EHX Spring 2006 Summary

Steve

Senior Member
Well, EHX Spring 2006 is in the record books. The show consisted primarily of Boot Camps, Conference Sessions (Technical and Non), Manufacturer Training/Overviews and the Expo Hall/Exhibitors. The show is geared primarily toward the professional installer/integrator. The Boot Camps were good and I particularly enjoyed the Whole House Audio camp that I attended a majority of. The conference sessions were hit or miss. Some contained some good useful information while others were kind of fluffy and not too useful. Most of the manufacturer sessions were good as well.

The Expo Hall was buzzing for 2.5 days. Again, a large majority of the vendors catered toward professional installers. A large percentage of the vendors were exhibiting Mid to High End (read expensive) Audio/Video equipment. There were also a sprinkling of dealers, tool vendors and lots of miscellaneous stuff. I will highlight some of the things I looked at and offer my opinion (by category).

Audio
I looked at offerings by Russound, Nuvo, Channel Vision, Xantech and OnQ. In the A-Bus type world (cat 5 to amplified keypads) my personal favorite was the lyriQ system by OnQ. It is new and I understand it won best of show in its category. 'A-Bus' type systems are best for basic budget systems but they work extremely well and are very popular. It is hard to find anything wrong with most of the offerings and the Russound and Nuvo systems were very appealing. There were also high end systems such as Zon by Klipsh.

TouchScreens
Everybodys got TS's now. Depending on what your goal is, there are a few options. There were very few 'generic' screens available. The most compatible and versatile was actually the Elk 7" touch screen. It could run any CE based application so you could use it for anything you want CE based. The UTMA touch screen by Red Radio is also nice. The concept is very cool and the price is competitive. The only issue I saw with the Red Radio screens is it seems as if there is a tradeoff for screen quality vs price. Red Radio has hit a good price point and has a good product but in my opinion the screens are not as bright and crisp as others I have seen (albeit different designs). They (both the UTMA and Rad-IO) products seemed a bit washed out looking and not as crisp, clean and bright as others. The bottom line is you will have to decide if the screen is of the quality you desire but the products themselves were very nice. The Rad-IO screens are now supported by both MainLobby and CQC. Cortexa has a nice SAW based touch screen but you may be limited by its embedded Linux O/S since things like Mainlobby and CQC will not work on it.

There is another alternative which I think is very cool but unfortunately a bit expensive. RTI makes touch screen devices which work with their 'hubs' and software. They have 2 touch screens, 1 larger with video supported and a smaller Rad-IO sized screen in a bezel containing several hard buttons for things like volume, etc. These screen were awesome! They are bright, clean, crisp and responsive. They are pricey at $2000 and $999 respectively. The way they work is interesting. They connect via Cat5 to the RTI 'hubs'. The hubs in turn speak either IR or RS232 (uni, with bi directional soon). RTI includes a very nice software package akin to Mainlobby or CQC where you create your custom layouts. The buttons on the layout trigger either IR or RS232. So these screens can talk to ANY IR or RS232 based device. In theory you can use this touch screen to access any Elk Panel, Nuvo or other audio system, etc. Since you specify codes for RS232 you can talk to any device that supports it. It is a very nice refined system but the price of the screens and components will add up quickly. Xantech had a similar system but was not as flexible. The HAI keypad/touchscreen was also bright and responsive. Of course there were many other proprietary TS's in systems such as Crestron, Elan, Life|Ware, etc.

HA / Lighting Protocols
UPB, Insteon and Zwave were all present and accounted for. The Zwave alliance folks had the smallest booths and were a lot quieter than expected. One bit of news is that the ControlThink USB SDK was released in limited quantity just before their 1rst quarter deadline (per their announcement). Insteon looked good and Wayne covered some of the new toys there. Hopefully there will be very good news on the software front soon (hint, hint). UPB was represented by SAI, HAI, Web Mountain and PCS. The $35 HAL branded switch I think will be a real winner and may sway some folks in other camps or on the fence. In the lighting world Centralite showed their Starlite system which is Zigbee based. And Cooper showed their Aspire RF based switches.

HA Systems
There were a number of high end and pro systems such as Crestron, Elan, Control4 as well as others. There was 1 system that did stand out as very affordable and with A LOT of potential. That is Cortexa. A good part of their system is hardware based and then there is a software component for configuration, admin, logging, usage, etc. They support a number of devices with the list growing. At approximately $1400 for the combo hardware/software system I think it a good affordable system with a lot of potential. On the software side, vendors like Cinemar and Powerhome were there. Cinemar was showing off their new Mainlobby/Server products which look very promising. It's definitely not just a pretty front end any more. There will be a robust event system, etc. Cinemar will take a nice step forward with this new release. Powerhome was also there and I have to say it is probably the nicest piece of software I have seen for the price. Kudos to Dave Howard for creating a robust package so affordably - don't be fooled by the low price! Absent was Charmed Quark. This is a great venue to show wares to pro integrators and I would encourage CQC to exhibit in the Fall. There were a number of MCE offerings including mControl from Embedded Automation which looked very promising.

Miscellaneous
There were several tool vendors. TestUm makes some nice testing devices, Rhino makes a nice labeler including one that prints on heat shrink tubing. A few things that I thought were cool was the Magnepull which is a device to easily pull cable through a wall (attach tether to cable, drop tether in wall and retrieve it via the magnetic roller). Another cool thing to keep systems clean is the zipper cable wrap which makes it very easy to wrap cables. There were many others but nothing that really jumped out. I will be happy to answer and specific question I can. The full vendor list can be found on the EHX web site.

I would highly recommend this show to some of our own integrators such as Paul Koslow, Squintz, Toymaster, etc. Larry from Denver and Opie were there and can offer their opinion on this as well. I enjoyed attending and reporting on the show and encourage anyone to attend them keeping in mind their tilt to pros.
 

Chakara

Active Member
Great writeup Steve. I liked seeing your perspective and hope that others that were lucky enough to be there do the same!
 

pkoslow

Active Member
Hi Steve,

Thanks for all the photos and coverage! I attended EHX in Anaheim last fall and was really looking forward to meeting everyone at this show. I was registered and had airfare, but work commitments kept me from going...

I expect to be a regular at these shows in the future so I'm sure there will be another opportunity to meet many of you!

The floor looks very empty in many of your pictures? Did you take these at the end of the day when the grouds were already tapering off?

Thanks again,
Paul
 
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