Audioholics CEDIA 2006 Coverage: What the Heck Are We Doing?
Well, we're fast approaching the 2006 CEDIA Expo. This is a convention specifically geared towards custom installers and integrators. While that may not seem like it affects consumers in a big way, it certainly does. Manufacturers, at least the consistent ones, tend to either release or announce their new products at CEDIA. It could possibly have to do with the time of year (entering Q4), or the fact that thousands of crazed installers are walking around looking at what to buy for their next series of installation projects.
Let's talk about why Audioholics goes to CEDIA, and we'll also follow up with "A Day in the Life" of a CEDIA journalist - AH style - so you get to see what we do and how we do it.
For the consumer this is an exciting time. New products are being announced - from HD DVD and Blu-ray players to 1080p DLP and LCD projectors. This is why you want to read our coverage. If you're thinking about buying a new piece of AV equipment, you just may want to see what's around the bend. Chances are it will either drive prices down or provide you with a more advanced option. If you're just trying to stay educated so you can jump on a future purchase - this is the place to get a good overview of what's hot and what's not. We'll be brutally honest if something doesn't smell right, and we'll get excited about technology that we think is slightly ahead of its time.
Prediction/Wish #1: 1080p
This is a big year for the industry (and 1080p front projection in particular) and you'll want to take note to what's being announced and when these new products will ship. We're betting that 1080p front projectors will steal the show - causing prices to again plummet and raising the value of your home theater dollar. Why is 1080p such a big deal? Well, quite simply you can sit a lot closer to your screen, making that truly "big screen" experience not so difficult to accomplish. Screen door effect in LCD projectors will be greatly reduced and with enough light output, 1080p DLP systems will appear to look like giant direct-view televisions. Prices are almost certainly to plummet (we're guessing that some models may debut at under $6,000 MSRP) making existing technology (720p models) even more affordable. 1080p is also a pretty good "future-proof" technology. While consumer displays may eventually support more than just 1920x1080/60, it will be a loooooong time and 1080p, being compatible with the new gaming systems and high definition DVD formats, is going to rule the day for many many years.
Prediction/Wish #2: Lens Shift for More DLP Projectors
We're also starting to see more attention paid to lens shift functions on DLP. This year, we think more models may offer this feature - and at more affordable price points. Lens shift makes for much more convenient installation and allows users to be quite a bit more flexible in their placement of a projection system due to the ability to make adjustments to where the image hits the screen.
Prediction/Wish #3: High Resolution Audio Formats & Software
I believe the high definition DVD format war is going to be framed by the software. This isn't exactly new and we've certainly started seeing it discussed all over the industry. Blu-ray software, for the most part, is absolutely sub-par. HD DVD, on the other hand, seems to be taking hold of new technologies like VC1 encoding and Dolby TrueHD and running with it. The stagnation of BD and the advancement of HD DVD may frame this format war in a way that even the revered Playstation 3 cannot direct. Let's also hope that a new batch of "true" 1080p models are announced as well as hardware and software that run with high resolution audio.
Prediction/Wish #4: A New Breed of HDMI Cables
With the announcement of the HDMI 1.3 specification, HDMI cables are going to have to go through a significant modification to keep up with what may be coming down the pike. Typically, this will follow the introduction of new electronics (after all, why design a new cable for products that don't yet exist?) The bottom line is that new HDMI cables of any significant length are going to need either internal or external equalization electronics to correct for signal losses over long distances (long distances = anything above 10-12.5 meters). This is big, and the initial costs will be large until the technology is widely adopted and manufacturing costs drop. We're still excited to see these new products and I'm guessing there will be several at the show.
OK, that's enough with predictions. There will be more for sure but this is a sampling of our thoughts going into the show this year. You may note that we focused mostly on display technologies. This is simply where the growth is right now and this is also what is currently driving the industry. For better or for worse, audio is "riding the wave" of high definition display sales. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (hey, overall AV sales and installations seem to be doing pretty well), but the emphasis right now is certainly on video and it's important to understand that going into the show.
A Day in the Life of an Expo-Walking Audioholic
You may think that the best way to tackle a show is for us to don our red and black "gang colors" and move through the show floor like some kind of army of rabid news gatherers... Well, we've taken a slightly more detailed and methodical approach. We don't have any qualms about publishing our methods - mostly because we don't think anyone else is quite insane enough to do what we do anyway. If they are, more power to them. For three years running Audioholics has taken groups of people to the trade show floor in a systematic attempt to classify and reveal as many new and interesting products as possible - ALL IN REAL TIME. This year we are bringing 6 "daywalkers" and will attempt to cover more than ever before. We are organized and we pick and choose products based on the level of consumer interest (i.e. forum requests) as well as our understanding of what will truly be well received in the industry. Esoteric power conditioners, CD players and cables will probably not make it into our daily coverage.
The methods are simple: 1) Walk the floor in an organized manner, 2) collect as much data as possible, 3) snap enough pictures to make sure each product is tangible to the reader, and 4) put that info ONLINE as soon as possible. That's it. Simple, but effective (and extremely time intensive).
While we send at least one staff member online during the day to post some items of interest, most of our work is done in the evening... While other people... sane people... are having fun, we'll stay up until 2-3 in the morning posting all of this excellent product info into our CEDIA section . Our website system allows us to upload pics and data from the field, so this is a full team effort, with all of us joining up in one of our hotel rooms, tapping on laptops while guzzling coffee and eating combos and various and asundry chocolate-based foods.
Of course, in addition to the show coverage, we can't help but also Editorialize our experiences getting to the show and walking the floor. There are typically enough ridiculous and comical situations to fill several editorials.
The finished result is typically 120 pages of detailed product coverage by the end of the Expo followed by about 24 hours of solid sleep for our staff. The CEDIA coverage Audioholics provides appears just about everywhere, with our Home Theater Alliance partners syndicating it and making sure that everyone has access to the latest and greatest new product info around. Even AVS Forum is kind enough to post our coverage on their home page. What we do is a free service to our readers and we enjoy being able to get you the scoop on the latest products before everyone else.
Print publications typically have their CEDIA coverage in the November-December issues - we call that "getting yesterday's news tomorrow." If you want to be current, however, be sure to lock yourself to your computer from September 14-17th for the best new product info you'll get this year!