ABSOLUTE ULTIMATE AV
SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS | REVIEW
By ARROW AV | 26nd April 2019
DOWNLOAD PDF OF FULL REVIEW HERE: SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS - REVIEW (PDF).pdf
• Colorimetry Research CR-300 0.8nm Spectroradiometer
• Klein K10-A Tristimulus Colorimeter
• Konica Minolta T-10A Illuminance Meter
• CEM DT-805 Sound Level Meter
• Murideo SIX-G 4K HDR Pattern Generator
• CalMAN Ultimate 2018
• ChromaPure 3 Professional THX Edition
• Nikon D850 and D810 Cameras; Nikkor lenses
• Leo Bodnar Video Signal Input Lag Tester
(N.B. All meters are certified; and serviced / recalibrated annually).
SCREEN & ENVIRONMENT
135" diagonal size, 3m / 10 feet wide projection screen; with DreamsScreen Ultraweave V6 Pro Projection Screen Material (circa 0.8 gain); at a throw distance of 6.3 metres / 21 feet; and within a blacked-out room.
You may have already heard of or seen a demo of the SIM2 HDR DUO. It is important to note that this is not that projector. That was SIM2’s first-generation product. This is the new and very considerably improved HDR DUO PLUS. And holy moly is there a difference in performance. I personally previously evaluated the HDR DUO and found it to be disappointing. However, the HDR DUO PLUS is an entirely different kettle of fish. Without a doubt SIM2 has created something that is revolutionary, game-changing, and quite simply incredible.
So, what has changed? Well, in short, significant additional product development has been carried out. In particular, SIM2 contracted the services of video legend Alan Gouger, who amongst an extensive and incredibly impressive C.V. with a history of decades working within the professional video industry, is the founder of AVSForum.
Working in conjunction with SIM2, Alan has been instrumental in carrying out some very considerable improvements to the HDR DUO; the result of which is that the new product, appropriately named the HDR DUO PLUS, now achieves its true potential. And it produces one of the best projected video images that I have ever seen. In fact, in my opinion, it offers the best overall video performance of any home theater projector currently available.
DUAL PROJECTOR ARRAY
The HDR DUO PLUS comprises two 5,000 lumens rated projectors stacked together in a highly unusual and novel way. Each projector outputs a different image. One projector displays the dark parts of the image optimally and the other the bright parts optimally, the combination of which yields a significantly increased dynamic range and the most astonishing HDR video performance that’s the best I have ever seen with respect to a home theater projector.
Achieving and maintaining the perfect stacking and overlapping of two projectors is not an easy task. SIM2’s answer to this was to develop a mechanical platform equipped with micrometric adjustments in all 6 axes (x, y, z, and pitch, yaw and roll).
Furthermore, special attention has been paid to the thermal stability of the system, wherein there is no drift whatsoever with respect to the lens positions over time and with differing temperatures.
The result is two precisely superimposed projected images that are completely stable and remain as such over time.
A LUMAGEN PRO external video processor is used to setup and control the two projectors.
According to the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), THX and the Professional Video Alliance (PVA), who help drive industry standards and train professional video calibrators worldwide, resolution is not the most important factor influencing video performance and hence good picture quality.
ISF president and founder, Joel Silver reports that “the fourth and least of the four key parameters is resolution;” and “the single most apparent thing you see is dynamic range.”
Similarly, Gregg Loewen, who for many years carried out the THX professional video calibration trainings worldwide, and now heads the Professional Video Alliance (PVA), says “contrast and black level are most important” and that “resolution is only fourth behind contrast, colour saturation and colour accuracy”.
That said, please note that nobody here is saying that resolution is not important. It most certainly is. However, it is simply the case that there are other aspects which technically from a scientific perspective are comparatively more important.
With the other aspects that most influence good video image quality the difference is visible by all, irrespective of viewing distance and image size. But this is not the case when it comes to image resolution. This is predominantly due to the limitations of human visual perception (HVP), where it boils down to screen size and viewing distance. In short, you will need a large enough screen in combination with a close enough viewing distance in order to be able to perceive difference between HD and 4K resolution.
