Home Theater

Why Was True Home Theater ‘Missing’ at CES?

Four companies — AudioControl, Wolf Cinema, James and Vutec — combined for $196,000 home theater demo at the massive CES 2017 event, but other home theaters were noticeably missing.


Who are these lonely guys at CES? They are the only group that presented a true home theater experience at the massive CES 2017 show. From left: Jim McGall, Wolf Cinema; Rick Nealis, Vutec; Brandon Cook, AudioControl; and Christopher Doehla, James Loudspeaker.

Photos & Slideshow

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The lack of true home theater at CES 2017 in Las Vegas was clearly noticeable. Even the audio-focused Venetian suites only had one true home theater demo, albeit an impressive one for sure, set up with $196,000 in equipment. 

AudioControl, Wolf Cinema, Vutec and James Loudspeaker combined to power the 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos home theater demo that was entertaining but also educational. The demo used stacked projectors as well as multiple speaker options so attendees could do audio and video comparisons. 

Jim McGall of Wolf Cinema called the theater demo "a shootout with ourselves" in reference to Wolf's TXF-5000 Laser 4K 3-chip $50,000 projector and its TXF-900 UHD/4K Imaging $9,000 projector.

Both units were powered by Wolf's $8,000 Proscaler MK IV. McGall moved back and forth between the two projectors while running scenes from the sci-fi classic "The Fifth Element" starring Bruce Willis. Not even the highly trained eye could decipher the difference.

AudioControl was there too, certainly making the most out of CES 2017. Besides taking home a CTA Mark of Excellence Award for the Best Amplifier for its Director M-Series 4800 amp, the company powered the demo room with its Maestro M9 theater pre/pro ($8,900), its Savoy G3 7-channel amp ($3,000) and its Pantages G3 5-channel amp ($2,500). 

The matrixing capabilities of the Director M-Series allow any of eight analog or two digital inputs to be routed to any zone output. The 2U M-Series M6400 and M6800 includes two digital SPDIF inputs plus two SPDIF outputs that are tied to the matrix so that any one of the input sources can be routed through the digital outputs.

These digital outputs can then be connected to the digital inputs on additional M-Series amplifiers, enabling integrators to use multiple amplifiers and assign input signal routing as needed.

Brandon Cook, director of technical services, was on hand in the suite with other equipment not hooked into the theater, including the compact 2-channel Rialto amp and the Bijou 600 amp. 

"We are conducting a shootout with ourselves."
— Jim McGall, Wolf Cinema

Cook noted the excitement around the new Director M-Series 4800 that is a 1U, 8-channel solution capable of 100 watts per channel at 8 Ohms, 200 watts at 4 Ohms and 400 watts bridged.

M-Series amplifiers offer DSP-based functionality that can be used either as a standalone matrix-amplifier or as part of a third-party control system from companies including Crestron, Savant and Control4.

The company also announced that NuVo has been added to its Sound Partners Program (SPP). The AudioControl SPP was established as a cooperative initiative with industry-leading architectural speaker manufacturers in order to implement optimized performance profiles as defined by each brand’s engineers.

These profiles, when stored in the DSP onboard the AudioControl Director M-Series of high-performance 8 and 16-channel amplifiers, creates the ultimate whole-house entertainment/commercial audio platform for professional integrators.

DSP profiles for Nuvo’s in-ceiling and in-wall loudspeakers—the Series Two, Series Four and Series Six models have all become available for upload into the AudioControl Director M-Series amplifiers.

“We see this cooperative program as an opportunity, enabling integrators to take advantage of Nuvo’s loudspeaker designs by providing acoustic optimization for each zone,” explains Fritz Werder, VP and general manager, Nuvo and On-Q. “We are excited to work with AudioControl as part of the SPP initiative.”

