The custom-install industry exhibited self-confidence here at the CEDIA Expo, where attendance rose 14 percent to more than 17,200 and the trade association released positive results from its most recent membership survey.
The survey was taken in April and May when the economy slowed considerably, yet 83 percent of the responding 200 installers said they expected to post growth this year, down only slightly from 89 percent in the previous year's survey. Their expected rate of growth was also down only slightly. Forty percent said they expected growth of either 21-50 percent or more than 50 percent. That's down from the 43 percent who cited those percentage rates during the previous year's survey. Sixty percent said they expect 2001 growth of up to 20 percent, up from the 57 percent of respondents who last year said they expected 2000 growth of up to 20 percent.
Despite the upbeat findings, the survey might nonetheless overstate the industry's actual growth rate. Most manufacturers interviewed during the show agreed with a recent TWICE story contending that the vast majority of installers reported growth through July at single-digit rates rather than the double-digit rates enjoyed throughout the 1990s.
Despite the lower gains, installers who also operate retail stores are thankful for the gains they're realizing because of the continuing slowdown in retail traffic.
The potential economic impact of the terrorist war on the U.S. might further restrain short-term custom growth, but suppliers at the show were thinking long-term by expanding their selection of custom products or unveiling their first custom products. A/V suppliers who don't offer architectural speakers or multizone systems were also thinking long-term, entering new home theater categories to position themselves as one-stop home theater shops.
Yamaha, for example, showed its first series of high-end speakers in years and a 50-inch plasma display that will complement its home theater electronics and a DLP projector, the company's first video-display device. When Yamaha's first plasma ships sometime next year at an undetermined price, it will be capable of displaying 720p HD content in native form, the company promised. It will be accompanied by a flat-panel home theater speaker system, which lacks traditional cone drivers and was developed jointly with technology company FPS of Japan.
Onkyo, too, entered the video-display market with a plasma display packaged with outboard Faroudja-developed video processor.
Other suppliers expanded their custom selections. Imerge, for example, expanded its SoundServer hard-disc recorder/server lineup; Jamo expanded its architectural speaker lineup; Atlantic Technology introduced its first multichannel multizone amp; and speaker-maker Dynaudio entered the custom market with its first in-wall speaker pair, priced at $1,399/pair.
Sonic Blue is targeting its ProGear wireless Web pad, previously available to vertical markets, to the custom residential market for the first time.
For its part, home-control supplier Crestron expanded its custom portfolio with 40 new products, including its first residential home-lighting system (due next year), as part of an effort to offer its own home subsystems, including distributed-A/V systems.
Similarly, Elan diversified deeper into the home control market from the distributed-A/V market with the launch of an SC4 $1,200-suggested home-system controller. It delivers in-wall keypad control of Elan's distributed-A/V systems, IR and RS-232-based lighting systems, RS-232-based HVAC and security systems, and contact-closure systems such as motorized drapes and screens. The company's current keypads and in-wall touchscreens control IR-based products, including IR lighting systems.
Sonance and Audio Design Associates (ADA) also expanded their lineup of A/V networking infrastructure. Sonance launched the Navigator Harbor, a six-zone system that controls IR-equipped A/V systems, IR-based lighting systems, and contact-closure products. ADA unveiled the Silk, its first single-chassis distributed-A/V system, and the Suite 16 16-zone, 16-source system.
Also at the show:
The choices of multidisc DVD-Audio/Video changers and multichannel SACD players grew (see page xx).
Suppliers increased the selection of receivers equipped with DTS ES and Discrete decoders, with THX Surround EX decoders, and with what some suppliers are calling Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 decoders, which are compatible with the Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks (see story, right).
And the first receivers equipped with DTS's new 96/24 5.1-channel technology were unveiled by Denon and Pioneer (see story, right).
Additional details about some of these and other new products will appear in the next issue.