CEDIA 2009 Show Floor Impressions 
Home Theater Feature Articles Best Of & Top 100 Lists
Written by Thomas Spurlin   
Thursday, 17 September 2009

Wandering around the show room floor at the 20th Anniversary 2009 CEDIA Expo offers a daunting experience, as turning your head 180 degrees will likely reveal no less than two new flat-panel televisions, a psychedelic set of speakers, and a super-secret enclosure available only for the elite (or, more like the patient).  New technology is spilling from the seams in brightly-light, ultra-colorful displays aiming to grab your attention in any way possible.  Underneath the glitz and glamour behind brand-spanking new electronics from major and minor labels alike, however, this expo also showcases many items that are just about to hit the market.  It is, after all, an event largely constructed to entice dealers with new retail “stuff” to offer consumers.  Let’s take a look at some of the enticing (and eyebrow-raising) flat-panel displays and Blu-ray players found on the CEDIA show floor, as well as a few exhibits that were just smashingly gawk-worthy.

Flat-panel Televisions

LG LH85 Series Wireless 120hz and LH55 240hz TrueMotion Displays

One of my favorite low-key presentations from the show was LG’s setup of their LH85 series of wireless televisions, integrated with an XBOX 360 and LG BDP-90.  The front sensor contains inputs, much like home audio/video receivers, then communicates to the sensor in (seemingly) distortion-free fashion.  In the 360, LG didn’t have Call of Duty, Halo, or any other shooter; instead, they were running Mini Ninjas, a Legend of Zelda style of platform action game.  It was impressive to see how smooth the motion was on LG’s television, and a lot of fun to see LG’s playfulness in mind with their game choice.  47” and 55” varietals are available with the wireless technology.  It’s certainly tempting to rid of the clutter.

LG LH85

Along with their wireless displays, LG also had their LH55 TrueMotion 240hz television ripe for the viewing.  On it, they had the CG-animation Ice Age to showcase its ability to handle compelling motion – and the results were convincing.  The smoothness was a difficult adjustment, but worked well with the animation.  LG’s 240hz models are available in 37”, 42”, 46”, and 55” classes, coming with 80,000:1 contrast ratio, Deep Color HDMI support through its 4 ports, and USB 2.0 connectivity.  Their largest model sits in the neighborhood of $2,600 list.  

Mitsubishi’s Beautiful 82” DLP HDTV / Link

Mitsubishi WD-82837

Though talk of LCD, foremost, and plasma television filled the halls through lectures and chatter, it goes without saying that DLP-warrior Mitsubishi still has the goods when it comes to the original large-screen television.  Though they front some prowess with their 65” DLP in 3D, discussed later, their footage of Disney’s Princess and the Frog was a delight to watch on their striking 82” WD-82837 Home Theater set.  Featuring Deep Color over HDMI, a rich 12-bit video processor, Smooth120, and a slew of upgrades to their DeepField, Sharp Edge and Noise Reduction functions, it also showcases a brand new size for Mitsubishi.  Of course, the size will come to the tune of $4999, but the breadth of its room-filling prowess really impresses.  

Panasonic’s 65” Stalwart Plasma sets

Panasonic stalwart

Stepping into Panasonic’s booth tapped into internal fandom for their products, as I’ve owned several of their home theater electronics at one time or another for several years now.  Moreover, attention naturally gravitated towards their giant Wall-o-Plasmas, including a set of staggering 65” displays.  One of the leaders in plasma technology, they continue to soldier on with the technology through their newest large-screen displays – displayed at CEDIA in both TC-P65S1 and TC-P65v10 varieties.

 

Samsung Maintains Reputation in Large-Scale LCD Battle

Samsung LN65B650

Probably the most impressive of the 65” flat-panels on display was Samsung’s 65” LN65B650 , a staggeringly gorgeous set.  They’ve integrated DLNA connectivity, a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, and 120hz motion with Samsung’s nifty Touch of Color aesthetic, it fit in splendid in a comfy, living-room style layout with other Samsung products surrounding – including a Crestron touch-screen device and slick slim-design speakers.  Though impressive, sticker shock might set in at the panel’s $6k tag.  

