|Escient Fireball DVDM-100 DVD and Music Manager|
|Home Theater Media Servers Video Servers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Wednesday, 01 September 2004|
Page 3 of 3
One potential downside is that you can’t mix Kenwood and Sony changers. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, the high-quality switching capability is the perfect opportunity to seamlessly integrate DVD-Audio and SACD into your system by hooking up a DVD/DVD Audio changer from Kenwood and a DVD/SACD changer from Sony to the FireBall at the same time. I discussed this with Escient and they believe that this capability could be possible on future software updates if there is a demand for it.
Sticking with software, or more accurately databases, the Gracenote CDDB and Escient Movie DB, while constantly improving, are far from perfect. As I indicated, they were able to identify over 90 percent of my discs. Most of the remaining 10 percent were labeled unknown, but some were completely mislabeled. Most of the mislabeled discs were DVD-Audio discs. The good news is that the people at Escient are aware of this and are working on an update to more accurately identify DVD-Audio discs.
On the hardware side, my only concern is the non-modular back plate and the lack of expandability for future connectors, such as DVI. While composite, S-Video and component cover all the current mega-changers, I expect that the near future will bring us changers with digital video interfaces.
I found the FireBall DVDM-100 to be a great way to effectively and affordably organize and quickly access a large collection of DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, CD and SACD discs. Using the FireBall box as the switcher, rather than daisy-chaining the changers, preserves the audio/video signals and retains the benefits of SACD and DVD-Audio discs, regardless of whether they are in the first changer or the third.
The best comparison for the FireBall DVDM-100 is Kalidescape’s hard drive-based video server, with an entry price just a shade under $30,000 to hold a mere 180 discs (amazingly, $150 per disc). In order to compete with the 1,200-disc storage capacity of a three-changer FireBall system, you might break into the six figure range with a Kalidescape system. Despite a retail price that resembles a J-Lo trip to Van Clef and Arpels, Kalidescape’s user interface is truly something to behold as is its ability to broadcast movies to multiple locations, but it doesn’t do anything for music. Kalidescape is closer to 100 percent on finding disc titles when you load in a new disc and it also can manage your screen masking for different aspect ratios, which is ultra-cool. While you do get some cool features for an extra $25,000 to $75,000 grand, Kalidescape does force you to sign your life away with a user agreement that is loaded with scary legal jargon. Since you own the DVDs and the players on a FireBall system, you don’t really have to worry about Big Brother shutting your system off, which should definitely be a fear with the big-bucks Kalidescape system. Basically, for a tiny fraction of the price of the best video server and with many other goodies installed, you get all of the advantages of the top-of-the-line system for way less money. Unless you have successfully taken a few companies public, the FireBall system is the way to go.
Going to the next level, the FireBall system can be further expanded by adding their hard drive music server system. This will allow you to stream MP3-encoded music, as well as accessing your disc collection through one interface. I highly recommend those with large collections of DVDs, CDs, SACDs and DVD-Audio discs stored in multiple mega-changers to invest in the FireBall DVDM-100. The FireBall makes the task of wading through hundreds of discs to find the one you want quick and easy to accomplish, allowing you to get straight to entertainment without much wasted time searching.
With many of the best features of the reference standard video servers, the FireBall DVDM-100 is a breakthrough product that helps home theater enthusiasts manage growing collection of movies on DVD while providing new ways to manage your vast MP3 collections and allowing you to try out obscure internet radio stations. Because of how the FireBall DVDM-100 can improve the ease with which you can get new movies and music into your life, I can give the system an emphatic thumbs up.