For me Audio shows are over im not going to wear a mask for 9 hours im not Zorro or the Lone Ranger.I have great stereo system in my home and im not in the market for more however my get a new cartridge when mine goes.Great hobby but its not worth it to me to go to Axpona I have been to dozens of shows in the past.I do not want to travel on a plane masked up that’s me many people love it though.Many audio companys are doing a great business and don't need the shows which cost them a lot of money.
I would strongly encourage you to go to Axpona. It can be a bit overwhelming but it is so important that you be exposed to many different systems each which has a bit of an intrinsic sound based on the type of equipment used. Plus if you hear a truly exceptional room, it gives you a benchmark for the future. Sometimes you can buy equipment at excellent "show" prices. Tons of software as well. Go, have fun, listen and learn.
Worthwhile is always a debate. It is like going to a showroom to listen to gear. Every room is trying to put its best foot forward and it may or may not work the same way in your space.
That said, it is hard to find a place where you can listen to more gear. Most rooms will not have stuff you can take away that day. Some floor models will be available at the end of show and will depend on the room. For example, the speakers I am showing are not in the color I want long terms so will be happy to move the pair I have simply so I can order one is the color I want.
It is a fun event. Certainly can be overwhelming but there are more than 175 listening rooms based on what I saw. Some manufacturers are cautious due to COVID. Some are relying on others to show their gear. Even if Wilson is not there, I am certain someone will be exhibiting Wilson speakers. Less common brands like Kharma will be harder to find.
As @audition__audio mentioned, audio shows offer a wonderful opportunity to obtain a benchmark or reference points to aim for - when optimizing your system at home. Where else can you listen to such a larger variety of high-end gear - and speak directly to the manufacturer?
You already have a very nice system. In your case, the benefits could include chatting with manufacturers and/or dealers who can offer suggestions to improve your system even more. They’re very approachable. (It might be helpful to bring photos of your system on your phone. Especially wide photos of the room.)
If a room is packed, it might be necessary to re-visit that room again when fewer people are there. Or make an appointment to meet the exhibitor in the hotel cafe’ for a cup of coffee or such.
One of the byproducts of the pandemic has been an increase in high-end HiFi sales. Many manufacturers are backordered for months; eg Wilson. Yet, some exhibitors might be willing to sell their show demos to avoid paying freight back home.
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Hotel rooms are notoriously difficult in which to set-up properly. Usually, it takes a couple of days for the exhibitors to dial it in. Getting the sweet spot right is goal. Usually, that happens on the last day of the show - which also might be the busiest. Though, some get it pretty close on the first day when it is least busy. Lots of variables.
I've been to Axpona a few times and really enjoyed it. The trick is to make a plan as there are a ton of rooms and people. Go online, determine what rooms are your "must-hear" rooms, and then you can make sure to spend time there.
BTW - I have had luck purchasing demos and b-stock there for sure, just realize they probably won't let you leave with anything before late Sunday if you want to take it with you.
Two years ago was my first Axpona (first audio show ever actually). Was lucky enough to go early on the first day so it wasn't that crowded. I had a great time. Was able to check out so many new products. Really couldn't believe how many companies are out there that I had never heard of!
As many have stated, don't go there expecting to hear everything at it's best. But, I think you can get a good idea of what a speaker might sound like in your room. I was blown away by the sound in a few rooms though - Vinni Rossi, Maggie LRS, Sanders, DeVore, just to name a few. Ended up buying the LRS shortly thereafter.
Totally worth a trip IMO. Even just to go once. I am looking forward to going again in April.
Do dealers go and set up products in showrooms or is it strictly manufacturer's? For example, would a local Chicago dealer have a room showing Audio Research or Wilson Audio or would it be Wilson Audio showing off the line of products? Appreciate the feedback.
