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AXPONA 2024 High-Performance Audio, Luxury Premium Hi-Fi Stereo Audiophile Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

 

The Big AXPONA 2024 Show Report
The largest, most well-managed, and most amazing show in North America!
Audio Expo North America 2024 Show Coverage By Greg Weaver

 

The Big AXPONA 2024 Show Report Audio Expo North America 2024 Show Coverage

 

  This most recent AXPONA (Audio EXPO North America), held Friday, April 12th through Sunday, April 14th at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center for the fifth time (COVID-19 took its toll affecting the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 events), managed to break all its previous records by welcoming 10,391 attendees from 42 states and 31 countries. Liz Smith, AXPONA's Show Director for JD Events shared that this represented a 14% increase over 2023, adding that, "This year our Gen Z pass doubled. It was exciting to see so many attendees ages 15 to 26 discovering the world of high-performance audio."

Just how big and amazing was it? This year's monstrous event featured 202 dedicated listening rooms and dozens of displays and booths over its sprawling twelve floors of displays and exhibits crafted by some 600 global manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and brands! There were listening spaces set up in the larger suites on the first and second floors, both directly beneath the Hotel's primary registration area and to the eastern end of this large, four-star hotel and Convention Center complex.

 

 

There were also more than fifty booths, including the LP and music sellers, as well as the Master Class Theater for seminars in the Expo Hall, which was home to the Record Fair, showcasing a vast array of turntables, cables, accessories, racks, stands, tonearms, cartridges, and new and vintage vinyl.

 

 

Then too, there were over thirty Ear Gear Experience exhibits in the Master Ballroom behind the registration area encompassing everything for personal audio, from headphones and electronics to accessories and cables. As you may gather, this area was especially popular.

Finally, the more standard room-sized exhibits on floors three, four, five, and six, which all enjoy the open walkways and its view into the large open atrium, and on floors seven, eleven, twelve, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, all ten of which averaged just under eighteen rooms per floor!

 

 

The nightly concerts at AXPONA are always a big hit. Friday night saw Bobby Broom playing to a packed and energetic crowd while Saturday night's concert featured The Secret Sisters, the singing and songwriting duo that managed to wow the full house. On top of that, there were many other after-hours listening sessions in rooms like those sponsored by MBL and VAC, including one of my curated LP sessions in the Euphoria Room on Saturday evening.

Now, aside from trying to cover this complete exhibition in just its twenty-two hours of access, the exhibits were only open from 10 AM to 6 PM on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 AM to 4 PM on Sunday, as well as finding time to catch up with all my colleagues and friends, attempting to set up video shoots (that was particularly unsuccessful given how busy everyone was), and present my after-hours LP sessions, it proved to be completely impossible to do.

Given the enormity of the task of trying to cover so many rooms, some compromise had to be made. Within the limited time constraints, to cover more rooms than usual, rather than being able to deliver my characteristic show reporting style, typically sharing a one or two-paragraph "mini-review" of rooms I was covering, I've been forced to deliver a more abbreviated description, more like a one or two-sentence summation of the performance highlights of most of the rooms I'll be discussing.

With that caveat acknowledged, I'll also share that in my attempt to at least try to cover the most accomplished rooms on each floor, rather than just head off to a room that had in some manner piqued my interest, my strategy was to start at the top of the Renaissance on floor 16, and then to successively and deliberately make my way down each floor, one at a time, until I reached the ground floors.

The best-laid plans, so it is said... right? So as the show closing hour was upon me Friday and I realized that I had just finished floor 15 and gotten to a few rooms on 14, it became clear that at my current pace, I would have to make some adjustments or I may not even get to floor five, let alone the big guns on two and one....

That said, I have included my choices for the Top Five Rooms at AXPONA 2024 at the very end of this report. I will be the first to admit that it is getting much more competitive for the top honors spots at shows these days, and that further complicates my ability to assign the rooms in any numerical order of preference. My Top Five Rooms / Best Of AXPONA 2024 Blue Note Awards are listed at the end of this report. As such, just know that, given your personal biases and musical preferences, any of these Top Five Rooms might have filled your top honor qualifications. They were all fabulous and deserving of such remarkable recognition.

If I missed or underrepresented a room you may have had an interest in, my apologies. Given the enormity of this amazing event, I did what I could. And it was still AMAZING!

Ready? Set. Here we go!

 

 

Alexander Presidential Suite American Sound Of Canada
Angie Lisi, the owner and principal behind Ontario's American Sound of Canada, ALWAYS puts on a fantastic showing, and this year's event was no exception. With two rigs set up in the Alexander Presidential Suite, one an all-out assault to show just what her products could do, and then a slightly more cost-effective, smaller setup, she managed to beat everyone's expectations with two simply fabulous-sounding presentations!

 

 

Main Room System Details:
Pure Fidelity Turntable with Glanz tonearm - $15,500
Phasemation PP-5000 cartridge - $19,900

Phasemation EA 2000 phonostage - $48,800

Grimm MU-1 Media Player/Streamer/Roon Core - $15,000
dCS Vivaldi Apex w/ Clock and Upsampler - $109,000

Phasemation CM 2200 passive preamplifier - $26,800

Phasemation MA 5000 monoblocks (when Avant Garde iTron was not used) - $145,000/pair

Avantgarde Acoustics Mezzo G3 Speakers - $110,000 (passive)
       - with iTron amplification for fully active - add $29,000

HRS Stands and isolation platforms - $80,000

RigRax amp stands - $5,000

Transparent Cables - interconnects/speaker cables/line conditioners - $55,000

 

For clarity, the Phasemation MA 5000 monoblocks mentioned above, which use a pair of 211 vacuum tubes in a parallel single output and employ a transformer coupled 300B for the driver stage, were used when the active, internal Avant Garde iTron amplification was bypassed. That was the configuration I heard.

 

Second Room System Details:
dCS Bartok Apex Streamer/DAC - $24,000
Phasemation CA1000 preamplifier - $45,900

Phasemation MA 2000 300B tube mono amplifiers - $49,900/pair

Avantgarde Uno SD - $ 34,650 (passive) passive
     - with iTron amp for fully active add $18,000

Transparent Cables - $45,000

RigRax equipment stand - $9,000

HRS amp platforms- $3,900

 

My listening in the main room was punctuated with a listen to "Pneuma," from Tool's 2019 monster release, Fear Inoculum. This system captured the guitar's "crunch" and rendered exceptional definition and detail. This was one of the best spatial representations I've heard with this track played digitally; just listen to the specific locations, sizes, and placement of the tom rolls.

 

 

Listening to Gene Ammons' take on "My Romance" from his 1960 Boss Tenor release was portrayed in such an intimate and engaging manner that I have added it to one of my Qobuz playlists. When Angie was kind enough to play my request, "Fade to Black," from Dire Strait's sixth studio LP, On Every Street, I was treated to all the immediacy and microdynamic nuance I have come to expect during his under-his-breath growl about 30 seconds in, to the explosive "P" hitting the microphone diaphragm when he says the word "Pass" at just over a minute in. And I was quite impressed with how vibrant and authentic his Gibson Super 400 guitar tone was presented. Kudos Angie.

 

 

 

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