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Q. What’s a Reliable DVD Server That Won’t Break the Bank?
June 29, 2009 | by Simon Scotland
Consumer is looking for a reliable media server to store DVD collection and take the place of a home theater amp/receiver.
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Posted by Scott Baker  on  06/29  at  01:13 PM

I was joking that you would recomend something that cost $8000.  I then clicked on the link and it said $7995.  How is this an not “breaking the bank”?  For around a $1000 you could build or buy an MCE 7 HTPC and just run my movies on it.

Posted by Jeff Harris  on  06/29  at  03:33 PM

I agree Scott $8000 is breaking the bank, when you could buy a car instead of a movie player it is getting crazy. 

What I currently have going is a PS3 with a 1TB hard drive.  I use my Mac to copy my DVD’s (legally make backups of my personal disks), I use “mac the ripper” which I put on the PS3 setting and then change the sound to 6 channel.  I then put it on the hard dive, movie folder - genre - movies.  The movies look and sound great.  My only complaint is that thus far I cannot find a way to get the cover art to show, but for $400 and you get a BD player, it is a trade I am willing to make. 

My father went a different route, he bought a mac mini and plugged a 1TB drive into it, using front row and a universal remote he has access to all his movies including cover art and details.  As the author explained though he has to get this himself.  But for around $700 he has a pretty nice setup. 

I have a 46 inch Mitsubishi diamond
Cerwin Vega 5.1
Pioneer elite receiver
PS3 - with 1TB my book currently holding 486 movies
Harmony One

Sorry for the huge post

Posted by John Nemesh  on  06/29  at  04:26 PM

Yes, for $1000 you could build a PC.  Install Vista (or Windows 7), then use 3rd party software to (illegally) rip the DVD.  The problem is that this is an “unoffical” solution, that may or may not work for future DVD (or Blu-Ray) software.  For a consumer electronics product, it has to work EVERY TIME, for EVERY DISK!  It has to be “idiot proof”, and it has to be ZERO MAINTENANCE.  Neither term applied to a media center PC.  The Kaleidescape system, on the other hand, is 100% reliable (with redundant backup), and easy enough for an 80 year old to use:  Put in a disc, wait for it to rip, when done its automatically ejected…done!  Same goes for the Escient Vision product…simple, easy, reliable.  Oh, yah, did I mention that its LEGAL???  More expensive?  Definitely.  Worth it?  Absolutely!

By the way, I dont know what kind of car you are getting for $8000, but most likely its not a Mercedes!  Seriously folks…I am sooooo tired of hearing complaints about price.  Especially if you are SELLING this stuff!  $8000 seems high, but for what you get it is quite reasonable.  If its too expensive for you, keep watching your VCR and 20” tube for now and wait until the next generation.

Posted by scott baker  on  06/29  at  05:36 PM

Yeah it’s funny how this whole site is geared towards top of the line gear (which is fine).  However I’m sure the majority of the people that read this site can not afford a mercades or an $8000 dvd ripping box.

I guess we’ll never know if the guy asking the question thinks $8000 is “breaking the bank”.

Posted by John Peterson  on  06/29  at  06:05 PM

I built a small HTPC and a Windows Home Server for storage of DVD and blu-Ray rips. Total cost just under $1000. Maximum capacity of 40TB of storage. I’m using Any HD-DVD for ripping. Is it legal? No but neither is driving without a seatbelt.

As far as the $8000 car? An Audi Coupe Quattro with a GT35r and an AAN swap will drive circles around any Mercedes.

Posted by Gary  on  06/29  at  09:30 PM

I’m really tired of and don’t understand WHY when people hear about ripping your own DVD/Bluray is automatically labeled ILLEGAL on the forehead??  Did any of you hear about the Fair Use Law??  Yes, there’s the DMAC law too, but did the count actually rule for a definite conclusion between two yet??  If not, then why backing up a DVD/Bluray disc that you paid for it is an auto “illegal” action???? 

Oh, driving 60mph down the interstate is illegal is most state too!  So, DON’T go over 55mph next time you’re on interstate highway!!  Otherwise, where’s the credibility of accusing others breaking the law while you are also doing “illegal” thing??

Ease of use for non-computer people is definitive a good point that I can’t argue!!  And it is true for your 80yrs old example!!  But probably not even on average Joe!  (it actually isn’t that hard to back up a DVD disc)

And reliability??  Oh com’on, the Kaleidescape system is still a PC in it’s heart!  And you are telling me it’s “somehow” more reliable than a homebrew HTPC while 99.9% of the error on any PC is the user’s error?? 

$2-3k more than a home built HTPC, I could still understand (all the development, license, legal fee, etc.).  but $7000 more for a little more ease of use (the only stretching valid point from John)?  That is a bit too much in most people’s view honestly!!  (I bet even in most “Mercedes” owners’ view too!)  Yeah, I know, poor me is NOT a Mercedes owner!!  My personal ride is only a E92 M3 & a LandRover…....  And since it is too expensive for my taste, I’ll be going back to my HT watching my Bluray/DVD back up on the 100” screen now John….

