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Sunfire: Another Media Server Bites the Dust

TGM-100 movie and music server will be replaced with Elan G control system, which integrates with Sony 400-disc Blu-ray changer


RIP: Sunfire Theater Grand Media Server (TGM-100)

Sunfire is the latest manufacturer to drop its media server, following Escient, Axonix (morphed to something else) and much earlier Xperinet.

The company is phasing out the Theater Grand Media Server (TGM-100) introduced last year at a retal price of about $6,000.

Why bother with it, really, since sister company Elan will offer a media management solution with the forthcoming G control system. Besides, the media server was a strange fit for Sunfire, whose strength is in subwoofers, speakers and related electronics.

“With the release of Elan’s new G system, dealers will get many of the features they have been asking for, like management of Blu-ray changers, plus access to Pandora, Rhapssody and more,” says marketing director Eric Harper.

The Elan G won’t support DVD ripping as Sunfire’s TGM did. With that, Elan joins the likes of Control4 and Crestron which prefer to leave the movie storage business to someone else.

Harper says that phone calls were made to affected Sunfire dealers, “and we are working with them to ensure a smooth transition.”

Elan announced in March that the G system would support the Sony BDP-CX7000ES Blu-ray 400 Disc Changer (press release, next page).

Meanwhile, perhaps you can get a good deal from Vidabox.





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Article Topics

News · Product News · Video · Media Servers · Home Automation and Control · Elan · Vidabox · Media Server · Sunfire · Xperinet · Escient · Axonix · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

15 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Flip  on  04/24  at  06:41 AM

This whole category has become nothing but a crap shoot. Its clear that all of the manufacturers/suppliers in this category have been looking at market trends and do not like what they see.

I spent years on the fence, looking at the countless suppliers, and finally settled on the new Escient Vision, as I rationlized to myself that they at least “have a track record”. Wow, did I get burned.

Its funny, as soon as the Escient announcement came out, I had this very conversation with others and I jokingly predicted that IMERGE was going to be the next to go.

Well, I was partly correct, in that the Sunfire TGM was nothing more than a rebadged Imerge media server.

I had been looking into the Imerge previously, as it was supposedly going to be marketed through Speakercraft (after the Linear Corp aquisitions) but that never seemed to go anywhere and that product was very quietly dropped from the Speakercraft lineup.

Imerge now has an entirely new distributor in Canada. I wonder how that is going?

Posted by Flip  on  04/24  at  06:48 AM

Further…..

So it then appears that firms now want to take a bury their head in the sand approach, and go back to the old Escient style of single zone, physical changer based storage??

Sure, this is reliable and cant suit certain applications perfectly, but in a brave new world where even Average Joe’s are out there putting their own media servers together and ripping DVD and Bluray content, do they really think people will be even interested??

Posted by Hello  on  04/24  at  10:20 PM

Nice, hopefully kaleidescape will join them shortly.

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  04/25  at  08:33 AM

@ Hello:
Kaleidescape systems do not depend on the Sony 7000ES player for its content/library. IMO, Kaleidescape is the finest server in the business. However, I believe all of these servers will soon be in our attics/garages in the not too distant future as 1080p HD streaming video technology improves.

Posted by Innovation  on  04/25  at  09:10 PM

Realistically, you can achieve the same results as any DVD Movie server with a $129 DMA like the Asus O!Play and a $499 4TB NAS from Buffalotech. Bump up the quality of the NAS and you’ve got a multi room solution. Not sure why integrators don’t create and bundle their own unique packages that can’t be competitively shopped by home owners.

Posted by joel degray  on  04/26  at  07:45 AM

@ innovation, We came out of the black box age of integration decades ago.
All too often integrators (who’s background is not in storage) think that you can go to Costco or Newegg and put together a storage solution for a fraction of the price. This is like going into McDonalds and saying “That’s the best burger I have ever eaten”, and then go on to recommend it to friends…

A 6 TB array of similar quality to Kaleidescape’s storage array is aprox. $8k. There is no second place either when you have that much data and you have a failure. We need to educate our clients to these differences prior to a catastrophic failure and a big long apology (or you reaching into your pocket to pay for a re-rip).

