AXPONA/Audio Con Chicago 2015: A Major Success

How do you measure success? Some show promoters count the number of lanyards they've given out and call those "attendance figures." That, of course, can be misleading. Exhibitors get lanyards, attendees who misplace their lanyards get more lanyards, assistants get lanyards, and maybe even people's service dogs get lanyards. I saw a coyote amble down the street the other day, and he was wearing a lanyard that claimed he was a senior editor at Black Sheep

Other show promoters smile and somehow can't come up with something more than "let's just say 2,326,873 visitors." As for the question, how many of those were "unique" visitors, which means they count as one whether or not they attended for one or more days, they respond, "Hey man, what are you, an elitist or something? Everyone's unique."

Contrast this with AXPONA's extremely well organized promoter, JDEvents, who, for the second year in a row, has come up with solid attendance figures in record time. According to Liz Miller, AXPONA/Audio Con Content and Marketing Director, “We sold 5137 tickets, an 18% increase over 2014. In 2014, we had 3133 unique visitors, and in 2015 we had 3626 unique visitors. So we have a 16% increase in unique buyers. More people are buying multi-day tickets because there is more to see."

This trend, IMHO, has a good chance of continuing next year, especially as positive buzz spreads. Again, according to Miller, "80% of exhibitors have already signed contracts for display rooms in the 2016 event." The fact that AXPONA abandoned some of its most acoustically challenging rooms, and may strive to do even more of the same in 2016 (hint, hint) is part of the reason why people are so quick to return.

I'm in no position to evaluate the entire event. Tasked with writing my on-line reports once the show closed, I spent two nights eating take out in my room, and missed every single entertainment event. I never set foot in the packed Marketplace, and only visited one booth in the Ear Gear Expo on Sunday. Damn, I missed Patricia Barber and Lyn Stanley. I missed all the other fine musicians, the large number of designer presentations in exhibit rooms, and all the seminars except the one I was on.

And I also skipped a lot of rooms. Many were skipped because they had no new products to offer, or had new products that we already covered in our CES 2015 and Montreal/Salon Son et Image 2015 reports. And others, particularly all those on the main floor and many on the lower level, were skipped for lack of time.

But I can tell you about the energy, and it certainly felt good. Visitors seemed sated, and not a single exhibitor complained to me, except about room acoustics, which are always an issue at shows. Not only that, but the attendance figures seem truthful. Any way you look at it, this was a major show, and a major success.

Here's to AXPONA/Audio Con 2016, and to the health of our community. This show serves a very large and devoted contingency. May it grow and thrive.

padgman1's picture

Looks like the bottom half of the Vapor Perfect that Ryan and Peter standing behind it?

corrective_unconscious's picture

The authorities have just about every individual's visage entered into their facial recognition database, so those looters will assuredly be caught very soon.

You are to be commended for your efforts in the meantime, however.

Allen Fant's picture

A job well done! JVS.

jmsent's picture

you are absolutely correct about the "feel" of the show. A lot more upbeat and vibrant, with that "big show vibe". I think that's the most important takeaway for the future. Perception is reality with these shows, which is why some of them inflate their attendance numbers the way they do. The biggest challenge to Axpona that I see, is simply the closeness on the calendar to the Munich show. Many US manufacturers simply now see Munich as a "must go" show, which is why there were many brands at Axpona being covered by dealer displays (not so good) or not present at all. That's a shame, as this show deserves equal or better quantity and quality exhibitors compared to, e.g., RMAF, which is arguably over represented on the exhibitor side given its attendance level. But it will be hard to grow this show given that schedule conflict. IMO, Axpona should move this show to late June, and take advantage of what is usually excellent late spring/early summer weather in Chicago, along with a much clearer calendar. It could become the spiritual successor to summer CES, a show many of us remember with great fondness.

prerich45's picture

I agree with you on moving to late June!

bpw's picture

I'm OK with the date, as long as it's not in early March as it was two years ago. That was poor planning. JD Events, who took over early last year, is well organized and staffed and easy to work with.

Our room was packed pretty much throughout the show, and we've made several sales with more coming. People surely liked the system and the performance, finding it engaging yet relaxing to listen to, musical and resolving to a fault. Duke LeJeune, the guy behind the AudioKinesis speakers we showed, felt it was by far the best sounding room in which he has participated. I agree :-)

Brian Walsh
Essential Audio

jimtavegia's picture

The chance to have 5,000 prospects have the opportunity to view your wares is a very good thing, and hopefully turned into a great investment. It is also a great thing to hear some great products rather than just read what someone else thinks about how they sound and perform. The is the audiophile dilemma.

Dr. AIX's picture

Jason, I'm so sorry that you didn't get a chance to come by our demo in the Lakeshore B Ballroom. As you know, I've assembled partners together a number of times but this was the best we've ever done. The goal from the outset was to actually deliver real high-resolution, multichannel audio for the very first time. By that I mean meeting the Japan Audio Society's requirements of 40 kHz and 130 dB SNR from source recording to speaker output...and with the terrific support of Oppo's BDP-103 player (modified to output digitally), Benchmark with their DAC2 and AHB2 amplifiers, DH Labs Cables and incredible Revel Salon 2 speakers, we did it. JVC helped out with a 4K upsampling projector and Stewart Filmscreen.

Many attendees made multiple trips to the room and thrilled over what they called, "the best sound of the far!" I received a particularly encouraging email from David:

"First of all, I want to thank you for the most memorable musical experience that I have ever heard at the recent Axpona show. To enjoy and appreciate your superb recordings, in the proper room, with extraordinary speakers and components, (which can do them justice) was beyond my expectations. If you aren't mentioned as the best or one of the best sound rooms at the show then there is something wrong with the major audio publications.

I know you met so many people at the show that it would be impossible to remember everyone but I was the two channel tube diehard who could never envision myself with a multichannel system before going to your demonstration. Well,...hearing is believing!!! Nothing in my 50+ years in audio reproduction has impacted me the way your recordings did. For the first time ever, I felt like I was in the CENTER of the performance. Perhaps this is what a performer experiences!

In summary, I just wanted to express my appreciation for all the time, talent and energy that you put into your recordings. You have the rare ability to truly bring us into the recording venue and let us feel the music.

With grateful thanks,


We've already signed up for next year...hope to see you then. Thx.

audiocaptain's picture

I wanted to say that the Munich show has little effect on AXPONA. The US manufacturers that display there do so with distributors from Germany or nearby countries. As for manufacturers in the US or worldwide displaying at AXPONA, they generally do not show independently from their dealers. This allows them to support the outlets from which they can be purchased and serviced.
AXPONA has over 30 dealers supporting around 40 rooms with many great products displayed in this mix. We had over 600 manufacturers this year and expect this number to grow again for 2016.
We look forward to seeing everyone next year and appreciate your input.

Andrew_GP's picture

Those who are attracted in Vapor Audio products really need to read upon this AVS forum Thread. I have been interested in Vapor Audio Speakers for some time now………attending there demo rooms over the past 3 years, however after the experience and the attitude of the CEO on the forum, am having second thoughts. It’s an embarrassment a company of this caliber can stoop so low and keep their clients funds for over 15 months. This is a total disgrace. AVS forum seems to have the thread up, unfortunately the link can not be posted on here.