AXPONA Floor by Floor | AXPONA 2023

axpona floor by floor
Gobel and Audio Research

While reporting from the peak of the AXPONA summit, I decided to do my show coverage a little differently this year. Continuing the trend from last year, AXPONA has gotten so large and there are so many good rooms that there’s too many rooms to report on in just a few days. So I’m doing hot takes: things that sounded great, looked great, piqued my interest, warranted either an extended listen or future review, or it was eye candy that was too good to pass up. This is AXPONA floor by floor.

Words and Photos by Graig Neville

Overall show impressions were that the sound this year was at least as good as last year. Exhibitors have been setting the bar very high and coming out in force in order to to stand out in a continually competitive environment. I think the vast majority of exhibitors spent a great deal of effort on their rooms and all of them should be commended for that alone. Shows are expensive and the decision to attend a show is always a tricky balance for exhibitors, so I am sympathetic when something doesn’t go as planned.

A refreshing observation I noticed during my AXPONA floor by floor survey included a marked increase of diversity among the crowd. Seeing more gender and racial diversity at the show was an indicator that perhaps hi-fi will survive and spread to a greater audience. I know that the industry has been trying to be more inclusive, and the dominance of old white males (of which I fit in that category) can be off-putting to many. So welcome to those of you who attended AXPONA outside of the usual demographics. We need you to help our hobby survive and I thank you for that.


The final observation I’ll share before digging into AXPONA floor by floor concerns the presence of more affordable gear than usual. One of my good friends attends AXPONA nearly every year and he continually comments on how expensive gear is and it was far beyond his budget to ever own any of it. He didn’t comment on that this year.

Now, much like professional sports, the high-end is reaching ever higher. Even a few short years ago a system costing $250,000 was summit-fi, the pinnacle of the hobby, but today there were many rooms that cost double or quadruple that value and summit-fi has moved into–as Dr. Evil would say–“one million dollars” or more. So finding great gear in the sub-$5,000 market is refreshing. I spoke with at least two manufacturers during my AXPONA floor by floor tour whose focus was creating affordable gear that punches well above its price point. I found this vision refreshing, as the lower point of entry for those who aren’t independently wealthy will be healthy and sustainable. It also points to the fact that a company can be successful without continually chasing up market for greater profits.

So overall, my impressions about AXPONA 2023 were that the hi-fi market seems to be healthy and has an ear turned towards the future despite a segment of the market still fostering those skyrocketing prices.

axpona floor by floor
Von Schweikert and VAC

AXPONA Floor by Floor: Scaling the Tower

The Renaissance Schaumburg hotel rooms are in the west side of the conference center, and several of the PTA staff have nicknamed this “The Tower.” These mostly diminutive hotel rooms are a hot mess for audio with lots of hard surfaces, odd credenzas and headboards, and generally headaches to get good sound. How different exhibitors address these challenges varied from full on room treatment to spot treatment to just prayer and acquiesce to the audio gods in the untreated rooms.

As I mentioned before I didn’t get into every room, so there could be some hidden gems that I missed.

gtt audio
GTT Audio

AXPONA Floor 16
Rooms that stood out to me on AXPONA floor 16 included Bayz Audio, Rethm/Phasemation, GTT Audio/Grimm Audio (Vivid/Mola Mola), Next Level Hi-Fi with Borresen/Aavik gear, and Von Schweikert/Scott Walker.

audio group denmark
Audio Group Denmark

There were a two stellar rooms showing Avantgarde and Phasemation, We’re talking Avantagarde DUO GTs, dCS digital, and Transparent Cables in one room, and Borresen’s less-expensive floor standing speaker in the other as part of Audio Group Denmark’s new AXXESS line.


AXPONA Floor 15
Trekking down the 15th floor, I discovered  Magico had several great sounding rooms, as did MBL/Kyomi, ATC/Lone Mountain Audio, Seawave Acoustic/Ayre, and Yamaha. The Yamaha room was a bit of a sleeper room in that the quality of the sound was unexpectedly good.

axpona floor by floor

This Yamaha speaker looks a lot like a JBL L100, and it quite possibly out L100’d the L100!


