— The custom business is slowly coming back, and the CEDIA Expo posted modest gains in attendance to more than 20,700 from last year’s more than 20,000, and exhibitor-count gains to 453 from 426.
But based on the pace of audio and home-control product introductions at the Expo, electronic systems contractors (ESCs) might have headed home wondering if there had ever been any slowdown.
Installers found a growing selection of control apps for iPads and Androidbased devices, more audio components and multi-room systems with networked connections to Internet radio sources and PCs, a proliferation of bezel-less and narrow-bezel custom speakers for an unobtrusive look, and more custom- installed subwoofers that reduce their in-wall or inceiling footprints by firing through tubes.
Installers also found a wide variety of new in-room speakers, including more thin speakers to match thin TVs and wireless speakers to eliminate messy speaker-cable runs. Other new speakers were smaller than ever to appeal to the decor-conscious.
ESCs also found new brands entering the multi-room A/V system market and other brands adding systems-integration capabilities to their multi-room systems. URC and Emotive, for example, showed their first multi-room audio systems, and Aton and Legrand integrated control of other home systems into multi-room audio systems.
In networked products, Sherwood unveiled a $499-suggested A/V receiver (AVR) with included 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter, UPnP, access to Internet radio stations through Reciva and Shoutcast, and streaming of Pandora, Aupeo and other streaming-music services.
For their part, Pioneer launched its first three Blu-ray players with ability to stream video-on-demand services, and Denon and Marantz launched their first compact CD-receivers at a suggested $599 and $699 with built-in Wi-Fi to stream music wirelessly from a networked PC and access Internet radio stations and music services. They also sport iPod/iPhone docking.
ClearOne arrived at the CEDIA Expo with four new products for its NetStreams and Musica multi-room audio systems. Most add new audio sources — including iPods, iPads, Internet radio and Bluetooth-equipped cellphones — to ClearOne systems.
More component-audio products also turned up with iPod connectivity. Classe, for example, unveiled its first audio component with front-panel USBaudio port to play back music streamed in digital PCM form from a connected iPod, iPhone, iPad or USB-connected PC. The CP-800 is expected to be available in December at less than $6,000.
Rotel also came to the Expo with an iPod/iPhone USB input on its $3,999-suggested 7.1-channel RSP-1580 preamp processor, a flagship model due in the first quarter of 2011. It joins two other components just shipping with iPod/iPhone-controlling USB port. Those two products also stream music from a UPnP-equipped PC or network-attached storage (NAS) device.
In architectural speakers, Revel and Triad Speakers unveiled their first no-bezel models, and SpeakerCraft (see story below) launched a new series of bezel-less speakers. For their part, KEF and Niles launched their first narrowbezel speakers.
KEF’s selection includes the company’s first single-speaker-stereo model. The Q series consists of three two-way models at $250, $300 and $350 each. The C series includes the single-speaker stereo model and three left-right models at $180, $225 and for an 8-inch model, $275 each.
Triad’s first bezel-less, in-ceiling speakers include four SealedRound speakers with sealed back box and suggested retails from $250 to $450 each. Four OpenRound open-back speakers range from $150 to $350 each.
Also for discreet installs, Triad launched two FlexSub subwoofers, the Mini FlexSub and a Silver FlexSub, to “completely hide” subwoofer enclosures in ceilings, closets, basements and cabinets, the company said. An amplifier and sub enclosure can be mounted in a crawl space, attic or cabinet, but sound is delivered through a short flexible tube.
For unobtrusive in-room placement, multiple suppliers — including KEF (see TWICE, Sept. 22, p. 1) and Artison — launched thinner speakers designed to blend in with flat-panel TVs.
Artison replaced its three flat Portrait-series LCR speakers with new versions that are thinner, lighter and easier to attach to a flat-panel TV. Like before, the speakers feature a patented Dual Mono design in which the left speaker and a right speaker each feature a toed-in center-channel driver to deliver focused center-channel sound without a separate center-channel enclosure.
The cabinets of Artison’s updated $2,625/pair Masterpiece, $1,825/pair Portrait and $1,175/pair Sketch have been reduced to 2.1 inches (with grille) from 4.2 inches for attachment to the thinnest 8mm LED-LCD TVs.
In more traditional bookshelf speakers, Atlantic Technology demonstrated a prototype bookshelf speaker incorporating Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System (HPAS) bass technology, which delivers targeted bass performance with 50 percent smaller cabinets, smaller drivers and lower costs, the company said.
The prototype AT-2 is only 8.75 inches wide by 15 5/8 inches high by 12.25 inches deep, yet with an interior acoustic volume of less than 2/3-cubic foot, it delivers bass response down to 39Hz at -3dB, the company said.
Atlantic Technology expects to begin production early in 2011 and plans to license out the technology.
In apps, Pioneer showed a planned Android app for smartphones to control all functions of its Blu-ray players and AVRs via Wi-Fi, effectively replacing the IR remotes that come with the Pioneer devices. The Android app, said to be due soon, also displays a menu of a networked PC’s audio, video and digital-imaging content. Via the phones’ DLNA-server capability, consumers will also be able to push PC content from the PC to the Blu-ray player. The company also plans to improve its iPhone/Touch app to control all AVR and Blu-ray features, but the Apple devices don’t support DLNA-server capability.
For its part, Denon showed an iPod app for the brand’s four Network 11 AVRs and for a 100th Anniversary AVR. The app enables control of the products’ functions from a networked iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone.
Creston also jumped on the Android bandwagon by demonstrating a planned Android-based control app on the 7-inch Galaxy Tab cellphone/tablet. The app is due in 30 to 60 days. The company also showed the iPanel, a frame with hard buttons that attaches to iPads to control Creston systems via Wi-Fi. Creston also showed an in-wall iPad dock and tabletop iPad dock to control its systems.