Monster/ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard Review

June 12, 2006

monster Hopefully by now everyone understands how critical proper calibration is in achieving the best sound and image possible, from your home theater system. If you’ve never used a calibration disc, you may be missing another level of performance in audio/video playback.

Last week Monster Cable was kind enough to send me their “Monster ISF Series – HDTV Calibration Wizard” DVD and of course over the weekend I gave it a spin.

For those who have never used a calibration disc for your home theater, in essence the disc’s use test patterns and or short video clips with reference brightness, contrast and color levels that allow you to calibrate your video display to the NTSC standard. Some disc’s even offer surround sound calibration tests, to ensure your speakers are balanced and operating in unison.

If I had to describe the Monster Calibration disc (to the already initiated) I would say that compared to Digital Video Essentials, the AVIA guide to home theater, and the THX Optimizer, it most closely resembles the AVIA disc, minus the additional materials and sound calibration utilities.

However one area where the Monster disc shines is how intuitive the various tests are to perform and how quickly you can complete them. The actual tests on the Monster disc only span five chapters. Past users of calibration DVD’s like Digital Video Essentials would likely find the Monster disc stark by comparison.

I suppose one man’s bloated is another man’s feature packed, and a disc some would call lacking in content others would call quick and concise. So I’ll just say that if you’ve ever found yourself wishing that DVE contained more test materials, the Monster Disc probably isn’t for you.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for your first calibration disc and/or the ones you have already tried are too cumbersome to be of any use, then the Monster Calibration Disc may be just what you’re looking for.

The Monster ISF Series – HDTV Calibration Wizard consists of 5 calibration tests, a few intro’s and explanations as to what you’re about to see, and one excruciating music video.

I’ll go through the nine chapters one by one and give my synopsis for what’s presented in each:

1. Introduction From The Head Monster 10th Anniversary ISF/Monster

Chapter 1 starts off with an introduction from Noel Lee (Monster Cable’s founder/CEO); chapter one’s title pretty much says it all.

2. How This DVD Will Make Every Other DVD Better!

Brief explanation to the calibration tests from Jenna Drey, yeah.. moving on.

3. How Black are Your Blacks?

The first test on the disc is aimed at setting proper brightness levels. I have to say I kind of preferred the way the Monster disc handles brightness than just about all the other calibration disc’s I own. I suppose the fact that real video is used as opposed to logos or charts made the difference for me, it’s just much more relevant than previous tests I’ve used.

monster.jpg

4. How Bright are Your Whites?

The Monster Calibration Wizard again uses video clips, this time to help set the correct contrast level. In this chapter a man with a white shirt with white buttons is the focus of the test, with the contrast set too high the buttons on the shirt disappear into the shirt. Easy to follow and makes for quick work in setting the proper contrast value.

5. Are Your Pictures Colorful Enough or Way Too Colorful?

In chapter 5 of the Calibration Wizard, color (you guessed it) is the focus of our attention. I understand this disc is aimed at first time calibrators and simplicity is key, but I feel the color filters described as “geeky” (and not included with the Monster disc) provide a more accurate and less objective approach to setting the proper color and tint settings for your display.

The Monster/ISF disc describes how the three on-screen models should appear. It’s left to your interpretation of this description to ensure your color is set properly. After following the instructions in chapter 5, I wanted to switch over to DVE and use my “geeky” color filter to compare the results the Monster disc had given me.

While the color was in-line with DVE’s recommendations, I was able to get the tint dialed in just a tad bit better with the DVE disc. This discrepancy wasn’t earth shattering by any stretch of the imagination, but in my book I’ll take every bit of properly calibrated video I can get.

6. Is Your TV Sharp?

Chapter 6 of the Monster/ISF calibration disc uses two pool cues (one black, one white) to help set the sharpness control on your display. The edges of the cues will ring or distort if the sharpness is set too high.

7. Am I Too Fat?

Chapter 7 of the calibration disc bears the odd title of “Am I too Fat?” It’s quite obvious this disc isn’t aimed at women. Anyway the goal of the tests in chapter 7 is to ensure your display is properly formatted for widescreen video, geometry, aspect ratio, etc.

8. Time to Enjoy Your TV

Chapter eight of the Monster/ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard features a music video from Jenna Drey. I didn’t enjoy it.

9. Are You Well Connected and Properly Powered?

Lastly in chapter 9 we get the Monster Cable sales pitch from Mr. Lee himself.

Summary:

Aside from some laughable dialogue (Jenna refers to an improperly calibrated display as “really screwed up”), I found the Monster/ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard to be more than capable of assisting first time users with proper video display calibration.

