Now that CEDIA 2014 has come and gone I can look back and see what I saw, what I didn’t see, and what I think it means going forward.
The biggest projector shown at CEDIA was the Epson Laser-Reflective LCD hybrid model. Using dual blue lasers and some creative techniques to turn one into Red and Green, There are two models, with the higher end LS10000 offering a faux-4K pixel shift like JVC offers. This model is in their demo room and with 4K content I felt it looked very, very good. Black levels are good, and colors look very rich. As the LS10000 can do the full DCI and AdobeRGB color gamuts, this is expected.
When we shifted to 1080p Blu-ray content, I felt the 4K-mode was causing some extra sharpening to happen on the screen. I’m not sure if disabling the 4K mode or adjusting the sharpness would fix this, so we need to get a review sample to find out. The LS10000 produces 1,500 lumens while the LS9600e will only do 1,300 lumens and have no 4K mode. They do feature 10 lens memory positions and are rated for 30,000 hours from the laser engine. The LS10000 is under $8,000 and the LS9600e will be below that, but shipping is by the end of Fiscal Q4, which is March.
Bigger news than this almost was the absence of any new JVC projectors and the new Sony 4K projector from IFA. There are no other affordable consumer 4K projectors on the market beyond those from Sony, and nothing shown at CEDIA that could be classified as affordable. With no HDMI chipsets that do HDCP 2.2 and 18.0 Gbit HDMI 2.0, perhaps those companies are waiting on that for new models. Wait-and-see seems to be a common thing at CEDIA this year.
Before the show I had never heard Dolby Atmos. I don’t get to the movie theater as often as I wish I did, and I have to drive too far to see something in Atmos. With home Atmos I was even more unsure about it because of the necessity of either in-ceiling speakers, or the strange reflective drivers. One demo from Pioneer put that to rest. Their new Elite speaker line has Atmos drivers that fire off the ceiling. In their demo room the Atmos demos make a huge impact. Using the Atmos Storm demo, it turns the Atmos speakers on-and-off during the scene to show you the impact you make. With Atmos off, the thunderstorm surrounds you, but if it is all along the same vertical axis. With Atmos turned on the storm is all around you and completely on top of you. You are totally enveloped into the storm and it is a much bigger impact than I expected it to be.
Beyond Pioneer I sampled the Atmos demos from GoldenEar and Yamaha. The Yamaha one had the least impact as it used the smallest room and uses in-ceiling speakers. Because of this the dispersion isn’t nearly as good as the Pioneer demo and the immersion is much less. The Dolby demo clip they used was also the worst one available I felt. GoldenEar sounded much better with their in-ceiling speakers because they used a larger room and created a bigger soundstage.
Other companies showcasing Atmos speakers included KEF with the R50, Triad, Atlantic Technology, and Onkyo. Since CEDIA focuses on custom install, many companies are relying upon in-ceiling models. One company told me that the official Dolby specs for in-ceiling speaker design wasn’t available before Monday, so everyone was guessing as to how much dispersion a speaker needed. Perhaps at CES we will see in-ceiling speakers designed around Atmos specifically and get better performance compared to the reflective models.
LG showed off curved 65” and 77” UHD OLED displays. The 65” model is $10,000 while the 77” model is $25,000. These are expensive but the 55” LG OLED was $15,000 when first available last year and now they have a new 55” OLED for only $3,500. I don’t expect these to fall quite as fast, but I can certainly see replacing my 60” VT60 with one in a few years. In person, these look fantastic. Blacks are pure black, and the image is incredibly sharp. The curve is still annoying to a purist like myself, but I imagine we will see flat models as production ramps up.
No other major company was showcasing new flat panel TVs, and most TV companies are absent from CEDIA. Sony didn’t have anything new while Panasonic and Samsung do not even come to the show. LG seems to have a stranglehold on the OLED TV market right now, but with prices falling like they are it isn’t a bad thing. Hopefully other companies can start to keep up with them here, at least so we can get flat models.
