AXPONA 2022—Super Show or Super Spreader?

AXPONA 2022 was definitely a super show. Was it a super spreader? Time will tell. Few attendees were masked, proof of vaccination wasn’t required, and crowds mingled as in pre-Covid days. I came “locked and loaded” with antibodies from having had Covid a few weeks before the show, picked up during a visit to the U.K. for the launch of SME’s new Model 60. I had the worst possible Covid variant: OmicronMQA. You get Covid and it unfolds in your body measles and peyronie’s disease. I've since recovered and everything's been straightened out.

In all seriousness it was another well-produced JDEvents show that ran smoothly and made most attendees—consumers and industry peeps— happy to be back. This year’s AXPONA was somewhat smaller than the ones at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel in previous years, especially in the Expo Hall where the record vendors and other “hands on” exhibitors set up shop. A few scheduled to be there weren’t, but overall, there was plenty to see and to buy. There was a full schedule of seminars and classes and a pair of evening concerts: left-handed Chicago bluesman Toronzo Cannon on Friday night and Lori Lieberman on Saturday night.

I participated in three seminar events. The first, moderated by Positive Feedback’s Myles Astor speculated about the future of high end audio. The other panelists were Jeff Joseph (Joseph Audio), Angela Cardas, Walter Schoefield (Krell) and Angie Lisi (American Sound). When asked about the future of high end audio I said streaming and vinyl were the two drivers that would bring new people into better audio. Angie Lisi decided to punk me and disagreed about vinyl’s influence but afterwards she told me she was just saying that to move the conversation along and a guy who works for Morgan Stanley approached to say that MS had done a major study and found that vinyl was even bigger than most people think. He forwarded to me an 81 page paper that I’ll soon report on.

Later I was forwarded a toxic Facebook post by one of the more repellent people in the business who wrote “Angela is the future. The rest of the people on that panel won’t be here in 15 years….Hahaha. But seriously…”

But seriously, this guy is anout of shape loser. I’ll take my odds of being here in 15 compared to this clown.

Friday afternoon I hosted a “Fireside Chat” with recording engineer Jim Anderson and his work partner titled “Intro to Recording in Digital Xtreme Definition: A Fireside Chat With Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz”. Since it was a Fireside chat I introduced them as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and then the conversation turned to DXD 352.8kHz/24 bit recording and Jim and Ulrike’s collaborations with Patricia (“Patty” Jim calls her) Barber. It was a fascinating hour that everyone seemed to enjoy. I know I did.

While the show included few product debuts there were some including the new avantgarde Trio G3 loudspeakers with optional i TRON current amplification you'll see described in the video. Also I was shown but cannot show you, a prototype of a new Allen Perkins designed tonearm for Mobile Fidelity's upcoming top of the line turntable priced at approximately $6000 with arm that will hopefully be introduced at HIGH END Munich. The ingenious design (wouldn't expect anything less from Perkins) has much of the "DNA" of his Spiral Groove arm, though it's not a unipivot and it includes removable a head shell as well as all of the other features you'd want on a modern tonearm. For now the arm will only be available with the new 'table but who knows what the future will bring? Mobile Fidelity also announced that Andrew Jones has been hired to design a loudspeaker line for the company. I met with Ortofon's Leif Johannsen who told me it was okay to tell you about a brand new top of the line Ortofon MC cartridge coming soon.

Stereophile sent a full crew to produce detailed coverage so please visit the site for full show I hope you enjoy the Day 1 video.

Tom L's picture

Thanks for your reporting! I'm glad you came through your bout with Covid OK, hope there are no lingering effects. People seem increasingly unworried about the disease, perhaps because more than half the population of the USA has apparently had it. So far, so good for me and my wife. This would be a bad time for us to get sick.
I wondered where Andrew Jones would land, hope his products for Mobile Fidelity are affordable but he might take this opportunity to design something really high end. Well, I guess that would be all right, too.

Jeffrey Lee's picture

You mean more high end than the $78,000 TAD Reference One speakers? You never know but I sort of (highly) doubt it.