Owners of other in-depth calibration disc’s may find the Monster disc a bit rudimentary, but for the novice to intermediate home theater enthusiast just starting out with calibration, the Monster Calibration Wizard may be just what the doctor ordered.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Calibration


Comments

  • Trish

    DVD calibration is this good for plasma tv’s. What is the cost to send it to Ontario Canada

  • Trish

    DVD calibration is this good for plasma tv’s. What is the cost to send it to Ontario Canada

  • Tony Bowling

    I just tried the THX Optimizer and according to that I have my speakers wired wrong (the test sound for the back speakers 7.1 comes out of the center speaker). So do I have speakers wired wrong? I do not think so. My receiver has its own test functions and all speakers are wired correctly according to that plus I know how to wire the speaker correctly and did so. Does anyone know what this possible glitch is with the THX Optimizer.

  • Tony Bowling

    I just tried the THX Optimizer and according to that I have my speakers wired wrong (the test sound for the back speakers 7.1 comes out of the center speaker). So do I have speakers wired wrong? I do not think so. My receiver has its own test functions and all speakers are wired correctly according to that plus I know how to wire the speaker correctly and did so. Does anyone know what this possible glitch is with the THX Optimizer.

  • Jay

    I have an older version of Video Essentials from my first big screen and found it quite useful. I recently purchased a Samsung DLP and I’m wondering if the setups are still revelent. This CD is about 5 years old. Any suggestions??

  • Jay

    I have an older version of Video Essentials from my first big screen and found it quite useful. I recently purchased a Samsung DLP and I’m wondering if the setups are still revelent. This CD is about 5 years old. Any suggestions??

  • Pete

    just purchases pan th42px60cab,denon dvd1930 the dvd playback at 480p,720p or 1080i quality seem to be the same ie no better going up the scale in fact i would say no better than a film on sky+ anybody any ideas why?

  • Pete

    just purchases pan th42px60cab,denon dvd1930 the dvd playback at 480p,720p or 1080i quality seem to be the same ie no better going up the scale in fact i would say no better than a film on sky+ anybody any ideas why?

  • B.Greenway

    Steven,

    I have to say, as frustrating as Digital Video Essentials can be to navigate (especially if your DVD player makes title navigation a chore) that it still offers the most comprehensive battery of tests.

    I recently had need to re-visit DVE and while the DVD player I have now does indeed make title navigation much easier, it still dug up painful memories of searching for specific tests, from many years ago. That said DVE had exactly what I needed, where other discs didn’t.

    AVIA pro is also quite good I’m told, but it’s also $400.00….

  • B.Greenway

    Steven,

    I have to say, as frustrating as Digital Video Essentials can be to navigate (especially if your DVD player makes title navigation a chore) that it still offers the most comprehensive battery of tests.

    I recently had need to re-visit DVE and while the DVD player I have now does indeed make title navigation much easier, it still dug up painful memories of searching for specific tests, from many years ago. That said DVE had exactly what I needed, where other discs didn’t.

    AVIA pro is also quite good I’m told, but it’s also $400.00….

  • Steven Rappaport

    Bryan, In your opinion, what is the most effective in-depth calibration disc? Thank you. Steven

  • Steven Rappaport

    Bryan, In your opinion, what is the most effective in-depth calibration disc? Thank you. Steven

  • B.Greenway

    I’m not sure if you’re a Netflix customer or not, but if so they rent both the Avia Guide to Home Theater and Digital Video Essentials. Good way to try before you buy.

  • B.Greenway

    I’m not sure if you’re a Netflix customer or not, but if so they rent both the Avia Guide to Home Theater and Digital Video Essentials. Good way to try before you buy.

  • M. Panchalingam

    Thus far my home theater hasn’t grown much since the unit I built back in University. Back then it was buying a pair of speakers here and there, matching them up as best as I could with what I could afford. All that has really changed is the TV from a Sony 27″ Trinitron, to a Sony Rear Projection HDTV…..

    that said, thus far I’ve stuck to using the THX Test on most THX movies (like X-Men) to calibrate TVs I’ve owned. The THX test worked great for the old CRT TV I had, but on the HDTV I have now, not so much.

    Any tips on a good, affordable, Test DVD for a beginner?

  • M. Panchalingam

    Thus far my home theater hasn’t grown much since the unit I built back in University. Back then it was buying a pair of speakers here and there, matching them up as best as I could with what I could afford. All that has really changed is the TV from a Sony 27″ Trinitron, to a Sony Rear Projection HDTV…..

    that said, thus far I’ve stuck to using the THX Test on most THX movies (like X-Men) to calibrate TVs I’ve owned. The THX test worked great for the old CRT TV I had, but on the HDTV I have now, not so much.

    Any tips on a good, affordable, Test DVD for a beginner?