The SIM2 Grand Cinema HT300 DLP Projector

Flying in the High-End with Gregory Petan

Greg Petan

10 September 2002

Specifications
Single chip DLP projector
1280x720 resolution
700 ANSI lumens light output
Inputs: Composite, S-video, component (RCA), RGBHV via DB15HD connector
Dimensions: 12.3" 6.5" 14"
Weight: 12.1 lbs

Manufacturer
SIM2 Seleco USA Inc.
10108 USA Today Way
Miramar, Florida 33025
Phone: (954) 442-2999
Price: $15,000

The prospect of reviewing an entire state of the art high-end home theatre is at once thrilling as well as it is daunting. On the one hand, I get to eyeball some of the best gear on the planet. Not a bad way to spend the day! On the other hand, the products listed below represent the dedication of each designers attempt to recalibrate what is considered the best of the best in their respective categories. Therefore each product demands thoughtful and focused attention, which is at a premium in my home with a eighteen month old relentlessly charging for the volume knob every five seconds! So in order to pace myself and give each component its due, I have decided to present the system as an ongoing series of reviews, first focusing on each part of the chain individually, then finishing the series with observations about the system as a whole. This way you will have something to look forward to every couple of weeks, and I won't have to write the equivalent of War and Peace before you get to see word one.

The products I have lined up include the latest in DLP technology, the Italian made Sim2 Seleco HT300 DLP projector used in conjunction with the Stewart Film Screens new Fire Hawk screen. The Sim2 employs the latest Texas Instruments high resolution 1,280-by-720 one-chip technology and an internal Faroudja line doubler. The Stewart Filmscreen Fire Hawk was designed specifically to address the needs of DLP projectors and is said to raise the level of DLP performance substantially.

Spinning the discs will be the much-anticipated offering from Krell, the DVD Standard. Next in line is the Lexicon MC-12B balanced digital processor. This latest design is an all out assault on surround sound technology and digital preamplification.

Amplifiers will include my reference Pass X600 monoblocks and X3 three channel amps along with the Rowland 8TiHC. The Talon Khorus X and Avalon Radians will serve as the front speakers and the Talon Kites will, literally, bring up the rear. Since the Pass amps and Talons have been thoroughly examined in The Stereo Times, they will not be formally included in the review. I have decided to leave them in place to serve as a reference point, a touchstone if you will, that will allow me to anchor my observations. Unfortunately the Avalon Radian and the Rowland 8TiHC are no longer in production, yet in my opinion, they still aptly represent the finest in their class. As other components become available, I will continue the coverage within the context of this system. Sound good? Lets get started.

I watch way too much television. Just ask wife. I work at home as well which definitely doesn't help matters any. As for programming, I'm not terribly discriminating or snobbish. From Fellini to the Simpsons, I'll watch just about anything that can be loaded into a DVD player or shot through a coax cable. "Cooking With Emeril" and "The Jerry Springer Show" are the exception to the rule. I do have some standards!

As a result, my Sony KPB-53 XBR has gotten quite a work out over the last five years. Though it has held its ground admirably, I have tired of the big black box hogging up my precious Manhattan floor space, and quite frankly, the picture is looking pretty tired. So when our chieftain Clement Perry began to sing the praises of the SIM2 HT300 DLP he had seen demonstrated at Delve Audio in New Jersey, he got me all hot, bothered and itching for an upgrade. Since I value his judgment, I bought one sight unseen. Risky? Yes. Wise? Read on.

Mirror, Mirror on the ball...

Just when I thought I couldn't fall any deeper into my spiraling video hypnosis, the Italian made SIM2 Seleco HT300 arrived at my door. I'm in BIG trouble now. First off, the HT300 is flat out sexy, the kind of component that fills your friends with awe and torments your enemies with envy. Styled as though it was tested in a wind tunnel, the HT300 looks more like a formula one racing car than a digital projector. I didn't know if I should watch movies through it or take it to the test track. Compact in proportion with polished curved contours and slotted vents, the aesthetics of the HT300 leaves the competition in the dust.

Ultimately it is performance that separates the poll sitter from the rest of the pack. So how does the HT300 Perform? From its ergonomics to user flexibility to, not the least of which, its picture quality, the HT300 is an inspiring home entertainment device that defines the new paradigm of DLP technology.

First off, I simply will not tolerate counter intuitive design and will hold manufactures feet to the fire when confronted with a stupid and or an unnecessarily complicated user interface. Gratefully, the HT300 is programmed with one of the easiest set-up processes and navigation menus you will come across in a product of this pedigree. I am using the S-video option, but other inputs include component, composite and a VGA-style 15-pin RGBHV for HDTV. An RS-232 port accommodates future software updates.

