|Escient Fireball DVDM-552 Movie Manager|
|Home Theater Media Servers Video Servers|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Sunday, 01 October 2006|
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For all the tasks the DVDM-552 excels at, it is missing a few things that keep it from being truly revolutionary. The lack of any HDMI inputs or outputs leaves those trying to connect all of their digital equipment via this format reaching for some component video cables. It also has no analog 5.1 inputs and outputs, which effectively defeats the purpose of having SACD and DVD-Audio support in the first place.
Multitasking is poor with this unit. You can’t listen to music on the hard drive or Internet radio while ripping music to the hard drive from the changer or internal DVD drive. Basically, you have to wait and hear nothing while your music collection is being stored on the hard drive, which could take several days. Ripping to MP3, even at the lowest bit rate, seemed super-slow compared to ripping on a PC. Adding a single disc to the changer can lead to long waits while the changer re-looks up all the discs to see if anything changed from the last time it was run. Many of my SACD discs were not recognized by the Escient or GraceNote databases. Changer options are limited to one model, the Sony 777ES. There were several occasions when the changer and DVDM-552 lost contact with each other and become out of synch, requiring me to power cycle the changer. The Fireball is basically a networked PC, so it makes a noticeable hum from the internal hard drive even with the unit in standby mode. The fan also adds a lot of noise to my otherwise quiet home theater system.
The popularity of media managers is growing at an alarming rate, due to more people realizing how tedious juggling hundreds of discs can be. As libraries grow, so does the hassle of having to keep them organized and simple to use. In a world of information on demand and the Internet, media managers such as Escient’s DVDM-552 are a welcome addition. I found the user interface and the set-up of the unit very intuitive and easy. Once the unit is set up, I can easily picture a child or elderly person able to quickly find music or a movie within my collection. The addition of the internal hard drive increases the storage capacity and the speed of accessing the music within my library immensely. No more fumbling with my iPod and all the wires when entertaining guests. No scurrying through hundreds of CDs when I want to critically listen to music in a lossless format. The opportunity to listen to all my ripped music via MP3 streaming over a web browser is very trick and will impress any average Joe. I applaud the effort of Escient to merge an amazing amount of power and convenience into a small package. Although not cheap by most people’s standards, compared to $30,000 Kalidescape system, the Fireball can easily be considered a bargain.