Tuesday, January 16, 2007

CES 2007 Review - Day Four 1/11/07

For the final day of CES, I decided to go back to the Las Vegas Convention Center and Hilton Hotel. There were a few important companies I wanted to visit and the CES guide showed they were exhibiting in booths at the Hilton. As it turned out, they didn't have exhibitor booths, but instead were actually in hotel suites. I figured that anyone listed in the CES book as an exhibitor meant they were willing to me with anyone with an exhibitor's badge. Unfortunately, that wasn't necessarily the case. Most of these companies were conducting meetings that were set up in advance. I probably should have used the online CES planner to make official appointments. Oh well, at least I now know what to do before attending next year's CES.

One of these companies was Intel Capital. It would be wonderful if Amplio Audio were able to get funding from this venture capitalist. After looking at the information on their Website, it looks like they would be an excellent match for a company like ours. Obviously, this is probably the kind of company that requires an appointment, but I thought what-the-heck, I'll just stop by and to introduce myself and maybe get some basic information about submitting a proposal when we are in a position to formally apply for venture funding. Most venture groups won't provide the first round of financing for a startup, but may invest once you're further along. Unfortunately when I stopped by, I was told the gentleman who was "in charge" had stepped out for a short while. His assistant told me they were only meeting with people with appointments and they didn't have any literature to hand out. Then another fairly nervous looking gentleman who had an appointment arrived and I was quickly asked to leave. So I politely said good bye and walked out the door. No harm done, they don't know who I was and it's not like I was rude or anything. BTW, I really don't like rejection (not that I was rejected).

The next company on my list was Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM Semiconductor). They manufacture DACs, ADCs, opamps, etc. - basically a lot of high quality audio chips. I was pleased to see Richard Kulavik, their US Manager of Marketing and Applications, there amongst the company representatives from Japan. I've had several phone and email conversations with Richard and he has been one of the most helpful representatives in the industry. It was nice to finally meet face to face. We spoke for a short while about how our product development was progressing and I asked him about a novel approach he suggested for a volume control solution. I couldn't (and really didn't need to) stay too long because their next appointment was going to arrive in a few minutes.

Another company who I've had some communication with for some time and had a suite in the Hilton was the ICEpower subsidiary of Bang & Olufsen. Even though they were also meeting people by appointment, they were happy to invite me into their suite and meet with me. The ICEpower amplifier modules are used in quite a few highly regarded products for both proaudio and consumer electronics. The Jeff Roland Design Group, who had a booth at the Venetian, is an example of a company that uses ICEpower technology in their products. ICEpower offers raw amplifier modules at a variety of power ratings and they also offer a more integrated solution that combines their amp module with a switching power supply. Their Technical Marketing Coordinator, Uffe Nisbeth, was very friendly and gave me a complete presentation of their product offerings. I had been under the impression that you had to commit to fairly large quantities before you could work with ICEpower and was happy to learn that this is not the case. We will be placing an order for several product samples in the next few weeks.

My visit to the Hilton wasn't a complete waste of time after all. Since the Las Vegas Convention Center was next door, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon just casually browsing the exhibits. There wasn't much time left because on this last day of the show, the booths shut down an hour earlier than previous days. I think many of the exhibitors were anxious to get home, so some of them were packing up well in advance of the official closing time.

I had a chance to spend some time in the Dolby booth. They were showing off TrueHD, their multichannel, lossless audio technology for the new high-def discs Blu-ray and HD-DVD. I had a conversation with a Dolby executive about how high resolution audio formats like DVD-Audio and SACD have failed to become popular with a large number of consumers and if he thought that might change with TrueHD and the new disc formats. He didn't seem to be too optimistic, maybe that was because it had been a long week for him and he was tired. Anyhow, he said that it really depended on the music industry - the recording companies and labels, and they don't seem to have a clue. DTS also had a nice exhibit nearby and was promoting their lossless codec, DTS-HD, which will also play on Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs. The current confusion between Blu-ray and HD-DVD isn't really helping much either. I don't know if we'll start to see a lot of music (other than movie soundtracks) on either of these disc formats. I won't buy a stand-alone player, but plan to purchase a Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive for our HTPC in the future. Both of these codecs will work on either disc format. What we need is an affordable drive that can play and burn both Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs (and of course every flavor of DVD and CD) and it won't really matter whether they choose to encode to TrueHD or DTS-HD because either will work. Maybe then we will finally get a lot of high resolution music. With all the confusion slowing things down, maybe music downloads from companies like MusicGiants will become popular because they offer a solution that doesn't depend on any expensive hardware that could easily become obsolete. Rumor has it they will be offering multichannel 24-bit 96/192Khz audio tracks in the future. I'm disappointed that I missed their booth over at the Sands. I didn't think of them when I was putting together my itinerary before the show so I didn't even know they were at CES until it was too late.

So, that was my experience at CES 2007. After the exhibits closed, I had to wait around until later in the evening to catch a midnight flight back home. I was hoping to get some sleep on the plane, but couldn't get comfortable. I was probably a little wired from the past few day's activities. I had a nearly 5 hour lay over in Milwaukee until my final flight back home to Madison. All-in-all the red-eye out of Vegas turned out to be a very long trip. I don't recommend it.

I hope you enjoyed my CES 2007 reports. I plan to attend again next year and hopefully I'll be able to post these reports while I'm still at the show - instead of a week later.


  1. It turns out that MusicGiants has already announced their plans for high resolutions (24/96 or 24/88.2) audio. Apparently they had a presentation at CES playing HD music and compared it to CD and compressed audio formats.

    If you search Technorati for "musicgiants" you'll get a few blog posts that cover their announcements at CES.

  2. Great writeup! I hope to go next year so I can provide some first hand coverage. I think that either CES 2008 or 2009 will be the big year for lossless audio.