Trending now & coming to the home soon: Report on CEDIA 2023

Our US correspondent Michael Heiss was on the floor at CEDIA Expo 2023 in Denver to bring you all the latest technology and trends with his own inimitable analysis thrown in.

I’ve been to more than my share of CEDIA Expo events going back to the very first one and then attending and reporting on every subsequent one other than during Covid times and that one year when my doctors said I couldn’t travel. Every Expo is interesting and different but sometimes one is tempted to start a CEDIA Expo report with “Well, another one is in the books; if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.” However, having returned Covid-free and in one piece after almost a week in Denver the answer for this year is different. It was more than just the attendance of 12,848 industry professional attendees, about 1,000 more than last year according to Emerald Expo, who owns and runs the event. It was the enthusiasm about Expo and our industry that one felt walking the floors and listening to the hallway conversations. That may have been the most encouraging and best trend of all. Oh, and yes, there were some new products, both continuing and new trends and a few other things to report on.

Although this year’s edition of CEDIA Expo ran concurrently with a “Commercial Integrator Expo” it remains a multi-tiered event that showcases the broad range of home products, services and technologies designed to enable residential technology specialists to design and install systems more efficiently while at the time making them even more frictionless for the end user. Given space constraints, I’ll focus here a bit more on trends rather than deep dive down into product specifics. As regular readers might expect the concentration will be on the video and audio worlds’ trends. Don’t worry, there is a new year ahead with time to delve into other subject areas.

Trend #1: “Bigger is Better” and “Over 90 is the new 75”

It wasn’t that long ago that a 27-in CRT-based set and later a 42-in plasma were considered “big screen”. That has clearly changed as the buzz around flat panel display products on display at CEDIA Expo centered on models in the over 90-in diagonal range as well as a 100-in model from Hisense. LG, Samsung and Sony also had them front and center on their stands and they all attracted admiring views. As you’ll see a bit later, dvLED and projection were certainly there to show off larger screen flat panels, be they QLED or OLED in the large screen size captured a great deal of interest. To be fair, the same could be said for the QD-OLED models from Samsung and Sony as well as the G3 Series “MLA”-based OLED sets from LG.

While the trend here is “bigger” making those screens bright, at least for those based on LCD panel technology, getting to that brightness and contrast control requires something small. In fact, something “mini”. Particularly in the higher range sets, mini-LED back lighting is a must have, and all the new large screen sets used that technology.

It should be noted that “bigger” doesn’t always mean those truly large sets. A trend that we’ve all seen starting last year at Expo and continuing through this year’s event was larger size monitors for gaming and high-end “work-from-home” applications. While some of these monitors might be considered “big” for their application, with some ranging up to 55-in with a curved screen, there was another “big” thing to look for. Here, it was the refresh rates that the monitors need to accommodate given the ever-increasing specs of console games and exotic, high-end, video cards. Examples of that include Samsung’s G9 series gaming monitors and a 55-in traditional TV from LG with 240Hz refresh rate, as well as other sets and monitors with 144Hz capability.

One last “bigger is better” observation from CEDIA Expo 2023 is “more is better”, here talking about resolution. 8K sets and projectors were certainly on display in the majors’ stands. While they did attract attention, there wasn’t that much buzz. To be clear, here very clear, 8K is remains a “thing”, particularly for the very high-end installation. The 8K Association had a seminar presentation at Expo and the message about 8K was not lost on the attendees.

Trend #2: Flat panel sets aren’t the only thing out there and projection remains very much alive

While there is no question that they are still in the “If you have to ask you can’t afford it” price category. Direct View LED (dvLED)sets, also known as “micro-LED” continued to attract attention at CEDIA Expo this year. While there is no doubt that Samsung’s The Wall has helped push the category forward, LG’s Magnit, Quantum Media Systems, Sony’s Crystal LED, and products from Barco, Digital Projection and Planar showed the wide range of options for dvLED in terms of pixel pitch, brightness, outdoor capability, resolution, and screen size.

One item of note that may portend a new trend direction for dvLED was the demo from Quantum Media Systems. Hallway buzz and media reports tended to point to their 18-ft (!) wide screen as the best product with the technology and I really can’t disagree. Perhaps as important as the image quality, the demo highlighted what may or may not become a trend: dvLED sets certified for DCI. If you’re not familiar with DCI, it is the Digital Cinema Initiative, a group formed by the major Hollywood studios to protect their content when theatrical exhibition moved from film to digital projection. The Quantum Media demo used DCI content to prove the capability and the 12-bit, 4:4:4 as well as the screen’s technology was clearly one of the reasons why it looked as good as it did.

