The crew at Audio Advice is back from another CEDIA Expo tradeshow. We’re tired, with sore feet, but it was sure worth it to see all of the cool toys coming out over the next year. Some of us arrived on Wednesday for meetings and classes, while the rest of our team came in on Thursday. This year the show was in downtown Atlanta and luckily our hotel was just a 15-minute walk from the trade show floor. We really liked the fact that the entire show was just in one large exhibit hall, so there was no wondering if you missed some cool widget tucked away in a corner.
As you read through the reviews, you can click on a picture to go out for more information on the products. I hope you enjoy my blog.
One object dominated the trade show floor and the vendor was not even present. I bet you can guess. Yes, it’s the iPad. Everyone there was showing some kind of iPad app or dock. Many were very cool. Crestron definitely wins the award for the most innovative iPad products, which is saying a lot about a company that has based its business on selling upscale touch panels. The iPad is a super cool toy, but it’s lacking in hard buttons for control. Crestron has developed a clamshell that goes around the iPad, giving it both the beautiful touch screen and 13 hard buttons for the more common functions. They are calling this one the iPanel. Pretty cool! They also showed two docks for the iPad. One is a tabletop dock with built in charging that the iPad slips right into. They even had a wall mount dock with charging that pops open to take out the iPad.
In the world of lighting control, Lutron showed many new additions to their economical RadioRA2 line. I have the new RadioRA2 in my own home; it’s just a great lighting control system. They have added an iPad app, thermostats with wireless temperature sensors, appliance outlet control and much more. Also in the Lutron booth was a new line up of motorized venetian blinds. These have dual motors for both up/down and closing the slats. The best part: no visible cord at all! These look really great and will be shipping soon at prices right around the same as Lutron’s fabric motorized shades.
Continuing in the world of things to enhance your home, Salamander showed several new additions to their popular furniture. They now have something for everyone. One of the coolest things we saw was a new cabinet they have floating on a wall under a flat panel.
Control 4, a great home automation supplier, bucked the iPad trend and showed two new wall mount touch panels. In this day and age of the iPad, we wondered why they were doing this. However, once we learned these new wall panels have the ability to do hands free, point-to-point intercom, we knew why! These look very slick and will be out very soon.
Wrapping up iPad news is the new Sonos iPad. Sonos is one of my favorite music only systems. It’s just so easy to find new music with their cloud based music system. Their new iPad app takes it to a whole new experience level. The Sonos iPad app is supposed to be available at the end of September 2010.
Ok, enough with the iPad and on to video. (Don’t all of you audiophiles out there worry, there was even some cool audio stuff at this home automation show that I’ll talk about later)
The biggest thing at CEDIA in the video world is 3D. However, in pure physical terms, the absolutely BIGGEST thing in video was the new 152” Panasonic plasma TV. Yes, 152”!!! That's the same size as over 9 50" sets combined! I think the picture below with Ryan and Craig from our Charlotte branch sums it up. We’re not really sure how you would get it inside a home, but it sure is impressive.
3D is now in the front projector world. Several companies including Sony, JVC, and Mitsubishi showed under 10K front projectors. One thing everyone needs to remember about 3D is that you have to wear what are basically sunglasses to experience 3D. Now what do sunglasses do you might ask? They block out light! The active glasses block out even more with the shutter effect. Basically 3D glasses reduce the light coming into your eyes by about 75%. This means you need a projector that has the ability to be super bright for 3D, and then have normal light output for 2D. Well, that’s just about impossible to do for 10K as the comments from everyone around me coming out of all of the demonstrations would verify. Typically I heard, well the 3D effect was cool, but the picture was sure dark and lacking in color pop. The only way to really pull 3D off with front projection is with a light cannon type projector. Digital Projection showed just such a piece with their 3D Titan series. This projector can light up a huge screen for commercial applications, so it has the horsepower to overcome the 3D glasses. Of course for $80K, it should. Runco and Sim2 also showed 3D offerings using double stacked projectors to get the needed light output. Runco’s model actually used passive glasses, which are easier to live with. However, just around the corner from their big model, Digital Projection was showing their new M-Vision 460. It produces more than twice the light output of all of the $10k and under front projectors, but is $15K. Also, I felt the Digital Projection glasses were by far the most comfortable to wear. While the new M-Vision was not as bright as the Titan, it’s a pretty good experience and the projector has the technology to produce normal lumen output for 2D. This one is supposed to ship in the first quarter of 2011 and should be the best 3D front projector for the money out there by far!
Distributing HDMI signals around the house is proving to be quite the challenge. HDMI sources have what are called “keys” that determine how many display devices (called sinks) can view one at the same time. When you are just connecting everything up to one television, all is well, but what if you want to send the signal from a cable box with just one key to more than one television at the same time? A whole slew of new companies have emerged with boxes and technology to manage this. Crestron is one company, with their DM system, but there are also many more. Audio Advice used this CEDIA Expo to gather information on all of the various ways to attack this new challenge in home video. Stay tuned for more!
And speaking of HDMI issues, Kaleidescape has come up with a legal way to distribute Blu-ray throughout your home. They have introduced a storage device you can add to their system that holds your Blu-ray discs after you have burned them to the Kaleidescape hard drive system. This lets the system know you own the disc. The advantage is the Kaleidescape experience and instant loading of your Blu-ray movies. The new Kaleidescape Blu-ray player also has incredible picture and audio quality! They have also completely redone their interface, and it is just extremely slick. Click the image below to see a video on the new interface.
Ok, now its time to talk about all the fun things for good ole home audio!
A new speaker line was shown which is already making quite a bit of waves. Sandy Gross was the co-founder of Polk Audio, then the founder of Definitive Technology. He was introducing a new line of speakers at CEDIA called “Golden Ear”. There are just a few products in the line up, but what we heard sounded pretty good for the money. This may be one to check out in the future when they start shipping!
As I was turning a corner, I spied a display of audio racks from Harmonic Resolution. I got to spend a bit of time with Michael Latvis from Harmonic. His background is in aerospace engineering. He has come up with a very unusual isolation system that uses a building block approach that lets you start with a single piece then just add to it to make improvements. All of his work is based on empirical measurements and his logic was very convincing. We’ll be getting some of these to try out very soon.
Classé Audio was displaying a new 2-channel preamp with a built in USB DAC. This one looked very interesting, as Classé has been producing some great sounding stuff lately. It's due out shortly at around $6000, we’ll be sure to have one for you to listen to.
Sumiko was showing off a new record cleaning machine from Germany with the strange name of Okki Nokki. I was amazed at the build quality for the low price of around $500, we'll have this one in soon!
Finally, best sound of the show goes to the Harman Truck! Yes, Harman Specialty Audio Group has a huge 18-wheeler that expands out into a pretty good-sized home theater. One reason it probably sounded so good was the fact that it was isolated from the show floor. I felt sorry for many of the speaker vendors trying to do demos in the huge, open noisy environment. Harman was displaying the new version of the JBL K2 at $44,000 pair. They played a Keb Mo track that just blew me away. I’ve never heard such dynamics and realism from a system. Pretty amazing!
I hope you enjoyed my report on CEDIA. It’s always fun to go check out all of the new products coming out. Even though I’ve got blisters on my feet and a sore back from walking on all the padded carpet, it was worth it!