Reviewed: Alltrade Trade Show 2014

posted on Saturday, 8th November 2014 by Steve May

Events  Trade show 

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A healthy turnout and no shortage of exhibitor innovation were the key takeaways from this year’s Alltrade Trade Show. Hailed as the largest yet from the distributor, there was a predictable leaning toward TV signal distribution solutions, however the show proved a magnet for CI regulars, aerial and satellite professionals and electricians alike. Show regulars, the CAI were also on hand to discuss the changing nature of the satellite and TV aerial business, particularly addressing those looking to fill the void following the digital switchover.

A strong list of exhibitors included Antiference, B-Tech, CYP, Flexson, Global Invacom, Humax, Hoody, Johansson, LEM Electronics, Linsar, Philex, Sanus, Televes, Triax, Vision and Webro. SONOS and DemoPad, newly distributed by AllTrade, also made an appearance on Alltrade’s own stand.

This year the event took over the Oaks Hall at Epsom Downs Racecourse. The decision was welcomed by attendees, who applauded the larger exhibition space and improved facilities. Alltrade MD Steve Simper says the decision to move to a bigger, more central venue made the event more convenient for customers and affiliated distributors. And in celebration of the distributor’s 25th anniversary, visitors were treated to a complimentary bacon sarnie and cup of tea. 

In truth, there was more of CI angle to the show than we’ve seen at previous events. Alltrade seems keen to broaden its product portfolio, recently signing HD distribution outfit CYP and Demo Pad. It’s an area the company seems keen to evangelise, particularly to those integrators operating in the mid-market.  

Humax was on hand to promote its DTR-T2000 YouView PVR, talking up the benefits of non-subscription terrestrial and satellite sources. The new digital recorder employs a 500GB drive, enough to store 125 hours of HD or 300 hours of standard def, and sells for a competitive £199.

Linsar, a favourite screen vendor with independent electrical retailers, demonstrated a wide range of slick, cost-effective screens. Attracting particular interest was the new X-24-DVD, a £299 24-inch model with a stylized forward facing speakers, integrated DVD player and Bluetooth connectivity (when receiving streaming audio from a mobile device the screen blanks). It seems a natural for those specifying panels for bedrooms and dens. Linsar topper Terry Reed told Inside CI, that a lookalike  model without DVD player would be introduced early next year. Reed also revealed that the brand is working with media streaming giant Roku, as part of Roku’s hardware partnership program. “We intend to make Roku our default smart solution,” Reed told us. Currently consumers who buy select Linsar models, from 32-inches up, can register and receiver a Roku streaming stick free of charge.

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CYP

Nearby CYP was finding plenty of interest in its EL-41S-4K 4-in HDMI switch (pictured above). Retailing for £250, it offers easy EDID management, IP, RS232 and IR control with 4K support up to 30Hz. Fast switching technology makes for an improved user experience. Product manager Gareth Rolls confided to Inside CI that a new video wall controller was also imminent, supporting a 4K resolution input to four 1080p outputs. “That’s a true 4K resolution video wall, and it cascades!” he says.

Arguably the most innovative TV distribution device to surface at the show came from Global Invacom, specialists in fibre optic distribution. The wall-mountable and compact Fibre IRS Switchblade boasts 16 satellite outputs, enabling it to distribute a single dish feed to 8 Sky+ HD boxes. If more are needed it can be quickly extended to increase capacity, with up to four capable of being dovetailed together. “In nicely specified new apartments they’re trying to cram more and more equipment in,” explains UK sales manager Lee Allen. “Clients want HD distribution and AV, and this can take up space. So what we’re doing is making the distribution gear smaller. Developers love it.”

The Switchblade will begin shipping in January. The first project where this will be employed is One The Elephant, the new focal point for Elephant & Castle in London. The 37-storey tower has 284 apartments, each of which has two satellite inputs available. “They were going to go for a hybrid TV distribution system using one of our fibre converters going into conventional multiswitches,” Allen told Inside CI. “But that takes up lots of room in a cupboard, so they went with the Switchblade.  They don’t even want to put it in an enclosure because it looks so cool. If you’re spending a million on an apartment, you want your TV in every room and you want to be able to choose where you have your Sky box or Hot Bird receiver.”

Flexson was showing Alltrade attendees its revised SONOS brackets and stands (pictured below). Able to both tilt and swivel, they offer more versatility for installers than their predecessors and are easier to fit – the PLAY:3 mount rotates as well as swivels. Flexson floorstands have also had a revamp. The original all-steel models have been replaced with a new iteration featuring a steel base with aluminum extrusion. Flexson has also introduced a black colour play skin for the SONOS Connect streamer. “The Connect is often put in a rack with all black kit, and as the only white bit of kit it tends to stand out. The new skin keeps things a little more harmonious.

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Overall, Alltrade’s 2014 show was well worth a visit. And with ever closer ties to the custom install business, it already looks like a must-add event to the 2015 show calendar. For more of this year's show, fire up our Photo Gallery below...

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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