Without further ado, welcome to my completely unofficial, personal, non-technical CEDIA “best of” wrap up.
Best Audio Demo — Persona by Paradigm
Saturday has always been my favorite day of the show due to the drop in attendance. The later it is on Saturday, the shorter the demo lines. This is also the day to experience the high-performance sound rooms that were over at the Omni Hotel. There, tucked in an odd domed room, you found a couple of insanely passionate dudes sampling high-resolution music on a $35,000 pair of speakers. (Maybe the insanity was tied to being cooped up in such a confined space for three days?)
In our awesome land of tech, the higher end you go, the smaller the incremental gain. And yet, sitting in this room after thousands of steps, closing my eyes as monks began a hymn, I was completely transported to another time and place. I could have pointed to where each singer was standing as they harmonized (and none were near the speakers). Next, as Peter Gabriel began the first resonances of Mercy Street, I knew he was playing only for me. Needless to say, you want to experience these speakers, for they have the power to evoke emotions like nothing I have ever heard before. Loud surround is simple. Imaging and transformational sound is not.
Best TV — Sony XBR-100Z9D
Speaking of transporting oneself, you can easily get lost in Sony’s new 100-inch LED TV. For years, as I’ve walked by these larger-than-life TVs I’ve scoffed. Who would ever need such a mammoth thing? Now I realize that the answer is ME! I need this TV. 3D was a gimmick, a ride you were ready to get off after a few minutes. 4k with HDR at 100 inches is a luscious experience that pulls you in making you crave more.
Best Booth — Amazon Alexa
Maybe because they have the budget, or maybe because they came to the show with a different perspective, you must give credit to the Amazon team for providing a home “tour” over and over and over again. Then add a large show floor with abundant ambient noise and fierce critics. Now, from the stories I’ve exchanged, this booth was far from perfect, but as a veteran of this show, it is a hell of a lot harder to show a system working than telling us all the wonderful things it will do, at your house, when you’re not in front of the sales person. Alexa also wins for most buzz at the show, but that story you can read everywhere else.
Best Product You Should be Using — Portal
Have you seen this yet? We are often found talking about products as gamechanging, but sometimes it is the software behind the mask that gets you there. I’m going to assume you’re already using D-Tools (and if you’re not, you should be, but we can have that conversation another day.) Portal is software THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR (you read that right, it is free) that allows you to put all your pricing in one place. It lets you order from a single location. It then tells you that the email was read and when it is shipping. Yes, it will take a little bit of time to get it integrated, but boy will it be worth it.
Best Surround Demo — Pro Audio
Yes, of course, it has to go to the super expensive incredible, fantastic, system as it would just about every year. Pro Audio, if you’re listening, no more Mad Max PLEASE! There are some really great audio demos out there today, and we would love to experience something new.
Biggest Disappointment — Soundbars
I have to disagree with my colleague John Sciacca on this one. Once the fastest selling piece of electronics, there was nothing very new in the world of soundbars. (If I’m wrong, please tell me in the comment section below.) Most people who buy sound bars want them on the wall. They want them to be slick and thin. Don’t get all caught up in your design. Don’t be flashy. Just make a good sounding, $500-ish soundbar with a wireless subwoofer that has discrete codes (feel free to send me the commission check after your sales soar, manufacturers).
Best Touch Screen — Vantage
You didn’t see that coming, did you? I embarrassed myself when I asked Vantage who actually made the touchscreen. The device is solid looking, modern, and not chunky or made of cheap plastic. I don’t know if Vantage is big enough or powerful enough to drive this to mass-market, but it sure did look beautiful.
Best Stealth Exhibitor — Crestron
No gargantuan booth this year, but make no doubt about it Crestron was at the show. You found in them Sonos’s booth with their native app and new touchscreen (did they just release a new product at a show where they didn’t have their own booth?).
Best New Partnership — Access Network and Eero
You thought I was going to say Amazon Alexa and Control4, didn’t you? Well, without a robust network guess what two systems won’t work at all? Access Networks has long been held as the cream of the crop when it comes to the network, but was not truly affordable for all. By partnering with Eero, they have a new offering and spread their clientele wings.
Most Popular Underdog — Josh.ai
Not sure if I have ever seen a booth tucked into the back (pretty sure it was only a 10 x 20 — small for CEDIA companies) so busy. Every time I walked by, the aisle was crammed with onlookers trying to get a glimpse of Josh and his voice recognition.
Best Projector — Laser
Yes, I cheated here, as I am having a hard time naming just one. One thing is for sure; laser technology is the next level in projectors, and we will see others fade away into the dust. While I find myself partial to the Sony, the sixty grand is a pretty high number. Epson meanwhile brought laser to everyone with both 4K and 4KE (“E” means it’s halfway between 1080p and 4K, and the average duck would not be able to tell the difference).
CEDIA kept the excitement growing; from their amazing TED-like talks in their booth to full classrooms, to release of new products (Sony released their new 4K Blu-ray player; did I mention that?). With more than 18,000 attendees, we can see the market continuing to grow, even in this DIY-age.