THX has released an app for the iPhone and the iPad that is designed to help with the setup of your TV and audio system. Basically, this program is a walk-through of what you would find on a typical calibration disc with similar benefits and limitations. The best thing about this product is that it talks you through the process while displaying the test material. The video tests include both photos and test patterns. Using a combination of photos and test patterns is useful in demonstrating the impact of the control in question on image reproduction. Showing the pattern correctly on the mobile device while looking at it on your display could be very helpful for anyone who does not know what these things are. This solves one of the deficiencies of your typical setup disc that will display the pattern on only the display you are setting it up on and not provide a reference image for comparison.
THX tune-up uses the iPhone or iPad to send audio and video test material to your audio and video products either with an HDMI connection or using AirPlay. HDMI requires a digital AV adapter (part no. MD826ZM/A). AirPlay requires an AirPlay compatible device in your system and you must have AirPlay mirroring enabled on your iPhone or iPad. It would also be possible to use this software with a test disc that you already own that had similar test patterns without using an HDMI or AirPlay connection.
The video tests include 5 different picture adjustments:
- Aspect Ratio – either a test pattern or photo is used to aid in setting the display aspect ratio
- Brightness – either a test pattern or photo is used to aid in setting the display brightness
- Contrast – either a test pattern or a photo is used to aid in setting the display contrast level
- Color – a test pattern can be used along with the camera to aid in setting the display color level or a photo can be used. The camera acts as a color filter so you can match the level in red to the red in white.
- Tint – a test pattern can be used along with the camera to aid in setting the display color level or a photo can be used. The camera acts as a color filter so you can match the level of yellow in white.
Unfortunately, THX tune-up provides no assistance with setting picture mode enhancements, motion handling, sharpness, gamma, white balance, color gamut and advanced color controls. Gamma, white balance, color gamut and advanced color control require a color measurement tool that is superior to the camera found in the iPhone or iPad. The tool also ignores the possibility that the settings in your various sources like your Blu-Ray player or cable box could be corrupting your image quality.
I also found that the camera used to set tint and color was not very accurate for the two primary displays in my home (one a $20,000 DLP projector and the other a $6,000 plasma). The results of their camera based filter method compared to using my professional tools for each of my displays was not close enough to justify its use. You are probably better off using the supplied photos to set tint and color than you would be using the camera and the test patterns. This is consistent with what I observe with using filters to set color and tint in non-CRT based products in general. The primary problem with this is that many displays exhibit maximum color luminance error at the primaries and secondaries so setting color and tint by these luminance levels is going to be poor in general. The camera also appeared to be very inaccurate as well.
Two different audio tests are included:
- Speaker Assignment – this test will output either a 5.1 or a stereo signal to your audio system. The test tone is a mooing cow sound from the channel you are checking.
- Speaker Phase – this test will output an alternating in-phase and out-of-phase signal from the two speakers being tested.
The audio tests found in this product are not very useful. The speaker assignment test is limited to 5.1 or 2 channel sound and provides nothing you could not do with the channel level test in your receiver. The speaker phase test is similar to what is found on the Avia test disc. Unfortunately, the most common phase error I encounter in the field is with the subwoofer and that would not be uncovered with this product. The audio tests included ignore dynamic range compression, speaker timbre, speaker levels, subwoofer positioning, subwoofer integration, equalization, speaker positioning, dialog intelligibility, lipsync and room resonance. The tool also ignores the possibility that the settings in your various sources like your Blu-Ray player or cable box could be corrupting your audio quality which occurs in almost every product on the market when using default settings.
To summarize, expecting THX tune-up to bring your home theater system much closer to reference color sound and picture quality is highly unlikely. It leaves many key parameters in image reproduction and audio performance unexplored leaving your system open to gross errors in performance with respect to many things.