Popcorn Hour A-500 PRO High-End Media Player is Powered by Sigma Designs SMP8758 SoC (Crowdfunding)

CloudMedia, previously known as Syabas, has been in the Linux media player business for many years, having developed various product based on Sigma Designs secure media processor. Popcorn Hour A-500 PRO is their latest media player, which the company claims have high-end audio and video quality thanks to an ESS SABRE Audio DAC, XLR connectors, and Sigma Designs SMP8758 dual core Cortex A9 processor and its VXP engine.


Popcorn Hour A-500 PRO specifications:

  • SoC – Sigma Designs SMP8758 ARM Cortex A9 processor @ 1.2 GHz with ARM Mali-400 GPU and VXP image processing engine
  • System Memory – 2048 MB DDR3
  • Storage – NAND Flash for firmware, 1x SD card reader, internal SATA bay
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz
  • Audio Output
    • Digital – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, and coaxial S/PDIF
    • Analog – Stereo RCA jacks, XLR connectors, and headphones
    • Audio DAC – ESS SABRE Audio DAC ES9018K2M
  • Video Containers – M1V, M2V, M4V, M2P, MPG,VOB TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M@TS, MTS, AVI, ASF, WMV, MKV, 3DMKV, MOV, MP4, RMP4
  • Video Codecs – HEVC, VP9, H.264, MPEG-4.2-ASP, SMPTE 421M, AVS, H.261
  • Audio
    • Formats – AAC, M4A, MPEG audio, WAV, WMA, FLAC, OGG, APE, TTA, DSD
    • Decoders – DTS, WMA, WMA Pro, MPEG-1 (Layer 1,2,3), MPEG-4 AAC-LC, MPEG-4 HE-AAC, LPCM, FLAC, Vorbix
    • Pass-through – DTS, DTS-HD HR, DTS-HD MA
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host, 1x USB 3.0 slave
  • Misc – IR receiver, IR extender port, dual boot switch, power and network LEDs
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – 210 x 188 x 57 mm (Aluminum enclosure)
  • Weight – N/A

Media_Player_XLR_ConnectorThis fanless 4K media player  will ship with a remote control, two AAA batteries, an HDMI cable, a USB 3.0 slave cable, ab AC power adapter, a Quick Start Guide, and a Warrranty card. The device can run Linux or Android, and both operating systems appear to be pre-installed, as there’s a dual boot switch on the device. The guts of the machine are actually pretty similar to Popcorn Hour VTEN, which I reviewed a few months ago and found quite good at what it’s supposed to do play videos, including 4K videos using 10-bit HEVC codec, and handle HDMI audio pass-through for all HD audio codec I tested. Popcorn Hour A500 PRO is a different beast however with double the RAM, a SATA bay, higher-end audio codec and connectors, and support for both Linux and Android, while VTEN was only running Linux at the time.

Movie Jukebox App in Linux
Movie Jukebox App in Linux

I had never heard about XLR connectors before. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about them:

The XLR connector is a style of electrical connector, primarily found on professional audio, video, and stage lighting equipment. The connectors are circular in design and have between 3 and 7 pins. They are most commonly associated with balanced audio interconnection, including AES3 digital audio, but are also used for lighting control, low-voltage power supplies, and other applications

It’s pretty hard to find media player with XLR outputs, Denon DN-105C is one of the them, and it sells for $549. You’ll also need need some “speakers” with XLR inputs such as Yamaha HS5 monitors ($250), so that mostly for audiophiles who don’t mind spending extra for better audio quality.

Instead of launching Popcorn Hour A-500 PRO on their website as for most their earlier products, CloudMedia decided to go the Kickstarter route as for their STACK Box home automation gateway. Rewards start at $399 with the “Early Bird Special” that should get you the player by November 2015. Shipping is not included, depending where you live can add quite a lot. This ranges from $11 to Hong Kong, $37 to the US or Europe, and up to a cool $184 if you are lucky enough to live in the Seychelles, or most African countries…

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