18.03.20

ISE 2020: Show Report

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ISE 2020 followed a trend we’ve seen in the last few years at trade shows: our journalists didn’t return from the show with juicy, headline-grabbing technology developments. It’s tempting to see that as a lack of innovation in the market, but it’s too simplistic. The absence of leaps in technology development is a symptom of a great many other trends that, in their own way, are driving the industry forward. Whether those trends are propelling the industry to a better or worse place depends on who you are and how you react to them.

 One-stop-shop and ease of use

Consolidation and the desire for manufacturers to become a one-stop-shop is arguably the greatest reason why we’re not seeing masses of new technology development. Brands are focused on filling out their product offering sometimes with technologies already on the market elsewhere.

They’re also making sure products work together seamlessly and easily. And they’re supplementing their own technology development with the acquisition of other companies. Announcing another acquisition (Huddle Room Technology) as ISE opened, Biamp is a good example of these trends. Joe Andrulis, executive vice president of corporate development, said: “What we have introduced this round are the little bits of glue that hold things together. They’re exciting for people putting solutions together but maybe they are not the big headliners.”

An example of what Andrulis spoke about is Tesira Connect, the first version of which was shown off at InfoComm 2019 in Orlando. At ISE 2020, TC-5D was unveiled. While AVB remains Biamp’s means of connecting its products together, there is acknowledgement that Dante is a popular protocol used by integrators. Tesira Connect is meant to bridge traffic between AVB and Dante seamlessly which will allow Dante-enabled devices to be used in conjunction with Biamp products without hassle.

On the topic of bringing products within a company together, Harman’s booth was interesting because we’re really starting to see the results of the company bringing its brands’ R&D teams together. AMX DVX presentation switchers for example come with Crown DriveCore amplifier and BSS Audio signal processing on board.

Software

Software development rarely offers you a juicy headline but it’s now so vital to the capabilities of the products and systems released and is often seen as the differentiator between manufacturers.

QSC embarked on this path early with its Q-Sys ecosystem that brings audio, video and control together. At ISE 2020, with the launch of the Q-Sys Reflect Enterprise Manager, the manufacturer has expanded how integrators and end users can use the Q-Sys platform.

Meanwhile ZeeVee launched its own ZyPer Management platform. Bob Michaels, CEO of ZeeVee, said: “With AV over IP, the screens can be in one location and the computers in another and the head-end in a completely different location. You need a centralised platform where you can manage all these different parts of the system and that is what the ZyPer management platform is.”

ZeeVee wasn’t alone, countless manufacturers launched or updated software that controls, manages and offers insight into their technology deployments.

There are also product agnostic platforms that are designed to offer remote management and control of all AV technologies sitting on a network. Utelogy was showing new capabilities for enterprise customers in its 3.0 software release, while Sixeye’s latest software update included a new task scheduling feature.

The little bits of glue that hold things together [are] exciting for people putting solutions together but maybe they are not the big headliners - Joe Andrulis, Biamp 

A perfect example of the move to software came from Shure, which committed to a more software-centric future with a Windows 10 version of its IntelliMix processing engine.

IntelliMix Room effectively removes IntelliMix processing hardware from any system while offering the same automatic mixing algorithm, together with echo cancellation, automatic gain control, noise reduction, plus EQ, dynamics, and delay.

While still a move to software-centric conference - though not to a PC - Confidea Flex from Televic consolidates a variety of functions into a single delegate device for the Confidea wired conference system. This means that integrators won't have to choose devices for single functions. Flex functions are authorised by software licenses.

At Kramer’s booth, ease of use was front and centre, with a focus on software driven AV cloud usage and open AV platforms. Kramer’s updated wireless presentation and collaboration product line, Via, was shown in its European debut alongside the company’s enterprise AV management platform with a newly updated control system.

LED-ing the display field

For a long time, LED manufacturers were in a race to deliver the smallest possible pixel pitch. This is still important but at ISE 2020 it wasn’t the sole topic, applications and use cases were more prominent.

Manufacturers were open to discussing the steps that need to be taken to add interactivity and collaboration to LED displays so that LED videowalls can not only wow audiences but also enable them to work in new ways.

Leyard showed motion capture together with its LED display to highlight how LED displays can create gaming experiences that would be impossible to deliver with other display types. Micro LED technology was introduced by several manufacturers, with Leyard showing a beautiful 0.6mm pixel pitch 8K display.

Unilumin showed its smart city control room setup and flexible screens at the show in addition to its newly unveiled mini LED technology which uses flip chip technology that is bonded directly on to a board to allow a product to be protected from outside environments.

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Absen also put a focus on miniLED, showing mini LED as an evolution of LED technology. Four mini LED product series were demonstrated, two of which are new for ISE 2020. The A27 Pro miniLED variant was shown in addition to the AX1.5 mini LED series, the CR and HC control room series 0.9mm pixel pitch variants.

