Axpona 2011: a Goldmine for Audiophiles

Axpona lives! The Audio Expo of North America, the consumer high-end audio show whose successful 2010 launch in Jacksonville, Florida, established it as the premier high-performance audio show on the East Coast, has moved to the far more accessible and convention-friendly Sheraton Atlanta, in Georgia. Scheduled for April 15–17, 2011, with a special four-hour trade preview on April 14, the show is cosponsored by Stereophile and Goldmine.

Goldmine, a magazine and website for music collectors, will produce the Goldmine Showcase for dealers and collectors of vinyl, digital audio, music collectibles, and memorabilia. The first Goldmine event in five years—the last was in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cleveland, Ohio—the Showcase's 100 display tables in the Sheraton Atlanta's 10,000-square-foot Capitol Ballroom are expected to draw a large number of attendees. Their exposure to high-performance audio could create a . . . goldmine for exhibitors.

In addition, Axpona will feature several Stereophile-sponsored events, including an "Ask the Editors" panel. Jim Smith, author of Get Better Sound, will return for another round of setup seminars, and seminars on computer audio are being planned. In the works is an analog-only area, to be counterbalanced by Mark Waldrep of AIX Records, who will demonstrate his first Blu-ray 3D recordings with a huge surround-sound system. Entertainment will include the Steve Davis jazz ensemble (with a guest stint by bassist John Atkinson), jazz pianist John Yurick, and the University of West Georgia Saxophone Ensemble.

As of October 2010, more than six months before show time, Axpona's Stephen A. Davis had already sold 56 different exhibit spaces. With an average of three exhibitors per room, that's over 100 different exhibitors. On display will be products from such well-known companies as Audio Research, Ayre Acoustics, Boulder, Cardas, Carnegie Acoustics, Channel D, dCS, DH Labs, GTE Audio, King Sound, Kubala-Sosna, Legacy Audio, Linn, Magnepan, Naim, Scaena, Sonist, Soundsmith, Synergistic, Thiel, VAC, Vandersteen, and YG Acoustics.

The Sheraton Atlanta, with 760 guest rooms, is a newly remodeled, well-appointed, convention-oriented four-star hotel with a deli, an upscale restaurant and bar, dedicated breakfast and lunch areas, and a gym and pool. Stephen Davis proclaims it "just beautiful, and a nice place to relax in." Located in the middle of Atlanta's hotel district, across from the Hard Rock Cafe, the Sheraton is surrounded by up to 25 other hotels and many restaurants, everything within walking distance of everything else. The hotel also offers ample parking, and is a 15-minute drive from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Davis has secured a large block of well-appointed guest rooms for attendees at a special show price of about $130 per person per night. To entice the younger generation, there will be free admission on Sunday for students with valid college ID. Plenty of exhibits will welcome the Apple "i" family of Pods, Pads, and Phones, as well as other portable MP3 and (much) better devices.

Heaven for Exhibitors

Axpona's ultimate goal is to sell 75–80 rooms and draw 5000 attendees. Davis has already sold out his initial allotment of large, solid-walled rooms in the hotel's convention center, and is prepared to meet demand by using other large spaces, these separated by 8"-thick air walls. Available are standard 325-square-foot rooms—the same size as at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest—and 14 "adjoining rooms" that extend the space by an additional 4' 10". The price per square foot is the same as last year.

Axpona has tackled the common problem of inadequate setup time by letting exhibitors take possession of their rooms on Wednesday, April 13, at 6pm. Setup can continue until 4pm Thursday, April 14, when the show opens for a four-hour trade-only preview.

Show times for the public are April 15–17. Once the doors close at the end of the Show, exhibitors will have until at least 2am Monday to vacate the premises, or until 2pm Monday for setups in the standard 325-square-foot sleeper rooms. For once, exhibitors will be able to relax and breathe before packing up, and Sunday-afternoon attendees won't have to watch exhibitors move suddenly into frantic pack-and-shove mode.

Axpona 2010, which sold 2000 tickets over its three days, was filled with enthusiastic audiophiles who had hungered for years for a consumer audio show on the East Coast. Given Atlanta's accessibility and the quality of the venue, there's every indication that Axpona 2011 will be a winner.