Sharp Aquos’ Gold Standard, and Its Upgrade / Large-Scale Siblings

Sharp 52" Aquos

Though CEDIA offers a lot of stunning larger-screen items, it was really hard for me to take my eyes off of Sharp’s 52” Aquos set, the LC-52E77UN.  Sure, it’s smaller in comparison and it’s been around for a spell; however, the overall value behind this set is impeccable, and the picture quality was truly jaw-dropping with the material displayed.  Along with 120hz motion, a 4ms response time, its ASV anti-glare panel, pitch-dark blacks, and both a PC jack and plenty of HDMI ports, it’s a steal at under $1900.  

Sharp D85UN

Sharp, however, has also taken their LCD-panels a step further with their D85UN series.  It carries a 10-Bit ASV display, as well as the Spectral Contrast Engine for extra-dark blacks and Optical Picture control.  Their prowess was on display linked up to a watt meter head-to-head with another of Sharp’s models, easily bested by the D85UN’s crispness and color replication.  

Sharp 65" Aquos

Far be it for sharp to let the pack run away with all the attention in the 65” display department.  They also gave quite an ample show with their LC-65E77UM display, which carries over many of the great things from Aquos’ 52”-inch set for a larger display.  At $4500, it’s certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with in this new patch of larger flat-panel displays, especially when in direct competition with the pricier yet heavily impressive Samsung model.  

Sony’s BRAVIA XBR10 – A Kitchen Sink

Sony XBR10

Many technologies were brought to the forefront at CEDIA, but Sony’s 52” XBR10 throws them all together with dramatic appeal – and, interesting, right at the front of the expo’s show’s floor.  Featuring edge-lit LED optic lighting effect and an extremely thin base, its attractiveness almost marries perfectly with its prowess as a flat-panel display.  It’s in the 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 240hz Motionflow movement enhancement, and the fact that it’s all transmitted wirelessly to a 1080p set that makes it all somewhat daunting as a home theater device.  Bear in mind that this hearty panel will also take a hearty chunk out of your wallet, as this Swiss Army style of LCD will run you $4999.99.  Ouch, but wow.   

Toshiba REGZA in 240hz Motion


The crispness of 240hz technology was almost as strong as a buzz topic as the 3D gimmick at CEDIA, but on a more practical level.  Though other setups were more on the creative side, Toshiba’s REGZA ZV650 really stood out with fluid motion in practical application.  Coming in tow with their ClearScan 240 functionality and DeepLagoon,  Their models are available in smaller diagonal screen sizes currently, from 42” to the newly-fangled 54” display.


Blu-ray Players

HDi Dune’s Blu-ray Player

Taking a quick look at HDi Dune’s BD-Prime 3.0 player’s specs is enough to quickly impress, but glancing  deeper at its capabilities opens up a world of possibilities.  Along with full 1080p, bitstreaming  support for Blu-ray discs on a Profile 2.0 level, it also works as a jack-of-all-trades as a media hub for playing numerous video files – and successfully.  It utilizes Sigma Design 8642 processor (http://sigmadesigns.com/public/Products/SMP8640/pdf_files/bluray8642_br.pdf) , offers analog output, supports an unfathomable amount of files, and makes a USB port available on the side for other files.  Along with that, it also boasts support for BitTorrent and Samba, as well as wireless connectivity. At a list of $500, it looks to be running neck and neck with the yet-to-be-beat Onkyo BDP-1.  

Integra DBS 30.1

Integra DBS 30.1

A veteran to CEDIA, audio-savvy Integra (Onkyo) brought their DBS 30.1 to the expo.  At first glace, it appears to be a capable player – Blu-ray 2.0, 192/24-bit Audio DACs, RS-232 capable, bitstreaming functionality, and Deep Color capacity.  It also sports an SD reader on the front, for easy media accessibility.  It doesn’t sport analog jacks to the rear, an odd decision considering the brand’s typical focus on higher-end pieces.  It’ll be worth keeping an eye on the quality of this unit though, if it keeps up with the label’s ability to handle musical elements.  

