Like the RS3000 I reviewed last year, I would rate the JVC DLA-NZ9 out-of-the-box picture quality as outstanding. Whether you are watching HD, 4K, or HDR, the DLA-NZ9 delivered an excellent picture. The native 4K D-ILA imagers and high-quality optics ensure that the DLA-NZ9 had no problems delivering sharp, detailed 4K imagery
Due to its fantastic black levels, and bright vibrant image, I would have been happy to have the DLA-NZ9 as a permanent part of my reference system.
Whether looking at SDR or HDR content, the color reproduction was outstanding. The NATURAL and USER modes were the most accurate of the four different preset SDR picture modes available.
In addition to the NATURAL picture mode, the JVC also includes a CINEMA and a FILM mode. The CINEMA mode image was a little warmer and brighter while the FILM mode picture was even warmer with boosted contrast.
The three USER configurable modes look identical to the NATURAL picture mode. The USER modes can be used to store picture settings after calibration, such as “SDR Night” mode or “SDR Day” mode.
In addition to the Picture Modes, the NZ9 has over dozen built-in color profiles to help fine-tune the look of HDR and SDR material.
Natively, the DLA-NZ9 reproduces approximately 88% of the DCI-P3 color space. To maximize color performance, the JVC NZ9 has a "Cinema Filter". The Color Filter is engaged in the BT2020 Wide and Off Wide Color Profiles.
When the Cinema Filter is utilized, the NZ9 can reproduce about 98% of DCI-P3 (70% of BT2020), providing a wider and more accurate color palette. Also, note that when the DLA-NZ9 color filter is utilized, there is a noticeable drop in brightness.
Like every other JVC home theater projector that I have ever reviewed, I would be satisfied with the picture quality of the DLA-NZ9 right out of the box. However, like all Home Theater projectors, I took the time to calibrate the unit.
Since your room and screen material has a major impact on the overall picture, I don't recommend using someone else's calibration adjustments. If your room is brighter/darker or your walls are a different color, copying someone else's results can actually be detrimental to the picture quality rather than improving it.
Just as an example, I am including the before and after results of calibration for my specific room and set up.
To test the projector's color accuracy we use Portrait Displays Calman color calibration software.
Pre-Calibration Color Tracking and Grayscale
All of the picture modes were a little too warm out of the box. The projector’s NATURAL and USER were closest to my color temperature of 6500K, but both modes' images were too warm.
We calibrated the USER1 mode for SDR viewing in a room with low ambient light.
Picture Mode: User 1
Color Temperature: 6057K
Average Color Tracking dE: 0.61
Average Grayscale dE: 4.6
Post-Calibration Color Tracking and Grayscale
We set the COLOR TEMP to Custom with a Correction Value of 6500K. To produce good grayscale (RGB Balance), I reduced the RED GAIN and the RED OFFSET. This resulted in a color temp much closer to my target of 6500K.
We set the GAMMA SETTING to Custom (2.3) to achieve our target of 2.2.
While the NZ9 offers CMS adjustments, after adjusting the projector grayscale, the average color tracking dE was just 0.61 so we didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments.
Picture Mode: User 1
Color Temperature: 6524K
Average Color Tracking dE: 0.61
Average Grayscale dE: 0.54
Delta E as a measure of grayscale/color accuracy of 3 and under is considered 'Excellent' and imperceptible by the human eye. The picture from most projectors that utilize a blue laser phosphor light source is usually way too cool out of the box. The NZ9 was actually too warm. However, even before calibration, the DLA-NZ9 had an average Grayscale dE of around 4.6 which is good. After calibration, the projector's average color dE was just 0.54, which is outstanding.
You may have noticed that color tracking measurements in the pre and post-calibration images above look identical. This is because, once the RGB balance was adjusted, the color tracking was outstanding with an average dE of just 0.61, so we didn’t feel the need to make any CMS adjustments.
Like SDR, the colors were a little too warm when viewing HDR content. However, adjusting the Red Gian and Offset produced a good RGB balance (Grayscale). When the Cinema Filter was engaged, the NZ9 color tracking of DCI-P3 was excellent as well.
While there was some improvement to the picture after calibration, the difference was not dramatic. The colors and skin tones looked great the instant I turned the unit on. Unlike many laser-equipped home theaters, I didn't feel the need to fiddle with the unit's picture adjustments. As I mentioned earlier, I would be satisfied with the picture quality of the NZ9 whether it was calibrated or not.
The DLA-NZ9 has a rated brightness of 3000 ANSI lumens which is 800 lumens bright than the NZ8 /RS3000 which it replaces. While this much brightness is not needed to watch SDR content on a 120" screen in a dark room, the extra brightness is beneficial when viewing HDR content.
At wide-zoom, with the LD POWER laser output set to High, the JVC DLA-NZ9 produced 2,985 lumens in USER mode. This is very close to the projector’s rated brightness of 3000 lumens.
Premium projector manufacturers like JVC tend to be more conservative when rating brightness. JVC owners are more interested in great black level and accurate color reproduction than absolute brightness.