“We welcome Nuvo and their array of architectural loudspeakers to our Sound Partners Program,” says AudioControl CEO Alex Camara. “The SPP provides professional integrators with the tools they need to differentiate themselves in a competitive market while delivering superb sound quality to their clients. The high-performance and fine-tuning capabilities of the Director M-Series amplifiers coupled with Nuvo speakers will provide an excellent entertainment experience.”

The speakers in the room were from James Loudspeakers. Christopher Doehla of James hooked up $113,000-worth of speakers:

  • Q48s left/right ($20,000)
  • SPL808BE center channel ($12,000)
  • Four SPL6BEQ speakers as side channels closest to the screen ($40,000)
  • Four SPL6CBEQ top-side surrounds ($32,000)
  • Two EMB15 DF 15-inch subwoofers ($6,000)
  • Two QSC 4.5 sub amps ($3,000)

Doehla says the SPL6CBEQ top-side surrounds were actually specially made by James for a temporary theater setup for a fair where the Dolby Atmos speakers were mounted on overhead gantries. 

The screen in the demo was from Vutec. Rick Nealis, national sales manager, noted that the $2,500 Stiletto Zero-Edge 120-inch screen has a bright white opaque material with a 1.3 gain to make the images really pop.

Other components in the theater were a Samsung UHD Blu-ray player, Redray 4K server and Kaleidescape Strato. 

What's Going on at CES?

So why weren't their more home theaters at CES 2017? It is a good question. It is becoming increasingly more apparent that manufacturers seeking to create or solidify trade channel partnerships with integrators are bypassing the giant show. Instead, they are using CES more for international exposure and media clout for direct-to-consumer products.

It also does not help that the multiple venues at CES effectively filter the integrators who are there to no central location. The display technology is housed in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), the Smart Home Pavilion is at the Sands Expo Convention Center, and the high-performance audio is at the Venetian Suites. Another venue, Eureka Park, also houses all the startups that many integrators like to check out.

"It is becoming apparent that manufacturers seeking to create trade channel partnerships with integrators are bypassing CES."

Of course, there was plenty to see at the show from a display standpoint. The Sony, LG and Panasonic booths showcased impressive flat panel technology, namely OLED. But there was no audio companion to those flat panels being demo'ed. (Update: Sony had a home theater room within its booth that I apparently missed. See comment below. I stand corrected.) 

Also, from an international standpoint, Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) is just one month away. One audio manufacturer said he had 30 European distributors at CES last year, but only one this year. They are opting to just wait 30 days for the Amsterdam show.  

Lastly, the exorbitant hotel prices are reducing the media traffic. Press people generally don't have two nickels to rub together, so spending $488/night to stay at the Excalibur Hotel is not in the budget. (Yes, that is really where I stayed and what I paid.)

One public relations person said she had generally seen half the amount of press compared to previous shows. 

Then, there is the congestion at the show. As one person described it: "Welcome to CES, where 170,000 people walk in front of you and then suddenly stop at a moment's notice." Moving between venues takes generally one to two hours.



  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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Comments

Posted by Audioplus on January 12, 2017

It’s been 25 years since The Mirage was showcase for Home Theater, and the Sahara had all high end audio. Chicago CES was still the summer venue, ultimately suffering the same issues as Vegas is now experiencing (from McCormick Place to Hyatt, Hilton, and North Town venues, 1 hour travel to each meeting).100,000 attendees in Vegas were considered a good turnout. You could still find affordable hotel rooms at $35 if you were up for a 20 min drive from The Showboat. At that same time period, Vegas hosted the largest trade show, the Computer Show brought out 150,000 attendees. All social hosts, waiters, bartenders, taxis complained about no tippage and cheap customers. Since the creation of the DIY market, audio/video has not gained the excitement level it once had. Mobile audio was a great market for a while, in early 2000 and brought in some incredible talent, but 10 years ago exhibitors got tired of consumers kicking tires (Sundays). Same downfall as Chicago CES 1993 when they opened the door for Consumer weekend. Even CEDIA isn’t as exciting as it once was. On the integrator side, I think regional shows may be driving force in the future. More affordable for attendees & exhibitors. In the NorthWest last year, all the local Distributors, along with dozens of manufacturers got together in Seattle area for 3 days. Makes a lot more sense than standing in a Buffet line. Unless you’re lucky enough to get Tickets for Noel Lee’s Monster Concert. ‘Alexa, make me a reservation at The Hilton for 2018 CES!’ I don’t think so.

