I (Yongki Go) knew before going to the CES, that it was a big exhibit. But not until you are actually in the middle of it can you really appreciate the sheer volume. It was big alright, and some people even call it ‘jungle’. I found this nickname was quite appropriate, in the sense that you could find many things that you have never seen before, and you could really get lost in it too. And let’s not forget, that exploring it could cause your legs to feel as heavy as if they were made from solid iron.
For CES first timer like myself, the array of products displayed in the seemingly countless showrooms in the show was impressive. In fact, many products made their way out for the very first time at this particular CES. I focused on new and interesting audio products for home theater applications during the show, as those are the products that I often review.
Regardless of whatever I decided to focus on, what immediately caught my eyes during the show was flat panel displays. They were everywhere, although not necessarily as a showcased product. True there were some new flat panel displays (LCD or plasma) from some companies being showcased, but they were also there as a tool to help in demonstrating other products. Flat panel displays have almost become a norm these days at a show like CES, and I believe the display manufacturers hope that flat panel displays will also become a norm in consumer houses soon.
Audio companies seemed to follow the development in the flat panel display market closely. There were many new products, speakers especially, that seemed to be designed with flat panel displays in mind. Many companies showcased their thin and slim speakers, which will be a good match appearance-wise with a plasma or LCD monitor. These speakers enhance your room décor, and this brings me to my next observation.
More and more audio companies now seem to pay attention to the cosmetic design of their products, which is a good thing. Gone are the days (well, not really but almost) of high performance products in plain or even ugly-looking packaging. Audio products are no longer made just to satisfy our ears, but they are also eye candy, especially to the eyes of a person who influences your buying decision, like your spouse.
Another thing that caught my attention was the invasion of some computer giants into the home entertainment market. Their entrance is through the obvious path, i.e., by adding necessary functionalities to products they have already had experience with. For example, add a tuner and some friendly control functions to the LCD flat panel monitor and get into the TV market. They rely on their established name to stress the reliability of their new products.
Also notable this year were Media Servers (so you can listen to music and watch movies in any room of your house, distributed from the media server), and new DVD recorders.
Software for compensating room acoustics has also started to gain popularity, as more companies offered such products at this year’s show, whether separately or packaged in a component such as a surround processor. I’m personally enthusiastic with this development, as it means companies realize that room acoustics are an important part of the quality of audio reproduction and can make it easier for us to achieve good room compensation. Viewed from a different perspective, consumers are more educated and realize the importance of compensating for room acoustics to get maximum sound performance, so this creates demand for the product.
Overall, CES 2004 was really an eye opener. I’m happy to
observe that A/V companies seem to be moving in the right direction, and are
in synergy with modern trends.