Showrooms stacking the deck?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Scott Kush, Aug 20, 2002.

  1. Scott Kush

    Scott Kush Auditioning

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    I'm looking for a big screen tv and after learning a bit here I went to a local high end store to answer some questions and see what they considered to be top of the line for reference purposes. After looking at a few tvs he suggested one of the cheaper ones. It was a Sony XBR (somewhere in the 50 inch range). He mentioned the Pioneer Elite that he had in another room and I asked if I could see it.

    Wow. This tv was so much brighter and less washed out. I was amazed. I looked at both with their cable connection and with the same DVD.

    I have a hard time thinking they would make one tv look bad to make another look good at this place (wouldn't surprise me at higher volume retailers). My question is, is the Pioneer really that much clearer and brighter or am I missing something? Ambient light was similar.

    Just throwing it out there. Thanks for your comments, opinions, thoughts and ideas.

    Scott
     
  2. John-Miles

    John-Miles Screenwriter

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    As many people will tell you "brightness" is very misleading, most people will generally be drawn to the brighter sets, but with the brightness levels set too high you will cause undue wear on your tv. Also i would be willing to bet that if you were to even do a quick run through with an avia disc on both tv's that you would see they are good tv's. The store just has oneset on a higher brightness than the other.
     
  3. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  4. Jim FC

    Jim FC Stunt Coordinator

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    The Sony XBR is certainly a good TV, but the Pioneer is at the head of the class. A Sony XBR will pay a salesperson nearly as much as an Elite, so the idea that the store intentionally set the Sony up to look bad doesn't make much sense (especially considering they were in different rooms). In fact, in contrast to what John was suggesting, I'd be willing to bet that the Sony was set to a higher brighntess and contrast setting than the Pioneer... that's why it looked "washed out."

    Trust your eyes; the Pioneer is simply that much better than other RPTVs. A good store won't mind if you go through the settings to makes sure they're similar on both TVs, so give that a try and see what you whink. Whether it's worth the extra $$$ is up to you, but it is pretty much universally considered the best RPTV on the market right now.
     
  5. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    My own experience has led me to decide that the showroom experience is NOT a very accurate method of making decisions about the image quality you can expect on the sets. I strongly urge shoppers to take what they see in ANY showroom with a grain of salt, and use other methods to aid their shopping. In fact, the final choices should probably be made more on the basis of good solid research, and it is best to give the showroom experience _very little weight_ at all.

    There are just too many factors which are stacked against you. A knowledgable shopper can try to alleviate SOME of these factors, but not all.

    Do NOT base your final decision on the images you see on the sets in any showroom. Even trying to compare two images is often futile. This is a huge mistake (and a common one, unfortunately). Those images will lie to you, every time.

    To begin, the sets are shipped from the factory with settings which are deliberately calculated to try to catch your eye, by people who know the set will be sitting in a room with florescent lights, lots of other sets, and people nervously trying to select the one which seems "the SHARPEST" or "the BRIGHTEST," or "the MOST ALIVE." The manufacturers all know this. So, they try to provide a "sharper" set, even if it means all detail must get lost in the process. They try to provide a "brighter" image, even if it means they must cheat and turn up a color which people perceive as vibrant, giving a false illusion of brightness. Because of this, they tend to do several things. They crank up the contrast all of the way (which is incredibly high). You cannot run it that way at home. You would not want to run it that way at home. If you did, you would probably have burn-in, and probably wear out the guns on the set in a fraction of the expected life for the set. You wouold also probably get headaches. The manufacturers know this, but they are trying to sell you a set. And, false "white level" and false "black level" sells.

    They also turn up the sharpness, and turn on artificial edge enhancement. It makes edges appear artificially sharper. This causes detail to get lost. It introduces artifacts. You would not want to watch your set like this for any length of time. The manufacturers know this, but they are trying to sell you a set.

    They also increase the level of red in the display (commonly called "red push.") This adds a false illusion of being somehow "brighter." BUT… It makes people look badly sunburned. You would not want this, for any real length of time. The manufacturers know this, but they are trying to sell you a set.

