In my opinion this was the most talked about new technology at the show and not because Amazon made their first debut at CEDIA this year, but for the fact that it has so much integration potential. I visited a number of booths that showed just what is possible. Lutron, a leader in the lighting control for residential and commercial markets demoed a system using an Amazon Echo to control lighting, audio and shades in a hands-free and simple to use way, using just your voice. It was quite impressive to see and experience. Unfortunately it was not without limitations; mainly that none of the parts can be controlled independently. For example, say you want to adjust only audio volume, it can’t be done by voice, you have to use Lutron’s Pico remote. Alexa was really only able to a set a scene in the room, not control any individual parts of the system. This is perfect for users wanting a super easy to use interface, but not for power users wanting full control of every aspect of their homes. Seeing other demos, and the sheer excitement surrounding this breakthrough technology, shows how much potential voice control has for the future. I expect to see it control home automation systems very soon, if not by the time you read this.
Virtual reality is a fast-growing innovation that put on a good show at CEDIA this year. I got my first chance to try it out, and I must say it is a truly amazing experience. I tried a flight simulator, took a walk through the jungle and tested my skills at rally racing. Each game was a fun and highly-immersive experience. I feel VR will be a key part of next-generation gaming consoles and possibly home automation and movies. It won’t be long before we see this technology become affordable and more widely available.
This solution product really caught my eye. It holds a current generation iPad mini (it’s also available for other iPad models) flush to a wall and is made from a single block of sleek aluminum. It has an extremely thin and clean bezel that is nearly invisible. It offers charging for the iPad via a single gang junction box installed behind the mount with a clever cable management solution to keep the power cable out of sight. Overall it’s a really cool and clean looking iPad mounting option for a control system. Out of all the competing mounting products out there, I like this one the best.
Every year at CEDIA you can expect a unique and very diverse showing of speakers, amplifiers, DACs and anything else audio. Here are some of my favorites from the show.
James Loudspeakers – steampunk themed tower speakers. I had read an article about these on James’s website being built for a custom client request, so you can imagine my reaction when I discovered a pair being displayed at the show. It was a real treat to see them in person. They were not hooked up so unfortunately I did not get to hear how they sounded, but I’m confident they sound as good as they look. I love seeing unique products like this that really shows what a manufacturer is capable of.
MBL Audio – I was invited to sit in on a private demo of MBL’s new line of speakers. My first thought upon sitting in the listening room were, “these are works of art, not speakers”. As soon as the first song started playing I realized they were indeed both. Very clear, tight and bright sound flowed from these masterpieces. I did notice that the imaging changed as I moved to left and right sides of the room. They sounded best when sitting front and center. Moving to either side gave a one-dimensional feeling, so when I returned to the sweet spot, the full soundstage was revealed. I was amazed at their clarity and how they completely disappeared as I listened. I am really grateful to MBL for inviting me to try these out with my own hears. They are truly amazing speakers from an equally amazing company.