I’m back from CEDIA 2014, and had a blast. As a video shooter, I had the unique perspective of checking out EVERY booth in my section, no matter how big or little. As usual, I saw more new products and ideas than what I expected going in to the expo. Like my other tradeshow blogs, I want to write about a few fun things I saw at the show.
This isn’t news – but everybody went crazy for Dolby ATMOS this year. Just getting into an ATMOS enabled demo theater was a bit of a wait. And why not – it’s a super clever technology that has consumer brand recognition. Customers will want the latest technology in new theaters and old installations can be retrofitted and upgraded. Everybody ultimately wins. Definitive Technology even offers add-on upward firing speakers to retrofit large floor-standing speakers. I do love the idea of ATMOS – the sound designer decides where a sound should come from – and then no matter what speaker setup you use, the processor will get it there.
Earthquake – usually known for their magnetic wizardry when it comes to shaking our collective posteriors while watching movies – show’s attention to detail with outdoor speaker rock paint jobs. They source the enclosures, but custom paint each with a custom paint job to match your client’s local dirt and rock colors. They also showed me a secret product video with some crazy innovative use of magnets on the horizon. Keep an eye on rAVe, and I’ll write more when I can. Also in outdoor speakers, Mason Speakers offers some really impressive out door plant pots and planters that are actually very nice speakers. When you listen to them in a demo-room, you’d be hard-pressed to tell a difference between these pots and a more traditional outward facing speaker. A great solution for camouflaged outdoor audio.
A company called Axxess Industries introduced what I consider to be the most creative control accessory I’ve seen this year. They call it simply a lamp dimmer – it is a controller that is crimped directly onto any standard lamp’s cord. This not only makes any lamp controllable with Control4 and Zigbee control systems – but adds a nice, tactile dimming control for those times you just want to reach over an turn the lamp down without wading through control menus. Very simple, and clever.
This year in-ceiling speakers really seemed to have a boost in creativity when compared to previous years of being AV’s literal wallflowers. You couldn’t go to CEDIA at all without hearing about Jeremy Burkhardt’s new speaker company Origin Acoustics. Beale Street Audio showed off the Sonic Vortex spiral transmission line technology to boost base response – and had a fun contest in a Beale St. themed booth where people brought out their guitar chops to win a Gibson electric guitar. Episode Speakers showed off their very sturdy, easy to hold and aimable signature series. Speakercraft really takes even the aesthetic and functional properties of a celling speaker up a notch with its very aimable AIM Series 2 speakers. They include new features like case isolation, a tweeter array and vortex eliminators – and a very snazzy yellow kevlar speaker cone on the 275 model.
Bang & Olufsen made a big effort to reach out with their booth this year that included an interesting theater with staged and lit vignettes that take you through a day of some incredibly rich Danish people. Really of note was the mechanical base for the its new 4K display. The base lets you aim and spin the TV in any direction and connect that movement to a control system. The movement is very typical to B&O’s commitment to design – the quality of the animation really shows. B&O’s incredibly high-end prices are also typical – if you have the right client, maybe it’s for you. Weirdly, they were pushing B&O’s own control system really hard – and the company line seems to be “Of course we have a control system! We’ve always had the best control system. We invented control systems! “.
Denon took a big shot at Sonos – and like two wooden tall battle ships they pulled up side-by-side at the show. They have a pretty similar offering with the three speaker form factors, as well as linking products that would let you tie into existing source and speaker equipment. They seem to be trying to mainly differentiate themselves with the quality of the audio. I did like the UI of the app – especially the speaker grouping interface. The other real difference seems to be the dealer focus – which is missing at Sonos which has always been a consumer facing company.
I didn’t see much in the way of gaming focused integration tools. But, I did find the answer to my XBox One lift problem. Nexus 21 – one of the best booths for comprehensive lift products offer the AL-125 shelf lift. Lift up whatever you want, from hidden game consoles to a way to display your client’s beautiful McIntosh tube amplifiers.
