JVC DLA-NZ7 Projector Review

Posted on 5th March, 2024

JVC DLA-NZ7 Projector Review

Tony O’Brien shines his light on this premium-priced new 4K HDR laser projector…

JVC

DLA-NZ7 Projector

AUD $16,999 RRP

JVC is one of those brands that needs little introduction in the home theatre community. Its projectors are long revered for their excellent black levels and, more recently, their Dynamic Tone Mapping capabilities with 4K HDR sources.

Like most, JVC has adopted laser light sources in all of its projectors, with the exception of the entry-level NP5. Meanwhile, the DLA-NZ7, along with the more expensive DLA-NZ8 and DLA-NZ9, is equipped with a BLUEscent laser light source. It provides the DLA-NZ7 with a quoted 3,000 lumens and a native contrast ratio of 40,000:1 or ∞:1 with the dynamic light source engaged. The lifespan of the laser is quoted as 20,000 hours.

The JVC is equipped with a 0.69 D-ILA chipset, which gives it a native resolution of 4096x2160 or true 4K. What makes the DLA-NZ7 and its siblings truly unique, though, is its 8K/e-shiftX technology, which scales images to 8192x4320 or 8K. It achieves this with a 0.5-pixel shift, which equates to about half the width of a strand of hair, or 1.9 micrometres per move.

This, JVC claims, gives images a greater sense of dimensionality. And while many enthusiasts dismiss 8K due to the lack of content, I have yet to see a display that didn't benefit from 8K upscaling, with images exhibiting both a greater sense of stability and depth.

The DLA-NZ7 is equipped with a 65mm high-resolution lens assembly featuring a 17-element, 15-group all-glass lens assembly housed in an aluminium lens barrel. Another of its special features is its Frame Adapt HDR Dynamic Tone Mapping algorithm. One of the greatest challenges for today's projectors is making high-luminance 4K HDR images – which are designed for today's high-luminance televisions – look great on lower-luminance devices, such as projectors. As there's no standard for projectors, manufacturers have, for the most part, been left on their own in this regard. And while significant improvements have been made in recent years, the results have still been mixed.

JVC's Frame Adapt HDR Tone Mapping algorithm, now in its second generation, analyses the incoming signal and adjusts brightness on a frame-by-frame basis. Since its inception, it has been improved upon with regular firmware updates, which have offered greater control of HDR signals.

The DLA-NZ7 is also compatible with HDR10+ and HLG or Hybrid Log Gamma. Its HDMI inputs support HDMI 2.1/HDCP 2.3 at 48Gbps, with support for higher frame rates, such as 4K60, 4K120, and 8K60. It's also 3D compatible with the purchase of the optional 3D emitter and glasses, both of which are available locally.

UP CLOSE

At 500x234x505mm, the DLA-NZ7 is a sizeable projector. This is worth bearing in mind if you have a smaller movie room like me. Finished in matt black, it's designed to blend into a home theatre space as seamlessly as possible.

Exhaust vents flank a large centrally-mounted lens, with the back of the projector hosting the air intake vent. Power and connections are also located at the rear of unit and consist of of two HDMI 2.1/HDCP 2.3 inputs, a 12-volt trigger, an RS232C connection, a USB A input (for service), an Ethernet port and the 3D Sync Port. Menu controls are also placed at the back, offering an alternative means to shift the image into place during setup.

The DLA-NZ7 has a motorised lens control with a horizontal range of +/-34% and a vertical range of +/-80%. It is capable of projecting images between 60-200” with a throw ratio of 1.43-2.92:1. While that is going to be enough for most rooms, those with smaller spaces may have some trouble. Indeed, I found that I couldn't fill a 100” screen, so ultimately settled on a 90” screen for this review.

Utilising three 0.69 D-ILA chips, the DLA- NZ7 like all three-chip projectors, benefits greatly from panel alignment. Here the DLA-NZ7 offers a wealth of adjustments to dial things in perfectly. They include fine and coarse adjustments as well as the option to shift the whole panel or work on a zone-by-zone basis. 

One of the things I dislike about panel adjustment is the need to exit the adjustment grid/menu to change the colour I am adjusting. JVC has cleverly done away with this by adding menu shortcuts, allowing you to change aspects such as coarse/fine pixel adjustment, colour, and even the pattern itself without leaving the adjustment menu.

