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My Top 10 CEDIA 2016 Standouts

Whether you came to Dallas looking to be educated, wanting to find out the latest in networking, explore advances in home theater, stay on the cutting edge of automation, or see what was new in audio distribution, CEDIA had plenty to offer everyone.

Another CEDIA is in the books, and I hope that you got a chance to attend! Once again the CEDIA staff did a terrific job putting on the show, making sure everything ran smoothly. I pass along special thanks to Olivia Sellke and Holly Keller who ran the press room with aplomb and answered all of my questions (even those of the non-CEDIA related variety).

The show floor seemed well attended though not packed, and I felt like there was a great vibe and energy on the floor, with a lot of big news from a variety of manufacturers. Whether you came to Dallas looking to be educated, wanting to find out the latest in networking, explore advances in home theater, stay on the cutting edge of automation, or see what was new in audio distribution, CEDIA had plenty to offer everyone.

Here’s a list of some things that really caught my eye and stood out to me while wandering the showfloor.

Biggest Industry Impact – Alexa Integration

Voice control has been swimming around the periphery of our industry for a while, but up until this CEDIA, most voice control systems were really geared toward the DIY crowd. My attitude about Amazon’s Echo was, “Why would I want a $179 device that tells me jokes and the weather? It can’t control any of the stuff I actually want to voice control.”

Ah, but that totally changed this year. Now Amazon is embracing automation partners like Control4, Crestron, Savant, and Lutron. And where those companies lead, you can be sure the others will follow. Through in the relatively low cost of the new Amazon Dot and you can have really high-quality and affordable voice control throughout a home.

I’ve been using Alexa with my Control4 and Lutron lighting system for about a week now, and every day I think of cool new possibilities to integrate. This definitely has the potential to be an industry game changer. Alexa, tell Siri it looks like she missed the boat…

Most Impressive High-End Demo
– JBL Synthesis

I’m a sucker for the BIG DEMO. You know, the one that leaves you just going, “Wow! That was amazing.” And there were certainly no shortage of over-the-top demos this year. Between the Alcons Audio demo with its massive SPL, or the Barco demo that utilized a massive light-cannon of a projector and Steinway Lyngdorf audio, or the Seymour-Screen Excellence demo with Induction Dynamics speakers, or the Wisdom Audio demo, all sounded great to be sure.

But I’ve got to hand this year’s Top Demo award to the Harman team for the JBL Synthesis demo. The new demo room was very clean looking and utilized 33 speakers in a 15.4.10 configuration. The demo featured the latest Synthesis SDP-75 processor based on the Trinnov Altitude 32, and took advantage of JBL’s brand new in-wall compression drivers driven by “tens of thousands of watts.”

The demo also featured all three immersive audio formats, with clips from Gods of Egypt, Oblivion, and 13 Hours in DTS:X, Auro 3D, and Dolby Atmos. The sound was truly awesome and completely immersive, with audio travelling through every inch of the space in perfect detail, and with bass that could cave your chest in.

Latest Potential Sonos Killer
– Riva Audio’s Wand

We’ve all heard that such-and-such will finally be the product that takes Sonos down, but it has yet to happen. The truth is, Sonos has been around a long time and it is awfully good at what it does. So every time I hear about the latest Sonos killer I smile and nod along and think, “We’ll see.”

Listening to Riva Audio describe it’s Wand Series wireless system made me think that this might actually be The One. Not only do the speakers sound terrific, able to put out massive audio with actual bass, but they also have an incredibly wide dispersion thanks to Riva’s Trillium 3-channel audio design. Further, the prices are incredibly competitive, and the open system supports WiFi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, DLNA, and Google Cast.

Riva’s roadmap looks incredibly ambitious and I can’t wait to bring a system in for review and see if they can live up to the hype!

Latest Trend in Wireless Audio
– Google Cast

Before CEDIA 2016 I hadn’t even heard of Google Cast. I mean, sure, I’d hear of Chromecasting but thought it was really more a video thing to TVs. But products implementing Google Cast seemed to be popping up everywhere at CEDIA. In fact, it was the streaming wireless audio solution people seemed to be excited about. It seems to be very similar to Apple’s AirPlay in nature, but works on both Android and iOS devices and off-loads the processing to the device itself. Plus, unlike AirPlay, it has multi-room capabilities. Devices incorporating Google Cast include Sony, LG, Philips, Bang & Olufsen, Harman/Kardon, Onkyo, Riva Audio, Pioneer, Polk, and more.

