(Links to all the photo pages are at the bottom of this page.)
One of the neatest ideas I saw at CEDIA was a product by Sound Advantage. The speaker is a square that fits between two studs that can be dry walled over, or wall papered. After the finishing is done, it's completely hidden. The sound is better than you would ever expect. Not muddy or funny sounding but very true to the sound of an actual speaker.
Pioneer Electronics debuted many new products. Many of the new products were just engineering mockups at CES. The Elite DV47Ai is their new flagship DVD player. Capable of DVD-A, SACD, MP3, and equipped with 24-bit / 192 kHz DACs it should be a very popular player. The coolest part of the player is it's i.Link connection to the receiver via IEEE1394. I had a quick discussion with an unnamed rep, and we should be looking for audio and video i.Link solutions in the future. (Editor's Note: the new Pioneer TVs for 2003 will include DVI in for video, not 1394.) We know already that i.Link does well with video a la Mitsubishi.
Of course, since Pioneer now has a i.Link source, they need an i.Link equipped receiver. The new 49TXi is the same as the 49TX except with i.Link capability. I assume that all future elite models will have the i.Link. A Pioneer rep warned that even though they are using the i.Link, their products (as most) are not compatible with the Mitsubishi control.
Pioneer also debuted a new speaker technology developed to create a 5.1 experience from a single speaker. I listened to the demo they provided, and as promised it was convincing. It also would definitely be the centerpiece of any conversation.
Definitive technology had their new Supercube subwoofers. They are the same size as the Sunfire, and sounded great. Speaking of subwoofers, Velodyne had their new sub aimed at the likes of Krell. The Signature 1812 (Estimated MSRP $15,000.) consists of the HGS 18 and HGS 12 molded together. The impressive part was the computerized equalization that could be performed by hooking up a monitor. The sub has a mic and processor on board to monitor its room response and to let you adjust accordingly.
Stewart had a great display comparing their Firehawk and the Studiotek 150 screens. The Firehawk provides much more contrast in ambient light than the Studiotek, quite impressive. (Editor's Note: The split screen does not accurately represent what you will see when looking at just one screen on its own. The relative difference between the two materials will skew the results for both screens.)
The DLP booth had a large assortment of DLP projectors using the HD2 chip. The black levels are astonishing, and the clarity is terrific as well. Faroudja and TAW beware, these are amazing. Also of note was that the entire DLP booth used Stewart screens. The new Yamaha and Sharp projectors were on display side by side. I may favor the Yamaha here, as it was stunning.
- Brian Weatherhead -
We (Stacey Spears and Kris Deering) decided to drive to CEDIA this year. The show floor opened up on Friday, but we had some press conferences to attend on Thursday. We felt it best to arrive a day early so we could get some rest from the 25 hour drive.
We met up at casa de Stacey on Tuesday afternoon around noon. We were on the road by 1:45 PM. A few hours later we stopped in Spokane on our way out of Washington for a bite to eat at Carl's Jr. We made a point to stop here because this is the only Carl's that we are aware of in the state of Washington. The next closest one is in Portland, Oregon. Stacey had the Western Bacon Burger w/o Cheese and the pig that Kris is, had the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger. We both had the Kriss-cross fries similar to what you find at a Chic Filet.
After we ate, we were on the road again. It was at this point that Kris came up with a good idea, but a few hours too late. He said we should have brought the TV series 24 with us so we could watch it on the trip knowing that we would be in the car for that amount of time. D'oh! Perhaps next year when season two comes out.
Our next major stop for food was in Fargo, North Dakota. Why Fargo? Because of the movie, don't ya know. From Fargo it was just another 4 hours or so until we hit our destination. Did we mention that Stacey was recovering from the flu? Stacey could not even hear out of his left ear most of the way because it never equalized going through the mountains in Idaho. Kris drove from this point so Stacey could take some cold medicine and got the first real sleep since we started.
We had originally not planned to leave on Tuesday so we arrived without a hotel room booked. We managed to get into contact with Tom Strade at Immersive Inc. Tom had two rooms and an extra bed in each room so we had a place to crash for the night. Tom was also nice and took us out to dinner. Of course Tom had also been hit with the flu so we were all feeling great!
We awoke the next morning and headed over to our hotel to check-in. We shared a room with John Kotches from Widescreen Review. Actually we had booked the room while he was still at Secrets. From there we caught a bus on over to the convention center where we headed straight to the press room to get our badges. While getting our badges we ran into our Editor-in-Chief, John Johnson, and our Marketing Manager, Cynthia Johnson. John and Cindy were getting a quick pre-show floor escort and then they were off to set up their room for the video interviews. Kris and Stacey sneaked in with them.