Whole Home Audio
Just like IFA, Whole Home Audio is a big deal at CEDIA. Polk and Definitive showed off their Play-Fi compatible devices. Play-Fi is a wireless standard from DTS so other companies can also produce speakers that will work with these. Of course, no one else has them yet but that can easily change by CES. The Polk models are more affordable and include a portable outdoor speaker, something Sonos currently lacks. A sound bar is there as well and prices are below those from Sonos. It is Wi-Fi only so we need to see how well it handles longer distances. The Definitive models include a variation of their bipolar technology to help get a larger soundstage from a single speaker. There are also models to connect to your existing stereo or to use with your own speakers.
Denon had their HEOS system out in full force. It offers a very similar lineup to Sonos with small, medium and large speakers, a unit to use with an existing stereo (RCA and digital outputs), and a powered unit for passive speakers. Coming next year are a sound bar and a subwoofer so it will almost exactly match the current Sonos lineup. Their tablet and phone UI looks very nice and easy to use, though it lacks the streaming support that Sonos currently has. It does have the look of a product that can be a serious competitor and that I will be testing shortly.
WiSA, which is already doing 5.1 channel 24/96 wireless audio is also showing a whole home extension to it. It doesn’t integrate the streaming, but uses any HDMI source to stream it around the house at bitrates up to 24/96. So, if you already have an AppleTV or any other device, you can just use that and plug it in. In many ways, it operates like a Zone 2 on a receiver, only wireless so you might actually use it. They are also setting up a house for testing close by me so I will visit there and see it in action soon.
There are lots of demos at CEDIA, but there are really three that stood out for me. The first was the Pioneer Atmos demo. Using their Elite towers and bookshelf speakers it does a fantastic job of putting you in the middle of the action. They were the only room to use the Atmos clips that switch between having it enabled and disabled, so it makes it easy to hear the effect. This demo really helped to sell me on the benefits of Atmos even at home.
GoldenEar Technology also has an Atmos demo but I really enjoyed their two channel demo more. Using the Auralic Vega DAC, which is one of the best source components I’ve heard in a long time, music sounds fantastic through their Triton Ones. The sound of an upright double bass fills the room as the subwoofers inside of the Triton One’s have no issue hitting those low notes. Choral voices are clear and detailed through the ribbon tweeters and the soundstage is very impressive. The Triton One is a very impressive speaker that is a fantastic value at the $5,000 price.
Finally, Martin Logan has been putting on different demos recently and they did this year again. They are showing off their updated XT speakers, but it is the content that sold me. The Blu-ray of Stop Making Sense was playing all the way through, so Dennis Burger and I just sat down and watched a few tracks. I use that soundtrack for every single speaker or sound bar I review and could watch the film every day. Instead of seeing Transformers or Need for Speed, I got to see a film that is actually wonderful AND sounds amazing.
At the show there were a few products that I really wanted to take home and try out to see how they perform. They may not be new, or the newest technology, but they are the things that catch my eye.
The first thing is the updated JL Audio Fathom subwoofers. I’ve reviewed a lot of subwoofers, but never one of the Fathom models. I know lots of people with them so I have heard them in action and know what they can do. The V2 adds a little bit more power but more importantly an entirely new EQ system. The old models use a single band of analog EQ while the V2 is all-digital and offers 18 bands. This enabled you to get much flatter response from your room than was possible before. The overall gain is also adjusted after calibration so you can turn it on and off and easily hear the difference. Their demo with a pair of Magico S3s showed how much even that speaker can benefit from a subwoofer. The f113 v2 won’t be out until April, and will retail for $4,500, but I really want to see what it can do.
Parasound showed their upcoming Halo Integrated unit. Based on their P5 preamp design, it adds a 160 watt per channel stereo amp (240 watts into 4 ohms) by John Curl. Combined with a 24/192 DAC, a phono preamp with MM and MC toggles, and the ability to work with a home theater processor it is a 21st century integrated amp. The surprising thing to me is that the headphone amp uses a 3.5mm jack but they told me most people with 6.3mm headphones have their own headphone amp already. The Halo Integrated will be out later this year and priced around $2,500.
Finally, I want to see the Epson laser projector. It is only 1080p but that really doesn’t bother me at all. 1500 lumens with a wide color gamut, ISFccc controls, a motorized lens with 10 memories, and deep blacks is all I really need. 30,000 hours of laser life means I can use it until well after my kids are in college and can hand it down to them. It will need to beat the JVC X700 at that price, which is really hard to do, but I am hoping they can.