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Tales from the CEDIA Expo Trail, Part 3

Adventures in Dallas, days 3 and 4.

My Thursday (Part 2 for those reading along) ended late — following a wonderful wine-and-food paired meal with Hunter Douglas — with my Friday starting early with the first appointment at 8:00 AM sharp. But that’s okay; I don’t come to CEDIA Expo to rest in my hotel room! Let’s get these last two days started!

Wondering what’s going on here? Read Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing.

The day began with another home theater demo featuring a group of top-tier partners. Combining powers in this demo was Seymour-Screen Excellence, Ascendo, StormAudio, and RowOne Entertainment. This 9.4.6 system featured processing courtesy StormAudio’s new ISP Elite 24 MkIII and power via Storm amplifiers and featured a full suite of Ascendo speakers, including four active 21-inch subs. (While the company is most known for its massive infrasonic woofers, like the 50-inch model shown in the picture, the room just wasn’t large enough to contain that much low-frequency awesomeness.) Video was courtesy of a 9000 lumen Barco Njord projector with a madVR Envy video processor firing onto a 12-foot-wide Seymour-Screen Enlightor-Neo 4K woven film screen. This system was calibrated by my friend and HAA co-instructor, Adam Pelz, so you know it sounded terrific with incredibly tactile bass. Oh, and it was the first Top Gun: Maverick demo of the day!

CEDIA Expo 2022 – Ascendo 50-inch Infrasonic Woofer
Ascendo 50-inch Infrasonic Woofer

Next up was a visit to Snap One, where it felt like a Steve Jobs’ “Just one more thing…” moment around every turn. First up was a look at Control4’s new Vibrant lighting, which is designed to give integrators a way into the LED lighting market with a variety of solutions.

Next up was not one but two new remote controls, the Halo Remote and Halo Touch. These are designed to be upgrades to the (still existing) SR-260 and the (no longer available) Neeo. There have been a bunch of improvements to the remote, such as dual-diversity antennas for both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, plus a new Voice button that will initially work with AppleTV and Xfinity Comcast but will likely see further voice integrations. Look for the Halo Remote in Q4 at $500 and the Halo Touch in Q1 2023 for $900.

On the Episode side, Snap rolled out Radiance, the world’s first outdoor system to power audio and lighting through a single two-conductor wire. Everything about this system just seemed really well thought-out, including bollard-style speakers that deliver 360-degree audio that can stake, wall, surface, or pendant mount for totally flexible placement. Each location can be speaker-only, light-only, speaker-light combo, or have multiple speakers and lights locked in together. And multiple LEDs in the light module output up to 300 lumens and can be set for path lighting, spot lighting, or both using a three-position switch. Way cool!

Luma also has a ton of camera and NVR updates, including an entirely new line of x20 cameras that are better and about 40 percent smaller than existing models. These new units will feature AI for auto-detection of people and automobiles and then allow users to easily search, save, text, or email clips. All the new units feature faster and simpler setup and configuration via OvrC, which Snap predicts will knock about 50 percent off the setup time.

Next up was a visit to the Absolute Ultimate Home Theater demo to see the Christie Eclipse projector. This has been described as the finest home projector ever, and the closest you can get to having a Dolby Cinema experience at home. This was slated to demo last year, but, well, it didn’t. So, I have been waiting some time to see it. Without hyperbole, this was flat-out the best image I have ever seen from a projector. Period. Firing onto a 15-foot-wide screen, blacks were inky, while still delivering bright and punchy colors and eye-reactive highlights. Audio was courtesy of a 9.8.4 Steinway Lyngdorf system, but honestly, the video was so incredible, it could have been on mute and I’d still have walked away shook. There was a terrific clip from Avatar that really showed off the color space and vibrant detail the projector could deliver. If you have a client with a $400k projector budget — and the room to house the Eclipse projector and laser chiller(!) — this is the model to get!

I’ve been in the market for a new projector for my own theater for about a year and had narrowed it down to two models. Carlos Giraldo, Sony’s regional custom install specialist, was kind enough to let me into one of Sony’s training rooms where they had all of Sony’s current laser projectors — from the VPL-XW5000ES to the flagship VPL-GTZ380 — along with many of their competitors’ models setup for quick and direct A/B comparison, allowing any two projectors to run simultaneously. An OLED was set up for reference purposes, and Carlos let me spend some time comparing various models, adjusting settings, checking out different content, and helping make my decision.

