Denon 2005 Summer Conference Overview
We started out the morning with breakfast in the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom. I don't often eat a good breakfast so custom omelettes and pastries were quite the treat (though I didn't see anyone who actually went for the salmon option that was presented). There are a lot of industry veterans at this conference, both in terms of installers and distributers - and we certainly haven't more than just a handful of people in the industry (most from New York in fact).
General Session 1
The first General Session was kicked off by none other than Stephen Baker, President of Denon Electronics (USA). He spoke a bit about Denon's marketshare and juxtaposed those numbers against industry trends for mainstream A/V products as well as specialty products.
While the overall home AV business has been relatively flat in terms of sales, the average selling prices have been increasing in specialty channels. The average prices of DVD player have stabilized while an advanced HDTV market is steadily and rapidly growing in terms of units and dollars. Basically, while mass merchants and superstores have gained marketshare, so have the specialty products which make up much of the custom installation market.
One other thing seemed to be apparent. As display prices come down (and they will continue to for some time), more money will be available for audio budgets - and that means newer and more innovative products for us all.
Product Tour of the 2005 Line-up
Next up was Matt Good, Sales Trainer for Denon Electronics (USA) who gave us a product tour of the 2005 line-up. While I won't go into specifics just yet (we're clearing some of our coverage with Denon per our agreement with them) know that we were given a grand and thorough tour of the upcoming AVR receivers. The way Denon has allowed technologies to trickle down and make their way into products across all price points is truly amazing and I think there will be pleasant surprises for nearly everyone.
I know at this point everyone will want some details (and we have them) but we need to double check what we are allowed to publish at this point - a strict condition of our attendance at this event, so there are no "workarounds" and we hope that our vagueness won't incite too many riots! It will be a matter of a day or so until we publish some more info and then we will release more as we are able.
Some of the other stuff we did today involved a XM Satellite presentation by Victor Henley. XM has really done an incrdible job growing their company and getting into some of the major manufacturers' products. You can expect to start seeing XM integrated into Denon products at many different price points.
The first series of breakout sessions included a small "forum-style" discussion with Denon's Jeff Talmadge entitled "CSI: Denon" (yes he did that on purpose!) CSI stands for "Custom Systems Integration" and the forum consisted of a very humble attempt to receive some feedback form custom installers on what Denon is doing right and what they may need to take a second look at for the future. The feedback was largely positive (and the negatives were merely constructive suggestions). It was great to see a manufacturer really take to heart what installers, reps and end-users are saying about their products. We've seen a history of changes throughout the years that shows Denon is really in touch with their market.
We then stopped by the Audyssey demo room where Project Managers Michael Thuresson and Samit Varma demoed the system in action and answered questions about the Audyssey room calibration system . We've covered that system quite extensively (see previous link) so we'll move on...
A product showcase allowed us to get our hands on some of Denon's newest products. Listening to them was a bit difficult due to the presence of so many systems on a single ball room, but we were able to check some of them out up close and personal and toy with some of the user interfaces.
General Session 2
The second General Session featured an in-depth discussion of Dolby Laboratories topics from Craig Eggers. We were very pleased to see that Dolby has their eye on the future with Dolby Digital Plus and is really doing a great job at maintaining backwards compatibility with next-generation formats.Topics included discussions of Dolby Laboratories core technologies: Dolby Headphone & Dolby Virtual Speaker, both of which are integral parts of several exciting upcoming products and can be a pplied to stereo music systems, portable DVD players, personal audio players, AV receivers, and even multi-zone AV receivers.
Virtual surround has become much more sophisticated than just simple A-B calculations. Gone are the days of elementary subtractive pseudo-surround which have been replaced by sophisticated algorithms that accurately take 5.1 input and recreate the correct surround field listening space using only two speakers.
Dolby Headphone is a powerful, advanced, patented next-gen surround sound virtualization algorithm. The basic development process involved putting a 5.1 system into a calibrated room with the goal of recreating the environment in headphones. Based on head-related transfer functions (HRTF) and sophisticated room modeling, Dolby Labs took over 16 months to develop the technology as it now exists.
The basic idea behind the technology is that it combines direct/reflected sound which is unique for each speaker. It simulates the unique sum of direct and reflecting signals that arrive at each ear for each speaker, thus recreating the surround experience using this advanced DSP.
Both formats require a 5.1 input source (Dolby Digital, DTS, or you can run 2-channel through PL II decoder)
Dolby Virtual Speaker is virtually the same algorithm as Dolby Headphone. It is essentially the only virtualizer format modeled after a 5.1 system with the goal of reproducing the entire sonic signature (initial impulse, initila reflection, and decay - all preserved in Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Headphone.) The only significant difference between the two formats is that Dolby Virtual Speaker implements crosstalk insulation technology so that speakers on opposite "corners" do not essentially phase cancel each other out.
Craig also spent significant time on Dolby Digital Plus which we'll go into in more detail in a later article on the technology.
New Denon Remote Control
While everyone will want some meat and potatoes, we'll try to nail down Jeff this evening and get some "on-the-fly" permission to post pics and details on a few specific products. For now, check out this new EL-hybrid remote control that is coming to a new receiver near you...
The AVR-5805 and AVR-3805 are still shipping with the current remote, so don't get too excited! This is a really cool step in the right direction, however, and proves that Denon is listening to its users and installers.
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