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Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player Review

Today, we’re putting together the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review to discuss this all-in-one high-end media server and player. It combines all the colours and crisp details of true quality 4K Ultra HD, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. 

The Zappiti Reference can stream content to other Zappiti devices within your home via the company’s Share advanced stream protocol. This media player features a dual-internal hard drive bay. It can host movies, TV shows and music files up to 40TB. Plus, it features dual HDMI output. 

The product has a premium 32-bit DAC ESS ES-9038-Q2M and a massive toroidal transformer. Additionally, it offers excellent sound and image quality to fit your home theatre system’s requirements. 

If you think this is an ideal product, continue reading our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review. It will provide information you’d need to know about its features, specifications, design, functions, and performance.

Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player Packaging

Before getting into details, our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review will first discuss its packaging and contents. 

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You won’t find anything exciting on the unit’s cardboard box. It’s a plain and simple-looking package without any designs, save for “Zappiti’s” name. 

Inside, the Zappiti Reference is kept secure and in place. That means you won’t have to worry about it getting damaged while in transit. 

Aside from the unit, you’ll also find a high-quality backlit IR remote control, an IR extender, and two WiFi antennas. Then, Zappiti also included a Bluetooth antenna and power cables in the package.

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Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player Review – Design and Functionality

The design and functions of this unit are essential to discuss in our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review. And the first thing we’ll tackle is its differences in design from earlier Zappiti media players. 

The main difference is the Zappiti Reference comes with a massive power supply and a brand new chipset. The latter allows the unit to work smoothly with Dolby Vision and HDR10+.

But just like other Zappiti products, the Reference is also a very aesthetic and good-looking unit. Plus, it sports a durable and solid body built like a tank. 

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The top portion of the product features a thin layer of brushed aluminium that optimises its premium appearance. 

Also, the front part of this unit shows another spot brushed with an aluminium finish. Then, LED lights are present on the left portion. It’s a good feature for indicating time, especially when watching movies. 

Aside from indicating time, the LED also shows movie details and more. 

Next to the LED lights are slots for the hard drives. Each of these slots supports 20TB of hard drives. So, you can enjoy as much as 40TB of storage for your video and music files.  

This area is where you’ll also find two USB ports. One is on the far left with the power button, and the other is on the rightmost portion of the unit. 

Rear Ports of the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player

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The rear section of the unit has more ports available, and we’ll tell you the functions of each.

The unit from left to right has a balanced XLR stereo analogue output and a Hi-Fi studio analogue output. There’s another balanced XLR output next to the Hi-Fi studio output. 

Next to the second XLR output is a stereo analogue output, an analogue video output CVBS, and a coaxial digital audio output.

You’ll find optical digital audio and audio HDMI output, a primary HDMI output, a reset button, and HDMI input. You’ll also find an IR-in, LAN 10/100/1,000, USB 2.0 host, USB-C, and USB 3.1 host. 

The far-right portion of the unit is where you’ll find the AC voltage switch (110/240V).

There are other elements above the already-mentioned ports, and these are two WiFi antennas. One is above the Hi-Fi stereo analogue output, and the other is on the upper-left section of the AC switch. 

Lastly, you can find the Bluetooth antenna above the HDMI input. 

Key Features of the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player 

What makes the Zappiti Reference an ideal product to have? Are its features good enough to cater to your needs, or should you look elsewhere instead? 

Continue reading our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review to learn about these. 

Dolby Vision for Optimised Image Quality

One of the best things about the Zappiti Reference is that it can playback full Blu-ray disc images (BDMV & ISO). It uses menus via Dolby Vision (MEL and FEL) and other file formats. These file formats include MP4, MKV, TS, and M2TS. 

All famous Dolby Vision profiles (P5, P4, P7 MEL & FEL, P8) can work on the Zappiti Reference. Additionally, the extra Dolby Vision metadata works by getting transmitted to your TV for enhanced image quality. 

Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player with Dolby Vision® VS10 Video Processing 

This feature guarantees full image quality when playing any content (Dolby Vision, HDR, SDR) with any video output signal. It also enhances the SDR/HDR/Dolby Vision quality conversion and lessens the effects of posterisation/banding. The latter is due to the more advanced and improved 12-bit video processing. 

This feature gives excellent benefits even when utilising the Zappiti Reference with older TVs without support for Dolby Vision. 

​HDR10+ for Optimised Display

The Zappiti Reference works with HDR10+, the latest HDR technology. It signals dynamic range and provides the scene characteristics between bright and dark with minimal metadata on a frame-by-frame basis. As a result, it retains essential details and enhances your viewing experience.

This technology allows for more realistic reproduction of images that adhere to the creator’s intent.  Unlike static HDR (HDR10), which continuously utilises static tone mapping across the content’s duration, HDR10+ maps tones dynamically. It will allow the technology to optimise each scene’s brightness and contrast within the display’s capabilities.

Ultra HD 4K from the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player 

The unit features an HDMI 2.0b output for better compatibility with current UHD 4K video content like HDR. With the help of Zappiti’s MagicPixel, you can take advantage of upscaled video files. 

This HQ upgrade dramatically enhances your video’s image quality. 

Breathtaking Picture Quality

Unlike the older top-of-the-range Pro 4K HDR model from Zappiti, this product provides more dynamics, plus deeper and precise blacks. Furthermore, it gives sharper details and less noisy images with improved film grain, more natural tints, and vivid colours. 

HDR to SDR Conversion

This product has a VS10 processor to convert HDR content to a classic SDR with exceptional colour grading. With Zappiti’s MagicPixel processing, converting ultra HD videos to HQ 1080p uncompressed 4:4:4 video is possible. So, you can view 4K content on full HD 1080p displays.

The feature boosts resolution by approximately 30%, unlike Blu-rays on 1080p TVs or projectors. And when MagicPixel v3 and VS10 technologies work together, everything starts working magnificently. You can benefit from the 4K UHD contents on your projector or 1080p TV.

You’ll get less compression, more colours, and more details.

It’s good to note that for some 4K projectors, the HDR>SDR conversion feature of the Zappiti Reference gives better results. This aspect is in comparison to direct HDR displays managed by a projector.

DVD, Blu-ray & UHD Menu Support

Display the Blu-ray, DVD, and UHD menus to access extra content like theatrical versions, director’s cuts, bonus extras, bookmarks, etc. This feature on the Zappiti Reference works with both ISO and BDMV (Blu-ray, DVD, Blu-ray 3D, and 4K UHD). 

If you don’t want to show menus, simply start a movie instantly without bothering with warnings or trailers. Its seamless branding is ideal for supporting gapless playback on director’s cut editions. 

Enhanced GUI for the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player

The Zappiti Reference comes with the Zappiti Video – an outstanding entertainment hub with a user-friendly interface with movie covers.

It scans video content like TV shows and movies stored on your local drive linked to the Zappiti player. You can even access files from your NAS via a local network. 

Zappiti will gather various information like cover art, casting, release date, director, rating, etc. Doing this will allow you to choose the films or TV shows you want to watch. 

Additionally, you can sort films by duration, release date, and rating. Plus, you can read the synopsis too. When you’re ready, press PLAY and enjoy the movie or show of your choice. 

After seeing the end credit roll, wait for the instant launch of the next episode of your favourite show. It’s the best way to have a marathon of all the shows you love and enjoy. 

Toroidal Power Supply of the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player 

Powered by a toroidal power transformer, the Zappiti Reference can get superior efficiency compared to standard power supplies. It delivers an efficient and excellent power source.

As a result, the unit gives you a crystal-sharp image with extreme depth of blacks, specifically in video projection systems. Grass, flesh, and sandy tones are tricky to reproduce. But the unit being fully-rendered to its highest quality only gives you the best results.

Materials are more accurate while plans are more isolated from the others, giving you a more three-dimensional aspect.

Audio outputs are noise-free, giving you more natural timbres, perfect silence, and ideal channel balance with faster dynamic accents. 

The toroidal power transformer of this unit sonically aligns the intricate analogue and digital signal into something shaped and outlined. It’s an alignment responsible for tighter lines and a more delightful listening experience. 

Top-Quality Components

The Zappiti Reference uses high-end components from top brands like Neutrik audio connectors, Philips diodes and JEC power connectors. 

The capacitors are from Nippon Chemi-Con, Nichicon Audio Series, and the ERO Series from Vishay Roederstein and WIMA. 

The WIMA filter capacitors are built on low polypropylene film and offer high AC capacity at high frequencies. These also have low ESR and ESL features. 

Premium DAC ES-9038-Q2M

The Zappiti Reference uses the 32-bit DAC ES-9038-Q2M featuring low distortion. This high-performance D/A converter is for professional and audiophile-grade applications like digital music players and audio-studio recording systems. 

The DAC ES-9038-Q2M uses the Time Domain Jitter Eliminator with ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream II DAC architecture. Because of this, the D/A converter delivers up to 128dB DNR and -120db THD+N, resulting in excellent audio.

It’s also the DAC ES-9038-Q2M that allows the Zappiti Reference to handle up to 32-bit 384kHz FLAC / PCM, DSD256. Additionally, the media player offers HD audio performance, allowing you to play music in advanced DSD and lossless formats.

It’s the perfect addition to the unit since it will enhance every audiophile’s musical enjoyment. 

Hi-Fi Analogue Audio Output

We have electrical interference all around us, and these come from nearby electronics, radio transmitters and even electrical wiring. But the Zappiti Reference rejects these external interference signals with its XLR connection.

XMOS Audio Processor of the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player

With the XMOS XU208-128-QF48 audio processor, the Zappiti Reference delivers excellent digital audio processing, ultra-low jitter, and reclocking. At the same time, it preserves the original sample rate.

The XMOS XU208-128-QF48 chip offers adequate power for fast and efficient data processing. It is for the minimum latency necessary for bit-perfect reading.

Zappiti Real Cinema

Movies played using the Zappiti Reference were taken at 24 fps. Plus, recorded videos and Blu-ray files were at 23.976 fps. 

Today, numerous multimedia players output a video signal at 24,000 Hz, but conversion causes problems like stuttering. This issue usually occurs on video projectors.

With Zappiti Real Cinema technology retains the original frame rate of the file until the final display. As a result, you can enjoy the same fluidity of movies in the cinema since it preserves the film’s integrity. Another feature is the auto-framerate which automatically switches the output frequency depending on the file’s frame rate.


This section is another vital part of our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review since it’s all about specifications. 

Zappiti Reference is a 6.7kg product measuring 43 x 11 x 34.3cm ((W x H x D). The company added a 2-year warranty and has certifications for CE, RoHS, and FCC.

The product operates at 10-30°C with a 30-70% operating humidity. Plus, its total consumption is 45W. The typical power consumption of the Zappiti Reference without HDD is 40W. Its high-power standby is 10W, while its low-power standby is 0.02W. 

Also, the power used for this product is AC ~220-240 | 110-120V, 50/60Hz with a Realtek RTD-1619DR chipset.

Zappiti utilised an ARM Cortex-A55 hexacore CPU for the unit since it’s 77% faster than a 4-CORE ARM A53. The latter was often present in earlier-generation media players. 

Zappiti uses a Linux + Android 9 operating system for the Zappiti Reference. It has a 4GB ROM and 32GB NAN eMMC ROM. Both of which are two times more than the earlier generation media players. 

Lastly, the Zappiti Reference has dual HDD rack storage (up to 40TB). And it also comes with a GigabitEthernet network (1,000 Base-T) and WiFi Bluetooth 5.0.

Hands-on with the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player 

Now, we will discuss our hands-on experience with the unit in our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review. 

When we review media players, we mainly focus on their software, user interface, and our experience using the product. And with the Zappiti Reference displays a fascinating image cut above the rest of rank-and-file streamers today.

Generally, stored content has more quality advantage because of lower compression levels and object-oriented and lossless audio. However, the video processing used can rival the best disc players around. 

The whole user interface was easy to navigate using the included remote, and the entire layout was neat and organised. We also appreciate the remote’s backlight and found it handy. And once we got used to it, the uniquely-shaped keys made it easier to operate.

We also liked the software’s GUI, the new skins, reflections, 3D effects, and motion designs. 

We can’t deny that we love Zappiti’s ecosystem. Why? Because it will instantly identify all TV shows and films on your drive. 

Our hard drive had about 200 films stored. Nonetheless, the Zappiti Reference took less than 10 minutes to identify and detect these. Though the unit couldn’t recognise some movies, it wasn’t a big issue for us. 

The Zappiti Reference only gave wrong titles, so we just had to make changes to correct the small mistakes.

When we selected a film via the interface, the soundtrack instantly played while displaying the title, aspect ratio, IMDB, etc. These details are adjustable via interface or the Zappiti Media Control App available on iOS and Android.

For audio quality, it sounded crystal clear and clean. The unit successfully reproduced captivating sounds from the HDMI and digital audio outputs. 

Spoken voices were clear and easy to understand. And with film scores, modifications provided a better sense of acoustic space and better dynamics. The product even offered enhanced depth and more natural tones. 

To better describe its audio quality, we can compare it to those on UHD and Blu-ray discs. This reason is because of the unchanged formats. 

The colours produced by Zappiti Reference were bold, rich, and had a sharp detail from the original film we played. It displayed excellent movie elements and solid contrast that made viewing better. 

When it comes to Dolby Vision playback, this worked flawlessly for us. Obviously you will need a TV capable of Dolby Vision playback, but for us it worked right out of the box and the image was stunning.

If you own legacy titles, you’ll enjoy these, especially when you don’t need to sling discs into your player.  

The Zappiti Reference raises the bar for audio and video playback, taking sound and image quality to new heights. We saw notable improvements in video playback, specifically on image depth, contrast, deeper black levels, boosted dynamic range, etc.  

Generally, all of these helped make movie watching more enjoyable, and it gave us a truly immersive experience. We spent our time surfing through provided content on our Zappiti Reference. And to our delight, we didn’t see any quality differences from the optical disc version.

We focused more on the Ultra HD titles, but the HD Blu-rays looked excellent. 

Overall, the Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player performed excellently, providing clear images and quality sounds. Its software was easy to navigate, user-friendly, and had an interface ideal even for new users. 

So basically, it’s a product we’d recommend for everyone and those who want to step up their viewing enjoyment. 

Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player Review Summary

With optical discs no longer being used these days, more people choose to stream content. Although it was convenient, we still aspired for good quality. We wouldn’t want to give up Blu-rays for compressed low-quality movies with unrecognisable audio.

If your disc collection takes up most of your space, you’ll need a media server like the Zappiti Reference. This media player can store large movie libraries and deliver the same audio and video quality as Blu-rays.

Zappiti offers an intuitive user interface that rivals the top streaming media players. It also provides quick access to a wide range of endless content. 

While testing the product for our Zappiti Reference 4K HDR Media Player review, we had a great experience with it. Navigating through the user-friendly interface was easy. Also, we appreciate the un-compromised audio and video quality that made our movie sessions better than ever.

One of the best things about the Zappiti Reference is its 40TB storage capacity which allows for storing more files. And with its networking capability, you can add more streaming boxes for a more expansive movie library. Since you can use it for music and photos, it’s a one-box solution for home entertainment.

Overall, the Zappiti Reference is a great product that we highly recommend. This well-built and designed media player offers everything you’d look for in the best streaming solution. It uses high-end audio and video hardware as its expensive competition, allowing for a high-quality movie display. 

To learn more about the Reference 4K HDR Media Player, check out Zappiti’s official product page for more details.

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