If you've considered these factors and want to squeeze every last drop of performance out of your display, then you might want to take a look at Lumagen's incredible Radiance XE-3D video processor. In the interests of full disclosure we actually use a Radiance XD-3D in our reference home theatre so we're already very familiar with its capabilities but this the first chance we've had to fully review it. The XD is the earlier version of the Radiance and it is almost identical to the XE except that it uses HDMI v1.2 inputs whilst the original XE uses HDMI v1.3. The XE-3D is the latest version of the XE and obviously comes with 3D capability already installed and HDMI v1.4 inputs however owners of the earlier XD or XE can pay for a license key to unlock the full 3D version of the processing software. Aside from the different HDMI inputs the XD and XE are identical with exactly the same connections and processing capabilities. In addition to the XE-3D, Lumagen also make the XS-3D and the Mini-3D both of which have the same video processing capabilities but fewer connections at the rear. The XS-3D has four HDMI inputs and two outputs and the Mini-3D has two HDMI inputs and one output. In addition, unlike the XE-3D and the older XD-3D, the XS-3D and Mini-3D do not have any PiP/PoP capabilities.
For those that are new to this remarkable box of tricks, here's a quick overview of what it can do: it features 10-bit processing; can switch audio and video; supports HDMI v1.4 for 3D processing and scaling; has per-pixel SD/HD video deinterlacing; can handle 2:2 and 3:2 pulldown for SD/HD film sources; uses Lumagen's proprietary 'No Ring' scaling software; has multiple user and resolution memories; an output resolution up to 1080p; multiple aspect ratios and noise reduction for SD/HD sources. In fact the Lumagen Radiance XE-3D is so flexible and does so much that it might be difficult to cover it all in a single review but here goes...
Styling and Connections
Whilst there might not be much at the front of the Radiance XE-3D, the same is definitely not true for the back, which sports as comprehensive a set of connections as you're ever likely to see. From a switching and connectivity perspective, alone, the Radiance XE-3D is incredible and is capable of being a video and audio hub for even the most complex home theatre setup. First of all the Radiance XE-3D has six HDMI v1.4 inputs - which should be sufficient for just about anyone. If that wasn't enough the Radiance XE-3D also has two HDMI v1.4 outputs, which can be used for running two displays simultaneously or, as is more likely, passing video to your display and audio to your amplifier or receiver. The Radiance XE-3D also has all the legacy formats well covered with four inputs for component, four inputs for composite and four inputs for S-Video. On the audio side of things the Radiance XE-3D also has extensive passthrough capabilities with four analogue audio inputs, six coaxial audio inputs, two optical audio inputs and two coaxial audio outputs. Finally, there are two 12v triggers, a LVTTL infra-red format command input and RS232 connector for system control.
To fully appreciate the Radiance XE-3D you need to understand how this magic black box is designed to work because within its architecture there are a number of major functional sections. The first is the video input selection, this is where all the video connections, at the rear, feed into and it is here that any video decoding and conversion to digital is performed. The digital video is then passed from the video selection to the video deinterlacing daughter card where any interlaced signals are correctly deinterlaced and any artefact reduction is performed. The progressive signal is then passed to the video filtering and scaling section where it is scaled to the correct output resolution. Finally, the video passes through the [tip=CMS]Colour Management System[/tip] (CMS) before being output via the two HDMI outputs. The audio inputs go via the audio control to either the HDMI outputs or the audio out encoding which then passes the audio to the two coaxial outputs.
The remote control is a bit of a let down when compared to the solid and well machined main unit but, given the Radiance XE-3D's target market, it is most likely that it will be used in conjunction with a system controller. As it is, the remote control is essentially just a black plastic unit that is comfortable to hold and easy to use. It includes all the main controls you would need such as aspect ratios, source selection, inputs, memories, PIP, menu etc. and, crucially, it is backlit. As we said the remote control will most likely only be used for the initial setup and from that perspective it is more than adequate for that purpose.
Menus and Setup
The Radiance XE-3D comes with a 50 page manual that is not the easiest to read and understand, even for a trained professional. However Lumagen do try to offer concise explanations and once you have spent some time with Radiance XE-3D you begin to appreciate that condensing all that it is capable of into 50 pages is nearly impossible. Thankfully, Lumagen do offer 'Tech Tips' that can be downloaded from their website and these are often very helpful. To be honest, the Radiance XE-3D is the kind of product that is more likely to be installed by someone with experience of it rather than a casual buyer and to utilise the processor fully it really does need to be set up by a trained calibrator.