Posted by Innovation  on  04/26  at  08:38 AM

@ joel degray, Great response Joel, I might however push back and say that an iomega (not shutting its doors anytime soon) 8TB 1U rackmount NAS is around $3K, with equivalent or better specs than the Kalidescape unit, and that with the black box DMAs your margin can be built into your technical expertise and an included 6 month at-home check-up as part of an extended 1 year warranty (instead of a standard 90 day install warranty). Margin is still there, it just needs to be moved around. I think we can agree that the customer has to know and feel that they’re buying your expertise and support, not the box.

Plus the right DMA can play Bluray movie files, properly.

Posted by joel degray  on  04/26  at  09:28 AM

@ innovation, I like the idea of a 6 month check up. Proactive service is always the cornerstone of a great customer service dept. I would say that if you installed a Kal server you wouldn’t need to include this, but again always good to be on top of your clients.

I would also add that an Iomega is not even close to the technology of the Kal. The first 2 disks are a striped parity. As you add disks, the OS is further striped for near infallible operation. Having said that, the remaining disks are a modified RAID 4 design, grow-able, even with different sized disks.

Given my profession I see almost 100 HDs / servers per month as well as being an avid experimenter with all comers. I have seen the failures, poor specs and those which can’t hit the spec they claim. Sincerely, there is nothing even close to the Kaleidescape on the market. The remaining solutions are best left to tinkerers and those who like spending time at their clients homes for un-billable service hours. Best- JD

Posted by Robert Archer  on  04/26  at  12:46 PM

I think the industry should be prepared to deal with protected content downloads and companion hardware like the prototype Pioneer E-Tap system the company showed at CEDIA this past fall.

Until then without the support of Hollywood we will unfortunately probably hear more news like this.

Between the DIY market with no-margin computer products and the lack of content to legally rip, this category will remain a niche channel.

The movie industry is not going to make the same mistakes the music industry did. They will not release their content without a system in place that protects their best interests.

Until the day comes with a product like E-Tap or some advanced Apple TV product that offers legal HD content, installers will need to stress the reliability of their hardware and their support that stands behind the products they install.

Posted by joel degray  on  04/26  at  12:53 PM

Bob,

I fear you are right. I also fear that we (as an industry) are not lobying hard enough (at all) to force our position.
They are certainly stifling both business and innovation- it’s truly a monopoly.

From what I have seen, no major manufacturer (Pioneer, Sony et al) will ever do what’s in their client’s best interest…

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  04/26  at  02:01 PM

@ joel & Bob,
Both of you are absolutely correct, (like you were waiting around for my opinion).

However, let us never forget history… Back in the day, (before there were video rental stores), if you wanted to own a movie on VHS or Beta, (The Dirty Dozen, The Graduate, etc.) you’d had to pay $79.95 for that title/film. Even then there was a copy guard system on those pre-packaged films. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that you could disable the encrypted copy guard and make a copy by crossing formats… In other words, if you had a VHS copy of the film, all you had to do was let the VHS machine play it and let the Beta machine record it, or vice versa.

Next, there were Macrovision copy guards on most video tape films, (Disney always used it), which prevented you from copying even if you crossed formats. So then what happened? Every little company, (and even Radio Shack), began selling their own little black boxes to defeat that copy guard.

Now we come into the world of DVD’s & Blu Ray discs. Kal systems was the first company to win a court case that enabled their technology to rip both formats into/onto their servers. The last time I looked, the courts were trying to appeal their decision against Kal from producing any more units with this ability, but I’m unaware of any results or if the case is still pending.

The bottom line here is two fold…
A. There’s a ton of software available for sale that will let you rip anything and defeat all copy guard systems whether it be Blu Ray or the use of HDMI, (which only replaced DVI because it could not handle/assure the copy guards Hollywood insisted on).
B. IMO, the people who created and sell this software are not hackers who cracked the code… These are the same people that created the DRM’s & copy guard systems. It’s a, “win-win,” scenario for them.

Is this any different from Goldman Sachs selling toxic mortgages to their clients on one end and betting short on them on the other?  The worse the economy gets, the more thieves come out of the woodwork for their own benefit.

