AXPONA 2015 Wrap-Up

This year’s AXPONA Show was the best yet. It demonstrated that Chicago is a great place to hold a regional audio show—even if the city ignored it. It was well-attended by consumers and well-supported by local dealers and a wide sampling of manufacturers.

(Lead photo taken at "Vinyl Lives" seminar shows L-R: Better Records' Todd Drootin, Gotta Groove's Matt Earley, editor Michael Fremer, Analogue Productions, Acoustic Sounds, QRP's Chad Kassem and Channel D's Rob Robinson).

However, because it takes place a month before High End Munich, the world’s largest audio show, AXPONA is not the show where new gear gets introduced. attends AXPONA to do seminars, which are always well-attended and to meet readers. The AXPONA attendees are an enthusiastic bunch and not cynical “tire-kickers”. That’s why it’s such a fun event.

It was also fun for the editor to meet an owner of his 1975 comedy album "I Can Take a Joke".

There was some news: MoFi Distribution, a division of Chicago-based is now the official Koetsu importer/distributor. I spaced out (sorry) on a demo of various Koetsu cartridges on a series of Avid turntables, with electronics by Balanced Audio Technologies and Quad speakers, three other brands also MoFi distributed.

Not as much vinyl and as many turntables were exhibited as I’d hoped for and not sure why that was the case, though the Marketplace sales area was filled with vinyl for sale. With MusicDirect a local Chicago business, the company brought a lot of “product” to the show, but so did Elusive Disc and Analogue Productions. Chad Kassem was happy with sales at the show as were the other vendors with whom I spoke.

Lobby level analog-friendly exhibitors included Dynavector, Well Tempered Labs, Lamm Industries and as part of the Tweak Studio booth in The Marketplace, SOTA Industries.

Also exhibiting in The Marketplace: Bob’s Devices, Anvil Turntables, LKV Phono Preamps, Phoenix-Engineering, and VPI Industries.

Second floor exhibitors included Doshi Audio electronics and Brinkmann turntables.

On the third floor Jeff Catalano’s High Water Sound demoed TW-Acustics turntables and Tron-electric phono preamplifiers. Also on the third floor: Townsend Audio and Acoustic Signature turntables, Allnic Audio, and VPI.

Kronos turntables from Canada, were on the floor number four along with Needle Doctor, Ortofon, Pro-Ject, Creek, Rogue Audio, Music Hall and George Warren Precision Sound. Also Moerch tone arms, and ZYX cartridges.

Clearaudio and Oracle were on floor five along with Transrotor, Thorens and Kuzma turntables. Up on the twelfth floor was Aesthetix, AMG, Audio Research, Benz Micro, and Sim Audio—all familiar names to analog audio fans. ran three seminars: two turntable set-up events show organizers called “Michael Fremer’s Internationally Renowned Turntable Set-up Seminars” and “Vinyl Lives”, which we did last year as well.

"Vinyl Lives" panelists were Matt E. Earley, V.P. Sales and Marketing, Gotta Groove Records, Inc, the Cleveland, Ohio-based pressing plant, Todd Drootin, Better Records, Chad Kassem, QRP pressing plant, Acoustic Sounds, Analogue Productions (etc.) and Dr. Rob Robinson, Director of Engineering Channel D, which manufactures phono preamps and created Pure Vinyl and Pure Music software.

It was a lively, well-attended seminar with everyone contributing useful and information from a variety of perspectives. The discussion ranged from PVC pellet formulations, to how difficult it’s becoming to find good used records. Also discussed: exactly what is “mold release compound” and what to do about defective records.

For what’s new that you’ll see on store shelves and on the online e-retail sites, stay tuned for High-End Munich show coverage starting Thursday, May 14th!

otaku2's picture

This week, my local Salvation Army and Goodwill each had *zero* LP's, and the Housing Works thrift shop had barely two dozen. Amazing.

AnalogJ's picture

"exactly what is “mold release compound”" -- Yes, I have heard different things from experts, particularly whether they CAN be cleaned off records.

"what to do about defective records." -- Yeah, I understand that record companies don't take defective records back, making the retailer be stuck with the defects. Additionally, any defective records add a cost to the consumer, often requiring the buyer to spend money sending them back. Even with supposed higher quality pressings from companies like RTI, defective pressings can cost money. I had 3 successive bad copies of Music Matters' new 33rpm pressing of Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage. The first two copies had significant non-fill on side 2. The third copy had consistently very noisy vinyl throughout both sides. A fourth copy had some mild non-fill on side 2. Having to pay the cost of an insured return added over $20 the cost of the record. That $35 record is now over $55. And of course, it also costs the retailer. It doesn't seem fair to the entire process to not have the pressing plant have a stake in the cost of quality control, as seems to be the case.

Steve Edwards's picture

I have a few titles on Music Matters and each one is top sound and pressing quality. Maiden Voyage was going to be my next purchase from them; now I'm a tad hesitant. Has anybody else had issues with this label?

thirtycenturyman's picture

Why the hate for Chicago? I pay enough taxes to this city and I'll be damned if they start giving away free advertisement to other cities.

Michael Fremer's picture
I realize AXPONA was in Rosemont, but O'Hare is "Chicago's airport". I understand why AXPONA wasn't on that poster at the baggage carousel, but it could have been mentioned on that website. Many businesses located in Chicago participated in AXPONA and it would not have been difficult for the website to mention AXPONA....
SSaxdude's picture

AXPONA was in Rosemont, O'Hare is in Chicago. O'Hare is surrounded by Rosemont, but the city limits have a tiny strip that connects it with O'Hare. Check it out:

Looks like nothing but a way for the city to get more tax revenue.

Jazzfan62's picture

I funded Chad's flight to Chicago with my album orders this week :)

Overheateurope's picture

Any ideas when the Vinyl Lives seminar will hit YouTube - I'm really looking forward to it - also were there any spats with Better Records? ;)

Michael Fremer's picture
They didn't video it this year.... no spats with Better Records....all very cordial....
jeffpartyka's picture

That was me with the "I Can Take a Joke" LP. Thanks for signing it! It was a pleasure to meet you and attend your turntable setup seminar.

J. Carter's picture

Suck up ;-)

I thought that was you in the picture!

jeffpartyka's picture

Yep, that's me. Sean Zloch took the pic. :)

Sean Zloch's picture

My four years of art school education have finally paid off. :)

DavidFell's picture

We have plenty of fine hotels that host events right here actually in Chicago. I'm sure if Axpona ever feels like moving into the big leagues, they'll be welcomed with all sorts of mentions on posters and at baggage claim.