I can’t recommend this show enough for the small business owners in this industry. Mark it on your calendar for next year, attend some classes and see what is out there. It can only help to improve business and open doors to new opportunities.

CEDIA EXPO 2004 – HomeToys Report

Brandon Hetherington

CEDIA EXPO 2004 - HomeToys Report
By Brandon Hetherington
Also see our Special CEDIA News Page

I can't recommend this show enough for the small business owners in this industry. Mark it on your calendar for next year, attend some classes and see what is out there. It can only help to improve business and open doors to new opportunities.

On the Evening of Thursday September 9th, Sports Bars across the entire country were abuzz with excitement over the start of the NFL season. I found myself at a bar in the city of Indianapolis to watch the game. As the game was played I began to notice that there was very little cheering or excitement at this particular sports bar. Odd, I thought, considering the Indianapolis Colts were taking part in the game. As I looked around I saw tables crowded with men in company logo golf shirts involved in heavy debates comparing the latest HDTV technology.

That's when I remembered the reason I was here ... CEDIA EXPO 2004 begins tomorrow!

During the 2004 Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) EXPO more than 22,000 industry professionals converge on this city for 5 days to see the latest and greatest generation of home electronic products. For 3 days nearly 500 manufacturers occupy booths filled with their products and services to showcase and network with the local level dealers and installers. 1000's of business relationships are formed.

While the showroom floor maybe the most exciting part of the EXPO, the main purpose of CEDIA is education. CEDIA offers a central location for industry professionals from across the globe to meet. Over the 5 day period manufacturers offer over 200 training sessions from product training to security systems and leadership courses. For any business owner interested in improving their success, CEDIA provides excellent opportunity to expand their services.

Now that you have an understanding of what CEDIA EXPO is we can move on to the fun stuff. I spent 2 days wandering the show room floors, listening to countless presentations on each company's new products. From all that research I have put together what I felt to be 5 key aspects that took Center Stage at CEDIA 2004. They are:

  • Industry Integration
  • Whole House Systems
  • Plasmania!
  • Speakers & More Speakers
  • Products for the Apartment dweller


If you have had a chance to review some of the Press Releases at HomeToys Cedia News page you will see a common theme in many of these announcements. That is partnerships ... one company working together with a similar company to integrate and simplify their line of products. This is great news for the Automation Industry. For the average homeowner Home Automation is still a far out idea that causes great confusion. I have highlighted some partnerships that just touch on the direction of the industry.

AMX, a leader in home control systems, has teamed up with Lutron Electronics, a leader in Lighting control, to produce a seamless lighting solution for residential installations. The ALD-H48 Interface is the first product in the AMX Inconcert with Lutron Lighting Solution family and allows you to control any light with Lutron products connected to your AMX control system.

Staying on the topic of lighting, LiteTouch and Solar Shading Systems have worked together to offer installation professionals additional tools to meet the needs of homeowners. The partnership has allowed LiteTouch Inc. to add yet another complementary component to its lighting control, now with the ability to seamlessly control both artificial and natural light.


Until the average homeowner can understand and use whole house systems the industry will have difficulty gaining mainstream recognition. This year at CEDIA I got a strong sense that companies recognized this and had gone to great efforts to appeal to this market.

One of these companies is Oxmoor Corporation who has teamed with Crutchfield Corporation, the catalog and online electronics retailer, to offer a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) version of the ZON Whole House Digital Audio System. This is the first sophisticated whole-house audio kit for the "DIY" market. The 4-room Zon package includes the Zon Gear, 4 pairs of ceiling speakers, all the cables you need, and special instructions for do-it-yourself installation. This retails for under $4000 and is a great way to introduce whole house systems to the general public.

Another helpful tool for "DIY's" is provided by Lightolier. They have compiled a simple guide to Lighting control. This 15-page manual simplifies the process of Home Lighting and takes you from What to light? How to Light it? And finally How to Control it? Yet another great way to for the average homeowner to get started in this fast growing industry.

For those non-beginners and custom installers several new lines of products were unveiled at CEDIA. ChannelPlus introduced the New MDS-6A Multi-Room, Multi-Source Music Distribution System. The MDS-6A is an all-in-one music distribution system that can accept up to six different music sources in six zones. What was great about this product was the user-friendly controls and ability to use Learning Remotes with programmable codes to control volume, source and mute control.

