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Report 3 Sandy Bird

CEDIA departs Denver this year with a bit of a disappointment. Overall show attendance appeared to be down, some blamed it on the economy others felt it was a changing market. Overall there were lots of new products but most were simply refreshes of previous models. There were no truly revolutionary product or technology releases and most attendees seemed very ho-hum about the entire experience. That didn't stop the major sponsors from putting on an exceptional show. Speaker Craft one of the premier sponsors was showing a crazy pre-historic (if that is the right word) show on a regular basis while other vendors gave away cars and other large prizes. Most of the vendors we talked to still felt they had good attendance though their booths and that was what really mattered to them.

The "Boutique" The Home Theater processor brands have caught up with the mass market companies in terms of integrating HDMI 1.3, 1080p video processing, support for bit stream processing of TrueHD and DTS-MA and room correction features. That is good as the mass market receiver companies were starting to put a lot of space between them and the higher end brands. I believe from a custom installers perspective there were a lot of receivers installed over the last few years that could have been pre/pro-amp combinations at the feature sets been there. Anthem one of the manufactures that endorsed the HDMI and video processing features in their processor haven't just sat around waiting for other to catch up and this show released the Statement D2 v2 (or maybe D2.1 by the time it becomes official) with HDMI 1.3 support and bit stream processing.

On the projector front everything looked great. Sure we aren't to CRT black levels, but we are always getting closer and the ANSI contrast in most cases is way up. Everyone has 1080p projectors at reasonable prices. JVC and Meridian both showed 4K projectors, you can even buy the Meridian one if you are interested in spending 6 figures for the setup. The LCD/Plasma war silently continues with both sets increasing all their specs and looking better and better. We are starting to differentiate flat panel displays based on their exterior chassis so I believe we have hit the point where the average consumer really isn't going to care anymore. This is a great photo showing off the LG Scarlet Series.

On the HD content front I think downloadable media was almost as common as Blu-ray this year (and yesHD-DVD is truly gone, I don't think anyone even mentioned it). Sure there were lots of Blu-ray players around but Direct TV, VUDU and a half a dozen Media Distribution products had ways of getting you HD content without anyone ever getting off the couch to change a disk. Samsung's CEO even claimed Blu-ray would be dead in 5 years, and I have to agree with him.

While THX and Dolby try to innovate new and interesting ways to get their logos stamped on products we saw Audyssey start to encroach on their territory. While Dolby released Dolby Volume, Audyssey released an incarnation of the technology as well. Either solution would claim it is better but we saw as many products with the Audyssey implementation as the Dolby one. Maybe there will be a bit of a changing of the logo guards' any maybe we will just find larger front panels for all the logos to go on.

Media distribution and single solution media access was a hot topic as always. Microsoft's Vista Media Center seemed to be grabbing a bit a market share with a number of vendors. We saw displays, receivers, SSPs, set top boxes, satellite receiver and even DVD/Blu-ray players with network connectivity that could play you videos, music and pictures over the home network. They all had limitations of some form compared to what we want in a media distribution system but we are making a lot of progress in this area. We also saw a number of HTPC manufactures using My Movies a popular Media Center add-on allowing Kaleidescape like movie access. What is interesting was My Movies was supporting Blu-ray where kaleidescape still had no real HD solution.

Well that probably all sounded terribly depressing. There were some great products announced. The new Integra receivers and processors look very interesting, the Marantz pre-pro demo was very convincing that we have truly moved forward in terms of network media integration into the AV components. The OPPO Blu-ray player showed up which had a bunch of people excited. The demos on the floor were spectacular, but I think Dan Miller at Marantz wins again with the opening to Cars and a great Matchbox 20 video in terms of demo quality.

We can always hope CES brings some excitement back into the AV industry but as far as CEDIA EXPO 08 I would have to wrap it up as slightly disappointed. Then again maybe I am just spoiled with the last few years where the industry really leaped forward with HD Video and lossless audio.