Most Surrounded – Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is now ubiquitous. In fact, I’m not sure I heard a surround demo that didn’t feature Atmos (barring an event put on by DTS to showcase its competing format).

Beyond being included in every receiver and processor, Atmos is also rapidly making its way into soundbars. There is also a ton of content available for enjoying in Dolby Atmos, both on Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray, a claim neither DTS:X (with about 15 titles) nor Auro 3D (with no U.S. titles) can make.

Dolby released a new Atmos demo disc at the show (contents pictured above) that I’m hoping to bring in for review and with an offer for integrators to get a free copy for their showroom.

Keeps Getting Better – Soundbars
Once an industry joke, the soundbar is coming into its own as a real audio solution. Now virtually every reputable speaker manufacturer makes a bar packing tons of tech. For more than just TV viewing bars from Definitive Technology, Polk, Paradigm, MartinLogan, Integra, and Pioneer Elite, incorporate DTS’ PlayFi for multiroom use. Samsung, Pioneer Elite, Integra, and Yamaha all demonstrated soundbars that incorporated Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. And Definitive Technology demonstrated its W Studio Micro playing to wireless rear speakers for a true discrete 5.1-channel soundbar experience. And Bluesound unveiled it’s new Pulse sound bar, the world’s first sound bar to decode high-resolution 192/24-bit, Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) audio.

Stuff I Most Wanted to Steal – Multiple
Come on, like you haven’t thought about it too! If you could leave CEDIA with a “souvenir” from the show, what would it have been? Here’s my short list:

1)Trinnov Altitude 32. This is just a BEAST of a processor, with enough DSP horsepower to handle any challenge you throw at it and support for 32 speakers.

2)JVC DLA-RS4500 BLU-Escent projector. Sure, there were bigger projectors at the show, but none of those would really work in my space. The BLU (pictured, right) looked gorgeous, had a ton of light output, and the deep blacks that JVC is known for with native 4K support.

3)Sony XBR-100Z9D. Why even bother getting a projector when you can get 100 inches of awesome with this bad boy?!? Sony’s Backlight Master Drive produces an amazing picture and UHD video on this is going to look bright and stunning!

4)LG 77-inch G6 Signature OLED. Terrific black levels, gorgeous colors, wonderful motion handling.

Most Gratuitous Accessory
– B&O Advanced Speaker Grill
What you are seeing here is the Advanced Grill from Bang & Olufsen—pure aluminium speaker grill that takes over four hours to meticulously manufacturer. With milling and anodizing and rounding and laser engraving, this is the speaker grill that Saudi sheiks use to serve Almas caviar to their guests and then use as skeet shooting targets just because they can. For the rest of us, these grills are expected for fetch $500 each (!). Better get your pre-orders in now to beat the rush!

Most Austin Powers
– Projectors with Frickin’ Lasers
Besides 4K, the theme amongst projector manufacturers this year was definitely lasers. Nearly every projector manufacturer at the show displayed a projector using lasers in some form as the light source. At the insanely high-end was Barco with a unit the pumped out enough brightness to fill a Cineplex-sized screen. Digital Projection showed several laser models, including the nearly six-figure flagship 4K INSIGHT along with a new, far more affordable 4K model laser model called the E-Vision that will sell for $20,000. Sony demonstrated its laser model introduced at last year’s CEDIA on a 220-inch diagonal screen, showing an impressive application of DISH Hopper 3’s Sports Bar Mode with four, full 1080p images at 110-inches each. JVC unveiled its latest projector, the company’s second generation model using its proprietary BLU-Escent laser phosphor light engine. Sim2 demonstrated the XTV ultra-short-throw model that can put up a 100-inch image on virtually any wall from mere inches away. And Epson showed a more affordable laser model in the $10,000 range.

Most WTF? — Tch – Dome Mouser (photo courtesy Darryl Wilkinson)

So, umm, this little contraption is designed to kill mice and other small rodents. But don’t worry! It zaps those varmints humanely with jolts of electricity and then notifies you via Z-Wave when the deed is done. No longer do you have to stare at your trap and wonder. Now technology can notify you up to 150 feet away when the fricasseed carcass is ready for disposal. Also, don’t fret that all that mouse killin’ will run up yer ’lectric bill; you get 50 zaps per set of four AA batteries! Feel free to lead the mouse into the Mouser and re-enact your own Green Mile finale! Tom Hanks and miracles not included.