CEDIA 2013: Looking Back on EXPO – Trends and Tech - ResidentialSystems.com

CEDIA 2013: Looking Back on EXPO – Trends and Tech

It takes about a full week to decompress from the CEDIA show. After spending three solid days wandering aisles under the uncompromising glare of arc sodium overhead lighting, and having your body bombarded with enough Wi-Fi waves to make David Banner squirm, you come home so overloaded with the sights and sounds of EXPO that it takes a bit of time to just… (deep breath)… sit back and process it all.
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It takes about a full week to decompress from the CEDIA show. After spending three solid days wandering aisles under the uncompromising glare of arc sodium overhead lighting, and having your body bombarded with enough Wi-Fi waves to make David Banner squirm, you come home so overloaded with the sights and sounds of EXPO that it takes a bit of time to just… (deep breath)… sit back and process it all. Well, I’m done processing, and here is my wrap on some of the trends that I noticed at CEDIA this year.

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Sony introduced two new, full-4K projectors. Pictured here is Mike Lucas, Sony senior vice president, with the VPL-VW600ES, which breaks the $15,000 barrier.


Best 4K News

If you came to CEDIA hoping to be overwhelmed by 4K news and to have your eyes titillated by 8 million glorious pixels of RGB video magic, well, you likely left disappointed. At the show, there were only two manufacturers actually showing 4K by my count, Sony—who introduced two new, full-4K projectors, including the VPL-VW600ES that breaks the $15,000 barrier—and Planar, who displayed an 84-inch 4K panel that seemed more geared to commercial applications. Many of the distribution companies, however, were touting “4K ready” features on their switchers and extenders, meaning that when the stars align for content and displays, the tech for getting it from point A to point B should be in place. Also, not necessarily CEDIA news, but it has been made abundantly clear that existing “high speed” rated HDMI cables should be capable of handling 4K signals—even 4K at 60 fps—so your existing installs should be ready for upgrade.


Most Prolific Tech

If there was one technology that I saw employed in more booths than any other it was HDBaseT. It seemed that any company offering an extender, splitter, or matrix was adopting HDBaseT, and based on my personal experiences with the tech, this is a good thing. For example, Control4 demonstrated its new 8x8 HDMI Matrix with HDBaseT that can carry audio, video, IR, RS-232, and Ethernet signals up to 330 feet on a single Cat-5 cable. Wyrestorm also launched a new HDBaseT receiver that incorporates a built-in digital amplifier and subwoofer pre-out, making it a perfect local amplifier for audio distribution systems. HDBaseT also found its way into Epson projectors and Integra and Pioneer receivers at the show, and could also be seen in the Atlona, Key Digital, Crestron, Gefen, Extron, Leaf, Savant, and Hydra Connect booths. They also claim it will be compatible with the proposed HDMI 2.0 standard as well, so feel free to use the tech now and know that it will continue working in the future.

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Linn celebrated its 40th anniversary by offering 40 Limited Edition Sondek LP12 turntables featuring a plinth crafted from the solid oak casks used to mature Highland Park scotch. Pictured here is Gilad Tiefenbrun, Linn managing director.


Most Rare and Delicious
What do you give someone to commemorate their 40th anniversary? According to the modern and traditional list, it would be something involving a ruby. But, unless you plan on breaking Dorothy’s slippers out of the Smithsonian, going with rubies is pretty lame. If you’re British audiophile manufacturer, Linn, and you want to create something truly special, then you partner with Highland Park and produce the Limited Edition Sondek LP12 turntable, the latest iteration of the very first product Linn ever made. Few things excite hardcore fanatics like sweet, warm, analog vinyl played back on a wonderful turntable and a well-aged, single malt scotch, and now Linn is combining both of these amazing things together into one very limited and oh-so delicious tasting and sounding product. (Note: I can only assume that it is delicious tasting; Linn declined my requests for a tasting. Twice.) The Limited Edition Sondek LP12 Turntable features a plinth crafted from the solid oak casks used to mature the Highland Park, (made by a distillery that has been making whisky to the same exacting standards since 1798.) Besides telling a wonderful story and looking gorgeous, the turntable produces the kind of warm, full, rich audio that one would expect while sipping a dram of single malt that has spent more time in a cask than many of us have walked this Earth. As befitting such a special product and special anniversary, only 40 of these magnificent turntables will be made. Each will also include a bottle of 40-year Highland Park, also limited to just 40 bottles. Forty is the number of thousands you will need to pick one of these beauties up.

