CEDIA Expo 2014 Wrap Up
CEDIA Expo is the trade show for the custom electronics industry. As with most trade shows, manufacturers create booths where they demo their latest products and solutions. In this and possibly a few future entries, I’ll discuss a few of the interesting products I saw.
Two major themes of this show were 4K video and Dolby Atmos. Both are interesting and seem to be making inroads.
We have seen quite a few new TVs and projectors with 4K/Ultra HD resolution, but unlike 3D which turned out to be mostly an uninteresting gimmick, 4K seems to be here to stay. 4K, sometimes called Ultra HD, refers to a display resolution of 3840 x 2160 (or thereabouts) which is approximately 4 times the resolution of 1080p HD. While there is very little source material available in 4K resolution, a number of content providers, including Netfix, have announced they intend to begin providing it soon. Even lacking available content, there is a clear advantage to choosing a 4K display right now if you are considering a new TV or projector.
The current crop of 4K TVs generally produce a noticeably better picture even with normal HD content. It seems the manufacturers are paying more attention to advanced video processing in these sets which is necessary to scale lower resolution content to 4K, and the result is a better picture. 4K TVs are only a little more expensive than a premium 1080p set and in my opinion the difference is worth the price.
4K projectors are less common and quite a bit more expensive, but some are becoming available. Several manufacturers have announced forthcoming 4K projectors at better price points, and many of these included new LED or laser light sources (no expensive lamp to burn out).
On the audio front, most of the major surround sound processor and receiver manufacturers were demonstrating Dolby Atmos sound. Atmos is a new way of mixing movie soundtracks where the soundtrack is defined as sound “objects” which are independent of the speakers in a system. For example, a sound source, such as an aircraft, would be defined and moved as just one of many objects in the virtual space which comprises the soundtrack. When the soundtrack is played back, this and other sound objects are decoded and the appropriate sounds are sent to the best combination of speakers to reproduce the sounds.
So although a 7.1 system can nicely reproduce an Atmos soundtrack, newer surround sound receivers and processors will offer the option for speakers to be installed in additional locations such as the ceiling. The result is a more immersive and lifelike soundtrack.
At Expo I have the opportunity to audition several systems with Atmos capability and the difference was immediately evident. The greatest emphasis seemed to be on ceiling speakers or ceiling reflected sound which noticeably opened up the space.
You can expect manufactures to offer a variety of solutions to add Atmos capability to existing systems without necessarily adding overhead speakers, however if you are building a home theater, adding cable for future ceiling speakers would be a good idea.