DarbeeVision HDTV Darblet DVP 5000 Review

September 5th, 2013 · 10 Comments · 3D HDTV, Blu-ray Discs, Cable TV, Product Reviews, Video Processors

darbee_vision_darblet_hdmi_visual_presence_tweener_video_processor_power__51706.1354236495.1280.1280What the heck is this thing? Don’t call it a video switcher, scaler or even an enhancer, because it doesn’t fit into any one of those categories. A magic video box? That’s more like it. Although DarbeeVision doesn’t quite say what its Darbee Visual Presence DVP 5000 ($349) is, the company is more forthcoming with details on what it does. 

Here’s the deal: You install the DVP 5000, a slight thing about the size of a pack of smokes, between your video source (or A/V receiver’s output) and display by running cables to and from to its single HDMI input/output. A wall-wart AC adapter provides power. The DVP 5000 has front-panel buttons to navigate menus and dial in the level of Darbification being applied to the image, and it also comes with a credit card-type remote to make adjustments. The remote additionally provides High Def, Gaming and Full Pop preset buttons, and another one to trigger a demo that displays the before and after effects of the Darbee processing.

And just what is that effect? The DarbeeVision Visual Presence technology found in the DVP 5000 uses a custom algorithm that analyzes digital images, detecting areas with dark/light transitions, and selectively altering the luminance of specific pixels to create an enhanced sense of visual depth. This surgical approach to processing enables the DVP 5000 to weave its magic without altering the image’s overall color, contrast, or black level. And while it does tend to make pictures look dramatically sharper, the processing, when used in moderation, doesn’t have the same effect as a traditional video sharpness adjustment, which typically adds “ringing” to the edges of objects when pushed past a certain threshold.

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Setting up

My initial experiments with the DVP 5000 revealed that making adjustments in Hi Def, rather than Gaming or Full Pop mode, was the way to go for viewing Blu-ray and other high-quality video sources. You adjust the processing in 5% steps, though this can be switched to a 1% increment by selecting the Fine Control option in the onscreen menu’s Advanced Settings tab. Two other menu options let you select where a graphic pops up onscreen when making level adjustments, and dim the brightness of the DVP 5000’s front-panel LEDs — a necessity when using it in a dark home theater.

Another thing I discovered early on was that the DVP 5000 doesn’t like short HDMI cable runs. Using a one-meter cable to connect the processor to my display, video synchronization dropped on a regular basis — often when I paused or a disc, or stopped playback to load in another disc. What do you know: A FAQ on the company’s website warns against this eventuality (though it doesn’t explain why a short HDMI run should create a video sync issue in the first place).

 

Darbee in action

Other reviews I’d read of the DVP 5000 suggested that it worked best with Blu-ray, and worst with lower-rez sources like cable and DVD, but my experience turned out to be the opposite. With the DVP 5000 set to 50% in High Def mode, its processing made the already craggy, pockmarked face of the doctor who reconstructs Leeloo in The Fifth Element on Blu-ray look like that of a dried-out, leathery bogman. True, it enhanced details, but the effect here was simply too much. Dialing the level down to 10% made things look more natural, but there also wasn’t much of a difference to be seen at this point between the Darbee’d and non-Darbee’d image.

 

Blu-ray image at 50% Darbification

Blu-ray image at 50% Darbification

Blu-ray image with Darbee processing bypassed

Blu-ray image with Darbee processing bypassed

 

Checking out a DVD version of the same title, I started to appreciate what the DVP 5000 could do. With processing still at 50%, the SD image looked reasonably crisp and high-def-like. But with processing bypassed, it looked soft and flat — a huge step down in quality. (I should note here that since the box wouldn’t accept 480i signals from my player, I had to output them as 1080p.)

Curious about what the DVP 5000 could do to help out high-def TV, I next connected it to my cable box. I’ve never been happy with the quality of my cable TV picture: instead of high-def, it’s more like medium-def. Watching a History Channel documentary on contemporary zeppelin pilots (yes, people have that career), the image looked obviously more crisp and solid with the Darbee box working its mojo, and I could boost the processing level to 75% or higher without doing damage to the image. Even clean-looking HD channels like CNN Headline News benefited from the Darbification. I was happy enough with the improvements that I decided to leave the DVP 5000 connected to my cable box output for the remainder of my time with it.

 

Darbee and 3D

Few people ever seem to rave (care?) about the quality of their TV’s 3D image. But this is another area where the DVP 5000 proved useful. The 3D Blu-rays I checked out with Darbee processing active all looked notably better: the picture depth was greater, the highlights and shadows punchier. It didn’t do anything to eliminate the 3D crosstalk artifacts on the set I watched with, but it also didn’t make them worse.

