CEDIA Expo 2019: There was a lot to see and hear at the annual confab for custom-installation professionals

Major trends included projectors designed to replace TVs, direct-view LED screens, 8K, and more affordable high-end audio.

Among the many trade shows in the audio/video industry, the CEDIA Expo is unique (the acronym, if you’re unfamiliar with this show, stands for Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association). It caters exclusively to those whose business is designing and installing customized systems in residential environments. Along with security and smart-home systems, a large part of the show is devoted to audio and video products—which is, of course, where my interest lies.

The show floor was filled with plenty of new products, more than I could experience in the two days I was there. Nevertheless, I did manage to cover a lot of ground, taking photos of just about everything I saw and heard for myself. We’ve assembled photos of the most interesting items I came across into a slide show. Enjoy!

CEDIA Expo 2019
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

The venue for CEDIA Expo 2019

This year, the CEDIA Expo was held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO.

epson lx 500
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Epson LS500 ultra-short-throw video projector

One of the most compelling examples of a projector intended to replace a flat-panel TV is Epson’s new LS500 ultra-short-throw (UST) 3LCD model, which employs laser illumination and provides pseudo-4K resolution using the company’s 4K Pro-UHD pixel-shifting technology. Perhaps most interesting, it comes with an ambient light-rejecting screen and costs only $5,000 with a 100-inch screen, or $6,000 with a 120-inch screen. The picture quality was quite impressive under the strong lights of the show floor.

epson lx 500 closeup
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Epson LS500 video projector

The Epson LS500 claims a peak light output of 4,000 lumens and a dynamic contrast ratio of 2,500,000:1 by pulsing the laser light source, and it can auto-detect and render HDR10 and HLG content. Along with built-in speakers, it has a separate HDMI input and USB port that are dedicated to a streaming stick, along with two “regular” HDMI inputs, all of which operate at 18Gbps.

lg hu85la
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

LG's HU85LA video projector flush-mounted in a Salamander cabinet

The LG HU85LA is another new UST, laser-illuminated projector designed to replace a flat-panel TV. This one is a single-chip DLP model with pixel-shifted 4K resolution and support for HDR content with a specified peak light output of 2,700 lumens. It’s more expensive than the Epson LS500 at $5,999, and that does not include a screen.

jvc lx nz3
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

JVC's single-chip LX-NZ3 DLP video projector

JVC touted its new LX-NZ3 as a TV replacement, though it isn’t a UST projector. Its single-chip DLP design uses laser illumination with pixel-shifting 4K resolution, and it supports HDR10 and HLG with auto tone mapping. The peak light output is spec’d at 3,000 lumens, and the contrast ratio is claimed to be infinite thanks to dynamic laser modulation. The list price is $3,699 with no screen.

epson hc3800
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Epson's Home Cinema 3800 three-LCD video projector

In other affordable-projector news, Epson introduced the Home Cinema 3200 and 3800, which look identical on the outside. Both are 3LCD designs with 4K Pro-UHD pixel shifting as well as support for HDR10 and HLG content, a peak light output of 2,900 lumens, and HDMI inputs that operate at 18Gbps. With a new lens design, both offer manual focus, zoom, and lens shift. That last feature is unusual in low-cost projectors; in fact, the HC3200 is the least-expensive projector to offer horizontal and vertical lens shift at $1,499. The HC3800 adds built-in speakers, RS-232 port, and 12V trigger for $1,699.

jvc projectors
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Important firmware updates for JVC video projectors

JVC announced a major firmware update for its DLA-NX5, NX7, and NX9 models (aka DLA-RS1000, RS2000, and RS3000). Among other things, the update adds a feature called Frame Adapt HDR, which analyzes the brightness of scenes and even individual frames with 18-bit precision, simulating the effect of dynamic metadata in HDR10 content. The demo included content shot in 4K at 1,000 frames per second and shown at 60 fps using Frame Adapt HDR on a DLA-NX9, and it looked stunningly gorgeous!

dpi satellite prototype
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Digital Projection's 10,000-lumen video projector

Digital Projection demonstrated a prototype projection system that separates a laser light source from the imaging/optical projector head seen here. The light source sends light to the projector head via fiber-optic cables, which means the light source can be in a completely different room. The design uses RGB lasers to achieve almost full coverage of the BT.2020 color gamut. Production units will have 10,000 lumens, and up to six light-source boxes can be combined for a total of 60,000 lumens!

dpi radiance
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Digital Projection's $300,000 direct-view LED display

Digital Projection was also demonstrating its Radiance direct-view LED display with a new CrystalView surface glaze that increases durability. However, it also prevents servicing the panel from the front. The demo unit measured 163 inches (diagonal) with 4K resolution and a pixel pitch of 0.9mm. The peak brightness was set at 500 nits, though the panel can reach twice that brightness. The demo display would cost about $300,000.

leyard tvf
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Leyard's 190-inch, 4K direct-view LED display

Leyard has been in the direct-view LED-display game for many years. New at CEDIA this year was its TVF modular display with 4K resolution at a size of 190 inches (diagonal) and a 1.2mm pixel pitch. It can display HDR10 content with a peak brightness of 600 nits for a cost of about $120,000. In the world of large direct-view LED displays, that’s quite reasonable.

leyard tvf module
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Leyard's direct-vew LED display, with one module exposed

Here you can see one module of the Leyard TVF direct-view LED display. The entire screen can be installed and serviced from the front by removing the actual LED panels.

leyard directlight
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Leyard's DIrectLight X LED display starts at $350,000

