AXPONA Chicago Starts Friday

It's not just the first audio show in Chicago in 14 years, since Stereophile's Hi-Fi ’99 at the Palmer House. It's also the first in a millennium where computer audio is changing every aspect of the music and audio industries.

Nor is it a minor effort. AXPONA Chicago, which runs March 8–10 on five floors of the Doubletree by Hilton O'Hare Airport, promises 90 separate exhibit rooms, 74 table displays in approximately 30 different booths presenting 100 or so brands, and equipment from over 400 manufacturers. Dealers exhibiting number 26, with 15 from Chicago, and others from New York, California, Florida, and other states. That's a lot of show.

In addition, there are the seminars. In addition to two 90-minute Editors Panels that begin with the question, in one grammatical form or another, "What Attracted Us and How To Attract A Younger Audience For The Future," attendees with move forward with personalized music deliver and studio masters; back to the future with reel-to-reel realities, phono cartridge anatomy, and vinyl ripping; and journey while motionless via Transcendental Meditation. There's something for everyone.

"The rooms are very interesting," says AXPONA head honcho, Steve A. Davis. "On the mezzanine are nine meeting rooms with 10-foot ceilings. There are no air walls, none except one that separates the seminars from the rest of the ballroom; that's why I picked this AAA Four Diamond hotel. I intentionally separated every room diagonally, and none is across the other or next to each other. The room size is significantly more in volume than at other shows, with the smallest room a respectable 14.5' x 18' with a 9’ ceiling. This is going to be the best sounding audio show ever put on."

The big bugaboos that can make or break the sound of a show in a location unfamiliar to exhibitors are its bass nodes, reflections and resonances. To that end, ATS Acoustics has supplied two semi-truckloads of room treatment to exhibitors who requested it well in advance. There are over 200 corner bass traps, numerous other treatments, and custom-built installations for certain rooms. According to Davis, most exhibitors requested at least one piece of room treatment, with the option to not use it if doesn't improve sound quality.

"I could have sold 175 rooms easily if I had wanted to," says Davis. "I initially cut it off at 70 because I was afraid the show would be too big for the hotel and would dilute coverage for attendees and media. Eventually there was so much demand that I opened another floor right before CES, and added the final two rooms nine days before the show opened. I've already got people asking for multiple rooms for next year. Chicago is very hungry for a show."

For attendees—in excess of 1850 advance tickets have already sold—hunger will also be assuaged by the reportedly famous Gibson's Bar and Steakhouse, which is adjacent to the hotel in Rosemont, the hotel's Bistro, and a host of other restaurants. (Gibson's is also known for its seafood and its live, unamplified trio.)

With bellies full, it will be easier to carry the shopping bags filled with goodies from the marketplace that Music Direct is managing. And it will also be easier to take in 20 or 30 new product introductions, and cleanse ears with the sounds of the live musicians who will be performing throughout the show.

An exhaustive list of premieres is not possible, but look for first show showings of Pass Labs Xs 300 amplifiers (powering Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers); Bigston Corporation's new line of Japanese speakers whose cutting-edge technology, based on what they call Time Domain Theory, claims to transport you to the live music event; the new Athenaeum speaker system from Linn Audio of Oakland, CA, where I live; the new and large Legacy Aeris loudspeaker; Purist Audio Design's Aquila digital AC power cable, CAST (Current Audio Signal Transmission) cable, Ultimate USB, and Vesta AC power and RCA digital cables; the visually stunning Julian James Wilde Eschelon loudspeaker; the prototype Volti Audio Alura loudspeaker; PureAudio's new Vinyl phono preamplifier, Control preamplifier, and Reference monoblock amplifier; My Audio Design's Duke Royal Limited loudspeakers; and the Stahl-Tek 24/192 Ariaa DAC. Also look for a head-turning industrial strength loudspeaker display, comprised of machine-like loudspeakers that contains 1000-watt amplifiers, that were tuned with the assistance of Legacy's Bill Dudleston and are meant for custom automobiles.

Sadly, the show will go on without the presence of Davis' long-time business partner, Andrew Spaulding. The avid golfer, pilot, sailor and music lover, who took special pride in his vinyl collection and sound system, succumbed to illness in the last week of February at the age of 55.

John Atkinson and I will be blogging from AXPONA Chicago. Look for the first reports to appear on March 8, with new stories posted through March 14.

Kilgore Trout's picture

Being from Oak Park, Kilgore Trout will be there!

audiocaptain's picture

Very nice article Jason. Just wanted to add that the event is open to the public. If you purchase advance tickets you can come early Friday, at 9:30 for ticket pick up and the Peter Lederman Reproductive Parts (of a phono cartridge) Seminar starting at 10:30, the show offically opens to the public at 1:00. You can also attend the Art Show and scout out the Marketplace prior to the 1:00 opening. Thanks again for the great writing! Steve 

This show is dedicated to the Memory of Andrew Spaulding. A greater lover of music and fan of high quality playback equipment there never was.



anomaly7's picture

I'll look forward to the coverage Jason.

Sadly so true: "Sadly, the show will go on without Andrew Spaulding who succumbed to illness in the last week of February at the age of 55. "

A nice dedication, placing Spaulding's memory at the forefront of the event.

Be well.



Audio nut's picture

I've been waiting for something like this for a long time. Never been able to make it to CES to see a lot of the high end Audio components I read about. I plan to be there when the doors open Saturday.

lmbwave's picture

The show was very nice.  There are key people form some of the better known companies (Wadia, Krell, etc) and local dealers.  I was able see equipment I've only read about for many years (e.g. MBL Radialstrahler powered by MBL's mega-buck monoblocks and assorted source/pre equipment).  In fact I was sitting directly behind John Atkinson for this one.  The 2:30 - 4 pm "seminar" or rather a discussion of how to engage the 20 to 30-something generation included Robert Harley another audio figure it was a pleasure to meet.  If you're intersted in audio, it would be foolish to miss this event.  For $20, you can hear gear you've only read about.  It was a very memorable event for me.  Reading all of this stuff for decades doesn't compare to seeing it.  Highly recommended!

Audio nut's picture

This was great. Got to hear and see lots and lots of gear that I have only been able to read about for years. Some very impressive, some not. Enjoyed the MBL, and Wharfedale rooms. Especially since Wharefedale's equipment seemed to have prices in reach of most people. I will have to remember to bring some of my own CDs next time. Hopefully some more of the exhibitors are more open to allowing you to play your own music. I only found about 2-3 willing to do that. Oh and thanks to my wife for being the best wife ever. She followed me around all day without complaint.