You don't normally think of CEDIA Expo as a launch pad for mainstream CE products. But in fact, CEDIA always has interesting retail-oriented product; and CEDIA 2012 was no different. Certainly, CI heavyweights like AMX, Control 4 and Crestron were out in full force, and you can read about their activities in David Birch Jones' CEDIA report in this issue. But the event was also notable for the abundance of consumer products like headphones, soundbars, wireless iPod docks and computer speakers, as well as AV components, which I'll cover here.
This year marks the end of a two-year run for CEDIA in Indianapolis. Next year, the show cycles back to Denver. Official attendance for CEDIA 2012 was 16,900, 4% higher than 2011. My impression, echoed by Canadian suppliers at the show, was that this year's CEDIA was quantitatively a little quieter than last year. But the manufacturers I spoke with were unanimous in their view that the quality of attendees was very high.
They also noted that dealers from Western Canada tend to stay home when CEDIA is in Indianapolis, but should return next year, simply because Denver is more accessible for them. In fact, Denver is more accessible for dealers in Central and Eastern Canada. There are many more direct flights to Denver from Montreal and Toronto than there are to Indianapolis. (Denver is a more interesting destination as well.)
But that's next year, and I'm supposed to be talking about CEDIA 2012.
In November, NAD will launch an AirPlay-capable version of its Viso speaker. The Viso AP doesn't have a dock, but it does have a USB port that can charge an i-device, and play digital files from attached USB drives.
It's interesting, though hardly surprising, to see how quickly hi-fi companies are launching digital audio products: computer speakers, i-device docks etc. In one form or another, companies like PSB, NAD, Paradigm, Monitor Audio, KEF, Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Polk and many others are jumping into lifestyle audio. Thematically, CEDIA might not seem the ideal venue for such mainstream products, but in terms of timing - heading into the holiday shopping season - it's pretty well perfect.
Paradigm's Millenia CT 2.1-channel speaker system includes two satellites and an eight-inch sub. It can be used in both TV and computer applications.
Lately, Lenbrook Industries has been very vocal in its espousal of two-channel digital audio products, and showed several new products in various categories at CEDIA under its NAD and PSB brands.
Arriving in October for $350 per pair, PSB's Alpha PS1 powered computer speakers are intended for near-field listening. They have 3.5-inch metalized polypropylene mid-bass drivers and .75-inch aluminum dome tweeters, with 2x20 watts of amplification. They're finished in gloss black.
PSB will also be adding a passive version of its M4U 2 headphone. The M4U 1 uses the same folding design and driver as the M4U 2, but without the active noise cancellation and built-in amplifier. It will be available in November in grey and red finishes, for $300. The M4U 2, meanwhile, will be available in a new white finish, in addition to the original black.
Sister company NAD announced an AirPlay version of the Viso 1 iPod speaker. The Viso 1 AP doesn't have a dock, but it does have Wi-Fi and AirPlay support, as well as Bluetooth. There's also a rear USB port for charging i-devices; the USB connector can also be used for playing digital files (up to 96kHz/24 bits) from attached storage devices. It will be available in November for around $600.
Paradigm will introduce its first iPod dock in October, marketed under the Paradigm Shift sub-brand. The Aera has a dock with 30-pin connector, USB input that can be used for charging i-devices, and 3.5mm analog input, along with built-in Wi-Fi and AirPlay support. It employs dual four-inch composite woofers and one-inch aluminum dome tweeters, powered by a 2x30-watt (RMS) amplifier. The Aera will retail for $649.
Coming in late November or early December are Paradigm's first over-the-ear headphones: the H15 ($249) and H15NC ($349). The latter has active noise cancellation, and a rechargeable battery rated for 50 hours per charge. The H15NC can be used in passive mode when it's out of battery power.
Denise Babin, Marketing Manager for Lenbrook Canada, with PSB's new Alpha PS1 powered computer speakers.
Paradigm calls its new Millenia CT speaker system "a repackaged soundbar." Retailing for $749, it consists of a pair of two-way satellites, each employing a four-inch satin-anodized aluminum mid-bass driver and one-inch satin-anodized aluminum dome tweeter, with an eight-inch polymer composite subwoofer. The sub houses the 3x80-watt (RMS) digital amplifier that powers the system; it comes with a removable floor cradle. There's also a control box with optical digital and 3.5mm analog inputs for connecting audio sources. The Millenia CT can be used as a 2.1-channel audio system with a flat panel; or connected to a computer or AirPort Express for computer audio.
In October, Paradigm will introduce the Soundtrack, a 2.1-channel soundbar system, which combines an eight-inch 100-watt (RMS) subwoofer with a 36-inch-wide soundbar housing two 4.5-inch mid-bass drivers, two 4.5-inch passive radiators and two tweeters. The soundbar has analog and digital optical inputs, and can connect to the sub wirelessly. The system will ship in October for $849.
KEF used CEDIA as the launch pad for a premium powered computer speaker. The X300A employs KEF's Uni-Q technology, with a one-inch vented aluminum dome tweeter at the acoustic centre of a 5.25-inch magnesium-aluminum mid-bass driver. Unusually for a computer speaker, the X300A employs Class A/B amplification, rather than Class D switching amplifiers. Each driver has its own amp: 20 watts for the tweeter and 50 watts for the mid-bass driver. In addition to a 3.5mm analog audio input, the X300A has a USB connector and a built-in digital-to-analog converter that supports files to 96kHz/24 bits. There are three EQ modes: desk, stand and desk/wall. The X300A will likely arrive in Canada in January 2013.
Polk's SurroundBar 9000 delivers 5.1-channel sound from a 45-inch soundbar containing five mid-bass drivers and three dome tweeters. The soundbar is crossed over at 80Hz to a wireless subwoofer.
Monitor Audio showed several lifestyle audio products. Its new AirStream WS100 Wireless Multimedia Speaker System comes with a wireless USB dongle that communicates with two five-inch two-way cube-shaped speakers; range is 10 metres. The three-inch mid-bass drivers and 0.7-inch dome tweeters are powered separately, by 20- and 10-watt RMS amplifiers. The WS100 will be available in November for $399 per pair.
Monitor Audio's Mass 5.1-channel sub-sat system will arrive in October for $1,299. The Mass 10 satellites and Mass Centre each contain a four-inch mid-bass driver and one-inch tweeter. They're matched to a 220-watt powered sub with 10-inch long-throw woofer and 10-inch passive radiator. The satellites can be wall-mounted; floor stands with integrated wiring are also available.
Johan Coorg, Brand Ambassador for KEF, and Canadian Sales Director Ian Brown with the LS50, a monitor speaker created for KEF's 50th anniversary, and inspired by the LS3/5a BBC monitor.
Onkyo showed several wireless audio products. Arriving in Canada in October for $329, the RBX-500 iLunar Dock Music System allows audio streaming via Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, and also has a charging dock for iPhones and iPods. It contains six independently powered full-range drivers plus a downward-firing woofer, and employs a processor from Sonic Emotion in Switzerland, which Onkyo says creates a stereo effect wherever the listener is located.