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Media player adds high-end analog audio and XLR out

Aug 25, 2015 — by Eric Brown 3,328 views

Cloud Media has launched a dual-boot Linux and Android “Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro” media player with 3840 x 2160 video, high-quality analog audio, and XLR out.

Formerly known as Syabas, Cloud Media has been selling Linux-based Popcorn Hour and Popbox media players for years. Last year, Cloud Media found Kickstarter success with its Linux-based Stack Box home automation box. This week it achieved its $50K Kickstarter funding goal for the new top-of-the-line Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro media player and music system, which adds high fidelity stereo analog audio to its usual media player and home theater functions.

Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro, with headphone jack on left

Whereas the previous Popcorn Hour A-410 media player costs only $249, the A-500 Pro will retail for $599. It’s still available on KS for an early bird price of $399. When those are gone, you can get it for $449.

Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro mainboard (left) and ESS SABRE32 Audio DAC ES9018K2M block diagram.
(click images to enlarge)

The key addition to the A-500 Pro is an ESS SABRE32 Audio DAC (model ES9018K2M). Cloud Media touts the DAC for its 32-bit, Hyper-Stream architecture and time domain jitter eliminator technology. The ES9018K2M delivers a dynamic range (DNR) of up to 35dB, as well as a THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise) rating of -120dB, claims the company.

A-500 Pro with UI (left) and back panel highlighting analog stereo jacks and XLR ports
(click images to enlarge)

The Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro furnishes three analog outputs: a noise cancelling headphone jack, stereo speaker jacks, as well as a pair of XLR stereo outputs that are touted for their advanced signal quality and high immunity to electromagnetic interference. The A-500 Pro is the world’s first media player with XLR output, says Cloud Media.

Like the Popcorn Hour A-410, the A-500 Pro runs Linux on a dual-core, Cortex-A9 based Sigma Designs SoC. The A-500 Pro, however, moves up to a 1.2GHz Sigma SMP8758 with Mali-400 MP4 GPU, enabling 3840 x 2160-pixel video. The SoC also enables the system to dual-boot Android along with Linux. There’s even a dual-boot switch on the side of the device. The system supports HEVC decode and VXP video processing.

A-500 Pro detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The 210 x 188 x 57mm brushed aluminum chassis is passively cooled. The device is loaded with 2GB of DDR3, as well as an SD slot and a slide-out hard disk drive tray. An HDMI port, component audio, as well as optical and coaxial S/PDIF ports are available in addition to the analog audio outputs. Other features include a gigabit Ethernet port, three USB ports, and an IR remote.


The Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro appears to offer the same media player UI as provided by earlier Popcorn Hour boxes. An Android mobile app is available for controlling the device and uploading media.

A-500 Pro video UI (left) and audio UI with Android app
(click images to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro include:

  • Processor — Sigma Designs SMP8758 (2x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1.2GHz); Mali-400 MP4 GPU; supports HEVC decode and VXP
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB DDR3 RAM
    • SD slot
    • SATA HDD bay (slideable)
  • Audio:
    • Optical and coaxial S/PDIF ports
    • Analog headphone jack
    • 2x analog stereo jacks
    • 2x analog XLR ports
    • ESS Sabre32 Audio DAC (ES9018K2M)
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • HDMI port (with audio) at up to 3840 x 2160 @ 30Hz with cable
    • Component video
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • USB 3.0 slave port with cable
    • IR extender port
  • Other features — remote control with 2x AAA batteries; fanless with aluminum heatsink; Android mobile app
  • Dimensions — 210 x 188 x 57mm
  • Operating system — Dual-boot Linux and Android with hardware switch

Further information

The Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro is available on Kickstarter through Sept. 23 for an early bird price of $399, as well as $449 thereafter. Bundle discounts are available, and shipments are due in November when the retail price moves to $599. More information may be found at the Popcorn Hour A-500 Pro Kickstarter page, and more details should eventually appear on the Cloud Media website.

(advertise here)

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