Here is a chart that serves as a general approximate guide:
The HDR DUO PLUS is in itself evidence that ISF, THX, and the PVA are indeed correct regarding their rankings of the importance of image resolution. Why? Because its resolution isn’t native 4K. It’s not pixel-shift pseudo-4K either. It’s only HD 1080p. Specifically, at the heart of each of the dual SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS projectors resides a 3-chip HD 1080p resolution 0.95” DLP DC4 chipset. And yet, in spite of this, it delivers without a doubt one of the best video images produced by a projector that I have ever seen in my life to date.
The fact of the matter is that the HDR DUO PLUS excels with respect to all other aspects of video performance to such an extent that you quite frankly forget that you are viewing an image that is only HD 1080p resolution. That said, this really has to be seen and experienced to be believed.
CHROMA/COLOR PERFORMANCE GAMUT COVERAGE
The HDR DUO PLUS comes in three options with respect to BT.2020 colour filters; namely:
(1) Without any BT.2020 colour filters;
(2) With one BT.2020 colour filter; and
(3) With two BT.2020 colour filters.
With the filters the HDR DUO PLUS is capable of covering 107% of DCI-P3 within the BT.2020 color gamut; as well as and 85% of BT.2020. Without any filters it encompasses 85% of DCI-P3.
It also has the potential for very precise calibrated colour accuracy with respect to both primary (RGB) and secondary (CMY) colours, thanks to making use of a LUMAGEN PRO.
Additionally, the HDR DUO PLUS is capable of processing 10-bit colour properly, unlike some other home theater HDR video projectors. Consequently, the HDR DUO PLUS is entirely devoid of the manifestation of posterization (a.k.a. banding) that afflicts such other projectors.
● SCREEN SIZE: 135" DIAGONAL | 3m / 10’ WIDE
● SCREEN GAIN: 0.8
● THROW DISTANCE: 21’ / 6.3m
The HDR DUO PLUS comprises two 5,000 lumens rated projectors. Light output is supplied via 2 x 350W dimmable lamps as opposed to a laser light source; but there is seemingly none of the micro-flicker that can afflict lamp-based projectors.
The ‘Dark’ projector uses SIM2’s Extended Contrast (EC) lens. Whilst this increases contrast performance it also reduces the peak light output from 5,000 to 3,800 lumens. Hence, the total combined peak light output of the two projectors is 8,800 lumens.
Therefore, circa 43% of the total combined light output is supplied by the ‘Dark’ projector and circa 57% by the ‘Bright’ projector.
As expected, usage of BT.2020 colour filters reduces light output; in this instance by circa 23% per filter used. This reduces calibrated peak light output from circa 6,500 lumens without usage of any filters, to circa 5,000 lumens with one filter, and circa 3,800 lumens with both filters.
3,800 lumens useable light output should be more than sufficient for most home cinema/theater screen sizes; wherein you can enjoy the full chroma performance to its best potential. However, for those who wish for higher on-screen luminance and/or possess a very large sized screen there is the option to use just the one filter, yielding circa 5,000 lumens useable light output. Wherein, doing so still yields an impressive circa 95% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut; which is still more than a great many other HDR projectors, and in fact many TVs as well.
CONTRAST & BLACK LEVELS
THE IMPORTANCE OF FULL RANGE CONTRAST MEASUREMENTS
ON/OFF contrast and ANSI contrast are the two extreme ends of the contrast range that applies to video content. The ON/OFF Contrast only provides the black level of a completely black picture (full field black). Similarly, the ANSI Contrast only gives you the black level at what is typically the extreme upper limit of video content brightness. Where 99.5% of video content falls in-between these.
Consequently, in order to properly evaluate and understand what is the comparative contrast and associated black levels performances regarding different video display devices, including projectors, we need to take measurements with respect to the whole range of ADL (Average Display Luminance), being defined as the average on-screen brightness after gamma correction.
