Bigger and Bolder, AXPONA Opens Friday in Chicago

The biggest audio show in the United States, AXPONA (Audio Expo North America), takes place April 21–23 at the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont, close to Chicago O'Hare International airport. Since planting its roots in America's heartland just a few years back, the show has grown to offer, in 2017, at least 142 active exhibit rooms, 453 unique brands and exhibitors, an Ear Gear Expo so large that it has spilled over into surrounding hallways, and a full schedule of seminars and entertainment.

"We're still adding people!" Steve Davis, Director of Sales and Industry Relations exclaimed by phone. "One of the local retailers is now requesting another room. Last year we had 111. We can't go much further, because the hotel is maxed out. We're even moving our staff into nearby hotels, and moving the show to the Renaissance Schaumburg in 2018."

Given the event's size, and its proximity to Munich High End (which takes place May 18–21, and offers over 400 exhibitors and 900 brands), it is notable that at least 35 new, brand new, and advance audition product introductions have been announced so far. I say "at least" because some exhibitors don't know if products will be ready for showing until the last moment, others forget to fill out the paperwork, and still others have stretched the meaning of the word "new" to the level of alternative fact.

Nonetheless, among notable introductions are a number from major brands: Aavik, Audionet, AudioQuest, Aurender, Benchmark, Bricasti, CH Precision, Conrad-Johnson, Daedalus, Dynaudio, Emerald Physics, Esoteric, GamuT, HiFiMan, Jadis, JansZen, KEF, Kubala-Sosna, Legacy, Marigo, MBL, Monitor, Playback Designs, Rel, Skogrand, Synergistic Research, Tidal loudspeakers, Thiel, Vivid, Volti, Von Schweikert, and Wyred 4 Sound.

Seminars are plentiful. Among the familiar faces are two from Stereophile: Michael Fremer, whose widely popular "Internationally Renowned Turntable Set-Up Seminar" takes place Friday and Saturday at 1 pm, and yours truly, who appears on the "What does 2017 mean for audio?" panel on Friday at 10:15 am. Given the expected long lines at the registration table, advance registration is wise if you want to attend that one. Judging from the topics, vinyl and hi-rez digital playback are the hot topics this year.

Some people consider live entertainment ancillary at best to an audio show. But those who write it off will miss Saturday night's Blues Revue & Benefit Concert, sponsored by Jazz Foundation of America, with three accomplished blue players from the Chicago Area performing in a by-donation benefit for blues and jazz artists in need. (That's surely worth the price of a few used LPs.) Friday night brings the Frank Catalano Band, sponsored by local jazz radio station WDCB. And all three days, pianists will perform from 11:30am–2:30pm.

I'm also assured that, despite the crowds, there will be four in-hotel places to eat: the AXPONA Café, Benchmark restaurant, Starbucks, and GrabNGo near the Marketplace.

The show's growth is especially gratifying to Davis, who credits JDEvents' "insight and experience" for AXPONA's success. "Obviously, I'm biased, but there's no other show company I know of, with the exception of the CTA, that can pull off a show as seamlessly as they do," he says.

An example of JDEvents' foresight was offered by Conference & Programming Director Liz Miller, who formed an Attendee Advisory Council to help guide her efforts. "We spoke to people who were really willing to give feedback and fill out post-show surveys," she explained. "From that grouping, I was able to invite people from across the country, both women and men of different ages, to help us improve the event and refine the language we use to market it and spread the word."

Clearly, judging by the show's growth, everyone is doing something very, very right. Please join us at AXPONA, where both Jana Dagdagan and I will be reporting for Stereophile.com, and others will be reporting for our sister online publications AnalogPlanet.com, InnerFidelity.com, and AudioStream.com.

COMMENTS
prerich45's picture

I'm happy to see Axpona succeed - I'm only sad that they had to move the show up north for it to do so. With the departure of Axpona, that took away the last show south of Washington DC.

