CEDIA 2018

Written by B. Jan Montana

San Diego is famous as a nice place to live, mostly because of its weather.  Recently, it’s become more crowded than LA, so it’s far less nice than it used to be, but the weather is still pleasant.  Summer temperatures are moderate because of the influence of the ocean.  But the cooling off-shore flow often means fog, so mornings can be cool and damp, as it was on the first morning of the CEDIA Expo at the San Diego Convention Center ( held September 4 – 8).

The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association holds an annual show for audio/video installers and custom home integrators every year in rotating locations around the country.  This year and last year, it was in San Diego; next year, it’ll be in Denver.   It’s a great place to learn about custom home theater and home automation, but I attended from the point of view of an audiophile, and was primarily interested in audio equipment.  For me, this show was much more interesting than last year as it seemed to have twice the number of audio companies represented.  The CEDIA Show doesn’t typically attract audiophiles, but like many shows, things are changing.  If audiophiles are able to find a way to attend, I recommend it.

I generally visit this event on Thursday, when attendance is lightest, and experts like David Lavine from Monoprice has lots of time to explain things to neophytes like these two students from a local Technical college.  He spent an equal amount of time with me and I left impressed with his technical knowledge and candid responses.

Theory Audio Design from Lake Forest, California demoed a 5.2.2 system which retails for just over $10,000 including amplifiers and DSP.  I was impressed with both the sound and the value.

This is the first time I’ve seen High End audio companies like McIntosh and MBL at a CEDIA Show, which underscores the importance of Home Theater to the audio business.  The MBL demo was in stereo, and they got it right — the sound was great.

Dynaudio was out in force with one of the largest static displays at the show.

The design of Gallo’s speakers translates well to on-wall/home theater applications.

I felt that Starke had some of the best sound at the show, regardless of price.  The exhibitor in the white shirt with the girls is Dan Wiggins, another friendly, very knowledgeable engineer willing to share his wisdom and expertise.

This 160″ Samsung TV had the brightest, most vibrant colors at the show — deliberately intensified for outdoor use.  You can invite all your friends over to watch the game and beer spilled on the lawn won’t upset anyone.  The unit is fully waterproof and has two vertical hinges (visible on the back shot) allowing the screen to close on itself like window shutters.  It’s yours for just over $50,000.

Video as art.  This wall display incorporating 8 screens changed slowly and constantly to present different images over time.  It may not be Picasso, but it’s cheaper, bigger, and, I suspect, more interesting to many consumers.

Anthony Grimani, a world-renowned acoustics expert—he made an interesting presentation to the San Diego Music and Audio Guild a couple of years back— now has his own line of speakers.  This was a static display, so I didn’t get a chance to hear them, but he’ll be doing a demo for our club this winter.

Sandy Gross from Golden Ear was on hand to run the demos in the sound room behind the door.  The sound from his 9.2 system was excellent — for just over $13,000 retail (excluding electronics).

The affable designer Andrew Jones from ELAC (formerly with TAD and KEF) making a point to a potential customer.  He was so busy all of the time, I never got a chance to chat with him.

Seemed like there were a million booths offering accessories and gizmos of all types at the CEDIA show.  I’m using this photo to represent all of them as I had neither the time nor interest to investigate them.

The $800 Bose Soundbar 700 is brand new and features 7 drivers and some sophisticated engineering.

This chrome plated KEF Muon speaker made quite an impression, as did this custom LS 50.

The Focal display featured new finishes and flax/fiberglass drivers for light weight and rigidity.

This giant Sony LED screen displayed stunning resolution — the best I’ve ever seen.  Apparently, its proprietary crystal LEDs are smaller than a grain of flour.  This enables a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and very deep blacks.  The screen is assembled with 360 x 320 pixel display modules, so it can be sized according to the customer’s preference.

This is the first time I’ve seen D’Agostino products at CEDIA.

Lots of soundbars at the show.  Many of them seemed well designed, like this one from Artison, but it was impossible to assess the sound in this noisy venue.

Beautiful  marble finishes on these monitors from Truaudio.

Didn’t know CAT made speakers, but these look interesting and I’d like to hear them. [This CAT is California Audio Technology, not to be confused with longtime tube amp maker Convergent Audio Technology…which doesn’t appear to even have a website! —Ed.]

The Harman Group offered complimentary coffee and water to show goers.  This was much appreciated as the hall is huge and the food vendors are seldom nearby.  The demo in their sound room was impressive, but far too loud for many audiophiles.  It’s difficult to assess audio quality by the sound of car crashes and natural disasters, but I understand that’s what home theater professionals want to hear.

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