Posted on August 5, 2020 By Phil Jones and Art Feierman
The Premium Price
A Kaleidescape system is very expensive compared to a UHD Blu-ray player and streaming boxes like a 4K Apple TV. You are paying a premium for the highest quality. Strato S costs about as much as a nice 4K UHD projector. I personally think that it is worth the premium to have access to 2-3 times amount of 4K content, vs. UHD disc.
For those of us who “work for a living”, but care about picture (and audio) quality, the only real potential “deal-breaker” problem with the Strato S, is the price. If you are comfortable adding a $6,000 solution to your home theater/cave/living room system, from a pricing standpoint, you will be hard pressed to come up with a good reason to not have one!
Waiting to View
You will also have to get used to the idea giving up impulsive viewing with it. You can’t just say, “Gee, I want to watch the Princess Bride, NOW!” (unless you previously downloaded it, which is actually convenient if you pre-order new releases that can be watched at the start of the day they are released for home entertainment). While you can download new content in the background Kaleidescape discourages it.
If you start watching previously downloaded content during a download, the system may pause or slow the download process to ensure playback quality. The Kaleidescape Strato S, downloads fastest when you set it up and turn it off.
To deliver the highest quality content, the file size dwarfs that of streaming, so depending on your internet speed, you will need to wait at least an hour for most content to download before viewing. With Gbit internet connection, though you can download most movies in 4K, I am told in less than 10 minutes. I averaged a bit more (around 1 hour). Hey, by my take, that is a small price to pay!
The Remote Control
The included white remote looks like one that would have come with a 15-year-old cable box. It is embarrassing to use with a product so otherwise elegant, well thought out, and high quality.
The folks at Kaleidescape were quick to point out that their mobile app includes a robust and user-friendly remote interface, and that most Kaleidescape owners will use a 3rd party control system like Crestron, Control 4, AMX in lieu in the supplied remote to control the entire home theater system including the Strato S. I agree with them but, as equipment at my place is constantly changing, I long ago gave up on trying to have a universal remote control most of gear coming through here.
If I get the Strato S, (along with new electronics, and some new speakers), I will almost certainly end up with some form of universal remote or control system but until then, this remote is still a “clunker!”
Strato C Lacks Wi-FI Connectivity
While I understand it is for better quality and reliability, I still do not like that you have to hard wire the Strato C to the Strato S. If you live in an older home, that is not prewired for ethernet, it would be difficult and costly to run from one room to another on other side of the house. I am seriously considering buying a Strato S, I have to wait until we replace the floors to wire up my condo with CAT6. I will decide then if I want to add a Strato C for my living room to go with the Strato S in my theater.
At time of this review I have already watched all or parts of some 40 movies and documentaries on the Strato S. Like many, I am no longer happy with my 1080p disc collection – I really prefer 4K whenever available on my projectors, (and my 77” OLED too). My biggest frustration has been how many great movies are not available in 4K on disc! The Strato S gives me access to dramatically more 4K content than what is available on 4K UHD Blu-ray. I mean it’s not even close!
At this point, 4K streaming just does not offer the performance and reliability of digital downloads. I really do not want a single streaming glitch, pause, or breakup when watching a movie and I don’t want to see compression noise.
Other than the clunky (but functional remote), and the lack of voice control, I really have loved having the Strato S in my system. So, what is a home theater enthusiast to do?
While I would have love to purchase the 12TB loaner unit was just a little too rich or me. After much debate with myself, I decided to buy my very own 6TB Strato S. -art
Over the past month, I took the opportunity to view video content off the Strato S and Strato C on a variety of flat panel displays/projectors and the picture quality was always outstanding.
I compared the picture quality of the Strato S to my favorite streaming player, the Apple TV 4K. Below are side by side shots of a scene from the 4K HDR version of the A Star is Born. While the difference may not as noticeable in some 4K content, in this movie and it this scene, superior picture quality of Strato S is obvious.
The superior quality is why, I utilized Kaleidescape players to conduct Projector and TV shootouts at CEDIA, CES and NAB for several years.
Kaleidescape Strato S in my A/V rack
Scene for A Star is Born which was used to compared the Strato S to an Apple TV 4K
Both the Strato S and Apple TV were feeding 4K HDR to an LG 4K DLP Projector (BU50NST)
A few years ago, I put together a “poor man’s” multizone movie system using a media PC loaded with the PLEX server software along with multiple Rokus throughout my home. While it gets the job done for casual viewing, having access to a Kaleidescape really showed me what I was missing. Adding content to my system is a total pain which requires me to purchase the physical disc and go through several steps to load a new movie on my computer server. My homemade server is also limited to loading HD and it cannot pass uncompressed immersive surround like DTS:X or Dolby Atmos to a second zone. Therefore, I do not use my homemade multi-zone video solution for critical Audio/Video evaluation. It is limited to playing cartoons in the kid’s rooms.
The Strato S and Strato C were perfectly reliable with none of the crashes and weekly reboots required by my computer. The picture from the Kaleidescape players were free of digital artifacts, delivered 4K resolution, offered higher sound quality and adding new content was an absolute breeze.
While Art’s new condo will make it a challenge to setup the Strato C in another room, my home has a wired home network. I placed the Strato S in my A/V rack in my media room and connected Strato C in my office/lab. Since I always have multiple projectors in my home for review in was great having high quality content available in both rooms. Usually I must carry my demo discs from room to room but the Kaleidescape system made that unnecessary.
A Kaleidescape system offers huge content library, great picture and audio quality combined with maximum reliability. If you can afford it, a Kaleidescape would be a great addition to any home theater system.
While Art’s new condo make it challenging to setup the Strato C in another room, my homes has a wired home network. I placed the Strato S in my A/V rack in my media room and connected Strato C in my office/lab. Since I always have multiple projectors in my home for review in was great having high quality content available in both rooms. Usually I must carry my demo discs from room to room but the Kaleidescape system made that unnecessary.
A Kaleidescape system offers huge content library, great picture and audio quality combine with maximum reliability. If you can afford it, a Kaleidescape would be a great addition to any home theater system.
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