NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN MEDIA DISTRIBUTION FOR THE HOME
Media servers may have evolved into something unrecognizable from five years ago, but their “offspring” represent a vibrant product category. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of some of the latest developments in products that provide media storage and distribute around the home.
It’s much too early to know what it all means, but last month, Prism Sound acquired Imerge from Linear LLC and retained key members of its research and development, production, customer support and sales teams. Prism Sound’s director of sales and marketing, Graham Boswell, said that his company’s challenge is to extend the brand’s former distribution structure into new and untapped markets in the coming months.” Current products include the MS1-HD Blu-Ray media server and the MusicM8 (music mate) audio server unit. Imerge-branded server products are complemented by the XIVA online music store and a range of hardware and software accessories.
At CEDIA EXPO, Qsonix showed the first new series of music servers under its technology and marketing alliance with high-end component-audio supplier Wadia. With prices ranging from $6,950 to $8,450, the Q2 series features the Q205 and Q210 systems, which are housed in new mechanical enclosures featuring a precision-machined aluminum front panel. The whisper-quiet servers are available with a choice of 1TB or 2TB of hard drive storage and either 15- or 17-inch touchscreen controllers. Both units also include built-in support for desktop PC/Mac and iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad remote control operation. The Q210 features four discreet analog outputs, hard-wired IR connector, as well as Crestron and third-party automation system support.
Mozaex has begun shipping a new line of 3D Blu-ray Players and Solo all-in-one Entertainment Server systems, which are designed to play the latest Active 3D Blu-ray movies anywhere in the home. The Mozaex 3D system plays media, including 3D Blu-ray and DVD movies, CD and MP3 music, photos and on-demand NetFlix movies, and Pandora music among other online media. Any media can be played in multiple rooms simultaneously.
A dealer can choose from the ultra compact and quiet 1 Series; the stylish 2 Series; or the rugged rack-mount 3 Series. The Mozaex 3D system plays 3D Blu-ray movies in their original, non-degraded audio and video quality. While all models support 7.1 LPCM HD audio, the 3 Series additionally includes support for both LPCM and Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master bitstreams.
To expand the number of playback zones, up to 10 Mozaex Players can be added to a Solo system or up to 30 Players to a Player/Server system.
Mozaex has begun shipping a new line of 3D Blu-ray Players and Solo all-in-one Entertainment Server systems.
Kaleidescape’s CEDIA news had more to do with a new iPhone app to aid DVD/Blu-ray Disc shopping and a kiddie-style remote than on its new M-Class media server platform, which had been introduced over the summer. Still to come, however, is company’s new Modular Disc Vault, which will be available in the first quarter of 2011. The company chose to modify the firmware of a 100-disc, third-party changer, rather than develop an entirely new piece. With the Vault, a Kaleidescape customer can now play a Blu-ray movie from an M-300 or M-500 player just like he would play a DVD with a MoviePlayer. In other words, the physical disc doesn’t have to be read or accessed, because the movie is played from a copy on the server. So long as a disc is in the Vault or Player, the Blu-ray can be viewed from the hard drive using any M-Class Player in the house.
The $3,000-suggested ZAGGbox Pro media server, available only to custom channels, integrates the control of connected home video sources via IR blaster and included remote, features built-in Z-Wave to control home systems, stores music and movies on its hard drive, and features WiFi and Ethernet ports to stream content to other TVs equipped with a ZAGGBox Pro in the house and in remote locations. It optionally streams stored content to mobile devices, including cellphones equipped with ZAGGbox apps, as well as to PCs in other locations.
Beginning October 11, all ZvBox 170s shipped from the ZeeVee factory will include the company’s new Firmware Version 3.0, delivering improved picture quality and new video adjustments. In addition, all existing ZvBox 170s in the field can be upgraded to the new firmware though a simple download, at no charge.
Based on the same technology used by cable companies and TV stations, ZeeVee’s ZvBoxes convert any HD video source into an HDTV cable channel, for distribution over existing coax cabling to any number of HDTVs. The new Zv channel is then simply tuned in at any HDTV. The ability to use existing coaxial cabling and standard HDTVs allows the creation of HD video and digital signage distribution systems at breakthrough pricing.
ZeeVee’s new Firmware Version 3.0 allows the ZvBox 170 to recreate fast-action scenes more smoothly, and to deliver better edge definition for moving objects on-screen. The improvements are especially apparent when watching sporting events. The new firmware also allows the user to adjust video settings like contrast and color saturation for each source, right at the ZvBox. The improved picture then flows out to all connected displays- far simpler than adjusting each display individually.
Autonomic Controls, whose digital media management technology is the backbone to media distribution products from several manufacturers in the CEDIA channel, recently released its Mirage Media Control System 3.0 (MCS) upgrade, which adds RadioTime integration along with a new iPhone app.
NuVo recently shipped the “freestanding version” of its Renovia Zone Amplifier, which is the newest development in the company’s Power Line Carrier-based system.
The new Mirage Media Controller (MMC) app turns an iPhone or iPod Touch into a controller that will allow users to orchestrate media playback from anywhere in the home. With the Mirage Media Controller app, users can instantly access and play their entire media collection, including multiple iTunes and Windows Media collections, Sirius XM, Pandora, and thousands of free internet radio stations with RadioTime, all in one consolidated collection from a single application.