Screen aspect ratios include 4:3, panoramic, letterbox, pixel-to-pixel and anamorphic. All formats are accessible through one button on the remote or through the menu options. There are also three user adjustable aspect ratio screens that allow you stretch and scrunch the screen shape into any size you could possibly find any use for. Another great feature is the keystone adjustment. This adjustment parameter allows the projector to be placed off center up to 30 degrees with out distorting the picture, which is very cool.

Menu navigation begins by hitting the + (plus) button and continues via the up, down, left and right buttons, which are properly proportioned and respond with a light touch. Direct access to focus, freeze frame and zoom are provided on the remote as well. Basic picture adjustments such as brightness, color, tint, sharpness, contrast and filter selections appear as a bar at the bottom of the screen and can be called up by pressing the down button, with no need to call up the more involved main menu. Very clever! All values are represented numerically so they can be easily recorded and recalled if necessary. The unit also employs a Faroudja video processor so no external processor is needed. The de-interlacing circuit uses Faroudja's 3:2 and DCDi chip.

Once the projectors distance from the wall is determined and the picture is dialed in, the HT300s image is jaw dropping. Color saturation is very strong, particularly the primaries. Resolution of fine detail and image sharpness is delivered with such finesse and near film like realism that you may never waste your time going to a theatre again. While the big gun CRTs may still get you even closer to the ultimate, the HT300 has made the DLPs case very persuasive. Watching a few minuets of the dreadful "Dungeons and Dragons" on HBO digital cable was a visual tour de force. "Gladiator" on DVD took what was already a very impressive demonstration to an exalted level.

If you are moving from a RPTV or traditional tube TV to the HT300, you may find that the picture creates substantially lower levels of viewer fatigue. I was able to watch the HT300 for hours on end without a hint of burnout or "dry-eye." Just what I needed!

The light output of the HT300s' 120-watt UHP lamp is rated at 700 ANSI lumens which is lower than most of the competition. This may limit the screen size to no larger than 90" or so. When exposed to ambient light, the HT300 was watchable, though the image suffered mostly in its black levels and contrast. However, computer generated fare and animation such as my personal fave "Dexter's Laboratory," came through with shinning colors, even in less than optimal conditions.

In many ways, the HT300s neutrality to the source reminded me of a great high-end audio component. Feed it a poor signal such as almost any network channel and you will get an image that varies from excellent to very poor. Unfortunately, "Seinfeld" on Fox comes off as a blurry mess, but I can't help myself. As for High-Definition material, I don't have access to a converter, as of yet, so I wasn't able to put the SIM through its Hi-Def paces. To say the least, I can't wait to lay my dirty little eyes on that!

Even without the luxury of a High-Definition signal, the HT300 was able to render fine detail with such focus that I literally couldn't believe my eyes. Nearly every scene of the epic "Gladiator" was a feast of texture and color. Surface detail of the soldier's armor and the actor's hair and flesh popped off the screen with great tactile realism. The mix of glowing amber light and deep shadow in the interior scenes was beautiful, if not the last word in contrast and shadow detail. With the help of the HT300, Gladiators' great visual variety nearly makes up for the lack of emotional variety offered up by its stars and relatively flat story arc.

Any picks to nit? The fan noise is a little intrusive when placed in close proximity to the viewer. This will be less of an issue if you decide to ceiling mount the unit or position it four or more feet away from your head. Also, as impressive as the color saturation is, I found the primary colors a touch hot, with the overall color field biased towards a slight greenish hue. While I was able to significantly reduce this tendency, yellows were more "lemony" or cool in temperature. As for the dreaded "Rainbow Effect" that has plagued DLP produced images of the past, I only observed two instances in 280 hours of viewing. No, I'm not that obsessive; the HT300 has a built in clock that keeps track of the hours of use. Both instances occurred in small white lettering backed by black backgrounds and only lasted a second or two.

Finally, I know there is a lot of technology packed into the HT300, new technology at that, which always comes at a premium. But damn this thing is expensive! In the context of the competition, the HT300 is near the summit price-wise. However, it's really my admiration of the HT300 that calls its affordability into question. I just want as many people to share in this experience as possible, call me a softy. Hopefully, it's only a matter of time before technology trickle down will bring this level of performance to the masses.

At the risk of blowing my street-cred with all you videophile tough-nicks, I have to confess that these observations have been made with the image projected on a makeshift screen consisting of a stretched artists canvas hanging on the wall. If the Fire Hawk screen, which is scheduled to arrive in the next couple of weeks, arrives as expected, I may never leave home again.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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