CEDIA Custom-ers Converge

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What's new at this week's CEDIA Expo? How about new brands, new technologies and a newfound commitment by some suppliers to target the custom market.

Other suppliers will use the show as premieres into new product categories, and some suppliers will unveil products intended to make custom options more affordable for more households.

Although products and programs will be on the minds of dealers and installers, attendees are just as likely at the Indianapolis trade event to trade opinions on the latest round of e-commerce developments affecting their distribution channels. One is the planned Sept. 15 launch of getplugged.com (see story).

Another is the disclosure that Creative Technologies has created a new company, hifi.com, to launch an e-commerce site authorized to sell a number of specialty brands, including Celestion and Marantz. The site, which launches in October, will also sell more widely distributed brands, such as JBL, Onkyo and Harman Kardon. It will take over the catalog and e-commerce responsibilities of sister company Cambridge Sound Works, which will continue to operate stores and manufacture Cambridge-branded products.

Coolaudio.com will host a booth to enlist dealers to participate in its e-commerce business plan.

As for new technologies on display, attendees will find the industry's first THX Surround EX processors from JBL Synthesis, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Onkyo's new Integra Research brand.

Another new technology, DVD-Audio, will be demonstrated in DVD-Audio/Video players by Kenwood, Panasonic/Technics, Onkyo and Pioneer. Like a Panasonic DVD-Video player scheduled to ship in October, the Onkyo and Pioneer models will feature progressive-scan video outputs.

New brands at the show will include Onkyo's Integra Research and a brand to be unveiled by Harman International's Madrigal group, which is responsible for the Audio Access, Mark Levinson, Proceed and Revel brands. Madrigal would not disclose details before the show.

Meanwhile, Bose, Infinity and Sensory Science will reinforce their commitment to the custom and specialty channels, with Bose planning to exhibit for the second consecutive year and to unveil new products.

In launching new products and a new distribution program, Infinity will introduce its Prelude and Intermezzo series of speakers intended strictly for independent dealers and installers and for regional chains that "act like independents," the company said. For its part, Sensory Science, the parent of California Audio Labs, will exhibit for the first time, a spokesman said.

To expand custom's customer base, Audio Control, Niles and Crestron will unveil less pricey products.

Niles, for example, will show a new distributed-audio system that will be its most affordable to date.

Crestron will show a new touchscreen with a less-than-$400 dealer cost, compared to other Crestron models starting at $1,000. And AudioControl will display its first high-current two-channel distributed-audio amplifier, which is capable of driving up to four paralleled speaker pairs. It's billed as a less expensive alternative to 12-channel amps.

What else is new?

At least four companies will expand into new product categories. In-wall speaker supplier SpeakerCraft will show its first amplifiers. California Audio Labs will show its first power amp, A/V processor and video switcher. And NAD and Proceed will show their first DVD players.

Carousel DVD/CD changers will proliferate. Companies showing their first models include Denon, Harman Kardon, Onkyo and Samsung

DVD-Video/CD players will proliferate. While NAD and Proceed show their first models, Marantz will expand its line to three models from one, including its first THX Ultra-certified player.

CD-recorders will proliferate. The first dual-well models from Harman Kardon, Kenwood, Marantz, and Onkyo will be shown along with Denon's first CD-recorder, a single-well model.


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