Do you find that there are fewer people interested in Hi-Fi in the south? Maybe its due to SEC Football...I'm just kidding there...but Alex Bugnon did stop in the middle of his set at the P'cola Jazzfest to complain about hearing the Alabama vs USC game in his monitors).

There seems to be fewer outlets for HiFi in the south (Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jax, Atlanta, and New Orleans...that's it).

shaynet98's picture

There is soon to be more options for Hifi in the south. Augusta may have an appointment-only store and a full-service store between Savannah and Charleston.

prerich45's picture

Thumbs up to that, now if someone could work the Gulf Coast. :(

audiocaptain's picture

We have intentionally moved our show to always be a month away from the Munich Show. With the growth of AXPONA it is important to leave enough time between these two very important events. Thanks Stereophile and we are looking forward to seeing everyone at the show. SD

Anon2's picture

It is good that the show continues to grow. I am looking forward to it.

For eating outside the Westin, there are three options in the vicinity. They are trying harder to provide food and drink inside, but it's still the only weak point of the current venue.

Cheap: There's a McDonalds about 400 yards north of the Westin.

Mid-Price: There's a Giordano's near McDonalds for those of you who want Chicago deep-dish pizza on your trip.

Expensive: There's the molto-buono, but expensive, Carlucci's Rosemont across River Road from the Westin. I think they need reservations.

More food options are in the Westin at Axpona as the show grows, but I'd still head out for lunch if you can afford a quick stroll outside (or for afterwards). They do have a Starbuck's in the Westin, though.

There's also the Rosemont CTA lot for parking if you don't want to pay whatever the Westin charges for parking. It's a stroll, but worth it. The loss of the CTA will be one of the negatives of the show's future venue.

There's good and bad (mostly good) for next year's move to the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel. The Renaissance is a massive, and practically brand-new facility. Access has just become great to this venue with the long-awaited completion of multi-year roadwork on I-90. This hotel just gained an off-ramp from the I-90 tollway.

There are huge parking lots at the Renaissance Hotel. This venue should allow Axpona to get even bigger in the coming years. There is room for parking at this venue for cars and for charter-buses; something the Westin does not have. There are a number of national product expos (and political events) that already take place there. An additional plus, in my experience, is that there is no charge for parking at the Renaissance for events.

Next year's venue is a stroll away from a lot more eating locales, since it is near Woodfield Mall and a number of large corporate offices. There's a new pedestrian bridge over I-90. Most of the eating places are chain-type restaurants. There is a really cool, brand-new "floating" Zurich corporate building across the street from next year's show, for architecture fans.

The bad is that Schaumburg is further from O'Hare. There is no CTA access to the Renaissance, so quick-and-easy trips to downtown Chicago will go away with the relocation of Axpona to Schaumburg. There's a lot to do in Schaumburg across I-90 for eating and drinking after the show, but it is more suburban in nature. There are many hotels in the area (including 3 new ones in Schaumburg near the show). There's an IKEA and a large Costco across the tollway from the show.

By Google maps now, Schaubmurg is 17.1 miles and 22 minutes from O'Hare.

But Schaumburg is a suburban setting. There will be more car rentals, cab rides, and probably more limited hotel-van access than what people are used to for Rosemont.

Still, for the show itself, the Renaissance selection tells me that Axpona will get even larger. There will be some inconveniences for out-of-towners who fly in, though the venue will be better for Chicagoland (Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan) attendees who will get much better access roads and parking options, and even charter-bus access if needed.

Me, I'll park for this year's show. With next year's show, I will literally walk to Axpona. JVS has an invitation to come and see my CD collection after Axpona 2018 :).

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I thank you for your invite. Will you write my show blogs while I gaze at your CDs?

jason

Anton's picture

And, it looks like the usual crowd is already there shopping for reissues from the '60s!

alucas's picture

Will they have the new Close-N-Play? lol,lol,lol

Anton's picture

Also a special audiophile 'See and Say' that will include 10 snippets of ultra high end audio music that will play about 8 seconds of music before it moves on to the next snippet....in keeping with how long many of us listen to a given cut!