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The Truth About CRT (a.k.a., Black Level Ain't Everything)

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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Dan Wesnor

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Posted April 21 2004 - 02:59 AM

For the purposes of this discussion, I'm talking about consumer-grade, CRT-based RPTV's only. Every time somebody here asks about new technology X, someone invariably says CRT is better. These discussions almost always center around black level and leave out some of CRT's biggest problems. I've been looking closely at my 2 CRT's lately, one a Mits and the other a Pioneer. The Mits is a more-expensive-than-average 42", and the Pioneer is the venerable SD-532-HD2, which was, with the exception of the PRO Pioneer models, the best TV on the market when I bought it. You'd expect both to be above the bar in terms of quality, especially with the slew of $1200 HDTV RPTVs on the market these days. This is just a list of things I see every day when looking at either of these sets, many of which are rarely mentioned in the CRT vs. X argument. Neither has been professionally calibrated. 1. Geometry This has to be one of CRT's biggest problems. Unless you have a grid and access to the service menu, you have to live with the geometry out of the box. It's rarely what I would call "good". I can see bends in the lines near the edges of the screen. Areas of the screen where linearity is off are plainly obvious during camera pans. Otherwise, poor geometry is hard to spot when looking at a normal TV picture, but is one of those things that degrades the realism of the picture even if you don't notice it directly. It's what takes a lot of the sharpness out of the picture. Will drift over time, so that professional cal you paid for will need to be redone every few years. The Pioneer was gridded in one mode about 6 months ago, and I can already notice geometry variations. (BTW - About 8 hours to make the grid and reset the geometry for one mode. There are five modes. That's a whole week of work.) 2. Convergence Try as you might, you can never get convergence perfect. Even if you do, it will drift over a period of weeks, and you get to do it again. I just reset the convergence on the Mits last weekend and I can already see red/blue edges creeping onto white lines near the edge of the screen. 3. Internal reflections. Never seen a CRT RPTV without them. The Pioneer has Duvatine installed over everthing except the lenses themselves, and there are still halos around bright objects in dark scenes. Nothing can be done about it, because the reflections occur inside the guns themselves. 4. Focus Red will always be out of focus on one side of the screen, blue on the other. This causes not only blurriness, but also some unevenness in color. 5. Color It's laughable that people talk about "good color" on any consumer-grade TV set. The issue is not the color capability of the CRT's themselves, but the color decoders. The decoders are tuned to make the TV stand out on the brightly lit showroom floor. The color temp is incredibly hot, giving the picture a pale blueish cast. Then the red is cranked up to keep people's faces from looking ghostly white. RPTVs tend to be worse, because the lower light output needs more help to fight the flourescent lighting in the store. Of course its more-or-less correctable by a pro, but then the light output is reduced enough that it's hard to watch the TV in a decently-lit room. This is probably one of the biggest reasons high-quality FPs are preferred over other CRTs - they are based on commercial-grade (not consumer-grade) units that have an honest color decoder. Color drifts over time because the guns fade unevenly. 6. Black Level The much vaunted strength of CRT. But set the black level for a dark room, and dark details disappear in a bright room. Set it for a bright room, and its high for a dark room. Can be overcome on some sets by setting one input for a dark room and another for a bright room, and running the signal to both inputs. Pick the correct input for the current lighting. All displays will suffer the same background lighting variabilities. I only point this out because if black level is one of your top reasons for going with CRT RPTV, it may not matter a bit if you watch with even a small amount of lighting. 7. That %^$& Box Big, ugly. There's no missing it. Having a big black box in any room makes the room feel smaller, more crowded. I could build cabinetry around it, and it would look better, but that would make the room even smaller. My Pioneer takes up 9.7 sq. ft. of floor space. I paid $84/sq. ft. for my house. So that's $815 for the patch of carpet the TV sits on. This is a valid issue, because the TV effectively reduces the length of my room by 2 feet. Just thought some people might want to see an honest assessment of CRT from somebody who's never used anything else.

#2 of 21 OFFLINE   BrianAe


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Posted April 21 2004 - 03:18 AM

I'd add lack of brightness and reflective screens to your list.

#3 of 21 OFFLINE   Dan Wesnor

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Posted April 21 2004 - 06:08 AM

I also forgot to mention that a big hollow box between or behind your speakers can really screw with your sound quality.