ON/OFF contrast corresponds to an ADL of 0%; and ANSI contrast corresponds to 50% ADL.
The average ADL of movies is 8% – 9.6%.
Here is an illustrative example; where this particular image measures 5.9% ADL:
Circa 73% of video content resides within the range 0-10% ADL; 82% within the range 0%-15% ADL; 91% within the range 0%-20% ADL; and 99.5% resides within the range 0%-50% ADL (ANSI), with only 0.5% residing within the range 50%-100% ADL.
%AGE OF VIDEO CONTENT
Hence why it is all-important to measure and analyze the full range of contrast measurements. Not just the ON/OFF and ANSI contrast, but everything in-between as well.
For further details regarding the importance of full range contrast measurements and the absolutely superb ADL contrast study carried out by Florian & Anna of PROJECTION DREAMS see: Brightness of movies (ADL) and contrast measurements
GAME-CHANGING CONTRAST PERFORMANCE
The HDR DUO PLUS is a DLP type projector. DLP type projectors outperform LCoS type projectors with respect to ANSI (50% ADL) contrast, the top end of the video image luminance range. However, it is usually the other way around with respect to the bottom end of the luminance range, where DLP projectors perform comparatively less well, where the ON/OFF (0% ADL) contrast often measures as low as 900:1 – 2,000:1.
Poor contrast performance and black levels throughout the range 0% - 5% ADL has historically to date always been the ‘Achilles Heal’ of all DLP type projectors.
The HDR DUO PLUS delivers game-changing contrast and black levels throughout the entire range, from 0% ADL (ON/OFF) through to and including 50% ADL (ANSI). In fact, it produces the best contrast and black levels performance of any home theater projector currently available in the world today. Period.
So, how has SIM2 achieved such unrivalled performance? Well, there’s a number of factors, which in combination contribute towards this.
The dual projectors stack comprising different ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ optimized projectors plays a role in achieving this.
The ‘Dark’ projector has a fixed cat’s eye iris as part of an ‘Extended Contrast’ lens, for which the shape and positioning have been optimized, which boosts contrast and deepens black levels.
The lamps operate at different levels independently.
Additionally, and somewhat uniquely, the entire lens and optics with respect to both projectors has been blacked out such that and any all internal reflections and light scatter have been minimized (which is partly why it’s expensive).
And last but by no means least, both projectors feature truly exceptional Dynamic Contrast functionality, which is quite probably the best that I have ever seen or experienced to date.
UNRIVALLED DYNAMIC CONTRAST FUNCTIONALITY
Dynamic contrast functionality with projectors has always been a bit of a mixed bag; in that in almost all instances improving the contrast and black levels is accompanied by undesirable video artefacts, such as pumping, blown-out highlights, crushed shadow detail, erroneous fade-to-black, and color shift.
This has resulted in many users simply turning it off and operating the projector natively, without it.
Achieving perfect dynamic contrast functionality with projectors historically has been seemingly a practical impossibility. However, it would appear that SIM2 with the HDR DUO PLUS has miraculously achieved this. In short, this is the first and only projector that has passed every single one of my Dynamic Contrast torture tests.
These were/are as per follows:
(1) BESPOKE VIDEO | Piles of which powder
The centre third, right-hand third, and left-hand third of the screen appear in sequence against a black background. This tests for gamma crush blowing out the highlights:
(2) LUCY | Chapter 4, Time-Stamp 00:15:47
This tests for color shifting, which can occur as a consequence of dynamic contrast gamma modulation:
(3) 1% ADL Contrast Test Pattern:
Tests for color shifting as well. More likely to manifest than in previous test:
(4) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE FALLOUT | Chapter 1, Time-Stamp 00:06:03
This also tests for gamma crush blowing out the highlights, in this instance the headlights:
(5) STAR WARS EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS | Chapter 3, Time-Stamp 00:02:08
The tests full-fade-to-black functionality. See if full-fade-to-black is erroneously triggered:
(6) STAR WARS EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS | Chapter 3, Time-Stamp 00:02:20
Lights flicker on/off, causing image to flip-flop between blackout and lit-up stormtoopers:
(7) OBLIVION | ‘Interrogation Scene’, Chapter 9, Time-Stamp 00:54:02
I measured the HDR DUO PLUS’s native ON/OFF (0% ADL) contrast as being 6,247:1. This is exceptionally high for a DLP type projector. So clearly the additional blacking out of the lens and optics has worked and paid off.
