CEDIA Then!

I uploaded my final blogs from CEDIA Expo 2006 on Tuesday. I returned Sunday and had intended to post them early Monday, but United Airlines delayed my luggage until Monday afternoon. It was very thoughtful of United to help me avoid schlepping home bags loaded with brochures, notes, my camera card reader, and the power supply for my laptop. They even hand delivered them to my home for me.

If I counted correctly, Ultimate AV posted well over 100 entries, most with photos, into our CEDIA 2006 Blog. Check it out if you haven't already done so. You won't be disappointed.

Neither were we. CEDIA 2006 was a fantastic show. Kudos to CEDIA for organizing it, Denver for hosting it, the exhibitors for supporting it, and the attendees for making it a raging success. Nearly 30,000 custom installers, dealers, press, and (I'm sure) more than a few eager, undocumented AV aliens crowded into the Colorado Convention Center during the four days of the show—five if you count Wednesday's press conferences.

My show predictions weren't all on the money. SED was AWOL—but I expect to see it at Japan's big electronics show, CEATAC, in a couple of weeks. There were no announcements of really hot, upcoming HD DVD or Blu-ray titles. And Toshiba did announce a second generation of HD DVD players long before I (or anyone else) expected. For more details on them, see that CEDIA Blog.

But I was right in one respect, though it wasn't exactly a rocket science prediction: This was a 1080p show. But more amazing were the prices, particularly in the front projection class. Yes, 1080p projectors selling for prices as high as Denver weren't hard to find. But more plentiful were 1080p projectors, at relatively affordable prices, using every current technology except CRT. And while $4000-$12,000 isn't exactly cheap for most of us, two years ago big screen 1080p performance wasn't available from digital projectors at anywhere near these prices.

The collapse in front projector prices must be scary for the custom installer, who five years ago could still command a princely sum for a CRT, including setup and maintenance, and the small manufacturer who can't take advantage of economies of scale. Sony, for example, could leverage its investment in rear projection SXRD sets to produce the new $5000 VPL-VW50 "Ruby" 1080p SXRD front projector—arguably the hit of the show, though by no means the only one.

But what's scary for the pro trying to keep his margins up is a godsend for the average AV enthusiast, who buys his or her gear over the counter or on-line, then does a DIY installation.

While audio wasn't a big story in any respect at the show unless you're looking for in-wall speakers (good sounding demos were few and far between), the reduction in front projector prices (and other sorts of video displays, as well) could ultimately be a boon for audio manufacturers and consumers. The enthusiast with a comfortable but not princely budget can now afford a wider range of better audio gear and still set up a genuine, big-screen home theater. It’s no longer necessary to devote 80% of the budget to the projector.

We'll be watching these developments closely. In the meantime, we have review requests in for as many of the interesting products shown in our blog as we can handle (though not the talking, anamatronic pirate head—AAARG). Watch this space.

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