Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray mini-review

Ben Drawbaugh
B. Drawbaugh|11.10.09

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Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray mini-review
Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-rayIf you're like us and you don't think it's possible to own enough HDTV calibration discs, then you've probably already bought the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray Disc. Otherwise you might be looking at all the different options and since you only want to buy one, you're trying to figure out which one. Well, we've played with most of them and although we're hard pressed to decide on which is our favorite, we really like this one. To find out why, click through.

Evaluating and calibrating video
From the first second you insert the disc you're in awe over the sound quality of the intro, but then you see the first images appear and your jaw drops at the picture quality. In fact the beautiful imagery makes us want to move to Seattle. It is without a doubt some of the best three minutes of HD quality footage we've ever seen and something you're going to want to watch over and over again as you calibrate your display. Speaking of which, the calibration disc has more patterns then you'll ever know how to use or understand. We really appreciated the new approach to explaining how to use the disc. In addition to the insert with very detailed explanations, there is also a help page on every pattern. Basically you select the pattern you want, or just select the first one, then hit the up button to see examples of what to look for and an explanation. When you understand what the pattern is about, you simply hit down to dismiss the help and make your adjustments.

The same pattern plays over and over again, so there's no hurry and when you're done you simply hit the right button to go to the next pattern. This works perfectly and is obviously designed by someone who uses a calibration disc a lot. Now if you prefer to listen than to read, then bad news, as there are no audible directions. Not a big deal for us, but we admit it is personal preference. Some of the patterns are used to adjust contrast, brightness, sharpness color and tint, but others are simply to evaluate the capabilities of your HDTV. If you are the obsessive compulsive type, you might just want to skip the ones that expose your set's shortcomings as the only way to address them is to replace your HDTV or Blu-ray player. A blue color filter is also included to help you adjust the color, which is good because they aren't available at just any corner store.

Evaluating and calibrating audio
One of our favorite features that as far as we know is unique to this disc are the all the audio tests. The intro and montage are both available with PCM, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. We've never seen all three on the same disc and it is a unique opportunity to confirm that all three sound exactly the same on your system -- at least in theory they should. But even better is that the DTS-HD MA 5.1, 7.1 and TrueHD tests are also included. These are the same ones you sometimes hear in the theater or that are available on select movies, but now you have all three on the same disc, very nice. We do wish Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD MA would've been included, but hey you can't have everything -- or maybe even old school Dolby Digital and DTS, so we could really appreciate the difference.

As you can see, even if you own other HDTV calibration Discs, this one has a few unique features to offer that make it a great addition. If you are going to just buy one disc though and you already know how to setup the rest of your home theater, then we think this would be the one. At the same time we admit that this might be a little more advanced then some are ready for, and although we really like it, we think that the competition might be a better starting point for beginners who are also looking for help seeing up speakers etc.
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