THX and ISF Calibration – is it worth it?
The longer we lived with pictures delivered via the calibrated Onkyo TX0NR5010 AV receiver and Panasonic P50VT50, the more we grew to love them. The simplest way to describe the changes delivered by Mark’s work is to say it shifts the Panasonic P50VT50’s picture quality from brilliant to just plain exquisite. So much so that as self-confessed AV geeks, going back to more workaday tech using the sort of picture settings most normal people will stick with is really quite depressing.
Obviously taking video quality to the extremes we’ve looked at here isn’t cheap. The THX/ISF Panasonic TV cost north of £2,000 when it first came out, though now that it’s soon to be replaced by the VT60 series, you can actually get one for around £1,450.
The unique Onkyo THX/ISF TX-NR5010 receiver, meanwhile, costs around £3,000, though ISF-certified Onkyo receivers start from around £1,000. Professional calibrators will likely charge you anywhere between £250 and £500, depending on how many sources the calibration process has to deal with.
If you're spending thousands on high-end AV gear, professional calibration is a no-brainer.
But while you may need to spend big to get the all-out best picture quality available, it’s not absolutely necessary to spend so much on gear to get decent results. Mark is adamant that calibration can work wonders with pretty much any TV or receiver, so long as they have a decent set of picture adjustment tools. So even if you just splash out for a pro calibration for your standard TV, at least you’ll end up with a picture that’s both much better and much more likely to be getting the best out of your TV.
Despite all our findings, we're not suggesting that a professional picture calibration will suit everyone; some, maybe even many normal TV users will be unable to resist the shallower charms of typical TV presets, and we have no intention of denigrating such users. In fact, we've frequently made the point that for us what matters with a TV is that it's flexible enough in its pictures to satisfy as many 'tastes' as possible.
However if you’ve already spent a few thousand pounds on a TV, receiver and surround sound setup, or are planning to do so, we definitely recommend setting aside a little more money to get a professional calibration. When you’re spending that much on your home AV, it’s churlish not to give it the best chance of delighting you every day.
For everyone else, we’re working on a new guide to calibrating your TV on a tighter budget.