The dynamic ON/OFF contrast measured 28,600:1; and this was with a single white pixel against full field black for the black level measurement, which was used in order to defeat any shutting off of the light engine in response to a full field black. Whilst this might not be as high as the likes of the JVC projectors, it is higher as compared with most other home theater projectors, including for example the likes of the SONY 885/760ES, SONY 995/760ES, and SONY 5000ES.
But it is with respect to the contrast performance above black, namely upwards of ON/OFF (0% ADL), where things get seriously interesting. The measurements reveal that as compared with most other projectors, firstly, there is a very significantly higher retention of contrast performance as you come out of black, and secondly that the contrast performance from 1% through 20% ADL is comparatively very significantly higher.
The result is the best contrast and black levels performance of any home theater projector currently available.
Here are the full range of contrast measurements for the HDR DUO PLUS:
COMPARISONS VERSUS OTHER PROJECTORS
There is a new high contrast professional cinema projector by CHRISTIE DIGITAL which produces the best video performance of any projector in the world to date. This is the only other projector that I am aware of that outperforms the SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS. However, it significantly more expensive, and as such it resides at a different price point and is unaffordable by 99% of the population. Furthermore, it’s primary target demographic is the professional market, including planetariums and simulation, so it is not first and foremost a home theater projector. However, even so, it is useful as a new benchmark against which all other projectors can be and should be compared. In this regard it is both interesting to note and useful to know how closely the HDR DUO PLUS compares.
Further to this, I thought it would be both useful and interesting to compare the contrast performance of the SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS with other projectors such as by the likes of SONY and JVC
VERSUS CHRISTIE ‘ULTIMATE’ PROFESSIONAL PROJECTOR:
Looking above and beyond the ON/OFF contrast performance, as you can see at 1% ADL the CHRISTIE has circa 4 times greater contrast performance as compared with the HDR DUO PLUS.
However, as we rise up through and up towards 20% ADL the HDR DUO PLUS rapidly approaches the performance of the CHRISTIE to the extent that from 4% ADL and above the HDR DUO PLUS is supplying a considerable chunk of the performance of the CHRISTIE and at 20% ADL and above content it is almost the same identical performance. Nice!
VERSUS JVC RS3000 / NX9:
As expected, the JVC RS3000/NX9 sports JVC’s well-established signature high ON/OFF contrast performance, which in itself is significantly higher as compared with the SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS. HOWEVER in spite of this, the respective graphs cross at just 0.8% ADL !
This means that for any and all video content that is 0.8% ADL or higher, which is over 90% of all video content, the SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS outperforms the JVC RS3000/NX9… and considerably so.
In fact, it’s not even close.
At just 1% ADL the HDR DUO PLUS has left the JVC RS3000/NX9 in the dust having already surpassed its performance by 40%. At 2% ADL it produces circa 4 times greater contrast performance. At 5% ADL its performance is 5 times greater. At 10% ADL it’s 6 times greater. And at 20% ADL it’s 7.5 times greater!
Sorry JVC, but SIM2 with the HDR DUO PLUS has just stolen your ‘Best Home Theater Projector Contrast’ crown.
VERSUS SONY 995ES / 870ES:
The SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS significantly outperforms the SONY 995ES / 870ES throughout the entire range, from 0% ADL (ON/OFF) to 50% ADL (ANSI).