While many 4K UHD DLP projectors can produce much higher max brightness, it is usually at the expense of accurate colors. Once these projectors are calibrated their brightness advantage quickly disappears. Those projectors often lose nearly half their brightness when they are adjusted to reproduce accurate colors.
The DLA-NZ9 can still deliver most of its rated brightness even after calibration. For example, the NZ9 retained About 85% of its pre-calibrated brightness after calibration.
The NZ9 is equipped with a color filter to increase the projector color gamut coverage. As a result, the projector can reproduce 98% of the DCI-P3 color space when the cinema filter is engaged. However, the unit's overall brightness is reduced by about 25 to 30%. When viewing HDR, I think the benefits of higher brightness out weights the advantages of a wider color gamut reproduction.
The NZ9’s great black levels and high brightness combined with great overall color (calibrated or uncalibrated) deliver SDR and HDR picture quality that very few home theaters projectors can match.
BLACK LEVEL AND SHADOW DETAIL
The black level from the NZ9 was outstanding. While great black levels are important, so is shadow detail. Not only did the DLA-NZ9 handle the darkest scenes, it also did a great job reproducing the darkest details.
For maximum dynamic contrast, the NZ9 has a Dynamic Control setting that can modulate the laser light output scene by scene. While adjusting the laser light output can be used to increase the perceived contrast, it is not 100% transparent. Therefore, dynamic light modulation can sometimes be noticeable as the projector adjusts from scene to scene. The mode offers three levels: Off, Mode 1, and Mode 2. We chose Mode 1 because it was less aggressive so the changes in brightness were less noticeable.
Since JVC's newer 4K D-ILA device used in the DLA-NZ9 delivers higher native contrast, less aggressive dynamic light modulation is needed to reproduce great blacks and shadow detail. So even without the DLA-NZ9's Dynamic Control engaged, few projectors can come close to this JVC's performance on dark scenes.
Most competitors' 4K projectors can't match the DLA-NZ9's native contrast. So, if you love deep blacks on very dark scenes, it would be hard to find a competitively priced projector that can beat this JVC.
SDR AND HDR PICTURE QUALITY
Good 4K upscaling continues to be critically important because most TV shows and live broadcasts will continue to be produced in HD for at least several more years. The JVC 4K upscaling was excellent. Whether I was watching sports in 720P or 1080p Blu-ray Disc content, it looked very good. Most movies and TV shows do not have enough fine detail for you to see a noticeable difference between native 4K and upscaled HD content.
The JVC DLA-NZ9 produced one of the best-looking HDR images I have seen from a projector. Frame Adapt HDR can measure and tone map HDR10 content either Frame by Frame or Scene by Scene. For my HDR viewing, i choose the Frame by Frame option.
In most situations, when viewing HDR10 content, the Adaptive HDR tone mapping feature combined with the Theater Optimizer did a great job balancing the need to deliver good full-screen brightness while still displaying bright highlight detail. However, users do have the ability to adjust the tone mapping brightness curve using the HDR LEVEL setting but I never felt the need to do so.
If HDR10+ content is detected the NZ9 will automatically switch to HDR10+ mode and use the dynamic metadata found in the content to tone map the material scene by scene. There are three PICTURE MODE levels available for HDR10+. The three levels (High, Medium, Low) are designed to compensate for differences in screen sizes and projection distance. Based on my 100" screen and viewing distance, choose the Medium setting.
The only projector I have reviewed that provided a better-looking HDR picture was the Sony VPL-GTZ380 ($80,000 SRP without lens), but that unit cost about three times more.
While 3D was removed from most flat panel TV several years ago, projector manufacturers like JVC are still offering projectors that are 3D-ready. The NZ9 supports 3D, so you can continue to take advantage of your 3D content library.
You will need to purchase the optional JVC 3D Synchro Emitter (PK-EM2) and a pair of PK-AG3 3D glasses. I did not have the accessories needed to test the NZ9 performance but I am sure the NZ9 will perform as well as the previous JVC D-ILA projectors. Playback of 3D requires more brightness than 2D material, so the picture quality should definitely benefit from the NZ9's rated brightness of 3000 ANSI lumens.
8K and High Frame Rate 4K
JVC was nice enough to loan me their media server loaded with 8K content, While many scenes in feature films and TV shows do not have enough fine detail to take full advantage of 8K resolution, there are some pieces of content where the benefits are noticeable. The JVC was full of landscape footage and higher resolution could easily display all the detail in the buildings and countryside.
I was also lucky enough to have multiple gaming systems available including a Playstation5, Xbox Series X and an HDMI 2.1 equipped gaming PC. All of these systems support gaming at 4K/120fps. Gaming at 120p resulted in smooth clear motion. While a movie enthusiast would balk at such a high frame rate, it really enhanced the gaming expensive and would be great for viewing sports
Most Home Theater enthusiasts are just as concerned with sound quality and picture quality. A noisy projector can negatively impact the audio experience. We do not measure audible noise but JVC rates its noise out as 24dB in low LD Power mode which is whisper quiet. Even at full power, it is significantly quieter than most of the Home Theater projectors we have reviewed. The large chassis allows room for larger slower moving fans which is probably a big reason why the unit is so quiet. The only direct competitor we tested that was as quiet was the Sony VW1025ES.