but completely nonexistent via the progressive outputs. What this means is that there was very little horizontal color smearing, a subjective effect that manifests itself as a softer, less defined look that has a lot of parallels with cheap videotape. I casually measured more than 450 lines of horizontal resolution in my setup, while the high-frequency test patterns indicated that the Krell went out very cleanly to 5.5MHz with only the slightest dropoff.
The progressive signal once again trumped the interlaced output on the green and pink candy-stripe test pattern on VE (title 18, chapter 15). Here, the green vertical bands were not book-ended by the darkened-magenta vertical bands of a retarded pink signal. The cotton-candy-pink bands were quite pure.
For reasons I'll detail shortly, I spent 95% of my time watching through the DVD Standard's interlaced outputs. The combination of the Dwin equipment and Krell transport was a wonder to behold. Even with a less-than-perfect picture, what was there to be enjoyed was enjoyed. DVDs with great black-level detail, like Donnie Darko (20th Century Fox 2004057), looked superbly dynamic on the screen, even with the occasional softening that keeps this disc from getting a 4-star rating. The Glass House (Columbia TriStar 06252), on the other hand, was both sharp and blessed with a great deal of black-level information, and the Standard projected an incredibly involving image. Thankfully, I don't have good light control in my home theater and am forced to wait until dark to put on a movie, or I might never have gone to work in the morning!
The progressive image was very sharp and detailed, very hi-def-like. Scan lines were only occasionally visible on my 78-inch-wide screen, even from 12 feet away, but they didn't intrude or call attention to themselves unless I was looking very hard. On a slightly smaller display, such as a 50-inch plasma, I'm sure those scan lines would be effectively banished.