AXPONA Chicago Starts Friday

The 2014 AXPONA (Audio Expo North America), scheduled for April 25–27 in Chicago's completely refurbished Westin O'Hare, promises to the biggest and most comprehensive US consumer audio show east of Denver. How about, for starters, at least 56 known product introductions, with many more intentionally unannounced; 75 active exhibits in "standard" hotel rooms, whose dimensions are a far-from-standard 14.9'x19' with 8.5' high ceilings; 35 significantly larger meeting rooms and suites, spread over numerous floors, often filled with more than one active system per room; an Ear Gear Expo with exhibits from 23 headphone and headphone amp/accessory manufacturers; and a lobby level marketplace that promises 70 displays from 30 different vendors?

Pshaw, you say. Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and T.H.E. Show Newport Beach have more exhibits. True. But will those shows offer, among their many seminars, the opportunity for 308 or so attendees to spend an hour with John Hamm, PonoMusic CEO, as he discusses how PonoMusic's online music store and playback device will allow you to "Hear Music the Way it Was Made"? Will they have a live auction sponsored by Audiogon? And will anyone else offer a five-hour Silent Disco, wirelessly powered by Sennheiser and DJs from Denver and Chicago, at which the Can-Can will take on new meanings.

Note as well that, 10 days before the show, 400 people had already registered for the disco, with their median age between 19 and 27, and that anyone who buys a show ticket for Saturday can enjoy the disco without additional charge. So much for the cry that high performance audio shows only attract established audiophiles of a certain age.

"The fact we have so many over-sized spaces is the reason I took the hotel," says AXPONA founder Steve Davis, who serves as Director of Sales and Industry Relations. "The hotel has completed its renovations, and is completely refurbished. It has a brand new Starbucks, a new restaurant, and three new ballrooms. Our large rooms are all solid-walled, save for one air-walled room on the lobby level that the exhibitor chose intentionally."

The hotel is also quite near the airport, and can be reached by a free, continuous running shuttle that serves all the hotels in Rosemont. The area, according to Davis, is "packed" with restaurants, starting just a block away, and there are lots of entertainment options. Nearby parking starts at $5/day in the train station lot, and the "L" stops across the street from the hotel.

"We're on track to have well over 5000 attendees," Davis told Stereophile. "Eight weeks before the show, we had already equaled the number of advance discount registrations we had on opening day of last year's Chicago show. We've placed over 100 posters in key locations in Chicago, have a continuous ad campaign in the Chicago Tribune that's running in every one of its distribution areas of, and are advertising on the classical and jazz radio stations. The jazz station is even co-producing a showcase concert with us on Sunday."

AXPONA's website is crammed with information. Check out the "features" page, and then peruse this one. Ostensibly intended for press, it has links to late addition product introductions, giveaways, show specials, and exhibitor events. Finally, try to figure out how you can possibly do justice to everything you'd like to hear and see in the course of just three days.

Michael Fremer will be spinning around the show, speaking on panels and exploring analog for both his Stereophile column and Blogging honors for Stereophile will fall to yours truly. If you want to find me, look for the short guy with a camera and monopod hanging from his shoulder, and wings on his sneakers. Hope to see you there.

Audio nut's picture

This year I will be sure to bring some of my own music. Never heard Wilson speakers before. Looking forward to it.