Anthem LTX 500 LCOS Projector Reviewed

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Anthem_ltx500_projector_review.gifAnthem has had a storied reputation for providing state of the art, cost-no-object performance at prices reasonable men and women can afford. Their D2v AV preamp and matching amplifier line-up have been nothing short of sensational in the eyes of reviewers and consumers since their initial launch a few years ago. Not one to rest on their laurels, Anthem is at it again, this time tackling something new...HD projectors. You heard correctly: Anthem is now making HD projectors, and like all Anthem products before them, their new line of LCOS projectors are, well, brilliant.

Additional Resources
Read Anthem D2V AV preamp review here
Read other top HDTV front video projectors from Anthem, JVC, DreamVision, SIM2, Runco and others.
Read top performing video screen reviews here.

Retailing for $7,499 for the LTX 500 and $5,500 for the LTX 300, the LTX projectors aren't necessarily the cheapest 1080p projectors on the block. However, they aren't exactly geared towards budget performance either. Out of the box, the LTX 500 (reviewed here) bares a striking resemblance to another great projector, or should I say line of projectors, the JVC Reference Series and for good reason: because the LTX 500 is essentially a re-worked and re-badged JVC. Anthem isn't the first manufacturer to utilize JVC's projectors as a jumping off point. Pioneer and Meridian both use JVC projectors as the basis for their fine line of home theater projectors.

Outside, the LTX 500 is very sleek looking, clad in a piano black finish with Anthem red accents. The projector itself is on the large side measuring nearly seven inches tall by 14 inches wide and 19 inches deep. It's also rather heavy, compared to projectors I've recently reviewed, at just under 25 pounds. 25 pounds may not seem like a lot when you think about AV products; however hoisting 25 pounds above your head by yourself for a ceiling installation is no easy feat - but I'll get to that in a minute. The LTX 500's lens is mounted off-center ever so slightly and can accommodate a 60 to 200 inch diagonal screen from a distance of six to 40 feet respectively, making it ideally suited for a wide range of rooms and installations. The LTX 500's lens is a High-Precision zoom lens with motorized focus, zoom and shift functionality, not to mention a motorized dust cover or lens cap. The LTX 500's inputs are side mounted and feature two HDMI 1.3 inputs as well as single component video, S-Video, composite video and RS-232 inputs. The LTX 500 also has one 12 Volt trigger with two modes, one for screen integration and one for use with an anamorphic lens attachment, as well as an RGB input for those of you wanting to hook a laptop or computer to it for video presentations.

Inside, the LTX 500's native resolution is 1920x1080 via its three-panel (one panel for each color red, green and blue) 0.7 inch LCOS setup for a true 1080p 16:9 presentation. For those of you who don't know, or who may be confused by the LTX 500's warm up D-ILA screen, LCOS and D-ILA are essentially the same, "sandwiching" liquid crystals to the surface of silicon chips coated with an aluminized layer which is highly reflective, producing brighter, higher contrast images. The LTX 500's light output is rated at 900 lumens via its Ultra-High-Pressure Mercury lamp rated at 2000 hours. The LTX 500 also has a reported contrast ratio of 50,000:1 in "Dynamic" mode, though with proper installation and calibration that figure is bound to be far lower. Regardless of the LTX 500's actual contrast or light output rating it performs well enough to be THX Video Certified, an endorsement few projectors share regardless of price.

Lastly, no projector is complete nor can be operated fully without a remote and the LTX 500's remote is superb, if not the best projector remote I've ever seen. Featuring full backlighting via a button labeled "light" the LTX 500's remote is comfortable in hand and easy to navigate in even the darkest of rooms. The button layout is terrific and making the requisite adjustments during calibration and daily use is a breeze. The best thing of all, the LTX 500's remote is very responsive and pretty omni-directional meaning adjustments happen pretty much in real time. I know this last comment should go without saying, but until you've tried to focus a motorized lens with a remote that is sluggish to "sync" with its projector you'll never fully realize just how great the LTX 500's remote truly is.

The Hookup
Anthem was kind enough to lend me a host of associated equipment for use with their new LTX projector. Anthem calls the system they sent me their version of a home theater in a box, which consisted of a SI Black Diamond screen, Anthem D2v AV processor and Statement Amplifier. However, as bowled over as I was with the gesture, I chose to review the LTX 500 using my usual reference gear, save the SI Black Diamond screen, since I'm more familiar with it than I am the review samples Anthem provided.

I mounted the LTX 500 on my ceiling in the same place my reference Sony SXRD projector calls home, which put it about 14 feet from my 92 inch reference SI Black Diamond screen. I connected the LTX 500 to my Integra DTC 9.8 AV preamp, which handled the switching and conversion for my Sony Blu-ray player, Toshiba HD DVD player, Apple TV and AT&T U-Verse HD DVR. Sound duties were handled by Anthem's five channel Statement Amplifier feeding a pair of Revel Studio2 loudspeakers for mains and Meridian 300 series in-walls for rears. All of the cabling in my system for this review came by way of UltraLink and XLO. Out of the box and on the ceiling with zero help from a friend or fiancée I was ready to begin calibration in about an hour, though I highly recommend enlisting the help of an installer or friend if you're planning on purchasing and installing a LTX projector in your own home.

