If you look into the cabinets of most home-theater enthusiasts, you'll see boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. A box for the cable/satellite DVR box, a Blu-ray player box, a game console box or two, a Roku and/or Apple TV box. Lots of boxes. All necessary to perform different functions because nobody's really solved the problem of combining all of these disparate types of devices into one unit.
An Austin company with a new product it debuted at the CEDIA 2016 trade show in Dallas over the weekend, says it might have the box A/V geeks have been waiting for. Modulus Media Systems is showing off a device it plans to begin shipping in March or April for about $2,899 called the M1. That seems pricey compared to components you might find at Best Buy, but the M1 combines a CD/DVD/Blu-ray player/ripper, 12 terabytes of space to store a home-media library, a DVR with no monthly fees capable of automatic commercial skipping, 4K video streaming and the ability to watch recordings and other home media remotely. Despite not yet being available for purchase, the system was already written up as "Almost Good To Be True" by Sound & Vision and won an Editor's Choice Award from Innovation & Tech Today.
For comparison, the products made by a company called Kaleidescape, which sell through high-end A/V dealers, primarily focus on movie playing and cost about $2,500 to $4,500.
The company's chief executive, Steven Schulz, says "The industry was really ripe for innovation." He says finding a device that can do so many things outside of a satellite or cable provider is nearly impossible. "It's just really hard to do well," he said. "There's not that many DVR options in the market."
Schulz, who spent 12 years as CEO of Austin's Silicon Integration Initiative Inc., calls himself a part-time musician and a cinephile. He and his wife self-funded the A/V company and hope to open an Austin office in January with about 20-25 employees to launch the product into the crowded consumer electronics marketplace.
He says that at the CEDIA trade show, the response from peers in the consumer electronics trade industry indicated that at $2,899, the M1 is not considered expensive.
"When we started, we thought this was going to be a considered a high-end, premium product for private cinemas and new home construction. We were surprised to find that people consider our pricing on the low side," he said. "Some people may not need 12 TB of storage, so we'll offer a unit with lower pricing" as well.
The company is expecting to offer several variations of the M1, but at launch it will also be selling the MX1, a satellite unit that can offer viewing of content on the M1 from any room over a wired or wireless connection.
Gaming is another area that Modulus hopes to incorporate: the M1 will offer the ability to record audio and video from video games via an HDMI input pass-through. That footage will be available to upload to websites such as Twitch. Schulz side there also could be future Modulus products that incorporate hardware geared toward gamers.
As for the system's proprietary user interface, accessed with a full-keyboard air remote control, Schulz said, "It's a complex mixture of many hundreds of open-source programs as well as a lot of propriety software development that pulls all the pieces together. Overall, there's 26 million lines of code in the M1."
A/V enthusiasts will get a chance to see for themselves whether the M1 delivers on these promises next year.
Here's a look at the M1 from the CEDIA 2016 conference: