Well, I’ve just returned from 4 days in Atlanta at the CEDIA trade show. We arrived there Wednesday just in time for our member meeting of the Home Theater Specialists of America. After an afternoon of meetings we adjourned to our annual HTSA cocktail party where it was great to see all of my old and new friends in the a/v industry. Thursday morning we hit the floor early to see and hear all of the new toys that will be coming out over the next year or so.
The coolest thing there, and our entire team agreed on this, was the Panasonic 3D demo. We’ve been looking at various 3D innovations over the past several years, but none have ever really cut it. There were even a few other vendors at this year’s CEDIA showing off their 3D concepts, that we all felt were once again lacking, and gave all of us a headache after about 5 minutes. Early next year, a standard will be adopted for 3D video, and obviously all of the various electronics companies are vying for their own technology.
Panasonic had driven a big 18 wheeler onto the trade floor with expanding sides. After waiting in line for about 30 minutes, we were lead into a room with a Panasonic 100” plasma mounted on the wall with these funky looking large IR emitters hanging on both sides of it. We were given some special glasses the IR emitters talk to which synchs them to the 3D effects.
All of the 3D demos I have seen in the past had things that appeared to jump out in your face, but the rest of the image has been very blurry. Panasonic is taking a different tact. While there is some effect of things coming out into the room, it’s much more like you are inside the picture. Instead of the shark jumping out in your face, it feels like you are in the water. It’s really hard to explain until you see it, but it was the most amazing thing I have seen in a long while. They used a demo clip of the opening Olympic ceremony in Beijing, which was just spectacular. There was a line of drummers and the sense of depth was like nothing I have ever seen on a video display, much closer to real life depth perception.
If all of the other 3D technologies we saw make up the competition, I sure hope the Panasonic system becomes the standard, as it’s amazing!
Another very impressive new piece of technology was the new Runco LED front projector. Yes, LED! Imagine 70% less power consumption, far better than Energy Star standards. Imagine never having the change the projector lamp! Imagine not having to be concerned with the fact that all projector lamps loose some light output as they age. But that’s not the best part. The picture was stunning! There is one caveat, and it’s a pretty big one, but not much of a challenge for a dedicated home theater, but the room must be completely dark. However, once you do this, this projector has the ability to put colors out like you have never seen. Joel Silver with Image Science Foundation was in the audience for our demo. He stood up and told us Runco had sent him one for testing and he was not able to find an instrument that could begin to measure the black level this projector is capable of! Runco has developed a color technology that lets them adjust the color to really saturate the richness of the color without sacrificing flesh tones, which has always been an issue in the past. Is this perfect video, probably not, it’s a little richer and deeper than real life, but is it sexy and alluring, dad gum Skippy! Randy and I both walked out wanting to put one in our houses! This will be the first LED projector to hit the market, hopefully in November; pricing will be an incredible deal at $15k. I can’t wait to get this in my house!
A short trip down the floor brought us to the B&W booth where a ton of new products were on display. The most exciting thing to us was the new series of B&W in wall and in ceiling speakers. They have a very cool new system for making the edge of an in ceiling speakers almost disappear, and have also incorporated their latest CT series technology into both in ceiling and in wall models. The CT theater speakers, launched a few months ago have just been amazing in performance. Now we will have both in wall and in ceiling versions! B&W also showed a new no holds barred subwoofer. It uses 2 12” drivers in an extremely heavy box that has the electronics mounted in a very slick enclosure on the bottom of the sub. All kinds of eq adjustments are available. This one could be really good. Just across the way, Rotel was showing off several new products. The coolest one was a new tuner that brings together all of the benefits of internet radio, Pandora, along with AM/FM and XM. This one looks really interesting and will be fun to play with when it arrives.
Cinema Widescreen has definitely taken hold. I don’t think we saw a single theater display that was not using the new widescreen technology. We’ve got examples of this in Audio Advice for you to come in and check out. Two very impressive new projectors, at opposite ends of the price spectrum were from Sony and Digital Projection. Sony unveiled a new 3 chip model SXRD called the VPLW85. It will ship to us in November, and at its price of $7995 will be an unbelievable value. DPI showed off a prototype of a new 3 Chip DLP. This one has the ability for very high light output and had just a killer picture. It will hit a new lower price level for DPI at $30k.
Speakercraft was pitching a new home entertainment product called NIRV. If it can deliver on what it promises, it will be revolutionary. NIRV promises to deliver audio, video (1080p HD) and control all over a single CAT5e or CAT6 cable! The idea is you connect up all of your components that can reside anywhere in the house. They all work on the dedicated and separate NIRV network. NIRV asks who you are when you start to use the system and has the ability to follow you around the house and remember how you use the system. The concept is very cool, but product is probably at least a year away, so we will remain skeptical until we actually see it, but I gotta tell ya, the idea is awesome!
Crestron also showed off a new entry level system called Prodigy. It too looks very interesting for the money and brings Crestron quality to new, lower price level.
On the lighting control front, Lutron showed off a new version of their very popular Radio Ra, called, Radio Ra2. Lutron has really thought this out and it will bring the price of lighting control down to allow more people to experience its fun, safety and energy saving features. This one will probably make it into my own house!
All of the big video vendors showed off their new TV’s, but our take is they are all getting so good, it just makes sense to buy a decent one and take the money you save and spend it on better audio!
And wrapping things up was a beautiful new speaker from JBL called the K2 9900. These will be out later this year, and up the ante on the popular K2 9800. The sound was just great, but at $44,000 for the pair, they probably will not wind up in too many living rooms. However, they are just beautiful with incredibly dynamic sound.
We’ll be getting in some of these new products over the next few months and invite you to come in and check them out!