The standout room on the 15th floor  was the Bending Wave USA room with the Gobel speakers, Wadax and Audio Research. These Gobel Divin Noblesse behemoths put out a powerful sound that was still delicate and articulate despite their immense size.

AXPONA floor by floor

AXPONA Floor 14

Treehaus was rocking their unique wood open baffle speaker, they probably get my vote for the
coolest looking speaker of the show. Krell sounded very good as did Pass Labs. The Alma Audio room
was a standout for the simple fact that such a large sound was coming from such a small speaker, the Boenicke –impressive!


Well Pleased AV/Choice Audio had their new Qualiton tube amplifier partnered with the new Mearson DAC1 Mk2, and ABTech Ethernet cable playing on Qlns that sounded very good. But my favorite on the 14th floor was the Vinnie Rossi/Innous/Rockport room. The sound was smooth, powerful, and refined.

fidelity imports

AXPONA Floor 12

Apparently no one wants to exhibit on the 13th floor, so we skipped down to 12. This floor had perhaps the greatest density of excellent sounds with nearly every room sounding really good! Endow Audio had one of the most creative speaker designs at the show that takes pictures to describe.

Fidelity Imports has been representing several news lines and after listening to several of their rooms has been knocking it out of the park. I heard Perlisten, Gold Note, Soul Note, diptyque, Unison Research, Cyrus, Q Acoustics, Acoustic Energy, Opera, and all of them were excellent. I particularly liked the Perlisten flagship, the dyptyque, and the Q5000 on the Soul Note integrated. I will follow up with extended impressions and a deeper dive on the Gold Note gear in other show report.

unison research
Unison Research

This floor was difficult to pick any favorites, but it would likely narrow down to either the Ultra
Fidelis/Vandersteen/Audio Research room that was showing Vandersteen Kentos or the
ampsandsound/Acora Acoustic/Mimic-Audio room. The Kentos had more of their traditional
Vandersteen warmth than what I had heard at Ultra Fidelis a few years back. The bass was excellent
with great imaging in a bare room with no visible room treatment. Ampsandsound partnered up with
Acora and Mimic-Audio. Ampsandsound was premiering their brand new Arch tube monoblocks on
Acora SRC-1 speakers with SW1X Level 4 Special DAC and TW Acustic turntable.

axpona floor by floor
Acora Acoustics

The ampsandsound/Acora/Mimic room was heavily treated and easily the quietest room in the Tower. The results were spectacular with solid bass and laser focused imaging. This room easily had the most image solidarity in the show.

Zu Audio
Zu Audio

AXPONA Floor 11

This floor only had a few rooms and was mostly dedicated to hotel duties, but the Dutch & Dutch North America Room sounded great with a modestly sized bookshelf pumping out copious bass. Kimber Kable partnered up with Zu Audio to conduct A-B cable comparisons that you could quickly flip between A and B at your own pace. Differences between cables were audible, but I’m sure you already knew that.

AXPONA floor by floor

AXPONA Floor 7
TAD was playing in the Wolf Audio Systems room and lived up to expectations. The Aretai, OePhi and Convergent Audio Technology room also sounded spectacular. Aretai, from Latvia, is still looking for a US distributor and I hope they find one soon as these are kinda special speakers that are a bit unique and interesting.

Sonner Audio

Holm Audio had several rooms, all of them were good, but the Sonner speaker room stood out to me as particularly good. AGD Productions had two amplifiers they were showcasing that looked interesting and worth checking further into as one is more affordable tube gear. KMD Engineering had an iconic looking speaker that looked promising and seems to be nearly infinitely adjustable.