● TYPICAL OPERATING NOISE LEVELS = 29 dB
● LATENCY = 22 ms
Perfect grayscale and wholly accurate D65 white balance was achieved post-calibration:
LENS OPTIONS & PERFORMANCE
Three lens options are available with respect to the HDR DUO PLUS:
1. Short-throw T1 lens; 1.37-1.66:1 throw ratio
2. Medium-throw T2 lens; 1.82-2.48:1 throw ratio
3. Long-throw T3 lens; 2.60-3.90:1 throw ratio
I evaluated the HDR DUO PLUS both with respect to both the Medium-throw T2 lens and also the Long-throw T3 lens, and the performance with respect to both is truly exceptional, being practically perfect in every way.
ANALYSIS & GENERAL PERFORMANCE SCORES (OUT OF 100):
● QUICK BROWN FOX TEST PATTERN PERFORMANCE: 75
NATIVE 4K UHD:
● GEOMETRY TEST PATTERN PERFORMANCE: 90
● WHITE & BLACK GRID TEST PATTERN PERFORMANCE: 85
● INTERSTELLAR SDR HD-UPSCALED-TO-4K-UHD (00:53:30) PERFORMANCE: 80
● JOURNEY TO SPACE HDR 4K (00:35:50) PERFORMANCE: 90
● CONTRAST & BLACK LEVELS (0% - 5% ADL): 90
● CONTRAST & BLACK LEVELS (5% - 100% ADL): 96
● DYNAMIC CONTRAST FUNCTIONALITY PERFORMANCE: 100
● HDR PERFORMANCE: 97
● CHROMA / COLOR PERFORMANCE: 95
● SHARPNESS & MTF: 65
● FOCUS UNIFORMITY: 100
● CHROMATIC ABERRATION: 100
● IMAGE UNIFORMITY: 100
● RGB PIXEL/PANEL ALIGNMENT: 100
● MOTION PERFORMANCE: 90
● POSTERIZATION (BANDING): 100
● BLOOMING: 94
● STREAKING / SMEARING / GHOSTING: 100
● VIDEO NOISE: 96
● 3D PERFORMANCE: 97
● GAMING PERFORMANCE: 78
TOTAL SCORE = 92
• Dual projection HDR System - 2 x Custom-tuned Special Projectors
• Dynamic range: 14.5 f-stops
• 3-chip Full HD (1080p) 0.95” DLP® DC4 chipset
• SIM2 active 3D technology (triple flash 144Hz)
• 2 x 350W dimmable lamp
• HDMI 2.0a
• Projector mounting bracket assembly with micro-metric adjustment capability
• Considerably superior video performance as compared with the SIM2 HDR DUO
• Truly exceptional contrast and black level performance
• Incredible HDR video performance. Think you’ve seen good HDR performance? Think again!
• 6,500 lumens calibrated peak luminance
• 107% of DCI-P3 and 85% of BT.2020 colour performance
• True 10-bit colour depth video processing
• Perfect focus uniformity with razor sharpness
• Excellent image uniformity
• Small footprint and dimensions
• High efficiency
• Very quiet / low operating noise levels
• Low heat production
• Low input lag / latency (22 ms)
• Phenomenal 3D performance
• The best overall video performance of any projector currently available
• Image resolution is HD 1080p, not 4K UHD. However, with image resolution technically ranking comparatively lower in importance as compared with the other aspects that most influence video image quality, coupled with outstanding performance in pretty much all other such aspects, surprisingly this does not really matter.
• Lamp based light source, as opposed to laser; meaning lamps with diminish in light output over time and eventually will need replacing. However, this is only a minor negative, if at all, given a set of free replacement lamps is included, and light output reduces by only circa 30% after around 600 hours of usage. And to top it all I could not perceive any lamp associated micro-flicker.
• Expensive; but you get what you pay for, especially given it significantly outperforms numerous other projectors costing 2-3 times the price.
• Requires installation, set up, and calibration by a highly skilled professional video calibrator who is fully knowledgeable and trained specifically with respect to how to set up and calibrate the HDR DUO PLUS optimally, including with respect to installing and setting up the necessary custom gamma curves, developed by an independent third party specifically for use with this projector, and bespoke settings, which achieves the best performance capability of the projector.
