September 21, 2011
| by Lisa Montgomery
Last year, the hubbub was 3D this and 3D that. I hate to admit, I’m still not a fan, so I was happy to see some new trends kicking around at the CEDIA Expo this year in Indianapolis.
Many of the exhibits felt slightly retro, as products from the past were alive and well, given a performance and cosmetic facelifts to make them serious contenders in today’s market. Jeremy Burkhardt summed up the overarching theme perfectly at a SpeakerCraft press conference: “What goes around comes around.”
Bad-### Bookshelf … and Buds
For years it’s been about building speakers into the walls and ceiling. While there are still plenty of great options for this eye-pleasing solution, the newest trend seems to be keeping the speakers out for all to see. Speaker manufacturers across the board were promoting their box-style speakers in an array of snazzy colors and styles. Many reference-grade features had been “trickled down” into the new lines, as assurance of the old-school speakers’ ability to perform.
Buds were big at the show, too. Surprisingly, many were being introduced by speaker manufacturers, who in the past regarded headgear as the bane of the audio industry. Now, they’re embracing them as a way to reach a new generation of music listeners and incorporating technology to improve the quality of the audio reproduction.
Paradigm, for example, introduced a powered bookshelf speaker designed to be used with a traditional stereo system … or with mobile devices. As one of the newest addition to the company’s Paradigm Shift line, it joins a portfolio which includes several models of high-end earbuds.
Paradigm Shift Earbuds
From the Trenches
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em seemed to be the mantra of the CEDIA Expo this year, as at least three new exhibitors demonstrated systems and products developed by former custom electronics (CE) pros. Having been out in the trenches designing and installing home control systems, they each seemed to have developed a unique insight into consumers’ wants and needs, as well as ways to make installers’ jobs simpler.
Clare Controls, for example, demonstrated a home automation system that allows both installers and end-users to upload information into the system (which comes on a Mac mini) from the cloud. “We wanted to give some control back to the user so they can modify the system without having to pay for a service call,” explains Clare Controls president Brett Price.
NavNet, which like Clare was conceived by CE pros also promises simpler, more streamlined setup with more consumer interaction. Based on systems that are “plugged in” to the main home control processor, a graphic user interface is generated automatically for display on a touchpanel.
Future Automation was another CEDIA Expo exhibitor that has developed products based on field experience, mostly in the U.K. Rather than home control, the company focuses on innovative ways to hide components via motorized lifts, mounts, wall panels and other mechanisms. One extremely cool solution is designed to “suck” a TV into the wall then cover it up with a panel that matches the wall.
Bluetooth-based Audio Systems
Bluetooth may not have the range of Wi-Fi, but it’s less finicky. Several manufacturers at the Expo, including Russound, NuVo and NetStreams, introduced Bluetooth-enabled whole-house audio systems. Any music you might have stored on your Bluetooth mobile device can be streamed directly to a Bluetooth receiver unit for distribution to speakers throughout the house. “You’ll no longer need to wait for your phone to find the network to get your music to play throughout the house,” says David Rodarte, NuVo CEO. Because Bluetooth has a much shorter range than Wi-Fi, manufacturers like NuVo are redesigning their systems to include small “receiver” units to be placed in rooms throughout the house. As long as you and your tablet or phone is in the same room as a Bluetooth receiver, you’ll be able to wirelessly transmit your music files.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.