Visions of Sugarplums

I'm not exactly sure what a sugarplum is—probably a Christmas treat in Victorian England. But I do know that for those of us in the AV game, it comes early every year. September is time for the CEDIA Expo, to be held this year in Denver.

I still remember my first CEDIA show in 1995 in Dallas (as I recall, they didn't call it Expo then). It was dominated by a wide range of training sessions that are still a big part of the show. Back then you could cover the entire exhibit floor in less than a day, with time out for long, leisurely lunch.

But what began as a small get-together for the custom installation trade in the early 1990s has grown to be the second largest consumer electronics trade show in the U.S. By last year it had grown so big that it expanded from three days to four—the same number of days as CES. CES, of course, could last for six days and you still couldn't cover everything. Four days is a good run for CEDIA, but for the media those ubiquitous press conferences manage spill over from "press day" to eat up much of the first day of show itself as well. In the time it takes to attend one press conference I could visit a half dozen booths—some of them the size of the original CEDIA exhibit floor!

In his latest blog Shane Buettner runs down some of the new products we've been alerted on, or have reason to expect. New projectors all around, of course, from most of the major players.

The projector market has become cutthroat in the past year or so. Rumors have been finding their way onto the various on-line forums about Sharp's future commitment to the video projector market. Projectors make up only a fraction of that company's video display business, which is dominated by LCD flat panels. I'm anxious to find out Sharp's plans, since their current 1080p XV-Z20000 s one of the best in the business.

I also wonder what Yamaha's ongoing plans are in the video display market. A year after nearly everyone else launched single-chip 1080p DLP designs, Yamaha's still does not offer a 1080p model. They can't sustain a decent market share with a 720p flagship that sells for more than much of the 1080p competition.

I hope Yamaha stays in the projector game; that 720p, DPX-1300 was one of the best, if not the best, 720p projectors I've ever reviewed.

It will be interesting to see if there are any newcomers to the projector market. It's a small business but growing fast as prices become more competitive. But the falling prices do make it difficult for a small company to compete.

I don't anticipate anything in the one-piece television arena that we haven't already seen or heard about; most new models were announced at manufacturer's line shows last spring and earlier this summer. But there's always a surprise or two. We'll all need supplemental oxygen in Denver's thin air if there are any announcements about SED displays!

We'll definitely see a wave of new HD disc players, too. We're now getting two generations of them, or more, every year! And I would be very surprised if more HD combi players that play both Blu-ray and HD DVD don't make an appearance.

Frankly, I can't see the point in spending more for a combi player than you would for separate players in each format. Must be either a lack of space or a psychological thing. With one player, it's "see player…put disc in player…press play." With two or three players (including that legacy "universal" player for your vast collection of SACD and DVD-Audio discs), it's "see players…choose the right player… insert disc… press play…oops, wrong player, disc ejects (or the player freezes up)…repeat."

On the audio side, I don't anticipate many new free-standing speakers, though a few will probably turn up. CEDIA is mostly an in-wall/on-wall kind of show, and there will certainly be a flood of new designs in those categories.

I also expect to see a lot of new AV receivers, from the cheapest to new state-of-the-art designs. If a new feature is out there, someone will have it. And no new receiver is likely to make much of a splash unless it also offers HDMI 1.3, including HDMI audio and the ability to decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. Assuming, of course, we can get the bitstreams from those formats into the receivers' HDMI inputs.

The show doesn't officially open until September 6, but Wednesday afternoon, September 5, will be filled with back-to-back press conferences. We'll all be burning up the UAV keyboards, reporting in real-time from September 5 to September 9.

Stop back early and often for all the hot news.