The following comments are the observations of CEDIA's blogging team and do not reflect the position of the association.
Every year since 1990, home technology professionals have gathered at CEDIA EXPO to not only learn the latest tricks of the trade but also to witness the latest and greatest home automation and entertainment products on the planet.
This year's show, which brought nearly 500 exhibitors and 18,500 attendees to Denver in September, demonstrated that the future of home tech is as bright as ever. So bright that it continues to amaze even those who design and install state-of-the-art automation and entertainment systems for a living.
Let's take a look at some of the products and trends that made headlines at CEDIA EXPO 2014.
Home Theater Reaches New Heights
Just when you thought home theater couldn't get any better, along comes Dolby Atmos surround sound. Hailed by industry insiders as the most significant advance in home audio since the advent of surround sound more than 20 years ago, Atmos was the big story at CEDIA EXPO 2014 with more than a dozen brands demonstrating Atmos-enabled home theater receivers, processors, and speakers.
The buzz was so pervasive that showgoers waited in long lines to experience Atmos in home theater settings. With rare exception, attendees walked away from demos like kids leaving a candy store, chattering enthusiastically about the lifelike nature of the soundtracks they heard.
CEDIA EXPO attendees waited in long lines to experience the Dolby Atmos surround sound.
In contrast to traditional channel-based surround sound - 5.1 being the most common - Dolby Atmos is an "object-based" format that enables mixing engineers to place sounds anywhere, rather than having to rely on a specific number of discrete sound channels. The most distinctive aspect of an Atmos setup is the use of overhead speakers - or "Atmos-enabled speakers" that bounce sound off the ceiling - to achieve a realistic multidimensional space with sounds coming from every direction.
An Atmos competitor even emerged at EXPO. Belgium-based Auro Technologies dazzled showgoers with an 11.1-channel "immersive sound" demo of its Auro-3D format. Unlike Dolby, which is targeting a broad base of consumers, the first Auro-3D-capable consumer products are aimed at a high-end clientele. (Tour an award-winning Auro-3D home theater here.)
In-wall speakers have been a staple at CEDIA EXPO since the beginning, and this year's show was no exception. Dozens upon dozens of in-wall/ceiling models were introduced, many touting refinements that make them easier to install or more inconspicuous.
One company even demonstrated an in-ceiling "subwoofer/satellite" system with speakers that resemble small-aperture downlights. Another company showed on-wall speakers camouflaged as wall art, while startup Revolution Acoustics demonstrated an invisible speaker scheme that creates "whole-room sweet spots" when a "multifunction transducer" less than 3 inches in diameter is attached to any wall.
Revolution Acoustics' "invisible audio" system creates "whole room sweet spots" of sound using small, multifunction transducers that attach to the wall.
4K Ultra HD TV on the Big Screen
Video is another mainstay of EXPO, although, unlike CES which is dominated by flat-screen HDTVs, the spotlight was on two-piece projection systems that presented images on movie-theater-like screens in lush Ultra HD 4K resolution, which is four times that of standard HDTV. The biggest news in projection TV, though, was a new breed of projector demonstrated by Epson that uses laser illumination instead of a traditional lamp. The upshot: there's no bulb to replace.
Despite the preoccupation with projection, LG used CEDIA EXPO to showcase new flagship TVs: An ultra-wide (2.35:1) 4K Ultra HD set with a curved 105-inch screen and show-stopping 65- and 77-inch Ultra HD OLED TVs that present mouth-watering images in 4K Ultra HD resolution.
LG's 4K Ultra HD OLED TV combines the best of two worlds - 4K UHD resolution and OLED image technology.
On the 4K Ultra HD content front, Sony announced that future versions of its 4K media player will be compatible with other brand TVs, which is good news for anyone who owns an 4K Ultra HD TV. The server provides access to more than 200 high-resolution movies and is equipped to stream 4K programming from Netflix.
The Wireless Future
The trend toward all things wireless was hard to miss. On the portable side, well-known audio companies - Denon and Polk among them - trotted out high-performance speakers designed to go head to head with wireless music pioneer Sonos.
At the other end of the spectrum, Danish trendsetter Bang & Olufsen fired up its latest BeoLab series speakers to demonstrate the virtues of wireless technology in a high-end home theater setting; the speakers are based on the WiSA standard that's gaining momentum in the market. The demo was impressive for its lack of speaker wire as well as its lack of noise and interference.
To learn more about the latest home automation and entertainment options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.