Posted by Simon Scotland  on  06/30  at  03:36 AM


The K-Scape isn’t just a PC at heart.  It doesn’t run Windows, Linux or any other PC OS.  K-Scape have their own.  It also uses commercial server grade hard drives.

I’m not saying that you couldn’t build something of equivalent quality for less - as I am sure you can.

There will always be a self-build way to solve the problem until over time the commercial products become more affordable.  I myself am surprised that after being on the market for some time K-Scape doesn’t yet have a serious rival.  Go back a number of years and HiFi enthusiasts would build there own speakers as this was the most cost effective way of achieving quality.  Now it is much more usual to buy them ready made.

We could also start the argument about when the physical media disk will die and all content will be delivered online….

Posted by Rob Schultz  on  06/30  at  06:29 AM

I find it amusing to see people complain about the price of some piece of gear and then talk about how “anyone” could design and build a home-brew solution.

This is true for DVRs, home automation systems, media servers, etc.

As a Custom Electronics pro, it comes down to 2 very simple things for my clients:

- Reliability. The system must work perfectly, every time, without fail, for well longer than the warranty period. If a piece of gear I’ve installed fails, my clients complain and want me to replace it free (both equipment and labor). To put in something homebrew that may fail more often is simply not manageable from a business perspective. And if I can’t afford to do that, how can your average non-technical person deal with the frustration of doing it on their own? Most won’t, they’ll simply stop using it.

- Ease of use. Sure, a technical person can make this thing work. But what about your mother-in-law? Oh, maybe you have a technical mother-in-law - how about the babysitter? Grandma? Cousin from California? Entertainment and control systems have to be extremely simple to use, and work exactly the same way, every time. “Stand on one foot while flipping the switch with your left pinky on alternate Thursdays” will only lead to support calls (which cost lots of time and/or money), and frustration for the user. Operation has to be intuitively obvious to a non-technical person, or even a technophobe. If it’s not, it will always be a hobbyist’s toy, not a commercializable product.

And seriously, if something is not commercializable, it will almost never gain enough marketplace support to be anything other than a niche.

This is why it’s taken so long for home automation to gain any sort of traction. Making a house so complex that you need a 2-week training course to turn on the lights is unacceptable to most people. Same for your media server.

Rob Schultz
Inspired Electronics, Inc.

Posted by Paul  on  06/30  at  09:40 AM

So, I guess the summary of it all is: Legally, you can’t get a DVD server for under $8k right now, as Kalidescape is the only legal option available at this time. It also offers a great interface, and great reliability.

If you don’t care about the legality of ripping dvds there are several other commercial media center options available that are PC based, and so not as reliable or slick as the Kalidescape product mainly due to Windows.  They rely on third party tools to do the actual ripping so they don’t get sued into oblivion by the MPAA, RIAA, CCS or whoever else wants them dead.

For the DIY’er, you can build an HTPC for a fraction of the $8,000 but it does require some know how, may not be as trouble free as other options, but you can set your own price point, and upgrade as required.  Again this option requires software of questionable legality and quality, although there are some excellent products out there, if you can find them, and figure out how to use them.

While I doubt I will ever purchase a Kalidescape server, I have to agree with Rob Shutlz.  The other options seem like too much work and hassle, and if my wife has any problems with a home brewed media server at all, I’d never hear the end of it. 

Until a legalized, commercial product with available tech support is on the market to compete with Kalidescape, they have no reason to drop their prices, as they are the only game in town.

Capitalism at it’s finest gentlemen.

Posted by Jeff  on  06/30  at  09:41 AM

I beleive the only reason people are talking about the expence is due to the article asking about something that won’t break the bank.  We all know k-scape is suppose to be awsone, we aslo know that it is the only real option for installers.  The question is not what should I pay an instller to put in for me, it’s what are my options.  This being a tech site I would hope that the consumer would be able to back upa DVD on their own, or at the least be able to google a walk through.  With the current median income for the US I can assure everyone that most of the people who are reading this article are looking for the same thing that he is and that price tag is not the answer.

Posted by Paul  on  06/30  at  09:45 AM

We are all also overlooking the part of the article that says he wants a unit to replace his receiver/amp as well as his dvd player.

I don’t believe there is a product on the market that also offers switching and amplification as well as a media server.


Posted by Jeff  on  06/30  at  09:52 AM

Good work Paul, but the difficulty of homebrew for family members is left behind with a good universal remote like the harmony one.  Besides that key point I completely agree.  As long as you have the ability and time to set thing up on your own.  I am sure It’s not so much that k-scape is so painless to setup, but the ease of use after install.

Posted by Simon Scotland  on  06/30  at  10:10 AM

There are other commercial movie servers available - some of which are licensed and all of which are less expensive than the K-Scape.

They are still nothing like as cheap as a PC with some freeware.  However the problem is that they still have problems either with ripping the DVDs or the quality of their DVD database. 