IIRC the Chicagoland dealers present in 2019 were Saturday Audio, Holm, Music Direct, Quintessence. They had a variety of stuff on display. Just took a look at the 2022 exhibitor list and it looks like the same are there this year. There are also dealers from around the country sporting various gear. Check it out:
Most of the major brands will be on display in some fashion. As koslekt1 said, it does pay to go through the list and try and whittle it down a bit. It really is a quite a lot to see in one day. I was hoping to go 2 days this time but a little thing like work will probably not let that happen!
Again, totally worth the price of admission IMO.
For first-timers, understand that the exhibitor list is misleading. Example, if a room is listed for, let's say Wilson, there will be Wilson products. But also, there will be all of the electronics and cabling etc that's needed to form a system. So, the Wison room might also be showing McIntosh, or Pass, and Transparent, and Aurrender and so on. There might be a room sponsored by a cable company and then, of course, all of the electronics and speakers needed to complete the system.
As to the Chicago area audio stores that are represented, those mentioned above are only a few. There are more, all showing numerous products that they deal with.
Lastly, the mask mandate in Il has been lifted. Any mask requirement at the show will be Axponas' call. I haven't seen anything on the web site that mentions a change. Personally, I'm ok with it if it means a little extra protection. If years past are any indication, the place can get pretty crowded. Packed elevators, hallways and rooms could be cause for extra caution. The show will be worth the aggravation.
You have to ask :) ?
Having been to many AXPONA shows I absolutely love them.
Look at the vendor list and target the rooms that interest you the most. lots of industry experts will be there to talk shop.
with every conceivable system topology available it is a great way to discover a type of sound that you have never heard before and can gauge how well your system competes with the best of the best. also lots of LPs for sale in the expo hall.
i am chomping at the bit after missing the last two years and can’t wait !
The mask mandate is lifted, only wear a mask if YOU want to, no proof of vaccination will be required.
I live 30 minutes away and work 15 minutes away, I am going on Friday and Saturday, you can talk with manufacturers and dealers, it's a great place to ask all of the questions that we can't answer here.
Hopefully Kevin Deal will be there again, he was there 2 years ago also Dave from Raven audio was also there 2 years ago I wonder if they will meet up and chat.
Fantastic feedback from those who posted. Very much appreciated.
I reached out to SOTA turntable company and connected with Donna. They are attending and have some products they are launching. Sounds like a good opportunity to check out an interesting brand that I have no experience with in the past.
Any other interesting guidance is appreciated.
I live a few miles from where Axpona takes place and I’m on the fence. I haven’t started attending Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts again, and perhaps I should do that before attending an Audio Show. I am mildly immunocompromised, due having Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, and work as a Primary Care Physician so I get some risk exposure every day. My wife is a Nurse and the worse thing I've ever did was take her Axpona when it was in Rosemont, pre Covid. Her memory of 20 crazed Audiophiles packed into a hotel room makes it difficult to discuss going back, even though the newer venue is much better
Not sure if I can ask this here... first time at Axpona or any audio show for that matter. I am staying in Lincoln Park curious if any locals hailing from the downtown surrounding areas want to carpool to and from the show can provide money for gas etc? Since its only 3 days I don't really want to rent a car and ubering twice a day seems excessive.
Just got back home from the show. It was fantastic. I got a chance to meet some great people like John Siau with Benchmark and Gary Yacoubian with SVS. Two things I’m really excited about: 1. Al Clark, Pres/CEO of Danville Signal Processing. He spent a lot of time speaking with me and I’m going to be an early adopter of his dspNexus which will replace my Mini DSP at more than twice the fidelity and offers much more flexibility for an active crossover plus some fun things like Bluetooth play etc. I would never have known about this without going. 2. The best in show was the Minuet Speakers by Clarisys Audio playing in the room sponsored by and paired with Hegel amps. The combo was stunning and bests my 20.1’s by light years and there wasn’t another speaker in the place that could touch them. They have completely modified and improved on the Apogee system, solid aluminum frame weighing 210lbs per piece at 4ft tall. Frequency range 28Hz to 25KHz, my hair stood up the three times I listened to them. The sound was so coherent and effortless within the entire range. My wife couldn’t come to the show and when I called she said I sounded giddy. Lol