As always, CEDIA 2016 was filled with audio wares to see and hear at every turn, whether they were in the exhibitor booths, show floor Sound Rooms or suites at the adjacent Omni. The usual suspects could be found, as well as some newcomers to the custom industry, CEDIA event and North American market.
While buzzworthy terms like high-resolution audio and companies such as Sonos, to name a couple, are ingrained with attendees nowadays, CEDIA offered wrinkles throughout the show floor on new implementations or complementary offerings that spoke to both.
Wireless audio continued to be addressed in full force, but true custom items such as architectural loudspeakers showed they can still make news as well. Following is a sampling of exciting what was on hand from a variety of companies across the audio landscape among one CE Pro editor’s visits, but hopefully representative of the myriad manufacturers serving the custom residential and even commercial audio customers.
Here are some product highlights; click on the slideshow — or on the individual bold product names — to view the products and more from company representatives.
Distributor Sound Developments is reintroducing the B&K name to the custom channel, and immediately addressing integrator requests for a small form-factor amplification product that can drive audio products such as soundbars but stay discreet. The solution is the IZA 2.50, with the SKU nomenclature standing for Integrated Zone Amplifier with 2 x 50 watts, a product that B&K is calling the “world’s slimmest CI amplifier” at roughly just two-thirds of an inch deep.
D+M Group continues to beef up its HEOS offerings, which now bear the HS2 tag and boast Bluetooth and high-resolution audio support plus availability in black or white. HEOS is offered in myriad sizes and price points from $199 for the new HEOS 1 (added to the 3, 5 and 7 models) to $699 to enable all sorts of wireless multiroom configurations.
New for the show D+M was also showing its Denon 9.2-channel AVR-X4300H (pictured) and 11.2-channel AVR-X6300H INCommand Series receivers that have HEOS technology baked in, notably featuring the HEOS logo on the faceplate and “H” in the moniker. Post CEDIA, Denon announced that it had collaborated with Amazon on integrating Alexa voice control (look for it Q1 2017).
Bose has been known to combine aesthetics, ease of use and smallish form factor to deliver on room-filling audio solutions and the Lifestyle 650 is the latest system to showcase these.
The company showed how the thousands of precision-drilled holes in the middle of its tiny new extruded aluminum OmniJewel satellite speakers and five-driver center channel help deliver 360-degree spacious output. Additionally, QuietPort technology and folded design within the new Acoustimass 300 bass module aid in reducing distortion and increasing clarity of the subwoofer.
Along with boosting its custom channel presence via architectural speaker development with Origin Acoustics, Bang & Olufsen also had its own wares on hand to show dealers in its traditionally stylish Scandinavian fashion. These included the BeoSound 1 and BeoSound 2 products that carry forth the company’s heritage into wireless audio and streaming speakers. The smaller BeoSound 1 can go around the house as a portable speaker, with 16 hours of battery life. Both feature 360-degree sound dispersion, and the company’s unique way of double-tapping the top to switch sources (AirPlay, DLNA, TuneIn, Deezer, etc.) or to have what’s playing on one speaker join what’s playing on one in another zone.
While more than just an audio solution, the Low Profile Wall Cabinet from Salamander Designs targets installations in which space is at a premium but there is a need to deliver audio to a room. The product is part of the company’s Chameleon line, fitting as it can be configured various ways thanks to a customizable extruded aluminum frame. Cabinet depth is just 12 inches, but that’ll often be plenty for getting a loudspeaker in there as shown, often to go with a flat-panel TV.
Outdoor loudspeaker specialist NEAR, a division of Bogen Communications, introduced the VM1 and VM2 (which add a “W” or “B” to the end depending on whether you want them in white or black) models that significantly reduce cost of entry into the company’s durable products. They will be available for $299 and $399 per pair, down from NEAR’s previous entry level of products that started at $620/pair. Both feature metal-alloy MLS (magnetic liquid suspension) woofers, 4.5 or 5.25 inch size, respectively, and 1.1-inch titanium-alloy tweeters housed under a powder-coated aluminum grille.
