Modulus M1 Makes Movies and Media Marvelous

Two years ago, I stumbled across a display booth with an overly energetic dude eager to convince me that he'd invented something akin to the home-theater version of sliced bread. Actually, he said something like, "It's a DVR for the Streaming Age!" So, being a sucker for an enthusiastic sales pitch, I sat (stood, really) through Modulus President/CEO Steve Schulz's extremely compelling demo of the Modulus M1.

Although I started the conversation off with my usual (and not-quite-true), "I've only got 10 minutes until my next appointment," half-an-hour later we were still going through the 20+ features included in the Modulus M1. Schulz called the Modulus M1 a "revolutionary media hub."

Here's how I described it at the time: "Part DVR, part media server, part universal remote, as well as part nearly anything else you can think of that’s important for a modern home theater system, the M1 includes 12TB of media storage space; an RF-based 'Ultimate Remote Control' with voice search, air mouse, and full QWERTY keyboard; as well as an internal Blu-Ray/DVD disc player/ripper." I also said that it was "almost too good to be true."

Just a couple weeks ago, during CEDIA 2018 in San Diego, I met up with Schulz at the (much larger) Modulus booth to talk with him about what was starting to look like one of those products using vaporware running on unobtanium-based hardware. Fortunately, Schulz, enthusiastic as ever, told me that the Modulus M1 is ready to roll out to custom installers as early as next month. Although there were plenty of cool things at CEDIA this year — the new NEEO Pro, for example — the fact that the Modulus M1 is now a real, shippable product is, in my not-very-humble opinion, the most exciting thing to happen in the home theater category in years.

I know that's a bold statement; and, yet, even after two weeks of digesting all the info from CEDIA 2108, I still stand by it. The Modulus M1, if it works as advertised—and Schulz assured me we'd get one of (if not the) first review samples—is what could be considered the holy grail of home theater source controllers. Imagine, if you will, taking the equivalent of a Kaleidescape movie server (a fantastic product in its own right with a first-class User Interface) and integrating it with a streaming video DVR — think about that for a moment…a streaming video DVR — plus a BD/DVD/CD player, a streaming video and music box, a personal media organizer that supports 4K, skips commercials, includes a voice-controlled universal remote control, and comes with 12TB of storage.

The Modulus M1 is agnostic as far as streaming services goes, too. Unlike other streaming boxes, the Modulus M1 takes you directly to the streaming service's website, allowing native access to the service without requiring an interface between the Modulus M1 and the streaming service. In other words, when you click on the icon for, say, Netflix, the Modulus M1 takes you directly to the Netflix website interface. As a result, new streaming services can be added the instant they go live, because the Modulus M1 doesn't need to have access to the service's API to make it work in the Modulus system.

I will admit, despite Schulz's background (he worked for Texas Instruments for 19 years before becoming president and CEO of SI2, "a global electronics consortium"), I was not convinced that he could actually deliver on the many promises he made about the Modulus M1. It's taken seven years and over 26 million lines of code, but it looks like Schulz and the folks at Modulus just might have hit this one out of the park.

The Modulus M1's Achilles' heel, however, is its cost. The "base model" Modulus M1 will likely retail for around $6,500. That puts it out of reach for the majority of people who would love to have one (including me). Hopefully, the price will come down in the future. For the time being, if $6,500 is something you can afford to add to your home theater system, check out the Modulus website. It'll be worth your time…and your money.

SuicideSquid's picture

What does this device do that a warrants a $5,000 premium over an HTPC with a large harddrive and bluray player?

avproguy's picture

SuicideSquid, you clearly haven't seen Modulus in action. It is hard to describe it all or appreciate it until you've witnessed it. The Modulus remote control, with full voice control over everything and all media, point-to-select, full QWERTY kbd, backlit, IR learning, headphone jack, etc. - that's just the remote! This DVR records any streaming app, and auto-skips commercials - and it is amazingly fast. The sales rep skipped 90 minutes forward in milliseconds. It supports 4K, and audiophile music formats (DSD, DSF, etc.). It replaces your set-top box, and records 6 premium cable channels at once. The mini box proves everything in all rooms across the house, and they tell me it has apps for control and playback that work outside the home, too. It syncs all your family stuff with the cloud. It has 20TB of internal storage and supports NAS expansion. The user interface is beautiful (if not a bit overwhelming at first). I've been following them a long time and it is a revolution. It does way more than Kscape at a fraction of the price. Now they just need to deliver production units, as they said was just starting at CEDIA. I'm eagerly waiting, but it is no basic HTPC.

javanp's picture

I'm sure this sounds pretty amazing... to the crowd that hasn't been accessing their media on a digital server for years already. The ability to recording streaming shows is interesting, but also rather pointless (it's streaming-based--it's already in the digitally accessible world). Frankly, even with that potential benefit, I'm more concerned about how Modulus "takes you to the streaming service website" as opposed to an app. There's nothing convenient about using a browser to access a streaming website. And that is definitely an option on HTPCs (obviously). The remote sounds like an incredibly basic universal remote (can it even do macro commands?) I'd like to see what the interface is like but every video on the website seems to be a sales pitch instead of a demonstration. This sounds like just another hyped up media playback device trying to target the crowd that hasn't heard of Plex or Kodi yet. And, frankly, with the limited amount of information available here, it sounds like they don't actually have ANYTHING yet.

javanp's picture

Anybody that thinks they can simply put out a product that illegally rips blurays and store them to an internal drive is hopelessly naive or just plain stupid. Kaleidascape (however the hell you spell it) learned that the hard way. Various small companies like this have tried to do the same thing, thinking that by not advertising their product as a "ripping device" that they'll be fine, but no, they never get away with it. You simply can't market a product that bypasses the encryption on DVDs/blu-rays and stores them to a hard-drive. Not until something changes with the DCAA. Even those of us that do it for ourselves and not in a marketed product are pushing the legal limits, but chances are no one will come after us because we're not doing it to make a profit and we're small fish. You try to SELL a product that does that and you'll quickly figure out why even the software companies (DVDfab, MakeMKV, etc) have run into legal trouble and had to change their business approach (essentially by moving to different countries.)

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Jimmy Martain's picture

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