Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Some of the automation systems on display at CEDIA are so technologically advanced that they certainly do seem like magic. But not far from the convention center, I found a clue to what’s really going on. If there’s an entire area just for elves to park their cars, what other fantastical creatures might be working behind the scenes? Leprechauns? Fairies? Now I understand why so many of the presenters talk about using wizards to program their systems.
Soundcast Systems’ awesome wireless, portable, weather-proof speakers are amazing in terms of both sound quality and wireless range. But the Outcast and Outcast Jr suffer from the same problem. They’re both basically white cylindrical towers with no visual personality other than “blah”. Now Soundcast is partnering with Skinit, Inc to provide skin adhesive wraps for the two speaker towers. Soundcast says the skins are easy to put on and feature a “residual-free removal”, so you can remove old and apply new skins whenever your heart desires a new look. Skinit offers a large online library of colors, patterns, photography, art, professional sports leagues, colleges, and universities from which to choose – or you can even customize your own design. Pricing is $49.99 per wrap for either the Outcast or the Outcast Jr, and they’re available from Soundcast Systems’ or Skinit’s websites.
The gorgeous zebrawood finish and Retro meets Danish styling of Triad’s towering Cinema Reference speaker was hard to miss on the CEDIA Expo show floor. The 47.5-inch-tall CR LCR 1 main speaker combines a horn-loaded Air Motion Transformer (AMT) driver with two 8-inch midrange drivers and a 15-inch woofer. The companion CR Surround is 27 inches tall and features a pair of 1-inch compression tweeters and two 5-inch mids in a horn-loaded configuration and a 10-inch woofer. In-wall, on-wall and stand mounting options are available. Estimated pricing is $12,500 each for the CR LCR and $5,000 each for the CR Surround, both of which are expected to be available for sale in January. A companion subwoofer is being developed.
Antennas Direct is really into antennas. That’s all they seem to want to talk about, which is not surprising since antennas are what the company makes. However, they may have gone too far with this prototype antenna for the person who likes to watch TV while cruising down the highway in his sidecar motorcycle. So far no one seems to make a mount suitable for use to install one of Sony’s new 84-inch 4K flat panels in the sidecar.
For folks who don’t want to put extra holes in their walls when adding a soundbar to a flat-panel TV, SnapAV offers a $79.95 universal bracket that attaches the soundbar directly to the HDTV. Depending on the height of the table stand that comes with your TV, you may be able to use the same bracket to mount your soundbar to the TV even if you don’t plan on wall mounting the TV. Fake fireplace is optional.
Remote control and home automation company URC introduced two brand new remote controls to CEDIA. Yawn…I know. The world needs another remote control as much as it needs another set of $20 earbuds. But the URC TRG-100 and TRG-200 have built-in gyroscopes and use motion-based technology so all you have top do is move and point the handheld remote to control the cursor directly on the TV screen. The basic TRG-100 has a minimalist design with very few buttons. The TRG-200 has direct numeric keys along with other direct function buttons. The new remotes are designed to work with URC’s Total Control whole-house systems with the company’s new MRX-20 Advanced Onscreen Network System Controller.
The MRX-20 offers a simple as well as a more elaborate on-screen user interface that is very cleanly overlayed on top of the HD picture on the TV so the user can summon direct TV controls – or, more interestingly because it’s done so unobtrusively, access controllable features provided by other URC control devices throughout the house. Pricing and availability for the new TRG remotes and the MRX-20 have not been announced.
VEFXi is a new company (to us at least) with a plan to convert 2D to 3D on your 3D HDTV set. You say your set can already to this. as most can? But not quite like this, as VEFXi clearly demonstrated with its 3D-Bee Diamond ($699); It was the most convincing conversion I've yet seen, producing a a convincing illusion of 3D popping out of the set rather than existing mostly behind the screen's frame.
The company is also working on a glasses-free 3D solution, the 3D-Bee Ultimate, but the demo showed that this still needs work to produce an acceptable, artifact-free picture.
Of all the cool stuff at CEDIA 2012, by far – for me, at least – the most impressive and most cool thing I saw/heard/experienced was the voice-controlled home automation add-in for a Control4 system from Houselogix, called voicepod, that will be available later this year. Any number of voicepod “pods” can be used to allow you to control a virtually unlimited number of functions that may be available in your particular Control4 system. A voicepod is a small, flat device that looks somewhat like an electric hot plate for a coffee cup. Built into each voicepod is a microphone and speaker that allows the system to talk back to you in order to confirm commands or ask for additional commands. In order to keep the voicepod from responding to random conversation in the room, communication with the system has to be woken up by saying, “Hello, voicepod,” after which a female voice asks you what you would like to do.
During the demonstration, Theodore Rosenberger, the President and Founder of Houselogix, turned lights on/off, raised/lowered Lutron wireless shades, selected preset angles and panned a security camera, and even programmed the system on-the-fly to respond with specific phrases. I’ve seen quite a number of voice-controlled devices and systems over the years, and this one from Houselogix is by far the most exciting I’ve come across. Even though it’s only in beta testing now, I’ve already begun begging Houselogix to let me get my hands on a voicepod or two to integrate into my Control4 system.