If we have one area of criticism, it is that the menu system is not always as intuitive as it could be and, at times, can be quite confusing, especially when first using it. After spending some time with the Radiance XE-3D you begin to realise that everything in the menu has a purpose and there are no frivolous marketing features that are detrimental to image quality. This is good but the downside is that the menus were clearly written by engineers and can thus be a bit daunting to a novice. One particular area of annoyance is that in order to save any settings you have to go back to the first menu page and the select save three times. This can be quite time consuming, especially if you forget to save the settings but the Radiance XE-3D does indicate that changes have been made before you leave the menu entirely. Once again, to use the Radiance XE-3D to its full potential you should probably get a professional calibrator to install it.
There are literally hundreds of different pages in the Radiance XE-3D menu system but we will attempt to identify the most important ones for you. First off we have the Input menus and, as mentioned earlier, each input can have up to four memories attached to them and they are labelled A to D. There are various choices which allow you to customise the settings for each source. HDMI Setup allows you to choose the video type, the video level and aspect ratio. Video Setup gives you access to brightness and contrast controls, colour format, colour and hue controls, sharpness, noise reduction, sizing and masking. There are also numerous deinterlacing controls here and even the option to reinterlace content that has been badly deinterlaced prior to reaching the Radiance XE-3D. There is even a game mode to reduce video processing latency when playing games. The Label function is used to name each memory configuration and the Copy function can be used to copy input settings between memories.
The Output menus allow you to set up Custom Modes, the CMS, Styles and 3D Options. The Custom Modes relate to the output resolution that is being sent to the display and, clearly, this will depend on your display. The CMS menus are where you can calibrate the gamma, greyscale and colour gamut - more on these later. The Styles menu allows to select aspect ratios as well as adjust the size of the image and mask edges. The 3D Options menu allows you to select the 3D EDID setting in case a display is not reporting its 3D capability. Once again, these settings can be copied to other Output Settings.
The menu page below shows the Output Setup for both 2D and 3D. The section called 'In Condition' shows which input is being used and any modes that are currently set. The section called 'Video Output Selection' shows which Mode has been selected, which CMS setting has been selected and which Style setting has been selected. You can mix and match the Mode, CMS and Style settings, as you please, and you can also select if video is being output via HDMI1, HDMI2 or both.
The Radiance XE-3D supports the HDMI v1.4 formats so it can pass all audio formats including high definition audio like Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. Within the Audio menu the Radiance XE-3D can be set up to pass audio as bitstream or as PCM and you can also select whether to pass the audio via the HDMI1 output, the HDMI2 output or the SPDIF outputs. The Other menu contains sub-menus for setting up the menu, itself, as well as accessing the test patterns and controlling Picture-in-Picture and Picture-outside-Picture features.
The Info page provides a useful snap shot of all the current settings on the Radiance XE-3D. Therefore you can see which input is being used and the resolution, refresh rate and colour format of the source; as well as whether or not it has HDCP. There is also a section at the top showing the serial number of the unit and the current version of the software. This Info page can also be accessed directly by pressing the enter button on the remote control.
Within the CMS menu there are sub-menus for Gamma Factor, Colour Gamut, Greyscale/Gamma, Colour Decoder, Black (brightness) and White (contrast). The Radiance XE-3D is [tip=isf]ISF[/tip] certified which basically means that it has the necessary controls to calibrate the image accurately and the ability to save those settings and lock them away from any unwanted fiddling. In fact, to access the CMS controls you need to enter a service code which once again prevents users from accidentally changing carefully calibrated settings. The Gamma Factor control allows you to move the entire [tip=gamma]gamma[/tip] curve up or down. This can be quite useful if for example you had a nice straight gamma curve at 2.2 on your display but wanted to move it up to 2.4 for use in a pitch black home theatre. This is a more global control for gamma but more precise adjustments can be made in the Greyscale/Gamma sub-menu.
