It’s Been a Wild Decade for AV and Home Theater

If you consider the totality of the past 10 years in the AV industry, it’s clear that it represents one of the most vibrant eras in home entertainment and encompasses some of the most drastic changes the segment has seen. On the video side we went from HD to 3D to 4K to HDR to 8K. OLED became a thing as did affordable 85″ LED-LCDs. We went through the curved screen fad, it appeared and disappeared within the course of the decade! And Ultra HD Blu-ray kept physical media alive while offering home viewers unprecedented fidelity. Meanwhile, projectors dropped in price and improved in quality, ultimately leapfrogging what your local commercial cinema offers.

On the audio side, we saw the advent of 3D immersive sound with Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D as well as the rise of the premium soundbar as an alternative to the tradition home theater in a box. It was also a decade that saw intense competition among speaker and subwoofer makers, resulting in a plethora of new, affordable, high-performance options.

Taken together, the advances in video and audio technologies that occurred in the past decade allow home viewers to properly experience cinematic content. There is no longer any compromise in fidelity, in many cases the formats exceed the resolution of the content they deliver!

When you consider how far technology has advanced in just 10 years—Avatar came out in 2009—the potential for the next decade seems unlimited. While technological progress comes across as incremental when viewed year by year, a decade-long perspective reveals revolutionary shifts. For example, micro-LED displays are currently unaffordable and still have issues with visible seams in the tiles. This won’t be solved by next year, but with another decade it’s easy to imagine the technology maturing and becoming approachably priced.

CES 2020 is right around the corner and it will surely offer tantalizing hints of what to expect in the near future. For example, has the time finally come for ultra short throw laser projectors to become a thing? Could that be the technology that brings big, vibrant, sharp, cinematic imagery to the masses? Will 8K projectors that handle HDR properly appear? Will a good 4K projector that sells for under a grand become a thing? How about cheap, huge OLED TVs?

One thing is for sure, gaming is going to be a major driver of AV advances over the next decade, and has already had a strong influence in the decade that has passed. After all, just a few years ago TVs had terrible latency issues, while today you’ll find TVs that offer auto game mode with extremely low lag. Variable refresh rate promises even greater performance for gaming with a TV and next-generation consoles are sure to up the ante in terms of graphics and sound.

Ultimately, I cannot predict the future. Will 3D make a comeback? Is VR a viable entertainment medium? Is there room for another disc-based format? Can projectors handle true HDR? Whatever happens. the turn of the decade and CES 2020 provide a great excuse to take a minute and consider what’s come before and what the future holds… both for the next year and for the next decade.

Please share your thoughts in the comments. The best comments will be added to the homepage/newsletter version of this post.

“There have been some amazing improvements with projectors for sure! I still can’t believe that I have a 4k projector at home that rivals my local cinema. Something I would not have thought possible or affordable just a few years ago.” – @m0j0

“I’m pretty certain Avatar 2 will bring 3D back into the fray. There’s a lot of untapped potential for 3D technology and in two years time it should be yet again revolutionary. And even if it’s not, that’s what we’ll be told as upgraditis gets pushed onto us by the manufacturers. I imagine that by the end of the next decade, we’ll have some amazing progress in the VR/AR world. Or displays may be set for a major paradigm shift.” – @javanpohl

“My predictions for the next decade: We will see the end of analog interconnects for audio. Processors will shrink to the size of NUC PC’s as a result. Dirac Unison will finally be released for home audio. The Emotiva RMC-1 will finally be considered a fully released product, although the promised expansion cards are still work in progress by the end of the decade…” @Mashie Saldana