Most Simulated

I counted no fewer than four golfing simulation companies displaying at EXPO; all touting multiple course layouts, accurate club head and ball flight tracking, incorporating projection screens that can take repeated 130 mph driver blasts with front projection graphics so sharp you can almost smell the frothing Pacific Ocean at Pebble. I’m not gonna lie: I would love to have a golf simulator in my house. I’m not sure where I would put it or how my wife would respond to such madness, but brother you get me one, and I will cram it in somewhere. These sims range from like $30-70,000, so we are talking serious tech. I also noticed that several of these systems were featured in CEDIA’s Electronic Lifestyles Awards design finalists, so perhaps the golf simulator is the next generation of home theater/entertainment room.

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Samsung is adding a Crestron control app available for download directly through the TV's GUI that allows users to control their Crestron systems right on screen.


Best Tech Mash-Up
Of course the big announcement that everyone has been covering is Nest opening its API and finally starting to integrate with third-party control companies, beginning with Control4. (On a personal note, I *loved* that Tony Fadell put up my “WTF? CEDIA Invites Nest CEO as Keynote Speaker?!?” image during his keynote.) But the coolest Wonder Twin powers activate demo I saw was between Crestron and Samsung Smart TVs. Samsung is adding a Crestron control app available for download directly through the TV’s GUI that allows users to control their Crestron systems right on screen. This will provide control over lights, security, and HVAC, so definitely not a replacement for a full-blown control interface, but gives control over basic items using a Samsung factory remote. The app runs constantly in the background so it pops-up instantly, and also automatically resizes the video image and presents as a translucent overlay. The app enables Crestron to push notifications to the TV, allowing pop-ups such as “doorbell is ringing” or “your husband desperately wants a beer.” You know, critical information stuff.

Most Controversial-ish
Most demos keep it all-in-the-family, demonstrating different products from one manufacturer. In fact, I can’t think of a time at EXPO when I have ever seen one manufacturer directly comparing their products to other specific brands. Well, this year, Sonance wanted to prove how great its new Visual Presence series speakers sound, and to put their money where their drivers are, they said “Bring it!” to the competition. Or, rather, they just went and built a speaker wall and picked up some similarly priced in-walls from Bowers & Wilkins and Revel and said, “Let’s have a three-way!” (That also might not have happened.) The switching system—with each speaker connected by identical lengths of identical wire in identical cavities to identical electronics—allowed for instant, uncolored switching between all speakers, so listeners could quickly and easily compare the different sonic traits of each model. There were clear sonic differences between each of the brands, but you’ll have to stay tuned for my upcoming review of Sonance’s Visual Presence in-walls to get the final story.

Not Again, Eh?

Last year was my first time attending the CEDIA Electronic Lifestyle Awards banquet, and I was struck by how many of the nominees were from the Great White North. Well, this year was no different, with Canadian custom firms breaking out their install toques and being featured in a multitude of award categories, making me think that if you really want to grow your business and start doing some major, award winning installs, you should start accepting loonies.

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TiO's Bert Culpepper, Michael Anderson, and John Anderson pose with the company's Dealer Kit, which includes a Nexus 7 Android tablet and the company's StealthStream 1, an in-wall amplified streaming audio player.


Most Going After Sonos

Sonos has become one of those polarizing items in the industry; do you love it because it offers a massive array of cloud-based services and includes a way-easy-to-use app and just works, or do you hate it because it is available at Target, has very little margin, and doesn’t integrate well with others? It seems like at every CEDIA we see the latest “Sonos-killer” product. Last year it was NuVo Technologies’ Wireless Audio System (reviewed here by me) and this year it seems that Russound and Tio are taking their shots at the title. Russound launched the XStream X5, which can work in either a wired or wireless network environment, handle up to 16 audio zones and offers a variety of custom-centric features like the ability to use an in-wall Russound keypad for control or the My Russound iOS and Android app. Digital inputs on the X5 allow connection of local signals and RCA analog outs make it easy to connect to a larger amplifier and subwoofer if needed. TiO (“turn it on”)—showed its new amplified wireless audio streaming system, the StealthStream 1. One of the cool things about this product is that it can replace an old, standard 16/4 wired volume control, letting legacy system owners bring their homes into the 21st Century of streaming audio and app-based control. (As long as they have an Android device; no iOS support yet.) The compact design includes a 100-watt (50x2) digital amp and integrates Bluetooth along with 802.11n WiFi. TiO also offers lighting and HVAC control that integrates with the system.

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Well, that’s it for my CEDIA Expo 2013 coverage. If you saw something cool that I missed, please tell me about it in the comments. And I hope to see you at CEDIA 2014, thankfully still in the Mile High city.

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John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.

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