Tom L's picture

of the Reference One, which was introduced in 2011, but hasn't he concentrated on more affordable speakers since then? All the ELAC speakers are good deals. Either way, I look forward to hearing whatever speakers he comes up with even if I can't afford them.

MrRom92's picture

What is the tangential tonearm shown in the thumbnail? Looks interesting. Still lots of progress to be made on that front IMO with so few manufacturers even bothering to design tangential trackers.

Toptip's picture

Looks like a Jonas Miller modified Rabco SL-8 arm:
(look down about 4/5ths of the page)

Anton D's picture

First direct drive came back, now tangential arms.

1980, here we come!

(I say that as an enthusiastic Yamaha PX-2 and Sony PS X800 owner.)

Michael Fremer's picture
Is new but has Rabco "roots"
Michael Fremer's picture
of the second video currently being edited
javabarn's picture

loved your covid joke.. glad you're "straightened out" lol

Anton D's picture

Then, they gave him microishims to properly reset his 'rake angle.'


(Analog jokes only, no ill intention!)

Glotz's picture

Well-attended and absolutely a beautiful day for the usually-cold April in Chicago.

There were a ton of great-sounding rooms and everyone seemed to be happy to be back.

Michael, do you mention your Turntable Set-Up Seminar? You were funny as hell. It was really well-attended too.

Michael Fremer's picture
Because I'm such an egomaniac
azmoon's picture

I really liked the last scene - and your tie. Looking forward to Day 2.

Glad you are feeling better.

KLW's picture

for the Axpona reportage!

KLW's picture

have been making Frankenstein speakers for 25 years like those first Wilson's. Looks like he used (2 Kef B-139 woofers, RTR electrostatic units, 2 pairs of a small 2-way speaker, and maybe TAD 16" woofers on those back boxes.

Also best Polish Vodka I had so far was estate Wyborova.

eugeneharrington's picture

I was encouraged when I heard that you had flown to the U.K. to attend the launch of the latest SME turntable in spite of the COVID situation. I am sorry to hear that you contracted the virus along the way ... somewhere. I am scheduled to travel to Munich next month for the High End Show and I note that the organizers are mandating the wearing of FFP2 medical grade masks by all show attendees. This is encouraging and will hopefully limit the spread of virus at the M.O.C. where the show is held. The same goes for Public Transport in Munich such as buses, U Bahn and S Bahn trains etc. Of course, wearing a mask, even a medical grade one, is no guarantee of safety, but it will provide some protection in an indoor setting. We live in troubled and difficult times in which COVID is but one of the complications we face.

lcater1's picture

Bravo! somebody is getting rid of insanely expensive speaker cables. It makes a lot of sense to put the voice coil in the amplifier circuit, no funny interactions.............

nukular's picture

I loved that Avantegarde Room. Horns about the height of an above-average male with a giant stack of subwoofers (I guess from the video only the bottom units were in use) placed about 6 feet (if that much) from the seating area. Gave a whole new meaning to "near-field" listening.'s $200k of giant speakers...optimal placement is right next to your head...

Seriously though, they sounded wonderful despite the clown-car setup. Was it a VPI Avenger in their side room?

ivansbacon's picture

Super Spreader, I went out with her once. ONCE.

rich d's picture

The huge AvantGarde system did sound great but I have to say the most impressive things at the show (for me) were the Magnepan LRS+ which shamed many more expensive products, and the Rega 'System One' for around $2K. The industry needs more of this sort of thing.

jamesgarvin's picture

I missed the Magnepan's, but the Rega system punches way above its weight class. I am in the process of organizing my Axpona photos on my Flickr page, with my accompanying listening impressions, and it is a little striking to me how many $20k speakers to my ears don't sound significantly better than speakers I heard ten or fifteen years ago in the $4-6k range.

ravenacustic's picture

By how few rooms were playing vinyl and opted for streaming. Can’t say why but it seems so. I spoke to Lars Christianson and he said the Borrenson, Aavik, Ansuz group were designing a turntable.

Martin Reynolds's picture

That arm can't find them anywhere no web page any clue ?

slindeedean's picture for now. Will eventually be published to when the web site build is finished. Arm first, then web site.