Integra is putting together a nifty little Dolby Atmos/DTS:X solution called the DLB-5 consisting of a soundbar, receiver and wireless subwoofer. Calling it a 3.1.2 object-based sound setup for rooms that don’t need a full-throttle 5.1.4 or 7.1.4 system, the DLB-5 includes left/center/right drivers for the traditional front stage plus two upfiring drivers, yielding 50 watts per channel at 4 ohms. The system supports popular streaming services plus Google Cast, AirPlay, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and will also soon feature DTS’ Play-Fi wireless audio technology.
Ask audio dealers about common points of emphasis in building a system that often get overlooked, and AC power is bound to come up. AudioQuest was showing dealers its new Niagara 5000 Low-Z Power/Noise Dissipation system, which aims to lower system line noise and potential distortions, correcting current compression while filtering power to its 12 AC outlets (including four high current/transient power correction; eight ultra-linear noise dissipation system power). Featuring design of renowned power expert Garth Powell, also responsible for the higher-end Niagara 7000, the 5000 also sports a gorgeous front plate worthy of displaying next to other audio gear in a rack.
It’s not that Sonance architectural speakers weren’t being utilized in commercial audio environments; they were, all over the place actually. But in reality those installations were implementing the Dana Innovations’ brand’s residential array of offerings, and now comes the Professional Series that is dedicated to the commercial integrator market with features like easy-access 70V switching, popular form factors such as pendant and surface-mount, black/white color options, and the trademark Sonance attributes that call for attention to both performance and aesthetic detail. In-ceiling and pendant models include 4-, 6- and 8-inch drivers plus 8-inch woofer; the surface-mount line adds a 5.25-inch driver model, all shipping by the end of the year, according to director of commercial sales Simon Wehr.
Much was made at CEDIA 2016 about Sonos and how the ubiquitous audio pioneer could now be better integrated into projects with official API partners. Among those, Dana Innovations brand iPort used the opportunity to create a simple keypad for swiftly clicking through common functions. Dana Innovations CEO Ari Supran noted that the mini controller is battery operated, with estimated six months battery life, and runs on low-power Wi-Fi by which it “wakes up” and joins the network to start sending commands to Sonos systems when users engage with it. The Xpress Audio Keypad delivers quick-hit functions such as play/pause; track forward; volume up/down; and “favorites” navigation as another button press scrolls through the next favorite on a user’s list.
Proof of the undeniable power of audio came via another strong GoldenEar Technology Dolby Atmos demo this year. Though modestly priced at just over $6,000 for the entire system, the setup featuring GoldenEar’s Invisa MPX in-walls, Invisa HTR 7000 in-ceilings, SuperSat 60C center channel and punctuated by the new SuperSub X illustrated both slamming bass in action movie scenes such as Transformers: Age of Exctinction on one hand and warm, nuanced undertones to lush music recordings by artists such as John McEuen and Enya. Upmixed through an Oppo Digital player, McEuen’s version of “Mr. Bojangles” with its plucky acoustic guitar and sweet vocals brought GoldenEar founder Sandy Gross to teary-eyed joy and evoked emotion from room attendees.
The Harman Luxury Audio Group had plenty on hand among its JBL Synthesis, Mark Levinson, Lexicon and Revel brands, including another awe-inspiring 15.1.10-configuration audio demo. Complementing all the ear candy was the eye candy of JBL Synthesis’ Premium Finish Program for its hefty K2 (shown) and Everest speakers coinciding with the 70th anniversary of JBL this year. They bump the ordinary wood finish price of $44K/pair up to $55K and are custom-built to order for such well-heeled clientele.
Harman Luxury Audio Group’s Jim Garrett noted the continued reinvestment and reinvigoration of the vaunted Mark Levinson brand, and at CEDIA 2016 a rack full of gorgeous Levinson products showed that to dealers. In particular is the forthcoming No 519, which Garrett enthused, “We think this is the most accomplished source player in the market.” While there’s no internal storage, the component incorporates in Levinson famed build quality CD player, Wi-Fi streaming, DAC capable of double DSD (aiming to add MQA), Bluetooth, USB drive, full color display, volume control and capability to be used as a preamp.
AudioControl is well known for its residential products, which certainly held firm with the CEDIA crowd, but Chris Kane, vice president of sales, also relayed how the company’s versatile but relatively small-chassis multizone Director amplifiers are being embraced for light commercial use. The eight- and 16-channel M4800 and M6800, respectively, include powerful DSP configuration and a library of control drivers through AudioControls’ official partner program to enable integrators to implement the components where before “traditional commercial amplifiers were big,” says Kane.
