darbee-fidelio

DarbeeVision Announces High-End Darblet Successor – Where’s the Middle Ground?

The DarbeeVision Darblet, which I reviewed a couple months ago, may be the home theater product of the year. This clever little gizmo improves the picture quality of pretty much anything you throw at it on any display, and does so at a very reasonable price point. It’s not a perfect device, however. It’s rather cheaply made, comes in an awkward form factor with limited connectivity, and has to be shipped back to the manufacturer if you need a firmware update. To rectify these complaints, Darbee Visual Presence announced a second-generation product called the Fidelio at CEDIA last week, but in doing so may have way overshot the needs of its users.

As seen in the following couple of videos made at this year’s CEDIA Expo, the new DarbeeVision Fidelio is a much sturdier product with a rack-friendly design, multiple inputs, Wi-fi connectivity for downloadable firmware updates, and Bluetooth support. Basically, it has everything that was lacking in the Darblet.

The Fidelio is expected to be released in Q3 of 2013 for a price point in the vicinity of $2,000.

Yes, I said $2,000. That’s about a 645% price increase over the $269 Darblet. Yikes.

Clearly, Darbee intends to target high-end consumers with this product, as evidenced by its glossy finish, fancy front panel display and a completely pointless touch-screen interface. (How often does anyone get up and walk over to their rack to play around with the settings on their equipment? That’s what a remote control is for.)

Unclear at this point is what the Fidelio does that the Darblet can’t do. Has the quality of the processing algorithms been improved? Does it offer additional features that the Darblet doesn’t have? The company rep in the first video claims that it incorporates a “video equalizer,” whatever that’s supposed to be.

If the Fidelio is expected to be a fully-featured video processor with deinterlacing, scaling and a comprehensive range of calibration controls, plus the DVP processing from the Darblet, then I might see it justifying that price point. Such a thing would in fact be quite competitive with existing products from companies like Lumagen and DVDO. However, if it’s really just the Darblet in a slicker case, this seems like a ridiculous extravagance to me. I guess we’ll have to wait for the company to release more details.

Keep in mind that just because Darbee chose to show this off at CEDIA doesn’t mean that it’s the company’s only upcoming product. Some intermediary devices that fall between the two extremes of the entry-level Darblet and the high-end Fidelio could possibly also be in the works, even if they’re not ready to be announced yet. Personally, I hope to see a Darblet V2 with streamlined design and some functionality improvements sell in the range of $400. That would go over well with a lot of home theater consumers.

(I suspect that the company ultimately hopes to license its technology for incorporation into HDTVs and Blu-ray players, rather than focusing on standalone devices like these.)

I should probably also note that, since its release, the Darblet has proven to be controversial among a certain segment of self-proclaimed video purists who object to the notion of applying any video processing to a Blu-ray or high-def image. Most of these people have never actually seen the Darblet in action, and in fact refuse to do so out of principle. I find that attitude a little silly, personally. These same people upconvert DVDs for display on their HDTVs and projectors, which is far more intrusive than anything the Darblet does. They likely also apply EQ processing in their A/V receivers to improve the sound quality in their rooms.

There’s a difference between principle and practical reality. As I explained in my original review, I first approached the Darblet with as much skepticism as anyone, but was eventually won over. The device does what it claims to do. It makes everything look just a subtle bit better, and how can that possibly be a bad thing?

[Banner image photo via Home Theater.]

2 comments

  1. William Henley

    Too bad the video quality of the clips are so poor – I can’t tell the difference when they turn the effect on and off

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