CEDIA Expo 2022 – Sony
Sony Projectors

Regular readers of my reviews might recall that I have invested in a solar and battery backup system for my own home, so the smart power space is something I’m really interested in. A visit to Savant’s booth gave me a really comprehensive overview of the company’s power system, which can make every electrical panel smart by using the company’s smart Power Modules inside virtually any electrical panel. Once added and integrated with Savant’s Power Director, homeowners will have a deep and clear understanding of their power usage. When used with a system that includes solar charging, battery, and/or generators, the Power Director can automatically shed loads and support a variety of energy optimization solutions. This is a true and complete full power management solution, and Savant is looking to partner with integrators to help get this into the market.

While Sound United had a large booth on the floor, they also had multiple demo suites in the Omni to show off new Marantz and Bowers & Wilkins products. In the main demo, the new AV10 19-channel processor and AMP10 16×200-amplifier were driving a fully Bowers CT system with nine CT700 bed channels, six CT7.4 height speakers, and four subs powered by Bowers CDA-2 amps bridged to deliver 1000 watts to each. This system had a total of 7000 watts of power and showed off the capabilities of the new Marantz products, and was another opportunity to check out Top Gun: Maverick! Up in the rest of the suites, they demonstrated Bowers’ just-launched 700 series 3 bookshelf and tower speakers in stereo and surround systems.

And on my walk back to the convention center, I had a chance encounter with Sam Runco, industry legend, icon, and founder of Runco projectors! I was a Runco dealer and had been through the Runco training a few times over the years, so I had a few opportunities to get to hang out with Sam, and it was great to see him back at CEDIA (even if just unofficially!).

CEDIA Expo 2022 – John Sciacca and Sam Runco
John Sciacca and Sam Runco

As a soundbar reviewer, I’ve been waiting for there to be some luxury offerings to this segment. While Bang & Olufsen really set the bar (pun intended) with its new $7-8k model (see my part one write-up), Devialet’s Dione bar is another one I’ve been really keen to listen to and get in for review! This is an all-in-one — as in, no outboard subwoofer needed — 17-speaker bar (including 8 built-in subwoofers), powered by 950 watts of total power and able to produce 101 dB. This is a 5.1.2 configuration with Dolby Atmos processing, and Devialet claims the frequency response is from 24-21 kHz. In the demo, the bar produced a ton of width and spaciousness and delivered actual bass. Really hoping to bring a unit in for review!

CEDIA Expo 2022 – Devialet Soundbar
Devialet Dione Soundbar

Saturday has always been a fantastic day to cruise the floor as most of the crowds have thinned way out —  though the Trinnov/McIntosh group demo had a long line literally up till show close! — so you can whip through booths more quickly and have meaningful conversations without a crowd of people interrupting. This allowed me to jump right into the JVC demo to see the NZ9 running the company’s new upcoming HDR firmware release, check out Orro and its new Hunter Douglas shade integration, see Modulus’ 4K media server, chat with my friends at Kaleidescape, freely wander the Samsung and LG booths without fighting a crowd of people and chat with the folks at Screen Innovations, who seem to always be innovating and were gracious enough to provide a large screen sample for a UST projector review I’m working on.

Leon Speakers always has a cool style to its products, and the booth was no different this year. One thing that really stood out to me was the new FrameBar to mate soundbars to Samsung Frame TVs. Finished in the same colors — though using different/better materials — as the standard Frame offerings, now you can have a really finished look to your soundbar installs to help marry the bar to the TV’s width and Frame finish.

CEDIA Expo 2022 – Leon FrameBar
Leon FrameBar

Also very cool was the new LiquidView Virtual window. This allows you to add an amazing view to any room. LiquidView includes access to the company’s library of 24-hour views shot by cinematographers from around the world that sync to wherever you are, so you can enjoy a full day from sunrise to sunset (and beyond) anywhere. The 75-inch commercial-grade 4K HDR display looks beautiful, however, the 9-inch mounting depth — and $25,000 price tag — might prove a bit challenging.

My final big demo of the show was from Pro Audio Technology and Theory Audio Design. Owner/president Paul Hales says that Theory is able to hit lower price points while still delivering terrific performance and that Pro essentially starts at pricing and performance where Theory leaves off. I was super impressed with the Theory 5.2.2 demo system that included full amplification, bass management, and room correction for under $14,500 retail. This punched way above its price point and delivered convincing surround effects and deep bass. The company’s new IC6 6-inch in-ceiling speakers also produced crazy amounts of bass that will be sure to impress on any distributed audio install.

CEDIA Expo 2022 – Pro Audio Technology and Theory Audio Design Demo
Pro Audio Technology and Theory Audio Design Demo

And…that’s a wrap! Look for my “CEDIA Superlatives” post coming up where I’ll recap the best things, trends, and moments from my CEDIA 2022 experience. Hope to see all of you in Denver for CEDIA 2023!