Media Server Reviews

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Al Griffin  |  Feb 15, 2018  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Free app from Roon Labs
Wired and wireless multiroom playback options
Impressive sound from built-in DAC
Minus
Track count limited to 30,000
Requires wired LAN connection

THE VERDICT
Elac’s Discovery provides a simple, elegant option for adding a networked music server with Roon to an existing audio system.

Before diving into a review of Elac’s Discovery DS-S101-G music server, it seems apt to ask: What is a music server? In the past, it was a standalone audio component with a built-in hard disk that stored and played a ripped CD collection while connecting to the internet to fetch metadata. While products that fit this description still exist, a music server can also be something as basic as a software application running on a computer or on a network-attached storage (NAS) appliance. The server application, wherever it may reside, acts as a librarian for your digital audio files, sorting and retrieving them, and then routing the data to a USB DAC or a networked audio component that translates the ones and zeros into music.

Adrienne Maxwell  |  Dec 14, 2004  |  First Published: Dec 15, 2004  |  0 comments
Can you say IP?

At this year's CEDIA Expo, two technologies ruled the day: A/V servers and Internet Protocol (IP). It's safe to say that convergence really has invaded every part of the home theater arena. If your eyes tend to gloss over when your computer-savvy friends toss around words like IP, network, and Ethernet, I've got some bad news for you: You can run, but you can't hide. First, the computers took over our offices; now they're invading our entertainment space. Someday, they'll kill us all—but hey, we'll probably be gone by then, so let's talk about how IP can enhance your home theater experience.

Barb Gonzalez  |  May 01, 2014  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $35

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Streams full-screen videos from Netflix and YouTube
Mirrors Websites
Control videos from computer or mobile device
Minus
Must go to Chromecast Website to learn when new apps become compatible
No central control panel or app
Clumsy to pause video streaming from a phone when a call comes in

THE VERDICT
For $35 and a little practice, this is the best streaming solution available to date.

The Google Chromecast was an instant hit when it came on the tech scene, selling out before its release date last August. At $35, it’s the least expensive way to stream movies and music to your TV and view photos from online. Unique in its approach to streaming media, the Chromecast dongle can stream from a Chrome Web browser (PC or Mac) and from certain apps on iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets.

Kevin James  |  Sep 25, 2012  |  0 comments

There's no use pretending that Google TV wasn't a dud when the first products shipped back in late 2010. In fact, sales of Logitech's $300 Revue player were was so bad the company ran screaming from the settop-box market entirely, never to return. But now, like the Backstreet Boys and collateralized mortgages, Google TV is getting another shot, fueled by some much-needed upgrades to the software, including a more streamlined interface, improved search capabilities, and the ability (finally) to access the Android market, now called Google Play.

Chris Chiarella  |  Dec 04, 2006  |  First Published: Nov 04, 2006  |  0 comments
New streaming and networking options for the home and beyond.

Sling Media
I bet our founding fathers came to this same conclusion: One of the obstacles to true freedom is the necessity of wrapping your mind around the new benefits that await you. Take the Slingbox. It's a revolutionary piece of hardware, if you can grasp the relationship between audio, video, and networking. It takes the signal from any standard home entertainment device and streams it to a computer elsewhere in your house—or via the Internet to a laptop, desktop, and even certain phones. The best source component to use with the Slingbox is a DVR, as it combines live TV with stored content and recording capability, all of which you can control remotely.

John Higgins  |  Jan 31, 2007  |  0 comments
Have HD DVD; will travel

Having an HD DVD player in a notebook isn't a new, revolutionary idea. There have been a couple of notebooks released with one inside, but it is the next logical step in the ever-changing computer market. Not only is high-definition video and audio now a portable possibility, but the ease of mass storage makes backing up loads of vital information a one-disc prospect. The Pavilion dv9000t is HP's offering for on-the-go HD DVD.

Chris Chiarella  |  Jan 26, 2007  |  0 comments
Ready-made living-room multimedia.

We're down with entertainment PCs here at Home Theater. For those of you who are ready to share the joy, there are basically two ways to join the party. For the hands-on approach, we've written about specific best-of-the-best audio and video cards and other devices that you can plug into your own custom-built box. But, for some readers, personal success has brought with it the notion of luxury. Companies like HP are only too happy to remove the guesswork from the equation and pre-assemble a bundle for you, which you can purchase with one phone call or just a few clicks online. Their Pavilion Media Center TV m7580n HTPC is just such a system.

John Higgins  |  Feb 28, 2006  |  0 comments
The power of the PC in your HT.

Back in the age of acid-wash jeans, my dad brought home our first home computer: a MacPlus with 512 kilobytes of RAM. I would stay up late into the night playing Zork and Planetfall, all the light radiating from its small CRT screen keeping me warm. We kept the beige box in the spare bedroom of my house, far from our TV room. My parents claimed it was so I would not disturb them as they watched the nightly news, but, in my mind, it was just the opposite. For years, the computer and television were in separate rooms so that the use of one would not interfere with the use of the other. Now 512 K has turned into 512 mega-bytes or more, and PCs are begging to be near the TV. Only recently, while reviewing games for www.htgamer.com, have I started integrating my own PC into my home theater. But it is still a rather bulky, unattractive proposition to permanently move my computer to my equipment rack. HP has an aesthetically pleasing solution that can act as the source hub for the home theater of the future.