HAI one of the original Home Automation companies has simplified its popular Omni System. The HAI Home Control for Windows Media Center is software for Windows Media Centers that allow you to control all of your HAI Omni features from the comfort of an easy chair on a TV using a single remote. Easy to install just load HAI's Home Control for WMC and a settings wizard will guide you through the steps.

HAI Home Control for Windows Media Center Interface

Control4 out of Salt Lake City introduced itself to the Home Automation Industry with a "BANG" this year at CEDIA. Their giant booth took over the showroom on the 2nd floor of the Convention Center and hundreds of attendees sat through presentations introducing Control4's comprehensive portfolio of Home Automation Products. The Company said its products would dramatically reduce the cost of home automation and permit consumers to incrementally upgrade their systems. They are saying that for as little as $500, users can install and customize basic system components. Whether this statement is true or not, only time will tell. What we do know is the Home Automation industry is making that turn towards mainstream and the future is very bright for all involved.


At last years CEDIA Keynote address, founder and CEO of HDNet Mark Cuban claimed prices for a 42" plasma screen TV woild be under $1,000 within a year. It appears he may have been a little optimistic with that claim however, as seen at CEDIA 2004, the market is fast expanding its product lines and the technology continues to improve.

The Plasma TV has changed greatly since its introduction. I remember walking into a friends house several years ago and he was all excited about the Plasma TV he had purchased. It was one of my first times viewing these screens and we were watching an NBA basketball game. While I was impressed with the thin monitor and ability to hang on the wall, I couldn't help be disappointed with the dimensions. These 7 foot tall NBA players appeared to be short and fat when viewed on widescreen monitors. At the time I couldn't help thinking that this game would be better viewed on my $500 Sony Wega TV.

Things have changed and Runco has been the leader in advancing Plasma Displays; their booth at CEDIA had a constant 30 minute line to get into the viewing room for an unbelievable presentation of the many Displays they offer. Runco had some exciting news for the good people of Denver, Colorado as they introduced some of the few HD plasma display products capable of high altitude performance. The PlasmaWall PL-50XA and CinemaWall CW-50XA have been specifically designed for use in high altitudes and mountainous regions traditionally off-limits to plasma technology.

HTV-42A3Titan Global's new brand, Epoq, is the first line of flat panel Televisions with both HDTV and normal Analog television tuners built in. This integration ends the need to purchase, configure and install additional components. Simply connect a cable TV line and begin watching TV as in any standard cable-ready TV.

If a 61-inch screen doesn't satisfy your viewing needs, LG Electronics has the product for you. Headlining at the LG booth at CEDIA was the dramatic new 71-inch widescreen plasma HD monitor. Model MW-71PY10 boasts 1920 x 1080p resolution and is driven by LG's exclusive XD Engine that takes low-resolution analog signals to near HD levels. You will have to special order this one however since it will only be available in limited quantities in US.

DWIN introduced 3 new PlasmaImage Systems ... a 42-inch, 50-inch and 61-inch display offering exceptional picture quality, simplified control and 10 inputs for digital home theater. All Plasmaimage HD systems come bundled with a native-rate OUTBOARD processor (MSRP $3500). Native rate processing results in less artifacts and better motion video by preventing 'double-processing' of video signals.

Fujitsu a worldwide leader in home electronics also showcased its new line of Plasmavision displays featuring an upgraded version of its acclaimed digital video processor, called the Advanced Video Movement-II (AVM-II) processor.

Hitachi as well premiered its Cineform Plasma Television Models in a 55-inch screen size.

With globally known names like this jumping in and expanding the plasma market we may not be far from Mark Cuban's dream and soon we may see Plasma Displays in every home.


Gone are the days when the bigger the speaker the better the sound. No longer are speakers the size of a small refrigerator, in fact when visiting a true Home Audio enthusiast it is not unlikely to walk through a home hearing crystal clear sound in every room but unable to see any speakers. In-Wall and  In-Ceiling speakers were all the rage this year at CEDIA and even old time speaker manufacturers are jumping on board.

