AXPONA 2018 = EPIC Sound! EPIC Venue! EPIC Weather?
There were more great sounding rooms at the AXPONA 2018 show than any other USA event… ever! An abundance of large conference halls combined with multiple big halls for vendors with table displays, plus many hotel suites plus a smattering of vendors throughout the lower level walkways. As I count it, there were nine floors in total and far more exhibitors than one could attempt to cover in merely two or three days. There were ~150 listening rooms according to JD Events. Even the weather was perfect to benefit AXPONA 2018, as it was c-c-cold with nearly constant rain outside. Oh, and let's not forget typical windy Chicago. It's not called "The Windy City" for nothin'!
Am going to play the 'experience card' right up front and say that after reporting on ~130 consumer electronics events during the past 22 years, AXPONA 2018 was one of, if not the very best USA shows I've ever had the honor to attend. From working with JD Events' always-friendly Liz Miller, VP and Event Director, to bumping into Founder and CEO Joel Davis every three hours, AXPONA was a success due to years of simply being reliably there and paying attention to the Big Picture.
AXPONA 2018 was held at a new venue, the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel in Schaumburg, IL. JD Events have wanted to hold an exhibition there for years, yet needed more industry commitments to justify such a very large space. And large it is! There are many conference halls with high ceilings and overall generous proportions. Sound-wise, conference rooms such as VAC / Von Schweikert / The Audio Company benefited from strategic use of acoustic treatments as their large Ultra 11 ($295,000) floorstanders being driven by several VAC tube amps sang sweetly.
Mid-level floors, being typical hotel rooms located from the third through seventh level, were a bit smaller in dimension than other hotel-based venues as I recall. On the plus side, acoustically these rooms seemed to be quite good! Of course the top two floors are very large 'prestige suites'; along the lines of Presidential as is the norm for luxury hotels. Besides the overall high sound quality from many rooms, what also impressed me was the openness to the overall building's layout. It allowed you to bask within a feeling of upscale elegance and natural sunlight, versus typical claustrophobic-feeling closed hallway venues.
As for the weather, it was horrible…. if you had any plans on being outside. As for the weather, it was perfect for an audio show. Since high-end audio shows such as AXPONA 2018 are held indoors, this was the very best weather JD Events could wish for! Cold constant rain combined with typical Chicago wind kept everyone warm and dry inside the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel. Need to warm up? There's a glorious fireplace on the lobby level with comfy chairs to melt away the chill. Or should I say comfy chairs to melt away and chill.
As is typical with audiophile events, moving to a new location always bring up a conversation concerning everything from gear load-in to how responsive is the promoter, to the overall sense of is this the right place for us, and is there room to grow? On the first point everyone, and I do mean E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E seems extremely happy with the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel. On the later point, there is plenty of space to grow, with supporting services already in place so as to be able to keep up as demand dictates. Oh, and before I forget to mention the food was quite good and reasonably priced. Room service was fairly fast, even during dinner rush hour.
Simply put, AXPONA 2018 was such a tremendous success that I expect their 2019 event to be at least 15% larger! Once word of mouth flows through the international industry, AXPONA could be the USA's answer to HIGH END's exhibition in Munich. On a personal note, the hotel seemed to have zero 'blind spots' and 'super-secret hallways' tucked away in dark corners, which guarantees you miss products you had hoped to hear. Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel was an easy layout to learn, comfortable to walk through, and while there was a small wait during the day for the elevators, as it was not overly long, and seemed everyone was smiling and happy.
In fact, it appears everyone attending AXPONA 2018 was pleased and cheerful while enjoying the music. Everyone except JD Events' Joel Davis, who appeared to be everywhere all the time, was nervously walking through the venue. Considering the higher commitment when moving to a truly world-class venue, Joel had many reasons to be a bit apprehensive. Bottom line:
After attending over 130 shows during the past 22 years, AXPONA 2018 was without a doubt the most successful American high-end event in decades! Great sounding rooms, many floors filled with exhibitors, an excellent show location, plus a warm and friendly event staff. Sign me up for AXPONA 2019!
As always, in the end what really matters is that you...