We spent that first morning over at Tom's booth talking about the aSimilator DVD player. Shortly after that Matthew from PS Audio came by, and we spoke with him for a while. We pretty much killed time until our first press conference that day, which was with Sim2. Sim2 introduced their new RP HD2 DLP display. They also announced the HT300+ DLP. This is the new HD2 version of the HT300. They also announced that they were already shipping and had several ready to go out to dealers as soon as the show was over. While this new display does offer a DVI input, it does not support HDCP copy protection. So if you use one of the new DVI output HD STBs from Sony or Zenith, you may be in trouble. The new 480p card for the Meridian 800 always has HDCP enabled on the 480p output, so you can't use it with this display.
We ran into Philip Brandes from SMR Theater Group. Philip managed to snag a photo of all of us.
After this press conference ended, we had a couple of more hours to kill until the next press conference, which was the Sony press conference. Sony introduced their new DVD-V / Multi-channel SACD player and a new mega-changer without SACD. Most of their time was spent on their three LCD displays. They showed the VW12HT and two new lower priced LCDs all using 16:9 panels. The mid priced unit even has DVI inputs. They showed a clip from the new Spiderman DVD. Like all Sony press conference, they had some tasty snacks and drinks for the press.
After this event we had to run over to an English Pub for a pint with Canton. Stacey had some dark warm and flat brew (as apposed to cold and fizzy) and Kris had nothing. After this we headed on over to a steak house for a press dinner. Here several members of the press met with some A/V companies. Neither of us spoke about the industry, we all spoke about random day-to-day stuff. We learned later from others that no one really talked about A/V. We were going to get plenty of that over the next few days so we just spoke about other things. We both had a good time here.
Up early the next morning, we caught the bus over so we could all head to our press conferences. Stacey was early to the InFocus conference as he was eagerly awaiting all of the info possible on their new HD2 7200 DLP. It is the first that will use the new FLI2300 chip from Sage. He got in early and managed to talk with Bob Williams for a while about the 7200 before the conference started. And like most press conference, you run into friends you have not seen since the last trade show, like John Gannon.
While Stacey was drooling at the new InFocus projector Kris was getting the lowdown on Acoustic Innovations new products. For those not familiar with this company they work on custom home theater installations that range from turn key systems to one of a kind design. They showed Kris a couple of their popular setups that are pre-existing and installed right into the room. What Kris saw was quite impressive and would probably take a lot of the guess work out of having a beautifully designed theater room.
Right after this press conference, Stacey headed over to the THX booth to pick something up, and he spoke with them for a bit about the changes that have taken place, for the better, since they sold off part of the company. They are now actually free to do a lot more without the tight control of Lucasfilm.
After this, Stacey headed on over to the Meridian booth to see what they had new to offer. He spent the next hour or two talking with Bob Stuart and Duncan Smith. He had compiled a list of questions that were posted on an unofficial Meridian forum. Bob and Stacey went through the questions and he got answers on everything they were willing to share at this point in time. They also talked much about the three new products they were introducing at the show. First up is the new DSP7000. The 7000 is a scaled down version of their flag ship DSP8000. It is a much smaller cabinet and has two forward firing drivers as apposed to six side firing. It inherits the cabinet technology and DSP (upsampling and digital filters) from the 8000, but it uses the amplifier (albeit a hot-rodded version) and drivers from the DSP6000s. Meridian also had a new DSP in-wall speaker called the DSP420. This is similar in driver layout and size to the DSP33s. Meridian was not the only company to have in-walls at CEDIA. Many companies were introducing them.
And finally Meridian had their new 880 Music Server. The 880 is based on iMerge technology and it even uses MLP to compress the newly ripped music files and stores them on a HD. It has three 80GB internal drives and can store an insane amount of music. The 880 depends on an Internet connection so that it can download cover art and track listings. It also has multi-room capability with its four zone output. It can be fitted with analog and digital input cards so you can pull in other audio sources.
By now we are sure you have all seen the DSP8000s in the various colors. Well, they also showed off a pair of 800 series products with silver trim. (Click HERE to see a short Windows Media video with the silver 800, DSP7000s, and DSP420s. The person standing next to the DSP420s near the end is Duncan Smith.)
From here Stacey headed on over to the Marantz booth to see their new HD2 DLP display. He met up with Tom Strade and they sat in on the demo that was given by Dan Miller of Marantz. Later Dan walked Stacey through all of the menus in the new VP-12S2 to show that they have exposed all of the controls in the Sage chips and the RGB drive and gain controls. The other thing that Marantz had that caught Stacey's eye was their new music server based on iMerge, like the Meridian 880. The difference is that theirs only uses one hard drive and it does not have MLP so you get a lot less music. However, it still can hold a lot of music and is more affordable than the Meridian solution. Marantz was also showcasing their new line of A/V receivers. Most of their models now include the full DTS suite of options, and the flagship 9200 has received Ultra 2 certification.
