CEDIA EXPO was bursting at the seams again this year at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, with media servers, 1080p video products, speaker innovations, and control system improvements all vying for our attention.You can read more about the show starting on p. 42, but here are some of my top memories from the EXPO 2007. Unlike most lists that only go to 10, this one goes to 11.
1.Best Home Theater Demo: The StJohn Group demo theater featuring a Screen Research screen, iSky fiber optic ceiling, and Cabasse speakers was most notable for its lack of car chase footage or exploding bombs. Instead we watched the refreshing Planet Earth documentary, which seemed to make the room look and sound all that much better.
2. Best Integrated Home Demo: The team at Exceptional Innovation topped last year’s single-home concept from 2006, going further with its Media Center PC demo home and gaining even more stronger commitments from manufacturer partners, such as Lutron, DSC, Russound, and others.
3. Best Audio Demo: Wisdom Audio’s Sage Series speakers, featuring thin film planar magnetic drivers. This was the best-sounding Diana Krall demo I’ve ever heard… and I’ve heard a lot of Diana Krall demos.
4. Best Video Demo: Unfortunately, I missed the Runco demo, so I’ll have to go with the best that I saw personally, which was SIM2’s impressive new 1080p 3-chip DLP. Our friends from northern Italy presented the first three-chip models that employ Texas Instruments’ recently introduced 0.95-inch 1080p DarkChip3 DMD chipset.
5. Best Extracurricular Activity: The combination of SpeakerCraft’s “Come Play” themed booth and its parking lot carnival, replete with midway rides and actual carnies, was one of the most creative trade show party concepts, ever.
6. Most Clever Category Evolution: Middle Atlantic Products’ side ventilation on its RSH Series rackmounts. The team at MAP realized that many new IT-based processors are being designed with side ventilation, which requires racks with a much more open design. And how about that clever “Breathe Easy” slogan from the folks who brought us the “Nice Rack!” T-shirts a few years ago?
7. Best Celebrity Sighting: Colorado Rockies relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins pitching as himself on the baseball simulator at Visual Sports Systems’ booth. Hawkins didn’t really bring the heat because the system is calibrated for beer leaguers like you and me. But according to the guys at VSS, it was a pretty cool experience with a World Series-bound ballplayer.
8. Most Ubiquitous Technology: This was a tie between Audyssey Labs’ calibration package that seemed to pop up in just about every surround processor that I saw, and HD Radio which, despite some of its early bad press, is finding its way onto more radio stations around the country and into more products on the CEDIA show floor.
9. Biggest Surprise: The Linear Home Technology Group’s Cat-5 distributed audio product, called Digi5. This “A-BUS killer” is the first technology that was collaboratively developed by the Linear group members, ELAN, Linear, Niles, SpeakerCraft, ATON, and Xantech. My friends at LeisureTech Electronics seem to be bracing themselves for a battle.
10. Most Over-the-Top New Product: Richard Gray’s Power Company’s PowerVault premium whole-house power conditioning product. At $24,500, this monster in a box is engineered for 11kW of continuous power output, it can handle in-rush demands of over 25kW to start home automation systems, premium AV gear, and lighting control systems.
11. Most Comprehensive Product Line Changes: This is another tie between three heavy hitters in the control world: AMX, Crestron, and ELAN. Each featured major line additions and enhancements numbering in the double digits. It’s a busy time of year, indeed.