One-upping Paradigm's 30th anniversary models and KEF's 50th anniversary models, Wharfedale celebrates its 80th anniversary with the Denton monitor. Audio history buffs will recognize the model name which goes back decades and decades. If that mahogany finish looks good to you (and it looked great to us) act fast because only 2000 pairs will be made. The one-inch soft dome tweeter and six-inch Kevlar woofer were made especially for this model in IAG's Shenzhen factory, which is capable of making every part, however tiny, that goes into its products. Also shown were two UPC subs including a dual 10-inch powered by 500 watts and a dual 8-inch powered by 350 watts. They come with remote control for volume, crossover, and phase and you can turn off the front panel display if it annoys you. We wish all subs were so eager to please. And we wish all speakers were so drop-dead gorgeous.
Black gloss has been the default finish for speakers for ages so when I saw a home theater suite of white-gloss speakers I stopped for a closer look. Adam Professional Audio, a German company known for its studio monitors, launched the ARTist Series line of consumer speakers speakers at CEDIA Expo with five powered models: the ARTist 3 and ARTist 5 bookshelf models with 2 x 25 and 2 x 50 watts of power, the ARTist 6 mini tower with 3 x 35 watts, the ARTist 6H center speaker with 3 x 35 watts and the ARTist Sub with 140 watts driving a 7-inch woofer.
The system's sonic character is defined by Adam's smooth sounding X-ART (eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology) tweeter, which improves on the Heil Air Motion Transformer concept developed in the '70s. Instead of the piston motion of conventional tweeters, a pleated diaphragm produces sound by squeezing air out like the bellows of an accordion, which is said to avoid distortion and dynamic limiting. Each speaker has RCA and XLR inputs and the bookshelf models also have USB and minijack connections.
The ARTist system shown (ARTist 5s are used as surrounds) sells for $5,100 and, yes, the speakers are also available in black gloss.
The idea for Wireless Audio Solutions Products (WASP) lineup of wireless speaker brackets and wallplates grew out of a custom integrators frustration with the lack of specific wireless audio distribution applications for installations involving more than setting a pair of monitor speakers and a wireless amp on a bookshelf. Several years of research and design have resulted in WASP’s LINK-Mount, LINK-Plate, and LINK-InWall products, each of which feature the use of tri-band wireless technology (2.4, 5.2, and 5.8 GHZ), 50-watt mono-block Class D amplifiers, wireless subwoofer outputs, retro-fit friendly designs, and uncompressed wireless audio transmission. The amplifiers inside the LINK devices use low-voltage power from external plug-in transformers (aka, wallwarts) that allow the mounts/plates to be installed without requiring an electrician. The WASP UWT-201x is a universal wireless transmitter for use with WASPs LINK plates and mounts, and it has selectable line- or speaker-level inputs, a subwoofer input with a choice of discrete or L/R summed wireless subwoofer output, as well as a 3.5mm front auxiliary input jack that automatically overrides the back panel input when you want to use a smartphone or tablet as a temporary local music source. WASP’s wireless audio distribution devices will only be available through authorized custom integrators. (In other words, don’t look for these on Amazon or at Best Buy.) Cool, cool stuff. Can’t wait to try it out and see how well it works in a real install. No pricing was available at CEDIA, though.
But only if you have the world’s largest bookshelf to put it on. Pro Audio Technology isn’t a common household name, partly because the company’s speakers – capable of “producing the bone-jarring explosions or visceral slam found in today’s high quality recordings” – are rather big, designed to usually be built-in or hidden behind acoustically transparent screens or wall panels, and are pretty darn expensive. This speaker was on display, no doubt, to generate plenty of “wow” buzz, which it did even though it was not hooked up. Inside Pro Audio Technology’s booth, however, several of the company’s new, smaller, less-expensive speakers were put together in a multi-channel system that was amazingly clean and articulate at regular, keep-my-hearing-intact listening levels. They did let the system out of its cage, though, for a brief moment at the end of the demonstration; and it simply took everyone’s breath away with it’s dynamic and powerful sonic output.
We can thank Michael Phelps for making it cool to wear over-ear headphones while on the go. In a nod to that trend, Yamaha will roll out the stylish Pro Series line of headphones at the end of the month. Good/better/ best models were previewed at CEDIA Expo: the Pro 500 ($399 in black or blue), the Pro 400 ($299 in blue or white) and the more compact Pro 300 ($199 in black, white or blue).
Lutron used CEDIA 2011 to announce the company’s ground-breaking wireless, battery-powered, insulating honeycomb cellular shades that could be remotely controlled through handheld remotes or when integrated with Lutron RadioRA 2 lighting control systems. This year, Lutron announced additions to the wireless shade lineup, but these shades have wires – guide wires, that is. In most respects identical to the original wireless honeycomb shades, the new cable-guided shades have a thin cable running from top to bottom along the left and right sides of the shade. The cable prevents the shade from swaying, so it’s ideal for use on French doors or windows with heavy airflow. The cable guides also allow the shades to be used to cover skylights or angled windows. (Lutron says the shades will work in situations with angles as shallow as 30 degrees off horizontal.) The new shades will begin shipping in January of 2013. Pricing was not immediately available but was not expected to include a significant premium over the original shade configurations.