Madrigal Imaging MP-9 CRT projector Page 3
But on DVDs with visible edge enhancement I definitely preferred the analog component connection. Waiting for Guffman is a solid transfer, very filmlike, with superbly natural colors, but the edge enhancement was much more noticeable with the digital feed. The analog link, while looking a bit less defined on some of the less-well-photographed scenes, had, overall, a smoother, creamier (but not soft) appearance. The jury is still out on whether a digital feed merely reveals flaws in the program material or whether it is, in itself, responsible for the differences. The S&W Interpolator's Horizontal and Vertical Detail Boost controls can not only sharpen but also slightly soften the image, which can help tame this problem. Alternatively, you could easily hook up both digital video and analog component video connections. This would allow you to choose the mode appropriate for a given DVD.
Moving On Up
As good as the MP-9 looked with DVDs, high-definition was on another plane. On lesser video displays, the differences between the best DVDs and HDTV are sometimes not all that significant. But with a good 9-inch CRT such as this one, the screen really does become a window looking out at what comes very close to, in every respect save full 3-dimensionality, the real world. And even the lack of 3D was not much of a limitation; the depth produced by the Madrigal was impressive. I watched a variety of HD material, and all of it was truly remarkable. The crispness and color depth on The Road to El Dorado easily surpassed even the superb DVD of the same film. Armageddon, though panned&scanned for broadcast to 1.78:1 from the original 2.35:1 by ABC, looked gorgeous, and made me wish yet again for at least an anamorphic remastering of the current, ordinary letterbox DVD. It was also completely absorbing, despite dynamically compressed, bass-shy 2-channel Dolby Digital sound and some very sloppy "for broadcast" sound editing. And while HD could do nothing for the dingy, brownish color of much of Gladiator—seemingly a deliberate stylistic choice—it certainly spruced up the detail. The costumes were particularly striking.
On all of the HD material I sampled, I was struck by how clean the images were, with virtually no edge enhancement, and by how much detail was visible, even in those medium and long shots that often look soft and fuzzy on even the best DVDs. I'm grasping for words to fully express this; you really have to experience for yourself high-definition on a big screen, produced by a state-of-the-art projector, to fully appreciate it.
I have now lived for at least six weeks each with four different 9-inch CRT projectors. The circumstances for each were somewhat different—slightly different screens, different scalers—and it's been three years since I parted with the first, the Vidikron Vision One (based on the same chassis as the MP-9). Each provided spectacularly filmlike images, and, short of putting them side by side, I would hesitate to name one as "the best."
But the Madrigal Imaging MP-9 had the advantage of the Snell & Wilcox Interpolator for DVD replay and high-definition material, neither of which was available to me when I had the other projectors. (I have since, however, seen hi-def on all of them in trade-show demonstrations.) The MP-9's only performance limitation appeared to be a maximum linear light output that was adequate, but not generous when compared with the best of the competition. This could be a problem with the larger screens likely to be demanded by many of those who can spend this much money for a video projector. According to Madrigal, the MP-9 is capable of either horizontal or vertical double stack, so you could always use two of them to increase the light output!
The MP-9 is also one of the most expensive stock 9-inch CRT projectors on the market. That could certainly be a factor in any purchase decision, and I strongly urge anyone shopping in this price range to see as many competing products as they can—even if it involves travel to out-of-town dealers and/or finding a way into those trade shows where they are likely to be on display.
Apart from those considerations, however, the Madrigal Imaging MP-9 produced outstanding images. The difference between a typical 7-inch CRT and the best 9-inchers is the "Wow!" factor, and when you see a great source—particularly a high-definition one—reproduced on a projector like the MP-9, you won't need me to tell you what that is.