Creative Evolution

At CES, many companies set up shop in off-site hotel suites, making it more difficult to find and experience them first-hand. So it was this year with Krell, which shared a suite at the Mirage with SIM2. Among the items introduced there was the Evolution 555 Blu-ray player, the company's first foray into this product category.

Unlike players from some other high-end companies, the Evolution 555 conforms to Profile 2.0 (BD-Live) out of the box with 1GB of onboard memory, and it provides an SD-card slot to expand the memory as well as access photo and music files stored on those little chip-sized modules. The player features the highly regarded Sigma Design VXP video processing and offers extensive aspect-ratio control, including a vertical-stretch function for projectors with an anamorphic lens. Of course, all projectors designed to be used with such a lens have vertical stretch built in, but the Krell's processor might do a better job of it, and it allows any projector to be used with an anamorphic lens, as long as the lens can be properly positioned.

Perhaps the most important feature of the Evolution 555 is its upgradeability. In addition to an Ethernet port, it provides a slot for an 802.11b/g/n WiFi card, either of which can be used to upgrade the firmware as well as access online and locally networked content. Even better, the two HDMI 1.3 outputs can be upgraded to 1.4 in support of 3D, 4K, and the other features of that version. The HDMI outputs can send audio and video to two systems, or they can be configured to send video from one and audio from the other, which is especially important when playing 3D content with an HDMI 1.3 pre/pro that might not pass the 3D info through to the display.

As you might expect from Krell, the Evolution 555 ain't cheap—$15,000 is a lot to pay for a Blu-ray player. But it offers some unique features and, according to the company, the ultimate in performance, so who's to say that's too much?