Hands On: Kaleidescape Cinema One HD Movie Server
The movie system that makes your home theater complete.
August 22, 2013 by Grant Clauser

It’s a safe guess that every Electronic House reader has a digitized collection of music in their possession. Whether that collection is housed on racked terabyte drives or an iPod Nano, the result is the same. Your music, at least some of which once existed on a CD, is saved with masses of other music so you can easily find and enjoy it. The same thing can’t be said for our movie collections.

Well, unless you have a Kaleidescape system, that is. Kaleidescape makes movie systems for storing and accessing your DVDs and Blu-rays (and CDs too) for your home theater in a way that is as convenient as an iPod is for music.  Until just recently, joining the Kaleidescape member’s club would cost about $15,000 plus professional installtion. With the introduction of the Cinema One system, that price has dropped to a more reasonable $3,995, which is still a lot of money considering that a decent home theater projector can bought for under $3K, but it’s a big step nonetheless.

Read my previous review of a Kaleidescape 1U Server and Disc Vault here.

So what does that $4K get you? When talking about the Cinema One, you have to talk about both what it is and what it isn’t, because mistaken comparisons are bound to happen.

First, the Cinema One is a media server with a hard drive that can hold about 100 Blu-rays or 600 DVDs with all their bonus features in tact. It can download both Blu-ray and DVD quality movies from Kaleidescape’s online movie store. It also has one of the coolest and easiest-to-use on-screen menu system you’ve ever seen.

How the Cinema One differs from a movie streaming service is pretty significant, especially if you’ve got a good home theater that you’ve sunk a lot of money into. Streaming video services, such as Netflix, Amazon and VUDU have come a long way in a few years toward delivering reasonably high-quality video over a broadband network. But if you’ve ever compared the streamed version of a movie to the Blu-ray version, you don’t need to be a video expert to see the difference. Compression kills streamed content, but the Cinema One isn’t subject to that particular oppression. Kaleidescape stores and serves full bit-for-digital-bit duplicate copies of whatever you put in it. If you’re a 1080p purist, then streaming just won’t cut it.

Along with all that praise, there’s a catch. While the Cinema One will import your DVDs from the moment you take it out of the box, to store your existing Blu-ray collection you need to add a DV700 Disc Vault which is basically a big carousel that holds 320 Blu-ray discs. As per the terms of Kaleidescape’s AACS license, Hollywood lawyers need to know you actually own the Blu-ray that you want to record on the Cinema One. The only way they know how to do that is to make sure your disc is in the Disc Vault which is connected to the Cinema One by an Ethernet cable. The Disc Vault cost $5,495. That’s more than the Cinema One costs, and it basically does nothing more than to act as a house arrest ankle bracelet for your discs.

Now don’t think I’m beating up on Kaleidescape. This isn’t the company’s fault. It’s actually the only legal way you can get what Kaleidescape offers. If anyone, you should blame all the torrent users who’ve put such a scare into movie studio execs that this is the only solution they’ll grudgingly agree too.

End of rant. Back to the product.

Hooking up the Cinema One is crazy simple. This is significant because for the first time you don’t need a professional integrator to install a Kaleidescape system. It hooks up just like any Blu-ray player. Plug in the HDMI and Ethernet cables, and then turn it on. That’s about it (if you have two Cinema Ones you can network them and share the content between two rooms). There’s also a Wi-Fi dongle, but I recommend a wired connection for the best bandwidth.

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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