 

The Verdict

Do you need the Darbee Visual Presence DVP 5000 ? That depends on what you intend to use it for. If you’ve already got a perfectionist video setup and watch mostly Blu-ray discs, then buying one to enhance that experience—maybe to make things look more like 4K!—is a course of action that I wouldn’t recommend. (Blu-ray viewed on a well-tuned 1080p display is already a fairly amazing thing to behold.) But if you still watch DVDs, or are tired of the mediocre high-def picture you’re getting from your cable provider, adding a DVP 5000 to your system could very well make you a happier camper. I know I was impressed.

HDGuru awards the DarbeeVision Darblet DVP 5000 4/5 hearts   4 out of 5

 

 

—Zak Nugent

 

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Logibaird

    Answer, to show 4K content?

  • RScott

    I have a question. If all the information you are supposed to see is present on a 1080p Blu Ray disc, meanimg you don’t need a Darbee. Then why are 4K televisions and 4K bluray disks coming out?

  • Logibaird

    At the recent Shootout event in NY all of the leading AV experts agreed. It has no place in AV systems.
    All the information you are supposed to see is present on a 1080p Blu Ray disc, other wise it would have been much easier to add that detail at the authoring stage.

  • Lance NADAL

    maybe it can work,but it is too expensive for that looking.
    $49 is the right price i think

  • T8

    I have been using a Darbee for a long time. To the poster that talks about advancements with other processors or built into TV’s you not what you speak. The Darbee is nothing like any other enhancement. In fact a well known processor now includes the Darbee effects precisely because there is nothing else like it.
    While I agree with the outcome of the review, I too think the reasoning is wrong. The Darbee does not help as much SD/DVD pictures, it shines where the reviewer says it doesn’t – with good HD material. Blu-rays jump to new level. Where the reviewer is correct, it does greatly improve Satellite or Cable HD, easily seen with no ringing.

  • ed

    The amount of picture enhansement that this unit gives as opposed to the $350.00 price tag is fair to say outrageous. You cant up load new software,it has to be sent in and you pay extra for it.Very flimsy case . Build quality is low end.The bottom like its a sharpening tool nothing more nothing less. Darbee seems to be trying to squeeze the last few drops of milk out of the carton and then charge you for a new carton. Im all for new and improved,but not a shakedown. Save your money and put it towards a real step up like 4k OLED. The price will eventually drop to where even us meir mortals can afford it

  • HiFi

    In the last year HDTV image processing has improved dramatically like on the new Vizio M series. Samsung displays can easily show more detail than in real life. Sony has Reality Creation so i find it highly questionable to spend this much money (the price was way less when it was introduced) with the 2K limitation.
    Also Power DVD 13 has new superb image sharpening for blu-rays and Dvds. I see every pore guys!
    This stuff should be used in moderation as the picture of the face above looks like craters of the Moon. Most unnatural.
    The smartest advice is to put the $350 toward a 4K display with excellent upsampling.

  • Stringfellow

    Hi HDGURU,

    I bought this, and love it.

    Kris Deering, at hometheater.com, did the review back on August 22, 2012, which is why I bought it.

    Here is his review: http://www.hometheater.com/content/darbee-visual-presence-darblet-video-enhancer

    Have you seen the review? Mr. Deering mentioned the following. “The Darblet could essentially be a set it and forget it tool. I found setting the Hi Def mode to about 45 gave me the best results without any drawbacks but there was some material that had obvious improvements even up to 55. ”

    I keep mine at 45.

    Here’s another take from HDGuru’s own Geoff Morrison: http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/article/test-report-darbee-darblet-video-enhancer.

    Geoff seems to agree in his review that the Darblet’s processing could have a negative effect on Blu-ray: “It did add a slight amount of grain to the image, however, and everything looked a bit harder-edged and not as ‘film-like”’ as the original.”

    I think that the two photos I posted give a good sense of what you can expect. While the 50% processed image doesn’t exactly look awful, the unprocessed one looks more natural and film-like.
    -ZN

  • Tony

    Very strange and interesting that you found it most helped lower quality sources as opposed to blu ray. Every other review I’ve seen, and the endless post on AVS about this thing all say that it works best with high quality sources.

  • Mark

    What equipment did you use? Is this thing equipment-dependent?

    Samsung 55-inch LED LCD HDTV, OPPO Blu-ray player, Samsung HD cable receiver.
    No, it isn’t equipment dependent. You can use it with any source/display that has HDMI.
    -ZN

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