Accréditations de M. David Susilo, PhD: ISF, Control4, CEDIA,
THX Certified Professional et Membre HAA.
I love add-on processors, maybe it has something to do with my background in music production. I remember the days prior to plug-ins where the plug ins are literally just that, additional processors such as Hughes SRS, Roland Sound Space, BBE Sonic Maximizer, Lexicon DSP, Carver Digital Time Lens and a multitude of other processors. I used to own literally every audio processor I wanted to own for my recording studio; but that’s for creation of my own work. For playback, I never used anything more than a Carver Digital Time Lens or Musical Fidelity X10… and those are only for listening pleasure. For critical listening, I added nothing.
In the days of digital everything, I still yearn for processors especially for the video side. So far there have been only one that attracted my attention which was the KanexPro 2D to 3D converter I reviewed not too long ago. So when I stumbled upon Darbee Darblet on a very popular forum I’ve been a member of since a decade ago, I requested the company for a sample for me to try and review. As usual, these smaller companies tend to be highly confident of their products and willing to send their products to be reviewed, especially by their peers.
According to Darbee’s website, DARBEET DVPT technology embeds monoscopic depth cues and details in an image by modulating the local pixel luminance according to their patented method. DARBEET DVPT can accept any colour input or bit depth and will output the same. (Note: processing is in 4:4:4). They claim that “the DVP never change the colour vector, however if needed we adjust the saturation as we track the chroma resulting in (theoretically) a very bare minimum colour shift.”
Using an advanced and patented form of image stacking technology, the DVP process does not perform temporal base processing so its memory needs are minimal. The processing is strictly intra-frame and is therefore very fast and should not have noticable frame delay. DARBEET DVPT technology also includes their own advanced, very fast saliency map (read: secret sauce) which allows for 100% automatic processing of only those parts of the image that are worthy of attention, without processing the grainy or noisy areas of the image.
From the story above, it seems like the processor only deals with all of the good stuff and none of the bad… But is it true? For now I can only wait impatiently for my review unit to come. As just like with other unit coming my way to be reviewed, I always “keep” a sceptical yet open mind until I can test the unit without positive bias upfront.
After what felt like an eternity (it’s only a week), I received the cutely named Darbee Darblet unit in my hands. It’s a cute Plug and Play accessory which size is not much larger than a USB card reader with HDMI in and out on the sides of the unit. There are several buttons which interestingly goes from 0 to 120. So it’s like Spinal Tap’s guitar amp that goes to 11, this one goes to 120% because 100% is just not enough!
Kidding aside, I’m rather astonished that this unit does not only will process 2D images but also 3D pictures embedding them with additional depth information, for a new visual experience to be born.
For this test I use a Panasonic PT-AE7000E as a regular HD projector, JVC X70 for a FauxK (eShift) projector and Sony VPL-VW1000ES for a 4K projector. Screen is a 96″ Grandview Screen with 2.35:1 ratio viewed from 9 feet away. As far as playback gears go, I use Panasonic BDT-500 Blu-ray Disc player, Pioneer CLD-D604 LaserDisc player and Scientific Atlanta SA8300HD cable box.
Watching anything through the Darblet is quite a revelation. It feels like a veil have been lifted. Blacks appear blacker but without any black-crush. Colours appear to be more solid and details are a lot more… Uhm… detailed. Suspicious that colour shift have been done by the Darblet I projected R/G/B blocks and check their colour temperatures. They are intact. Nothing changed. They are just, how should I put it mildly, much MUCH better.
Playing with multiple sources and multiple projectors, I find the set-and-forget setting in HD mode at 70%. For most animation movies I prefer using POP mode at 100%. The movies appear almost 3D. 3D movies appear even more-3D. Both 2D and 3D signals now have the appearance of a lot more depth yet still looking very natural without edge enhancement or ringing added at all. I just wish I can store two different values of Darbee processing such as 70% HD and 100% POP. As it is, I have to bring the Darbee value up and down when I want to use it for different purpose. Nothing major but I hope it can be addressed in future products.
When used with the entry-level Panasonic PT-AE7000U, it suddenly have the appearance almost identical to 4K upscaled image done by the Sony VPL-HW1000ES and better looking than JVC’s eShift image.
The unit also works really well with LCD and plasma TVs. I tested the Darblet on my Pioneer Elite PRO-111, Sony EX720 and Panasonic VT50 TVs, all freshly calibrated, of course, the results are as astounding. I prefer to run most movies using HD mode at 80% and animations at POP at 110%.
This does not mean the positives of Darbee Darblet do not translate when used with better equipment. It’s just the effect seems to be less dramatic when used with better projector including Sony’s 4K projector, yet it’s still worth every penny, and then some.
Get one for every display you have in your house. I did.