Posted by Dave  on  04/27  at  12:37 AM

While Kalidescape won round 1, that decision was overturned last September by an appellate court. It’s now back at the lower court. Additionally, the Kalidescape case concerned a contract issue with the DVD CCA, not a DMCA violation. Basically, Kalidescape argued that the disc-in-drive rule was optional. The first court also found that additional provisions provided to Kalidescape after execution of the CSS license were not properly integrated.

The case that is more on point with media servers is RealDVD. In that case, the court found that RealDVD violated the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. The court also went on to find that the DMCA over-turns portions of Sony v. Universal as it pertains to fair use shifting (Real made a space-shifting argument that the court explicitly rejects). The DMCA says you cannot circumvent a technological measure or provide others with the means of circumventing a technological measure. All DVD and Blu-Ray discs have a technological measure that protects the disc and cannot be (at least under the current jurisprudence or statutes) circumvented.

That means you start seeing more of these companies disappear or shift to changer-based systems unless courts start interpreting the DMCA differently. There’s no legal way to get the content into the systems because the studios won’t license the standards to manufacturers (RealNetworks and Kalidescape already tried).

Posted by smartass  on  04/27  at  06:35 AM

How many “s” in Rhapsody? Is that a new Scrabble word?

Posted by Mark Coxon  on  04/27  at  04:37 PM

What a great topic and a world of feedback.

I agree that unless Hollywood can secure their Intellectual Property, they will not be open to releasing high quality versions of their films digitally. 

Most studios now give a digital copy in the DVD clamshell, but I assume it is always a 480p copy at best.  I have no desire to promote this through a distribution server to deliver 480p content to 1080p sets.

HDMI offers them some protection, as it has the HDCP handshake, which is why the analog sunset is killing off component video for HD distribution (yes even 720p and 1080i will be eliminated over YUV) the next couple years.

The other protection they get is through MPEG4 as it is hard/impossible to re-author into other resolutions and color spaces.

The commercial space has much better standards for encryption which is why actual theaters are not getting the same crappy 8 bit copies of films with MPEG artifacts that we get in the consumer space on our DVD’s and BD’s.

Kaleidescape will have to embrace HDMI, which will limit the number of clients that can access the same title at the same time, as HDCP limits the number of devices that can play content at once.

Crestron has done this with DM, at insane prices, and no viable storage server (sorry ADMS, I don’t think you’re there yet, keep going).  I do like their scaleable system and 2 channel DSP downmix for HDMI sources through stereo devices.  THey have the right idea, just need a more cost effective model.

THe real trick woul be to create a 400 disc BluRay with multiple outputs and reading heads, maybe 2-4.  Then you could support multiple 1080p streams and distribute them via HDMI through an HDMI matrix switch and fiber or Cat based baluns across the home.  Then multiple users could watch content without it being loaded in separate machines or having redundant copies in multiple machines.  You would still have read time issues, unlike Kaleidescape, but no DMCA circumvention.

Any word from Sony on a Blu-Ray Shuttle system with multiple read heads??? lol

As for the cloud, it is brewing in the distance, which is why we keep getting scabs, instead of new innovative solutions. 

DECE will allow you to buy rights to a copy of media on the cloud and then when you play it back your device will request the optimal playback format, through a password protected portal using a biometric identifier like facial recognition and your retinal map, to make sure you are the only one watching what you paid for. . creepy

Just my take.  Good luck to all in the “Brave New World”.

Best,

Mark

Posted by Joe Changer  on  04/28  at  05:32 PM

I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and seen just as many great technologies customized for our channel (starting with Frox) crash and burn, and the Media Server will find it’s suitable place at the bottom of the ocean with the rest of them.

In less than 2 years we will all be demoted to trunk slammer status (like those TVRO Sat dish guys were) - hanging TVs with ethernet jacks and bulk-buying Cisco routers for streaming content to every set in the house for 15 points of equipment margin - and if we are lucky also installing a BD changer controller solution with an iPad UI in the theater with a direct HDMI connect to the Projector People projector for 30 points margin, maybe netting 22.5 points total?

Reality bites don’t it?

Will building customize video ripping solutions ourselves be the margin saviour? Just because we can - does not mean we should - because it won’t.

As soon as we look beyond A/V distribution to embrace remote access, lighting and HVAC control (anything green) we suddenly get our value-add mojo back and not be shopped to death by our A/V customers.

Joe

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