CEDIA Expo 2006
Denver Show
September 14th-17th, 2006

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All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.





Best Video Front Projectors of Show

1. Meridian / Faroudja's 1080p D-ILA projector

2., 3. (Tie) Sony VW100 and Optoma HD81


Best LCD Flat Screen of Show
(These are all really good - could be a 3-way tie)

1. Fijitsu Adiamo

2. Sony XBR

3. NDVision


Best Rear Projector Set of Show

1. Sony SXRD (is there another? :-)


Best Home Theater Audio of Show

<None. Sorry but really, use the little speakers in your set - it'll be better for your ears and more enjoyable than the way these systems were set up. Ugh.>

See Below for the Detailed Reviews



Best Video at T.H.E. Show

1. Professional Home Cinema / BAT room (the DLP projector does not have a logo in my single picture of it. It wasn't all that great, it was just the best they had at this 'auxiliary show')


Best Home Theater Audio at T.H.E. Show

1. Magnepan speakers with Conrad Johnson and McCormack(?) electronics

2. NOLA speakers with Plinius amplification

3. Professional Home Cinema speakers with BAT amplification

The reviews of the systems at T.H.E. Show





Welcome to the CEDIA Expo 2006 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver Colorado. Temperatures varied between 60 and 90 degrees outside and between 75 and Too Hot to Touch inside.




If you are like this bear cub, wanting to get in and see all the brand new toys for video fan-at-ics, well don't feel too bad: even the lucky ones able to get inside found it very hard to see everything, hear everything and talk to everyone worth seeing, hearing and talking to.

It was our first show, and we expected a short, sweet '3-hour tour'... but instead it turned into something closer to a '5-year mission to explore strange new' ...well not so strange at all - but if you can remember being in, say, Torys-R-Us before they got big and boring, when they had skinny isles and tall rows of shelves packed with electric trains and army men - and you can remember how you felt? Well, this was like that.

Only it is more dangerous because we are credit-card wielding kids now....




Our first demo was a JL Audio.

We. Want. To. Hear. The. Gotham.




This is the Gotham. It is a Subwoofer. Pee your pants yet? No? Well let's see a few more photos ....



















































Here we see what we have been looking at. JL Audio makes several subs - and they all look, uh, impressive. [Actually, subs often look staggeringly dangerous - other subsonic WMD are Krell and Wilson Audio subs].




This is the only photo we have of the JL Audio demo booth. Demo booths are dark. AKA pain-in-the-butt to photograph.

The front end consists of a Halcro surround processor and... I don't remember.

Loudspeakers were JL Audio for the midrange and above and JL Audio Gotham subwoofers. Several Gotham subwoofers.

We saw a clip from ... oh I forgot the name, about the cartoon secret agent woman who wears very tight clothes but the movie sucks and I ain't seem to find it on Amazons top 100 - so...

The midrange and above sound was harsh, uneven, lacking subtlety or richness. The bass... seems a little soft to me - not that it wasn't LOUD and POWERFUL, but I did not stop and start as quick as I would have liked. Maybe it was the 3 demo tracks we heard all had kind of blumpy bass tracks - but this overly round bass was a concern we had.

Another concern was the disconnect between the bass and the rest of the frequencies. It was not so much a directional disconnect - often a problem with sound systems (there was any directionality here to speak of, similar to most HT sound systems at this show) - but a disconnect in time. The bass was a little early or late compared to the rest of the frequencies. Not sure what the cause of this was - but it was a very distracting flaw in this room at this demo.




After the demo in the JL Audio booth we ran into this exploded view of a JL Audio subwoofer in a glass case. Must say that build quality and fit and finish here is top notch. I would also say that you get a freaking lot for your money - looking at all the pieces and parts in the following photos.




























All this time you have been looking at the innards of a Fathom subwoofer - one of their smaller subwoofers.

I think a person could come to find themselves falling in love with and starting to collect a lot of really cool subwoofers.




The next demo was the Meridian / Faroudja demonstration. Sorry for the lousy photos of the projector.













This is the stack of equipment that was used in the demonstration room.




After the demo, this is the screen that was shown as everybody left the room.


OK, let's start with the video performance. It was awesome. At least from the fifth or sixth row. There was an extreme amount of detail - but it did not come off as looking artificial. The colors were also excellent and everything had a very solid look to it.

