Does size matter? I think so, for the 9,115 audiophiles that descended upon the Renaissance Schaumberg Center in Chicago, April 14-16, 2023.
The final press release from AXPONA states that there were 9,115 visitors over the weekend to see 12 floors of exhibitors, 200 listening rooms, 500+ brands, hundreds of product debuts, two live concerts, over 20 seminars, and master classes.
“Big” is an understatement. AXPONA definitely has the beef! One could have spent the weekend, getting educated and entertained without ever listening to a system. Twenty-two hours in three days went by in a blink. I am still catching my breath. Man, what a show!
Words and Photos by Paul Elliott
This will not be the usual review of rooms or equipment. The PTA platoon covered this show very well indeed. Instead, this will be a photo essay, trying to capture what 9,115 visitors experienced over the weekend. I hope this gets across just a small part of the size, scope, and feel of this mega US show.
It all started on Thursday, with setup. Just imagine the logistical nightmare of getting all that equipment into the Renaissance, in place and up, and sounding so good.
Thursday night there was a reception for the exhibitors and press. Great fun seeing old friends and having a bite and a bit of liquid libation.
Seminars, seminars, seminars. Words for audiophiles to live by…
There were 23 seminars and master classes going on all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You could have spent the entire weekend being educated, without listening to one system, if you chose to. You could hear from industry leaders from all aspects of our hobby at these events. From recording, to design and manufacturing, to setting up turntables and subwoofers, and even from our reviewers and media gang.
Herb Reichert, from Stereophile, was very accessible to answer any and all questions.
Michael Fremer led a group of LP reissuing and remastering leaders to cover all aspects of this industry.
Steve Guttenberg, The Audiophiliac, gives us a glimpse into the day in the life of…
Scot Hull of Part-Time Audiophile led a discussion about reviewing in the audio industry.
The AXPONA Marketplace
The marketplace was very active for the whole three days of the show. Both new and previously owned vinyl were gobbled up as fast as the vendors could write up the sales. At Acoustic Sounds, you could get advice from Chad Kassem on which LP is the best choice for you.
Anne Bisson was introduced by fellow Canadian and developer of the Kirmuss record cleaner, Charles Kirmuss. Anne has been very active in the audiophile community by doing live vs. recorded demos with various vendors at many audio shows for the past few years. She also provides access to her recordings for sale, on both vinyl and CD. She has her own recording company in Canada and hosts her own TV show in Montreal.
Anne was performing songs from her seventh album. We rarely see an artist accompany herself and perform jazz with such ease on stage! Her colorful personality, infectious energy, and evident love for music, combined with her delightful anecdotes about life’s strange twists, make each of Anne Bisson’s shows memorably unique!
Next, just a quick look at the Ear Gear room on the ground floor.
The best part of going to a big high-end audio show is that you’re bound to experience something new. The Saturday Night Concert at AXPONA presented Amber Rubarth, an American singer-songwriter and actress. She has toured extensively throughout Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea, and South Africa.
Winner of the NPR Mountain Stage New Song Contest, Amber performed her eighth album, Wildflowers in the Graveyard, which is engineered and co-produced (with Rubarth) by Matt Andrews (Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Dawes). This is a concept album of self-penned songs around the cycles of life, death, and rebirth as witnessed in nature and relationships.
As I wrote earlier, I was not going to review any room or gear. But there was one new speaker introduced that I feel was so extraordinary I have to mention it–the Acora Acoustics VRC-1. I first heard it at the Florida Audio Expo back in February. Acora’s CEO and Chief Designer (Valerio Cora) is a second generation Italian stone worker. Yes, all the Acora speaker cabinets are made from granite.
I have never experienced a sound like this. I came back to the room many times to hear different tracks just to make sure I was hearing what I was hearing. From top to bottom–and I am not sure where the bottom was, this speaker is seamless, and also very smooth and grain-free (I am sure that the top-of-the-line VAC electronics played a big part here). This was the most dynamic speaker I have ever heard. Congratulations, Val.
So that was AXPONA 2023, in the books as America’s largest high-end audio show (and by a wide margin). There is no place you can see and hear as much hi-fi in a very short three days. You can meet and talk with industry leaders, have lots of fun, and learn so much about this industry and our hobby of home music reproduction.
If you were not one of the 9,115 visitors this year there is always next year. Maybe we can break 10k….Oy Vey!
If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
Also don’t forget to check out our collaboration to commemorate the event with our solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800 grams of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top with also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.