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The Next Apple TV Feature: 4K HDR Video?

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The Next Apple TV Feature: 4K HDR Video?

The leaked HomePod firmware remains treasure trove of potential future Apple device features-- the latest being developer Guilhereme Rambo's discovery of a reference to a 4K HDR display mode.

The HomePod lacks a display, and the only Apple devices with native 4K capability are the latest iMac models, suggesting the disovery pertains to the Apple TV. In addition, Rambo discovered strings kCADisplayModeDolby and kCADisplayModeHDR10, suggesting a future Apple TV might even include support for the Dolby Vision and HDR10 colour formats.

Lending further credibility to such rumours is the fact Apple is listing select movies as 4K and HDR in the iTunes purchase history. This was discovered by MacRumors forum member Tomas Jackson, who shared a screenshot of his purchase history of the 2016 film Passengers. It lists as "Movie (4K, HDR)." However, as it currently stands the film can only be played in 720p and 1080p resolution, with no HDR.

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ECJ Rules STBs With Piracy Add-Ons Illegal!

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ECJ Rules STBs With Piracy Add-Ons Illegal!

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) takes a further step against film and TV piracy as it declares STBs configured for easy streaming are against the law.

The ruling comes via decision taken in the Dutch district case against one Mr. Wullems, who used to sell multimedia players through the website Filmspeler.nl. The court decreed Wullems' actions as a "communication to the public" (a peculiar doctrine specific to European law) in breech of copyright law, and following the decision the sale of all such players is, essentially, illegal.

Filmspeler.nl sold Android-based STBs running a version of Kodi pre-loaded with plugins allowing for easy access to pirated streams. European law allows to the temporary reproduction of copyrighted work (which is what a stream technically does) but the court insists piracy-friendly boxes adversely affect the actual copyright holder, and thus go against the exemption.

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Oppo Intros UDP-205 "Audiophile" UHD Blu-ray Player

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Oppo Intros UDP-205

Oppo announces a follow-up to the UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player-- the UDP-205, a player the company claims carries superior components for the audiophile set.

The UDP-2015 uses a pair of ES9038PRO DACs, flagship of the ESS Sabre Pro series, to deliver "best-in-class" audio performance. A toroidal transformer boosts player efficiency, while full metal construction ensure it is less prone to vibrations.

It also features an HDMI audio jitter reduction circuit, support for XLR balanced and RCA single-ended connectors, a set of 7.1-channel analogue outputs and an asynchronous USB DAC input with PCM and DSD file support.

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Yamaha Updates 2016 AVR Firmware

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Yamaha Updates 2016 AVR Firmware

Yamaha announces owners of a number of 2016 AV receivers will get the latest and shiniest in features, including support for Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma, via firmware update.

The company is still to tell when the update will be available, but it confirms the AVR models getting it-- the RX-V681, RX-A860, RX-A1060, RX-A2060, RX-A3060 and CX-A5100. Some models already have other features making a fully-fledged Yamaha AVR, such as Dolby Atmos and Yamaha MusicCast multi-room streaming support.

As for firmware features, these are Dolby Vision, Hybrid-Log Gamma, Tidal and Deezer. Dolby Vision is the Dolby end-to-end solution for HDR video, currently present in LG and Sony TVs as well as Oppo and LG Blu-ray players. It also finds use by Netflix. Meanwhile Hybrid Log-Gamma is a backwards-compatible HDR broadcasting standard co-developed by BBC and NHK.

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Onkyo Intros Mid-Range TX-NR676E

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Onkyo Intros Mid-Range TX-NR676E

Onkyo announces the TX-NR676E-- a 7.2-channel network AVR featuring next-generation A/V support, app-based streaming and multi-room audio capabilities.

Rated at 160W per channel, the TX-NR676E supports HDMI HDCP 2.2 and is compatible with Onkyo FireConnect wireless speakers. Connectivity comes through x6 HDMI inputs on the back, as well as a front HDMI input and x2 HDMI outputs. Also included are a phono input, x3 digital audio inputs (x2 optical/x1 coax) and x6 analog audio inputs.

On the wireless side the AVR offers dual-band wifi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Chromecast and DTS Play-Fi casting from supported apps and devices. Customers can also share audio to speakers in another room via powered zone 2 speaker outputs, and support for Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and TuneIn streaming is included. Onkyo Controller allows users to select music from connected NAS and USB sources.

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Panasonic Presents Soundbars, OLED TVs

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Panasonic Presents Soundbars, OLED TVs

Panasonic takes on home theatre with the announcement of a pair of soundbars-- the SC-HTB488 and the SC-SB1 "soundbar concept"-- together with two OLED TVs, the EZ952 and a 77-inch version of the EZ1002.

