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Slouching Towards Schaumburg - AXPONA 2024

04-17-2024 | By John Hughes | Issue 132

I'm sliding into Northern Illinois on a dreary Thursday in early April. There is a touch of nostalgia and foreboding landing here in the suburbs of Chicago filled with its brutalist architecture and utilitarian brick structures. The daffodils and plum trees are blooming. The grass and clover is already coming out and getting green. It is only a few dozen miles from where I grew up and left 45 years ago. I haven't been back since. To say I have a chip on my shoulder regarding my backwater origins here would be an understatement. Each day the weather became more and more gorgeous, hitting 80 degrees while my mood and attitude followed the mounting warmth.

Similarly, the mood and energy of the audio show, AXPONA 2024, bloomed this weekend into a chaotic but vibrant flowering in a way that hasn't been seen in half a decade.

This weekend was a journey of discovery for me, personally and musically (audio-ly). Here at the industry mixer on Thursday night, I'm here to see the brightest and shiniest faces and minds of audio here in Schaumburg. From the moment I put foot in the show space I could feel the vibe, things are cooking, and everyone has something new and amazing to share. I'm surrounded by seasoned professionals who have polished their pitches to a mirror finish.

Taking in the show as a whole, there was a flourishing of innovation and passion. There were so many new and unique products, quick turns on the latest technology, and thoughtful renditions of the classic and the timeless. Taking a minute to appreciate the amazing build quality of many of the products shown, I felt like I was in the presence of greatness and a renaissance of manufacturing techniques. Fit and finish was the highest I've ever seen taken as a whole. Cabinetry and joinery were on point, metalwork was gorgeous. The Summit Hi Fi was flawless, but even entry level equipment was built to very high standards.

Attendance was high, with rooms on Saturday bustling to the brim. For many folks I talked with, this was their first show experience. And there were more younger attendees discovering new gear than I've seen in a long time. From 10-foot-high horn systems playing AC/DC and creating an IMAX-like wall of sound, to small but mighty bookshelf speakers paired with tiny electronics, there was big fun to be had. I overheard many passionate conversations about so many systems.

Below are a few snaps I made to evoke the artistry that was on display at AXPONA. If you want to know what they are of, check out my reports coming soon.

On Sunday, after the show wrapped, I went to a local restaurant that served Kyrgyzstani food where I talked to some folks from Central Asia, and it was a revelation that the world has truly come to my place of origin. Nothing is static, and things here have obviously evolved for the better! After dinner I walked to an open field and heard for the first time in 45 years the unique chorus of night creatures creating a soundscape that filled my soul, triggering many feels and memories. Just those few minutes were profound for me. And while the performance might have been given by crickets and frogs, it was music to my ears. Sounds creating profound emotional experience is what the pursuit of Audio is all about isn't it? Next I'll write about what the humans are up to! Stay tuned for show coverage focusing on what was innovative, what was beautiful, and what moved me.