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 5–7. 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.

Altpensacola's picture

I enjoyed AXPONA. But here is something I think would enhance an event like this, an afterhours party so attendees, who share a hobby, could meet and share that passion. This might make it more like a conference and Expo than a "mall of aduio stores". You could have games and mixers where folks talked about their first stereos, they greatest finds, their favorite recordings, make it like friendly contests with prizes. This would help build a network that might be more real than the on-line communities. Iā€™m sure vendors would also benefit from being part of this. Think of the comrade the next day! And the next year.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

This is a great idea, although potentially hard to organize and hold together for show organizers who are already run ragged during regular hours. I for one skip virtually all parties and long dinners so I can write write write write in my room. My last meal at Axpona, for example, was Chinese take out. Regardless, definitely an idea worth considering. I'll make sure Steve of Axpona and Marjorie of RMAF see this.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Richard Beers, organizer of T.H.E. Show, offers this commentary on your suggestion: "T.H.E. Show had a very successful Opening Night Reception. The band and entertainment were well received (as were the drinks and horsdeuvres......rave reviews there). After the formal festivities, many found their way to the NFS (Not For Sale) room on the 4th floor [sponsored by Buddha, who is very active on the Stereophile forum] for more wine and shots of dubious alocholic delights. "A few hundred folks passed thru the portals for a good time, good networking and chatting.....AND I had the guys in The Marketplace stay open that evening so folks could mingle in that area talking about early and rare records, CD's, etc. Next join us."T.H.E. Show, which coincides with CES, is open to all members of audiophile societies as well as the industry. Some of the best sound at CES (Dartzeel/Evolution Audio), as well as Audience and Avatar, were among the exhibitors.

Stephen Scharf's picture

I think thet two most important things that can be done to ensure the future of this show is to change the name to establish the brand in a more significant way. AXPONA is just awful. Also, move the show to a time when it is not so close to Salon Son & Image. Having two shows in the month of March is not the best for getting exhibitors.