Do Mosquitoes Buzz?

Algolith's Mosquito is an outboard video noise reduction device that Algolith describes as an "analog and digital compression artifact reducer." At $3000, it may be the most expensive device of its kind offered to consumers. It may also be the most sophisticated. If you judge your audio-video components by weight, it won't make much of an impact. But weight has little to do with the performance of this sort of product.

The Mosquito accepts, processes, and outputs most NTSC, ATSC, and PAL resolutions up to 1080i. It offers a wide range of inputs, including 2 component and 4 HDMI, which makes is usable as a high quality switcher as well as a noise reduction device (though its lack of 1080p capability may limit its usefulness as a switcher). It is strictly a video noise reducer, and offers no scaling or deinterlacing. For that you'll either need to rely on your display or an outboard scaler/deinterlacer such as Algolith's own Dragonfly (which incorporates REALTA HQV processing from Silicon Optix).

The processing in the Mosquito includes MPEG noise reduction (MNR), for material that uses MPEG video compression) and Dynamic Noise Reduction (DNR), for uncompressed analog sources. The MNR includes 2D Spatial Filtering and 3D Temporal Filtering for mosquito noise, which looks like clusters of tiny insects buzzing around the edges of objects. In addition, there is a block artifact reducer (BAR), also for digital sources, plus detail enhancement. All of these features offer multiple settings.

I tried the Mosquito on two displays: a JVC LT-46FN97 46-inch, 1080p LCD display, and an Optoma HD81 1080p DLP projector. I used an HDMI input into both.

Yes, the Mosquito did do an effective job at eliminating noise. It required a lot of experimentation to arrive at the right balance of settings for different sources, settings that were not always the same as the factory defaults, but the positive result was obvious on noisy sources. A split screen feature lets you see the before/after result of your efforts, and what it showed appeared to be an accurate representation of what was actually happening (that is, the split-screen processing did not minimize or exaggerate effect of the noise reduction).

The settings that provided the optimum noise reduction also sometimes subtly softened the image, a reduction in resolution, which could not always be counterbalanced by the detail enhancement control. But I don't want to make too much of this; the softening was marginal and often a tolerable tradeoff for the noise reduction. On the JVC LCD, incidentally, I never felt the need for either the mosquito or block noise features. The image was small enough that neither artifact bothered me. Also be aware that no such outboard device can compensate for noise generated by the display itself; it acts strictly on the source.

The Mosquito's noise processing includes a wider range of capabilities than I've seen on any other similar device. In fact, there's not a lot of competition for it in the consumer market. But at $3000 it may have a very limited customer base. While Algolith was refining it (I first saw it in prototype form at the Montreal A/V show nearly three years ago) the noise reduction circuits built into digital televisions and video projectors were being refined as well. In fact, those "free" on-board designs have been developed to the point where they should now be more than adequate for most consumers. I've tested several of them over the past year, and have been impressed by how well they handle video noise from all but the most grimy of sources without significantly degrading the image.

The Mosquito has one serious problem—which also afflicts Algolith's upscale scaler/deinterlacer, the Dragonfly. It clips above white and below black information in the video source. While this is not something you'll notice in most normal viewing, for many video enthusiasts (me included) it's a technical flaw that no modern video product—source, processor, switcher, or display—should have.

For those who need something with a bit more flexibility than any built-in noise filter can offer, Algolith's own Flea, still pricey but nonetheless available for as little as one-third the price of the Mosquito, is clearly the Mosquito's strongest competition, particularly now that the Flea can be had with an HDMI input. It may not offer the flexibility of the Mosquito, but few of you will ever need it. If you do, you know who you are.