Lexicon’s THX-optimized BD-30 Blu-ray Player

Lexicon BD30

Typically more geared towards amplifiers and music processors, award-winning Lexicon unveiled their THX-optimized Blu-ray player for viewing at CEDIA.  Sporting a solid silver chassis and clear blue readouts, it comes built with Anchor Bay’s VRS processor – the same processor Onkyo used for their flagship Blu-ray player.  But Lexicon has a motivator behind its allure;  along with boasting reference-level visual quality, they’re also touting lightning fast loading times.  Analog 7.1 functionality, a front-packed USB storage port, and PAL/NTSC playability with just about everything – which it should, with a sticker price at $3,500 to cover all the fine engineering underneath the hood.

NAD’s T 577

NAD T577

Audiophile preamp/speaker producer NAD’s booth was littered with their tried-and-true repertoire of fantastic audio equipment, but they also had some rather intriguing home theater pieces that really gravitated my interest. While NAD might have been teasing with their flagship M56 Masters Series item, it was their T577 that drew attention on the floor.  Sporting the label’s sleek design, it boasts all the buzzwords regarding solidity behind Blu-ray playback – 1080p playback, support for Deep Color / xvYCC color space, decoding of advanced audio – it also boasts wireless connectivity for media streaming and high rate playback for 192/24hz audio DAC and 148/12hz video DAC.  Moreover, it also emphasizes the fact that their load / tray / reaction times with be extremely fast.  As an entry in their theater series – which also boasted several very attractively-featured receivers – it comes with a slightly lower sticker price than their flagship player, with a current list of $999.  

Sharp BD-8P52U Blu-ray Player

Sharp BD-8P52U

With an attractively-lit blue dial to the front, Sharp unveiled their newest model BD-8P52U Blu-ray player at CEDIA.  Along with 1080p functionality, offering RS-232, and  being a BD-Live Profile 2.0  player, it also should be able to stream films directly from Netflix.  It looks a lot like Sharp’s sister unit, the HP22U that was positioned nearby, and offers the same AQUOS Pure Mode / Live Control options.  Pricing hovers close to the $400 mark, but it looks like this play might very well be worth the money for the quality.

Pioneer’s Blu-ray Line, including their Flagship BDP-09FD

Pioneer BDP-09FD

As I’ll discuss later on, one of my favorite high-profile presentations at CEDIA was Pioneer’s impressive demo in their ultra-posh enclosure.  Inside, they had a plethora of behind-the-scenes gadgets put in place, including usage of their reference BDP-09FD Blu-ray player.  It’s expensive, at $2,200, which is why the line also offers a few other models at easier-to-digest prices – including their rather impressive BDP-120.  However, this beauty really ears its weight as a full-fledged, brawny 1080p Blu-ray beauty; with Jitter Free audio transmission, a dedicated audio analog power supply, 16-bit video processing, and 4GB of internal memory, the attention spent to fine detail can easily be seen in this player.  

Toshiba’s First Blu-ray Player, BDx2000

Toshiba BDx2000

As the first Blu-ray player to come out the new-defunct HD-DVD champion brand, Toshiba brought their BDx2000 to CEDIA with quite a bit of intrigue behind its release.  It’s boasting full functionality, with Profile 2.0 options, 1080p at 24frames per second and support for high-resolution audio functions in tow.  Along with that, it also will offer the availability to link up with other Toshiba REGZA items in your home theater via HDMI CEC and handle AVCHD.  That, however, is mostly handled by its competition, but Toshiba will come out swinging with a $250 price tag to come in direct competition with Panasonic and Sony’s players.  HD-DVD compatibility is doubtful, but we all can hope, right?

 

Sony’s 400-disc Blu-ray player, the BDP CS 7000EX

 

Sony 400 disc blu-ray
On a central display similar to their stalwart flat-panel television, Sony also zeroed focus on a large item – their multi-disc Blu-ray unit.  Along with the display pictured, they had a second display that showed six rows of Blu-ray cases stacked one after the other to illustrate the magnitude of this unit.   It’s a beast, measuring about the height that you’d expect a receiver / standard Blu-ray deck to sit, but it’s an attractively-designed beast. It also streams DTS Master Audio / Dolby TrueHD, offers 7.1 analog jacks, 14-bit video processing, Sony’s XMB (CrossMediaBar) for ease of navigation, and the availability for dynamic searxhing of artists and title once the discs are loaded into the unit.  Fear not, there’s also a “rental slot” for quick one-in, one-out usage.  Though expensive at first glance ($1,899), it looks to be well worth the investment.