Leyard also demonstrated its DirectLight X LED display at CEDIA. In this case, the pixel pitch is 0.9mm with a peak brightness of 800 nits. Support for HDR will be added in 2020. This one is more expensive at about $350,000 for a rear-access configuration or $500,000 for front access.

sony cled
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Sony's $1 million Crystal LED display produces 1,000 nits

Sony announced that its Crystal LED display is now available for residential applications from certified custom installers; previously, it had been available only to commercial customers directly from Sony. With 1,000 nits of peak brightness and a pixel pitch of 1.2mm, the 16x9-foot 4K version costs a cool $1,000,000! Even larger screens can achieve 8K and 16K resolutions, but the cost must be truly astronomical.

samsung the wall
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Samsung's 146-inch The Wall direct-view LED display

Samsung has shown its version of a direct-view LED display—dubbed The Wall—at several trade shows over the last couple of years. At CEDIA, the demo unit measured 146 inches (diagonal) with 0.84mm pixel pitch and 4K resolution. The new Luxury Edition offers a refresh rate of 120Hz, twice that of the previous version, and 2,000 nits of peak brightness. Samsung declined to release pricing info. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it!

lg 88z9
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

The HDMI inputs on LG's 88Z9 OLED operate at 48Gbps

Among the 8K offerings at CEDIA was LG’s 88Z9, an 88-inch OLED that supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG. It provides four HDMI 2.1 inputs that operate at 48 Gbps—a first for consumer TVs—as well as several new features of HDMI 2.1, including eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) from 40 to 120 Hz, all for one penny less than $30,000.

lg 75sm9970
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

LG's 75-inch NanoCell LCD was one of the most affordableTVs

Another 8K display in the LG booth was the 75SM9970, a 75-inch NanoCell LCD TV with full HDR support. It implements a full-array local-dimming (FALD) backlight, and the price is much more down-to-earth at $4,999.99.

sony z9g
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Sony's XBR-85Z9G 8K LCD TV

Sony’s 8K LCD, the XBR-85Z9G, was on display and looking great. Also available in a whopping 98-inch screen size, the Z9G offers full HDR support and Backlight Master Drive FALD backlighting. The 85-inch version lists for $12,999.99, while the 98-incher will set you back one penny less than $70,000.

samsung q900
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Samsung now has a 55-inch version of its 8K QLED TV

Samsung added a 55-inch screen size to its 8K Q900 series of QLED LCD TVs. I asked a rep what good 8K is at such a small size, and he told me that gamers often play on 55-inch screens at a close distance, so 8K is useful in that case. I couldn’t argue with him on that point.

goldenear brx
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

GoldenEar's BRX Bookshelf Reference speaker

In addition to looking at lots of video, I listened to some awesome audio. GoldenEar introduced the BRX Bookshelf Reference speaker, with a folded-ribbon tweeter and 6-inch mid/bass driver with two 6.5-inch passive radiators on the sides. They sounded wonderful on both jazz and classical tracks. Even better, the price is only $1,400/pair.

Theory soundbars
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Theory Audio Design's sb75 soundbar

Theory Audio Design is an outgrowth of Pro Audio Technology that aims to bring Pro’s exceptionally high-end tech to a wider audience. I heard a 5.2.2 system with the front LCR channels coming from the company’s sb75 soundbar, seen in the photo here with the grille removed. The other speakers in the demo included four sb25 bookshelf models for the surrounds and overheads and two sub15 passive subwoofers. The system sounded superb with incredible dynamic range.

Theory alc 1809
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Theory Audio Design's alc1809 Class D amplifier

The Theory alc1809 packs nine channels of amplification and loads of DSP into a single rack-space chassis with no fan. The electronics are fully differential throughout—even the Class D amp modules—with three channels providing 300W each, and six providing 100W each. This little jewel is highly flexible, with lots of bass-management options.

Theory alc 1809 gui
Theory Audio Design

Windows GUI for Theory Audio Design's alc1809 amplifier

The Theory alc1809 includes a graphic user interface that runs on a Windows computer. It lets you easily configure the controller for a wide variety of system configurations.

starke demo room
Ken Lee / Starke Sound

Inside the Starke Sound demo room at CEDIA 2019

Starke Sound always presents one of the best audio demos at CEDIA, and this year was no exception. This 7.2 system featured two IC-H2 floorstanding speakers in the front left and right positions, an IC-H2C center channel (in its U.S. debut), four IW-H1 wall-mounted speakers for the surrounds, and two SUB35 powered subwoofers (also in their US debut). This was among the best sound I heard at CEDIA

starke v series
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Starke V40 series home theater components

Starke had its new V40 series on static display, with much more affordable prices. The V42 floorstander lists for $799/pair, while the VC42 center channel is $399. There’s also the VC41 on-wall center channel for $249 and the VS41 surround speaker for $249. The unique—and, to my eye, super-cool—grilles were designed by Starke’s chief design director Scott DeLoache.

Starke Echo
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Starke Echo 5.1 home theater system

At the opposite end of the price spectrum from much of Starke’s product lineup is the new Echo 5.1 system with five small satellites and a SUB24 subwoofer. At $1,688 for the entire package, I’m quite interested to see how much of the company’s exceptional audio DNA has migrated into such a small, affordable package.

25a ascendo sub32 cr
Scott Wilkinson / IDG

Ascendo Immersive Audio's 32-inch subwoofer

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a 32-inch subwoofer! Ascendo Immersive Audio is a German company that specializes in extremely high-end products, including the SMSG32, seen here with Geoffrey Heinzel, Ascendo’s director of international sales and marketing. This monster is powered by a 6,000W onboard amp, and it can play down to 7Hz at 120 dB SPL.