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Rocky Mountain Bye Colorado

Denver is one of the best cities on the planet, if you ask me. I'll really miss not coming here next year when CEDIA moves to Hot Lanta. Except for the 45-minute ride from the airport, Denver is completely convention-friendly. Transportation is cheap or free (the 16th Street Shuttle) and abundant. The weather, at least in early September, is nearly ideal. The commercial convention district is pregnant with possibilities, from restaurants to record stores, to absorb any free time your editor may not know you have. Hell, even the bums here are nice!

CEDIA 2008 was a microcosm of Denver itself. Nearly limitless with possibilities and expertly laid out, the show was a smash!

Only Scott and I were covering the show for UAV, so the division of labor was pretty easy. Scott would do video, I would do audio, and we would split coverage of the high-def players. Scott said he would cover the Blu-ray players, and I could have all the HD DVD players I could handle.

All the big AVR manufacturers were pumping out in-processor Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD MA decoding. Even Panasonic's SA-BX500 receiver ($799) will feature these, not just higher-end units like the Yamaha RX-Z7 (which, at $2,700 is going to be hard to beat I think).

More trends—Sirius and XM satellite-radio readiness. No longer reserved for the flagships, they were filtering down to midrange receivers. Ditto with Internet radio, which, to me, is even more significant because it's free and limitless (there's that word again!)

Speakers were everywhere, too, but guess what—either they were powered off and you couldn't hear them, or they were powered up and you didn't want to. That's right, a convention center is not the ideal place for critical listening. You can build a perfectly black room for showing video, and there were plenty of good video demos going on (or so I heard, humph). And you bet they had impressively loud audio too. But you needed a boisterous soundtrack to cut through the sound of the 80dB fans used to vent heat away from the carbon units piled into theater seats. Loud, fun, but critical listening? Nope, not here.

Down the street at the Denver Athletic Club, the T.H.E. show offered two demonstration rooms not plagued with noise gremlins. I ran over there late Saturday to hear Magnepan's demonstration of its motorized hinged speaker serving as surrounds and a split center, its large 3.6 serving the front-channel stereo pair, a subwoofer or three, and Ayre electronics. Of course, it sounded great. They're Magnepans, after all.

The other room at the DAC (he he) was Martin Logan's presentation of its CLX speaker. Ditto on the great sound, quite familiar to me, a long time M-L fan. If I was going 2-channel only, I'd rob a bank to get these babies in my listening room. After asking Dennis C. if his musical selection was to be viewed as punishment for infractions as yet unidentified, he relented and let me put on Bill Evans' Live at the Village Vanguard and Elton John's Madman Across the Water. At an order of magnitude more in cost than the Magnepans in the room down the hall, I'd give the M-Ls the nod as best sound I heard at the show.

Separates are still the orphan child of the home-theater market. Marantz, for instance, has one pre/pro. Done. Ditto Integra. You have to go to Sonic Frontiers and Anthem to get a little variety. Today when you say separates, the world thinks media servers. I couldn't get to any of those, not with the little time we had and the embarrassingly rich offerings found at every turn.

How was our show coverage? What should we doing differently? Let us know!

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