Review by Ron Epstein, Owner: Toshiba 57HX81

Ron Epstein, Owner
Toshiba 57HX81 Owner

About 2-3 months ago I purchased a brand new Toshiba 57HX81 television under the recommendation of Toshiba owners who said this was the best looking RPTV for the buck.

No kidding! When I took this baby out of the box it looked incredible even before I made my
own personal calibrations. Colors looked awesome, and I was just awestruck by a picture that rivaled what I had seen on more expensive sets I had been considering.

I wanted to break the television in a little more before I considered having it ISF calibrated. After two months of heavy use, I invited Gregg Loewen to come to my home.

Gregg is on his way to becoming ISF certified. (Editor’s note: Gregg attended the ISF class in March of 2002. As of June 2003, Gregg has calibrated more than 500 display devices).
He is currently offering his services in New England, Eastern Canada and elsewhere by request. Equipped with a color analyzer and high definition signal generator, Gregg has been doing professional ISF calibrations for less cost than other professionals in his field.

I picked Gregg up at the airport. He brought along some extra baggage that included his laptop computer, a printer, and all sorts of calibration tools.

My biggest mistake was not taking pictures, which I had originally planned to do, but forgot about once I got involved in watching Gregg work.

Gregg began our calibration session by sitting down and talking to me about my particular set and how it differs from others. Gregg has a clear knowledge of many different brands of televisions, with expertise in Mitsubishi and Toshiba. He explained the red push on the Mitsubishi’s and the way that set gets calibrated as opposed to the Toshiba.

Gregg also gave me a thorough preview discussion on what he was planning to do with my television as well as the changes I should expect as a result of the calibrations.

After warming up my television, Gregg did some pre-tuning to my set that included pre front panel adjustments, disconnecting of SVM, electronic and manual focus. Next thing I knew, He placed a suction cup sensor on my television which sent readings back to his laptop computer. I believe what he was doing was getting readings on overall color temperature that would ultimately be tune to an even 6500.

When Gregg insisted that my outer glare screen be removed, I was a bit hesitant to let him do it. I wasn’t as much as concerned about the safety of my television’s inner screen as I was about the glossy look that I liked. Gregg explained that the outer screen was only adding artificial enhancements to my picture and that I should have it removed.

Well, sure enough, the removal of the outer protective screen made a remarkable difference in picture quality resulting in a more natural look.

With the screen removed, Gregg showed me my three picture guns which were loose. He explained that this was common, mostly caused by the shipping of the sets and the ignorance of manufacturers to properly tighten them. Gregg had a particularly inventive way of focusing each of the picture guns with the TV screen attached. I could immediately
see a sharper image coming into view.

For the next 5 hours, Gregg performed a multitude of adjustments including: Geometry and overscan adjustments, Grey Scale adjustments, Geometry and convergences — and most interestingly — lense stripping where he placed a bit of black electrical tape over my picture guns in order to bring the color temperature to proper range (which it most
certainly did).

My overall thoughts on television calibration

For all the years I have owned a big screen television, I had always felt that I could get by with calibrating the set using Video Essentials. Keep in mind that I did my own  pre-calibrations using VE.

While I certainly feel that the above methods of simple self-calibration results in a remarkable improvement to your video and audio — there are further improvements that only a professional can do.

Looking at the pre and post calibration graphs that Gregg printed out for me, I could see the huge improvements that were made to my television after 5 hours of analyzation and adjustments. The most immediate improvement was the sharpness of my picture as well as the improved warmth of the colors across the entire viewing area.

I can only sum up the fruits of his efforts by saying my TV picture looks friggin’ awesome! I
popped in Gladiator and was just blown away with how sharp and detailed the picture looked. The blacks were even blacker than before, but yet, in the dark scenes of Saving Private Ryan I could see the emblems on the uniforms of the soldiers. My eye-candy treat came when I popped in Moulin Rouge. My jaw was just hanging while I watched vivid, precise colors flash across my screen.

Anyone, like myself, who had believed that spending a few hundred dollars to have a television properly calibrated was senseless, should know that I just has by senses knocked out of me.

There is absolutely no question that anyone who has invested good money in the purchase of a large screen television, has wasted their investment if they don’t have their picture and audio properly calibrated. It’s amazing to see that what your eyes tend to believe is the best picture you can get from self-calibration, can often be proven deceiving when you see how much BETTER that picture can be after a professional calibration.

I fully expect a few more people who also had their sets calibrated this past week (Gregg did 4 sets in 3 days) to chime in their praise, as I had the opportunity to hear their comments about the overall improvement to their televisions.

It’s good to see that people like Gregg Loewen are bringing some much needed  competition to the market by doing professional calibrations at a more reasonable cost than what is normally charged.

Ronald J Epstein

Home Theater Forum co-owner