Speaking of calibration, the LTX 500 is among the best there is in terms of ease and control. Normally, I don't attempt any calibration without the help of my Digital Video Essentials Blu-ray disc; however, the LTX 500 has test patterns and calibration controls hard wired into it that can be called up and controlled via its remote. While I still used my Digital Video Essentials disc to double check my results, I've calibrated enough projectors over the years that I was able to achieve very satisfactory results using the LTX 500's internal calibration patterns and controls. For those of you without Digital Video Essentials or who are unwilling to spend the extra moolah for professional calibration, don't despair, for the LTX 500's out of the box performance in the "cinema" or better yet "THX" picture mode was very good. Truthfully, I ended up using many of the THX settings as the basis for my tweaks to get the image to my liking. Before I go any further, I would like to point out that the LTX 500's onscreen interface is wonderful and easy to understand as well as navigate, which I liked, but it also frustrated me a bit because many of Anthem's other products (say their D2v AV processor) have onscreen menus that are simply horrid. I've not demoed a stock JVC D-ILA projector so I cannot say for certain how much of the interface is Anthem's doing versus JVC's; however, if it is Anthem's doing and design the folks responsible should fix the D2v's menus immediately.

I started off my evaluation of the LTX 500 with some HD programming courtesy of ABC and ESPN. I kicked things off with ABC's new hit, Flash Forward (ABC Television). Flash Forward looks more like a true 35mm film than just about anything else on television today. It features rich, deep blacks and brilliant almost metallic whites due to its cross-processed-like color pallet, which tested the LTX 500's grey scale tracking as well contrast and black level detail, all of which the projector passed with flying colors. The LTX 500's black level detail and contrast is among the best there is regardless of price. Not to be outdone however, is the projector's color rendering and uniformity. Primary colors simply pop off the screen with true dimensionality. However, it was the more subdued and subtle cues in the color space, mainly gradations in skin tones and clothing that impressed me most, for it proved the devil truly is in the details and the LTX 500 is one bad Mamma Jamma. Motion was smooth, extremely lifelike and free from any video noise or artifacts that weren't already present in the video signal coming from AT&T. Edge fidelity was superb, creating the sense of real, three dimensional depth to the image, which is something not usually experienced with network television programs.

Switching gears from a film-like look to HD sports I cued up ESPN's Monday Night Football (ESPN) and the battle between Brett Favre, I mean the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. While I prefer the look of the NFL broadcast on Fox, the ESPN feed from inside Minnesota's dome was exceptional. Fast moving sports broadcasts can wreck havoc on a projector and/or processor. Since the processing was being handled by my Integra DTC 9.8 and its internal HQV chipset the LTX 500 simply had to keep up and shake what its mama gave it. Once again, color fidelity and rendering were just awesome and the level of detail the LTX 500 is capable of displaying is simply jaw dropping. Everything from the weave of the players' jerseys to the over zealous fans seated in the stands were rendered faithfully and displayed beautifully through the LTX 500. Beyond simply seeing the space, the LTX 500 conveyed the feel of the space, transporting my couch and placing me inside one of the luxury suites just in time for kick off. There was no spatial flattening or smoothing of detail to be found anywhere; the LTX 500 opened that virtual window on the event unlike anything that's come before it in my system. Motion, especially rapid motion and camera pans, proved of little concern to the LTX 500 for it effortlessly showcased every play and quick cut of Adrian Peterson with ease.

Having had my fill of HD broadcasts I cued up The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Criterion) on Criterion Blu-ray disc for a true 1080p cinematic test. Benjamin Button is quite possibly the best demo disc for judging a system's audio and video performance that I've seen in recent memory. The LTX 500's performance on Benjamin Button was brilliant and superior even to the theatrical presentation I took part in at my local multiplex almost a year ago. David Fincher, the film's director, is all about subtlety and detail and the LTX 500 didn't rob or mar his vision one bit. The level of detail was so great that I found myself pausing the film just to inspect every nook and cranny of the image, seeing subtle cues just about everywhere for the first time. Die-hard film aficionados out there who think digital is ruining traditional 35mm film need to take a good look at Benjamin Button because Fincher is master with the digital format, especially the Viper system used to film Benjamin Button. Nothing escapes Fincher's lens or the LTX 500 for that matter, for the two seemed destined for one another.

Low light and black level detail was evident in the many nighttime vistas and basement interior scenes that are captured throughout the film. Skin tones, textures, subtle gradations of color were all rendered with an almost tactile realism, which is quite a feat and a testament to the LTX 500's terrific optics. Many CG heavy films, like Benjamin Button, can often get lost in the translation between the cinema and your Blu-ray player, resulting in overly sharp masking and compositing lines that take you out of a film. The LTX 500 is a detail whore, no doubt; however it is so refined and composed that it doesn't try to wow you by showcasing anything more than what the director or cinematographer intended, which is something other projectors, especially uber bright HD projectors, can and will do.

I was so taken by the LTX 500's performance on Benjamin Button that before I knew it the film, all three plus hours of it, was over. I watched the whole film beginning to end, which is something I never do when sitting down to evaluate and take notes on a product. In three plus hours of viewing I found nothing that took me out of the film nor shifted my focus away from the story that was unfolding in front of me on the screen, which to me is the highest praise I can give any AV product, especially a home theater projector.

Overall, I found the LTX 500's performance to be truly sublime. Its image quality, color fidelity, black and white level detail and motion was among the best I've ever seen. However, what I like and admire most about the LTX 500 is that it never calls attention to itself, there is not one element of its performance that outshines another nor does it do one thing exceptionally well and others simply average. While all-round performance usually means there are elements that can be improved upon, in the case of the LTX 500, it simply means it performs as advertised and does everything a great HD projector should.

Read The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2

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