SpeakerCraft who invented the first fully pivoting in-ceiling speaker in 1998 incorporated this technology into a flush mount, in-wall speaker. The AIM LCR Series from SpeakerCraft features dual pivoting woofers and a pivoting tweeter for further accuracy. This feature allows easy adjustment; if your listening positions changes, simply aim the speaker with a push of the hand.

ChannelVision's Aria brand has added 5 new speakers to its line. This allows installers greater flexibility to choose between nine different speakers to fit the challenging needs of multi-room audio.

For those "DIY's" that have no time or tools coNEXTion Systems has the product you have been waiting for. These speakers boast the world's first 60 second NO TOOL install! Their Z-Tool Frame and SnapLok Baffle ceiling speaker require no tools for installation after the hole is cut and wires stripped. Simplified installation however hasn't compromised the sound; these speakers still sound great.

Shelf speakers have reinvented themselves and are now a huge part of the Home Entertainment Display. Thiphi Audio's THT 6A 2.1 Versatile Speaker System is an example of this with speakers designed specifically to compliment plasma and LCD systems, The six vertical transducer array creates "constant directivity", adaptable to home theater, gaming and music applications.

After taking a tour of the Boston Acoustics booth I was impressed with the variety of speakers they had available, most impressive was the P4 Series. These thin; sleek speakers are offered in a variety of lengths to match the dimensions of a plasma display; giving a sleek professional look to any home entertainment system. As with any Boston Acoustic product the sound and quality of these speakers is great as well.


Millions of Americans do not own homes and live in condominiums or apartments. These people, like myself, still want to have quality home theater and audio products. Whole House Systems may not be a possibility since landlords would not appreciate us putting holes in the wall and running wire through the ceiling. But that doesn't mean we have to have second rate Home Theater and Audio.

"Home Theater in a box" has become very popular; we have all seen the surround sound systems on sale at Best Buy for $199. But don't fool yourself ... these aren't quality systems. At CEDIA I found a few Higher End complete home theater systems that offer quality comparable to that of many custom home systems.

Marantz long has provided advanced home entertainment solutions for the custom market. At CEDIA they debut the all-in-one home theater, the ER2500 (SRP $1,099). A 6.1-channel receiver with a built in progressive scan DVD player, 7 digital channels of amplified sound (100 watts x 7), five satellite speakers and a subwoofer. Marantz is calling this "home theater in a box" concept with true "outside the box" thinking.

Harman Kardon, another quality name in home audio has put together a complete package that offers advanced features comparable to its individual lines, the CP 35, CP 25 and CP 15 System Solutions. Based around the new AVR line receivers, all three systems provide the quality and sound expected from Harman Kardon.

Now that we have a quality Home Theater and Audio system in our tiny apartment we need music and video content. To music and movie makers dismay we are now able to get most songs and movies online, while currently it is mostly through illegal pirating many legitimate forms of music sharing have begun to form. With these large music collections stored on your home PC, companies like NAD have addressed the need to play music directly from your PC to your home theater.

The NetCap Network Receiver from NAD, allows users to play music, picture and movie files stored on any networked PC through the AV Receiver, connecting the NetCap in much the same way as any DVD player or satellite box in a home theater system. Connection to the PC is either hardwired or wireless. At a cost under $500, this system should be in many homes before too long transforming workstation into home entertainment hub.

If you don't have a computer already or are in the market for a new one I strongly suggest taking a look at Pelham Sloane's PS1500M all-in-one PC. It incorporates Intel Pentium M processor and opens new Windows XP solutions for home automation system designers and installers. Under 3-inches thick the PS1500M is integrated within a flat, LCD monitor. This unit behaves as both the user control point for a system and as the home automation and media server for the entire installation. At roughly $1500 this is an affordable unit and a great space saver for the crammed apartment.


I can't recommend this show enough for the small business owners in this industry. Mark it on your calendar for next year, attend some classes and see what is out there. It can only help to improve business and open doors to new opportunities. This report only scratched the surface of what I saw in Indianapolis during CEDIA 2004. It would take an army of reporters to cover it all. For more show information HomeToys news page has a CEDIA section archiving the Press Releases from the show. http://www.hometoys.com/news/cedia2004/ 

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