To be clear, pun intended, a DCI installation is for the rare few, often called the “Bel Air Circuit” where the homeowner is often a studio executive or big-time creative with access to this highly protected first run content. If you’ve ever heard about “the good old days” when moguls had 35mm film projectors in their houses and required a union projectionist to run it, this is how they play releases at home by just swapping in a DCI-protected hard drive. Not for everyone, but proof that “if you have the contacts and budget you can do it”. If one of your clients is in that category, this is a trend worth noting.

Wait, did I just say projection? You bet I did. With all the attention at CEDIA Expo and elsewhere to large flat panels and dvLED, projection in a number of forms remains an important part of the home theater experience from modest rooms to all out seven-figure home theaters. Some of the obvious reasons why projection hasn’t lost its luster may be attributed to the wide range of possible screen sizes, the ability to physically mask the screen, the possibility of using anamorphic lenses when appropriate, and a host of reasons, projection is still as important as ever.

Perhaps one key reason is what leads ups to our next trend Mega-demos and sophisticated bass steering and control. Yes, dvLEDs are a hot commodity, but remember that they are a wall of solid glass backed by a metal frame. As you might imagine that makes it impossible to place speakers behind a dvLED as one would with a projection screen. Because of that, proper multichannel imaging is difficult and despite advancements in speaker design, DSP and the use of sophisticated programs to help place speakers is an optimal position in a room where there is a dvLED, it is still a difficult task.

For that reason, the mega-buck cost of the major theater demos at CEDIA Expo all used projectors and screens.

Before we get to the next trend, one more word about projectors. Actually, an acronym rather than words: “UST”. Ultra Short Throw projectors were in full bloom at Expo, led by AWOL Vision, Hisense, Leica, Samsung, LG and others. The ability of these products to throw a large, bright, 4K image on a screen with the projector only a few inches gives you another arrow in your quiver for large size when budget or installation works against the fixed screen alternatives.

UST is not a toy and should definitely not be ruled out.

Trend #3: Bass control and steering in large scale demos and a new way to get audio from here to there

Two large scale demos at Expo that showed different approaches to dealing with bass pointed to a trend that may lead in a number of directions. Indeed, these were possibly the most talked about stands by anyone who listened to them.

With a Trinnov Altitude 32 at its heart, demo partners included Barco, Ascendo, MadVR, Kaleidescape, Seymour Screen in a room designed and built by Officina Acoustica, this demo was, if nothing LARGE. The gear alone would set you back well over seven figures regardless of your currency of choice, but the result showed that you would get your money’s worth. After all, there were 43 speakers in the room in a 13.24.6 configuration. You read that correctly: 12 subs in the front and 12 more in the back along with 13 ear level speakers and 6 height speakers fed by over 120 watts of amplification.

While it clearly won the “my theater is bigger than your theater” award, the size was just the hors d’oeuvres. The main point was to show off Trinnov’s WaveForming Technology that measures the room’s characteristics to first create the speaker placement plan. Then, the magic begins. In the words of a Trinnov presenter, the system “overcomes, not mitigates bass issues” so that the listener gets optimal bass reproduction regardless of where one sits in the room down to a claimed 5Hz.

Listening to the demo it was clear that the money was well spent, but look, or listen closely, to what the trend is. Trinnov was clear that the system need not be as large as the Expo demo and may be scaled down to considerably fewer speakers. The trend was advances in bass performance, not just having a huge demo.

Seeking to also prove that bass may be better reproduced was the other main demo led by Grimani Systems using, of course, Grimani speakers fed by a StormAudio ISP Evo 32 processor and with a Barco/MadVR/Kaleidescape video system along the lines of the Trinnov demo. The system here had “only” 23 speakers in a 11.6.6 configuration.

The demo’s bass reproduction used the new Dirac Live Active Room Treatment (ART) and the ISP Evo 32’s Expert Bass Management technology with speaker placement that, as explained to me by Anthony Grimani, was guided by well known practice before the digital magic was applied. This demo was also scalable so that you can fit it to the room size, acoustics and budget of a less grand system that still delivered superb bass. Also, unlike the proprietary Trinnov system the Dirac ART is or will soon be available via a wider range of other AVRs and processors you will be able to use your skills to create your own advanced demo room or client installation.

