ISE 2018 highlights: affordable 4K HDR projectors and transparent OLEDs...

ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) is a cornerstone event for the pro and custom install AV world - it's the annual launchpad for some of the most cutting-edge, no-holds-barred AV products and technologies designed for the (serious) home theatre, workplace or retail space.

A joint venture between AVIXA (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association) and CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association), the Amsterdam-based show (which ran from 6th-9th February 2018) is now in its 14th year and has well over 1,000 exhibitors – among which are familiar hi-fi and AV brands, from Sony to Samsung, Focal to NAD.

And while ISE may be more communication- and signage-centric than the most home cinema-friendly shows on the circuit, it’s not short of gear to gawp at, from pro 8K projectors and transparent OLEDs to the latest in-wall speakers and Samsung’s statement-making 146-inch The Wall we first saw at CES 2018

Samsung’s ‘The Wall Professional’ & LED cinema

…which seems as good as any place to start. At the centre of Samsung’s strange unveil event at CES 2018 was a massive modular MicroLED panel, which can display multiple individually controlled screens of any size. The version at ISE is a slight variation on its consumer counterpart, featuring Samsung’s MagicInfo content management platform for creating and managing content across one or several Walls.

Also under the Samsung spotlight was the “world’s first 3D cinema LED screen”. Last year the Korean giant debuted its first LED theatre screen (a 34-foot, 4K HDR beast), which will be first implemented in a Wanda cinema in Shanghai. This year, it’s added to that spec sheet, hoping to offer an improved 3D cinema experience. The 3D Cinema LED screen claims to maintain the 2D-level brightness (a compromise of 3D), reduce the dizzying effects, and improve viewing angles.

LG’s transparent OLED

Sticking with panels but moving on to OLED, we are the first to admit seeing an uber-slim, 55in transparent OLED would have us eye-wide and subconsciously opening our phone’s camera app – even if it's designed as signage for “retail environments and art galleries where products can be placed behind video, or special effects displayed”.

Yes, it may be a while before it’s sat above a fireplace and showing Eastenders, but could this be the future of TV? Panasonic also thinks so, having showed off a similar transparent 4K OLED concept at IFA last year.

“World’s first” 8K DLP laser projector

2018 has decided it’s the year 8K makes a splash (if nothing else). All eyes were on the resolution at CES 2018 as Samsung, Sony, Sharp and LG showcased 8K TVs - so it was only a matter of time before an 8K projector arrived.

This year, Digital Projection is celebrating ten years at ISE by debuting its flagship INSIGHT Dual Laser 8K, which projects a 7680 X 4320 resolution of 33 million pixels with 25,000 lumens of brightness.

It’s set to become the world’s first commercially available 8K projector, and we imagine the price, when announced, will reflect that.

Budget 4K projectors

4K projectors are hardly old hat, though, and the show wasn’t short of brand-new models. Some of which, your financial advisor will be pleased to know, are fairly affordable.

Optoma unveiled a brand new 4K HDR model, the UHD40, which will sell for just £1500 – half the price of the UHD65 that’s a current What Hi-Fi? Award-winner in the ‘Best projector £2000-£4000’ category.

4K projectors don’t get any more keenly priced than ViewSonic’s PX747-4K and PX727-4K at present, mind you. Both models promise to deliver up to 150 inches of 4K and HDR goodness (at 3500 and 2200 lumens respectively) for “under €1300”.

All-singing, all-dancing AV receivers and processors

NAD's new 11.1-channel V2 M17 AV pre-amp processor builds on the original NAD M17 with new video and audio components that grant it support for 4K, HDR, Atmos, Dirac Live Full Room Correction, and BluOS for hi-res multi-room streaming.

Its Modular Design Construction (MDC) allows for even further futureproofing down the line, and for owners of the original M17 to upgrade to the latest spec. Available in spring, the V2 M17 will cost £5500.

Lexicon by Harman, meanwhile, decided to bring its latest RV-6 and RV-9 AV receivers to Europe. And while prices and availability are yet to be announced, we already know they tick a lot of boxes: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing, Dirac room Live EQ, 4K, Dolby Vision HDR, HDMI2.0a, HDCP2.2, and 3D support.

With 12 channels of decoding and 7 channels of amplification, the RV-6 and RV-9 also feature Harman’s proprietary Logic7 Immersion feature, which up-mixes stereo and multi-channel content to three-dimensional sound.

New in-wall speakers

And lastly, for those not afraid to punch holes in their walls…

Focal has expanded its integration offering below its flagship Electra range, launching an entry-level 100 Series (due in February) and adding new models to its mid-priced 300 Series (due in May).

The 100 Series range – comprised of three coaxial in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, one coaxial in-ceiling stereo speaker, one in-ceiling speaker and two products specifically intended for in-wall use – feature the brand’s familiar Polyglass mid/bass driver cones and aluminum inverted dome tweeters.

The once-three-strong 300 Series now numbers, too, with new models (one of which is the flagship IWLCR6) all boasting Flax cone woofers and aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter.

Alongside the news Dynaudio has revamped most of its Xeo wireless speaker range, the Danish brand has also added new left-, right- and centre speakers (S4-LCR65) and dual voice-coil in-ceiling speakers (S4-DVC65) to its Custom Studio range.

But it’s Morel – a specialist in home and car audio – that claims the shallowest speaker of the lot – and we don’t mean one that only plays to the young and beautiful. Its new PowerSlim speakers are just 1.5 inches deep, giving a new meaning to flush installation.

Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.