If I remember correctly we saw iRobot, a Norah Jones clip from the Jay Leno Show, and a few other clips. There is some confusion on my part about what the source actually was during the clips - but I believe they played a lot of HD. Maybe it is just me but some of these demonstrations seem to talk really fast during the part where they mention the source of the content we are going to see - but I don't care. As long as the projector is stock equipment (hope so!) then they can do whatever they want upstream to make it look good, IMHO.

After everything we saw, I think this was the best video of the show. At $20K+ without HDMI inputs (according to it is a little pricey. The fan noise was also a little disturbing - I was maybe 6 feet away from being right underneath it and it was intruding on the sweet delicate parts of the movie clips.


The had the big Meridian loudspeakers across the front - one center, two front channels if I remember correctly (sorry, no pictures). The sound, typical of other demonstrations we we to hear at the show - was very midrange challenged. This was also one of the more offensive sounding rooms - by which I mean I had to grit my teeth (my Dentist is going to kill me) during the loud parts which had lots of sound in the midrange frequencies.

The midrange not only collapses into a wall of sound - but the structure of all the notes seem to be robbed of all harmonic content, with very sharp attacks and decays, so it ends up sounding like some piece of large machinery which is falling apart, many pieces colliding with others in this kind of Oh My God Let's Get Out of Here Before She Blows, Captain! way. The midrange was similar in the Sony / Wilson and Runco / Krell rooms.

The bass was present but not impressive. The sound had little Emotionality or Enjoyability.

One thing it seems these HT installer constructed systems try and do well is create a big 'wall of sound'. This so when something impressive happens in a movie, the listener is impressed sonically as well as visually and mentally (by the story line itself). They do this well.





Sony was next. These next demonstrations were on the last day - everything has had a chance to warm up and settle in, right? So they should sound and look their best.

This rear-projection TV was... uh... nice. All the SXRD rear-projection TVs are darn good looking if you can put up with the one and a half foot deep cabinet and the weight. I waaaaaaant it - but it is really impractical for our living space.




These are some photos of the new Sony 1080p VW50 $5K front-projector.












Both the VW50 and VW100 (below, also 1080p at twice the list price) had their own rooms. They let you walk right into the VW50 room whereas the VW100 had staged demos (we had to go back four times at least in order to catch one of these, what a PITB). We went to the VW50 demo room right before and right after the VW100 demo.

The VW50 demo (sorry, no pictures) was on a smaller screen(60 inches wide?). In comparison with the VW100, the grays were missing in action as were subtleties in shading in the other colors. There was also more noise in the picture in this room, IMHO, in the form of static-like ants in the swaths of very light colors like, for example, blue sky.

That said, the images were crisp and rich and if we hadn't seen the VW100, we would (we did!) say who could want more than this (at this price range)? But the VW100 street price is around $7.5K and it is going to take awhile for the VW50 street prices to come down to a likely $3.5K




The now venerable VPL-VW100 Sony projector.




The new Sony BDP-S1 second generation Blu-ray disc player to be at your video toy mart soon. This was used in both Sony projector demos.
















Transparent cabling was used.




























The demonstration of the Sony VW100 was on a larger screen than that of the VW50 - about 110 inches would be my guess. The front loudspeakers were Wilson Watt / Puppy (7s, or 8s?), and the side (and presumably the rear) speakers were the Wilson Watt. On the left there is the Wilson subwoofer. We sat 2nd row center.


Video was darn good - competent - everything seemed to be well-balanced. Grays and blacks were good, not very much noise in the light parts of the picture, good color delineation and saturation. For awhile we were toying with getting the VW50 instead of this, but no longer. There is a visible difference between the two.

One of the top 3 video demonstrations.


Can you say sssssssssssssibilance? [Sibilance is characteristically when a human voice says an 's', there is a short, sharp, ... well, it appears to be a rapid rise in volume and compression at that moment such that the 's' resonates in one's ear, almost like someone whistling in your ear, and causing one to wince, grit one's teeth). Listening to systems like this becomes an exercise in dodging those certain frequencies, shying away from listening deeply and in a relaxed manner to the sound track. Oh... here it comes... he is going to say a word with a 's' in it... Argh!!!!!

But seriously, it was not just 's' frequencies, but many midrange frequencies. This was a very bright-sounding presentation. The characteristically 'hi-fi sound' and overly hot midrange of Wilson Audio speakers was very much in evidence here - something which we have not heard from Wilson in a couple of years (yes, folks, this was just like the bad-old-days).

