[Community of A/V Enthusiasts]
CEDIA Wrap Up
Now that the convention center is closed and I’m happily back home, I can look back at the show and get an idea of what was shown. One overall picture was that of a smaller show, with many big name vendors (Sharp, Toshiba, LG, Samsung, Panasonic) totally missing from the show floor. Because of this we were missing the new OLED displays from LG and Samsung, as well as new projectors from Panasonic and more. This also meant a dearth of flat panels on display at the show, with only Sony and Sharp (their Elite line) being represented. Similarly absent were Blu-ray players, with a new model from Yamaha being about the only thing new on that front.
Of course, there were previews of new Oppo Blu-ray players for us that will be out sometime in the future, with new features that really are impressive. The ability to use the BDP-105 as a DAC for a PC or media transport is very impressive, and something I will take advantage of. The product I most want to get into my theater for review is the new $5,000 JVC projector. They seem to have taken their $3,500 X30 from last year, added the CMS and eShift system from the $8,000 X70, and branded it the X55. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the best value in the line from JVC now, as the X70 was fantastic but just a steep upgrade over the X30.
Everywhere at CEDIA were soundbars. Since CEDIA is targeted to the custom installer market, and many of those customers are pulling back from big home theater rooms to shared media rooms. Soundbars allow for a nice upgrade to a secondary display system without the cost of in-wall speakers and all the wiring and other equipment that comes with them. Going along with this there are now more screens designed to blend into the décor, like the Black Diamond Zero Edge II, or to be fully hidden away in the ceiling. With projector mounts that hide that in the ceiling as well, you can have a shared media room that sacrifices nothing in décor or performance now.
There was a nice selection of speakers at the show, and what really stood out to me there was the value offered. Revel’s Performa3 line looked fantastic, and I expected the top model to sell for far more than the $5,000 they are asking for it. The GoldenEar Ion 2 bookshelf was amazing for $800, with great detail and imaging, and such astonishing performance I told Sandy Gross I wanted to buy a pair for myself. The best demo I heard, from Pro Audio Technology, just blew me away in detail and bass, and cost far less than I thought it would (though at a cost I can’t talk about). It still is far more than I can afford, but it costs far less to put in a system that puts all movie theaters to shame, including amps, than I thought it would.
While I didn’t get the new flat-panel technology that I wanted to see (4K is more a progression of current technology than a real breakthrough), there was still a good amount to see at CEDIA. Many people were eager to get back to Denver next year, just as they were eager to get there in Atlanta four years ago, so hopefully that means next year will be a more exciting, packed show as the business picks up again and new technology comes out.
Of course, there is plenty I couldn’t cover the first couple of days, so here’s all the pictures and more that I could post.
SIM2 was showing their 4K projector, which is $158,000 before you add a lens. Of course, it is true 4K, and can do 20,000 lumens, and is basically a Christie Digital Cinema projector modified for the home. It also requires a 220 volt, 30 amp line to run, but if you can afford this then you can afford to bring in an electrician.
Continuing the theme of shared media rooms at CEDIA, Draper had a variety of ways to hide your screen and your projector away. This mount was able to drop down from the ceiling and keep your projector totally hidden. They even had models designed to fit between narrow ceiling joists, keeping the projector next to the ceiling normally and dropping down when you watch a film.
Paradigm’s 30th Aniversary Speakers were very nice to see, and to listen to. They were demoing the tower models, limited to 200 pairs I believe, and they sounded just fantastic. Though they said the tweeter on the Signature series is still a little bit past these, I certainly would like to spend more time with them.
One of my favorite demos was the Screen Innovations Zero Edge with Sony’s 4K projector. The images from Speed Racer were bright, vivid, and punchy beyond belief, and while not ideal for the purist videophile, I want it in my living room very badly. Probably the ideal setup I saw for family and media rooms, from watching a Blu-ray disc to the Super Bowl. It really was quite wonderful to watch.
Pioneer showed off their Andrew Jones line of speakers at CEDIA before, priced at amazingly low marks, and now they have updated them. With a tower speaker costing only $130 each, these really are one of the single best values going in home theater today. You can get a whole 5 channel system and a receiver from Pioneer for $1,000 or less and blow away any Home Theater in a Box or soundbar out there, though it will take more space of course. For those just starting out in audio, I can’t think of a better bargain to begin with.
