The Audio Cynic

Schrödinger’s Show

To an exhibitor at an audio show, the show simultaneously exists and does not exist. If the show is thankfully, blessedly busy, the personal and professional domain of the exhibit room is all that exists. Beyond is nothingness—except perhaps a place to grab a sandwich.

This is the dichotomy I experienced at this year’s edition of Axpona. At most shows there is enough slack that I’m able to run around at some point—generally on Sunday—and listen, take photos, maybe do a bit of video.

This time, however, slack never appeared. Friday was uncommonly, absurdly strong, and Saturday and Sunday continued to be hugely busy, albeit with attendance down a bit thanks to the nasty slushy snow that made an appearance. So that was when I saw a few rooms other than my station. Very few.

To give you an idea of just how strong Friday was—show registration was right next to PS’ exhibit room, and this is what I saw when I stuck my head out at 9 AM, an hour before the show’s scheduled start:

It was go time, but not yet show time.

So, yeah. Plenty of folks, and more exhibitors than ever before. An embarrassment of riches really, and where to begin?

For an attendee, that’s a challenge; exhibitors know where to begin. A day or two before that scheduled start time they enter and see the blank canvas of an empty room facing them—

PS’ Kevin Jackson and Paul McGowan contemplate the void.

—and I don’t know about those guys, but that sight made me gulp. Especially after viewing what had to be unpacked and set up:

Yikes.

Think about the job: take a room at a hotel, which could be anything from a regular sleeping room to a big ballroom like the one above, haul in tons of audio gear, and attempt to transform an unfamiliar space into a world-class listening room, knowing that writers, bloggers, vloggers, fanboys and foes alike will be watching, listening, and in many cases, waiting for you to fall flat on your face so that they can spread the glad tidings all over the ether. It’s an absurd task, and it requires either audacity or insanity to attempt it. At most shows, you’ll see a mixture of the two—and Axpona was no exception.

Somehow, after a lot of man-hours and woman-hours, that big empty space is transformed into:

Aside from the usual silly mistakes and glitches, it all went together, and it all worked well, by God.

Most people liked the sound—not everyone, because the sound was not the bleached-bone, steel-edge sound many audiophiles are used to, and many aspire to. To me, it was lush and dynamic when called for, inconspicuous and lyrical when playing smaller pieces. Tweaking and adjustment occurred during the show—such is typical, and one of the major frustrations of the audio show exhibitor is that just as everything is at its best, it’s time to tear it down, pack it up, and go home.

While I didn’t get to visit many folks, luckily, many folks came to visit us:

John Atkinson, recently-retired Editor of Stereophile (after 390 issues and 33 years). Don’t worry–he’ll still be Technical Editor.

Jeff Dorgay (Tone Audio) with Paul McGowan.

Jim Austin, new Editor of Stereophile.

Scott McGowan with Dave and Carol Clark (Positive Feedback).

Alan Sircom (HiFi +).

Rick Becker (Enjoy the Music).

Scot Hull (Parttime Audiophile).

Becky and Jack Roberts (The Audio Beatnik).

Michael Fremer (Stereophile, Analog Planet) interviewing PS engineer Darren Myers about his phono preamp design.

The crew from Audio Bacon interviewing digital guru Ted Smith.

The ubiquitous Eric Franklin Shook (Parttime Audiophile).

Herb Reichert, Poet Laureate of Stereophile, with Paul.

Lunch break: Danny Kaey (Positive Feedback, Audiophile Style), Michael Lavorgna, the master of sang-froid (Twittering Machines), and Hull again.

Dr. David Robinson (Positive Feedback).

Lee Scoggins (Parttime Audiophile) and Rajiv Arora (Audiophile Style) interviewing guess who?

Steve Guttenberg (CNET, Stereophile) with a lovely showgoer.

Ron Brenay (New Record Day).

Ingo Schulz (Fidelity, Germany) with Paul.

Eric Neff (HiFi +).

Brian Hunter (AudioHead, AudioStream) with yet another Ted interview!

Greg Weaver (TAS, others) with Paul.

I know that many others from the media came by—if I missed you, I’m sorry. And to the hundreds—thousands??—of showgoers who visited, thanks so much. One final scene: an in-room “Ask Paul” session in which audience members asked Paul and Ted tech questions.

Full house!

Paul says, “our next amplifier is gonna be THIS BIG.”

Despite appearances, Ted is NOT giving hula lessons.

It was a great show…but I hope I get out more next year!