    Okay, now you have these sets which are all pre-set to sell (with pictures which are merely set to ATTRACT YOUR EYE, and look artificially bright, as long as you do not actually sit down and try to watch an hour long show that way… The images are actually terrible, if compared with a true NTSC standard. This is on purpose.

    Catching your eye is not the same as a beautiful, detailed image. I can catch your eye with a 5000W strobe… but you would not want to stare at that for the next two hours.

    These sets are in a showroom with a completely different lighting scheme than you have in your home (unless you are really into buying 4 foot flourescent tubes). This is a room which does not at all mirror the windows and ambient light you will have in your home.

    To add to these differences, some of those sets are placed up on risers, or platforms. Some are even stacked on shelves, high above others. That critical sweet spot which was designed at sofa level, or Lazy-Boy level, is now useless, but only for those sets that are raised. Can you compare one which is 18 inches up on a platform with the one in the next aisle, which is not?

    Then, along comes the kid. He is twelve, and he decided to mess with the remote on Set A, and he changed the color temperature on one set to High (instead of 6500K low). He also liked the tint, and made the faces a bit greener. Then, he adjusted the brightness to a new setting of half of where it was. He was there five minutes before you walked in, and now you are comparing that same set, Set A, to another, Set B. The kid couldn't reach the remote for Set B, so you are safe, on that one. But, is your comparison going to suffer?

    On top of all of these very real scenarios, you sit 13 feet from your set, but you can't even stand 13' back from the ones you are considering, because there is another row of TVs at 7 1/2 feet back. Or, your wife sits at a 26 degree angle to the right of center, and you cannot even try to duplicate that, because there is a wall at only 12 degrees to the right of center.

    Then, we get to the biggest problem of them all. The signal. Set A and Set B are both hooked up to satellite. The satellite signal comes in, and is split, and then it goes to eleven different set top boxes. Each split resulted in an in-line amp, except they ran out for two of the splits, so they just left those off. Coming out of the set top boxes,the signal is split and split again, and split again. Except, one of the sets you are watching (Set A) was first coming off the set top box. The other was number 39. Even worse, they ran out of signal amps (again) and so they decided to cheat, and just run a cable from the output of one set to the input of another set. That is your Set B.

    And, you decide to watch a DVD, and compare. But Set A has a progressive scan, and Set B does not, and the salesperson doesn't know this. Or mention it. Or, he knows it, but explains he is not allowed to re-do the cabling, and that might have to wait for another day.

    When I shopped, I found showrooms that had superior antenna feeds to what I might expect, and others with inferior ones. I found showrooms which had superior satelitte feeds to what i might expect, and others which had inferior ones. I found showrooms which had cable, and the signal was terribly degraded. I also found showrooms which had cable, and signal was superior to that in my home. The one constant I found was that the wiring was INCONSISTENT from set to set, from one "row" of sets to the next, etc. Often it was done in a jury rig fashion, as the store expanded its space over the years. Thus, we often blame a set for what is actually a cabling problem, or a splitting problem, or an amplification problem.

    All of the above are based on personal situations I encountered. All are real. As a matter of fact, ask some of the salespeople, and they will tell you that these are typical scenarios in the showrooms. This includes the Best Buys and Circuit Cities and Tweeters, and in many cases it even will include the Mom and Pop and "high end" shops (since many of the problems have nothing to do with service). Notice that most were not calculated to deceive you (except a few at the manufacturing level). Even if they were not meant to lie to you, those images will lie to you. And you will never know.

    Do not use the showroom experience as a major criteria in choosing the brand, or model, or set. Use it to try to choose the size. Use it to choose the acceptable cabinet styles (if that matters). Use it to try to pick your retailer, and your salesperson. You can even try to use it to try to compare pictures, but DO NOT BASE much on this comparison. There are too many things that are probably going to get in the way. Remember that setting the contrast on a Sony at 50% results in a completely different level then the 50% level on a Mitsubishi, or a Pioneer, or a Hitachi, etc. The same is true for all models. Remember that you might set the contrast at neutral, and another feature may be overriding your setting, (an Iris control), which you are not even aware exists. Thus, comparisons are usually doomed, in the shop. Unless you have done your research.