The SIM2 HDR DUO PLUS is in itself evidence that there are numerous other aspects that are of significantly greater importance with respect to influencing overall video performance than image resolution.
This is a rare example wherein blacks actually look truly black with a projected image. As far as contrast performance is concerned it outperforms the vast majority of other home theater/cinema projectors and provides a sizeable portion of the performance of the ultimate projector, namely the new Christie High Contrast 4K HDR RGB Laser Projector that is the reference standard against which all other projectors should be compared.
The characteristics of the projected image has more in common with an OLED TV than the typical projector; which is substantiated by the objective measurements.
With respect to the HDR DUO PLUS it's actually all the other aspects further to image resolution that in combination the summation of which produces truly exceptional projected video image performance. So, this is a rare example of where the image resolution is in fact the least important factor.
It is without a doubt, at of the time of writing this review, one of the best projected images that I have ever seen in my life to date; and probably the only other projector which outperforms it with respect to overall video image quality and performance, is the aforementioned new Christie High Contrast Professional Laser Projector.
Whilst the ‘it’s not 4K resolution’ / ‘it’s only HD 1080p’ aspect is inevitably going to be a tough pill for most people to swallow, the fact of the matter is that if you were to view actual video content (as opposed to test patterns) via the projector blind, without knowing in advance what is its resolution, then it is highly probable indeed that the thought would never even cross your mind for an instant that you were viewing anything other than a native 4K resolution projector.
In fact, in a handful of blind tests carried out on unsuspecting audiovisual enthusiasts during the review process, this was in fact precisely what happened. There was not one single instance wherein anyone thought that they were viewing an HD resolution projector; in fact, everyone believed that they were viewing a native 4K resolution laser projector.
That said, because of the ‘it’s not 4K resolution’ aspect I fully expect that 99% of people will need to experience a demonstration of the HDR DUO PLUS and see it with their own eyes before they will actually believe this. Regarding which, to anyone and everyone shopping for a high-end / flagship projector I cannot recommend doing so highly enough; because, when you see the HDR DUO PLUS with your own eyes, its video performance is going to astonish you.
The fact of the matter is that presented with the choice of a native 4K resolution HDR laser projector with comparatively low contrast or the HDR DUO PLUS I would take the HDR DUO PLUS every time.
● PIXEL STRUCTURE VISIBILITY THRESHOLD = 5’ 8” / 1.7m viewing distance for a 10’ / 3.0m wide screen size (20/15 vision). Consequently, in most instances within a home theater this will be a non-issue.
● Available with a variety of options, including: (1) No BT.2020 color filters; (2) One number BT.2020 color filter; (3) Two number BT.2020 color filters. Additionally, there are three lens options covering a wide array of throw distances versus screen sizes.
● High efficiency; resulting in comparatively low both heat output and energy usage.
● An additional set of free replacement lamps is included.
● 3 Years Warranty.
● Shipping / available now.
● MSRP: $99,950
PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCREENSHOTS
Typically, photos taken of projected images are inaccurate and by no means truly representative of what is the actual appearance of the projected image. Furthermore, in many instances video editing is subsequently applied, yet even further altering their appearance. Consequently, in all such instances the photos/screenshots are of little use in evaluating what is the actual performance of the particular projector.
However, in this instance all photos/screenshots are indeed representative of the actual appearance of the projected image. This is because they are raw images, which have been photographed professionally using calibrated cameras, with the white balance precisely matched to the projection screen, in full HDR; thereby accurately capturing the full luminance dynamic range, contrast, black levels, bright highlights, shadow detail, and gamma, as well as the image detail delineation and sharpness. Even so, it is impossible to fully capture and replicate the chroma (colour) performance; but aside from this, the photos/screenshots are very accurately representative of what the projected images actually look like.
(N.B. in order to view the images with the best accuracy this is best done via a calibrated video display)