Review: AWE Smart Home Expo 2017 intros expanded movie and music demo facilities

posted on Saturday, 18th November 2017 by Steve May

home cinema  AWE Europe  Trade  Showroom 

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Home cinema, high quality audio and a raft of new control and distribution technologies were the big draws for what transpired to be AWE’s most successful Smart Home Expo yet. With a greater floor space (reappropriated from the distributor's expansive warehouse), there was more to see and do than ever before.

Attending the two day event were a variety of installers, electricians and smart home professionals. Inside CI was there too, and we were blown away with what we saw.

The unveiling of a new smaller home theatre space proved particularly interesting. Regular visitors to AWE HQ will be familiar with its THX theatre. It’s a big ticket demo facility, with some superb hardware. KEF THX certified in-wall Extreme speakers, in a Dolby Atmos configuration of 7.5.4, create a huge soundstage. Audio processing and amplification is handled by a Marantz AV8802 pre-amp processor and two seven channel MM8077 power amps.Projector duties are handled by Epson’s EH-LS10500 laser model, and a 133-inch Draper ReAct fabric screen. Source components include regular and UHD Blu-ray, plus Sky. 

Foosball (1)

THX Cinema

The cinema occupies a large space, 7m x 5.5m, enough to accommodate  several rows of dedicated home theatre seating (pictured ablove).

The total cost of the room, at trade prices, is approximately £30,000. For many installers, this is simply out of kilter with the home cinema aspirations of their clients, who may be looking to convert a smaller space, be it a garage, loft or spare room.

The new Definitive Technology home cinema, unveiled at the Expo, is smaller space (5.5 x 3.5m). It features Definitive Technology in-wall Reference Series speakers in a 7.4.4 Atmos configuration, driven by single Denon AVR-X6400H AV receiver. An Epson EH-TW9300 HD projector, partnered with a 110-inch Draper nano-perf screen, provides the video. Here streaming sources and Spotify entertain the crowds. The trade price is around half that of the bigger theatre.

I think AWE have got the balance between the two exactly right. What’s particularly interesting when comparing the two rooms is there’s no obvious disparity in performance (as odd as that may sound). AWE’s sonic architect James Drummie has managed to drive the two theatres to roughly the same reference level (105dB, but limited to 100dB for comfort), when room reflections are taken into account. I suspect any clients who are taken for a demo will leave confident and convinced.

Musicx Room

The other big new attraction in AWE’s expanded showroom was a dedicated music room (pictured above). It’s interesting to see AWE offer high quality audio, alongside the more familiar multiroom HEOS kit.

Attendees were able to listen to KEF’s statement Blade 2 premium floorstanders (£16,000 without the fancy finish) and KEF’s LS50 monitor speaker, available for a more modest £800, driven by some great electronics from Marantz. Both sounded terrific.

Like Disneyland, there was entertainment around every corner. Videotree offered a particularly convincing demonstration of its mirror TV, while Loewe took the wraps off the Bild 3.55, the brand’s lowest cost OLED 55-inch screen. The new TV features an integrated soundbar with a full range of custom integration options.

For installers looking to offer a slimline on-wall speaker solution to accompany wall-mounted TVs, AWE now offers the Definitive Technology Mythos line of multi-driver enclosures and compact subwoofers. It was demo’d with a Panasonic OLED.

And if you went to see the ultimate in big-screen HDR, a 100-inch Sony ZD9 TV (pictured below) had dazzle to spare.There was also an expanded line of URC control solutions to hand. New at the Expo was the MX HomePro, a simple to install £399 system.

100in Sony Zd9

AWE Expo Videotree 1

Elsewhere, HDAnywhere had the latest iterations of its Mhub matrices, now with integrated control technology. Using the brand’s uControl app, it’s possible to manage a complex system without additional hardware or programming, thanks to macro-sequencing. Integrated uControl allows users to turn on their TV, select sources and navigate menus.

HDAnywhere founder Chris Pinder (pictured above) was on hand to explain the updated the MHUB-OS, which also supports (and indeed builds upon) Alexa voice control. Not only is the range extremely versatile, the build and finish is immaculate. “No one puts as much effort into the design and build quality as we do,” Pinder told Inside CI.

Overall, this was AWE’s most ambitious Smart Home Expo yet, and the investment it’s made in showcase and demonstration space has paid off handsomely. The Smart Apartment is open to AWE customers and their clients, free of charge (via bookings). If you’re integrator, it’s an essential visit.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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