CEDIA Expo 2012 Recap

Well another CEDIA show has come and gone. But, this year’s show was an exciting one to be sure. The overall attitude from the manufacturers was quite positive. With all the activity at the show and manufacturer enthusiasm, it seems like the economy isn’t as grim as one may be led to believe by the media. People are spending disposable cash on home theater equipment again, and manufacturers are bustling to come out with next generation products to meet their needs. I heard that dealers and vendors alike seem to be banking on the recovering residential and strengthening commercial markets to grow their businesses. This feeling was stoked by CEDIA’s newly released market research data reflecting a 5 percent lift in revenues and a 17 percent lift in the number of jobs in 2012 compared to 2011.

While everyone says that things are coming back, it’s obvious from booth sizes and locations they’re not coming back to the way things once were. The core mix of vendors has shifted from entertainment based products to networked based control solutions, lighting, shades and environmental controls. The old audio and entertainment based companies, who once dominated shows of past, have reduced their footprints while control based companies, lighting and shade providers continue to expand their presence on the main show floor. Additionally, switching and widget companies seem to be expanding into the control space as well with new IP-based, iPad controlled system interfaces. That’s not to say that entertainment based companies such as Denon , Onkyo and Sony were nonexistent. To the contrary, audio companies were there in force with refined offerings of traditional speakers and amplifiers as well as newly developed outdoor loudspeakers and wireless audio products for single and multi-zone applications. Moreover, there is still a focus on the home theater category with displays of high-definition projectors and screens, theater seating, memorabilia and sound panels.

Here are some of the new products and categories that I picked up on:

Wireless Streaming Audio & Video

WISA was making big strides at CEDIA. Not only did they have a HUGE banner hung at the main show floor entrance but they had a killer demo area too. They were giving a full demo of completely wireless Klipsch speaker system in full 96kHz/24 bit TrueHD audio. The sound was great. What blew me away afterwards was when we found out the HD video feed was also transmitted wirelessly (likely care of a new 60GHz DVDO system). Look for future WISA enabled products from your favorite television, soundbar and/or Blu-ray player manufacturer. Imagine simply plugging in your display or Blu-ray player, then connecting your 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system to power and having everything operate together in harmony. No A/V receiver is needed and there is no complicated setup. WISA is making this a reality and they’ve got a lot of big manufacturers behind them to see this into fruition (i.e. Sharp, Polk, Pioneer, Aperion Audio, Klipsch, etc.).

App control – Remote Controls are All About the Software!

Want to find the best local restaurant, or know how close a lightning storm is to you? No problem, just download an App on your smart phone and let it do the work for you. Expect the same for home theater devices as more and more companies are building apps to control their products over your home network. If I were a remote manufacturer right now who is shying away from network apps, I’d be worried. Fortunately, most are embracing this new ecosystem. I long for the day I can just walk the house with my iPhone or iPad and control all my audio gear on the fly. Virtually every manufacturer I spoke with told me this is the wave of the future so I may not have to wait too long.

SoundBars

Virtually every manufacturer was spitting out sound bars at CEDIA this year, and why not? TV’s today look so good and sound so bad that clever marketers are putting a stake in the sand to deliver a wide array of solutions for everything from 32-inch to 90-inch plus flat panel sets.

The one that really stood out for me was from Atlantic Technology. The H-Pass PB-235 sound bar solution put out impressively rich sound from a pair of 4” woofers and ½” dome tweeters. We demoed this sound bar in their booth with a two channel demonstration and also a 5.1 surround sound movie clip.  After the demo I walked away dazzled with the sound of this Atlantic Tech speaker without using a sub. They state it goes down to 42hz +/- 3db.  At $899, I can’t imagine a better solution on the market!

Wrap Up

In thinking about writing this blog I asked myself what I value the most about these shows – the CEDIA EXPO and CES.  I came up with the building of relationships with both vendors and dealers. As I walked the floor, bumping into so many acquaintances, it dawned on me that these are truly people shows. Seeing how interactive everyone is in the display booths , demo rooms and just walking the floor. I’m truly impressed with the sense of community our industry projects. One filled with people, products and passion for the design and installation process that feeds us all. It’s a good thing!

I look forward to going back to CEDIA in Denver next year.

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