Posted by dbendell on January 12, 2017

I will add that if it wasn’t for the TV manufactures, the show would completely die off for the home category. Also Vegas hotels are out of control for pricing. Finally, the retail market place is being crushed by online vendors like Amazon. The no sales tax rule and click of button is awesome but look how many major brick n mortars are falling like domino’s. Macys, The Limited, Radio Shack, regional electronics chains, malls are losing anchor stores soon malls won’t exist. Yep internet shopping is great, but at what costs?

Posted by dbendell on January 12, 2017

My first show was 2000, huge impact, went to everyone till 2016. We used to get so much from the show. Last 5 years was pretty much a waste. No one is there except TV manufactures. Nothing new and innovative from this category on custom anymore. The 2000’s had so much change and to offer, DVD,BD, Surround Sound, HDTV, Flat Panel, Automation, Furniture. Now just a yearly round of slight tweaks with DIY manufactures making it easier for consumers. The big companies like TV re-inventing flat panel only to leave us with streaming and crappy audio. Dish DirecTV Cable have no push to increase 4k.  This category is now a very mature market and is quite stagnate and consumers could careless. Their devices are good enough to watch shows.

Posted by Adroit1 on January 11, 2017

It seems somewhat counter productive for Wolf to have 2 projectors with such a huge price difference and then show them in a venue where one could not see the difference in performance.
That should really kill the sales of the TXF- 5000.

Posted by AndreFloyd on January 11, 2017

I am sorry to hear that you missed Sony’s true home theater demonstration.  The dedicated room in our booth featured our brand new VPL-VZ1000ES 4K HDR ultra short throw projector with a 5.1 sound system driven by Sony’s new UHD BD player.  We showed movies and sports content to a consistently packed room throughout the show.

Posted by Susan Sipe - CEPro website on January 11, 2017

Hi Jason,  I’m thinking expense and the huge size of the venue but I’m only guessing.  Having exhibited at CES in years past I’ve found it to be too crowded with a large percentage of people that weren’t my customer base including a lot of Consumers.  It can be a great way to showcase new technology however I think the show has become so large that it has too many audiences its attempting to reach and doesn’t have the same return on the dollar for acquiring new leads.

Julie’s question about why companies like Control4 and Lutron not exhibiting at the Builder show however is very curious and somewhat concerning.  I would think that this would be an important place to introduce new technology and reinforce our industry as a standard in the home.  To answer that question, I’d like to see what these companies have to say who have programs specifically for Builders like Control4 and Lutron.  Sounds like a good follow up article!

Thanks for you insights as always.

Posted by hfb1970 on January 11, 2017

As an intagrator we don’t even bother going to CES anymore.  It’s pointless.  We don’t see any point in finding out what the latest blue tooth speakers are and the next great DIY system is never going to be.  Last time we went we were trying to have a ligament conversation with one of our companies and a 20 something kid kept turning it up to 11 because he wanted to hear it pound.  That was when we decided to focus on the business at hand and talk to our team of reps after the show when they all got home.

Posted by hfb1970 on January 11, 2017

As an intagrator we don’t even bother going to CES anymore.  It’s pointless.  We don’t see any point in finding out what the latest blue tooth speakers are and the next great DIY system is never going to be.  Last time we went we were trying to have a ligament conversation with one of our companies and a 20 something kid kept turning it up to 11 because he wanted to hear it pound.  That was when we decided to focus on the business at hand and talk to our team of reps after the show when they all got home.