For music, I want the subwoofer to blend so well into the rest of the music that I do not even know if it is there. For video, I want it to smack me upside the head. The subwoofer here was acting more like it was in the music mode than the video mode.





The next demonstration we got was at the Optoma booth with the HD81.

I wasn't familiar with Optoma before this - and I thought that this projector was more in the line of $20K - $30K like Sim2 projectors than the $6K it apparently actually really sells for.
























We don't have pictures of the demo room, darn it, so hopefully these of the projector will suffice.


The Optoma demo was unique in that the screen size was large, VERY large. 15 (FIFTEEN) feet wide. We sat in the 2nd or 3rd row, 10 to 12 feet away from the screen, and had to move our eyes left and right to see the whole picture. We watched about 15 minutes of 'Phantom at the Opera'.

Did not see hardly any noise, no pixelization, colors were good and well-differentiated. Jeez, I spent a lot of my time wondering at the directors choice of camera focus; sometimes they would focus on the guy NEXT TO the guy doing the talking. You can really 'see into' a picture this large - and it was probably too large for the room, but ... Wahooooo! it was big and glorious.

Were they doing some magic behind the scenes to get this performance? I do not know. But this projector has to be on the list now up there with the Sony VW100. In fact... well, we'll see. Word on the street is that this is noisy at about 30dB compared to the Sony at 22dB.


Well, ... hey, it wasn't offensive! But it wasn't really doing anything either. The front channel appeared to be turned off, and the small side-channels were doing all the work. So there wasn't really any audio per se in this room at all - just enough to give one a feel for what was going on in the movie.




DreamVision was our next stop on the demo tour. A number of high-end audio shops (but not us) carry the DreamVision projector, both because of its analog-like picture and its ability to operate with little fan noise.




I like these demos (Optoma, Sony VW50, DreamVision) where you can just go in and see what it what and not wait in some line like high-end video-loving cattle.




The associated equipment for this demo.




The DreamVision CinemaTEN'80 projector.




They were playing the Bad Boys II DVD in this room.


Unfortunately, the video appeared to be 720p or something, and frankly, just didn't compare at all well to all the 1080p we have been seeing at the show. Large pixels, very dark grays (though one side of the booth was open to the outside, so some washing out of the grays was going to occur anyway.


The audio was so-so, competent but not in any way Emotional or Enjoyable. Kind of mid-fi actually. Still, it wasn't offensive like the megabuck setups at this show.




The last video demo we saw at the main CEDIA show was Runco projectors. After waiting 20 minutes in line (we must of just missed getting in to an earlier demo) we got in. Yay! Nice seats, double Yay!








There was D-BOX seating in the Runco demo.








Part of the demonstration was the automatic insertion of a corrective anamorphic lens and the changing of the screen dimensions from 16x9 to 2.35 so their would not be any 'bars' on the top and bottom of the screen when playing movies (in this case Star Wars III).

Personally, I'd take the larger screen and live with bars on the sides if I have to (but usually I'm OK with Fat World for non-movies like the X-Files DVD collection)








Krell loudspeakers and presumably, amplification, Runco projector, D-Box seating


We saw Dianna Krall Live and the afore-mentioned Star Wars III in the beginning where Anakin crash lands half of Grievous' starship. Also a clip of a movie with an AI fighter jet gone AWOL.

The video was OK. It wasn't really drawing attention to itself one way or the other. The level of detail and colors were just so so.


Another expensive audio system that sucks. During parts of the scene where the AI fighter jet ignites in mid-air a bunch of fuel leaking from a re-fuelling tanker - there were so many midrange problems that objectively it sounded like pure noise. There was NO information contained in the sound - just loud random spikes in amplitude impinging on our ears and enjoyment of the movie (although the confrontational scene in the movie seemed forced and it is one DVD I am NOT going to rush out and order).

The bass SEEMED to be OK but it is hard to tell. Why? Because these D-Box Chairs, if you do not know it, move back and forth and vibrate and tilt and they usually do this in response to bass in the soundtrack and I found it darn distracting ... :-) But I think this demo had the best bass at the show in terms of enhancing the movie experience without going either overboard nor wimping out.





'Til next year then, ...




We'll ALL be on the outside looking in.







Copyright Audio Federation, Inc.. All rights reserved.
All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.

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