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CEDIA 2013: Looking Back on EXPO – The Best Demos

It seems that just days ago, all we could talk about was the upcoming CEDIA EXPO in Denver, Colorado. Planning for EXPO, getting to EXPO, how to party at EXPO… Then, with the speed of Gigabit data rushing through a Cat6 cable, EXPO was upon us, and if you made it to Denver then you doubtless have some memories or made EXPO memorable to you. And I certainly welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments section; honestly, one of my favorite things about attending the show is connecting with others and hearing what they say that really excited them. (Another is all the free dinners and drinks, but that really isn’t the kind of thing you want to read about.)

But if you missed out on going to EXPO, or took a lot of training classes that kept you off the show floor, here’s some of the things that caught my eye.

The Vibe

(pic show floor – Photo Credit The Photo Group)

Overall the vibe on the floor was buzzing with positive energy. People seemed to be in good spirits, engaging manufacturers and actively checking things out. It also felt more crowded than some of the recent shows in Indy and Atlanta, with all of the aisles crowded with people, including Saturday which in recent years has been like a Ghost Town. A Ghost Town filled with amazing audio and video, but a Ghost Town nonetheless…

I feel this was a combination of four things:

1) People—myself definitely included—just love the show being in Denver. It’s an awesome, clean, safe city that is walking-friendly with tons of restaurants and bars in close proximity and the convention center is easy to navigate. Except getting to the high-performance audio rooms, which seems like you had to walk down a long, lonely, nightmare tunnel out of a Saw movie or something. (Though, I met one person—KEF’s Brand Ambassador, Johann Coorg—who said he actually preferred the show being in Atlanta.)

2) The economy seems to be recovering across the country. Every integrator that I spoke with said that things were picking up for them and they had lots of projects in the pipeline and they were optimistic that this year would be better than the last.

3) The Colorado Convention Center seemed physically smaller, making the show a bit more compressed. You could stand in one place and see the four boundaries of the show floor, and they were definitely not as wide/deep as Indy.

4) There actually were more people. According to CEDIA’s numbers, “More than 470 exhibitors and 17,900 attendees from 84 countries participated. Professional and overall attendance both grew by 6 percent while new exhibitor participation grew by 20 percent and first-time attendees increased by 50 percent year over year.”

Best Demos

While the show certainly has a custom-centric focus, EXPO has always been known as a place to get an amazing home theater demo and this year was certainly no exception. This year is saw four demos that really stood out in my mind for the excellence in awesomeness.

The first demo that impressed me was Steinway Lyngdorf’s in-wall speaker system. Last year Steinway brought its LS Concert package, which sounded amazing but cost just a shade under a half-mill. But what if you wanted to save that money for a down payment on a new Lamborghini Sesto Elemento? In that case, Steinway Lyngdorf’s in-wall system only costs a cool $70,000 and includes the company’s RoomPerfect audio technology to deliver great sound. Also I was truly smitten with the smooth, jeweled, liquid-magic movement of the Steinway system remote control.

(pic Steinway VC)

I wanted to put my ear next to that sexy beauty and just slowly rotate it like a master safe cracker or something. But, you know, without being creepy. Fortunately, the demo didn’t disappoint. (Neither did my knob time.) It included an exciting battle scene from Iron Man 2 where you could hear the sounds of robots flying and landing around the room and then the cacophony of decimated robots dropping all around you. The demo finished with The Police in concert, proving it was equally adept with movies and music.

On Saturday, I dragged Resi Systems’ Official CEDIA Show Daily on-site managing editor, Kirsten Nelson, out of the cold, drab confines of the Daily production room and into the well-appointed, leather and fabric interior of the Harman/JBL Synthesis demo, which—in classic Synthesis fashion—was pretty awesome. The room showcased the JBL Synthesis SDP-45 surround processor with powerful audio processing power.

(Pic Synthesis)

For smooth, loud, tight and powerful bass at all seating positions—a hallmark of Synthesis systems—the room incorporated multiple—six I believe, two in front, four in back—subs. The demo finished with a lengthy clip from Oblivion that had Kirsten on the edge of her seat. “Dude! All that shooting and the robot and the danger! My heart is pounding right now!” And that is what home theater is all about.

Just by looking at the massive speakers outside the Pro Audio Technology booth, you knew that the demo was going to be intense.

(pic Pro Audio)

Like bass that wounds your soul and crushes internal organs intense. The demo included two of the company’s 266-pound LFC-24sm 24-inch subs along with nearly 10,000 watts of amplification. Pro Audio Tech’s SoundTools software employs powerful DSP to optimize signals to each driver in the system for the most perfect audio possible in any room. The demo began with the opening of The Transformers where the opening low-frequency note rattled the entire cage of the room, and penetrating your chest and ribcage. The demo concluded with “Thriller” from Michael Jackson’s This Is It played at concert volume levels that sounded incredibly loud, but clear and clean.

My award for best demo of the show, however, goes to Wisdom Audio.

(pic Wisdom – photo credit Rich Fregosa)

Located in the new, yet hard-to-find, high-performance audio section, Wisdom Audio delivered one of the best home theater experiences I have ever had. The demo included some small snippets explaining the benefits of line-source speakers—amazingly uniform volume levels at all seating positions—and then included video clips from Wall-E and Skyfall. The large room featured six Wisdom Audio LS3i planar magnetic speakers (double stacks for a 10-foot line source) up front, capable of producing 127 dB at 4 meters, six L75 line source planar magnetic hybrid surrounds and six STS subs to produce deep, tight bass all fed by multiple amplifier channels producing over 60,000 watts of power. The audio was loud, but clear and detailed and filled with impact and resolution. Putting the demo over the top was the 250-inch wide, 2.40 aspect ratio Seymour Screen Excellence screen fed by a Runco LS1-2HBd with anamorphic lens system. This was the ultimate expression of what high-end home theater dreams to be and literally gave me chills.

Next week I’ll finish my CEDIA 2013 coverage with some more trends and things that caught my eye at EXPO. If you saw a demo that especially impressed you, let me know about it in the comments section.