With its intuitively designed features, the MMC app helps users build their music collection. For example, if you hear something you like on any source, a single button press creates a customized Pandora station that helps to discover more music to love by playing back content with a similar style. When used with the Mirage Media Control System, the Mirage Media Controller app will allow remote control of iTunes, Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player and any of the streaming sources complete with metadata, album art, and full media browsing.
At CEDIA EXPO, URC introduced a litany of new products to go along with its rebranding as a manufacturer of “Total Control” solutions. To enable content to make it way around the house, the company’s rack-mountable SNP-1 Streaming Network Player outputs 44kHz streams of digital audio to DMS-1200 and DMS-100 amplifiers; analog outputs for third-party amplifiers are also included. The SNP-1 can stream music and photos from network-attached compatible PCs, Macs, and network storage devices, satellite radio, and internet-based services such as Rhapsody and Pandora.
NuVo recently shipped the “freestanding version” of its Renovia Zone Amplifier, which is the newest development in the company’s Power Line Carrier-based system. Providing an alternative to its in-wall zone amplifiers, these plug-in devices eliminate the need for an electrician’s assistance. Utilizing the same HomePlug standard of technology to distribute audio and metadata over a home’s existing electrical lines, the Freestanding Renovia employs detached Zone Amplifier modules in each audio zone, to distribute digital content from NuVo’s Music Port Elite “music portal,” which provides access to a variety of audio sources and formats through a single component. With a combination of streaming and storing capabilities, including the cloud synchronization function and network storage, the Elite gives nearly limitless audio accessibility.
HAI’s Music Gateway is a music server/renderer with three independent stereo channels. In addition to serving music, it includes HAI’s WL3 software for remote home control access via the internet, including web-enabled devices like Droid, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows phones. WL3 can also be used to integrate IP cameras, with recording and playing capabilities based on motion, alarm, or door openings. WL3 can be set up to send email or text alerts. Homeowners can access security, multi-room audio, lights, temperatures, and more thanks to the duality of the Music Gateway. It has been designed to mount in a structured wiring enclosure. Music can be played directly from the hard drive or from a network share.
NetStreams’ new Anthology IP-Based Network Music Player leverages the existing home network to bring the convenience of internet radio and multiple streams of audio over the company’s DigiLinX Network. The Anthology automatically scans for music stored on a NAS drive or on a PCs, and it can stream internet radio or online services like Pandora and SIRIUS Satellite Radio.
Qsonix’s whisper-quiet Q2 series servers are available with a choice of 1TB or 2TB of hard drive storage and either 15- or 17-inch touchscreen controllers.
At the core of ELAN’s new g! IP-based, whole-house entertainment and management solution are two new home controllers, the HC12 and HC6, which provide on-screen interfaces, connectivity options, and what the company calls “an expansive” two-way driver collection. In addition to integrated connectivity for RS232, RS485, relays, and IR, these controllers extend the g! experience to the big screen through a high-resolution, 720p on-screen component video display. This On-Screen Display (OSD) allows users to control all aspects of their home from the TV using the same g! interface, without any additional hardware or expense. Also included is a built-in photo viewer that turns the TV and associated control interfaces into a digital picture frame. The controllers feature a built-in audio server (NAS drive required for the HC6 controller) and optional internet radio streaming services.
Crestron recently released the fiber versions of its DigitalMedia 8G transmitter/switcher, matrix switcher input and output cards and receiver/room controller. DM 8G technology delivers true one-wire transport over low-cost multimode fiber without signal scaling, compression, or hardware repeaters. Uncompressed digital signals, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, and USB keyboard/mouse control are distributed up to 1,000 feet. According to the company, DM 8G preserves the native video resolution and audio format of every signal, ensuring a pure, lossless signal path. It also matches each source’s output to the selected displays, providing the optimal output, making it easier to distribute HD video, 3D content, video games including Xbox 360, streaming internet content, Blu-ray Disc, Apple Mac and MacBook, as well as the latest surround sound audio formats.
Aton’s AH66T-KT Multi-Source/Zone Controller Kit, which shipped in October, includes a six-zone, six-source 12x30-watt RDS-equipped AM/FM receiver/controller packaged with six in-wall capacitive touchpads featuring full-color OLED displays.
The double-gang touchpads feature 2.1-inch display and 15-function hard-button layout under a film overlay. The display features six lines of metadata from two-way sources, including an optional Sirius satellite radio. The receiver/controller comes with two-way RS232 code set for control from third-party integrated-system keypads and touchscreens.
DVIGear offers an expanded range of multi-format HDMI and DVI matrix switchers. Based on modular architecture that allows integration of multiple digital signal platforms, these units offer support for HDCP repeater protocol, as well as advanced EDID management and RS232/LAN control. DVIGear’s HDMI and DVI Matrix Switchers are available in a wide range of configurations from 4x4 to 32x32 arrays. These units support all HDTV resolutions up to 1080p, as well as single-link DVI resolutions up to 2048x1200 pixels and dual-link DVI up to 4096x2400 pixels.