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The CEDIA Post-Show Recap

He came, he saw, he took some notes.

This year’s CEDIA is over, and after a couple of days to digest, I’m ready to recap. What caught my eyes, what products stood out above the crowd, and what are the big trends to be aware of. 

Related: John’s CEDIA Daily Diary — Day 1

Best Demos: One of the highlights of any CEDIA are the marquee demos, where you get to listen to company’s flagship offerings, paired with other flagship components, and installed and dialed-in by some of the industry’s best calibrators (hat tip to my calibrator friends Adam Pelz, Kevin Miller, and Kris Deering who had their hands — and tool bags — in some of the best demos at the show), to hear just how good home theater can truly sound. Of all the demos I took in at the show, I had three standouts.

First was the Trinnov Audio system with Triad Gold speakers I mentioned on Day Two. This was the first demonstration of DTS:X Pro, which Trinnov can now uniquely process up to the full 30.2 channels. Bass was incredibly tight and the system had terrific immersion and channel cohesion.

Next up was the Klipsch Behind the Screen Pro Cinema system that brings Klipsch’s commercial cinema speaker technology home in pre-configured speaker packages based on the screen size. This system exhibited tremendous dynamics and chest-slamming bass from the John Wick gunshots, and all at a price that was a fraction of some of the other “big” packages.

Finally, and also from Day Two, was the Wisdom Audio demo with its 13.6.8-channels and 20,000 watts. Wisdom demonstrated in a huge room in the basement of the convention center, and their planar magnetic line-source speaker array delivered live audio level dynamics with pinpoint localization. Plus, the Barco Loki projector firing onto the 22-foot wide Seymour Screen Excellence screen produced a true cinema-at-home experience.

Most Not Ready for Primetime: MicroLED was at the show in a big way and took center stage a several big booths, including Sony, Samsung, Barco, Stealth Acoustics, Planar, and Digital Projection. And this technology seems to be the natural heir-apparent to front projection in luxury home cinemas since it is able to produce incredibly bright images with no loss of black level due to ambient lighting, offers incredible contrast, supports wider color gamut, has superior off-angle viewing, and handles HDR signals better.

However, these displays come with such an insanely high price tag, that no one I asked — and I mean no one — came within $500,000 of guessing how much the 16×9-foot Sony Crystal LED Display cost. And that was after saying, “I’m going to give you a clue…guess way higher than you think.”

The 146-inch Samsung Wall Luxury is going for $400,000 and the 219-inch Sony was $877,000, with other manufacturers panels at similar prices. And with the infrastructure required for these displays to install and function, it is unlikely that they will ever reach pricing much below six figures.

Related: John’s CEDIA Daily Diary — Day 2

Ultra-Short Throw Projection: First coming on the scene a few years ago from Sony and Sim2, this technology allows you to place a projector just inches from a wall and produce an image from 100–120 inches. At launch, these first systems came in at $20,000+, but Epson, Optoma, and LG all showed new 4K laser models at under $6000 at the show, opening up an entirely new installation opportunity to a new level of buyers. Paired with an ambient light rejecting (ALR) screen, these can become a huge living or media room TV for viewing in all lighting conditions, and offer an exciting installation possibility.

16 is the New 11: Just last year the channel count for most Dolby Atmos systems maxed out at 12 in a 7.1.4 configuration. But now there has been an explosion of systems that support up to 16-channels in a 9.1.6 array. While this might seem like overkill, as rooms get larger, you really need the extra channels to create a seamless experience, especially across multiple rows of seats. Companies showing 16-channel AVRs and pre-pros at CEDIA included JBL Synthesis, Arcam, Acurus, and Monoprice. And this list doesn’t include the companies that can push the boundaries beyond 16, which includes Storm Audio, Steinway Lyngdorf, Trinnov, and Datasat. I’d expect to see the major AVR manufacturers — Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Yamaha, Sony — to get on board this trend when they refresh their flagship models.

8 is the New 4: Even though it feels like we’re just getting settled into selling 4K displays — and that broadcast cable, satellite and off-air still can’t deliver content in that resolution — 8K is coming, and it will be here sooner than later. While CEDIA isn’t really a “video” show, the big three — Sony, Samsung, and LG — all have 8K panels sitting at the top of their product offerings. And, well, they all look pretty frickin’ amazing.

My favorite non-MicroLED display at the show was LG’s new 88-inch 8K OLED panel, which looked absolutely amazing. The set utilizes a new a9 Gen 2 Intelligent processor designed for 8K and also features all the expected technologies like Google Assistant, Alexa, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. It also incorporates pixel level dimming for stunning black levels. The native 8K images displayed on the panel were the very definition of “looking through a window” real, and this is a set that will be reference quality for years to come.

Most Overplayed: Before every CEDIA I play a game where I try and predict what will be the top demo material used at the show. Last year, I guessed (correctly) that it would be the first race from Ready Player One. This year I was expecting to see a lot of Avengers: Endgame, you know, the most successful film of all time and one that offers a ton of great demo-worthy scenes for all audiences. Wrong. In fact, I only saw one demo using Endgame at one of the Harman theaters. The clip used far-and-away more than any other at CEDIA was the song “Shallow” from A Star Is Born; I think I saw this scene in at least eight different demos during CEDIA.

The one benefit to seeing the same thing over and over is that you can really cue in on micro-details and examine how different systems resolve the same clip. In this scene I cued on two things that I noticed some systems were able to handle better than others. These were the small claps of Gaga’s friend and her footsteps as she walks onto the stage to join Bradley Cooper and the brief off-mic talk they have at the very end of the song.

Most Used: If “Shallow” was the most used demo scene, then the Kaleidescape Strato was by far the most used source component. Nearly every home theater demo at the show included the telltale Kaleidescape on-screen user interface along with a “Presented by Kaleidescape” splash screen that preceded the demonstration. In fact, Kaleidescape was used in at least 20 booths at the show, proving that the best playback equipment demands the best source material.

While Kaleidescape didn’t have any hardware news at CEDIA, they did “soft” launch two new studios to their online Movie Store, including MGM and Universal Music Group.

Read all four editions of the CEDIA Expo Daily.

Best Day: Pressed for time at CEDIA and can’t stay for the entire show? Saturday is by far the best day to get things done. I’d estimate that crowds were down 25-40 percent on Saturday, and you could get more accomplished in two hours on Saturday than you could in nearly the full day on Thursday. Demo rooms are far more open and easier to get into, and booth crowds are nearly non-existent, giving you more facetime with manufacturers.

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