Things We Hope to See at CEDIA Expo

What will be the next big thing in home control, home theater and audio at CEDIA 2013?

The annual CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Assoication) Expo is just around the corner. Each year we head to its crowded convention halls (this year the event is in Denver—Yay) to search out the latest systems for turning your house into an Electronic House. CEDIA Expo is the place to find the best new solutions for home theater, high-end audio, home control/automation and much more.

Like most years, we have a good idea of what we’ll be seeing, but there are always a few surprises. Here our editors share their predictions of what will be hot or what they hope to see in Denver.

Arlen Schweiger, Editor-in-Chief:

Soundbars and Wireless Speakers

CEDIA will be bursting with soundbars and Bluetooth/AirPlay speakers. We’ve already seen this trend take off, but don’t expect it to slow down. Just the opposite –more manufacturers will likely be jumping on the all-in-one speaker solution bandwagon as people continue to ask for simplified, wireless audio products. These speakers offer instant gratification and easy integration into many rooms in the house for boosting your TV’s audio or wirelessly tapping into your stored digital music files and streaming services. With new streaming music options from Apple and Google being added to the fray that includes popular solutions like Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn, there’s likely to be even more demand for ways to blast them into the room rather than just into headphones.

READ: Soundbars: Issues and Installation

Dolby Atmos

It still might be a little too soon for this, but an Expo whose attendance has combined to install thousands of home theaters might be keen on hearing that Dolby’s latest commercial cinema audio upgrade will be heading into the home. Atmos will need the help of some home theater receivers working with Dolby to properly scale down the Atmos technology, which allows for surround effects localized to up to 64 speakers. In recent years we’ve seen “height” channels added to DTS processing (DTS Neo:X) to deliver even greater immersion and sense of depth to home theater surround sound … and more speakers to install, of course. We could see Dolby Atmos for the home taking a similar route, and perhaps quick-moving companies such as Onkyo, Integra and Pioneer bulking up their A/V receivers even more with this addition, especially as more movies featuring the audio technology are released into commercial cinemas and then onto Blu-ray.

USB DACs and High-Rez Downloads

Higher-resolutions downloads and streaming are making their way into the home video market; higher-resolution audio has already experienced this with a handful of online stores that offer 24-bit downloads. Expect more to step up and challenge HDtracks’s huge slice of the market—N eil Young will need some content assistance if his Pono audiophile download service/music player has any chance of succeeding when it’s launched next year. And for those who don’t want to be limited to purchasing a separate music player like Pono, or say Bryston’s BDP-2 digital music player as a component, we’d expect to see more USB digital-to-analog server products a la Meridian’s Explorer and AudioQuest’s DragonFly hitting the market so people can listen to their high-fidelity downloads on their home stereo systems with the important connection to their PCs or storage drives.

REVIEW: Meridian Explorer DAC

Lisa Montgomery, Contributing Editor:

Decorative Lighting

Lighting control systems are becoming increasing more capable of dimming and brightening LED bulbs, and since LED fixtures can emit all colors of the rainbow, this opens up the opportunity to get amazingly expressive with household lighting. Instead of illuminating a dark corner with standard white light, systems will be also be able to add a touch of blue, red, or whatever color hue seems appropriate. As fixtures themselves become more multifaceted, so should the systems that control them; the CEDIA Expo would be an ideal venue for manufacturers to introduce new features hope manufacturers extend the capabilities of their system to Lighting controls that facilitate special effects through the incorporation of color and intensity blues, purples, reds, greens and other hues.

READ: What Can Your Lights Do?
REVIEW: Philips Hue LED Colored Smart Light System

Reliable, Natural Voice Control

Siri has changed the way we interact with our smartphones, and similar voice recognition technology holds promise as a way to control the electronic devices in our homes. Manufacturers have taken a few stabs at product development, but nothing has really taken off. Reliability has been largely to blame. Once this and other kinks have been worked out—maybe we’ll see improved iterations at the CEDIA Expo—voice-based control systems could be a real game changer.

REVIEW: Voicepod Voice Control

More NFC

We have seen demonstrations of Near Field Communications technology at recent CEDIA Expos, and expect to see more at this year’s show. The technology basically eliminates the button pushing ordinarily required to operate fixtures on a lighting system, open an electronic door lock, or activate a whole-house music system and so on. By just holding an NFC-enabled smartphone to the NFC-enabled keypad, speaker, lock, etc., lots of things can happen. It’s a slick way to interact with smart devices in your home.

READ: What is NFC and Do You Want It?

Grant Clauser, Technology and Online Editor:

Cloud-based Media Systems

The weather outlook for CEDIA is cloudy with a chance of media (sorry, that was an awful joke). Anyway, it’s a cloud-based world now, or at least it will be. We’ve heard of a few cloud-based media solutions already, such as the Sookbox, and I’m expecting more. Media streamer VOCO will be adding video capabilities. The Autonomix Mirage line will expand and likely add some interesting functionality as well.

We might also hear some new thing from Kaleidescape about the Cinema One system that’s been on the market for a short time Sony will have its 4K download server, the FMP-X1, on display as well. Discs are nearly dead, or are they?

REVIEW: Kaleidescape Cinema One

Here’s a video from Kaleidescape that offers a peek into how the company develops new features:

More 4K ?

Is 4K at CEDIA going to be a case of all talk and no action or will the display manufacturers actually show up with pixel-packing products? 4K, or Ultra HD (to use the official branding term) is big now with flat panel TV makers. Every major TV company has at least one, and most have several 4K products, yet the projector companies have (mostly) been sitting back with their arms folded across their chests until the other parts of the digital chain are worked out. One of those other things is HDMI 2.0, which just recently seemed to pass GO. Almost immediately TV markers started announcing their HDMI 2.0 TVs (Panasonic was the first).

In projectors, I look forward to checking out the Sony VPL-VW500ES which was announced earlier in Europe. It’s a follow-up to the company’s VPL-VW1000ES , but will be more affordable.

I’m anticipating some 4K news from JVC. That company already makes a line of projectors that are 4K-ish which use a process called e-Shift to create a 4K pixel density using 1080p chips. I’ve got a feeling the company may show a true-4K projector at CEDIA (JVC already manufactures 4K projectors for the commercial market and makes the light engines for other companies), but we’ll have to wait and see about that. A 4K flat panel display will definitely be there.

Even if the display manufacturers don’t show up in hoards with 4K products, Ultra HD will be at the show in other forms. Expect to see AV receivers, processors, matrix switchers and even cables all touting their 4K abilities.

READ: Where are the 4K Projectors?

Brighter, Faster, Better Projectors and Screens

Projectors are awesome and getting more so each year. The current trend is for brighter projectors to allow use in brighter rooms. When you match a bright projector with an angular-reflective (light rejecting) screen, you get the perfect combination.

In addition to brighter, expect to find more LED-based projectors. LEDs are great solutions for projection because the lamps last for years, produce wonderful colors and don’t require loud fans to keep them cool.

In projection screens, light reflecting screens like the Screen Innovations Black Diamond are a current trend for the reason mentioned above. If another screen company doesn’t have its own version, then I expect one from them soon. Smaller (or no) bezels will also be plentiful.

READ: Managing Light in Your Media Room
REVIEW: Epson 5020 1080p Projector


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