The Greyscale/Gamma sub-menu allows you to calibrate the [tip=Greyscale]greyscale[/tip] and gamma at different interval points. You can choose between 2 point, 5 point, 11 point, 12 point and 21 point controls depending on the level of accuracy you require but for our review we used the 11 point control. Within each choice you can adjust the levels of red, blue and green at each interval point. This allows you to get the correct balance of each at each interval point and thus produce an accurate greyscale from black to white. There is also a luminance - or brightness - control that allows you to adjust interval point and thus fine tune the gamma curve.
The Colour Gamut sub-menu gives you access to the CMS itself which allows you to calibrate the [tip=gamut]colour gamut[/tip] to the correct [tip=IndStand]industry standard[/tip] that for high definition content is [tip=Rec709]Rec.709[/tip]. The CMS on the Radiance XE-3D controls the colour, hue and luminance (brightness) of white, the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and the three secondary colours (yellow, cyan and magenta). The Radiance XE-3D allows you to adjust the amount of the three primary colours within each individual colour thus allowing you to move that colour to its correct position within the [tip=cie]CIE chart[/tip]. This is a very capable CMS but it is important to remember one thing, the Radiance XE-3D can only reposition colours within the triangle that represents the displays native gamut, if a display has undersaturated primary points they cannot be corrected.
The Styles sub-menu allows you to adjust the size and the aspect ratio of the image, as well as add masking. These controls are especially useful for projectors that are being used with an anamorphic lens. Thanks to the new 3D upgrade the Radiance XE-3D can also scale 3D content for use with an anamorphic, which is an industry first. The final sub-menu is Custom which allows the user to select the output resolution that is most appropriate for the source and the display. There is a useful function here called Rate Match which will adjust the output to match sources encoded at 24.00/60.00 rather than the normal 23.98/59.94. This can be useful for Asian Blu-rays which we've often noticed are encoded at 24.00 rather than 23.98.
One of the best features on the Radiance XE-3D is its ability to update its firmware easily which allows Lumagen to add new features or correct any bugs that are discovered. Perhaps the best example of this is the addition of 3D capability, although existing owners of the XD and XE will need to purchase a license key to unlock the 3D features. The process is very simple, you just download the update from the Lumagen website, connect your laptop to the Radiance XE-3D using the serial cable provided and run the updater programme. Another useful feature is that the settings on the Lumagen can be saved onto your laptop, perhaps to use as a backup or if you're a professional calibrator to use as a starting point on another Radiance XE-3D before fine tuning.
Calibration Performance - Greyscale
The greyscale measurements above show the out-of-the-box performance of the JVC X3 which is reasonably good. The three primaries are tracking in a straight line and the gamma is reasonably close to the target of 2.2 although 10 [tip=IRE]IRE[/tip] is nearer 2.3 and 90 IRE is nearer 2.0. Whilst the primaries are tracking in a straight line, blue is between 5 and 10% too high and green is running about 5% too low which is resulting in [tip=DeltaE]DeltaEs[/tip] (errors) that would be noticeable as discolouration on a stair step greyscale. Normally, you would now use the JVC's own internal white balance and gamma controls to set the greyscale and gamma as accurately as possible and then use the Radiance XE-3D to fine tune the performance. However, to show the capabilities of the Radiance XE-3D we are going to just use its greyscale and gamma controls to calibrate the JVC X3.
As the greyscale measurements above clearly demonstrate the Radiance XE-3D can deliver a reference performance from most displays. The JVC X3 is now showing a perfect greyscale with all three primary colours tracking at the target of 100 resulting in error levels of one or less which is essentially perfect. The luminance (brightness) levels are also spot on as is the gamma which is measuring at exactly 2.2. If we so wished we could now use the gamma factor control to move the gamma up to 2.4 which is the standard we use for light controlled home theatres.
Calibration Performance - Colour Gamut
We chose the Natural colour gamut on the JVC X3 which provides a reasonably accurate starting place but crucially has measurement points outside the Rec.709 triangle, thus giving us room to calibrate the colour gamut. As you can see from the measurements there are some quite large errors in hue and colour, especially in the three primaries and cyan. However the luminance measurements are quite good with only small errors in blue and green. The CMS in the Radiance XE-3D should allow us to improve these measurements considerably.
