Terk's HDTVo
Terk's HDTVo is an outdoor version (o for outdoor) of its cute HDTVi indoor antenna. Both amplify high-definition VHF and UHF signals.
By Columnist
updated 9/10/2004 7:25:53 PM ET 2004-09-10T23:25:53

CEDIA stands for the Custom Design and Installation Association. If you think that doesn’t sound like a particularly captivating subject for an exhibition and trade show, think again. This is one of the fastest growing segments of the electronics business –- and arguably the stuff that’s keeping the hi-fi industry alive. We’re talking flat-screen HDTVs, DVDs (players and recorders) plus surround-sound systems to the max.

Buying a home stereo is not the big deal it was 20 to 30 years ago, but mention the words "home theater" and you get people’s attention. Thirty-two percent of all American homes have home theaters, according to the folks at CEDIA -- up from 21 percent back in 2000. Thus, the idea of creating a sound and video experience in your living room or den has become big business -- and so has CEDIA Expo.

Home theaters don't have to be expensive. I recently wrote about a terrific system , HDTV, DVD player and surround sound system for under a grand. Of course, you can also spend more than a million dollars converting your home into the technology palace of the future.  More about that higher end of the spectrum in a minute.

Many of the 130 exhibitors here at Convention Center and RCA Dome are the big, recognizable names in the industry. Well-known video manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Thompson, LG, Samsung and Mitsubishi are here. So are the audio giants: Klipsch, Polk, McIntosh, Mark Levinson, Kenwood, B&O and more. And don’t forget the companies that make the super remote controls. Or the ones offering the myriad of speaker wire and power cords that can now be easily hidden in the walls. Or the furniture manufacturers making theater seats. Or the people that make special lighting systems for your high-dollar set-up. Or the HDTV antenna makers. Or the people who save you the headache of trying to install all this yourself.

Less predictable, perhaps, was the keynote speaker: Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder and director of the MIT Media Lab. Negroponte is one of the foremost futurists on the international scene; he's the guy who first described how digitalization would affect every industry throughout the world. His presence at CEDIA underscored what's been happening in the home hi-fi/theater world: Digitization is the next big thing.

Get in the Zon

Controllers for Zon system
Gary Krakow  /  MSNBC.com
Controllers for the Zon system are displayed on a wall.
The most impressive showing here comes from Indianapolis-based Klipsch. In addition to producing a line of loudspeakers that haven’t really been overhauled since they were created by founder Paul Klipsch in the 1940’s-50’s, Klipsch, the company, announced no fewer than 28 new architectural (in-wall and ceiling) speaker systems. This is sure to cement Klipsch’s share of the overall loudspeaker market, already at a whopping 12.1 percent.

The company also previewed its new, multi-room distributed music system, called Zon (pronounced with a long "o" as in Zone). Consisting of servers and amplifiers and access points and wall mounted remote controls, getting in the Zon will almost definitely have to include a visit from your local installers.

Sharp's 45-inch LCD flat-panel HDTV
Gary Krakow  /  MSNBC.com
Sharp's 45-inch LCD flat-panel HDTV
Sharp is here showing off a bunch of new stuff, including a nifty DLP high-def front projector TV ($12,000) and the biggest HDTV LCD flat-panel TV, the 45-inch, 1920 by 1280 pixel LC-45GX6U.  Expect to pay upwards of $8,600 for this beautiful device.

RCA/Thompson previewed their new line of HDTVs, and audio systems, including an RCA Scenium Profile projection HDTV – a DLP wide-screen that is only 6.85 inches deep.  Projection TVs are getting very close in size to plasmas and LCDs.

In the super high-end of the HDTV market, Faroudja Labs introduced two new HD digital video processing boxes and a new DILA Projector Package combining a Faroudja processor with a projector.

Polk's LC-265i is the world's first IP-addressable loudspeaker
Gary Krakow  /  MSNBC.com
Polk's LC-265i is the world's first IP-addressable loudspeaker
Polk Audio displayed the world’s first IP-addressable loudspeaker.  The in-wall model LC-265i will make it easy to install and set-up a distributed music system in any room of your home, office or business. I’m sure it’s the first of many speaker systems (or hi-fi components for that matter) that you’ll have in your home which will sport IP addresses.

Terk was showing off an outdoor version of their cute HDTVi indoor antenna that I’ve been using. The outdoor model HDTVo (o for outdoor) is a fairly unobtrusive amplified antenna system for VHF and UHF signals.  The little indoor model does really well on an HDTV computer video card I’m currently testing -– and I’m pretty sure the outdoor version would pull in stations even better.

Logitech, best know for computer keyboards, mice and speaker systems was showing people their Harmony 676 remote control ($229) with interchangeable faceplates and special navigation keys for use with any personal video recorder.

And finally, I have to tell you about the award entries for the show. CEDIA has a competition for the best home theater installations every year. The categories include best installations under $80,000, $80,000-$101,000, $102,000- $147,000 and up and up. Finally, there's the over $1,000,000 category -- and remember, that's just for the home theater. 

One of the entries in the over $1,000,000 category shows home theater systems in many rooms, but my favorite room is the master bath: a flat screen monitor sits on the wall, facing the bathtub. I couldn’t tell whether the subwoofer for the sound was behind the commode. Inquiring minds want to know.

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