Posted on April 1, 2021 By Paul Wilkie
This month’s sponsored article is brought to you by Kaleidescape, the industry leader in premium multi-room, home entertainment systems that store and play back full fidelity video and audio content.
One of the things you’ll notice as you peruse home theater guides on the internet is that they tend to focus on the same types of components: your imaging device (projectors, TVs, etc.), speakers, and the AV components required to make them work. However, these reviews often do not highlight the source component many of us use to make sure the content we play is consistent and perfect across the various devices. After all, as reviewers we want to make sure we’re focusing on the performance capability differences between projectors and speakers, not wondering if the color banding or artifacts are due to slow internet speeds, or a scratched disc. Besides, what’s the point in investing in a premium home cinema setup and not giving it the most beautiful content to play?
While Projector Reviews main focus is, well, projectors, we would be remiss if we never talked about the differences in content quality, and how your source player probably [read: definitely] needs an upgrade. Today, we’re here to talk about how the right premium source player, like a Kaleidescape, is one of the best investments you can make to upgrade your entire system’s performance, plus make it more fun to use. Whether it’s a $15,000 system in a family room, or a $200,000 dedicated home theater, your source really does make all the difference in the world.
Just like in the world of high-end audio, the projector and home theater enthusiasts among us should know that to properly enjoy their favorite movie, concert or TV show they need more than just a bright projector and a great-sounding set of speakers, they require amazing content to really bring them to life. It doesn’t matter how incredible the specifications of your 120” 4K HDR projector are if the content you’re feeding it is streaming from a major provider under constrained bandwidth. Right?
On the music side we’ve known this for years, and most passionate music lovers know that to get the best performance from their equipment, they need to have a lossless content source. So why don’t we prescribe that same mindset to our home entertainment experiences where the difference between lossy and lossless is even more pronounced?
Yes, it really is that simple. As you continue to grow your home theater, it’s just as important to think about where your content is coming from, especially as you start to consider upgrading the quality of your various components. Full fidelity content can help extract the full performance from your existing components, often extending the life of your purchase, while helping to provide the experience you hope to have when you invest in your projector, speakers, or any other peripheral device.
Here’s an interesting example: studios and disc manufacturers often have to add additional compression to films in order to fit them onto a 66GB disc. Often the file that’s released from the studio can be 10%-40% larger than the 66GB file size of the 4K disc that’s released. Similar to comparing physical media to streaming, think about all you’re missing in terms of video and audio quality!
We’re trained to believe that physical content is always better, but the reality is even on a physical disc we can be missing information the director and studio engineers intended us to see and hear. So how often does this happen? A quick search on Blu-ray.com shows that most Marvel movies, Star Wars, Daniel Craig Bond movies, Creed I/II, Lawrence of Arabia, Casino, new Star Trek, Ford vs. Ferrari, as well as most Mission Impossible movies are all compressed anywhere between 10%-40%. It’s amazing to think that so many of our favorite blockbuster films aren’t getting watched in the best image and sound quality possible.
Streaming content is convenient, but it’s even more compromised in terms of quality, as movies have to be compressed into a lossy Dolby Digital + format to fit the various levels of internet speed users around the U.S. may have. Bandwidth fluctuations based on various connected products in your home and even your neighbor’s internet use can cause the quality of your content to shift.
We’ve all had those times when we start a show and it becomes pixilated, or color banding occurs when a scene has dark areas or transitions between black and grey. There’s nothing worse than buying a quality projector, and getting pulled out of the story because we can’t help but notice these gross imperfections in the content.
But rest easy fellow enthusiasts, making a choice between the convenience of streaming and the better quality of discs for your favorite movies, TV, and concerts is actually null and void if you consider something that’s the best of both worlds, which is where a premium source device like Kaleidescape can come to the rescue.
A Kaleidescape Terra Server or Strato S Movie Player enables users to download movies directly to your home in full fidelity (because there is no file size constraint for Kaleidescape content), which ensures you’re not missing anything you want to see and hear. Plus, you’re not dealing with fluctuations in content quality because all the bits are downloaded and stored on your local device, not streamed over the internet. This is especially important if you live in an area where internet service is not very good; Kaleidescape ensures you get the full-quality movie every time (and anytime) once it has downloaded to your system, even if your internet is down.
With the ability to store several hundred movies (dependent on movie size), you could theoretically replace several bookshelves’ worth of discs with equivalent or better-quality movies stored on a two-rack-space Terra server, or a single-rack-space Strato S.
The best part about investing in good content now is that it gives you endless headroom to build your system over time. Your content is going to look and sound amazing on any caliber equipment you throw at it — since the content is never the weak point. In that sense, the value of your investment in a high-quality source device actually increases every time you invest in other areas of your home theater.
The better equipment you throw at it, the better your content looks and sounds. That’s why Projector Reviews purchased a Strato S last year for product reviews and shoot-outs, since it provides the best content available, and the demo script feature creates a consistent demo experience allowing us to focus completely on the differences between projectors.
An even quirkier area of the content landscape we find ourselves in these days is the rental space. When was the last time you rented a physical disc? Is that possible anymore? Further, is it worth renting a streamable movie off Amazon or Apple when you can’t guarantee the fidelity you’re going to get?
This line of thinking is why Kaleidescape recently began offering movie rental options for it’s Strato systems. In many ways, it’s more similar to how we used to rent movies than streamable competitors. You get a full-quality download (there are currently 8,000 titles available to rent in the U.S.) that can stay on your system for up to 30-days. Once you’ve started the movie, you’ll have 48 hours to watch it as many times as you want. Even better and pretty exclusive to Kaleidescape, during the 30-day rental period, if you love what you rented half the rental price will be credited towards the purchase. That is a pretty sweet way to discover new content, renting titles you wouldn’t immediately buy; all from the comfort of your home and still in full fidelity.
When it comes to building your ideal home theater, having the ability to watch all types of content is probably one of the most exciting ways to use your system. With rental services like Kaleidescape now offers, it’s easier than ever to watch movies, concerts, etc. without the clutter of a physical disc or the lossy nature of streaming.
Speaking of concerts, while we often associate movies with our theaters, there is a lot of other great content to watch on your home theater system. Nothing can truly replace the feeling of a live concert but enjoying a recorded concert in HD or 4K video and lossless audio in your theater is pretty much the next best thing. Kaleidescape has hundreds of concerts from all genres and timelines to choose from.
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