AXPONA 2018 in Chicago was a new high-water mark for high-end audio in the U.S. The show was huge and extremely well attended. Personally, I was extremely pleased to see the number of families who attended the show. It was not uncommon, especially on Saturday, to see moms and dads in their late 30s or early 40s there with their children. By the numbers, AXPONA had 5,718 unique visitors, 165 exhibit rooms plus an over 15,000 square-foot exhibit hall that hosted booths from nearly 100 companies.
The convention center itself was huge. In fact, it was easy to walk several miles a day and not leave the building. There have been some complaints about how hard it was to see it all in three days, but I was just happy to see such excitement over our hobby.
The best thing to me about any audio show is the people and the music. This picture says so much about both. In the picture is my wife and co-editor of The Audio Beatnik, Becky Roberts, and one of my favorite recording artists Anne Bisson. This was taken on set-up day, and I think this was the only time we got a chance to say hello to Anne all weekend.
As much as I like meeting old friends at shows, it is equally exciting to meet people in person who have become friends over the phone and internet. This was my first chance to meet Chris Thornton of Artisan Fidelity; the man responsible for those beautiful and extremely well-designed plinths for vintage idler drive and direct drive turntables. The Garrard 301 Statement in Macassar Ebony was one of the most beautiful at the show and is pictured in my Turntable Eye Candy post.
In the GTT Audio and Video room I got to see an old friend Dick Diamond of YG Acoustics, and I got to meet Robert Hagemann of Audionet. Their room was my Beatnik Bongos award winner for Best Room $300k – $500K and one of my Seven Sweet Dream Systems at AXPONA.
Tommy O’Brien of the Digital Amplifier Company was another friend I got to meet for the first time in person. Tommy was the first person we had really never met before to reach out to us when we launched The Audio Beatnik last year, and we have enjoyed getting to know him.
I finally had a chance to meet Robert Maicks of Audio Points fame. He has been a good friend for years and I love his speaker and equipment stands.
It was really good to get to know Laszlo and Andras Fabian of Audio Hungary, the guys who bring you Qualiton. We will be posting an interview with this father and son team soon.
It is always great to see Tom Vu and his lovely wife, Kelly Phan. The hotel room we stayed in was between their two TriangleArt rooms. They had another of our Seven Sweet Dream Systems at AXPONA. Watch for a review of the beautiful Maestro turntable to be posted soon.
It’s always a pleasure to visit with Ray Kimber and listen to some of his wonderful recordings. Ray is also the man behind Kimber Kables.
The team from Innuos who came over from the UK to share their incredible music servers in the Well Pleased Audio Vida room. Pictured from left to right are Steven Gomes, Nuno Vitorino, Anthony Bunn-Major, Mark Sosa, owner of Well Pleased AV, and Amelia Santos. The weather in Chicago wasn’t particularly great, but we hope they got to see some of Chicago while they were here.
Thanks to The Audio Company, VAC and Von Schweikert for putting together the “Ultimate In Sound” system and for inviting us to a private listening session. Pictured from left to right: Damon Von Schweikert and Leif Swanson of Von Schweikert Audio, Jack Roberts of The Audio Beatnik, Kevin Hayes and Darlene Monteiro of VAC, and Gordon Waters of The Audio Company. Find out more about this system in our Beatnik Bongos Awards, Part 1 post.