Got to spend two wonderful days at CEDIA Expo 2002. Spent a good deal of time checking out the new crop of projectors, audio gear, and control equipment. Here are my notes FWIW.
The new crop of DLP's featuring TI's new HD2 1280x720 DMD with 12 degree mirror tilt debuted, as well as some new offerings from JVC, TAW, NEC and others. All of these projectors were not shown under ideal or anything close to identical situations, my comments are my general impressions based soley on what I saw at the show.
TAW Evolution: LCOS w/ anamorphic lens, demo material: "Lost in Space" intro, shown on 1.3 gain screen, screen size in 92" wide range. Good black levels and contrast, not CRT like yet (stars didn't pop out like they do on a CRT) but better than some (but not all) HD2 machines shown. Smooth picture without visible pixelization. Not very bright at 600 lumens, and it showed, when the lights were on the picture disappeared. Inaudible noise. DWIN TV2: HD1 DLP, demo material; "Vertical Limit" superbit avlanche scene. Black level seemed good, material did not have much in the way of dark scenes though. Artifacts and pixelization seemed minimal. I was near the back of the room for this one. Smaller screen than some of the other demos. Marantz Cinema 12SF2: HD2 DLP, demo material "Victorias Secret" in HD and "Hollow Man" Superbit, the reconstruction scene. ~87" wide Firehawk screen. I sat in the front row, ~5 feet from the screen. I was truly impressed with the black level on this projector, the stars in the Victorias Secret scene had that 3D pop. Spec is 2600:1, plus the Firehawk. The Sharp was second in this category but played on a much larger, non-grey screen. Overall the scaling was good (DCDi) without evidence of artifacts. I noticed a good bit of "noise" or dithering especially in the transition zones between dark and light areas, enough to find it distracting. Probably would have been much less noticable at a more normal seating distance. Brightness was more than adequate and color seemed right on. Sim2 Multimedia HT300: HD2 DLP, demo material "Clockstoppers", pool scene plus some HD material. I was disappointed with this demo, I believe the projector must be capable of better. Blacks were crushed to mush in both the DVD and HD demo and whites were hot, needed some serious adjustment. Colors were off also. Blacks level was OK, "noise" as described in the Marantz notes was also evident. I have heard from others that demos on subsequent days were much improved. Screenplay 7200: HD2 DLP. Saw this projector twice, once at Screenplay and once at B&K who had it in their demo room. Screenplay had it showing on a Grey Da Lite, B&K had it on a Stewart, a Studiotek I believe. Demo material "Lord of the Rings" Chasm/Balrog scene (B&K), "Monsters Inc." at both venues, "U571" , D-Theater edition, and "Jay Leno" in HD. I saw this projector at B&K first and I was not impressed, washed out image, poor black levels and tons of "dithering" and contouring in the dark scenes of LOTR. It looked like a different projector at the Screenplay booth, especially on the "Jay Leno" show HD material, there is a scene where Vin Diesel comes out in a dark grey jacket and all the details are there, colors were bright and noise seemed much reduced, but still there especially on the dark scenes in U571. Bright "Monsters Inc." looked great. Sharp XV-ZU10000: HD2 DLP. Shown on a large 123" Stewart Ultramatte 1.5 gain screen. Demo material "Big Mama's House" DVD plus some HD material including some dark city scenes. Seemed brighter than the other HD2 contenders(Sharp was pushing this with the big screen). Scaler did not perform as well as the Marantz, DWIN or Screenplay, more artifacts. Black level second only to the Marantz (on different screen technologies, a Firehawk may reconcile this as they have similar contrast specs). Less "noise" than Marantz or Screenplay, however I sat much further from the screen for this demo at ~10'. Yamaha DPX-1000: HD2 DLP. Only saw this at the TI DLP booth in less than ideal conditions, impression is that it has comparable performance to the others, no fatal flaws evident. JVC SX1: D-ILA with UHP lamp, Showing a variety of HD material from a broadcast D5 deck with a whole