This year is my first AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) experience. Held at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont IL (a suburb of Chicago), AXPONA brings together over 100 rooms of audio equipment manufacturers, representatives and dealers where visitors can informally audition hundreds of different pieces of equipment set up in various systems. Imagine a bunch of audio nuts taking over half of a high-rise hotel, and you’ve got it!
Given the price of audiophile equipment, why would anyone want to attend? There are a few good reasons. First, it gives the attendee a good idea of what the current state of audio technology is. Which types of components are popular these days? Which brands are breaking new ground? What is coming in the future?
Second, as mentioned above, it gives attendees the chance to hear many different systems by hundreds of manufacturers, both the well-known and well-estalished companies as well as new upstarts, or companies re-entering the marketplace. If you hear something you really like, you are likely going to make a contact with a retailer at the show, or find a retailer in your own area that can sell you the equipment and support it.
Third: education. For 2016 there are at least eight formal seminars scheduled. The most famous of those is Michael Fremer’s turntable setup seminar. Bob Hodas will be providing a seminar on room optimization. There will be panels on digital audio, reel-to-reel tape, and a “legends of audio” panel as well.
The fourth reason–who doesn’t like a bargain? In the Marketplace area, many well-known retailers set up tables and sell products, often at a discount. It is a good way to see, hands-on, products you have only seen in pictures. You can talk to the staff, ask questions, and some will cut a deal if you buy a lot of product, or if you arrive very late on closing day when they are packing up. (Why pack it up when you can sell it?)
Finally, shows such as this one are great social events. You get to attend with friends. You meet others you’ve communicated with over the years. You get to speak with many of the people who sell these products for a living (including those you may have contacted through mail order or online sales), and even a few of the product designers themselves put in an appearance.
AXPONA is open to the public, and is growing with each passing year. For this part of the country, it is the only major audiophile show we have.
I won’t feature everything I’ve seen, but I will point out some highlights in this series of posts, and try to give some of our readers who may not have attended an audio show a feel for what attending is like.