 

Yamaha BD-S1065

Yamaha BD-S1065

Along the same lines as the Lexicon, Yamaha has decided to hop into the Blu-ray format with a highly-integrated player geared towards audiophiles -- offering capacity for 192khz/24-bit DAC and USB integration for audio files.  Along with 1080p/24hz functionality and x.v. Deep Color, it also offers GUI tailoring, HDMI CEC interconnectivity, and Yamaha’s SCENE option.  It also should function with just about any form of audio disc media, from retail Blu-rays and CDs to CD/DVDR+.  It’ll be worth seeing what Yamaha has in store for video / audio aficionados with their player, currently stickered at $599.


Eye-Catching Attractions

Burmester Booth

Burmester

Those who only gravitated around the primary C-hall at CEDIA might have missed something extremely neat over in the adjacent B-hall, all the way to the back of the booths.  Assumedly due to the lack of opportunity to get it into the main hall, Burmester schlepped an absolutely stunning 2010 Porsche Panamera.  Why, you might ask, did audio experts Burmester bring this automobile to the electronics expo?  It’s simple: the extremely high-end audio company will be offering a Burmester speaker / amp package in the Panamera.  Burmester played their cards right at the booth; just as they had a fair number of visitors hovering around the beautiful car, they displayed an incredible performance disc to showcase their impeccable reference equipment.   You’ll get a few chills at the pricetag for the home audio sound setups – a full rig with preamp, CD player, and speakers running about the same sticker price as purchasing the car – but the potency behind its quality was nearly unmatched.

Crestron – EVERYWHERE

It was pretty much impossible to go anywhere without running into something involving Crestron, the ever-impressive automated touch-sensor solution.  Specializing in bringing luxury to the home in something only imagined in science-fiction films many years back, the company specialized in making curtains, air conditioning units, and lighting adjustable with the touch of a finger on a pad, along with all-centered automation for home theater equipment.  Their name could be spotted near several products, prominently seen positioned against the Samsung LCD discussed in the flat-panel section of this write-up, but the big surprise was their central booth – a brightly lit, highly impressive central area showcasing their entire range of tech.  

D-BOX – Like DUALSHOCK for Your Body

Dbox booth

Interactivity between the audience is becoming more and more significant to the home experience, evident by the focus on 3D technology scattered about CEDIA’s halls.  There’s another up-and-coming technology that’s been gaining speed as of late on home media releases, in the form of motion-enhancing D-BOX functionality.  At the convention, the company showcased all three of their tech varieties – home thater seats, gaming chairs, and actual home theater seats – and the results weren’t all that shabby.  Of course, the gaming chairs were a riot among all that tried them; however, when planted in front of the screen for both theater and home seats, the implementation felt pretty sound.  Tilts, rumbles, and mild vibrations reminded me a bit of the now-defunct Body Wars attraction at Epcot, but to a less jerky degree.  Purists will have issues with being moved around during films, but the gaming application during racing simulators is a natural fit.

JVC’s Paper-Thin Thin 32” LCD

JVC 32" LCD

Alright, it’s not exactly paper thin, but it’s hard to take your eyes off of JVC’s ultra-slim LCD television.  The 32WX50 sits at ¼” wide and offers 4,000:1 contrast differential, but it’s not without a price.  JVC’s press release indicated that this 32” television will be around $3000, which is awfully steep for such a marginal screen.  Still, the presentation of its slim nature is more than enough to turn a head or two.

Mitsubishi’s 3D Display

3D technology was around every corner at the expo, with impressive turns from Sony and Panasonic to solider the way.  But I found myself most impressed with Mitsubishi’s at-home application of the technology, spread out on their 65” Laservue DLP (L65-A90) with comfy couches and chairs set in front.  Their demo unit featured footage from Coraline (and others), an item that has already been presented from Universal in 3D Blu-ray to very, very headache-inducing levels.  Showcasing this feature tied in my experience with that disc, and then blew it out of the water; instead o the jarred green-and-purple unattractiveness, it offers a smooth and colorful presentation with surprisingly tangible results. Iin comparison to the other 3D offerings at CEDIA, this one felt surprisingly smooth and, with lack of better words to use, the most “dimensional”.  Their proficiency isn’t much of a surprise though, since Mitsubishi have been developing the 3D technology for several years now.  