As you can see the addition of the Radiance XE-3D has made a huge difference to the colour accuracy of the JVC X3 and given that the X3 doesn't have an internal CMS this performance could only be achieved using an outboard video processor. Unlike many CMS which have controls that adjust the hue, colour and luminance separately the Radiance XE-3D CMS works by adding or subtracting the three primary colours that make up each colour in order to move the measurement points around the CIE chart. At first this can be a little confusing, especially when trying to adjust the luminance of the secondary colours but once you get used to it you realise there is an incredible degree of control and granularity. To be honest, calibrating the colour gamut should only be done by a trained professional with the necessary calibration tools but as you can see the Radiance XE-3D can deliver a reference colour performance from the JVC X3.
The Radiance XE-3D’s performance was equally impressive with film based material and in the film detail test it correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the Radiance XE-3D also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) format as well as all the more obscure variations. The Radiance XE-3D also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text; the text was always clearly readable without any shredding. This was a superb performance by the Radiance XE-3D and represents the best processing, deinterlacing and scaling that we have ever seen.
When it comes to 1080i content the Radiance XE-3D was equally as assured and had no problems detecting film content inside the interlaced signal and correctly deinterlacing it, without introducing artefacts. In fact, the Radiance XE-3D passed every single cadence test on both our Spear & Munsil and HQV Blu-rays. We also used the HQV Blu-ray disc to check the quality of the video deinterlacing. This disc has a jaggies pattern that uses three rotating bars and with the Radiance XE-3D all three bars were smooth with no jaggies. The Radiance XE-3D also had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts.
The Radiance XE-3D was able to handle every video processing test we could throw at it without missing a beat. It could detect every cadence correctly and deinterlace the signal without losing detail. It was able to scale lower resolutions without introducing noticeable artefacts and also change the image size without introducing noticeable artefacts which is important for anyone using a anamorphic lens. It can accept any resolution you care to think of and it can output at any resolution too - producing smooth, detailed and judder free images. On top of that, the Radiance XE-3D has extensive noise reduction controls that can be used to clean up difficult material, which is very useful when watching things like digital TV on a large screen. Quite simply, this is the gold standard against which all other video processors will be judged.
Picture Quality - 2D
Once you have a neutral canvas - thanks to the reference gamma and greyscale - then you can add the colours and it was here that the Radiance really delivered. When watching some of our reference material we could see that the colours looked natural and realistic, not just with flesh tones but across the entire spectrum. We often find that people who are used to oversaturated images will complain that the colours look muted when watching a properly calibrated display. However, over time, they realise that the colours they are looking at accurately reflect what the director wanted you to see and if a specific colour should stand out it is because that was the intended effect. Watching high definition in particular was a revelation and the combination of an accurate picture and increased levels of detail resulted in some truly breathtaking images. As good as the JVC X3 is the Radiance XE-3D took its performance to a whole new level and even though the Radiance XE-3D isn't cheap it might prove a better option if used in conjunction with a cheaper projector that delivers good performance but has no CMS.
As if the accurate image wasn't enough to bring out the best from high definition, there is also the deinterlacing and scaling to give a whole new lease of life to standard definition material. We still have a lot of standard definition content and often the problem with watching it on a large screen is that the image just doesn't stand up. Radiance XE-3D is capable of producing images from standard definition sources that are so good you almost forget they aren't high definition. Of course, the Radiance XE-3D can't add what isn't there and as soon as you put on a Blu-ray you remember what a difference six times the resolution makes but it's a pleasing illusion, none the less. In fact, we found ourselves watching more DVDs than we have in a long time because the Radiance XE-3D is capable of producing such a watchable image.
All these factors combine to produce images that will allow your various sources and display to perform at the very best of their capabilities and produce images that have to be seen to be believed.
Picture Quality - 3D
The Radiance XE-3D can support all of these 3D types and it can also output 3D in whichever format you choose; so if you wanted you could output all 3D content as Side-by-Side for example. The Radiance XE-3D can also accept 3D video and output the left eye and right eye images separately over the two HDMI outputs for use with a dual projector 3D system that uses passive glasses. We didn't have any problems with either switching 3D video or converting the 3D format and were quite amazed at how capable and flexible the Radiance XE-3D is in this area.
Perhaps most importantly the Radiance XE-3D can scale 3D content thus allowing owners of an anamorphic setup to correctly scale 3D content for their 2.35:1 screens. Once again we found that the Radiance XE-3D was quite capable of scaling 3D content without introducing noticeable artefacts and, as before, we found ourselves amazed at this incredible device's flexibility. You can also use the masking features with 3D content, which we found useful for returning 'Avatar' to its theatrical 2.35:1 ratio or for watching 'Tron: Legacy' in 2.35:1 without the annoying jumps to 1.78:1 ratio on the Imax segments.