Why did Pioneer let that guy get a quote on their booth? Really? The SC-57 was a wonderful sounding receiver last year, and my review of the SC-68 will be coming shortly as well.
The GoldenEar Ion2 bookshelf speakers look small but don’t sound that way at all. The high velocity folded ribbon tweeter that Sandy Gross is using here is just amazing in quality and detail, and the passive radiators allow for more bass than you would expect from a speaker this size. I think I’ll be getting a pair of these to use for a music-only two channel system soon.
Yamaha had one of the few Blu-ray players at the show, aside from the Oppo we saw. Following up on their universal player from last year, it only has stereo analog outputs so all multichannel music will have to be done over HDMI. For those that don’t care about analog audio, if the video performance is good it might let some people save a little bit compared to other universal players.
T+A was showing an interesting Blu-ray player at the DynAudio booth. It has an integrated receiver, but it only does 3.1 channels of audio, which is apparently far more common and popular in Europe. It still has extra speaker outputs but those are for multiple zones of audio. Obviously not for the home theater enthusiast, but an application that might work for those that want to drive high quality speakers but don’t care about surround audio.
Sony had their new partnership with Control4 on display. Having not used Control4 at all before, the idea of it really intrigues me. Installers that I talked to said it was dead easy for them to setup and support, even remotely, so customers get a better experience. Additionally the interface is identical on TV screens, iPhones and iPads, and everything else, so you know how to use it on all your systems. You still need a dealer to set it up for you, but it’s far more affordable than other systems as they can do it so easily, and it’s easier for the end user as well. I’d really be interested in taking a system for a spin and seeing how easily the whole family can control it.
My favorite audio demo of the show was from Pro Audio Technology. They had demo material that was a bit different (Michael Jackson?) but the dynamics those speakers could pull off was amazing. When they wanted the bass to kick in, you felt it in your whole body, but the system never strained no matter how much they pushed it. With matching amps that are dedicated to each speaker component, and individually tuned filters and DSP, it is a complete package that really did the job well. It’s priced out of my range (and you’d have to talk to a dealer to find out the costs), but I don’t know I’ve ever heard sound like that at a commercial cinema.
There were many other demos that I saw, though I don’t have pictures of them all. WiSA was showing off the updated version of their wireless audio technology at the show as well. Now supporting lossless 24/96 audio, and performing well at the show (while most wireless demos just failed instantly), there weren’t new products to announce yet, but it sounds like there might be at CES next year. There was even a prototype Blu-ray player with WiSA built in, so you can add a single small box to your display and get Blu-ray content as well as the full surround processor, and only need a single HDMI cable to the display. It really looks like next year might be the year we see more WiSA products be released, which will make wireless audio be a decent option for homes.
Additionally I watched a demo of the upcoming online store from Kalidescape. Allowing its users to purchase full Blu-ray quality films, with supplements, online, this seems to be something that would have the support of the studios and possibly solve the legal issues that they have been facing recently. I don’t know how well this will work with bandwidth caps from internet providers, as 40 GB movies eat up a 250 GB monthly cap really fast, but it was really cool.
They also had new kid ratings that let parents know what type of objectionable materials were in films to let them decide what they wanted their kids to be watching. Unfortunately it doesn’t interface with the Kids Remote and view yet, as that would be a godsend for parents trying to filter their kids movies, but it was a very nice feature to see. Many vendors were also using Kalidescape for their demo systems, and the beautiful interface and features make it easy to see why.
B&W was here with Classe and showing off their new line of headphones. Their P5 headphone has been around for a couple of years now and been really well regarded for both comfort and sound quality, and so we'll be eager to get the P3 in and see how it sounds.
NAD had a lot of equipment to show, but what interested me was their new entry level concept system. For under $1,000 you get a nice pair of bookshelf speakers, an integrated stereo amp, and a wireless USB DAC to hook up to your laptop or desktop. This lets you get better sound than you can from a HTIB or other entry-level solution, but doesn't price new people out of the market, and lets them easily get music from their computer. With how hard it seems to get young audiophiles going sometimes, this was very interesting to me. They have a whole new concept showing up at stores soon that include the entry level system and work up to their reference level components, to make the shopping experience more friendly, Apple Store-esque, and not stuffy as it can be.
