September 16, 2009
This years CEDIA EXPO was a blast, not necessarily because of all the cool new products on the show-floor but because it was held about 30 miles from my house. All kidding aside, given the overall downsizing of this years show I’m glad I didn’t have to shell out for airfare and a hotel. To give you an idea how much smaller this year’s show was I can break it down into time spent before feeling like I’d seen it all. In years past, it took at least until midway or late into the second day before I felt like I’d seen it all. This year I was satisfied and on my way back home well before the show ended on my first day.
That said, there were still plenty of cool things to see at this year’s show, even if they didn’t take up as much square footage as years prior. As I suspected 3D and digital downloads/distribution were both well represented, but the latter more so than I ever expected. Stepping into the main hall you immediately notice the gargantuan Crestron banner hovering over their massive booth. I know Crestron has always had large booths but given the fact that many others were downsizing, Crestron’s booth just seemed all the more massive.
To be honest; I really haven’t paid a lot of attention to Crestron in the last 24 months or so. They seemed to be in revision and refinement mode along with introducing a few distributed audio products but this year they were back with a vengeance. What’s this, a Crestron (ADC-200BR) 200 disc Blu-ray changer? Very cool, even if it is just a re-badged Sony. It shows they’re thinking about the entire chain. The piece of gear sitting next to that 200 disc changer was the real attraction however. The ADMS-BR (Intermedia Delivery System) was a knockout. We’re talking about a content delivery and management system with built-in Blu-ray/DVD player, support for multiple changers, CDs, MP3s, iTunes, Windows Media, Netflix, Amazon.com, YouTube, and I quote “virtually any other online source you desire”. The system does way more than I have time to delve into here. Be sure to check out some of the other specs on this “kitchen sink” via Crestron’s site.
It was hard to get up close and personal with the ADMS-BR as just about anytime I passed by, there were at least 10 onlookers listening to the demo. I did catch a glimpse of what looked like a movie download/purchase via the systems slick looking interface. The whole “transaction” would have been easy to miss with a few blinks of the eye. I can’t stress enough how different the ADMS-BR is from a typical HTPC. This is a huge leap forward in content management and, to be honest, I never thought I’d see something this cutting edge from Crestron. That’s not a knock. I’ve always seen them as providing elegant solutions to common A/V problems. The ADMS is a game changer, this is new and exciting territory for Crestron.
Among the other notable products from Crestron in Atlanta was the “Prodigy” line. Prodigy consists of “affordable” modular components that allow you to grow your system over time. There are iPod docks, wireless remotes, in-wall touch-panels, light dimmers, keypads, AM/FM/XM tuners, multi-zone amplifiers, and even thermostats, making Prodigy a full-featured home automation system. Here’s the best part, its all “programmed” via simple drop-down and check boxes. This system doesn’t require thousands of dollars of programming, which is quite a departure for Crestron but one that’s certainly welcome.
Another cool thing I noticed at the Crestron booth was their “Procise” series. Procise is a high-end amplifier and processor duo that bridges the whole-house vs. main room gap quite nicely in my estimation. The Procise surround processor features: Audyssey MultEQ XT, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 HD audio decoding, HDMI video switching, HDCP authentication, low-noise XLR balanced inputs and outputs, SPDIF and AES/EBU digital audio inputs, 3 independent subwoofer outputs, independent mono and 2-channel down-mix outputs, 3-channel line input mixer w/DSP, signal steering, Ethernet and native Crestron control. While the Procise PROAMP-7X400 amplifier offers: 400 watts per (7) channel at 8 ohms and balanced XLR inputs and remote Cresnet monitoring of operating temperature, channel signal presence, channel clipping, channel fault, channel overcurrent, and speaker short circuit detection.
Lest you think I never left the Crestron booth, there were plenty of other digital audio/video demonstrations to see. One product (mock-up actually) was Pioneer’s Project ETAP. In an almost eerie premonition I wondered aloud if something like this was on the horizon in my last post, more than a week before the show started. Now granted it wasn’t exactly clairvoyance to assume something like this was on the way. I wouldn’t have guessed it would be this polished this fast and just so damned slick. ETAP is in essence a media player with extraordinary resources. Wait, no that’s not a very good description, to be honest words are failing me here. Let’s try it this way. Imagine a self contained, ultra-slick Linux based HTPC, with a Blu-ray player and the ability to pull in digital content from all sorts of sources and manage all of them seamlessly, all through one of the slickest interfaces you’ve ever seen. Ok yeah, I like that one better.
ETAP (Entertainment Tap) supports the usual gamut of sources like iPod, Netflix, web-based movie trailer services, LastFM, Rhapsody, DLNA, social media, online purchases, etc., etc., but does it in a way that makes it seamless and positively inviting. Right now ETAP is a self-contained box but one could assume with further refinement it could be included in receivers and other devices. Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in the demo (good sign) I forgot to snap any pictures but rest assured, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of ETAP in the future.
Speaking of digital download integration, I caught a quick demo of the new Mitsubishi flat-panels with built-in VUDU functionality. This is the very sort of thing I was envisioning when I was describing how HD discs would replace the DVD. It’s not necessarily even a conscious decision; one day you buy a television and unbeknownst to you there’s a new way to watch movies built into it. The VUDU demo looked pretty damn foolproof from my vantage point, click a sub-menu, choose a movie, and starting watching it a few minutes later.
Of course while at the Mitisubishi booth I couldn’t pass up my first chance to see the 82″ LaserVue HDTV. The first thing that struck me about the LaserVue’s was the color reproduction (reds were awesome) and smoothness of the video. The sets had an almost film-like quality to them. About the only thing that wasn’t impressive with the LV’s was the apparent brightness. Of course you’d never make final judgment until viewing the set in controlled circumstances, but they weren’t quite as bright as I’d assumed they would be, perhaps by design.
The LaserVue displays were also used for Mitsubishi’s 3D demos. I watched a few clips of Coraline and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and both looked fantastic. As with most of the 3D demonstrations at CEDIA this year, the Mitsubishi demo used LCD Shutter Glasses. Overall the 3D demos on the LaserVue were among the best at the show.
Speaking of 3D I have to mention Panasonic’s 3D demo. I walked in (up) to this demo with the same attitude I’ve had for all previous 3D demos, wake me when it’s over. I was pleasantly surprised to be not only engaged but entertained by Panasonics demo. I don’t know if it was the shutter glasses, the 103″ plasma, the source material, or the combination thereof but this time it clicked. It looked good and in the case of Pixar’s “Up”, I felt like it could actually add something to the equation. While I can’t necessarily see myself sitting around watching indie flicks or dramas in 3D, I can at least now appreciate the fact that 3D may play some limited role in my home entertainment. Whether or not that role goes beyond games and films like “Up”, remains to be seen.
Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Trade Shows