For many people, their first introduction to Stacey Spears and Don Munsil was from the Secrets of Home Theater DVD Benchmark, which they created to test DVD players to help distinguish the good from the bad. From the earliest days of progressive scan, to the chroma upsampling error, their work there helped to destroy the idea that “bits-are-bits” when it comes to digital video and show that players do have noticeable differences, and ones that we can test for.
For others, you might have been introduced to them by their Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark Blu-ray disc, which shipped with Oppo Blu-ray players and gave you access to a wide variety of test patterns to setup your video system, and well as test various aspects of its performance. Now they are back with an update to Spears & Munsil, descriptively called Spears & Munsil, HD Benchmark Version 2. And boy, have they added a lot of content here.
All of the basic setup patterns are back, only this time you also get 3D versions of them to calibrate with the glasses on, and you have more color and tint patterns to make sure you get those settings right. They have also added more audio features, with test tones for level and phase, as well as audio delay. The real meat of the disc is in the advanced patterns. Anyone can offer a disc to setup brightness and contrast, but no one else offers a disc with these advanced patterns. You can test for 3D crosstalk, for motion resolution, for video processing and scaling, and for many more advanced features that most people don’t care about, but as a reviewer I love to see.
The best part of Spears & Munsil is that they have something for everyone on the disc. You can only use the first two sections and get your display and receiver setup correctly and enjoy it from there. Or you can go more in depth and learn everything you wanted to about your system if the interest strikes. Spears & Munsil has been a reference disc of mine since I first got a copy and the new version continues that trend. I discuss this a bit more over at HD Guru, and I go into really great depth at Secrets of Home Theater, which is linked below. For $30 from Amazon, it’s a disc that I can’t imagine not having, and that will let you coax the best performance out of your system.