NADs Master Series components include a 3TB music value that uses RAID 5 to ensure that your music collection survives even if a single hard drive fails on you. Combined with their CD transport you can rip your whole collection, and then stream it digitally to the M2 digital receiver, or to their M51 DAC that has been receiving fantastic reviews. A nice iOS interface makes it easy to browse your collection, always the worst part of most music servers I find.
Mark Levinson had their No 52 preamp that they teased at CES on display now as well. With a dual chassis configuration, keeping the noisy power and display circuits totally isolated from the analog components, it is highly configurable with many inputs and outputs and even a phono stage. The whole component weighs over 70 lbs and is built like a tank, but at $30,000 is something that only a few of us will be lucky enough to own.
This was the new Denon 4520 receiver which looks to be an interesting piece, with a couple key things for the custom installers at CEDIA. The idea of the integrated Ethernet switch that Sony introduced a couple years ago has now made it over, making wiring your rack a far easier process with less wiring involved. Additionally there looks to be more flexibility with assigning the analog inputs, as well as dual zone HDMI, which is the big new thing this year. With 11.2 channel support, this can drive any audio codec out there now.
CEDIA Day 1 is halfway done now and there's been a lot to see already. Marantz showed the AV7701, which is the successor to the AV7005 that I reviewed before and enjoyed enough that I bought it. The AV7701 has updated the streaming to include Spotify, has a Zone2 HDMI output, gold plated connectors, and more. It will be $1,700 and coming out soon.
Sony was showing off their 84", QuadHD (3840x2160) display with some custom content as well as PlayStation3 gaming. The custom content looked good, but black levels were not there compared to OLED that is coming out later this year as well. Available next month, it costs the same $25,000 price as the 4K projector does.
JVC showed off their new projectors this morning, which included a new eShift2 that is supposed to be better than last years model. There were also increases in native contrast, a new lamp with longer life, the 3D glasses are now RF instead of IR, and the lens memory can hold 10 positions instead of 3. The biggest news to me was a new $5,000 model that brings a full CMS and eShift down from the prior $8,000 model. I'm hoping to get that ASAP to see how much technology made it down into that model.
Definitive Technology had a new soundbar that was fully active, but also includes a wireless subwoofer and has full HDMI switching so it can manage TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding and playback. It lists for $2,000 which might seem high, but since it replaces a receiver, speakers, and a subwoofer, it really comes out pretty nice, and it sounded really good as well.
KEF has their new X300A desktop audio speakers, which have their UniQ driver, but also a 24/96 DAC and are fully powered. Making it easy for your PC to take advantage of high-resolution downloads from HDTracks and other sites, this $800 speaker pair was able to play loud and clear, and looks great.
Revel was showing the final versions of their Performa3 speakers. Going from $1,500 for the smallest bookshelf to $5,000 for a pair of giant floorstanders, the fit and finish on the speakers was just immaculate. They didn't have a dedicated sound room so it was hard to hear them on the floor, but it will be very nice to have them ship soon and be able to give them a through review for everyone to read.
CEDIA 2012 starts this week, and like always there will be a lot to see. For me the main disappointment going into the show is that LG and Samsung won't be there, so we won't have a chance to see the OLED panels they are planning to start selling this year. OLED promises to be a revolution in video quality for the home, with contrast ratios, viewing angles, and response times that other technologies can't match. It will also have a price tag that many compact cars can match, but it looks to be the future of flat panel technology right now.
Despite this, there will be plenty to see at CEDIA for everyone. JVC will have an update of their projectors to see, which is always a high point for those after the best black levels for their home theater. Sony showed off a new 84", 4K LCD at IFA in Berlin last week which will hopefully make an appearance as well. Projectors will be everywhere, as will soundbars (which seem to be getting a high-end makeover from companies like Martin Logan and Definitive Technology recently), in-wall and ceiling speakers, and amplifiers. Media servers and distributed audio are also an important area for CEDIA, letting you share your content around your whole house easily.
One area that has started to interest me more are the high end speakers aimed squarely at custom home theaters that can produce reference SPL levels without any strain. From the JBL Synthesis line, to newcomers Procella Audio and Pro Audio Technology, there are lines of speakers that you will never see, but should perfectly replicate the theater experience. I've missed most of these demos before, but am going to make the effort to see what people with the space for a custom theater can install for high performance.
Of course it is the things we don't expect to see that always wind up being the most exciting, like Sony's 4K projector they surprised us with last year. As always it will be an exciting show with lots to report back on this week.