Danish manufacturer Dynaudio embraced the CEDIA channel by launching a line of custom products, its Studio Series of in-ceiling and in-wall speakers that are expected to be out in Q1 2017. The products — which include 6.5-inch and 8-inch ceiling and wall versions ranging from $649 to $999 apiece — feature the company’s MSP (Magnesium Silicate Polymer) cones and aerodynamically formed cast aluminum baskets, as well as a patent-pending, tool-less clip-in easy installation design.
Long a favorite of DIYers but also a regular fixture at CEDIA, Parts Express’ audio aspirations were flying high with the introduction of the distributor’s in-house brand Dayton Audio’s Hi-Fly line of products. Joining the wireless multiroom audio fray, Hi-Fly includes the WFA28 Premium Wi-Fi Audio Adapter, WF40A Wi-Fi Audio Amplifier, AERO Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Multiroom Speaker, and WF60PA Wi-Fi/Bluetooth 60W Plate Amplifier that allow for either direct playback of wireless music streaming (in the case of AERO) or turning powered speakers or existing stereo systems with passive speakers into streaming-sourced devices.
Wireless audio speakers might be called as such, but don’t forget about the wire to plug them in and power them up. Midlite didn’t, and saw a great opportunity to combine its previous Power Jumper IC in-wall interconnect technology and its Speedport SC mounting solution into a slick way to provide customization of wireless speakers by mounting them to walls. The Power Jumper enables installers to relocate power without requiring an electrician, while the mounting solution is compatible with any ¼-20 mounted speaker fastened (pictured, speakers from Sonos and Yamaha); plus low-voltage such as Cat 5 can be passed through as well.
Shown in prototype form at CEDIA, Atlantic Tech’s Gate Crasher is named as such because it’s a new market for the audio company. The all-in-one type products cull from Atlantic Tech’s heritage, however, as they come fully loaded with drivers to be a differentiator in the category. Targeted for April 2017, the Gate Crasher is a 2.1-channel speaker that relies upon Google Cast, Bluetooth and 3.5mm auxiliary input to access music sources aplenty. It features two 1-inch silk dome tweeters, two 3.5-inch midrange drivers, a 4.5-inch bass driver and 4.5-inch passive radiator.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary year, Parasound highlighted its ZoneMaster 4 DAX four-zone DAC whose intention is to deliver more flexible options, better sound and additional bass extension to multiroom installations of Sonos, Bluesound, HEOS, AirPlay, Chromecast and the like. Featuring 192kHz ESS Sabre DACs, the $995 1U rack component was shown with an array of connections for outputting full-range stereo, high-pass stereo, full-range mono, high-pass mono and low-pass mono/subwoofer. Each zone also has optical and coax inputs, level adjustments for left and right channels and 12V outputs.
You may not have heard of Absolute Acoustics, as the 13-year-old brand is entering the North American market after making a name for itself as an A/V signal distribution leader in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America. The company showed off its lineup of 4K HDMI/HDBaseT matrix switchers with up to eight inputs/outputs, as well as HDMI over HDBaseT extender kits. A web interface allows for remote diagnostics capabilities for dealers along with control and configuration capabilities. As the company gets its feet wet with those products, it is also prepping loudspeakers, cables and more. Perhaps the neatest item is the optional magnetic faceplate that can go over the components in a rack (notice the top piece) for a sleeker looking façade.
While not an audio product per se, this new home theater item can help integrators hide unsightly loudspeakers that might otherwise dominate a front wall and detract from the experience. Simplified’s Matt Call demonstrated how the “integrator DIY” fabric can be cut and stretched around a frame for an easy-to-create faux front wall with seamless appearance that can at the same time conceal front speakers and subwoofers. The fabric, while not carrying acoustical properties, notes Call (whose theater work includes professional acoustical treatment), comes in a 10-foot tall roll that can be cut however wide a dealer requires. The aluminum frame comes in labeled pieces so the installer knows exactly where to put them together. “If you can hang a screen, you can stretch a wall,” Call says.