    Instead, read reviews. Read the home theater and videophile magazines. Read this forum. Read similar forums. Read what others who own those sets have to say, now that they own them. Learn what red push is. Learn if it can be corrected, after you buy it. Learn what stretch modes are, and which ones seem better. Learn what ghosting is, and which brands have it. Learn what "upconversion" means, and which brands have it. Learn which brands have good line doublers. Learn what edge enhancement is, and which sets can turn it off.

    Finally, remember that ALL of the sets have strengths, and ALL of the sets have weaknesses. The trick is to match a set's strengths up to what is important to YOU, and make certain that you can also live with the weaknesses on that same set.

    -Bruce in Chi-Town
     
  6. Juan_R

    Juan_R Supporting Actor

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    Bruce,

    very nicely done.

    I went to a store near my house (Ken Cranes) when I was looking to purchase an HDTV. The Pioneer Elite looked the best out of all of them. One reason was because that set was calibrated and the rest were not. I asked the sales guy if I could have the remote for the Elite and he said no. He told me that the Elite had been calibrated and that nobody was able to mess with the settings. He did allow people to mess with the setting on the other sets but not on the Elite. The Elite was also sitting in the darkest area of the show room, and one reason was because they took out the light bulbs above the Elite.

    The store was at least playing the PBS HD demo on all the sets. The sales guy was only interested in selling me the Elite or the Mits.
     
  7. Brian Harnish

    Brian Harnish Screenwriter

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    Juan- And for good reason. IMO, the RPTVs themselves (from what I have observed) rank like this:
    1. Pioneer Elite
    2. Mitsubishi
    3. Toshiba
    4. Sony
    So you're getting a knowledgeable salesperson. [​IMG]
     
  8. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    I kind of have to aggre with Brian's rankings.

    While the Pioneer Elite series is great, $6000 is a lot. Someone told me the lower-end Pioneers now have the same line-doubler electronics as the Elite units had a year or so ago. These are in the much-more affordable $4000 price range.

    Was this a Magnolia store by chance? In my local store they have an Elite, calibrated, in it's own demo room with a dedicated PS DVD player. The other units seem to share a signal/feed split about 50 times. It really does look like what it would look like in your home with the reduced lighting and calibration and dedicated source.
     
  9. Juan_R

    Juan_R Supporting Actor

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    Brian,

    According to the reviews I have read the Mits have never been in the top 5, I have always seen the Pio #1, but the Toshiba and Hitachis have taken second or third.

    I think they all have there pros and cons but I am partial to Toshiba.
     
  10. Scott Kush

    Scott Kush Auditioning

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    Thanks guys. I appreciate your comments. Bruce, living in New York cynicism is innate. I take everything with a grain of salt. I also have to take reviews with a grain of salt. I have found user reviews helpful but often a vehicle for some to justify and feel good about their purchase. Magazines have various conflicts of interest (working on Wall Street I'm also vaguely familiar with these).

    Don't get me wrong, your point is very well taken. I probably would have given greater weight to my "test drive" than I should have. I think the "seeing with your own eyes" concept could be very misleading. I will now discount this experience.

    I guess bottom line is to learn as much as possible and filter out what I deem unreliable and irrelevant.

    Thanks again. I'll let you know what I find.
     
  11. Jim FC

    Jim FC Stunt Coordinator

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    I understand what Bruce is getting at, and very much of what he says about how TVs are set up in showrooms is true, but I guess I don't see the problem with buying the TV that looks the best to you. I mean, that should be the bottom line! If you're shopping for a TV that's gonna cost you many thousands of dollars, and it's you who's going to be staring at it for the next ten years, so why not get the one you like the best, instead of the one some reviewer (who are not as impartial as you may think) likes best? Perhaps you should only buy the CDs that win Grammys, and only see the movies that get four stars, and perhaps nobody should eat at McDonalds or Burger King because these places are set up deliberately to make you believe their food is tastier than it really is.

    Certainly, as a smart shopper you should read every review and opinion you can before you shop for a TV (or anything, for that matter), because the more you know about what you're buying, the less likely you are to be suckered in by the little salesfloor tricks Bruce described. But the bottom line should be what you see, not what somebody else sees... and that includes what the salesman and the store sees, too. Naturally, the salesman will show you the product that makes him the most money, but keep in mind that the product that makes him the most money is quite often the best product! It may not be the right product for you, but that's your decision to make, not his. As long as you are informed about what you are looking at, you should put more weight into what your own senses percieve than in anything else.

