CEDIA 2009 Wrap-Up (Continued)

September 16, 2009

cedia2009I made a point of walking between a few of the flat-panel manufacturers booths to try and gauge who (if anyone) was ready to step up to the bar Pioneer set with the Kuro’s. Here’s the funny thing about that little exercise, to some degree it looked like everyone was. First, I took a look at Toshiba’s LED powered LCD’s, then I took a quick walk over to Samsung’s booth, switched back across the aisle to Sharp, and then ended up at LG’s booth.

It seemed as if LED back-lighting was some sort of great equalizer among all these brands. I can’t recall a year when they all “looked” so similar to one another. Now, this could be due to many things, calibration, eye tweaking, background colors, or just the fact that they are truly closing in on one another, but it was almost eerie.

That said there were two manufacturers that caught my eye, even if by a slight amount. The Samsung LED’s looked really good, the sharpness was there and the colors looked great, oh and I loved the Twitter widgets. The second was LG, they seemed to have an ever so slight advantage in black-level and I have to admit those frame-less case designs on the SL80 series were very slick.

Stopping by Sony’s booth afforded me a chance to check out their new 200 disc Blu-ray changer (I know all my custom A/V friends have been waiting on this one). I like how Sony’s trying to streamline all their user interfaces to look and operate like the PS3, good move on their part. I also took a second to pop into the VPL-VW85 demo. It looked really nice, but unfortunately the scenes on display (at least while I was in the booth) were a bit monochromatic. I’m looking forward to seeing it again with a broader range of source material.

After a few more minutes of wondering around aimlessly, I found myself at the Control4 booth. Among the notables there were the Kwikset door locks that are C4 controllable, the 2.0 user interface that allows for more customization, and their little networked video player that can handle H.264. They also mentioned opening an app-store similar to the iPhone’s which will allow programmers to upload their own apps to share or sell to consumers. The Buzz at the Control4 booth was palpable. This was illustrated by the two Japanese gentlemen I saw marveling over the number of attendees swarming around the booth.

With all the 3D, LCD, Blu-ray, home automation, and digital download/distribution formalities out of the way (at least the ones that caught my eye) it was time to get to the stuff that really excites me, projectors! In no particular order, I stopped by Digital Projection’s booth first. To be honest, it would be more notable that DP had bad looking video than good. They never cease to impress with those huge, bright, punchy images. This year it was a complete and ready to watch “3D system” that consisted of a 120″ screen, 3-Chip DLP projector, and 3D processor with glasses that allows you to watch 3D right now with a standard Blu-ray disc. It looked pretty good actually. The price you ask? somewhere north of 42k.

Moving over to JVC’s booth, I was anxious to see the DLA-RS35/DLA-HD990 and it certainly didn’t disappoint. This HQV Reon-VX equipped, THX certified, 120hz, 70,000:1 stunner was just so easy on the eyes and artifact free (the entire range is, to be honest), it left me nostalgic for those first days spent with the RS1. There is just something about these projectors that make you forget about the gear and enjoy what’s on the screen. I honestly don’t know of a better accolade for a piece of A/V gear. Those considering the Sony VPL-VW85 should definitely check out the DLA-RS25/DLA-HD950 as well.

After the JVC demo I was on my way over to Sim2, specifically to see the C3X Lumis. Sim2 partnered with Krell to provide the audio for the demonstration and what a demonstration it was. They were using a Stevie Wonder concert disc on Blu-ray. This disc revealed something I don’t ever recall seeing with a DLP projector. Several of the performers were wearing black button up shirts. I could tell that two in particular appeared to be the same shirt, same except the fact that one of them appeared to have been laundered a few more times than the other. I’ve never seen such a subtle difference in shading on a DLP projector, it was quite remarkable. I’m not sure if the optics have been changed in the C3X recently, but it was almost as if a dirty lens had been cleaned versus my last C3X viewing. The price on this projector is somewhere in the high 30k range. Yes, it’s incredibly expensive and yes, it’s drastically better than your average, run of the mill DLP projector.

I’ve saved the best for last folks. I’ve been to front projection nirvana and appropriately enough Norwegians were present. Err wait, that would be Valhalla, but you get my drift. Many of you are familiar with Projection Design but perhaps not as familiar with their home cinema division, Avielo. While Avielo demonstrated several projectors at their booth, there were two in particular of note. First up was the LED lamped ‘Kroma’ with a MSRP of 32k (estimated 27k street). Given the fact the Kroma uses a LED lamp, it’s entirely possible the original lamp will still be plugging away long after the 3-year factory warranty has expired. That’s an entirely new concept to the world of front projection and hopefully one that will filter down to budget projectors as well. I saw a quick demo of the Kroma and the colors were certainly impressive. This is no slouch of a projector and one I look forward to seeing more of.

The Helios was on display twice at the Avielo booth. It was perched up front and center projecting onto a 100-something-inch screen right out in the open with all sorts of ambient light, and it looked as good as some high-end projectors in pitch black, bat caves. As well it should, considering the 65k (retail, I overheard 34k or so street) asking price. Keep in mind we’re talking about the upper echelon of performance here folks and not necessarily something that many of us will ever be able to afford. But the high-end is always relevant, as it gives us a benchmark to aim for down the road; as budget projectors improve right along with their big brother counterparts.

Avielo Helios

Avielo’s demo room also featured a Helios, thankfully this time under much more ideal circumstances. It was in this room I got a glimpse of near perfection (I say near not as a knock but because it doesn’t exist in electronics). The clip in question was from 10,000 BC. It was the scene toward the end of the movie where the hero is reunited with his object of desire, albeit too late. There are several different actors in the shot, all of different ethnicities. This was hands down the best flesh tone reproduction I’ve seen from a front projector, or pretty much any display for that matter. Don’t let anyone tell you DLP is a dying technology. It’s not the technology that’s being bettered, it’s the price points. The Helios is aptly named (Greek god of the sun) with its dual lamp system capable of 12 foot lamberts at 300” diagonal. It’s as bright as the day is long, but also capable of incredible subtlety as well. I could throw out a handful of other specs at you, like auto calibration, REC 709 standard compliance, etc., etc., but seeing is believing. If you get the chance, be sure and check out this projector. It’ll be well worth your time.

I said I saved the best (projectors) for last, but I do have one more find to share with you. As many of you know Les Paul died back in August and the world of music will forever miss him. I suppose it was fitting that one of the very last things I saw on my way home from CEDIA was a Thiel CS3.7, finished in a special Gibson sunburst orange and signed by Les himself. The Thiel representative I spoke to said they were so proud to have had Les involved with the project and they were honestly overwhelmed at the timing of his passing.

Thiel Les Paul

Thiel Les Paul Signature

Overall great show this year, of course I’m looking forward to the return of the “mega-CEDIA”,  but all in good time.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Trade Shows