The A/V Strato-Sphere
Sound & Vision|October - November 2020
KALEIDESCAPE STRATO S MOVIE PLAYER
Kris Deering

I’VE BEEN keenly aware of Kaleidescape since the company’s start when I first laid eyes on its beautiful onscreen interface at a high-end A/V store in Seattle. Since then, I’ve regularly encountered that same interface in the homes of my video calibration clients, in stores, and at trade shows. Back in Kaleidescape’s early days, when the only comparable media server was early Windows Media Center on home theater PCs, the company’s offering was not only innovative, but awe-inspiring. The home video world has changed drastically since then, and slick interfaces from the likes of Apple TV, Netflix, and others are now the norm. But Kaleidescape has also changed, with the company having now moved to a digital media experience that bypasses shiny discs in favor of internet-delivered content with audio and video quality on par with pre-recorded media.

THE PLAYER

For this review, Kaleidescape sent me its Strato S 4K Ultra HD Movie Player. The focus of a product review is typically an actual product, but I honestly feel that Kaleidescape is more about the experience than a single product. Yes, with its anodized aluminum case, the Strato S 4K Ultra HD Movie Player is a gorgeous-looking high-tech component that has evolved since Sound & Vision reviewed the original Strato model back in 2016 (review available on soundandvision.com). Specifically, the Strato S case is half the height of the original and it now offers either 6 TB ($5,995) or 12 TB ($8,995) of onboard storage. You can also opt for the smaller Strato C player ($4,995), with no onboard storage. A Strato C can access content stored on a networked Strato S player or one of the company’s Terra Servers (starts at $12,495) from any room throughout your home. Which direction you go will be a matter of need—and also budget—as all of the Strato players offer an identical Kaleidescape experience—the focus of this review.

DIGITAL DELIGHTS

Kaleidescape started out as a solution to manage a large disc collection via an assortment of playback and storage products—one with an advanced interface that made access and playback as simple as possible. But the company’s solution also came with a rather high price tag. Price remains a consideration as the products still exceed the budget of many, but the Kaleidescape experience has also advanced to a new level that helps justify the steep price points.

The current line of products load content exclusively from Kaleidescape’s online movie store where you’ll find a massive catalog of films, TV shows, documentaries, concerts and more to purchase and download. Titles are available in video formats ranging from standard-definition 480P all the way up to full 4K with HDR for movies. Kaleidescape supports HDR10 high dynamic range, but not Dolby Vision or HDR10+. During my review, I didn’t see any TV shows being delivered in 4K/HDR, but that’s something I expect to see in the future as more shows are delivered in that format on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Kaleidescape’s offerings might sound the same as what you get from services like iTunes, Amazon, and countless others, but Kaleidescape is the only digital platform that delivers movies with the same A/V quality as their disc counterparts. Kaleidescape is not a streaming service—purchased titles are downloaded directly to your Strato S or Terra Server and then accessed by the player. The last time Sound & Vision reviewed a Kaleidescape system, its online movie store could only be accessed from an internet browser on a computer. Now, the store can be accessed directly from the player, a computer, or the Kaleidescape mobile app, along with full access to your account info, movie lists, and more. This makes it easy to add titles to your collection at any time. Hanging out at a friend’s house and hear about a movie that you’d like to check out? Launch the app on your phone, add the title to your collection, and it will download to your system and be ready to view before you return home.

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