Another CEDIA Expo is in the books, and the general vibe seemed to be one of cautious optimism that the industry is healthy and rebounding. Hall A at the Colorado Convention Center wasn’t exactly filled to capacity, in booths or attendees, but the manufacturers we talked with stressed quality over quantity — that those in attendance were enthusiastic about new products and feeling positive about the year to come.
There was no single overarching theme of the show, no particular product or technology that stood out significantly from the rest. Ultra HD/4K was certainly a topic. Several manufacturers were using UHD displays and RedRay players as part of their demos, and a few display companies introduced new 4K products. However, some front-projection stalwarts, like Epson, still haven’t jumped into the 4K fray, and there were notable absences in the projector category this year. Optoma, Mitsubishi, BenQ, and Panasonic were not exhibiting projection products at the show.
As for other trends, HDBaseT is gaining traction as a desired method of transmitting uncompressed A/V, power, and control signals over long LAN cable runs. Naturally, distribution companies like Key Digital, Gefen, and WyreStorm had HDBT products on display, but we also saw major electronics manufacturers like Integra and Pioneer embracing HDBT for second-zone distribution in their higher-end receivers and preamps. Integra creatively showed off the HDBaseT signal path with lights running around their booth from the DTR-60.5 receiver to a second zone. Epson also showed a Pro Series projector with integrated HDBT.
Soundbars are as popular as ever, but we also saw a greater number of sound consoles. These speakers are flatter with more cabinet depth, designed so that your flat-panel TV can actually sit atop them. We saw new consoles from LG (the upcoming LAP340 SoundPlate), AudioXperts (the 4TV series, and OSD Audio (the $499 SP2-1 Sound Platform).
Of course, there were plenty of other speakers, electronics, source components, and nifty accessories on display. So let’s jump in to the specifics.
Sony’s booth focused on two themes: 4K and Hi-Res audio. The company’s new SXRD projector line includes two 4K models: the VPL-VW1100ES, a follow-up to the VPL-VW1000ES that’s priced at $28,000, and the step-down VPL-VW600ES priced at $15,000. The line also includes a new 1080p model, the $4,000 VPL-HW55ES. Sony also showed off the Hi-Res audio servers, USB DAC, and headphones first announced a few weeks ago. Sony is part of a group of companies that’s now aggressively promoting better support for high-resolution audio formats amongst labels and manufacturers.
Anthem & Paradigm
The major announcement from Anthem was the arrival of the new MRX receivers: the seven-channel MRX510 ($1,599) and MRX710 ($1,999) are scheduled to launch in November, while the five-channel MRX310 ($1,199) is slated for January 2014. With these new models, Anthem promises better integration with popular control systems and has added control apps for the iOS and Android platforms. The receivers include a new version of Anthem Room Correction (ARC 1M) that works much more quickly (about five minutes) and allows you to see the frequency response at individual microphone positions. All three receivers include 4K upscaling and pass-through, plus at least seven HDMI inputs (more on the MRX510 and 710).
As for Paradigm, we saw the new five-channel SoundScape active soundbar, which incorporates four polypropylene woofers, three pure-aluminum dome tweeters, and low-turbulence ports positioned at each end. The connection panel includes two optical, one coaxial, and one analog stereo input, plus built-in Bluetooth and a subwoofer output to connection an optional, sold-separately subwoofer (a wireless subwoofer connection kit is included with the soundbar). The SoundScape should be available in January 2014 for a price of $1,499. New versions of the Soundtrack soundbar/subwoofer system and Millenia CT system were also on display.
MartinLogan scores points for having the most fun with their demo room, which was complete with lava lamps, black-light posters, bean bags, and some Dark Side of the Moon. On display was the new Motion SLM XL, a larger version of the original Motion SLM on-wall speaker with dual four-inch fiber cone woofers and quad four-inch high-velocity passive bass radiators, with a Folded Motion tweeter. This ultra-slim speaker is designed to mate with a 65-inch or larger flat-panel TV and is priced at $699.95.
MartinLogan also showed off the BalancedForce 212 and 210 subwoofers, due to ship in late October. Among many features, these subs have PBK room correction, and custom-tailored low-pass filters are available for almost every MartinLogan floorstanding speaker ever made. Pricing starts $2,995 for the 210 and $3,995 for the 212, with the PBK room correction sold separately for $99.
Vutec highlighted two particular screen materials: the SilverStar 2.2 high-gain material and the SoundScreen acoustically transparent material. Both of these screen materials are ISF-certified and, not coincidentally, were also being used in the ISF Level II certification class, attended by yours truly. The SilverStar 2.2 screen was mated with a fairly dim Runco LED-based projector for the class, and it did a very good job of boosting the image brightness while still preserving image quality.
