AXPONA Revs Up for the Big Open

It felt so strange to arrive at the Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center outside Chicago on Wednesday evening, 38 hours before AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) was set to begin. For the largest audio show in the United States, things were unusually quiet. While a few exhibitors could set up early in the Convention Center, most everyone else couldn’t start until Thursday morning. Which left the first-floor hotel lobby, the gateway to the bar, Starbucks snack area, and large restaurant strangely empty. Hence my camera’s ability to focus on crystal and shine rather without the faces of sometimes frenzied, “if I stop, I shall drop” exhibitors and attendees.

For 2024, the largest audio show in North America has gotten even larger. There are 202 active listening rooms. Add in the larger-than-ever Ear Gear Experience and the Expo Hall with its Record Fair, and the exhibitor list tops 300. Leading up to the show, pre-registrants were 32% above average. Such a high number for a long-running show stands as testimony to the perspicacity and vision of the JD Events team, headed by Liz Smith, which ensures that outreach is not limited to readers of audiophile publications. Industry veteran Bill Leebens has gone all out in the seminar department. If Saturday’s 1 pm Steve and Herb Show!, with Audiophiliac Steve Guttenberg and Stereophile Senior Contributing Editor Herb Reichert letting loose in a chew the fat free-for-all does not reach the attendance capacity allowed by the Fire Marshall, I’ll be amazed. Similarly, if I don’t encounter press from all over the world vying for the sweet spot in room after room, it will only be because between the recent Shanghai Show and the forthcoming Munich High End, people need a break.

Even as I write this, announcements of premiers keep arriving. There are far more than you’ll see listed here. Some brands choose to stage their North American debuts at AXPONA; others reserve premiers for Munich. Between the two shows, we’ll do our best to cover as many as possible. We = main writers Ken Micallef, Rogier van Bakel, et moi plus Editor-in-Chief Jim Austin and Managing Editor / videographer / photo expert Mark Henninger. To make searching reports post-show easy, individual exhibit blogs will appear over the next 7–10 days, with the room’s main products mentioned in the title.

We all look forward to meeting you here. If we can’t spend a long time chatting, please understand that it's because our dance cards are full. But we intend to keep our ears and feelers open to your needs to the very end.

AXPONA starts Friday, 10 AM, and runs until 6 PM on the first two days. On Sunday, hours are 10 AM-4 PM. On your mark, get set, go.