    My $.02
     
  12. Michael St. Clair

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    If checking out a Sony, always put the picture in 'Pro' mode (disables SVM), and turn sharpness down to 0%-25%. Makes a HUGE difference.
     
  13. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    >>>> As long as you are informed about what you are looking at, you should put more weight into what your own senses percieve than in anything else.
     
  14. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Bruce,

    If there's one thing I've learned in my last 3 tv purchases it's not to trust anything I see in a store, especially with rptv.

    My last experience was last September. I know how to adjust a set, learned back in the 50s before AVIA was even thought of and have calibrated at least 5 sets with AVIA. I know how to adjust a showroom set--to reduce contrast and sharpness, get the black level right, etc.

    After 3 weeks of almost nightly shopping and tweaking in every store in my area I bought what I thought was the best choice in my price range.

    In my home the set was a real disappointment, to the point that after 2 weeks of nightly tweaking and playing around I decided to return it for a refund. At the last minute I decided to do exchange for another make that had not particularly impressed me in my initial shopping.

    Straight out of the box, with just a 20 minute session with AVIA I had a vastly better picture than I'd been able to get in 2 weeks with my first choice. Since then I've done a few easy service menu tweaks to get rid of SVM and eliminate red push--no external attenuators or wire cutting required, and could not be happier.

    I am very strongly of the opinion that a person should buy the set that looks best to them, but that the only way to determine that is in the home, not in the store.

    If one is not in a position to get a professional calibration, perhaps because the nearest isf guy is 300 miles away, one should find a model with a good out-of-the-box picture and a user-friendly service menu rather than one that absolutely requires professional calibration to put out an acceptable picture.

    For this reason I always recommend purchasing from a store that will give a 30 day no-hassle refund/return policy.
     
  15. Scott Kush

    Scott Kush Auditioning

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    Bruce,

    I appreciate your desire to not push a particular brand (or for that matter, bash one), but would you mind telling which brand has the 25% red push and edge enhancement you were referring to?

    Thanks for your time and input.
     
  16. Jim FC

    Jim FC Stunt Coordinator

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    All TVs tend to push towards the red somewhat, because as Bruce said it catches people's eyes and most folks THINK it makes the picture look better. I'm sure Bruce is talking about Mitsubishi, but don't let it scare you off Mitsu. They make an excellent TV that looks great out-of-the-box, and even better if you can learn to adjust it, or pay someone to calibrate it for you. I'd put Mitus second only to Elites.
     
  17. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    Scott:
    >>> I appreciate your desire to not push a particular brand (or for that matter, bash one), but would you mind telling which brand has the 25% red push and edge enhancement you were referring to?
     
  18. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    Steve:

    >>> For this reason I always recommend purchasing from a store that will give a 30 day no-hassle refund/return policy.
     
  19. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Another important factor is the relative availability of "tweaking" information for the various makes.

    While I'm by no means a tweakomaniac, I've had a bit of experience in the past playing around in the service menu of a direct-view model to achieve an anamorphic squeeze and do a rough eyeball correction of some greenish grayscale problems in the darker parts of the screen.

    That first widescreen set had very little information with regard to tweaking available, which did make things difficult.

    The second one not only looked much better with just user-menu adjustement, but I was also able to get some really good tweaking information which made it possible to make the red push and svm corrections just in the service menu.

    Mitsubishi and Toshiba have lots of information around, as does Sony if you know the right Spot to look. Hitachi and Pioneer are a bit hard to get info on. Panny sets are starting to get lots of available info, and are quite well priced.

    BTW, every one of the sets I've checked with the AVIA color decoder evaluation pattern had about 10-15% red push (none were Mits). On all but the latest I just turned color down to compensate and didn't think I was missing much if anything.

    On the last one I was able to get virtually 0 push on all 3 colors and am now a true believer in the benefit of eliminating push for home theater use.

    My current set has auto-convergence, which seems to work quite well, but I am getting up the nerve to try a manual job in the service menu.
     

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