Escient Fireball DVDM-100 & Sony DVP-CX777ES, Review

November 11, 2004

FireBallDVDM-100DVD management systems pretty much fall into four categories, on the floor, on the shelf, in the changer, or in the HTPC. I suppose there’s a fifth but if you live on the wrong side of the tracks, like I do, St. Nick’s sleigh won’t be carrying any Kaleidescape’s with our name on them this year. For those of you who’d rather buy a decent car than a DVD server this year, might I suggest an alternative.

Escient was one of the original manufacturers of hard drive based music servers, the type of product you can hardly escape in multi-room audio circles. Where Escient shined through was their user interface, by now there are hundreds of music servers, but few if any have eclipsed their intuitive user interface. I use the DVDM-100’s so often I find my self taking them for granted, so this last time we installed one, I thought I’d document it and share the results here.

The DVDM-100 makes organization of your DVD collection pretty much an afterthought. For example, it’s irrelevant what slot you put disc 3 of a 6 disc set in the changer. The fireball automatically looks up the information on Gracenote or Escient’s own “MovieDB”, downloads the information, and then pre-sorts according to title, cast, genre, etc. If you have ever loaded older, standalone Sony DVD changers, you’ll instantly recognize the time savings of this feature.

One thing to keep in mind, if you’re considering a DVDM-100, is that an internet connection at the unit is a necessity. While dial-up is supported, I’d recommend against its use for no other reason than the obvious, it’s slow and subject to drop-offs. On the subject of necessities, unlike its MP3 cousin the Fireball E-40 / 120, the DVDM-100 doesn’t rip the DVD’s to a hard drive. It requires the use of a DVD changer and at the present time three DVD changers are supported, the Sony DVP-CX777ES DVD changer and Kenwood DV-5900M or DV-5050M changers. I recommend the Sony model, based solely on the fact other dealers have reported minor reliability problems with the Kenwood models.

dvp-cx777esThe Sony DVP-CX777ES DVD changer is actually one of, if not the only, DVD changer I’d recommend to a client. So many changers give way to convenience over video quality, but not the CX777ES. The first time I saw one running I couldn’t believe it was a changer. Does it look as good as, say a Denon DVD-3910? No, but not by such a degree as to outweigh the inherent benefits of the changer/manager combination. One bummer to this whole recommendation deal is the fact the DVDM-100 is black and the Sony changer is silver. Not a huge deal but Sony was on the silver bandwagon when the 777ES came out and we’re stuck with it, as is.

Ok, enough with the small talk. How does this thing work? In essence, the changer is connected to the Fireball and an RS-232 cable is connected between both units. The Fireball sends disc selection and shuttle commands to the changer, resulting in a seamless mesh and transparent interface to the operator. The Fireball remote handles all of the functions, once the system is configured. For the utmost coolness factor, the 232 commands can be routed to a 2-way control system such as AMX or Crestron, giving real time, on-screen DVD titles, time remaining, and such.

With connection and final configuration done the end result might be anti-climatic to those who are use to a lot of futzing around with gear. Basically connect the audio and video cables to the DVDM-100, plug in the Ethernet connection, then check for software updates with Escient, select “Lookup” all through the on-screen menu system, and then just sit back and wait for the system to find the data and cover art and away you go. The end result is an easy to navigate, intuitive on-screen menu with all of your DVD titles a click away.

escient_dvdm-100The DVDM-100’s software updates are free and critical in keeping the system up to date and error free. Additionally there is no charge for accessing Escient’s movie database or the included streaming internet radio stations, via the Fireball. If you’re constantly rummaging through your DVD collection looking for that one disc in pile, the DVDM-100 is certainly worth a look. I’ve used several software generations of the DVDM-100 and while earlier models were prone to the ever so occasional lock-up, I can assure you that the current version is rock solid.

ecsient_dvd_titlesEscient on-screen guide.
ecsient_title_detailEscient title detail.
lookup_allOn-Screen menu.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Media Servers


  • nick

    My sony dvp-cx777es will not recognize some of my dvds even though they played on older dvp version and play fine elsewhere…..any settings i am missing or thoughts

  • nick

    My sony dvp-cx777es will not recognize some of my dvds even though they played on older dvp version and play fine elsewhere…..any settings i am missing or thoughts