There was more than one trend here, as the Grimani Systems demo’s audio was all digital from source to speaker. The use of AES67 meant that without analog connections issues such as ground-loop hum were eliminated. The use of AES67 and its cousin Dante as Audio over IP is clearly a trend that you will see more of as we move forward into next year. One hint at the future was Audio Control’s all digital AVR. It was present as a non-working sample but you can expect to see it, and other AES67/Dante products as we move into the new year. Definitely a trend to watch.

Trend #4: RP22

This is shown here not as a trend, but perhaps as the most important tool unveiled in Denver. The CEDIA/CTA RP22 Immersive Audio Design Recommended Practice is the first RP that defines an objective set of performance criteria for home audio systems. According to CEDIA’s Global President and CEO Daryl Friedman, “RP22 is nothing less than game-changing for our industry”. I couldn’t agree with him more. The trend will be that by taking advantage of what RP22 lays out you will be able to fashion better performing audio systems. It’s as simple as that. The best thing of all is that this hot item from Expo is FREE to CEDIA and CTA members. You can, and should, download it at


Trend #5: The great outdoors

You could hardly go past three stands this year without seeing a product designed for outdoor use. The vast number of speakers, subwoofers and video displays speaks to the importance of this trend and it is one that you would be remiss in not getting on this train as someplace to take you to added revenue, profits and client satisfaction. There were simply too many new speakers to mention, but perhaps the best evidence of the importance of this trend was the new Beosound Bollard outdoor speakers co-developed by B&O with Origin Acoustics.

Similarly, the presence of Samsung’s new Terrace line of outdoor QLED sets in 55-, 65- and 75-in models gave major brand endorsement to help grow an existing category. Also notable was the fact that worthworth, a major brand in the China market chose their outdoor Clarus S1 “Full Sun” 65-in and 75-in models to trumpet their entry into the custom market. On the projection side, AWOL Vision previewed a UST model encased for outdoor use. Of course, there were other outdoor video products, but the growing list of manufacturers serving this market validates its importance.


Trend #6: Other products were there that point to trends

Unfortunately, one way to describe CEDIA Expo might be “So many products, so little space to describe them”. However, a few more trend defining products are worth mentioning. One such trend was the joke that “vinyl is the new streaming”. Yes, those 12-in black discs still live and there were more than a few on the floor, albeit with some at larger-than-life prices. Accompanying that were products for two-channel stereo that goes beyond the smart speakers many now associate with audio. JBL, as one might expect, displayed a selection of speakers and amps, including their Harman corporate cousin Mark Levison products.

The most innovative product for vinyl once again came from Victrola. Last year they introduced a turntable with Bluetooth connectivity that enables streaming your records directly to BT headphones, ear buds or speakers as well as through your system using the built-in phono preamp. This year they upped their game with a their new ‘Hi-Res’ audiophile-quality models that feature carbon-fibre tone arms and premium grade cartridges from Ortofon or Audio-Technica. The Bluetooth on the new models support Qualcomm aptX Adaptive Bluetooth. A product that wins my “If I’m so smart why didn’t I think of this” award for the second year in a row.

A final trend that might be said to point in more than one direction is our old friend the AVR. Many pundits have been saying that soundbars are killing the market for AVRs, and perhaps in the lower price ranges that may be true. That said, Denon, Marantz, Onkyo Integra and Sony flied the mainstream brands’ flag for AVRs while more specialty brands including Anthem, Arcam, Audio Control, NAD, Procella and others were also there to show that there is still a great deal of life in the old AVR. The fact that Sony’s main home theater demo was powered directly by their 13.2 channel STR-AZ7000ES AVR without any external amps. TO be clear, it was also pointed out that the speakers were 4 ohm, but the use of an AVR-only was a good data point as to the continued place of the AVR in high end custom installations.

As just noted, one trend that will likely continue is that with 340b exhibitors that occupied 154,000 net-square feet of floor space it is impossible to describe or go into detail on every market segment and product trend that was on display. Fear not, all of us at Hidden Wires will continue to bring you the latest news and analysis both in our online news blasts and the bi-monthly print/online issues. Stay tuned, it will be a wild ride!

[Author’s note: CEDIA Expo is increasingly a global event, but many of the products on display may only be available for now in the US/North America. Some may not yet or will not be available in all regions. Please consult the brands for availability and pricing where you operate.]




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