AXPONA Jacksonville Starts Friday

The largest consumer audio show in America's Southland, AXPONA (Audio Expo North America), returns to its roots when it opens in Jacksonville on Friday March 9. The three-day show, which launched in Jacksonville in 2010, has happily switched locations from a "not-ready-for-primetime" venue to the more upscale Omni Jacksonville.

What the hotel offers audiophiles, besides its amenities and lovely waterfront, is its neighbor across the street, Jacoby Hall in the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Home of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the hall's much touted superior acoustics—mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade has called them "sensational"—offer attendees the opportunity to refresh their ears with the sound of a live, unamplified orchestra in a very special hall. What better way to tell if the audio systems you're hearing present a reasonable facsimile of the real thing?

It was Carmen Davis, wife of AXPONA Marketing Director/head honcho Steve A. Davis, who realized that AXPONA's schedule coincided with the Jacksonville Symphony's. As a couple steeped in music—Carmen's father was a promoter who brought all the major pop acts to the area, and Steve has worked as a musician and high-end audio salesperson since the age of 18—the idea of linking show and symphony was not a matter of debate.

In addition to 40 rooms displaying 150 high-end brands, AXPONA is offering special $35 symphony tickets to show attendees for the March 8–10 concert program. The Jacksonville Symphony in turn is offering free admission to AXPONA to patrons who present their March 8, 9 or 10 symphony tickets at the show registration table. Given the wonderful choice of music on the concert—Beethoven's Symphony No.7, Corigliano's Oboe Concerto, and Huang's crowd-pleasing Saibei Dance—this is a win-win for all.

Tours of Jacoby Hall will be available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Early arrivers and locals can also experience the AXPONA/symphony connection by attending the March 7 Downtown Art Walk from 6 pm to 9 pm in the Omni's Atrium. AXPONA will offer a preview demonstration of high-end home audio systems, in partnership with the symphony, that will include an audio sample of the Jacksonville Symphony playing Beethoven's Seventh. Also in the Omni atrium, an art exhibit by the Brown Museum of Art in Springfield will be on display.

"I can't tell you how excited the symphony people are to have AXPONA organized around their schedule," says Steve Davis. "They immediately understood what high-end audio was. We expect to sell a good 200 symphony tickets to AXPONA attendees who want to know what live music really sounds like. And the symphony has organized special backstage tours just for us."

There's plenty to get excited about at AXPONA itself. Among its 40 exhibit rooms and additional open displays, the show promises one of the first showings of KEF's new Blade loudspeaker, and the debut of the legendary Bob Carver's Amazing Line Source loudspeaker. Beauty of Sound from New York will offer the first showing of the Ikeda tonearm, and Audio Power Labs will tout its new 50-watt, $50,000 amplifier. (It had better offer a lot of "what" per watt).

As for multi-channel, AIX's Mark Waldrep will show some of his new 3D videos on Bowers & Wilkins/Bryston and MartinLogan/Krell set-ups. Seminars include Rob Robinson of Channel D/Pure Music holding forth on computer audio and ripping vinyl; Mark Waldrep's keynote address on music reproduction; a Saturday afternoon "Ask the Writers" panel, moderated by yours truly of Stereophile, that will also include Neil Gader of The Absolute Sound, Colin Flood of Enjoy the Music, and Ray Seda of DaGoGo; daily introductory lectures to Transcendental Meditation that promise, on Friday and Saturday, TM meditation instructor Prudence Farrow Bruns, aka the "Dear Prudence" made famous in the eponymous song by John Lennon; and Bob Carver's two sessions on tube amp development and Ribbon Line Source loudspeakers.

Stereophile's show blog will begin posting on Friday, March 9. New posts will appear daily through March 13 or 14. Please stay tuned.

Doctor Fine's picture

How wonderful this event will offer comparison to a concert hall.  In my case at some point I became more aware that "the real thing" could indeed be installed inside my own home as stereo equipment.  I think it was a pair of DQ10 Dahlquists that opened my eyes that I was not even close in my own system.

40 years later I  have passed the goal of Dahlquist sound and now find no measurable difference between the best seats in the finest concert  halls in the country and what transpires in my own living room.  To say music is a daily treasured experience at chez Fine is more than a wee understatement.  It is like food and we celebrate every day.

I pray the exhibitors will find the right rooms for displays and that the lengthy process of making the rooms "sing" will somehow not deny the attendees an experience of their own.  Most demo setups suffer from being wildly uncontrollable and detrimental to the equipment which is, in fact, exactly like a fine violin and needs tuning.

If all goes well I wish each and every attendee a moment of "OMG magic!"  and the best of luck to all the great manufacturers sure to be in attendance.

Jon Iverson's picture

That's not Bob Dobbs in your user photo is it?

dalethorn's picture

Dr. Fine's sentiments get a big high-five from me!