#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Bill Slack

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Posted April 22 2004 - 03:20 AM

1. Geometry

Agreed. But this is a problem with any CRT. Not just consumer grade RP CRT sets.

2. Convergence

Same as above.

3. Internal reflections. Never seen a CRT RPTV without them.

Agreed. But they can be somewhat compensated for, like you say... Beyond that, yes, it's defiantley a trade off.

4. Focus

With lens striping, I don't really see this as much of an issue. Some sets include lens striping from the factory now. Color is still uneven off center though, which may be a problem for some people.

5. Color

Buy a set with an adjustable color decoder (through flashing the ROM, or through the service/designed/[whatever] menus.) A lot of sets have it, they're just buried pretty deeply in the menus.

6. Black Level

The black level and light output on a CRT RPTV is much better than any other FP/RP fixed pixel display or any FP display. Certainly a direct view set is much better, but they're small and a large direct view tends to have much worse geometry than any of these other sets.

7. That %^$& Box

Well, unless you put a couch undearneath your projector screen, I don't really see how you're gaining much space. I want space in my place so I can put things in it, not admire a patch of floor. Posted Image

Ok... the point is... Yes. It's trade off. I think everyone knows that though. A lot of the problems can be compenstated for (i.e., moving your speakers in front of the tv so it doesn't interfere with the soundstage) or simply removing the 'protective' screen so it doesn't act like a mirror. Or lens striping, adjusting the focus etc.

Direct views are small, experience more blooming, generally have poor geometry and less adjustments to fix many problems.

Any fixed pixel display has a degree of screen door effect, has a bulb that will fade and need to be replaced. And they only can handle a single resolution/scanrate.

FP CRTs are big, heavy and expensive to maintain.

35mm is a bit unwiedly and loud...

Each type of display has it's own host of problems you'll have to deal with. If I had the means, the room, and the light control to ditch my RPTV for a nice Marantz SR12S3, but for now, a RPTV is still the best solution for me.

#5 of 21 OFFLINE   Dan Wesnor

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Posted April 22 2004 - 03:43 AM

With a smaller box, I could put my electronics under the screen, and not need a rack off to the side taking up even more floor space.

#6 of 21 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles



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Posted April 22 2004 - 04:02 AM

There is no such thing as a perfect display. Even film has a lot of weaknesses. Regardless, we could do a same thread for every other technology and rip them apart too. The question is which aspects of PQ are most important to you, and how important overall PQ is. And in most subjective regards, high-end CRTs are still sitting pretty well after all these years.

#7 of 21 OFFLINE   Danny Beck

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Posted April 22 2004 - 04:13 AM

You can also add "phosphor tails" to your list.

I've got a 34" Sony XBR910 and most peope claim to is the best consumer CRT ever made. However, if I try to watch a movie with a lot of dark scenes it can get pretty ugly. If you've got any bright objects in the scene they will leave clear phosphor trails as it moves across the screen. In a fast moving scene this can cause some quite horrible looking trails all over the screen. Not a good thing.

Here I am with one of the best tvs in the world and it's suppose to have the best shadow detail and all that and I actually cannot stand watching dark scenes on this tv.

Now tell me that this is the best consumer CRT again. Posted Image

I may sound really negative here but i'm just being honest. I love the tv 95% of the time but man on certain movies in certain scenes this phoshor problem is severely distracting. Posted Image

#8 of 21 OFFLINE   Bruce McDermott

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Posted April 22 2004 - 04:53 AM

A properly ISF'd CRT RPTV will not drift in convergence, to any noticeable degree, "every few weeks". In general, what's the obsession with "out of the box" performance? Personally, I could give a rat's ass about it. What I care about is how the set looks after it's been tweaked, the nature, degree and timing of any drifting, the effort necessary to make adjustments as necessary thereafter, and the net cost of the set plus tweaking compared to other alternatives. I have yet to see a non-CRT RPTV that can stay in the game with a CRT set on these criteria. And, just for yucks, the same holds true for front projection, as far as I'm concerned. We may be in the last few years, or even months, of the CRT's comparative glory. But we're still in that Golden Age.

