New flat-screen HDTVs, like this new 42-inch Sharp model, are becoming increasingly more affordable.
By Columnist
updated 9/15/2006 2:47:27 PM ET 2006-09-15T18:47:27

DENVER — Flat-screen television technology is improving every day while at the same time screen sizes are getting larger and prices are dropping just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Because of new, improved technologies and large, new, super-efficient factories opening overseas, flat-screen televisions are becoming more and more affordable every day.

That's the big news from the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association show: more is less. 

Take, for example, the new line of terrific-looking TVs from Sharp. A few years ago a top-of-the-line, 37-inch LCD flat screen HDTV set you back about $7,000. These days spending that amount of money on a LCD TV would get you a much larger, much more technologically advanced machine.

Sharp has announced their D62U line of LCD TVs. These are the 8th generation of flat-screens  with all sorts of cool features, such as 1080p (that's 1,080 lines, progressively scanned) resolution — about a good as it gets. 

Retail price for the 42-inch model when these sets hit the market next month will be $2,499.99. If you have been waiting to purchase a new flat-screen this holiday season may be the time to take a long look at these new models from Sharp and other manufacturers.

The big news in ultra-large displays comes from chip-maker Texas Instruments.  Runco, along with nine other DLP (Digital Light Projector) TV manufacturers were demonstrating their 1080p television sets based on T.I.’s new 3-chip, 1080p projector which has been specifically designed for home theaters.

Next-generation DVD players could be found on the show floor, too. Overall, the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD demonstrations looked good (or as sharp and vibrant as anything can look on a harshlky-lit show floor). 

There were a number of companies showing off some new HD radio designs.  Boston Acoustic was there with their Receptor Radio HD previously reviewed by yours truly.  HD radio is the new, all-digital broadcast radio technology, both AM and FM, that the industry hopes will combat the popularity of pay-to-listen satellite radio.  There's no monthly charge to listen to HD radio stations but you'll need a special HD radio to do so.

Cambridge SoundWorks
Table-top radios remain big sellers in the home entertainment industry.
Cambridge Sound Works was busy touting their terrific-looking (and sounding) Model 705, analog AM/FM table radio (they will come in a bunch of colors), also a one-piece AM/FM/HD table radio, the Model 820HD ($299.99) and a standalone HD radio tuner, the Model 850HD which will also retail for $299.99.

The big news in distributed music department came from Sonos and Rhapsody. They have announced new system software that allows  consumer electronics devices to speak directly to online music services without having to use a computer. 

Mcintosh Labs
You'll need help just to lift this single-channel amplifier system.
One particular booth that caught my eye was McIntosh. The high-end audio firm was powering their set-up with their MC2KW monoblock power amplifiers. You can't understand the actual, physical size of this thing just by looking at the picture.

Each channel consists of three pieces — two 1,000-watt power units and the output module with the largest VU-meter I’ve ever seen. That’s three boxes and 2,000 watts.  Let me put it another way — the boxes which comprise each channel weigh 300 pounds. The carries MC2KW carries a manufacturers suggested retail price of $30,000.  That is the per channel cost.

Induction Dynamics
These little devices can be buried inside your walls to create home theater audio.

One of my favorite floor demonstrations was from a company named Induction Dynamics for their product SolidDrive. Many people are turned-off by the idea of having to put 5, 6 or 7 surround-sound speakers in a room. 

The SolidDrive is what the manufacturer calls a full-range vibrating transducer which goes inside your walls. That means it's supposed to be able to reproduce everything from low bass notes up through and including high treble musical notes.

Each 1.2-pound unit is installed between your room’s drywall support joists. Sound quality was pretty good (on a very loud show floor environment).  I can tell you that totally hidden speakers carry with them a very high WAF (Wife Acceptancy Factor) — always a problem whenever lots of ugly components are involved.

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