Show Report: Axpona 2018

Normally, I’d think twice about visiting Chicago in April—winter has a way of ignoring the calendar around Lake Michigan, and those April showers are often white and fluffy. The lure of Axpona in a big new venue was too much to resist in spite of the weather.

The pre-show buzz was that the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel/Convention Center would be the biggest, nicest setting of any audio show in the US, and that proved to be the case. While it looked like yet another anonymous blocky building complex from nearby Interstate 90, once inside it was open, airy, and bright: not what we generally think of in association with audio shows. A multi-story atrium area emphasized the sense of openness and space, as you can see in the following pics.

This was what it looked like outside. Bleahh.

Inside: the very pleasant main lobby of the Renaissance Hotel.

Looking down on to the lobby from above.

The Expo Hall, site of headphone exhibitors, record vendors, and miscellaneous table exhibitors—before the insanity began.

Pre-show: already starting to gather.

Show registration before Friday’s opening. This is 9 AM on a Friday!

Outside the PS room before Friday’s opening.

When I wrote about the last RMAF, I said it had the strongest Friday of any audio show I’d every attended. That was true then, but is no longer true: the level of attendance at Axpona on Friday was staggering, especially considering the show opened at 10 AM. Over the weekend, attendance was so heavy that I was often room-bound; as a consequence, my coverage here is less-comprehensive than I’d like. When I was able to get out and about, many popular rooms were packed to the point where entry was impossible, and photography? Fuhgeddaboutit.

We’ll have additional coverage of the show in the next issue of Copper to make up for my deficiencies. —Well, at least my deficiencies in show-coverage.

Sprout-owner Julie Mullins from The Absolute Sound, checking out the new Sprout100.

Colorado neighbors who only see one another at shows: Paul McGowan and Steven Stone from The Absolute Sound and Audiophile Review.

The Expo Hall, up and running.

In 30 years of attending audio shows, I’ve never seen Linn with a booth display.

To my credit, I didn’t laugh at this Goldberg-esque contraption. If you figure it out, tell me.

Record vendors mostly all look the same, no?

This was an unexpected delight in the Expo Hall. Exotic car fans will know that the lack of “eyelashes” on the headlights of this Lamborghini Miura mark it as an ultra-rare SV model. This was a billboard for Gayle Sanders’ new Eikon speakers, shown upstairs.

SOTA turntables, still alive and well.

Back in the PS room, Dave and Carol Clark from Positive Feedback.

Stereophile’s John Atkinson with Paul McGowan.

The Schroeder guitar amp exhibit, out in the lobby.

Out and about: Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom with Sound & Vision Contributing Technical Editor Michael Trei.

New father Mat Weisfeld from VPI; Kevin Hayes from VAC; Greg Weaver from The Absolute Sound.

The hard-to-photograph Ruel line-source speakers from Canada. Think of the Dali Megaline, only with each module using a slot-loaded fullrange driver.

Quintessence Audio’s impressive Sonus faber/Audio Research room.

No, it’s not a drone: the bizarre Sonus faber Sf16 next to a subwoofer.

They look like Ohms, but they’re new from scratch: HHR Exotic Speakers.

The interesting omnidirectional-sorta Larsen loudspeakers from Sweden.

The massive Avant Garde Trio horns and Basshorns were in a room that could’ve been bigger.

Air Tight amps always impress, both physically and sonically. Built by Mr. Miura—who is not a Lamborghini.

Both electronics and speakers from Prana Fidelity in Denver. Steveen Norber’s designs always sound terrific.

Inexpensive speakers from Gryphon—which means only $30,000.

Joseph Audio’s room is always a refuge of good sound and music.

In the shadows: Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio; Lucien Pichette and Jeff Rowland from Jeff Rowland Design Group.

Exogal and Ryan Speakers, sounding terrific, as usual.

Tough to photograph in a dark room: Eikon speakers from MartinLogan founder Gayle Sanders. Multi-amped powered dynamic speakers utilizing DSP.

Frank Van Alstine of Audio by Van Alstine and Michael Levy of Alta Audio.

 

Too late: Rogers High Fidelity and Burwell and Son packing up.

Hard to photograph in front of a bright window: the big new subwoofer from Emerald Physics.

Even harder to shoot: the 24″ woofer of the Emerald Physics sub.

A big prototype amp from Western electric. The 300Bs will be coming again, soon.

As far as I could get into the High Water Sound room. Herb Reichert’s on the right.

Yet another terrific Raidho setup with the affable Rune Skov.

Axpona 2018 was huge and spread out, with hundreds of exhibitors. I’m sure we’ll get some numbers in the weeks to come. I regret I was unable to convey more of the range of exhibitors, but the scale was pretty daunting.

An unqualified success, by any standards—but could it be better? A press/trade day—or at least a few hours—might be useful. Other than that, Axpona offered more of a mix of exhibitors and of demographics than any show I’ve seen in the US. Here’s looking forward to 2019!