Panasonic’s 103” Plasma

Panasonic 103"

Along with their more “practica” plasmas, Panasonic also brought one of their stars to CEDIA – their massive, highly impressive 103” plasma television.  It’s amazing how 65” screens were dwarfed by this piece of equipment, which can contain the likes of 250 Universal remotes safely into the width of the screen.  It included over 4,000 shades of gradation fill its seven-foot-plus width, which certainly stands as a monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey proportions.  Just make sure you have some help handy to mount it since, well, the thing nearly dials in at a quarter of a ton (486 pounds).  

Pioneer’s Presentation of footage from Disney’s Tron Legacy

Pioneer Tron

Behind dark closed doors with a small line waiting outside, Pioneer ushered in patient CEDIA attendees as they found their seats in a custom-built acoustic mini-theater.  After a quick speech on what they’d be hearing, Pioneer’s demo presentation of their high-end equipment began with discussions from music producers and composers alike that discuss the importance of audio equipment to their respective trades.  All of this was on one of Pioneer’s ELITE panels; then, a projector screen toppled down, and the small audience was treated to a home-theater showcase of footage from Tron: Legacy – the same teaser footage shown at San Diego Comic Con.  With a well-equipped theater setup in tow – including four (4) subwoofers, sound-equalizing panels, and several wall-mounted speakers -- the demo offered a thunderous and beautifully-rendered home theater experience.  “Cool” is an understatement.  

Panamorph’s Presentation of Speed Racer Footage

Warner Bros’ Blu-ray of Speed Racer is known by many home theater enthusiasts as one of the premiere visual demo discs out there for its loud colors and ravishing detail.  Naturally, presenting it as a demo for a projector was a natural fit, but Panamorph’s pro-grade expansion lens demo showcases how beautiful the marriage between projector tech and 2.40:1 material can be.  Using an easy-to-slide toggle to show the before and after elements of the lens, it showcased how It shifts from being in 16x9 mode to “True Widescreen”.  Waltzing around their booth during their intermittent demos gave me the opportunity to see the Michael Bay signed letter of approval for Panamorph’s tech (pictured). 

Terra’s All-Weather Speakers

Throwing together water, ice, and electrical equipment sounds like a nightmare for anyone with a mind for electronics.  However, the folks at Terra Speakers not only laugh at this fear, but put them all front-and-center for us to witness at CEDIA.  Featuring one of the more mind-boggling offerings at the expo, they featured several water-drenched displays – including one with a puddle of water sitting directly in the cone, another with a speaker completely surrounded in ice – to showcase their true testament to “water-proof” and “all-terrain” prowess.  Though outdoor loudspeakers exist, Terra’s come with a Limited Lifetime Warranty that shows their pride behind their products.

Toshiba LED and Microsoft’s Xbox 360

Toshiba Xbox 360

Though it’s little more than a minor notice in my part, it was fun seeing Microsoft show off their XB360 hooked up to Toshiba LED televisions.  It brings back memories of HD-DVD’s heyday, specifically the Advanced Interactivity Consortium (AIC) geared towards the integration of using the now-failed -- but fondly remember, and still heavily used – high-definition platform.  


Final Impressions

CEDIA 2009 showcases twenty years of refined measures taken towards building a streamlined yet exciting trade show.  Each of the larger labels had their eye-catching moments, boasting attractive designs to their setups that really brought attention to the right products.  Buzzwords flew about in conversations like bullets (both in positive and in the negative “gun it down” fashion), from the uniqueness of 240hz motion replication to whether 3D technology would become something of an enduring element in the home theater spectrum.  

But even with the companies touting their best and brightest with new techs, it also stood as a satisfying showroom forum to compare and contrast the more “accessible” pieces to come.  Flat panels littered the walls everywhere, while video player upon player levitated below or to the side of their product specs.  With 65” panels becoming the big selling point in displays, wireless video tech reaching the point of adoption, and a slew of Blu-ray players looking to wedge into several respective markets – the audiophile, the high-end connoisseur, and the tried-and-true second / third adoption runs for the less expensive market – CEDIA offered a clear look into what the next year has to offer.  The result, after soaking in the cornucopia of options crammed into the Georgia World Congress Center, is best classified as “individualized” to just about any and all needs of the home theater lover. 






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