Samsung launched The Wall for Business LED tiles (0.8mm,1.2mm, 1.6mm) at the show but also previewed its microLED 100-in videowall in a whisper suite. Black levels were incredible (it was black, rather than very dark grey), and detail on some content was so good it looked almost 3D in places, with real depth of field. It’s capable of 5Kwith an AI upscaling chip inside the modules to upscale content.

On the processing side, RGBlink showed off its D4videowall processors which are primed to handle 4K60 and HDR visuals. RGBlink also combined processing and control, normally two discrete components of any LED videowall system, into one. This consolidation of processes will be required if LED displays are to become more common.

Brompton demonstrated its Hydra calibration camera in its European debut at the show which enables Brompton HDR system for LED displays. The calibration system was redesigned to enable LEDs to achieve HDR visual effects.

The Tessera S8 LED processor was also shown, featuring direct outputs from the processor to the panel, supporting all Brompton features including HDR, Dynamic Calibration, Ultra Low Latency and High Frame Rates.

Full 4K60 input support is included, with eight 1G outputs that are capable of 525K pixels at 60Hz, eight bits per colour. Brompton also showed its latest software, a beta of version 3software which will include support for the S8 processor, support for HDR and new features.

Everything over IP

It was hard to escape the continuing rise of IP in among the aisles and when that came to audio it was mostly aimed at the still expanding Dante AoIP protocol, developed and licensed by Audinate. It was noticeable that there were even a few manufacturers that had initially chosen other options, but which have quietly assimilated and now are painted Dante all-over.

Audinate's presence was defined by a continuing showing of its Domain Manager, which brings more security, user roles, cross-WAN and subnet operation, auditing, and lots more -particularly important in integration for enterprise clients, for example. It also showed off an embedded implementation on Linux, running on x86 and ARM processors.

This returns to our earlier comments: ISE 2020 demonstrated a more software-driven industry looking to move away from costly hardware solutions.

With AV over IP, the screens can be in one location and the computers in another and the head-end in a completely different location. You need a centralised platform where you can manage all these different parts of the system. – Bob Michaels, ZeeVee

There were some nice support product launches for the IP world, such as the new SWR2310 range of Stackable Managed Network Switches from Yamaha- tour-ready IT.

Neutrik brought a Milan OEM Module to the show, as well as a new ruggedised AGNPS-30W Gigabit PoE Injector to support the burgeoning array of PoE devices appearing across the full product spectrum.

To support that, Genelec does some clever power storage in the speaker power supply, so peaks can be adequately supplied, even with the limits of PoE.

An important commercial entry in the IP area was the new Praesensa IP-based public address and voice alarm (PAVA)system from Bosch. The system features four and eight-channel amplifiers with flexible power assignment where the available power can be divided as per need among the outputs. Each device has its own Ethernet switch and the system's multifunction power supply features a single 12 V battery backup solution.

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Meanwhile away from the audio launches, Datapath highlighted its Arqa KVM system in its first public showing, a hard KVM system that uses video over IP transport technology to allow maintenance teams to have all PCs housed in one location.

One control technology is featured, which allows users to switch between up to 16 independent sources without button presses, allowing the system to behave as an IP matrix with up to 2,000 endpoints in the system.

For the first time at ISE, Crestron highlighted its ‘future innovation’ zone, showing concepts which are in development that may be on the market in the future and put a focus on its HDBaseT concepts, showcasing the E760 HDBaseT to AV-over-IP solution and NVX as software, capable of showing thumbnail images of streams. An 8K AV-over-IP software decoder prototype was also demonstrated.

Harman came to the show with the message that the future is AV-over-IP but also showed matrix switchers with a nod to customers that will need to accommodate legacy systems as they switch to IP signal distribution in future roll outs.

ISE 2020 demonstrated a more software-driven industry looking to move away from costly hardware solutions.

Loudspeakers

Possibly one of the most significant launches was Kara II from L-Acoustics. This evolves one of the best-ever selling L-Acoustics products by introducing adjustable directivity via the company’s tried and tested Panflex system. This gives four selectable horizontal directivities:70°/110° and 90° L/R.

 The70-degree option comes with a bonus 2dB extra SPL for even further throw. Polar stability is also improved over KARA 1, and of course the new model is completely compatible with the original so can be easily integrated into existing rental stock.

d&b audiotechnik launched a full, high-end installation-specific line array system. The KSLi range includes the KSLi8 /KSLi12 full range speakers (80-and 120-degree horizontal dispersion, respectively) with claimed pattern control down to very low frequencies; and the KSLi-SUB and KSLi-GSUB subwoofers. This launch was combined with the unveiling of the ideal KSLi partner - the new 40D installation amplifier, which is the most powerful four channel Class-D installation amplifier in the d&b range.

