As the saying goes, everything's big in Texas. So it's only fitting that this year's CEDIA Expo, located in Dallas, saw meaningful growth in both exhibitors and attendees. According to CEDIA, attendance was up 16 percent over last year's show in Denver, and the number of exhibiting manufacturers rose six percent. Perhaps more significant is that the number of first-time attendees was up 33 percent, and 124 exhibitors were making their CEDIA debut. This speaks positively about the health of an industry that took quite a beating during the recession but is now on the mend and showing signs of growth.
If you're just joining us, CEDIA stands for Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, and the CEDIA Expo is where custom installers and specialty retailers go to check out the many offerings in audio, video, and whole-home integration, as well attend training and certification classes for the various brands they sell. In terms of new product announcements, CEDIA certainly isn't CES or even IFA, but there are always some noteworthy product introductions that are often targeted at the higher-end specialty space. Let's talk about some of major news/trends in audio and video at this year's show.
We may have been in a new city, but the show's primary audio theme remained the same as last year: Dolby Atmos (with a bit of DTS:X and Auro 3D thrown in for good measure). Every audio room we visited included an Atmos demonstration, primarily using in-ceiling speakers as opposed to up-firing modules to create the height effect (which makes sense, given that this show is aimed at custom installers). Some demos, like those from Sony, RBH, Paradigm, and Polk, combined freestanding and in-ceiling speakers, while GoldenEar went with an invisible theater concept using in-ceiling and in-wall models for every channel except the subwoofer. Of course, the show floor was filled with speakers of all variety, some of which we've highlighted in the slideshow.
To enjoy Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to its fullest, you also need a processor that can handle all those extras channels. JBL Synthesis announced the new SDP-75 that incorporates Trinnov processing and is available in a 16- or 32-channel form. Anthem announced a new 11-channel pre/pro (the AVM 60, $2,999!) and a new 11-channel receiver (the MRX 1120, $3,499) that support the object-based formats, and Sony introduced the new flagship STR-ZA5000ES receiver ($2,799), which has nine channels of amplification but supports 11.1-channel processing.
The popularity of wireless multi-room audio products continues to soar, and the various offerings from Sonos, Denon HEOS, Bose SoundTouch, and Bluesound were on display. We already new that Paradigm, Anthem, and MartinLogan had thrown their support behind the DTS Play-Fi format, and all three companies used the occasion of CEDIA to show off their new Play-Fi products for the first time--including the new Paradigm Wireless Series of speakers/amps and MartinLogan's Motion Vision X soundbar. Definitive Technology and Polk also displayed their latest Play-Fi components, such as the Polk Omni S6 tabletop speaker and Definitive W Studio Micro soundbar.
An audio product that seems to be growing in popularity, at least through custom channels, is the discreet two- or three-channel amplifier/receiver hub that mounts behind your TV, allowing for an easy connection of speakers and sources to improve the TV audio experience. Many of them add Bluetooth and/or other wireless technologies to easily stream audio from a variety of sources. We saw a couple of these last year...and even more of them this year. Artison's Nano Backpack WP, RBH's BT-100, and Russound's TVA2.1 were just a few new products in this category.
It's fair to characterize CES as the TV lover's trade show, while the CEDIA Expo is the projector lover's trade show. The big names in projectors--including Sony, JVC, Epson, Barco, DPI, and Christie--were all there. Sony announced three new true 4K models, ranging from $9,999 up to $60,000 for the flagship VPL-VW5000ES that uses a laser light engine and supports HDR and DCI-P3 color. JVC announced a trio of e-shift4 D-ILA projectors ranging from $3,999.95 to $9,999.95; all three offer higher light output than their predecessors, as well as HDMI 2.0a, HDR support, and a wider color gamut on the two higher-end models. Epson focused on its new Ultra-Bright Pro Cinema 1080p LCD models, which are designed for use in brighter consumer and commercial rooms where full light control is not an option. The LS10000 projector with a laser light engine and 4K enhancement processing, which was announced last year, was on display again--with word that Epson has broadened the availability of this projector to more of its dealer network.
Here's a juicy piece of news for DLP fans: Texas Instruments gave us a sneak peak at the new 4K UHD DLP chipset, a 0.7-inch-diagonal chip designed for use in single-chip DLP applications. TI expects the chipset to be available in April of 2016, so you might see some 4K DLP products by the second quarter of next year.
The screen companies also showed off their latest wares--from Stewart's LuminEsse and CineCurve designs to Da-lite's Parallax light-rejecting surface to Screen Innovations' Intellimask frame that literally changes its shape to suit the content being displayed.
Even though this isn't a TV-centric show, LG did take the occasion to show off its OLED TVs, including the brand new EF9500 non-curved models. I, for one, did a little dance upon hearing that LG was finally coming out with flat OLED TVs, and I did another dance when I heard that the company is slashing prices on all of its OLED TVs to help them be more competitive with the premium LED/LCD 4K designs.
Vizio also made its very first appearance at the CEDIA Expo to show off the new Reference Series 65- and 120-inch Dolby Vision TVs, which--in a big shift for the former Costco king--are currently only available through select custom installers. Vizio announced a partnership with the PowerHouse Alliance network of custom installers to deliver the Reference Series to consumers.
As for 4K content to watch through those TVs and projectors, nobody announced an Ultra HD Blu-ray player at this show, which really wasn't as surprise. LG said, "Stay tuned for CES." Kaleidescape showed off the brand new Strato 4K media player and Encore 4K ecosystem, with news that some 4K movie downloads will be available through the company's download store (Sony Pictures is one of the early partners). TiVo had its new Bolt 4K media player on display, and Dish Network demoed the coming-soon 4K Joey client that was first announced at CES.
Want more details on specific products that were on display at this year's CEDIA Expo? Check out the accompanying photo slideshow.