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AXPONA 2017: A Place In The Market

A photojournal by Eric Franklin Shook “Success is 5% perspiration and 95% getting your name out there.” -Albert Einstein Often the reason I get from dealers and manufacturers who have already “arrived” at their place in the audiophile market is: “We do the show circuit to stay relevant. If we don’t show, people would begin to speculate as to what’s wrong with our company.” It’s sad, it’s true, but you get to a point where your own ubiquity becomes a burden -- people expect you to be there. Imagine a show without electricity or worse yet without VPI Industries; there would be a yawning chasm of opportunity for someone else to fill the void, although not as well. For everyone else, dealers, manufacturers, and distributors; the audio shows circuit doesn’t always mean instant success, but as truer and wiser people I meet come my way it’s best said that participating in the audio show circus is all about “building momentum” for your brand as Frank Urban of US Sound Labs would say. Taking a walking tour of AXPONA’s The Marketplace I’d find myself spying on what may be today’s unknowns, but tomorrow’s fixtures in the audiophile industry. Not to say that this is the comparable open mic night for flourishing hacks, that it is not. Make little mistake to assume that the marketplace doesn’t offer a different “interaction space” for vendors and end users. Sometimes that difference alone gives reason for well established brands to choose the marketplace’s open air, conversation friendly venue over that of the typical one room exhibit found on the crowded floors above. Larger brands can also provide an anchor (sorry, retail term) to the spectacle of new and exciting products, some more “out there” than others. Let’s take a look…

AXPONA coverage generously provided by NOBLE AUDIO.

Parts Express

Before you even leave the lobby, there it is, bright and shiny. Displaying an arrangement of components and finished DIY products alike.

Elusive Disc

Right away it’s an intimidating view of the ballroom floor, but a familiar face in Bob Bantz beckons me nearer. Everything is moving well, as it should. Hard to find SACD, Records, DVD-Audio and accessories, you name it, it’s there.

AntiCables, JanZen Audio, RME Audio, Beyerdynamic, Morrow Audio, Nordost, US Sound Labs

A true fair atmosphere…

Atrevit Acoustic, Sonnare

Wow, what a demo. Some of the best bass I heard at the show came from Atrevit Acoustics new reference speaker system dubbed Enchantress and I admit, the name fits. A fully active 3.2-way system, with six amplifiers and hybrid filtering built in each, they cover the frequency range. Sonnare Audio was also promoting their high power headphone amplifier The Emotion perfect for driving all headphones regardless of power requirements.

Bob’s Devices

A dealer in full for all things turntable, including VPI, Bob also builds his own line of Moving Coil Step-Up Transformers. To me, Bob’s is quickly become a permanent fixture at shows, as his popularity grows. I blame that on his honesty, which at times can even be cause for a lost sale or two, but as with people who have that honesty problem it usually means two things: 1) they can afford to be, 2) they have an extremely loyal and growing fanbase.

AmCan Audio

Probably one of the best conversations I eaves dropped at the show was that of Todd Kubon (president of AmCan) and a show attendee asking about the importance of Constant Natural Frequency isolation. Something I’ve heard of before in the architecture of skyscrapers and bridges. It was a great “you had to be there moment”, that I’m sure took place all weekend. Another great local manufacturer to the Chicago area.

Mytek

Mytek a name I’ve known since the ‘90s, might be more well-known for their professional DACs and A/D Converters, but they also have a growing hi-fi line, which includes their newest MQA enabled Manhattan II DAC/Headphone/Pre on display and for audition here at the show. Chebon Littlefield was encouraging passers-by to hear what MQA could sound like. Impressions were strong.

TLP Audio, Blue Circle Audio, Acoustic Sounds, AudioQuest, SOTA, MA Recordings

Rarities, Oddities, and Curiosity Abound

YOUNG BLOODS

Hipsters, Millenials, Generation Y and The Future of The Hobby

It’s great to see a new generation of audiophile emerge that fetishizes the ways of old. As much as people throw it all off to social aesthetics, I think it’s just how music lovers look and sound these days. Welcome back to the mainstream. REVERB.COM and TWELVE-INCH.com.

The Old Guard

Grandstanding on ceremony, the arenaceous likes of The Absolute Sound were in full force behind the Acoustic Sounds table, peddling their books on the history of hi-end audio, lest we forget.