The SC-HTB488 is a soundbar featuring 2 independent speakers and 200W total output. It pairs wirelessly with a subwoofer to add more bass to home cinema viewing, and also plays audio from mobile devices via Bluetooth connection. Customers can either wall-mount it or leave it free-standing, and it fits neatly beneath TVs without obscuring the view.

Meanwhile the SC-SB1 "soundbar concept" also has Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an HDMI connection with 4K pass-through. It offers 40W total power through 3-way speakers and "strong" bass via slit at the front, and measures just 43 x 5 x 12cm, making it a compact audio solution.

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Futuresource: Global Home Video Spend Reaches $251bn in 2016

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Futuresource: Global Home Video Spend Reaches $251bn in 2016

According to Futuresource Consulting the global video entertainment market is in good health-- combined home video and pay-TV spending totals $251bn in 2016, a 3% increase over 2015.

The report covers consumer spending across digital video (SVoD, TVoD, EST, Pay-TV VoD), packaged video (DVD & Blu-ray) and pay-TV. It points out pay-TV accounts for 86% of global video entertainment spending, with the pay-TV share of the market remaining stable as growth is in-line with spending on both physical and digital home video.

The analyst also forecasts overall video entertainment spending will reach $250bn by 2020 with a CAGR of 3%. A "standout" performer in both present and the future is SVoD, with subscriptions reaching 236 million by end 2016, a number set to double to 485m by 2020. Netflix dominates that particular market, even if it is challenged by Amazon and global entertainment companies including content producers, hardware manufactures and telcos.

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Panasonic Intros 4K Blu-ray Players

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Panasonic Intros 4K Blu-ray Players

Panasonic sets to take advantage of the growing 4K market with the CES 2017 launch of a trio of UHD Blu-ray players-- the DMP-UB400, UB310 and UB300.

All models feature dual HDMI outputs, 4K Netflix streaming support and compatibility with high-resolution audio formats such as WAV, FLAC, ALAC and DSD (5.6MHz/2.8MHz). The UB400 also includes vacuum tube listening modes with 96kHz/192kHz upsampling. All players feature wifi connectivity except for the UB300.

Powering the players is the HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor, a 4K image engine developed by Panasonic Hollywood Labs. It upsamples native 4K/24p 4:2:0 Blu-ray discs to 4:4:4 4K/60p with 4:2:2 colour upsampling. Panasonic says colour accuracy remains high during upsampling, since it uses a "multi-tap process" to compare a number of pixels in additional to those in the upper and lower positions, creating optimal pixels.

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Plex Starts Playing Nice With Kodi

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Plex Starts Playing Nice With Kodi

A new plug-in allows customers to enjoy the best of two worlds-- the Plex media server gets an official add-on for the Kodi media player, bringing the two XBMC off-shoots together.

Back in 2002, there was Xbox Media Player, a self explanatory piece of software for the original Xbox. Eventually it was dubbed XBMC, before the developers settled for the Kodi name. Plex is also the result of XBMC, but while Kodi remains a media player Plex grew into a powerful and user-friendly media server solution able to access media from anywhere in the world.

Plex is available for just about any device out there, be it Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, Xbox and a range of smart TVs. Now it is also available for Kodi via aforementioned add-on, combining the Plex server UI with the customisable Kodi media player. It offers a range of major features, including server discovery, user switching and library browsing, with more to be added in the future.

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Oppo Presents First UHD Blu-ray Player

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Oppo Presents First UHD Blu-ray Player

Oppo announces the UPD-203-- the first UHD Blu-ray player from the company, with support for 4K/UHD resolution visuals together with HDR and a variety of high resolution audio formats.

The company says the player launches with standard HDR:10 support, with Dolby Vision upcoming in a future firmware update. As for audio, the UPD-203 carries a 32-bit DAC able to handle formats including 24-bit PCM, 2-channel DSD256 and multi-channel DSD64/128, as well as lossless high resolution audio such as AIFF, ALAC, APE, FLAV and WAV.

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Kaleidescape Returns After New Investments!

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Kaleidescape Returns After New Investments!

Crisis is somewhat averted for Kaleidescape-- the high-end media server maker manages to secure new investment, allowing it to resume operations following obligatory restructuring and expense slashing.

"We are delighted to announce that we have restarted operations," an email to shareholders from CEO Cheena Srinivasan reads. "We restructured the company, slashed expenses, and obtained the investment needed (with no change of control). We are manufacturing and shipping a significant backlog of products that were ordered during the past two weeks. We are confident that our restructuring combined with this new investment will enable Kaleidescape to quickly return to growth and profitability."

Kaleidescape temporarily shut down earlier in August 2016. Why? The company essentially ran out of money, a situation detailed in Srinivasan's email. The CEO admits troubles started back in October 2015 with the Strato, a movie player launched without promised software features, such as HDR, Terra Support, DVD playback and playback from Premiere systems. The result was an unfinished product, and "sales suffered accordingly."

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