Gresham Acoustics/exaSound was particularly good. The Stillpoints/Rockport Technologies/Viola Audio Labs/Wolf Audio Systems/Audio Design. We got a little insight into a new upgrade board for old Viola systems. The AV Luxury Group International showed Raidho/Margules/Brodmann Acoustics/RSX Tech/and Scansonic HD and sounded just as emotional as ever. I really like Margules sound and design philosophy. Margules had a new streamer and power conditioner they were debuting.

axpona floor by floor
Fyne Audio

AXPONA Floor 6

Yet another floor with a plethora of great sound. Standouts included the Sound Organization showcasing Fyne and Chord Electronics. Hegel partnered up with Clarisys Audio and Shunyata Research to make some sweet music. Linear Tube Audio and Fern & Roby had furniture grade finishes that sounded as great as they looked. Monarch Systems and Sierra Sound had a Alluxity, B.Audio, Chario, Franc Audio Accessories, Siltech Cables, and Ultra Carbon system in a Hawaiian tiki decorated room that sounded quite good even though they didn’t bring any audiophile recordings – on purpose! Mon Acoustic/Aurender/Sanctus Cable rocked some Metallica, which was fun.

bricasti and tidal
Bricasti and TIDAL Audio

The Bricasti room was playing with TIDAL Audio speakers and made some amazing sounds that were a cut above the others, but the best room in my opinion on the floor was the Robert Do room on Ares Cerat electrics with Wilson Benesch speakers.

AXPONA Floor 5

On the 5th the standouts to me were Gestalt Audio Design and the Audio Excellent, Atoll, Atohm, Sinfoni, Audio Development Laboratorio Auido andMusic for Pleasure room. Atohm has a new Class D 700W amplifier with DSP that has just been released and looks interesting.

YG Acoustics
YG and Bel Canto

AXPONA Floor 4

Surprise! Another floor with several great rooms. YG Acoustics sounded great with Bel Canto. But the two standout rooms were the new Zesto tube monoblocks on YG Acoustics speakers, and the Artisan Fidelity room that was showing an all Tidal system. Not having heard Tidal before I was in for a treat and could have spent hours in that room. I’ve heard TIDAL Audio now, and nothing will ever be the same.


AXPONA Floor 3

The Shunyata Research room with Clarisys Audio, Constellation Audio, and Stillpoints impressed me as a standout, but some of the lower floors had less listening rooms and more product information rooms, so there were fewer opportunities on this floor. I’m impressed how much bass ribbon designs can pump out nowadays!

axpona floor by floor
Focal Naim

Convention Hall
These rooms were mostly big and had big sound to match. Focal Naim North America just released a
new Atmos system where I got a demo of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” that nearly brought tears to my eyes.


I’m not sure if this is the future of music, but there is some cool stuff that the system can do. Vimberg
was in the Wynn Audio Room sounding as suitably epic as it did last year. The Luxman/Melco room
playing on Magico speakers was smooooth and sublime on the Luxman gear. Credo Audio Switzerland was playing their reference line arrays that sounded big and room filling. Convergent Audio Technology was playing Magicos to great affect.

joseph audio
Joseph Audio

Joseph/Cardas/Doshi/Notable Audio had an excellent sounding room set up in a more near-field arrangement that worked well despite the room size. The best sound on the 2nd floor was a tough call. The Next Level Hi-Fi room with the new flagship Borresen was spectacular and worth additional listening. But I think the VAC/Acora Acoustics room nudged it by a whisker. Acora debuted their new VRC-1, with a cabinet the size of Gibraltar with sound that was similarly huge. Miles Davis’ horn was as close to live as I’ve heard at a show.

Acora Acoustics

AXPONA Floor 1

The first floor had several different venues and room sizes. The main event, and the largest room, was probably the Ear Gear Experience. There were at least a dozen headphone exhibits with several listening stations. I spent some time at the ZMF booth chatting with the owners. Some of the other PTA staffers listened at the Moon, Audeze, and other booths to sample headphone and head amps. Headphones are as much my jam, so I found some comfy couches to rest my sore feet and caught up on writing and planning for other rooms to check out.


And that rounded out my overall meanderings at the show. I’ll dig deeper into a few of the rooms that I thought sounded particularly great, had new gear that’s important to cover, or just struck me as super cool and exciting. Now it’s time to let my ears rest as listening fatigue definitely kicked in over the three days of the show coverage. AXPONA Floor by Floor has concluded…for now.

axpona floor by floor
bayz audio
BAYZ Audio


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