Favorite tool found at CEDIA: chainsaw circular saw attachment! This thing looks like it would right at home in an apocalypse / zombie preparedness kit. It’s pretty slick – I personally hate when I’m forced to make multiple cuts on a thick piece of wood. The Beam Cutter keeps your cuts even like a normal blade, but lets you take a huge chainsaw sized bite. Maybe not something you’d use everyday, but pretty handy when you need it.
The most impressive security camera by far was the IC Realtime 720-Degree Spherical Video Camera. This metal sphere with just two cameras lets you pull up a live feed and using a tablet look in any direction. Not only 360 degrees, but up and down as well (adding up to the 720). It’s probably not for every client, but frankly you should find a way to integrate this camera into a high-end security setup just for the cool factor. Also in the security camera business, Lilin also has a few tricks up their sleeves including a 4K camera, and a gate camera system that reads license plates and will trigger gates to open based on a license plate number whitelist. In the realm of door security, I liked the Kwickset Smartcode 916 door lock, because of the innovative protection against so-called smudge attacks. It requires two random numbers to be pressed before entering the real code. This evenly spreads out the smudges to prevent people from guessing your combination.
I can’t say enough nice things about the Cozzia message chairs. It feels like being enveloped in a futuristic alien cocoon that can massage your whole body at once. Self adjusting to every user, it fits and adjusts for tall and short people. It’s not the first message chair I’ve seen at CEDIA, but it’s one of the best, and the prices seemed pretty reasonable when compared to other theater chairs. Speaking of theater chairs – I still kind of love D-Box. I know it’s a gimmick – but it’s such a good one. It really is fun watching movies in one of these, the motion adds another sense to the immersive experience. Even when it’s a bit much sometimes, it still can feel like a theme park experience, which is fun. The Motion Controller comes this year with the ability to detect and sync movies being played through media servers and streamers, including the AppleTV.
Speaking of media servers – the Mirage Audio System has a unique UI twist on using outside streaming services like Spotify and and Pandora. The system enables you to create mix and match playlists that span across 11 different services seamlessly. Your playlist can include local music stored in a high-quality format, and then throw in two albums from Spotify, and five random songs off Pandora. It’s a interesting take on a music server interface.
As far as demo theater experiences go, I think the number one spot has to go to Christie. It’s almost unfair considering, that’s not exactly a home theater. It’s a real-live, actual honest-to-god commercial digital cinema – plunked into a home. The 4k, 60fps mode is stunning and the image sharp and flawless. The massive, but impressive 4k projector and cinema speakers can fill about as much theater as you can throw at them.
On the impressive but less lofty side of theater audio, Pro Audio Technology offers a very reasonably priced package of in-wall speakers, subs and an one RU amplifier that creates huge sound, despite the modest size of the speakers and small amplifier. The do offer massive, almost commercial staging sized speakers for big projects, but the package they demoed at CEDIA seems like a good value for integration, as well as really good sound.
Over at the TruAudio booth, I saw Simplified Acoustics’s amazing 3D Fiber Optic theater star field. I’ve seen a lot of these over the years, and I’m sure you have too. But, the depth and varied brightness give a great parallax feel of depth as you walk into a theater. It’s drop-in ready, so you won’t be painstakingly cutting and pulling tiny fiber optic strands yourself.
For integration tools, I was kind of caught off-guard by Xantech’s Xtralink IP line of networkable IR repeaters. Perfect for extra long runs, tying into control systems and POE for power. No more painstaking prepping of tiny category cable strands into phenix connectors for long in-wall runs of IR. Easily blast one to many across a whole house / office.
Booth design was great as well, with many creative designs. Screen Innovations had a bright, airy and open booth for a projection screen company. The Denon Heos both had a bold, creative pipe design near the front. Leon Speakers had one of the best composed and stylish setups, with industrial wood, pipes, paper and leather textures all working together. Nest brought an enclosed wooden yurt – which was creative and surprisingly tasteful. The Powerhouse Alliance house sported a chimney with green vapor – when I first walked by and saw standing smoke, I was a little worried somebody’s amplifier had a meltdown!
That’s about it for me – I’ll write an update if I think of anything else, or if you want to contact me about a product I should have mentioned, just send an e-mail to email@example.com.