rack of pro video gear. Very impressive picture, smooth bright. Contrast is inferior to the HD2 DLP machines, but the image was more film like to my taste. If JVC can get these out at less than $10K as indicated, this is going to be big. Also shown were the 150CL and monster QX1 (on a 20' screen). Sony VW-12HT: WXGA LCD, shown on a ~90" Stewart screen, not sure of model. Demo material HD outdoor scenes from a D5 deck, "Spider Man" DVD. Sat in the front row ~10' back. Could still see screendoor on HD material, could have used a good ISF calibration on the greyscale, faces seemed overly red. HD material was sharp and detailed. DVD demo was a complete mess, looked horrible, blotchy artifacts galore and poor colors. Since the HD was fine I suspect a glitch further up the video chain. List $6400. Sony also showed the $1800 VPL-HS2 (WSVGA 600:1 contrast) and the $3000 VPL-HS10 ($3000) the HS-10 seemed like a real contender, not as bright, less capable scaler and lesser optics than the 12HT, but still looked nice on HD and decent with DVD. Runco VX-5000c: HD2 DLP (or is this just HD1?) forgot to mention this one with the other DLP's. DaLite screen. Demo material, "Patriot" superbit, first battle scene. Runco showed this unit and their less expensive CL-500 along with their DTV-1200 9" CRT. Did not show VX-1000c. Black levels were good on this unit, but not as good as the Marantz, brighter than the Marantz. Low end of the grey scale seemed compressed on interior shots. This was one of the more impressive demos (could have been the megabuck Sumiko sound system), I actually ducked when the cannon fires in the Patriot battle scene. List price $37K with procesor. NEC TriDigital HD4K: 3-Chip DLP. Tucked away on the lower level at the Visual Solutions booth. Showing "Legally Blonde" and "Windtalkers" on DVD and D5 HD beach/underwater footage on a large (10 foot plus) Da-Lite screen. Dithering "noise" evident on DVD footage, absolute black level was good but the contrast ratio on this thing is great The colors were absolutely amazing, especially on the underwater tropical fish HD material, blue blue deep water and vibrant orange and red fish, wow. 3500 Lumens, noise 51dB, MSRP $55K. For a high end HT with a big screen this unit or one of its larger cousins (HD6K and HD10K) would be pheonomenal. NEC was also showing their new HT1000 XGA DLP projector off site, I did not see it, but it seems to be getting favorable reviews especially with regard to color fidelity and contrast. Studio Experience 20HD: WXGA LCD. Two demos, one with "The Fifth Element" Superbit DVD and a panamorph on a DaLite 2.35:1 grey screen, the other straight up with an HD feed. Both were in a mostly open booth with a lot of ambient light. Even with this I was disappointed with the demos especially the DVD, both looked washed out, to the point that I would expect a 1000 lumen projector to be washed out, not a 2000+ lumen machine. DVD performance was very soft. I'd love to give this one a second shot in a proper room with an HTPC or good scaler. Yamaha DPX-500: WXGA LCD, demo with HD material on a ~100" wide screen. Nice colors and brightness, although the screen was a bit large for this projector. Screen door was heavier than the similar Sony HS10. No DVD demo.
There were at least seven CRT's on display:
Sony G90 (Wm. Phelps calibrated) at Faroujda showing 1080i footage from a D5 deck and "Vertical Limit" superbit DVD both through the DCS 2000 processor. The DVD was processed to 960P and the HD to 1080P, looked abosolutely great. There was another G90 at the Sony booth, but it was on display almost as a museum piece, near the center of the booth with an "Ultimate Home Theater Projector" sign above it, it was for sale for $38K. Runco DTV-1200 (Similar to Barco Cine' 9) head to head with Runco's DLP machines. My vote goes to the DTV-1200. Accurate Imaging, showed their 8" model with processor and digital input to the projector. I think this is on a Marquee chassis? Very nice. SIM2/Seleco also had one of their CRT's on a pedestal, no signs. Crystal View, 9" Special AVS extended showing with plenty o' HD goodness. Very sharp projector. Smooth. Also one of these (or earlier Vidikron model) at the Genelec Speaker booth.
