The Success of the First AXPONA Chicago

When Steve Davis told me that people were hungry for an audio show in Chicago, he wasn’t kidding. What Davis believes to be over 4000 attendees—2000 tickets had been sold before the Show opened—visited over the course of three days, March 8–10. They mobbed many of the rooms on Saturday and actually managing to keep things lively in most of the rooms I visited on the 8th floor on Sunday. And that was with people having to choose among 90 exhibit rooms, a bunch of table displays, an art show, multiple seminars, and lively marketplace that together extended over five floors of the Doubletree in Rosemont (Ground, mezzanine, and all of floors 7, 8, and 9) near O’Hare Airport. (My thanks to John Atkinson for standing outside in the pouring rain to get the photograph of the hotel.)

I don’t know what the sound was like at Chicago’s last consumer audio show, sponsored by Stereophile, which took place in the Palmer House Hilton in the Loop in 1999, but at the Doubletree, a large number of dealers and manufacturers managed to produce good to excellent sound within the confines of hotel rooms that they had never before exhibited in. Davis’ perspicacity in making available two semi-truckloads of ATS Acoustics room treatment to exhibitors who requested it well in advance is to be commended. The bass booming that has sabotaged more exhibits than I wish to recall was less in evidence in AXPONA than at many of the other shows I’ve covered.

There is, of course, always room for growth. As I ponder the subject of the first Editor’s Panel, "What Attracted Us, and How to Attract a Younger Audience for the Future," I think of what is about to happen in Montreal at the end of next week as we close our report. At the forthcoming Salon Son et Image show for “audio enthusiasts”—SSI is attempting to attract new people into the fold by purposely avoiding the twin buzz words, "audiophile" and "high-end"—visitors will encounter a Personal Audio Zone. Put together and run by SSI rather than individual manufacturers, the PAZ promises 80 different models of headphones from $75 to $2000, all available for comparison. The room’s layout, even the age and dress of the eight staff members from SSI in attendance, will create a very different and far younger vibe than that usually encountered at audio shows. This is not something I’d ever expect from a promoter venturing into new territory for the first time, but it does point the way for the audio shows of the future.

I also wouldn’t expect, at least from first time exhibitors, that everyone would have their act together. Hopefully, as word spreads about Stereophile’s April issue "As We See It," "There’s No Business Without Show Business," more exhibitors will come to shows fully prepared with the music, knowledge, and skill at give and take that transforms visitors into loyal repeat customers.

Hats off to Steve, to Carmen, and to their deeply missed late partner, Andrew Spaulding, for their dedication to making AXPONA a success. Equal thanks to the impressively large number of Chicago area dealers and manufacturers who participated. As the buzz spreads about the show’s success, expect word of an even bigger and more comprehensive second installment in 2014.

Et Quelle's picture

Yeah! Dont let hifi die! People love music so there should always be those who want the best equipment possible. There is always a guy in his mancave who has spent more time and money there than driving. Long live the high end!

HawksFan's picture

Overall Axpona was a huge success it seemed.  Almost all rooms sounded good, very few duds.  Location was good as well, the rooms were of decent size.  My only complaint was all the noise coming from the people dwelling around the Mezzanine level that crept into the large demo rooms there.  It seemed as though the noise floor in the smaller upstairs rooms was lower than the big rooms.