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Custom’s Growth Obvious At CEDIA Expo

9/13/2004 11:19:00 AM Eastern

Indianapolis — Traditional A/V technology made room for IT technology here at the CEDIA Expo, where installers also found more suppliers entering the custom market and existing custom suppliers diversifying into new product segments.

Installers also found a growing number of choices in HDD music servers, satellite home radio, universal DVD-Audio/SACD players, plasma-friendly flat speakers and multizone receivers intended to simplify distributed-audio installs.

Companies entering the market included car audio supplier JL Audio and startups iCommand, Control4, Sonos and Meda Systems. In diversifying their assortments, speaker supplier NHT was demonstrating its first distributed-A/V electronics, and Russound was tapping two new segments with its first multizone/multisource receiver and first HDD-based music server.

In bringing IT technology to A/V installers, companies are adopting Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP) technologies to distribute control signals as well as audio and video content throughout the house — in some cases wirelessly. Their intent is to leverage the technologies’ economies of scale, stability and flexibility, simplify installation and programming, and give consumers the flexibility to use wired PCs and wireless Web pads and PDAs to control home systems.

Suppliers that unveiled new Ethernet-based and TC/PIP-based products included startups iCommand, Control4, Sonos and Meda Systems and long-standing custom suppliers Crestron, Imerge, Leviton, NetStreams and Polk. Viewsonic also showed a PC-based wireless A/V distribution system.

For its part, NAD showed its first network receiver that uses wired Ethernet and wireless IEEE 802.11b/g to grab audio and video content from a networked PC for playback through an A/V system. It retails for a suggested $499.

Extending its existing Ethernet capabilities, Kaleidoscape’s HDD-based movie server has been upgraded with a new Ethernet client that adds HDMI digital output for a direct digital connection to HD monitors and TVs. Movies streamed via an Ethernet network from the server, base-priced at $27,000, are up-converted to HD via the new $4,000 client’s HDMI output. The Ethernet network is also able to simultaneously stream two to three HD movies simultaneously, and Kaleidescape is preparing at an unspecified date to supply consumers with HDDs preloaded with HD movies. For now, new systems will ship a high-definition 720p version of Joe Kane’s Digital Video Essentials video-calibration test disc.

Here’s what else is going on:

HDD music servers: Escient, ReQuest Multimedia and Revox showed their next-generation HDD music servers, while Russound and startup coNEXTion were entering the market. McIntosh showed a concept of its first HDD server.

Home satellite radio: Elan, NuVo and startup Control4 showed their first satellite-radio tuners, all delivering XM service. Antex showed its first three-tuner XM tuner, joining a three-tuner Sirius version; Audio Design Associates showed its second XM-equipped product; and Polk showed its previously announced hi-fi-component-style XM tuner.

For its part, Sirius showed new dedicated single-zone home tuners and systems that deliver Sirius’ signal throughout the house.

New Sirius products included a dedicated Audiovox single-zone home tuner and Tivoli’s satellite table radio, joining Kenwood’s single-zone tuner and Antex’s triple-zone tuner.

Sirius’ in-home distribution solutions are the Echo Wireless Distribution system and a Sirius/DBS Combiner system, which combines the Sirius signal with a DBS-TV signal on a single run of RG-6 cable for wired distribution in the home.

Multizone distributed-audio receivers: In multizone receivers designed for distributing audio throughout the house, Denon, Russound and Audio Design Associates showed their first models, and JBL’s Audioaccess division was returning to the multizone receiver market. This time, however, Audioaccess showed its first multizone home theater receiver, which simultaneously drives a home theater while distributing audio sources via amplified in-wall keypads.

Universal DVD: In DVD-Audio/SACD players, Yamaha, Marantz and Integra were expanding their assortments, and McIntosh showed its first. Integra, Integra Research, Marantz and Yamaha, meantime, showed their first universal models with HDMI output. And Yamaha showed its first universal changer, joining Onkyo, Integra and Toshiba in this segment.

Home theater receivers: Traditional home theater receivers, meanwhile, are getting some untraditional features.

To provide more flexibility in speaker placement and enhance music and soundtrack realism, more receivers on display automatically compensated for the negative sonic impact of a room’s acoustics.

Companies who showed their first receivers with automatic room-acoustics compensation were Integra, Harman Kardon and Marantz. For its part, Yamaha showed its first HTiB equipped with the technology.

Brands that expanded their selection of receivers with video up-conversion to component-video output included Harman Kardon, Marantz and Pioneer Elite.

Companies that expanded the use of Dolby Pro Logic IIx in receivers included Marantz, NAD and Pioneer Elite. McIntosh is adopting IIx for the first time.

To expand lifestyle choices, Marantz showed its first DVD-receiver-based HTiB; NAD is showed a two-channel DVD-receiver that uses SRS 3D to add width and depth to the soundstage; and Sharpshowed a second-generation wall-mountable HTiB system.

Speakers: The overall speaker market is down, but at least two segments are up: custom-installed speakers and flat speakers that cosmetically match plasma and LCD video displays.

As a result, multiple suppliers here were launching their first flat speakers, and other suppliers here were paying more attention to custom-installed speakers, whether mounted in the wall, in the ceiling or outdoors.

Companies here showing their first flat speakers designed for flat-panel displays included Advent, Atlantic Technology, Boston Acoustics, Canton, and Niles. One of Boston’s models was be a single-enclosure speaker that delivered all three front channels.

In custom-installed speakers, Infinity and NuVo planned to broaden their assortments, and Klipsch’s biggest-ever product introduction focused exclusively on custom speakers.

In other speaker developments:

·Screen Research of Mission Viejo, Calif., unveiled an acoustically transparent, motorized retractable screen with integrated left, center and right speakers that rise and lower with it.

·Car audio supplier JL Audio showed its first home speakers, a pair of subwoofers with DSP to compensate for room-acoustics problems.

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