Meyer Sound introduced the Ultra X20 self-powered full-range point-source loudspeaker - a follow up to the larger X40 launched last year. It is billed as an extremely versatile compact cabinet that can deliver an impressive 123.5dB SPL (MNoise).

A rotatable horn gives directivity orientation control the unit is available in X20, X22, and X23 variations (110° x 50°,80° x 50°, 110° x 110°respectively).

Meyer Sound also presented preview demonstrations of Spacemap Go, a spatial sound, design and mixing tool that leverages the processing of the manufacturer’s Galaxy network platform. In the battle of the high-end audio offerings, Constellation stood out as a means of changing room or space characteristics while L-Acoustic’s L-ISA and d&b audiotechnik’s Soundscape battled it out in the realm of immersive audio experience. The Spacemap Go is set to add similar dynamics to Meyer Sound systems.

Ecler brought its new WiSpeak wireless speaker system to the show. The WiSpeak Tube and WiSpeak Cube speakers are discrete, good-looking units compatible with ceiling light rails for powering - with wall, ceiling, and tabletop mounting options.

Audio is transmitted over Wi-Fi and 24 loudspeakers can be paired with a single WiSpeakCore unit, which sports three selectable inputs, including a Bluetooth input.

Consolidation and the desire for manufacturers to become a one-stop-shop is arguably the greatest reason why we’re not seeing masses of new technology development.

Cadac took a left turn from its core high-end mixing console offerings by introducing a raft of new loudspeaker products, still in development but scheduled for release around 12 months from now.

The new products include new beam-forming line-array systems, software configurable with auto-EQ features.

Audac brought the new good-looking ALTI 2-waypendant speakers with a single cable installation and innovative hood that can be attached after wiring and that completely hides the connection and suspension. There are currently two main options - the ALTI4 and ALTI6with 4- and 6-in drivers respectively.

Audio processing and microphones

Audac also showed its SourceCon amplifiers with integrated processing, matrix system and amplification, controllable through the through front panel, TCP/IP and the Audac Touch system.

On the control side, the company brought Touch 2 to the show, for customisable smart device control of its system components. New features include automatic device discovery across the system, mixing capability for the M2 multimedia audio mixer, customisable user dashboards made from system widgets, and the NMP40 Audio Streaming SourceCon streaming solution with Spotify and Your Brand options.

Until recently, DiGiCo was more associated with the live sound touring market that installed sound, but its 4REA processor has brought DiGiCo knowhow to AV.

To this end, DiGiCo announced a couple of Dante solutions that work with the 4REA4 engine and software. The A168D is a Dante-equipped 16-in, 8-out stagebox with mic pres available on all inputs, controllable and configurable from the 4REA4 software.

The A164D is a wall-mount box with 16 inputs again, and four outputs. This unit features LCD scribble strips for easy I/O identification, with switchable backlighting. Both units have dual Dante ports for switch or redundant modes, a built-in sample rate converter. The company also brought its new Quantum 3 console, part of the new Quantum digital console line.

K-Array had another original show with the launch of a newline array microphone – the Capture-KMC50. One KMC-50 employs 16 close-spaced 4mm cardioid capsules to create line-array-type response, however the microphone has a modular aspect, so several units can be connected to create a longer, even more focussed microphones. The Capture-KMC50 is available with vertical and horizontal mounting options to suit the application.

In getting something to work out the box, you might be stifling out of the box thinking.

The Verdict

No showstoppers but plenty to talk about. The technologies that are on the market are inching forward to be brighter, lighter, stronger and more powerful. Headline display developments such as 8K are starting to quietly progress with more technologies available to handle massive processing requirements. A good example of this was over on the TVOne stand where the vendor came to show with Coriomaster2, an all-in-one, multi-window video processor. It supports 4K604:4:4 and it is 8K ready.

The AV/IT trend is maturing. We’ve spent time in this report looking at AV over IP but the ISE 2020 exhibitor list alone will show AV/IT lines disappearing with the likes of Google and Zoom taking stands. Multiple manufacturers also announced partnerships with Microsoft, Zoom, Google and many more in a promise that their products would work seamlessly with systems and programmes developed by the corporations that dominate the IT landscape.

And product demonstrations in every hall of the RAI were often firmly pointed at making an IT manager’s life easier. With the end user so in focus we also saw products that were designed for a specific use case and then putout to market. Taiden’s latest paperless congress unit was designed for the stunning Room XIX at the UN Office in Geneva and was being previewed as an available product at ISE for example.

The biggest trend however is prioritising ease-of-use. In many ways this is great news for users and installers of technology. The promise that something will work out the box, speed up installation or automate configuration is very welcome news.

But does this sometimes come at the cost of technology innovation? In getting something to work out the box, you might be stifling out of the box thinking. We can't include all the new technologies we saw at ISE 2020 in this report so check out inavateonthenet.net and iseshow.tv for more launches, analysis and discussion.