I set the dials, pressed the “On” button, and when the smoke cleared, I found glimmers of products that, a decade later, would dominate the industry. Had I only known then what I know now. I also found products that have since lost relevance and faded into obscurity.
After I emerged from the Wayback Machine, I found more suppliers introducing home satellite radio tuners for multi-room audio systems, universal DVD players, universal DVD players with 1394 ports, audio component companies launching their first DVD receivers, select audio component companies launching their first A/V receivers with up-conversion of composite video to component video, Yamaha’s first THX-certified AVR, HDCD-enabled CD players, and some of the first DAiB (distributed-audio-in-a-box) systems that packaged multi-room stereo receivers with in-wall keypads to simplify the multi-room audio purchase and drive down prices to more affordable levels.
There were quite a few dedicated touchpanels at prices up to $3,500 to control home-automation systems through proprietary wireless technologies and Wi-Fi.
In a hint of what was to come, some new home-automation systems and music servers featured IP control from the web browsers of local and remote PCs and from what were then called PDAs. In another hint of what is now more commonplace, I demoed some of the first multi-room audio systems that distributed music as IP packets over Ethernet cables.
I also saw many multi-room audio suppliers diversifying into multiple audio-product categories to become one-stop shops for integrators. Today, the opposite is happening.
At this year’s Expo, the contrast with the 2003 show will be palpable. I expect a growing selection of multi-room audio systems that distribute music wirelessly throughout the house, more multi-room audio systems that use computers and mobile devices as primary music sources, and more systems that stream Internet radio stations and music services direct from the web. Home automation and multi-room audio systems that use mobile devices as controllers will strengthen their hold on the market.
We’ll also see what could be the first outdoor speakers with built-in Wi-Fi to eliminate speaker-cable runs, and you’ll see the first outdoor Bluetooth speakers that stream music wirelessly from mobile devices but also connect to a home’s multi-room audio system via speaker cables.
You’ll also see more USB DACs and USB DAC/amplifiers, which improve the sound quality of computer-stored music, and network receivers that stream music from a remote PC in the home.
What changes do you think the next 10 years will bring?