Subdued is a good word to describe the vibe at this year's CEDIA Expo. The difficult economy has forced some major players, on both the manufacturer and dealer sides, out of the market. Press conferences were all business and zero flash. Companies known for their extravagant booths opted to scale things back this year, and there was certainly more open space on the show floor.
With that being said, people also had a sense that the worst may be behind us. CEDIA released key findings from its annual state-of-the-industry survey of CEDIA members, which provided 2011 stats and 2012 predictions. Total revenue for 2011 was about $13.5 to $14.5 billion, about a half billion more than 2010, and survey participants expect a revenue increase of 12 percent in 2012. The average project size and the number of completed projects are also expected to increase in 2012 - positive signs that the industry is moving in a healthy direction.
In the home theater realm, 4K was a hot topic: some projector manufacturers have embraced (mostly scaling) 4K, while others feel it's not yet ready for prime time. LG and Sony demoed 4K TVs, and electronics and source manufacturers showed off products that offer 4K pass-through and/or 4K upscaling.
On the audio side, we saw more products that make use of wireless technology, and several manufacturers showed off in-wall speakers that utilize the same technology found in their high-end free-standing designs. High-end soundbars were also demoed at every turn, and a few companies presented alternatives to the soundbar approach for everyday TV and music playback. For a more in-depth look at CEDIA trends, check out this article by Jerry Del Colliano.
Here's a rundown of the booths we visited and the products we saw:
Paradigm showed off a number of new products that covered the price spectrum. The marquee introduction was the company's new 30th Anniversary Edition Series, featuring the five-driver/three-way Tribute tower ($2,999 each) and two-driver/two-way Inspiration bookshelf speaker ($1,249 each). This is a limited edition series: only 200 Tributes and 300 Inspirations will be manufactured. Paradigm was one of several manufacturers to show off a 2.1-channel system mated with a tiny control box, providing a plug-and-play solution for a secondary audio system or as a substitute for a soundbar. The MilleniaCT ($699, September) includes speakers with adjustable table stands, a subwoofer with a removable floor cradle, a remote control, and a control box that's a perfect visual compliment to the Apple TV (the necessary cables are also included). Other Paradigm highlights were the new Soundtrack System soundbar/wireless sub combo ($799, fall), the H15NC noise-canceling on-ear headphones ($299, November), and the AERA AirPlay Radio ($599, October).
OPPO was kind enough to give us a sneak peek at the much-anticipated follow-ups to the BDP-93 and BDP-95. The new BDP-103 and BDP-105 retain the things we liked about their predecessors, like universal disc playback, dual HDMI outputs, a supplied WiFi dongle, streaming VOD, and balanced stereo outputs on the BDP-95. OPPO has added some interesting new features, such as 4K upscaling and dual HDMI inputs that allow you to upscale other sources before passing them on to your display. The front-panel HDMI input is MHL-compatible and supports the upcoming Roku Stick to add more Web services. The audiophile-oriented BDP-105 will add a USB DAC, and the company has redesigned the innards to get better separation between stereo and multi-channel. OPPO hopes to have both players out by the holiday season. The BDP-103 should be around $499, and the company is aiming for $1,200 for the BDP-105, although no official price has been released.
The new 250-pound CINEMAQUATTRO 4K projector from SIM2 certainly turned some heads. This DLP projector, a collaboration with display developer Christie, uses three 1.38-inch 4K (4,096 x 2160) DLP chipsets, quotes a brightness of up to 20,000 ANSI lumens, comes with multiple lens options, and features a user-replaceable Xenon Bubble Lamp. If you have a 50-foot-wide screen hanging around and $158,000 (plus lens cost) burning a hole in your pocket, this might be just the product for you. It should be available in the fourth quarter, and the cost includes installation by SIM2. The company also introduced the high-brightness SIRIO single-chip DLP projector, an active 3D model that uses dual 350W lamps and has a quoted brightness of 6,000 ANSI lumens. Choose between two different color wheels (SIM2Color or SIM2Shine) and multiple lens options. The SIRIO will carry a price tag of $25,000, plus lens.
Krell showed off two components we first mentioned back at CES: The Phantom III is the company's first stereo preamp with headphone output ($5,500) and an optional digital input module ($1,500). In October, we'll see the S-550i stereo integrated amp, priced at $5,000 and offering 275 watts into 8 ohms and 550 watts into 4 ohms. Krell also previewed the $6,000 Foundation 7.1-channel processor (due in December) and its first on-wall speaker: the $2,750 Modulari Ion is 3.5 inches deep and also due in December.
Fans of the acclaimed Black Diamond ambient-light-rejecting screen material will be happy to learn that Screen Innovations has finally added a motorized version. The aptly named Black Diamond Motorized is available in a wall- or ceiling-mount configuration, in 16:9 sizes from 80 to 110 inches (a 2.35:1 version should be available early next year). SI also debuted the striking second-generation Black Diamond Zero Edge G2, which retains the 10mm bezel of its predecessor, but offers a new frame design to provide better structural support and an integrated LED ambient lighting system that runs around the screen perimeter (up to 256,000 color options are available).
If you're looking for a wireless HDMI solution, the DVDO Air earned both a CE Pro BEST Award and a CustomRetailer EXC!TE Award at CEDIA this year. Based on the WirelessHD standard, the Air ($399, available now) is an in-room solution that can wirelessly transmit 1080p/3D video and 7.1-channel lossless audio over the 60GHz band at a distance up to about 33 feet. DVDO also announced the Quick6 HDMI switch, with six HDMI inputs (two of which support MHL) and two outputs, with Silicon Image's InstaPrevue technology (providing PIP-like display of all connected HDMI sources) and InstaPort fast switching.
Sanus had a wide range of new equipment and accessories on display, from furniture to iPad mounts to super-large-screen TV mounts to skeleton racks. The new Alabaster Collection of preassembled A/V furniture has a more traditional look, constructed of hardwood in a caramel or charcoal finish. The new VLF410 is a Super Slim full-motion wall mount designed to hold TVs up to 84 inches, and several mounts have been redesigned to accommodate panels up to 90 inches. Sanus also introduced new stackable skeleton racks in floor- and wall-mount form, with an optional swing arm accessory; the CFR1615 (15U) and CFR1620 (20U) can be combined to create five different height combinations. Check out Sanus' free Install Tool Kit app for iPad/iPhone, which can help you find the right Sanus TV mount, but also includes a level and a handy installation assistant.
Meridian demoed its new DSP520 active in-wall speaker (price TBD), which is based on the floor-standing M6 introduced back at CES. In typical Meridian fashion, all of the electronics are built directly into the speaker, which uses a wide-range 85mm driver and a 140mm bass driver. The wide-range driver is designed to be more efficient with frequencies of 200Hz and up, and I was impressed with the smooth, clean vocal quality during the demo. The speakers had a great sense of openness and space. The in-wall line will also include the larger DSP630 and the DSW600 in-wall subwoofer. Meridian also showed the standalone Media Source 200 module, which allows you to add another zone to your Meridian Digital Media System for $1,000; the module can sit directly on the DSP520 and hide in your wall. Look for the DSP520 in November.