The Chicago AXPONA Starts Friday

111 seems to be the magic number for AXPONA 2016, aka Audio Expo of North America. Taking place April 15–17 in the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont, IL (near Chicago's O'Hare airport), AXPONA promises 111 exhibit rooms, including 29 larger meeting spaces which sometimes house multiple systems. AXPONA will also host 111 booths and table displays, with a good 50 of those located in the Ear Gear Expo. All told, the show will feature products from 375 brands, most of which will sing away every day starting at the mercifully civilized hour of 10am.

As for who is going to attend, discounted web sales of tickets are 35% ahead of last year. On April 5, 10 days before the show's opening, those pre-sales amounted to almost 3000, the majority of which were one-day passes. AXPONA founder Steve Davis, aka Audio Captain, expects at least 1000 more in sales, including to college students who are expected to take advantage of Sunday's special "Student Day" student ticket prices.

"I've scheduled 'Student Day' before, but never with so much enticement," Davis told Stereophile by phone. This year, Thiel is producing a students-only event at AXPONA on Sunday, April 17 at 1 pm with the very popular all-female band, Catfight." It is hoped that hundreds upon hundreds will flock to hear the band cover songs by Bruno Mars, Icona Pop, One Republic, Prince, AC/DC, and Queen. Before and after, they will hopefully indulge in more exhibits that you can possibly shake a cat's tail at. They had better move fast, however, because on Sunday, the show closes at 4pm.

AXPONA's PR folks, it should be noted, have taken to calling AXPONA "the defining high-end consumer audio show in the United States." Although Davis was not responsible for that little bit of hyperbole, he did say, "We are meeting exhibitors who say they are not going to CES in Las Vegas in the future, and are instead looking to AXPONA to fill the void as the first US show of the year, and the one where they introduce new products."

To encourage exactly that, AXPONA has instituted a Manufacturer's Showcase room in which static displays point attendees to product premieres and new products. So filled with exhibits that it could not possibly accommodate all the companies who wished to participate—you can find the list of other product introductions here—the showcase has proven such an immediate success that it will move to a larger space next year. As you'll see by clicking on the appropriate links, there are many, many major brands poised to entice you with high-end candy in all price ranges.

Live Music and Concerts in multiple genres are a major part of the event. Friday includes a six-hour Jazz Showcase from station WDCB, plus the Akiko Tsuruga Trio in the afternoon, sponsored by Technics. Sunday has a bit of everything, including a classical pianist, jazz trio and, in the evening. Grammy Award winner Larry Mitchell sponsored by Morrow Audio followed by Chad Kassem/Acoustic Sounds' Chicago Blues Night. Sunday is mostly classical, broken up by the for-students "Chicks that Rock!!!" Catfight show.

The seminar schedule is equally rich. Some names will be familiar—our own Michael Fremer, whose turntable set-up seminar is always entertaining, and acoustician Bob Hodas, for example—but others, including famed recording engineer and producer Michael Bishop and Beatles song inspiration Prudence Farrow Bruns will offer rare opportunities. Add in a new Musician's Gear Expo, a large Marketplace, and Lord knows what else, and you have a show schedule that offers more than one person or even a small posse can possibly fit into a weekend.

AXPONA is equipped to handle increased crowds with shuttles to additional parking once the hotel lot fills; three in-hotel food locations (if you allow the "Grab 'n Go" to count as food); and lots of restaurants nearby. To find out if Stereophile's reporting team of Herb Reichert and yours truly is equipped to cover it all, please tune into this very site starting April 15, and keep checking in as blog after blog appears.

pwf2739's picture

Probably the smartest thing they did was change the date from March to April. Chicago weather in March can be quite frightful. Chicago also seems to suit AXPONA well, it has done pretty well since settling in the Windy City. Although I feel RMAF is a better show, AXPONA is still a good one. Hopefully, it will be as good this year as purported.

Anon2's picture

Axpona changed venues after its first year in Rosemont/Chicago. The first venue had a fire alarm incident; whether this was Axpona-related is unknown to me.

The weather is better now, too. Though a hotel-full of power amps did keep the first venue somewhat toasty--toasty so much that many rooms had their windows open in March.

I have never been to RMAF. I have been to Denver several times. RMAF may be a better show. Chicago comes with ancillary entertainment and tourist opportunities that, with all due respect, Denver will have a very hard time matching.

Mid 60s are forecast for all this weekend. Sunny skies are forecast for Chicago.

A final note on the location. Axpona, in both sites, is literally a couple of miles from the edges of the O'Hare field runways.

It seems that this event, despite the accolades of its 2013 return to Chicago, just keeps getting better.

IR Shane's picture

Hello all- At Axpona my friends at Pure Vinyl/Channel D will be holding a special listening session and playing my AAA vinyl reissue of Joe Jackson's I'm the Man in its entirety and giving away a complete set of the Intervention catalog and a 24/192 rip of the LP.

Read details here and we hope you can make it!!