We find that a client that spends $8,000 on a K-Scape WILL be happy.  One that spends say $5,000 on something that is like a K-Scape but isn’t quite, and works pretty well but misfires some of the time WON’T be happy.

It the same with many products in our industry.  If you are an enthusiast that installs something that works 90% of the time you will be rightly pleased with yourself.  If a professional installer installed it you perceive that you have a substandard system.  Again as others have mentioned here your partners at home aren’t always as pleased as you are with the 90% reliability ease of use factor.

Posted by Paul  on  06/30  at  10:54 AM

@Simon:  Agreed. 90% uptime, even 95% uptime is not acceptable.

I got really angry last night when a backup hard drive failed, and I bought the hard drive almost 4 years ago.  Sure it’s well out of warranty, but it illustrates your point perfectly.

And yes, my wife blamed me for the failure, and was ranting about “nothing ever works for me”!

Posted by Rob Schultz  on  06/30  at  11:20 AM

Jeff -

I agree that a good-quality, well-programmed one-touch universal remote can help with the ease of use and reliability of a homebrew system. But it still can’t fix things when they go wrong - that takes a technical person.

And unless you live alone and never invite anyone over, there will be users of your system other than you. I know I’m extrapolating here to other systems besides just a media server - it’s because these things are all very similar in the abstract.

In order to make your entertainment system (or house, or car, or office) work for multiple people, you have to set and abide by some standards. These include:

- a standardized interface. Getting a task done has to make sense to the user, based on their previous experiences. Standards are no good if everyone uses a different one!

- a reliable sequence of steps. You have to be able to do the same (short) sequence of steps every time to accomplish the task. Too many steps and the operation becomes too complex. A different sequence of steps in certain conditions and the user gets confuse.

- reliable results from that sequence of steps. The same thing has to happen every time. Again, the user gets very confused if they have to think about what to do next.

A well-programmed remote can help with some of these issues, for example by providing a single well-labeled button to perform an activity.

But reliability of results can be trickier. And more complex operations, like ripping a movie, getting cover art, or classifying movies get even more difficult.

Can these issues be solved in a home-brew system? Sure, with enough time, knowledge, and energy. And that time, knowledge and energy has already been put into a Kaleidescape or other commercial system.

If it takes you 40 hours to put together your home-brew system and get it all working, and another 4 hours/month in the care and feeding of said system, that’s an investment of around 90 hours in the first year. I know what my time’s worth - for that money, I could have just bought the K-Scape system!

If you’re a hobbyist, no problem. It’s what you love to do, so you’re willing to do it for the sheer joy of tackling that challenge and bragging rights that you did it. But for non-technical people, or even technical people who prefer to spend their time on hobbies other than building and maintaining a media server, it’s just not worth it. And if they can’t afford (or don’t want to afford) an 8K media server, they’ll happily live with changing discs when they want a different movie.

Either way, good luck with your entertainment system!

Rob Schultz
Inspired Electronics, Inc.

Posted by Simon Scotland  on  06/30  at  11:37 AM

@Paul: Myself and my wife own and run our company - we like to think it helps with things passing the ‘Wife acceptance factor’ before they leave the company door!

@Rob:  Won’t argue with any of that!  It’s why people need us.

This is turning into a good thread, keep it up everyone!


Posted by Jeremy  on  06/30  at  09:14 PM

There is such a product that will do everything he was asking for plus more. The PL-2109 from Aspen Media Products is a Windows Vista based Home Media Server that comes standard with My Movies and your choice of either a 5.1 Amplifier card or 7.1 preouts. The Amplifier is a D2 Audio Labs Class D amplifier with 100 watts x 5. See attached spec sheet for more details. The PL-2109 also comes standard with a Blu-Ray player, 4 TB of RAID 5 storage, and solid state boot drives. Options include cable cards and even home automation for a complete all in one solution. PL(Professional Line) Products are available to custom integrators and their retail products which are less robust, are available from their online store and other online retailors. They also have 3D ready media servers which can allow you to enjoy 3D from your home when combined with a 3D ready TV and appropriate 3D glasses. Check them out:

Posted by Paul  on  07/01  at  01:22 PM

@Electronic House:  as much as I hate having to type words into a box to verify I’m human and not a spam bot, I think EH needs to implement a stronger verification system, as I’m getting really sick of seeing all of the Dress Up and Download Games type comments.  I know spammers will continue to try to put their adds on EH, but I think it’s time to make it harder for them!

Posted by Jeb  on  07/01  at  04:09 PM

You may also look into the Escient brand as well.  I too am shopping for dvd system and Escient seems to be fitting the bill and can usually be had used with a Sony changer for well under $1k

Posted by David  on  07/16  at  04:30 PM

Here is a thought.  What is Kaleidescape going to do to handle these “bad sectors”? Are the movie studios going to release DVD’s to Kaleidescape with no bad sectors.  Please do your research.  You are in the industry and write this inaccurate article. Shame on you.

There are many product besides Kaleidescape, for example Axonix MediaMax, FusionRD, Colorado vNet, and Niveus Media.

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