posted on Monday, 11th July 2016 by David Slater
Ask any serious integrator what is at the top their 2160p wish list and the answer most probably will be more UHD content. After all, with a distinctive lack of it around, why would anyone want to invest much money in the latest and greatest hardware?
Enter the award-winning Kaleidescape Strato, which bills itself as the world's first and only 4K Ultra HD HDR movie player. Inside CI recently took delivery of this shinny UHD box and put it through its paces. Is this really the content solution we’ve all been waiting for?
Kaleidescape Strato movie player: Build and features
The Kaleidescape Strato plays movies in 4K Ultra HD at up to 60 frames per second, without the kind of startup delays common on disc, buffering messages, or those ruinous quality drops so common with streaming services. Like Blu-ray, the Strato supports lossless multichannel audio, including Dolby Atmos. Unlike Blu-ray, the user interface is also displayed in 4K resolution, offering fluid animation for an immediate visual impact.
Our sample came equipped with 6TB of storage but you can buy the player without any hard disks installed if you prefer. But with 6TB at our disposal we could theoretically store up to 100 4K Ultra HD movies, 150 Blu-ray movies, or 900 DVD titles. A Strato equipped with internal storage can be used standalone or in a system with other Kaleidescape Encore components. Spec one without any internal storage, and you can stream movies from any connected movie server or disc server in the Encore system.
Kaleidescape Strato movie player: Setup and performance
After unpacking the unit, we hooked it up to a resident Yamaha AV receiver. On the rear of the Strato there are two HDMI outputs, plus Ethernet and coaxial/optical digital TV outputs, a 12v power connection, USB and service port. There’s also an IR in 3.5mm jack. The unit looks much like a regular Blu-ray player and measures 43.2 × 7.9 × 25.4cm. You can also order an optional 19 inch rack kit.
The dual HDMI configuration supports picture and sound, and audio only. You may ask why? Well, it’s a real life saver if your receiver (just like ours) won’t pass 4.4.4 colour, or 4K HDR data through it. So for this evaluation we ran video direct to a screen, and used the second HDMI to feed audio to our amp.
When booting the Strato, there is a simple setup procedure for connecting to the internet. This can be done wirelessly or hard wired. If you are intending to control this via a 3rd party system like Control4, you’ll need to set the IP address to static rather than DHCP. Once on line, you’ll be prompted to register the product. This leads to a Kaleidescape account which you’ll need to access the Kaleidescape movie store. On last count, the store has around 80 UHD movies on offer in the UK. One nice freebie is that you get 5 Sony UHD movies free to download within 1 month of registering.
In my test suite I have a 38mbps BT Infinity broadband connection. This took the best part of the day to download all five freebie movies - well nobody said 4k files are easy to accommodate - but once downloaded, the titles looked and sounded great. I especially like the player’s immediacy. Pressing Play Movie, the unit just jumps straight into action.
So what if your client already has a large Blu-ray or DVD collection? Helpfully, for a small price you can import any existing collection into the system. You can’t just rip the disks to the HDD, it has to be done by placing the platter into a Kaleidescape Alto movie player that will then go off to the store to download the file. There are a two great reasons to do this: you get your whole movie collection listed, and you benefit from the awesome up-scaling built into the Strato.
During our audition, IP control of the Strato was seamless from a Control4 system. The standard drivers on the Kaleidescape site will not give you title art on the Control4 system, however there are 3rd party companies out there with drivers that will do this. This is an area where Kaleidescape can improve its game. A lot of British manufacturers give away free bespoke drivers with their kit and anybody spending this type of money will expect this. There is an option of downloading a Kaleidescape app, so in the meantime that’ll have to do
Kaleidescape Strato movie player: Verdict
The Strato is a premium offering with a price tag to match, but picture and sound quality can be considered sublime. Buyers have access to a huge number of 4K resolution movies, and the ability to upgrade any legacy discs onto the system. One technical spec to take note of when installing the Strato is that while your matrix or AV receiver may pass through the 4K signal, we did have two low end receivers that downgraded picture quality to 1080p. Hopefully, those dual HDMI outputs will go some of the way to solving such gritty problems. In all, highly recommended.
The Kaleidescape Strato is available now.
Price: £3960 with 6TB hard disk, and £3000 without.
Distribution is through Pulse.
David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a
popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
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