GoldenEar decided that CEDIA was the perfect place to do its first trade-show demo of the Invisa line of in-ceiling/in-wall speakers. The demo used Invisa HTR 7000 in-ceiling speakers for the left, center, and right channels, with MPX surrounds and two ForceField 5 subwoofers. It was an impressive-sounding demo, designed to trick you into thinking you were listening to some floorstanding Tritons and not in-ceiling speakers. GoldenEar also introduced a few new products, including a larger version of the acclaimed SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar (called the 3D Array XL, $1,499) and the new SuperCenter X ($599) and SuperCenter XL ($799) center-channel speakers designed to complement the Triton tower and Aon bookshelf speakers.
JVC announced a trio of new consumer-oriented D-ILA projectors: the DLA-X500R, X700R, and X900R. These projectors use an updated version of the company’s e-Shift technology that now allows them to receive native 4K input signals. However, the output is not exactly native 4K; rather, the projectors use the three 1080p chips to reconstruct the 4K signal (we certainly plan to review one and will delve more into the technology at that time). The 1080p-only DLA-X35 will remain in the line as the entry-level offering. The demo of the X900 looked great, and stated improvements to this year’s lineup include a narrower picture gap in the D-ILA devices for a smoother picture with less visible pixel structure and a 10 percent increase in brightness. That leads to an improved native contrast ratio; interestingly, this year JVC has also added an “Intelligent Lens Aperture” (aka auto iris) for an improved dynamic contrast ratio, if you desire to use it. The projectors are slated for a November release and are priced at $11,999 for the DLA-X900R, $7,999 for the DLA-X700R, and $4,999 for the DLA-X500R.
Audio Plus Services
There was a lot of exciting stuff to see at the Audio Plus Services booth, not the least of which was a new line of Focal speakers. The Aria 900 line includes one bookshelf and three tower speakers ranging in price from $1,500 to $5,000 per pair, as well a dedicated center channel. These speakers employ a new cone material that combines Flax with layers of glass. Focal’s Easya powered wireless speakers and Spirit Classic headphones were also on display.
On the other side of the booth, Cambridge showed off the new $999 Minx Xi, which combines an integrated amplifier and wireless music streamer with support for Internet radio, UPnP servers, Bluetooth, USB, and digital/analog input. Cambridge’s new Aero speaker line replaces the traditional tweeter with a Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR); the Aero 2 bookshelf carries an MSRP of just $549 per pair, while the Aero 6 tower is $1,100 per pair.
LG did not have a booth at the show, but the company did host an evening press event in which it showed off the recently released 55EA9800 OLED TV and announced a new, lower-priced Ultra HD Series: the LA9650 includes screen sizes of 65 inches ($4,999) and 55 inches ($3,499). These UHD TVs use edge LED lighting, as opposed to the full-array LED backlighting offered in the LA9700 Series.
OPPO Digital introduced the new $599 BDP-103D, in which the “D” stands for Darbee. In this model, OPPO has replaced the Marvell Kyoto video chip used in the standard BDP-103 with Darbee processing, which creates a better sense of depth in 2D images by changing luminance values and adding 3D visual cues. We’re not talking 2D-to-3D conversion or your basic contrast enhancement. Darbee is much more effective than that. You can learn more about the technology here.
Harman/Kardon showed off a very slender soundbar called the Sabre SB 35, which features eight transducers for multichannel audio reproduction and includes HDMI video switching, optical digital and analog inputs, and integrated Bluetooth for $999. The JBL area attracted quite a crowd, thanks to the M2 tower speakers (sold with four Mark Levinson No 531H monoblocks and an SDEC 3000 digital EQ/crossover for $46,000) and the JBL Synthesis 7.1-channel SDP-45 surround processor. Revel also had its fair share of speakers on display, including the new C283LP ($275) and C263LP ($225) shallow-mount in-ceiling speakers that can fit into a mounting space only 2.8 inches deep.
It was a bit of a maze to get to the High Performance Audio area, but Wisdom Audio rewarded your effort with a demo room that featured LS3i speakers stacked 10 feet high in the L/C/R positions, with six Sage Series L75 surrounds and six STS subwoofers. Throw in a Runco projector, a 21-foot-wide 2.40:1 Seymour Screen Excellence screen, a Datasat processor, Lab.gruppen amps, and Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street,” and you’ve got the makings of a memorable demo.
By Adrienne Maxwell, HomeTheaterReview