For this review, the DLA-NZ was connected with optical HDMI to the video output of a Denon AVC-X3800 receiver. Sources consisted of an Apple TV and a Panasonic UB-820 4K Blu-ray player. Images were projected onto a 90” neutral gain screen. Read on if you would like to learn more about how the JVC measured and calibrated. Otherwise, feel free to jump straight to the picture observations.

MEASUREMENTS AND CALIBRATION

Click here to download Calibration Reports

The DLA-NZ7 was calibrated to industry standards for both SDR and HDR with a Klein Instruments K10A colourimeter, profiled against a reference-grade 2nm JETI 1501 spectroradiometer. Test patterns were rendered by a Murideo 6G pattern generator, with 10% window patterns used for calibration and measuring light output. Test Patterns from the Spears & Munsil HDR Benchmark and DVS HDR10 discs were also used for calibration and evaluation. The JVC was calibrated using Calman Ultimate (2023).

The DLA-NZ7 has six SDR picture modes, consisting of Natural, Cinema, Filmmaker and User 1-3. HDR provides additional picture modes, consisting of Frame Adapt 1-3, HDR10, HDR10+, Pana_PQ, Filmmaker mode and User 4-6. Unless specified otherwise in the menu, the projector automatically defaults to Fimmaker mode for both SDR and HDR playback.

If you haven't already guessed, the DLA-NZ7 is the calibrator and tinkerer's playground when it comes to picture adjustments. In addition to the basic controls, two-point greyscale controls, adjustable gamma controls, and a CMS or Colour Management System are provided. JVC adds to a dizzying array of options with auto-calibration software, which is downloadable via the company's website – although it's worth noting that you will need access to a meter.

While auto-calibrations such as JVC's can provide a great starting point, I opted to calibrate the DLA-NZ7 manually. This also meant I had the benefit of using the Klein K-10A and JETI 1501, both of which are more accurate, but unfortunately not supported by JVC's auto-calibration software.

While the default Filmmaker Mode was the most accurate out-of-the-box picture mode, it did exhibit a notable green push to the greyscale with dE hovering around 5. Switching to Natural Mode made this slightly worse, although it provided the opportunity to adjust both the greyscale and gamma controls to dial in an accurate picture. Neither of these was available in Filmmaker Mode.

In Natural Mode, the DLA-NZ7 produced a peak white of 40 fL out of the box and 34 fL after calibration, which was later reduced to a less eye-watering 25fL. After calibration, the JVC achieved excellent grayscale accuracy with dE's hovering below 1, with the exception of white. Gamma response was equally impressive, as was colour accuracy, with dE's well below 2, with the exception of cyan.

Switching to HDR, the DLA-NZ7 produced a whopping 52fL prior to calibration in its Frame Adapt 1 Picture mode without Dynamic Laser. Once again, it exhibited excellent greyscale accuracy up to its roll-off point and a peak white point of 50 fL after calibration. As impressive as these numbers were, they were measured on a 90” screen, and actual light output will depend on several factors, including the size of the screen. It was also lower in light output than my own Sony VPL-XW5000ES, which I had on hand. 

While Sony had the upper hand in light output, the DLA-NZ7 is clearly the superior of the two when it came to black levels, particularly native black levels. This will be of particular benefit to those who are sensitive to the fluctuations that Dynamic Dimming introduces.

The DLA-NZ7 produced 91.88% (1976 uv) UHDA-P3 gamut and 95.37 (1931 xy) UHDA-P3 gamut coverage (4K Blu-ray colour gamut). This is on par and perhaps a little better than other projectors I've tested, although stepping up to the DLA-NZ8 or DLA-NZ9 will yield improvement in both colour gamut and light output. 

A surprising but welcome inclusion is the ability to export all of the picture settings to a USB drive. So, should you need to reset your unit, it's a simple process to export the settings back to your projector. 

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

The DLA-NZ7 is a high-brightness 4K projector with class-leading native black levels. It creates a film image with an immense sense of depth that adds to the realism of the movie-watching experience. Thanks to its 8K upscaling, images have both a greater sense of depth and stability, with the finest of details able to be made out. Meanwhile, its Frame Adapt HDR Dynamic Tone Mapping or DTM and wide colour gamut create beautiful HDR images that are both bright and punchy with a bold range of colour.

