New York A few years ago it was called The New York Hi-Fi Show, and it's still filled with very high end, esoteric audio products -- like the no-contact $15,000 Elp five-beam Laser Turntable to play 12" LP records (and 7" singles) without touching the discs, and coaxial RCA-plug audio and video patch cables from companies like GutWire and Virtual Dynamics that cost over a thousand dollars per meter, and April Music's $3,995 preamp/processor, and endless hotel suites filled with expensive speakers costing thousands of dollars each.
Walking this year's show, which took place April 26-29 at the Hilton Hotel in New York, I realized, after a while, that I was dividing everything up into two categories: Products -- like high end vacuum tube amplifiers -- that are destined to remain esoteric high-end products forever. And products that in a few years will go mass market and become much cheaper.
Almost everything video I would put in that latter category. This includes numerous flat panel display introductions -- including a 20" wide screen NTSC format LCD TV for $995 from TTE, the new TV manufacturing powerhouse formed by Thomson and TTL (marketed as the RCA brand in the U.S.) and the $12,000 Samsung 46" LCD panel using LED backlight technology. And the $22,500 (and up) home video servers from Kaleidescape, and outboard video processors such as Algolith's Mosquito and Dragonfly.
It's in that last category -- video processors -- that I expect to see the most dramatic price reductions in the years to come. Don't get me wrong here -- these are very real, high-end home theater products that produce very observable picture benefits on today's big screens. The $2495 Digital Mosquito 3D MPEG Noise Reducer, and the $3495 Dragonfly up-scaler and de-interlacer and cadence corrector (incorporating Teranex HQV technology) arguably represent today's state-of-the-art in getting the most out of a standard-definition DVD signal source.
It's not hard to imagine the day in the not too distant future though, when each of these high-end digital video processing systems is reduced to a logo on the front of a $79 DVD player. (Already, portions of the Teranex scaling technology is found built-into a flagship DVD player from Denon.)
Ditto for Kaleidescape's $22,500 high definition DVD media server, which features a brilliantly intuitive and graphical user interface to help select movies to watch, utilizing online cover art and program guide data. Experiencing Kaleidescape is like experiencing the future of electronic program guides (EPGs). But one can imagine, many years down the road, after Kaleidescape's $850 hard disk drive modules (each holds about 180 movies, transferred from DVD) and legal problems (stemming from copying DVDs to hard disks) are history, their brilliant user interface will also become yet another logo on a $199 home DVR.
I don't predict much price reduction for laser turntables in coming years. But when it comes to media servers and hard drives and video processors, I expect the economies of scale to kick in big time. From a historical perspective, "high-end video" is ever-changing and fast evolving. Today's high-end video innovation is tomorrow's mass-market product.