The 2016 AXPONA show is over. On Sunday afternoon, the organizers stopped by to ask if AIX Records would like to reserve the Lakeshore B ballroom for the 2017 show. It’s a hard…and expensive…decision. On the plus side, it’s great to be able to demonstrate what real high-resolution music sounds like through a real high-resolution audio system (the only one that I was aware of at the show!). The comments were uniformly positive with many people coming back time and again to sit and enjoy my recording through a terrific system. There was one gentleman that sat in the sweet spot for over an hour. When I asked him why he stayed so long, he said, “Mark, there is nothing in any of the other rooms that’s half as good as what you’re doing here.” That was a very nice compliment.
Of course, a great deal of the credit goes to my friends and partners Oppo Digital (customized BDT-101CI), Dolby Labs, Benchmark Media (DACs and Amplifiers), DH Labs (Cables), Revel Salon II (speakers), and Kenwood JVC (RS-600 4K projector). The sound in the Lakeshore B ballroom was second to none and the content we played blows away usual demonstration content…analog or digital.
But there’s a downside too. Vendors spend a great deal of money to secure a room (especially a big room), move their equipment to and from the show, house and feed their representatives, and pay for plane tickets. For a small company like my own, it’s way too much money to make sense. But we’ve managed to pull off a spectacular room at AXPONA since its inception back in Jacksonville, Florida. Our location in the hotel is less than ideal, too. Attendees don’t find us as easily as the big rooms at the other end of the hotel. We’re near the marketplace and people are in purchasing mode when the get in the neighborhood.
But I’ve decided that AIX Records and our partners will be back next year…in spite of the lower than expected sales, the lack of press coverage, not being invited to be part of the conference sessions (there was a time when I gave the keynote address at the AXPONA show), and the increasing cost of participating. We’ll see what comes together next April…but we won’t compromise on the experience visitors have come to expect.
The most unfortunate thing about expending all of the time and resources to pull together a truly state-of-the-art system is the lack of press coverage. There were a few online reports (Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity) but other coverage was completely missing. The major and minor audiophile sites and magazines ignored the room. How can a reviewer write a piece about the “best sound room at the show” and not have visited at least the major ballrooms? To ignore the only high-resolution capable, surround opportunity at the show strikes me as irresponsible…especially when these same publications have written glowing reports in the past and even awarded us “best sound” kudos.
I’ve read a number of the show reports. It seems the rooms with the largest equipment array, best dramatic lighting, loudest demo material, most ridiculous cables, and most expensive price tag come out ahead. I heard those rooms and was not impressed…they were nice but not great. By contrast the AIX Records and partners room had a single table with an Oppo BD player and three single rack unit high/half width Benchmark DX DACs. That was it! The DH Labs cables connected the outputs of the DACs to the Benchmark AHB2 Power Amps (which are also very small, don’t have glowing tubes). The 5 Revel Salon II speakers were large freestanding towers but certainly weren’t the largest speakers at the show. I guess size and cost do matter in audio things.
For those many attendees that sought us out, they were blown away…again. I played acoustic tracks, vocal tracks, jazz, and classical music from a new Blu-ray sampler disc. It was magical. You don’t need volume to show off a great audio system. It’s sad that the people that visit and write about these shows don’t bother to check out one of the best rooms at the show.