Don’t give up on tubes…With flat panel TVs emerging nowadays such as plasmas and LCDs, most consumers are highly misinformed and believe that the quality of a flat panel is better than that of a tube (CRT) TV. This is not true at all. The image quality of a plasma or LCD TVs far inferior to a CRT, such as the Sony KD-34XBR970. Even worse, more and more people are buying these flat panel TVs as a ’status symbol’ and do not understand true picture quality. Why do you think studios use CRT monitors during production and editing instead of a plasma TV? Most studios want the best, most accurate picture possible, so they use CRT monitors. The quality of the Sony KD-34XBR970 is much like a studio monitor, and surpasses all other displays regardless of cost. The dot pitch is so fine and the picture has so much realism to the point where all other displays look dull and muddy in comparison. Convergence and geometry is perfect out of the box, and the set looked fantastic. Its picture had depth and dimension, unlike the flat look of most plasma and LCD TVs. HD channels look amazing they are very real and are not overly enhanced. The Sony’s on-board processing and DRC is perfect and does not make sources look pixelated at all. The picture is fine, clear, and has exceptional detail.
One caveat to remember: The set is shipped in ‘Vivid’ mode, which is meant to grab your attention in the stores with a bright picture but lacking in clarity. It is way too bright and much too sharp. You can see outlines and picture artifacts in this mode. If you keep the TV in Vivid mode, you are guaranteed to burn the tubes in no time and shorten the life of the TV. Also, the vivid mode is very inaccurate in color reproduction. I have my set calibrated in the ‘Movie’ mode, with a picture (white level) setting of 20/63 and a brightness (black level) setting of 30/63. Remember, it is very important to lower the ‘picture’ setting because it controls the amount of white light on the screen. If you do this, the tube will last a very long time and you will see an exceptional image. On the other hand, the ‘brightness’ setting controls the amount of dark areas you see in the picture. Turning this setting up will allow you to see more dark areas in a movie, but will not burn the tubes or impair image quality. An accurate image is better than a bright one.
Finally, the color decoder needs adjustment as it emphasizes red severely and makes people look reddish or tanned. If you change the ‘color axis’ setting from ‘Default’ to ‘Monitor,’ the colors will be much more accurate and vibrant. If you adjust this set properly and take good care of it, it will produce the best picture of any TV and will last a very long time. (My old XBR TV is 16 years old and still going.) I have a neighbor who spent $10,000 on a plasma TV and the picture quality is far worse than this set. What kind of TV would you buy? Is status symbol more important than image quality? Remember, that after reading this review, you are a much more educated consumer.