This unique video processor proves quite effective at buffing up your Blu-rays
I've tested a number of video processors over the years, but this one's rather different. The tiny Darbee DVP 5000 'Darblet' only caters for HDMI, and has none of the usual adjustments offered by conventional processors, such as brightness, contrast, noise reduction, deinterlacing modes or colour balance.
Instead, a pair of buttons adjust the 'Darbee' effect, while on the credit-card-sized handset are preset buttons that select 'visual presence viewing modes' optimised for HD video, gaming and 'full-pop' (i.e. maximum strength processing). There's also a split-screen demo function that allows you to compare the effect of Darbee's processing with the raw input signal. Signals of up to 1080p/60 are supported.
An onscreen graphic indicates the amount of Darbee processing applied – between 0 (bypass) and 120. Thankfully you can turn off this distracting message within a basic menu system.
The Darblet's box is sealed with a label telling you not to use the device for 'commercial purposes'. Why is Darbee so concerned with how its product is used? Simply put, because it does work – although the results depend on how good your source material is, and the strength of processing applied. It can subtly emphasise shadow details, while clarifying those in the foreground (such as clothing textures) without unwanted ringing. Images have a greater sense of depth.
Furthermore, the Darbee effect, when configured correctly, doesn't suffer the unnatural over-processed look of some proprietary processing – especially that built into TVs.
Sub-standard DVDs (ideally upscaled) are given an unpleasant hardness, though, especially at higher Darbee levels. Oddly, the aggressive Full Pop mode is recommended for such sources – but I found artefacts to be ruthlessly exposed, while ringing and haloes are apparent on 'over-Darbeed' pictures – especially on prominently delineated areas like borders and captions.
This unit is at its most effective with good 1080p Blu-ray transfers; modern CGI-heavy comic book adaptations, in particular, are given a new sheen of realism. With some UK-standard (i.e. 576i/50) DVD material, though, a slight increase in motion judder is noticeable on occasions.
The Darblet will also handle all current 3D formats, although the audio return channel of HDMI isn't supported. No lip sync problems due to video processing were noticed; presumably, the HDMI audio is subjected to an equalising delay. If you're routing audio to a processor or amplifier via the secondary HDMI port of a 3D Blu-ray player, any delay introduced by the Darbee will need to be compensated for.
Through the Darblet's clear body can be seen some pretty sophisticated circuitry. To process all of this information in real time requires a considerable amount of computing power. Although most of the Darbee techniques are closely-guarded trade secrets, the system works by examining the incoming video signal for 'depth cues', which are processed to bring them to our attention.
This unusual little processor lives up to the hype and does what is claimed of it. Those with decent displays may grab the chance to rediscover their Blu-ray collections, although it can make poor-quality video look worse, and AV purists may not want anything to distract from the native appeal of their disc collection. With that in mind, the UK distributor offers a seven-day trial period; if the conclusion you reach is that the Darblet's not for you, send it back.
Darbee DVP 5000 Darblet
Price: £299 Approx
Highs: A stunning effect with decent Blu-ray transfers; some degree of adjustment is offered; handset supplied for armchair control
Lows: Can exacerbate the deficiencies of poor-quality material; 576i/50 DVD motion judder evident on occasions; an 'advanced adjustments' menu would please 'tweakers'
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