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Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association 2006 (CEDIA)
CEDIA 2006
Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association
Report By Bill Gaw
E-mail reporter by clicking here

  High-end audio is dead. Long live the high-end.

At least as far as the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is concerned. Why can that be said. Because in the three days of traipsing around this show of fantastic toys with all of the possible improvements they could make with audio, especially music, not once, at the few live demo’s, was there ever a mention for high end music reproduction.

All that was discussed and demonstrated was how the video, and, as second cousin the audio, would wow the customer with its effect on movie reproduction and seduce them into buying the custom made home theater with its installation costs. That’s home theater, as in movie playback rather than audio. Even at one of the best classes I’ve attended on room acoustics, where the future home theater acoustic setup men were being taught how to optimize it for sound, the emphasis was on the reproduction of movie soundtracks.

There was even a suggestion made that while testing for absolute polarity of all speakers that one test each individual driver for polarity and make sure they were all in the same phase. While it was laudable that the teacher found relative polarity essential to good sound, he felt absolute polarity, while maybe something to consider, was not necessarily very important to sound reproduction as he didn’t hear it. Only when I suggested that some speakers are made with drivers out of polarity with each other did the instructor then tell the class that they should check with the speaker manufacturer to make sure what was appropriate before opening them and changing the wiring.

The second absurd suggestion was that the best position for the front speakers would be inside the wall or on pseudo-infinite baffles with the middle speaker behind a so-called acoustically transparent screen. So much for sound stage and speaker matching.

The number one demonstration specimen, even at the other surprise show I found, (more later) was a gunfight scene from the end of the movie Open Range. While it was exciting to hear true gunshots and shotgun blasts with a great reverberant field, and even with a press badge, it was like pulling teeth to have them do a demo of music. Even then, they’d usually pull out some Music DVD using 42 mikes and tracks with the drums and horns or such in the rear channel. This surprised me as even one of the courses attended, given by DTS, emphasized that the number one priority of 67 percent of the viewing public was audio rather than video.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood. Our trip to the show had begun poorly. While our flight out of Boston was cheap at a special rate of $103 round trip (plus $46 for taxes, for my protection and to improve the amenities of the airport of course) the flight was overbooked, there was no food, blankets or pillows and only an ice cube filled glass of tomato juice. Flying isn’t what it used to be. But what do I want for that price. It wouldn’t even pay for the gas for the car trip.

On arrival at Denver, where the show is being held for the first time, there were no rental cars available at any of the agencies even though reservations had been booked by computer three months in advance. Seems none of the companies with their mega-bucks reservation systems realized there was a need for more than their standard number of cars. Of course, the folks at CEDIA had put the press contingent in the hotels farthest from both the airport and the center of Denver in Westminster, so the taxi ride cost almost as much as the plane fare. What we go through for our readers. Now I understand why our editor Steve Rochlin chose to go to the Milan, Italy meeting. Bet he’s enjoying the pasta, sights, and pretty ladies right now.

Anyway, CEDIA is an organization primarily founded for training installers of home theater how to best sell, then set up home theaters and at the same time make the most profit as possible at the least cost. At least that’s what I got from going to several demo’s. While there was professionalism shown in the workshops I attended, there was always an undertone there of how best to extract the most moolah from the customer.

Unlike the CES and other shows attended, CEDIA had no rooms set up for listening. Everything was out on three floors the size of aircraft hangars, and live demonstrations were few. As usual, Runco, Sony and Meridian had their small self contained theaters on the floor, but their demo’s were primarily video oriented. For instance, Sony had a huge area with a self-contained room showing off their Blu-Ray player and new 1080 SXRD projector. The picture was superb, almost matching what my Electrohome top of the line highly modded CRT projector can do. One little problem. There was no sound whatsoever. Of course that could be because none of the high definition players available now can play back the best that the disc can give audio-wise, but they sure can produce a great picture. Meaning, if you’re thinking of buying one of the available units from either camp, save your money for now.

To be fair, the video side was superb. The vast majority of the video monitors shown were at the maximum resolution of the high definition standard of 1080P, and most did reproduce phenomenal pictures. Unhappily, most were either silent or used built-in speakers or inexpensive audio setups. Even high end companies like Thiel, Nordost and Meridian pushed their products for movie reproduction.


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