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CEDIA EXPO 2013 Show Coverage

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Chris Heinonen - CEDIA 2013 Wrap-up

During the second day of CEDIA I got the same question from many different manufacturers: "What are you excited about at the show?" Unable to go see everything themselves they want to know what they should be excited about. This year when asked the question, I somewhat just shrugged my shoulders and was unable to come up with a good response.

Of course there are components I am excited about and want to evaluate but nothing that really made you stop in your tracks. Things were a bit cheaper, or a bit better, but there was no really affordable 4K projectors or OLED displays to be seen. No ideas that made me sit up and take notice as I had before. It wasn't a bad show, but it was more of a transition show.

I did have some favorite items at the show, though I didn't see everything. The updated Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L speaker sounds fantastic, as it has been completely overhauled. Aside from the general design and parts of the baffle, everything else has been redone on it. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it compares to the Mythos STS that has been my reference for a few years now.

Giving a listen to Magico speakers let me hear what people are talking about. It has incredible detail and the ability to bring across the smallest background sounds. Watching a clip from The Avengers tiny details, like the metallic sound of Iron Man's mask on the concrete or flames flickering in the background, are astonishingly clear. I just wish they picked a movie track that used their 570 lb. QSub subwoofer more. Where is Tron: Legacy when you need it?

The display front is much quieter. Many of the vendors, including Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba, have pulled out from CEDIA and no longer show off their goods. Sony has a curved LED LCD and a couple 4K panels without the speakers, but nothing beyond that. LG also showed a pair of cheaper Ultra HD panels off site that might have more promise by being a rear array LED instead of the common edge lit LED. Aside from the Oppo BDP-103D there wasn't a single Blu-ray player to be announced.

Next year for CES and CEDIA I imagine we will see more big deals. HDMI 2.0 will allow a true Ultra HD content system to come out. It also will allow Dolby to port their Atmos theater technology to the home if they desire, giving us dedicated height and ceiling channels instead of matrixed ones. We can also hope to see cheaper, and flatter, OLED displays and rear array 4K displays. I hold out hope for a 4K plasma but I don't know if that will happen or not.

I also was far more exited at CEDIA this year by the home automation components then before. Since installing Control4 and starting to tie components together I'm wanting to expand my music all over the house. Browsing around at all the things I can do is exciting to think about.

Far more common at CEDIA is HDBaseT. When it was first announced people were wondering if this was a replacement for HDMI. Of course it hasn't turned out to be one, but it has helped redefine content distribution. Seeing what companies like Wyrestorm can do with this lets you see the possibilities. You can run a single Cat6 cable to a room that carries everything on it. Then you hook that into a tiny box you hide in the wall to get HDMI, Ethernet, IR, and even an amplifier for hidden speakers. This depends on distribution systems, and often matrix switches, for all the content which makes it a custom install solution. For the custom installer running a single cable to a room and getting everything makes installations, and certainly retrofit ones, much easier to do.

Of course there is still more at CEDIA to cover, so onto the pictures!

Lumagen is showing their updated 2041 processor that can scale your HD content to Ultra HD resolutions. While HDMI is currently limited to 30p this isn't an issue for film content at all and Star Trek: Into Darkness was looking very good. Star Trek seemed to be a common demo for people so I was happy to have already seen it and know what it looks like.

Martin Logan had the grooviest demo room by far. Black Lights, Bean Bag Chairs, and the 5.1 version of Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots made for a very different experience. No Diana Krall or typical audiophile cuts here, but a great sounding room.

Outside the room is their new Balanced Force 212 subwoofer. It has dual 12" woofers that are opposed on the sides. This configuration helps to reduce cabinet vibrations and lower distortion. One unique feature is the ability to go to the Martin Logan website and download a response curve for the subwoofer to match ANY speaker Martin Logan has ever produced. Drop the file onto a USB Drive, stick it into the back of the subwoofer, and 10 seconds later it will blend perfectly with your speakers.

Yamaha has a pair of truly high-end stereo components on display. The A-S3000 integrated amplifier and CD-S3000 CD player are their reference two channel components as it still has a huge following in Europe and Asia. The front glass of the amplifier alone costs more than most integrated amplifiers you'll find. The CD player uses the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC and features a fully balanced design all the way through. They aren't cheap at $8,000 for the amplifier and $7,000 for the CD player, though.

Pioneer has had a huge following for their Andrew Jones speakers. Secrets did a review of them earlier this year and found them to be the budget system to beat. Now Pioneer has a soundbar from Andrew Jones for $400 that looks like a real champ. Music is where I typically find fault with soundbars as they are too thin in the soundstage but our demo of the Pioneer was not. A small wireless subwoofer helps with the bass and can be positioned around the room.

Just recently shipping is the Wadia Intuition. Packed in this incredibly attractive package is a 350 WPC stereo amplifier, ESS's Sabre 9018 DAC and a nice selection of inputs. The included remote is a nice piece of aluminum and the whole package is something you want to show off in the living room instead of hide away in your media room. The small clip that I heard sounded fantastic on a pair of Sonus Faber speakers.

Sonus Faber also demonstrated their Venere loudspeakers using Star Trek: Into Darkness and those speakers do not disappoint. I've heard them before and once again came away impressed by the performance they offer for the price. Even in a huge, open room like this they didn't strain or sound thin at all.

Tucked away behind the couch was the new REL Habitat subwoofer. Made to be placed behind the couch or mounted on the wall. With the included wireless transmitter it is easy to move around and place anywhere in the room, and can even lay flat to go under a table or couch if necessary. It has two 6.5" active drivers and a 10" passive radiator and comes in black or white.

DVDO was showing something called a "Mystery Box". Basically a working prototype of a 4K scaler it will do HD to 4K conversions with no ringing, handle MHL sources, and provides 4K test patterns. Any release date or pricing are far off, but it will be nice to see a new processor from DVDO in the future.

Krell picked up an award for their Foundation processor, which is a new entry level price for them at $6,500. With ESS Sabre DACs and a custom RoomEQ system, it has a whole lot to offer on the spec sheet. From reading David Rich's in-depth article on receiver and processor design I've learned there is a whole lot more to a processor than what is on the spec sheet, though. Krell's president Bill McKiegan was happy to talk to me for close to an hour about everything that goes into the Foundation. I'm hopeful that Secrets will get a chance to listen to one soon and see if we can see what makes it so outstanding.

Triad was showing their new Bronze SlimSub, which is design to be placed in the room but is small enough to be hidden away. Slim, hidden subs seem to be a big target at the show this year.

Triad also had speakers that are in-wall but completely covered. They can be hidden behind any surface up to 2mm thick and consist of separate low and high frequency units. Of course they will never sound as good as visible speakers, but they allow you to put music into a location without anything being visible. Hearing music come from the wall with nothing visible was a very different experience.

Triad is still finishing up work on their new reference models. In my tour of the Triad factory you can see them producing a test sample of the large front version. The surround is new and features a compression horn driver and a single woofer. Hopefully around CES we will be able to finally hear these in action.

Finally Triad is showing their new Nano LCR. Made from aluminum and not MDF, it allows for a much thinner profile than previously possible, just around 1.6" deep. It has 2" woofers from Scan Speak and a custom 2" tweeter as well. Available in two channel or 3 channel versions, it can come custom painted in any color you want. It is made to order, in almost any length you want, at Triad headquarters in Portland, OR.