CEDIA 2009 Show Report - Ken Taraszka, MD

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CEDIA has been blowing up with new video technology over the last few years. 1080p was the big news just years ago, and while talk of 2K, 1440p and other formats have been thrown around and to some extent even demoed, it seems 3D is the wave of the future. The major and even minor makers of displays and projectors all are trying for the new reason for you to buy another TV. Some were true stereoscopic, like Sony's panels, while others were computer enhancing images to make displays and projectors seem to have a more dimensional appearance. Unfortunately from what I saw this technology is still a ways off, especially as long as glasses are required.

In case you haven't heard, the AV industry has been in a bit of an economic setback, and the CEDIA Expo in 2009 reflected that fact. Whereas former shows had aisles packed with people, the aisles in Atlanta seemed relatively barren. Many key players weren't even there, Denon and Marantz just to name a few, while others showed off-site like Meridian and Vizio. The show was less accessible than in previous years in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, which is so more manageable a size than the massive Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

MartinLogan showed a new multi-channel speaker system with a unique and yet unnamed driver technology. The speakers were small in size, very affordable (by estimates) and gave huge sound, they also showed off some of the most pimped out electrostatic speakers on the floor, ugly as heck in my opinion, but a real eye catcher.

Once a name only known in the ultra high end circles, WADIA has proven they can cross over into the real world when they released their 170i Transport allowing a true digital feed from your iPod to your system, well, they have made another piece to rival, nay complement the 170i. WADIA's new 151PowerDAC uses the same case as the iTransport but includes a DAC, preamp and digital amps for two channel listening, and everything is kept in the digital domain until it hits the powered outputs to your speakers. With two coaxial, one optical and one USB input, I can see this and a small set of speakers making for the coolest office or small room system. Look for a review to come in Home Theater Review soon.

Theta Digital
While Theta has had it's problems of late, namely the ever delayed HDMI card for their legendary Casablanca AV preamp, they were showing a new Compli Blu, a true universal Blu-ray player from Theta capable of playing CDs, SACDs, DVD-A, DVD-V and Blu-ray discs. Price is rumored to be about $5,000 with release date not certain.

Long known in the two-channel world, B&K were showing both receivers and AV preamps with HDMI and all the newest codecs as well as multi-channel amplifiers. I am sure these additions to the AV world will be welcome by many audiophiles.

Never to be left behind, Anthem has a new Blu-ray player ($799) coming out soon, but it was Paradigm's new speakers that impressed me so. The SE line, with studio series drivers at a much lower price point, starting at just $300 per speaker for the SE-1 bookshelves. A full complement is available for surround sound systems too. On the other end of the spectrum is the new subwoofer, housing six ten inch long throw drivers powered by something like 4,500 Watts thanks to the 240 Volt line required to run it. Reportedly this thing can go to 7 (yes seven) Hz and output over 126 Db at 25 Hz. The unique triangular shape not only helps stabilize the unit, as does its 350 pound construction, but allows for excellent dispersion. The aesthetics of this piece were amazing, and I think any guy could easily talk his wife into two as end tables; retail is $7,495 each.

While LCDs have been fighting an uphill battle to finally defeat plasmas, black levels has continued to plague them. LED backlighting is helping, it isn't until the new Toshiba models were the entire matrix is controllable that these sets are actually making true black levels and maintaining great color and contrast. I think this is the new hot TV from what I saw, prices are fair at $3,000 for the 55 inch model and $2,299 for the 46 inch version.

One of the preeminent US speaker manufacturers finally showed off the new Ultima Subwoofer, which is larger than any refrigerator I had in college. The new unit has long been awaited and I can't wait for release to hear it!

Mark Levinson
Levinson has mixed it up again, the new 5xx series amplifiers, which come in mono, stereo, three and five channel version are now sporting a new look. Ironically the new look is very similar the old Levinson appearance of the 80's, just sans rack handles. Prices were more in line with the modern world at $12,000 for the five channel and $10,000 for the three.

While Pioneers end to the KURO line of plasmas left us all agape, they have seemingly gone back to their roots with a new two channel line of SACD players and receivers as well as several high end Blu-ray players. While it was sad to see them (mostly) displayed on other peoples panels, I was glad to see them changing approach and wish them well. They have a long history of producing excellent players at approachable price points and hopefully they will be able to continue to do this.

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