As I often do, I started my viewing with the Wolverine Blu-ray. From the moment the menu screen was loaded, the DLA-NZ7's strengths were obvious. The white parchment background of the menu was perfectly rendered without a hint of unwanted colour intrusion. What truly caught the eye though, were the black levels, with the black ink on the parchment being tantalising inky.

As the mourners gather at Yoshida's funeral, the black suits and kimonos offer deep dark blacks, while every fold and wrinkle is preserved. Coupled with excellent post-gamma tracking, it imparts a 3D-like quality to the image. Its exceptional black levels, coupled with the 8K upscaling, give images a palpable sense of being. It allows the viewer to peek into the background and heightens the sense of realism.

The DLA-NZ7 offers a very natural presentation. The myriad of flesh tones are perfectly captured. Even Logan's ruddy tones – which present a challenge for less colour-accurate displays – looked thoroughly convincing. Its neutral greyscale tracking renders the city's concrete buildings realistically, while street signs and the metallic red of a passing car impart the sense of pop that they should. 

The heavily stylised transfer of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on 4K Blu-ray provided the opportunity to test the DLA-NZ7's HDR mettle, particularly JVC's Frame Adapt HDR Generation 2 or DTM. As the young Bilbo and Gandalf make their introductions, there's a wealth of detail. The weave of Gandalf's wool cloak and the strands of wool are easily discernible, while the intricate pattern of Bilbo's tunic is rock solid. 

Although this is not a true 8K projector, the solidity, detail, and depth of field put me in mind of upscaled images on an 8K television, albeit on a much grander scale. When the attack on Moria gets into full swing, the DLA-NZ7's tone-mapping algorithm does a wonderful job with Smaug's flame. There is some clipping present in bright details, which is not entirely unexpected with HDR content, but it is minimal. With the HDR Quantitizer set to Auto, the JVC favours a slightly brighter image at the cost of clipping in bright details such as Smaug's fiery breath. Changing it to -1 reduced clipping and resulted in a more pleasing overall image.

With the grainy transfer of 4K Blu-ray of Man of Steel, the DLA-NZ7 delivers a wonderfully filmic transfer. Images are sharp and laden with detail without unnecessarily emphasising the grain. As Laura makes her way through the dark corridors of Krypton, the DTM does an excellent job with shadow detail. It opens up the detail in the subterranean passages, striding the fine line between brightness and maintaining shadow detail and depth perfectly. With the JVC's wider colour gamut, everything from the gold of the councillor's uniforms to the alien sky enjoys a wider range of colours. It combines beautifully with the DTM, and the bright blue engine exhaust of Zod's ships is positively eye-catching.

Older films such as The Ten Commandments on 4K HDR can look spectacular on a competent 4K projector, and the DLA-NZ7 doesn't disappoint. It gives images a cinematic-like presentation that doesn't appear overly sharpened or digitised. Its wide colour gamut capabilities suit the outlandish costume design without overdoing it, creating a befittingly theatre-like image.

THE VERDICT

There's precious little to dislike about JVC's new DLA-NZ7. My only criticism is that its throw ratios aren't as generous as some of its competitors. Having said that, there is so much to like. Its native black levels are class-leading, and coupled with its 8K upscaling, creates film-like images that are both laden with detail and have an almost 3D-like sense of depth. 

Its Frame Adapt HDR Generation 2 Dynamic Tone Mapping strikes an excellent balance between maintaining brightness and depth. The icing on the cake is continued firmware updates that improve upon the algorithm and offer greater flexibility. In fact, it's one of the better projector tone mapping solutions available today. Improving on it would necessitate the purchase of a dedicated video processor, such as the Lumagen or madVR Envy. All in all, this is an outstanding projector that for its asking price, represents excellent value for money. As such, it comes highly recommended.

For more information visit JVC

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    Tony O'Brien's avatar

    Tony O'Brien

    As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

    Posted in:Home Theatre Visual Applause Awards 2024 Visual Projectors
    Tags: jvc  jayvee 



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