I found the mood at this year's CEDIA to be somber but not pessimistic. It has certainly been a challenging time in the specialty A/V business, with many custom retailers going under, more consolidation amongst brands, and plenty of soul-searching in the high-end and custom audio realms. The experience has left many feeling cautious and just a bit worn out. The good news is that most of the people I encountered felt that the situation had leveled out and was perhaps even starting to move in a positive direction.
In the video realm, 3D was the marquee demo. Many of the big-name TV manufacturers showed off 3D products that they had announced prior to the show, but there was also some new stuff to see, especially on the projection side. High-end companies like Runco and SIM2 showed off dual-imaging 3D projection systems that use passive glasses and cost $50,000-plus. Both Projection Design and Digital Projection showed off native 2.35:1 projectors that allow you to view 2.35:1 content without an anamorphic lens attachment, thanks to the development of a higher-resolution 2560 x 1080 chip.
In wholehouse circles, the iPad's presence was prominent, as manufacturers like Crestron, AMX, Elan, and Xantech highlighted iPad control apps and/or touchpanel adapters.
One of the few mainstream flat-panel manufacturers making brand new announcements at the show, Sharp launched the new LE925 Series of 3D-capable LCDs. Available in screen sizes of 60 inches ($5,300) and 52 inches ($4,200), the LE925 models feature edge LED lighting with zone dimming, Sharp's four-color Quattron technology, AQUOS Net, AquoMotion 240, and a supplied WiFi adapter. Each set comes with two pairs of active-shutter 3D glasses. The glasses contain an interesting feature: 3D-to-2D conversion. So, if everyone else in the family is watching the movie in 3D and you'd like to watch it in 2D, you can simply press a button on the glasses to do so.
Sharp also announced two new 3D Blu-ray players and a 3D-ready DLP projector. The XV-Z17000 projector has a rated contrast ratio of 30,000:1 and brightness of 1,600 lumens and comes with two pairs of active-shutter 3D glasses. It should be available in the first quarter of 2011 for an MSRP of around $5,000.
JVC announced six new 3D-capable D-ILA projectors, ranging in price from $4,495 to $11,995. The DLA-RS60, DLA-RS50, and DLA-RS40 are targeted at the professional market, while the (essentially identical) DLA-X9, DLA-X7, and DLA-X3 are aimed at the consumer market. The company says that these D-ILA models have been completely redesigned to meet the challenges of 3D, with a new lamp and optical system, among other improvements.
The flagship RS60/X9 model has a reported native CR of 100,000:1 and brightness of 1,300 ANSI lumens, along with a seven-axis color-management system (it adds orange), new color profiles, 120Hz Clear Motion Drive, ISF certification, and pending THX certification. The $11,995 MSRP includes two pairs of active-shutter 3D glasses and the 3D signal emitter. The estimated release date is late November.
JVC also turned heads with the announcement of two entry-level D-ILA projectors priced under $3,000. One product rep I spoke to said that these new models--the DLA-HD250 and DLA-HD250Pro--are essentially the DLA-RS10 from two years ago, with some "upgrades." It will certainly be interesting to see how JVC's entry into the sub-$3,000 marketplace will shake things up.
Epson also announced a full complement of 3LCD projectors--seven in all--priced between about $1,300 and $7,000. None are 3D-capable. Most intriguing are the top three models, the Pro Cinema 61000 and 31000 and the Home Cinema 21000. These projectors employ a new 3LCD Reflective technology that's designed to minimize light leakage to further improve contrast ratio, among other things. The 21000 and 31000 models have a rated dynamic CR of 500,000:1, while the 61000 has a rated dynamic CR of up to 1,000,000:1. All three also include a dual-layer auto iris, the IDT HQV Vida and PW390 processing chips, and Epson's Super-resolution and FineFrame technologies. Epson has also added motorized zoom, focus and lens memory, plus network management features.
Vivitek was a first-time exhibitor at this year's show, and the company showed off a complete line of home theater and large-venue DLP projectors--from the $1,499 H1085 to the $15,000 H9080FD LED-lit model. I was impressed with the new H9030FD, an extreme short-throw 1080p model that is LED-lit and 3D-ready, has a rated CR of 50,000:1 and brightness of 1,000 ANSI Lumens, and lists a lamp life of 20,000 hours. It looks like a compelling solution for someone who wants a large-screen image in a limited space. Too bad it won't be available until summer 2011.
Perhaps my appreciation of Kaleidescape's new children's interface and dedicated children's remote control stems from the fact that I have a 20-month-old at home that thinks the remote is the most fascinating object in the house. The beauty of this system is three-fold. First, it gives children a remote that they can call their own, and even a toddler can use it. Second, parents dictate which titles are available for viewing through the children's interface through a simple setup menu. And third, to launch the graphics-only interface, a child simply hits any button on the remote. From there, kids can easily pick movies based on the cover art. Clearly designed by people who actually have children, the Kaleidescape children's interface will be available by free upgrade in October, while the children's remote costs $39.
Russound acquired Colorado vNet shortly after last year's CEDIA. This year, the companies shared a booth but maintained separate identities. Russound showed off the KT1-C3 multizone kit that includes a six-source/six-zone controller/amplifier, six keypads and a standalone remote. The company also announced an anticipated iPod dock for its cool Collage Powerline Media and Intercom System, as well as the new Acclaim 5 Series of outdoor speakers.
Colorado vNet, meanwhile, demoed an iPad control interface, a new RF-based lighting system, and a new line of in-wall/in-ceiling speakers called the WSA Series, which stands for Wicked Sounding Audio. Gotta love that.
Autonomic's Mirage Media Server ($3,995) is interesting in that it's the first cloud-based music server that I'm aware of. Once you upload content, the system backs it up in a secure digital locker that you can access anywhere through a Web-based device. You can have multiple servers on the system, upload content from anywhere, and perform auto-syncs to ensure the content is the same at each location. The Mirage is a music-only server with a 1TB hard drive and five independent audio outputs, including a 7.1-channel digital output. It supports iTunes, Windows Media, FLAC, WAV and more--as well as audio streaming from Sirius/XM, Pandora and RadioTime Internet radio. As part of the Mirage Media Control System 3.0 upgrade, the company demoed a new iPhone control app.
Walt Disney Studios was at this year's show, quietly touting its new World of Wonder WOW home theater calibration disc, which will be available in either DVD or Blu-ray form on November 2. Just from an initial glance at the contents, the disc appears to offer a thorough assortment of setup tools for beginner, advanced and expert levels, and it comes with a 53-page booklet that explains the different test patterns. The package is available in single-disc form ($34.99) or a two-disc set ($39.99) that includes a feature called "Visions: Inspired by Nature." I grabbed a copy of the two-disc Blu-ray version and will do a review soon.