The music server is probably my (Stacey) second favorite consumer electronic invention in the last decade. What is my first? Easy, the PVR. If it were not for my TiVo, I would not watch any broadcast TV. Watching TV in real time sucks! Sure HD and DVD are much better looking technologies, but they are not as cool or as convenient as the PVR and music server. Until there is an HD PVR, I will probably watch little HD content and I have no plans to purchase D-VHS or D-Theater without full studio support.
Next, Stacey paid a visit to the Texas Instruments (TI) booth. Here, TI had all of the new HD 2 DLPs on display in one convenient place. We can't make any performance opinions based on the setup because we did not calibrate them ourselves. But, we got to see the InFocus, Toshiba, Sharp, Marantz, Sim2, and Yamaha all working and running the same content. We can't wait to get a better look at these. The trend with the latest generation DLPs is that they all have DVI inputs. At this time we do know that InFocus, Toshiba, and Marantz support HDCP. We don't know if the others do or do not.
Stacey ran into Joe Kane while he was near the Richard Gray Power Company booth. They talked as they walked back to the room where Joe was teaching a class. Stacey sat in while Joe was demonstrating DVE (his latest HD D-VHS (720p and 1080i) and DVD (Enhanced for 480p by not applying vertical filter.) for calibrating sound and video systems) for an executive at ABC and some senior people from JVC. Stacey also ran into a couple of the better known ISF guys, Chuck Williams and Jim Doolittle. Jim and Stacey have known each other for many years. They first met in 1994 at an ISF class in Southern California. Joe has put a lot of work into DVE and he is very proud of it. Of course it is not ready yet or should I say the tools to build the program for the level he is looking for are not ready yet. This project is moving at the pace it takes to evolve the tools.
Stacey spent some time speaking with Mike Tsinberg at Key Digital. He had their new HD Leeza on display. I know there is a lot of anticipation for this new up / down / cross scaler. He had multiple plasmas there. Most were DVDs being up-converted, but the main one had HD being cross-converted. We were not familiar with the content or the displays, so it was hard to tell, but the HD Leeza is sure to be a winner. Mike has a consistent record of delivering quality products.
Tom Strade had several things on display. He had the Holo3DGraph PCI card with DCDi on board. This was running on one 16:9 display. He also had a prototype of his new aSimilator DVD player. This player takes external inputs and has a built-in DVD player. This suggested retail at the time of the show was under $4k. Tom also had his HD-SDI board that they can install into a Dish 6000. He also had a couple of daughter cards for his Holo3DGraph. Both offered more inputs, one had RCA connectors, and the other had BNC connectors.
Denon made an announcement that they just received the digital license from 4C so that they could transfer copy protected high resolution audio over their Denon Link. This is good news for Denon customers. They plan to upgrade existing 9000s shortly. This upgrade will need to be done at Denon. Denon is now the second company to receive the digital license. Meridian was the first company.
As Brian mentioned above, Pioneer now has a digital link for DVD-A and SACD based on 1394 called the i.Link. Pioneer also said all of their upcoming TVs will feature two DVI inputs for video. They admitted that their new receiver with i.Link will convert the DSD to PCM in order to perform bass management and time alignment.
Several companies had universal DVD-A / SACD players on display. This included Marantz, Onkyo, Integra, and Yamaha. Most of them begin life as a Pioneer player. The only one that might not be based on the Pioneer is the Yamaha because it offers DCDi too. We will know more in the future.
Some of the staff here at Secrets don't really see the universal players concept as being a good thing. What would have happened if an affordable VHS/Beta "combo" player had come to market way back when? Would we have been better off? We are glad that for two decades we only had to think about one type of tape. A player that does both SACD and DVD-A is not a sign that things are getting better for the consumer, it's a sign that they are getting worse.
We can see how one would say that a SACD/DVD-A player is good for the consumer because they don't have to worry about which one will settle down as the standard. But in reality, all that the combination players are going to do is POSTPONE the inevitable settling of one over the other. So then the consumer will have to stress over which format of MEDIA to buy. Even though they have a combo player, no one wants to start a library with one format if the other will settle as the standard in a matter of years. At that point, the new players probably would only have the standard format, so what do you do with your old discs in the defunct format? You would have to keep an older player handy to play them, like we have to keep an old laserdisc player for our laserdisc collections.
The industry really screwed up this time. You think they would have learned from the PHENOMENAL uptake of DVD-V with its ONE SINGLE FORMAT! HD-DVD is having a similar issues now, and the consumers are speaking up. There are currently three different takes on how HD-DVD should be done. We can only hope that they go with a new optical format and with a new codec (MPEG- 4).
JVC had rented out a large theater and were showing three of their LCOS displays (digital panels, similar to LCD and DLP) running. Many people were impressed with the SX21. All three displays were running the same HD content. Speaking of HD, most demos either ran HD or ran the DVD of "Monsters, Inc." This made it difficult to judge any quality.
