New Technologies, E-Tailers Top CEDIA Lineup

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Exhibitors heading to CEDIA's 10th annual Expo later this month will mark the occasion with expanded assortments of audio and video technologies that were nonexistent a decade ago.

The online distribution channel, which wasn't on the radar screen 10 years ago, will also exert its influence at the anniversary event, where CoolAudio.com will exhibit and GetPlugged.com will host a hospitality suite to celebrate the September 15 launch of its getplugged.com site. Both companies' business plans include the participation of brick & mortar retailers.

Custom installers attending the September 22-26 event will also find a growing selection of products intended to drive down the price of a custom install to appeal to owners of more mainstream 2,500-square-foot homes, not just to owners of 10,000-square-foot-and-up mansions.

CEDIA projects 10,000 to 12,000 attendees and 320 exhibitors will fill the Indianapolis convention center, where expanded assortments of DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, recordable CD and HDTV will turn up and where select suppliers will:

  • Introduce their first DVD-Video players or expand their selections in the category. NAD will show its first, and Marantz will expand its selection.
  • Show their first carousel CD/DVD-Video changers. The companies include Denon, Harman Kardon and Onkyo.
  • Show their first CD-recorders (Harman Kardon and Onkyo).
  • And expand their selection of receivers incorporating 96kHz/24-bit PCM audio DACs for use with DVD players that pass through two-channel 96/24 PCM audio from select DVD-Video discs. The companies include Denon.

Dolby EX-equipped consumer products will put in their first appearance at a consumer electronics trade show, where at least one supplier requesting anonymity plans to unveil a preamp processor incorporating the technology. Dolby EX adds a matrixed rear-center channel to a home theater system when Dolby EX-encoded DVD discs are played back in standard DVD players. No Dolby EX discs are available yet.

The same company will show its first DVD-Audio/Video player and its first progressive-scan DVD-Video player. Delivery dates haven't been announced, but the progressive-scan DVD player would presumably ship sometime after October, when Panasonic is expected to become the first company to ship such a player.

HDTV will also be more visible at the show, particularly in two showcase exhibits sponsored by CEDIA. The first, dubbed the Garden of High-Definition Delights, will feature a winding path through a garden of about 20 high-definition (minimum 720p) CRT, plasma and rear-projection displays on which showgoers will view material from up to possibly four sources. The sources will be DSS broadcasts of HBO HD programs, 1080i material from a server, possible server-based 720p material, and DVD.

In front of each screen, showgoers will use a touchpanel to switch among the sources, thanks to an HD-capable digital broadcast router. The garden is open to tempt all attendees.

CEDIA's High Definition Demonstration Theater, on the other hand, will be open to people who obtain free tickets from CEDIA or from manufacturers that supply products to the exhibit, which will seat 80 people. Inside, HD formats will be projected onto a 13-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall 16:9 screen. The sources will be a D5 server and DVDs, which will be upconverted to HD. Both events are produced by consultants Fred Ampel and Mike Heiss.

New video products on display will include Vidikron's HDTV-capable Kronos One 7-inch CRT projection system, which can be configured for front or rear projection and is expected to ship in September at $10,995.

And Marantz will unveil two replacement rear-projection TV sets at 60 inches and 55 inches, both with the TV Guide Plus onscreen programming guide.

To expand custom's potential customer base, AudioControl will unveil its first two-channel amp for distributed-audio applications. Developed as a less expensive alternative to 12-channel amps, the Architect 200 features a high-current power supply capable of driving up to four pairs of speakers wired in parallel. It delivers a minimum of 200 watts per channel into 2-ohm loads and features a six-band EQ.

Other products scheduled to be introduced include a new 12-channel amplifier and A/V distribution amplifier from Niles, NAD's first Dolby Digital/DTS receiver, about a dozen new speakers from PSB, a single-chassis compact music system from Denon, and the QBX series of more affordable Snell speakers.

Snell will also show its $1,500/pair SR 30mp surround speakers, which feature drivers on three sides and switchable bipole or dipole operation. Each speaker can also be used in place of two side speakers in multichannel systems built around select 7.1-channel processors.

Atlas-Soundolier, recently purchased by MTX parent Mitek, will also exhibit, as will CoolAudio.com, which is the sole U.S. marketer of the high-end Audes, BC Acoustique, Chord, Roksan and Wilson Benesch brands.

CoolAudio is building a dealer and custom-installer network to set up or install the above brands when consumers purchase them online. CoolAudio dealers and custom installers would also be able to purchase these brands online at a wholesale price for sale to consumers.

CoolAudio, which launched its site commercially in August, is also the authorized exclusive online source for Wharfedale and Quad products and refers purchasers to existing Wharfedale and Quad dealers for setup or installation. In addition, the site sells Aiwa, Harman Kardon, JVC, Parasound, ProScan, Samsung and Toshiba products, including front-projection systems and direct-view TVs.

Online merchant GetPlugged features three program levels. The first involves links to dealers listed on the getplugged.com web site, billed as an educational site as well as a selling site.

The second level uses artificial intelligence to let consumers design a system from components in the inventory of a dealer in the consumer's geographic area, if the dealer is authorized by the manufacturer to participate. The dealer ships the product or lets the consumer pick them up. The dealer makes a margin and pays a fee to GetPlugged.

The third level involves products authorized by manufacturers for sale regardless of geographic territory. These products could be shipped by the manufacturer, one of the supplier's dealers, or in limited cases, by GetPlugged itself, the company said.

The company did not plan to reveal the names of participating dealers or manufacturers until its site launches commercially on September 15.

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