June 29, 2009 by Simon Scotland
Q. I have several hundred DVDs and an old Philips MX 5600D receiver/DVD player that I would like to replace with a unit that could store my DVD collection and take the place of the home theater amp/receiver that won’t break the bank. - Jack, Texas
A. I think you, like many people, are on the search for the Holy Grail: A DVD movie server that is inexpensive and reliable.
We’ve spent a lot of time at my company looking at all kinds of DVD servers as they come on the market. Right now the only server we recommend and install is Kaleidescape. (Hands On: Kaleidescape Mini System) It’s not because it is the most expensive (which it is) but because it just works beautifully and reliably. This is something my customers expect as standard.
If you are in more of a DIY environment, then you do have alternatives which you can look at. The most obvious place to start are those people that have written software for media center PCs. These allow you to organize your movie collection and choose movies using an on-screen display. One such piece is My Movies. This is the basis for a number of commercial products and has a very active community behind it which puts it ahead of many other such titles.
You will need to copy your DVDs onto the the movie server, which requires additional software. Unlike Kaleidescape, these PC alternatives are not officially licensed. This means that they require software to get around the copy protection. Film studios are making it increasingly more difficult to copy DVDs with intentional bad sectors on the disks - so don’t be surprised if whatever software you use fails to copy a DVD.
When you’ve copied the DVD to your computer the software then looks up the movie details from an online database. Some databases are better than others. But since most are user maintained, there can often be errors. Again, as an enthusiast you might be happy downloading the DVD cover art from the net and filling in the missing details. My clients wouldn’t accept that.
I’m really not aware of anything that will also replace your home theater amp/receiver. Your media center PC could decode the 5.1 soundtracks on the DVDs and provide you the audio that you could feed into a power amplifier. Or you could use powered speakers each with their own built in amps - take a look at NHT’s M-00s. Your PC could also be fitted with a radio and TV receiver.
Sorry I couldn’t pull a rabbit out of hat for you.
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Simon spent eight years in the feature film production. Upon leaving the industry he formed Beyond the Invisible in London UK which specializes in high end whole house entertainment systems, home theaters and lighting control and currently has a staff on ten. He is a certified CEDIA designer and avid collector of Citroen automobiles.
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