Axpona: Summing Up and Saying Hello
At last, after 16 years, the South East has again hosted an audio show of considerable merit. Even more significant than the number of attendees, which according to many seasoned observers exceeded attendees at the first Rocky Mountain Audio Fest six years ago, the first of what will hopefully be many Axponas connected dealers, distributors, and manufacturers with music lovers in deep and satisfying ways.
Created by Steve Davis and Andrew Spaulding, with the help of Kanner PR, and sponsored by Stereophile, Axpona took place in Jacksonville, Florida March 57. Staged in the Wyndham Riverwalk Hotel, whose not-ready-for-prime-time, intermittent WiFi and toxic deep-fried cuisine have yet to catch up with the new Millennium, the show's not yet fully tallied attendance amounted to something on the order of 2000 people-day attendees, with the majority visiting on the first two days, Friday and Saturday.
That may not sound like many people. But several of the exhibitors I spoke to signed up new dealers and reps, and others either increased their customer base or sold their display systems. (I know this for a fact, because when I tried to take a second listen to the wonderful May Audio system right before closing, it was already heading out the door with a very happy someone). Equally important, the feedback I received from everyone I spoke with in the industry was that attendees were among the most open, genuine, and attitude-free group of seasoned and budding audiophiles they had experienced in a long while.
Staged in the middle of a global economic downturn that has greatly impacted the high-end industry worldwide, Axpona was a risky venture. I'm not certain that all "92 manufacturers and distributors exhibiting 165 different brands of audio products, accessories, software, and magazines in 42 rooms plus six table displays on three different floors" actually showed, as predicted in my preview article, but the quality of sound transcended the numbers.
For many local Florida and Georgia dealers, Axpona presented a rare opportunity to emerge from the showroom. Not every exhibitor was fully equipped. Some rooms lacked equipment lists, even literature; more than one salesperson either didn't have all the prices at hand, or wrote lists in my notepad that excluded key components. Some didn't have data on products they borrowed, while others have yet to acknowledge that cables are a key component to a system's performance.
I can't emphasize enough the importance of shows like Axpona. Members of audiophile societies in Atlanta and Orlando found themselves sitting side by side, sharing experiences, while more than a few card-carrying members of the iPod Generation figuratively foreswore their ebuds. To those who arrived with the question, is there a there there, the answer was a 92 decibel yes.
As a seasoned and sometimes spicy blogger, it was great to experience Stereophile's "Ask the Editors" panel from the other side. The questions were as well-considered as they were refreshing. In place of the confrontational energy that characterizes many audio forums came an appreciation for the best this industry has to offer at all price points.
Hats off to everyone whose participation at Axpona affirmed that the transcendent power of music is what it's all about. May this show thrive.