Finally, the Radiance XE-3D can use its CMS capabilities to calibrate the 3D images to produce a more accurate greyscale and colour gamut. 3D calibration is still in its infancy with a number of different approaches and a general lack of current industry standards. However, it is good to know that as 3D calibration develops the Radiance XE-3D will be able to provide the necessary controls to create accurate and pleasing images.
Ultimately the Radiance XE-3D gives you exactly the same control and flexibility over 3D content as it already does over 2D content, allowing you to deliver equally as impressive performance no matter what the format. We found that once we had set up the Radiance we were able to just enjoy our viewing material, whether that content was in standard or high definition, 2D or 3D. At the end of the day that is what a video processor is supposed to do, just sit seamlessly within the video chain and produce the best images possible.
- Reference gamma calibration controls
- Reference greyscale calibration controls
- Reference colour management system
- Reference scaling and deinterlacing capabilities
- Impressive connections and switching capabilities
- Multiple memories for inputs and outputs
- Capable of handling 2D and 3D content
- Firmware easily upgradable via RS232
- Passthrough of up to eight channel audio at 192 kHz
- Menu system could be more intuitive
- User manual could be easier to follow
- Requires a professional to reach its full potential
- Reasonably expensive
Lumagen Radiance XE-3D Video Processor Review
To say that we were impressed with the Lumagen Radiance XE-3D would be something of an understatement because it offers a degree of performance and flexibility that is nothing short of remarkable.
First of all the Radiance XE-3D has a staggering number of connections and permutations that allow it to be used as an audio and video hub for even the most complex system. Anyone with a lot of HDMI sources will no doubt be delighted to discover the Radiance XE-3D has six HDMI inputs and those with legacy sources will also find their needs well catered for. Since most HDMI sources include audio in the signal the Radiance XE-3D is capable of passing both Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio via bitstream as well as up to eight channels of PCM audio at up to 196kHz. On top of that there are two HDMI outputs so you can run two displays simultaneously or send video via one output and audio by the other.
The Radiance XE-3D offers the best deinterlacing and scaling that we have ever seen, in fact it was so good that it gives DVDs a whole new lease of life. The Radiance XE-3D could correctly detect film material using 2:2 or 3:2 cadence and never once tripped up. It also had no problems dealing with different cadences on video material, even some really obscure ones and was equally as assured with standard or high definition material. The scaling using Lumagen's proprietary 'No Ring' software was equally as impressive, delivering smooth detailed images that were free of any artefacts. The Radiance XE-3D also has an impressive array of MPEG mosquito, block artefact and noise reduction controls to help with today's over-compressed digital TV. The Radiance XE-3D is also able to output just about any resolution and refresh rate you can imagine, allowing you to match the output exactly to the capabilities of your display.
You could almost use the Radiance XE-3D just for its switching and up-converting capabilities, alone, but if you did you would be missing out on its incredible ability to provide precise calibration controls to just about any video display. The Radiance XE-3D allows an unprecedented level of control over just about every aspect of a display's image. Using the Radiance XE-3D, someone with the necessary calibration tools and skills can produce a reference gamma, greyscale and colour gamut for both 2D and 3D content. The combination of deinterlacing, scaling and calibration controls results in an image of breath-taking accuracy and detail that produces the very best from both your source and your display.
If all that wasn't enough the Radiance XE-3D also offers the ability to programme for different input and output colour spaces, as well as supporting anamorphic lenses with different aspect ratios - and masking - in both 2D and 3D. All these settings can be stored in multiple memories, for both the inputs and the outputs, allowing you to fine tune the performance of the input from each source as well as the output to display. Finally, Lumagen also offer excellent support with regular firmware updates and upgrades, most notably the recent addition of 3D capability to existing owners of XD and XE processors.
In conclusion the Lumagen Radiance XE-3D is a truly remarkable product that is capable of delivering reference performance in terms of calibration and video processing for both 2D and 3D. It has an impressive set of connections, can be upgraded easily and is incredibly flexible with multiple memories for both inputs and outputs. The chances are that whatever video display you have it will benefit from the addition of the Radiance XE-3D.
Value For Money
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