A smaller booth had what looked like a Barco 1209 chassis showing HD football, can't recall the name of the exhibitor.
Reference Imaging Cinepro 9X, Chris Stephens master work, turning DVD into HD with Teranex processors and displaying it at 1080P48 with astounding detail and contrast.
On the floor there was much talk of the death of CRT, but in the next sentence CRT would be invoked as a "reference" standard to judge digital image performance. Still kicking, just moving upscale.
Rear Projection and Plasma:
Lots of new models here. I'll just list some highs and lows from my notes as I did not spend as much time with these as I did with the projectors.
Sim2 introduced a rear projection HD2 DLP in a radical swooping glass frame. Nice picture with good contrast. Pricey. I felt this showed better than the front projector.
Sony had their new Grand Wega II, 1365x768 resolution LCD rear projection TV. Better contrast than the previous model. Sony also had a new high end plasma model (using NEC glass I think) in a glass frame, sharp!
I think Fujitsu continues to have the nicest plasma displays around, fewest artifacts and that window clear picture.
The ultra slim Samsung HLM507W and the smaller HLM437W DLP rear projection TV's have been a hot topic recently, due to their size and very attractive pricing. They were OK in my opinion, they had a good wide viewing angle and were plenty bright. Some artifacts and the contrast levels are not where they should be to compete with CRT RPTV and even the newer Plasma. The 65" prototype should have stayed home, not ready for prime time yet.
I did not spend as much time looking at pure audio gear as I did projectors. Many of the high end companies, and mid and not-quite-so-high end companies did not have their equipment operating. There were a few stand outs that caught my attention:
Meridian: Faroudja had a full Meridian digital system at their booth along with the G90. I've seen adds and reviews of this system for years and was happy to finally hear one. Lovely, great transients and smooth character. Genelec: Powered speakers from Europe (Finland) that have crossed from the pro monitor market to the home theater market. These relatively small speakers really play loud and strong! Clean too. SLS Loudspeakers: Another outfit that has crossed over from pro sound. Their speakers use SLS's ribbon tweeter. I liked the clarity and ambiance of these speakers very much. Marantz introduced the DV8300 DVD/DVD-A/SACD/MP3/VCD/CD-R plays anything on a 5" disc player. Sumiko: The system put together by Sumiko from their various brands of high end products was awesome at the Runco/Sumiko/Theater Innovations demo. The cannon shot in "The Patriot" had me ducking for cover. Full 7.1 system with multiple surrounds for each surround channel, very effective. Pioneer: Displayed a new speaker design. Truly different. It is an array of about 80 1" diameter speakers mounted in a metal "plate". The display suggests that by changing the signal fed to each small speaker, a simulated surround experience can be generated. Looked way cool, but was not operating, just a prototype apparently.
There is more at this show than you can possibly take in in two days, all you can hope for is to concentrate on a few areas and hit the highlights from the rest.
In the controls area, the big guys like Crestron and AMX are still big, but there were a lot of smaller companies with some good ideas there. Even some traditional IT companies like Lantronix are getting into the game and pushing products based on open IT and Telecom standards. There still seems to be a lot of proprietary network architectures out there Media Bus, A-Bus and others, as the industry grows I expect more pressure to move to a common standard like ethernet for communications.
Media servers are here and growing. With hard disk sizes and arrays that can reach terabyte size, all the music and soon video you own can be stored on you home entertainment network and called up for listening just like surfing to your favorite web site. Its here now and getting cheaper and more approachable all the time.
High Definintion was everywhere at the show, but it is not fully accepted and available to a wide public audience. With the coming inroduction of HD programming on cable TV systems I predict that mid 2003 will be the breakout of HDTV. If you haven't yet experienced good HD, try it, you'll never look at your TV the same way again.