The Audio Ideas HD Projector Project #4 - Anthem LTX 500 LCOS Projector

      Date posted: October 12, 2009

Anthem LTX Projector
Anthem LTX 500 LCOS 1080p Projector
Sigg. Retail: $8400CAD
Distributor: Paradigm Electronics Inc.

Projectors have been coming down in price lately, and most of these are full HD 1080p. But there are differences among them in picture quality, even at this high resolution. Other factors come into play, including contrast ratio, grey-scale reproduction, colour accuracy, and geometric precision. There is also that almost indefinable quality, the natural and lifelike quality of the picture. Not many projectors, especially budget-priced ones, deliver this kind of performance right out of the box, and some can never attain it, even if they are 1080p capable.

The LTX 500  is the top Anthem  model, and very full featured. According to the brochure, these include: “2x High-Precision lens with Motorized Focus and Auto Dust Cover, Fully Digitally Driven 3-Panel 1920 x 1080p LCOS, Electronic Lens Shift, Ultra-Wide Tru-Fit Screen Mode, Efficient Ultra-Low-Noise Fan, Dual 1080p HDMI v1.3 (Deep Colour) Digiital Inputs, Two Trigger Functions…Screen or Motorized Anamorphic Lens (optional add-on), Auto-Illuminated Remote”, and “RS-232 Controllable” capability.

LCOS  stands for Liquid Crystal On Silicon, which describes the imaging system. According to the literature, “a superb choice for home theater projectors because of its inherent ability to display smaller pixels in closer association, eliminating annoying visual artifacts like screen door effects.” The three LCOS panels are .7″ in size, and illuminated to a brightness of 900 lumens. Contrast ratio is said to be 50,000 to 1. As well, the LCOS technology, developed by JVC, is said to combine this contrast with fully adjustable grey scale to suit room light conditions and personal taste. The market for this projector will be as much the installer as the consumer.

I won’t go into all the adjustment possibilities of the LTX 500, but complete descriptive literature is available on Anthem’s website. This adjustment flexibility could be intimidating if the projector doesn’t work well right out of the box. I’ve had that experience with some other projectors, and generally prefer them simple, with few adjustments. But this Anthem  is designed for state-of-the-art video systems with screen sizes up to 200″ diagonally. Now that’s a big screen!

Our own reference screen is a comparatively paltry 92″ Vutec  that pulls up from the floor in front of our 64″ RPTV, and certainly either is fine in our room, especially if the resolution is there on the really big picture, and with only one small outdoor window behind both screens, light control is optimum. I set the projector up on a pedestal/bass trap just to the right of centre behind the couch where I watch, offsetting the screen to match. I much prefer a natural keystone, and this was at a negligible lateral 10 degrees or so off the centre viewing position.
Anthem LTX Remote Control
After I fine-tuned Focus and Zoom/screen fit, the picture was already very impressive. I had hooked up the recently reviewed Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player to one HDMI input, and Bell XpressVu HD to the other, and used the component input for my Zenith off-air HD receiver. All were quite remarkable, but the Blu-ray picture stood out, the progressive-scan 1080 signal clearly more detailed, with superb blacks and vibrant colour. I’ve been getting quite a few music concert Blu-rays from Eagle Rock Entertainment, and they looked quite spectacular. And though not a function of the projector, the sound was pretty amazing, too, through our Sunfire Theatre Grand II/Cinema Grand Signature/Newform R-645 and R-830 surround system. The viewing distance is just over 10 feet (3 metres) from projector to screen, which easily fits within the LTX 500’s specification (1.8 to 12 metres).

One feature I didn’t use was the Tru-Fit widescreen mode, because my screen is big enough that I really don’t worry much about black bars. A feature I really appreciated was the ultra-quiet fan (rated at 19 dB). It was never intrusive, even at night, when I have to keep audio levels down. The remote control was another excellent design achievement, the Light button near the bottom where you usually pick up and hold the remote, so chances are it will light when you pick it up. It also provides full control of projector functions, the buttons sensibly and clearly laid out. The HTX-500 also provides a user-replaceable bulb option; the bulb can be accessed from the projector’s side. The “lamp life cycle” is 2000 hours, though this has been extended to 3000 with models being shipped soon with the V designation. A 1/2 price bulb replacement coupon is provided with purchase of the projector new, and the process simply involves contacting Anthem  Customer Service.

Each input of the LTX 500 can be configured individually for adjustments, and although this took a little time, it was quite easy to do. The bigger the screen, the greater the visible variations with each input. I discovered that the XpressVu receiver’s HDMI output looked better than that of the Zenith off-air receiver, which was into the component inputs. This was a first, because off-air usually looks better than satellite, and my RPTV takes only component or RGB, not HDMI. And though the now venerable Zenith  looked pretty good, it would periodically lose sync for a few seconds at picture changes and transitions, the screen going blank, which was very annoying (it works fine with my Pioneer  RPTV), so I stopped watching off-air early in the review process. After all, satellite HDMI XpressVu looked better than I’ve ever seen it.

On my Blu-ray test disc, every aspect of tests, especially those for motion blur, were as perfect as I’ve seen from an HD projector. I also have a disc of Blu-ray movie trailers, and they were quite incredible, sonically as well as visually. And the Eagle Rock concerts were also similarly spectacular. I’m not a Diana Krall fan, but her Live in Rio disc was mesmerizing, especially for the superb production quality, as was Return To Forever Returns - Live At Montreux (Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola, and Lenny White were Return To Forever), a reunion concert with great and creative Jazz playing. I’ll be reviewing these and others in this series of concert discs soon.

I also watched a lot of sports, mostly golf and baseball over the Summer, and here the big HD picture is a great blessing. That’s especially true with golf, with its long shots (pun intended), aerial views, and putting closeups. The LTX 500 stood out for its very natural greens and blues: Pebble Beach never looked better! With baseball, you could see and study the whole field as the play went on, much better than anyone at the game, and the broadcaster mercifully replaced the awful music in game breaks with commercials (and at home you have a Mute button).

I watched a few movies in Blu-ray, but I’m not a big movie watcher in the Summer, so for evaluation I used a DTS sampler of trailers, which included long clips from Night At The Museum (where a dinosaur skeleton keeps throwing a bone to the guide like a faithful dog after totally terrifying him), Eragon (Boy flies on dinosaur bird), and several others, with some musical excerpts by The Black Crowes, Alice Cooper, Pixies, and The Who, Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970. Another two full musical Blu-rays I viewed complete were The Who at Wight, and The Who at Kilburn 1977. I am a real Who fan, and still treasure my off-air audio recording (CHUM-FM) of The Who live in Toronto from 1981.

The Anthem LTX 500  LCOS is easily the best projector of the four we’ve evaluated so far, closely followed by the DLP Knoll HDP460, which is less sophisticated, but similarly priced. The LTX  was outstanding in its resolution, colour accuracy, geometric perfection, absence of motion artifacts, and overall natural picture quality. What more could you ask of a video display device?

Andrew Marshall

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