Psst… come closer. We’ll let you in on a little secret: black level is arguably the most important element of picture quality on a high-definition television. Here’s why.
Ignoring inflated figures from manufacturers and various measurement methods (ANSI versus on/ off) for a second, contrast ratio is essentially the ratio of peak brightness to black level that a television can produce. In a dark room suitable for critical viewing, assuming we peg peak brightness (100% stimulus white) of a TV to SMPTE’s recommendation of 30 foot-Lamberts (too much brighter would look uncomfortable… remember it’s a dark room), it stands to reason that it’s actually the black level that determines the contrast ratio of the television.
The lower the black level, the higher the contrast ratio. The higher the contrast ratio, the greater the dynamic range – here we’re talking about the transition from blacks to shadow detail to midtones to highlight detail and finally to whites – the HDTV can reproduce, which lends more depth and insight to the image.
Strange as it may sound, black level is also critical to colour rendition on a HDTV, simply because the background luminance is irrevocably added to every single colour that needs to be displayed on screen. Think of it this way: greyish blacks will have more “white” than pure blacks. This “white” will be mixed with the colours, decreasing their saturations (for example red may look pink… a bit extreme, but you get the idea) and washing out the image. Only the deepest blacks can allow the colours to flourish with unadulterated richness.
Last year, Pioneer unleashed their Kuro line of plasma televisions, which went on to capture the attention and imagination of TV reviewers and the public alike by delivering a revolutionary level of rich, deep blacks that had never been seen before on any other flat screen TVs. Now that the next generation (9G) of Kuro plasmas is upon us, can the black level be improved even further for one last hurrah before Pioneer stops in-house panel production and starts using Panasonic plasma panels? Here’s our Pioneer PDP-LX5090 review.