Daniel Kumin  |  Apr 03, 2006  |  0 comments
It's not cheap, but Inteset's luxury-class Windows Media Center server does it all, and does it well. After years of false starts, the age of convergence app
Shane Buettner  |  Sep 20, 2010  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $16,470 (as tested) At A Glance: One-of-a-kind, best-in-class movie interface • Very expensive • Music management not at same level • Blu-ray playback currently cumbersome • Standout pure performance

Escape Physical Media

Going back several years, I remember my first reaction to learning of the Kaleidescape paradigm. Then, media servers didn’t exist, and a Kaleidescape starter system cost a startling $30,000. On paper, it looked like its principal novelty was ripping and playing back DVD movies without having to load a disc into a player. My first thought was something like, “Wow, life is really expensive for people who don’t want to get up and walk a few feet to grab a disc and put it into a DVD player.” Of course, this was exceptionally ignorant and shortsighted. My cynicism lasted roughly two and a half to three seconds into actually using a Kaleidescape system. Much like the Apple products that are so near and dear to my heart, Kaleidescape’s power is in the interface. The library management and organization is a metadata-enriched, best-in-class experience. It’s about changing the way you browse and experience your content at least as much as it’s about storing your digital content on a server. What’s better still, it’s dead simple to use. You could hand the remote to your mom, and she’d be watching a movie in seconds. But power users can dig deeper and find movies by their favorite actors, directors, genres, and more.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Feb 06, 2014  |  12 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Internal storage for up to 100 BDs, 600 DVDs, or 6,000 CDs
Bit-for-bit downloads of BDs and DVDs from Kaleidescape Store
System interface and operation unmatched by any other movie server
Minus
BD must be inserted to authorize playback, even if movie has been imported
Limited options for adding zones and storage

THE VERDICT
The Cinema One provides almost everything you’d want in a movie server. “Almost” not good enough? Pair it with the DV700 Disc Vault.

Sometimes I’d rather take a jackhammer to my brainstem than dig through piles of disc cases and endure the mind-numbing delays of spinning icons, non-skippable trailers, loading menus, FBI warnings, and whatever else stands in the way of watching a movie at home.

If it seems like I’m exaggerating, it’s only because you haven’t experienced the tidal wave of dopamine that comes with using a movie server in your home theater. For the uninitiated, a movie server is an A/V component that provides near-instant access to movies stored digitally on an internal or external hard drive (or drives). Some servers, such as Kaleidescape’s new Cinema One, include a built-in Blu-ray/DVD player that makes it easy to import movies or music.

John Sciacca  |  Aug 23, 2016  |  8 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,495 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unrivaled user interface
Terrific image quality including HDR10
Fast access times with no buffering
Excellent HDMI handling
Minus
Limited to content bought from Kaleidescape store
No Dolby Vision support

THE VERDICT
Strato serves up gorgeous, full UHD images using Kaleidescape’s unparalleled interface, with content delivered from the company’s store.

Kris Deering  |  Sep 09, 2020  |  6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,995 ($8,995 as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding interface and ease-of-use
Movie store offers 4K titles not available on disc
No A/V quality compromise compared with discs
Minus
Pricey hardware
Some movies lack immersive audio
No Movies Anywhere support

THE VERDICT
Kaleidescape delivers an out- standing user experience, and its online movie store features Ultra HD movies with uncompromised A/V quality, including some titles that aren’t available on disc.

I've been keenly aware of Kaleidescape since the company's start when I first laid eyes on its beautiful onscreen interface at a high-end A/V store in Seattle. Since then, I've regularly encountered that same interface in the homes of my video calibration clients, in stores, and at trade shows.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 21, 2005  |  0 comments
If you're like me, with a large library of DVDs (I think I'm over 1000, but I haven't counted them lately), just finding the one you want is a chore. Try as I might to keep them in some sort of order, it never works for long. I pull out a few to watch, and before you know it there are little piles scattered all around the house.
David Vaughn  |  Oct 11, 2010  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $300

At A Glance: Elegant touch-sensitive screen • Decodes multiple audio formats • Internet radio support • Integrates with Facebook and Flickr

Remember the days when you stacked hundreds, if not thousands, of CDs into towers or bookshelves so you could have your entire music collection at your fingertips? The CD player evolved from a single tray to a multi-disc changer that allowed up to 400 discs per unit, but you still had to find a place for all of those pesky cases. In 1999, the music world turned upside down when 18-year-old Shawn Fanning created Napster, and a new way of music delivery was born. Millions of people around the world digitized their music into MP3s, which compromised quality in favor of convenience. Fortunately, as computing power increased and storage became cheaper, audiophiles could store their digital music in a lossless format (FLAC, WMA Lossless, Apple Lossless, etc.) in order to preserve the integrity of the original recording. But with all of this music digitized, how do you listen to it in your home theater?

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