#9 of 21 OFFLINE   Steve Schaffer

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Posted April 22 2004 - 03:40 PM

Bruce, Niether of the 2 crt rptvs I've owned had any noticeable convergence drift, and niether was ISF'd (I'm in Fresno, fer chrissakes). half an hour in the service menu on my Sony got rid of all the red push and svm. That and a minor "eyeball" green cut adjustment to get rid of greenish darks were about all I needed other than regular AVIA calibration. I've cleaned the crt lenses once, and after 2 1/2 years still have an overall better picture than I've seen on any of the fixed pixel sets I've seen. That being said, the GWIII Sony LCD set sure looks nice! On the sliding scale of benefits vs deficiencies (which is going to be different for every individual) the crt still wins, especially at the low prices they can be found at lately.
Steve S.
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#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted April 23 2004 - 03:54 AM

I owned a Samsung LCD for over two years. While the geometry was perfect, the picture looked washed out at times, especially during night scenes. And the "screen door" effect was very noticable from 9 feet away. I now have the Panasonic 47" rear projection, and even though it isn't considered anywhere near the "best" in CRT's, it is a major improvement over the Samsung. It hasn't even been ISFed, but it looks very good just with an AVIA tune up. I don't notice problems with geometry, and well mastered DVD's look terrific.

#11 of 21 OFFLINE   Chris PC

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Posted April 23 2004 - 04:38 AM

I have seen a Sony HD RPTV set up in a store playing an HD signal once, and as I recall, the picture looked stunning at the time. It literally looked so real, it was like a window you could look through. Very high resolution, sharp, good colour, and all this in a well lit room. Since then, I've never seen them looking so good, and I've seen them again and again in stores and people's homes. The resolution doesn't look all that high to me. I don't know why. As far as HD RPTV's in general go, I don't like anymore at all. They are too big, too bulky, too heavy, too expensive per inch of viewable screen area and use more electricity than front projectors on average, and the largest screen sizes available are much smaller vs front projectors. A mere 67" for a big expensive RPTV vs 92" in for example, my front projector setup with a "small" screen. Its is a huge difference in size, and I'm sure as I buy newer projectors, I'll have a screen of 104" widescreen image size with no problem as long as the room can accomodate it. I even saw rainbows watching an HD RPTV, although it was only an effect that I found looked similar to DLP rainbows, as the RP CRT caused no headaches or eyestrain. I'm super sensitive to rainbows. I also wouldn't want to spend a fortune on the calibration and have to do anything else later. Regardless of the fan noise, video noise (vertical banding), low black level and lower contrast of LCD projectors, I myself am personally feel I am much happier. I'll glady buy a new bulb every few years. Concerning the Sony TV's, I have no clue why anyone likes any Sony CRT TV, including the Wega TV's. To me, they have the absolute worst visible scan lines of any TV. Distinct and obvious like crazy. Comparing my old JVC 32" CRT to a Sony was shocking. The more expensive Sony's had horizontal lines so hard to ignore it puzzled me as to why the Sony was viewed as better. For a CRT TV, I have to admit the old JVC D series 32" put out a beautiful direct view picture. After seeing a mere AE100 in action, however, I sold my CRT TV (replaced it with a 20" JVC for casual watching) and I'm sticking with LCD front projection. No disrepect for HD RPTV's but I can't imagine going for that. Achieve total light control, whatever the means, and enjoy front projection.
Going from projector to flatscreen for a while.... :P

#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Frank@N



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Posted April 23 2004 - 09:53 AM

I consider that to be an asset, compared to lesser tubes that just blur out the details. What I want is a sharp picture, even if that means a few scanlines in my cable TV picture. 16x9 DVD are completely seamless.

#13 of 21 OFFLINE   Rich H

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Posted April 23 2004 - 02:32 PM

Interesting read.

I am amazed at the image a good DLP or LCD RPTV can put out with the right material (for instance, a great DVD transfer or Hi-Def images without challenging dark scenes).

However, in direct comparisons with well calibrated displays I've personally preferred the CRT RPTVs. DLPs have a tendency to have a cartoon-like tinge to the color (even calibrated, I find). LCD displays of any type have an inherent blue cast and a sort of mettalic, crystally sheen and "super sharpness" that makes everything look video-like to me. I've yet to see an LCD reproduce the film look with any fidelity. (Although the image in of itself can be quite impressive).

CRT RPTV seems most able to reproduce the film-look, even though it's something of a faux-film look (doesn't perfectly escape a blown-up video feel either).

But damn those CRT RPTVs have a finicky look. I'm quite sensitive to the beamy nature of RPTVs and CRTs have it worst. But I'm a stickler for good, deep black levels so I'm still attracted to CRT.

'Course I'd love a projector like the next man, but I haven't the dedicated space.

