It seems like we live in seasons of trade shows. We go from CES to NSCA to NAB to InfoComm, and now to the season of CEDIA! We have the spectacle of CES, the ability to really communicate at NSCA, the technical frenzy at NAB, and the focus on technologies, market niches, and education at InfoComm. So what about CEDIA?
CEDIA is the newest of our "holidays" and is similar in some respects to each of the aforementioned events. They certainly represent technologies, and the show is small enough to communicate openly with the exhibitors and training is omnipresent in most, if not all, of our events. So what is unique? The attendees at CEDIA are focused more than any other group on the details and quality of technology performance at the highest levels. They live and breathe differentiation in every aspect of what they do. Good enough never is, and the search for excellence is ongoing.
Talk to a group of InfoComm attendees, and they will talk about solutions. Talk to a group of CEDIA attendees, and they immediately compare notes on the smallest detail of a given product and figure out ways to make this differentiation a part of the buying decision. Corporate customers generally could not care less about a dB here and a gold connector there. They just want the system to work as designed. The home-theater customer takes joy in each specification like a person with a 25-jewel watch who lords it over the person wearing quartz accuracy.
These are points of passion and ownership at the elemental level mirrored by those who serve this community. They engineer, design, and calibrate everything. This all harkens back to the old days in commercial AV when CRT projectors ruled and each part of a system needed to be tweaked.
I am not saying that commercial AV, pro audio, and broadcast do not care about details and excellence in design, only that the end game is different. These groups do not spend countless hours mulling over oxygenated cables built in vacuum chambers for dB readings that defy the laws of physics and $500,000 speakers that I personally cannot differentiate from the "cheap" stuff at $200,000. CEDIA is the bastion in my opinion where the ultimate performance of each component rules in every category.
This is where Joe Kane, the author of Digital Video Essentials, lives, and even the casual observer or listener cannot fail to be impressed with what he knows about display calibration and images on screen. This is the arena for ISF calibration that guarantees maximum screen performance with regular visits or tweaks as I fondly remember them. This is THX country where their testing and approvals matter. This is about excellence in every aspect, regardless of price. The proof of my opinion rests with the manufacturers who serve the CEDIA community. For those who have not been to this show in recent years, let me tell you that it is not a rehash of InfoComm, NSCA, or even CES.
Do a little research on "home theater" displays and you will see that many products are designed specifically for the expectations (performance demands) of this market. On the display side, look at companies like Runco, SIM2, Pioneer, Panasonic, Brillian, and JVC, just to name a few. One of the best display technologies in the world is LCoS, yet on the commercial AV side it is a niche player and on the CEDIA side it is looked at with reverence because of its performance. Joe Kane just helped design a new DLP projector from Samsung, and it has one of the best-looking pictures I have ever seen below $30,000. Oops, it "only" has 800 lumens and requires a home theater setting with controlled light to appreciate the image in all its majesty so it has not sold well against the little 1,500-plus lumen conference models out there. If possible, take a look at a Pioneer Elite Plasma next to standard models from some of the biggest manufacturers in the world and enjoy the differences.
We cannot forget projection screens in our search for excellence. I just came back from Stewart Filmscreen and its home-cinema-training course. A nice piece of fabric cut from a roll and put in a metal case? Not even. Handmade, optical layering, image tuning, and 100 percent inspection of each screen is the rule of the day at Stewart. Does it make a difference? In side-by-side tests against a run of the mill screen each utilizing current types of home cinema projectors, my answer is a resounding yes. Once again, there is an acceptable level, and then there is the pinnacle.
On the audio side, companies like Klipsch, Bose, and JBL are the "affordable" foundations of the market with lesser-known companies like Tru Audio filling in the voids. But be aware that the upper atmosphere is populated by companies so exclusive that some have unlisted phone numbers! For speakers, go look at and test "drive" Mark Levinson, Wilson, Vanderstine, or MBL to drop a few prominent names. These are not going into the conference room at work nor even the vast majority of high-end boardrooms. Be aware that you may have to knock on the dealer's door, and a person will open it a crack and ask for the password but the experience may be life changing for those of us used to ceiling speakers or home theaters in a box. For amplification with specifications performance beyond the scope of mere mortals, listen to your dream speakers amplified by VAC, B&W, Krell, and Rotel. There is jug wine that can be acceptable, and Opus 1, which is an experience. Pick one.
We would be remiss if we did not mention cables and connectors. People like Liberty Wire & Cable, Belden, and others provide a great deal of the cable infrastructure out there, and it performs very well. Well, not so fast, you home-theater aficionados, remember that good enough never is. How about companies like Monster Cable and Tributaries to name a couple that challenge the laws of physics in their cable and connector offerings guaranteeing that the cable and connectors will never be the weak link in your systems. There is one company out there that actually offers cable at $1,600 per foot and claim they can prove the value. I promise to follow up on that one.