Posted by Susan Sipe - CEPro website on January 11, 2017

Hi Jason,  I’m thinking expense and the huge size of the venue but I’m only guessing.  Having exhibited at CES in years past I’ve found it to be too crowded with a large percentage of people that weren’t my customer base including a lot of Consumers.  It can be a great way to showcase new technology however I think the show has become so large that it has too many audiences its attempting to reach and doesn’t have the same return on the dollar for acquiring new leads.

Julie’s question about why companies like Control4 and Lutron not exhibiting at the Builder show however is very curious and somewhat concerning.  I would think that this would be an important place to introduce new technology and reinforce our industry as a standard in the home.  To answer that question, I’d like to see what these companies have to say who have programs specifically for Builders like Control4 and Lutron.  Sounds like a good follow up article!

Thanks for you insights as always.

Posted by AndreFloyd on January 11, 2017

I am sorry to hear that you missed Sony’s true home theater demonstration.  The dedicated room in our booth featured our brand new VPL-VZ1000ES 4K HDR ultra short throw projector with a 5.1 sound system driven by Sony’s new UHD BD player.  We showed movies and sports content to a consistently packed room throughout the show.

Posted by Adroit1 on January 11, 2017

It seems somewhat counter productive for Wolf to have 2 projectors with such a huge price difference and then show them in a venue where one could not see the difference in performance.
That should really kill the sales of the TXF- 5000.

Posted by dbendell on January 12, 2017

My first show was 2000, huge impact, went to everyone till 2016. We used to get so much from the show. Last 5 years was pretty much a waste. No one is there except TV manufactures. Nothing new and innovative from this category on custom anymore. The 2000’s had so much change and to offer, DVD,BD, Surround Sound, HDTV, Flat Panel, Automation, Furniture. Now just a yearly round of slight tweaks with DIY manufactures making it easier for consumers. The big companies like TV re-inventing flat panel only to leave us with streaming and crappy audio. Dish DirecTV Cable have no push to increase 4k.  This category is now a very mature market and is quite stagnate and consumers could careless. Their devices are good enough to watch shows.

Posted by dbendell on January 12, 2017

I will add that if it wasn’t for the TV manufactures, the show would completely die off for the home category. Also Vegas hotels are out of control for pricing. Finally, the retail market place is being crushed by online vendors like Amazon. The no sales tax rule and click of button is awesome but look how many major brick n mortars are falling like domino’s. Macys, The Limited, Radio Shack, regional electronics chains, malls are losing anchor stores soon malls won’t exist. Yep internet shopping is great, but at what costs?

Posted by Audioplus on January 12, 2017

It’s been 25 years since The Mirage was showcase for Home Theater, and the Sahara had all high end audio. Chicago CES was still the summer venue, ultimately suffering the same issues as Vegas is now experiencing (from McCormick Place to Hyatt, Hilton, and North Town venues, 1 hour travel to each meeting).100,000 attendees in Vegas were considered a good turnout. You could still find affordable hotel rooms at $35 if you were up for a 20 min drive from The Showboat. At that same time period, Vegas hosted the largest trade show, the Computer Show brought out 150,000 attendees. All social hosts, waiters, bartenders, taxis complained about no tippage and cheap customers. Since the creation of the DIY market, audio/video has not gained the excitement level it once had. Mobile audio was a great market for a while, in early 2000 and brought in some incredible talent, but 10 years ago exhibitors got tired of consumers kicking tires (Sundays). Same downfall as Chicago CES 1993 when they opened the door for Consumer weekend. Even CEDIA isn’t as exciting as it once was. On the integrator side, I think regional shows may be driving force in the future. More affordable for attendees & exhibitors. In the NorthWest last year, all the local Distributors, along with dozens of manufacturers got together in Seattle area for 3 days. Makes a lot more sense than standing in a Buffet line. Unless you’re lucky enough to get Tickets for Noel Lee’s Monster Concert. ‘Alexa, make me a reservation at The Hilton for 2018 CES!’ I don’t think so.