With the C.E.D.I.A. Show finished for another year, I'm sitting back and wondering about what the show was all about. I'm still wondering. Unlike previous years, many products were introduced prior to the show. While there were certainly new products introduced this year, they were in much smaller numbers than in recent years. Attendance to C.E.D.I.A. seemed on par with last year, but as of yet there are no firm numbers. My rough guess is between 15,000 20,000 attendees. Unlike CES, most executives from major companies are on the show floor making it relatively easy to obtain product and technology information.
The first thing that comes to mind this year about C.E.D.I.A. is the tug-of-war between the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc camps. Previously, I wrote about the give-and-take between both camps -- with each claiming victory over the other. It all comes down to how one interprets NPD data -- either the last nine weeks (BD) or cumulative. Although, in the scheme of things, next-generation optical discs only account for about 1-percent of all DVD sales. According to the most recent CEA numbers (for week 34), DVD sales are up 20.4-percent to 11.8 million players over last year. There were new Blu-ray players introduced from Sony (including their first ES model), Pioneer, and Sharp. There were also erroneous reports of player introductions including a BD model from Harman Kardon. Other companies like JVC and others showed prototype players under glass. And, the majority of the audio manufacturers are still sitting on the fence -- possibly hoping for lower cost dual-format player. Both Samsung and LG announced new fully-featured dual-format players at $999.
In terms of displays at C.E.DI.A., flat-panel is taking over the world. Pioneer's new Kuro plasma TVs looked absolutely spectacular! These 1080p beauties were among the plasma panels that I have ever seen. There was also lower-cost 1080p plasma TVs from Panasonic introduced with fewer features. Even though sales of MicroDisplays are down from previous years, TI announced that sales of rear projection DLP were up (at the expense of other technologies) and will continue in that direction as long as they can bring innovation into the technology. The latest innovation was 3-D, which was first announced at IFA, and shown at C.E.D.I.A. Personally, it's a little too gimmicky for me, and I don't like 3-D glasses. Currently, Philips sells non-glasses 3-D LCD displays to the digital signage industry. If prices could come down to consumer levels, the technology would be viable and compelling. TI sees 2008 as a turning point for DLP through the elimination of the color wheel and lamp with illumination by either LED (Samsung) or laser (Mitsubishi). TI also showed their new DarkChip4 with a 100,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. TI further mentioned that they believe that they can get the depth of the DLP displays down to 6-inches. Impressive!
In the world of front projectors, 1080p is the buzzword with the most inexpensive projectors costing under $3,000. Companies like JVC showed off cutting-edge models. More manufacturers are making anamorphic lenses available for their projectors. Even companies like McIntosh now offer a 1080p projector with a motorized anamorphic lens to complement their high-end audio equipment. Since McIntosh is now under the D & M umbrella, I understand that some of the technology that in the new Marantz projector is also in the McIntosh version. Boy, talk about cross-pollination. While DLP continues to make inroads into front projectors, 3LCD continues to lead the marketplace. In fact, there were several impressive models from Epson including their first 720p MovieTime projector (with an integrated DVD player), and their joint venture with Atlantic Technology for a complete home theater audio/video system that includes all wiring and molding besides the projector and 5.1 speakers. Other companies that offered new projectors included Sanyo and Samsung (that was designed by video guru -- Joe Kane). I have to say that the new Samsung 1080p projector was truly impressive.
There were new satellite set-top boxes on display from DirecTV and EchoStar. The new DirecTV HD set-top box -- HR21 replaces the current HR20. Except for a new cabinet color (from silver to black), cosmetics and software tweaks, it's pretty much like the previous model -- HR20. DirecTV will also offer a HR21PRO, which is identical to the standard HR21, but doubles the hard-drive space to 500GB up from 250GB. EchoStar, on the other hand, has added the ViP722, which boosts hard-drive capacity to 350GB, and adds Internet access via an Ethernet connection.
In terms of audio, there were loudspeakers everywhere in all shapes and sizes. Did any standout? Hmm. I liked the Atlantic Technology speakers that were integrated into a 100-inch screen (see Epson above). Were they the highest quality? No, but for their application and price ($6,999 for the complete system), it was unbeatable. Of course, high-quality speakers from companies like Thiel and others were available for listening tests, and they sounded impressive. In terms of A/V Receivers, all of the manufacturers are quickly adding HDMI 1.3a, and including the new audio codecs: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio, which were previously unavailable. The most impressive receiver will be offered by Pioneer early next year -- the SC-09TX -- that should run around $7500, and offer 1400-watts of power. It was truly impressive.
C.E.D.I.A did answer the question of why current HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc players with HDMI 1.3a are not passing the new audio codes. Apparently, the chipsets for the current crop of HDMI 1.3a players will not decode the advanced audio codecs, and a BD player from Pioneer in October will be the first model with real capability -- maybe it should be called HDMI 1.3b. I have been testing a new Onkyo receiver with new Dolby and DTS processing, and couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting TrueHD. Now, I know why. It just goes to show that still -- HDMI is not created equal. While I have become a firm believer of one cable carrying digital audio and digital video signals seamlessly, it's getting ridiculous that we still are not there yet. Also at C.E.DI.A., there were several new HDMI cables introduced by Monster Cable and others that claim higher performances over long distances.