The LCOS in the D-Theater demo looked better to us than what was playing in the large auditorium. We can't deny that D-Theater looks good, but without full studio support we don't think it will be very big. We doubt that it will even reach the 2% market share that laserdisc once had back in its prime.
TAW had their new LCOS based display running, the Evolution. They fed it with their ROCK+ video processor. They used the same clip that they ran at CES from "Lost in Space". I really don't like this film (the content). There was some strange judder; I assume it was something to do with the prototype display.
Toshiba debuted a LCOS display in the form of a 57” RPTV. It is the first rear projection system to offer native 1080p capability. (Of course we are not there yet, it is going to take at least 3840 x 2160 to resolve all of the detail found in 1080p.) The MSRP for this bad boy is $8,999. They also had an HD-2 projector that is an exact replica of the InFocus 7200. It retailed for a cool $10K.
Anthem had a new reference surround processor on display called the Director. It is almost two times the price of the AVM-20. It has multiple SHARC processors and now supports DTS 96/24. It also has sample rate conversion for all channels (a.k.a. upsampling). It is a nice looking processor. Not sure how they will market it over the highly popular AVM-20, but believe Brian Florian is already ready to review it after it is released later this year or early next. They also showcased two new amplifiers that are aimed at the high end market. They are dubbed the Channel 5 and Channel 2. These amps were quite impressive and look to be competitors with amps like of the Dreadnaught. They are monoblock based and are stable to a dead short. Each channel is capable of 325 watts at 8 ohms and 800 watts at 4 ohms!! Kris attended a demo of the Director paired with these amps and was very impressed. Anthem claims that these amps have the lowest numbers in the industry for noise floor. Prices for these amps were $2K for the Channel 2 and $5K for the Channel 5. And finally, Paradigm has a brand new line of speakers that will take their place as their statement loud speakers.
Faroudja had several new products on display. They have some smaller footprint NR boxes with DVI inputs and outputs. They also had a new DVP2000. This is the NR-DCS with the ability to select the scan rate you want. Faroudja appears to be following in the footsteps of Runco by releasing a bunch of display type products. They had two Plasmas and a DLP that now sit along side their LCOS.
As we walked through the tradeshow, it was easy to see what products that companies were highlighting the most. Without a doubt the biggest draw was DLP projectors using the new TI “Mustang” HD-2 chip. But there were some other new products worth mentioning.
One of the biggest highlights for Kris was from speaker company PSB. Kris is a long time PSB fan and he uses a full set of PSB speakers in his reference room. They were celebrating their 30 year anniversary in the industry along with NAD. As part of this celebration they introduced a new flagship line of speakers dubbed the Platinum Series. For those of you who are familiar with PSB, their previous flagship line, the Stratus Series, was already very highly regarded. This new line looks to be a no compromise home theater setup. Included in the line are two new floor-standing loudspeakers, the T8 and T6. They both incorporate three drivers in a D'Appolito array. The T8 uses 8” drivers, while the T6 uses 6”. They also have two new center channel speakers, a new bipolar surround, a new monitor surround, and a new subwoofer. This system was displayed together in their booth, and the result was very impressive. PSB was using some opera as demo material, and the speakers were effortlessly conveying the scope of the presentation, and never seemed to even trip up in the slightest.
There were quite a few other companies displaying new speaker systems as well. Snell, Atlantic Technologies, and Klipsch all debuted new THX Ultra 2 systems. The new standards set by THX are there to create better imaging with music and also better response in the low end for today's more aggressive movie soundtracks. Kris had the chance to hear the Atlantic Technology system and was quite impressed. Their System 8200 made a cake walk out of "Monster's Inc." and a few live performance DVD's.
In the high end area of processors it seems a lot of companies are jumping on the Mark Levinson bandwagon and including small displays on their front panel. We saw similar products for Bell Canto, Fosgate, ATI, Parasound, and EAD. The Parasound processor which will be the latest addition to their HALO line also includes BNC switching of component or RGB sources and THX Ultra2 processing. Some other notable new processors were showcased from B&K with their new Reference 50, and Atlantic Technology with their new P-2000. The AT processor is a descendant of the popular Outlaw 950 but with some custom touches of their own.
The showed closed on Sunday, and the two of us had planned to leave early that morning. Well, Saturday evening after the show, we slurped down some nauseating sliders from White Castle and chased them with chicken rings. On Sunday morning, we thought we would also be nice and make a mess for our room mate. We covered his bed in several sheets of 8 ½ x 11” paper. We then did not want him to be cold, so we cranked the heat up to max in the room. We hopped back into the car, popped in the Emenim CD and headed home.
- Stacey Spears & Kris Deering -
While Brian, Stacey, and Kris were touring the convention center looking for swag, John Cindy were conducting video interviews. HERE are the current interviews that have been edited and published.