From my perspective I've found the best compromise: a Panasonic plasma which does CRT-level blacks, always has perfect focus/geometry, great color, amazing sharpness, perfect illumination from any viewing angle, and it's bigger than any direct view CRT.

I think the future is gonna be just fine.

Posted Image

#14 of 21 OFFLINE   RobertR


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Posted April 23 2004 - 04:05 PM

As far as I'm concerned, the response is "who cares?". I do all my serious movie watching in a dark room, as it most closely replicates the theater experience. Why would I care if the news has little shadow detail?

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   chris_clem


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Posted April 23 2004 - 08:15 PM

I used to be looking for a nice RPTV to build a home theater around...THEN, I found this forumPosted Image

After doing my homework I came to the same conclusions that Dan did. Moreover, the dealbreaker was the price and value for money that an FP posed over RPTV's. I spent about $4000 for my FP (Panny 300U), screen (Da-Lite), AND decent surround sound (a mid level Onkyo amp and entry level B&W 300 series speakers). I now have a pretty good surround sound setup and a giant 100" screen for the same price I would pay for a "puny" 60" RPTV with stock speakers!

Granted, FP has it's quirks like light level control and lamplife but IMHO dollar for dollar RPTV just can't match FP. Not even close.

I think a big reason why FP is not more popular is because people don't know how "cheap" they have become recently. Convenience/learing curve is also a huge factor. However, I sincerely believe that if people knew the truth about FP they would be more inclined to consider it over RPTV's. Case in point, none of my friends could correctly guess how much I had spent for my HT. All the figures they quoted were much higher than the actual amount and when I told them the truth they didn't want to believe me! Now, most of my friends who were in the market for an RPTV are now asking me to help them choose an FP!

If you're serious about home theater you HAVE to go with FP. If you just want a big screen to watch CNN then maybe you could go with an RPTV....Posted Image

#16 of 21 OFFLINE   DanielKellmii


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Posted April 24 2004 - 12:02 AM

Chris, you have a lot of valid points. I was thinking of going a similar route, but then I saw how much lamps cost. Then, I thought about keeping my old 27inch TV and using the FP just for movies. I would us a screen hanging from the ceiling. I don't see the point in watching most regular TV on a FP. But a FP that is mostly used for movies can't be beat.
I still think I am going to end up with a CRT RPTV, but my goal is about 48 inches. (Tell the wife you want a 55 inch and let her talk me into a smaller onePosted Image ) Then, after I am done with my IB sub I will figure out how to put the FP in. I refuse to get rid of my ceiling fans, so it will be tricky.

#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Dan Wesnor

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Posted April 24 2004 - 12:48 AM

The person asking for the recommendation probably cares. The response of "You don't want X, you want CRT because the black level is so much better" without the caveat that it only makes a difference if the room is completely dark is misleading. To assume everybody does everything the same way you do is egotistical. Recommending one technology over the other without asking how it would be used first puts you one step above wearing a blue shirt with a yellow name tag. (And I'm using "you" in the general sense, not the specific sense.)

#18 of 21 OFFLINE   Legairre


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Posted April 24 2004 - 01:52 AM

While I agree with everything that has been mentioned. I REALLY agree with the sound comment. Since I've replaced my 61" RPTV with a Sanyo Z2 FP and got the big ugly box from between my speakers. The sound quality has made a real noticable improvement.

#19 of 21 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles



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Posted April 24 2004 - 05:35 AM

Well, there are more benefits to CRT than just black level. Just as there are weaknesses, as you described quite well.

Screen door is a problem that really really bothers me with digitals. Rainbows bother me a lot too on DLPs. The lack of depth is something else that is an issue that isn't quite there yet either. The smoothness and natural ease of a CRT similar to film is also something that the digitals I've seen just do differently. There are a lot if different tradeoffs with any technology.

I'm a FP CRT guy at the moment, but only mainly because of the insane value. But there certainly are a lot of weaknesses too, like color accuracy, poor ANSI contrast, geometry problems, slight convergence drift over time, etc etc.

If you want the perfect display, use a scope Posted Image.

#20 of 21 OFFLINE   ChrisYK


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Posted April 24 2004 - 10:52 AM

Is this different from entering the service menu myself and doing a manual convergence? I have noticed that when I play fast-scrolling video games, it throws the convergence off. Has anyone else noticed this or am I just hallucinating?
Chris K.

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