AXPONA 2018 Show Report – Part I

As a former Michigander, I can appreciate that the weather really sucks for three months in the midwest. But I wasn’t really prepared for the onslaught of high winds, hail, and even snow at this year’s AXPONA 2018 event in Chicago this past weekend. Winter has not given up its hold on the windy city and all points north. My wife traveled to Madison and shoveled snow. Amazing! But there we were hauling a couple of heavy suitcases into the marketplace ballroom on Thursday afternoon and extracting the boxes that were waiting for us at booth 424. Welcome to AXPONA 2018!

On Thursday evening, the current show owners bestowed a well deserved “platinum record” award on Steve and Carmen Davis. These two incredible people (with the able assistance of a the late Andrew Spaulding, the third partner in the original AXPONA) imagined and executed what has become the biggest audio trade show in North America. Now owned and produced by JD Events, the show is bigger than ever. If success is measured by how many vendors purchase tables in the marketplace, manufacturers convert hotel rooms into demo rooms, or how many ballrooms are transformed into high-end audio listening spaces, AXPONA was an over whelming success. I’m confident attendees topped 10,000 steps navigating the route between all of the exhibits but I’m not convinced that they got what is most critical at any audiophile show — an event curated by people that care about high-end audio. The focus of the show used to be on the vendors and attendees. For the past few years, the emphasis has been on the financial upside for the organizer. Sure, they deserve to make a profit and increase the value of the show property. But I found it curious that Steve and Carmen weren’t needed after Friday’s opening day. Mona and I shared a wonderful Mexican meal with them on Friday evening before they departed for home on Saturday morning.

The AIX Records booth was located in the marketplace ballroom at the extreme end of the hotel and conference center – just past an adjacent ballroom that was hosting some sort of dance competition that drew dozens of young girls and their moms. The place was overwhelmed by tweens and teens practicing their routines between the entrance doors and the marketplace entrance. I shipped about 100 copies of my book “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound” to Chicago and managed to sell almost all of them to interested — and knowledge hungry — audiophiles. The AXPONA show discount remains active until the end of the month for those that couldn’t make it to the show — just enter “axpona 2018” during checkout and get 25% off. For those reading this blog, I’ll include a free copy of the AIX Records 2017 sampler with your order. Simply write to me and let me know that you read about the AXPONA Deal on the blog.

On Friday afternoon, I gave a 45-minute presentation to an assembled group of about 35-40 people. Using a narrow cast, wireless headphone system provided by my friend Robert Schulein, a corner of the marketplace ballroom doubled as a mini seminar facility. I shared a few thoughts on the veracity of high-resolution audio, talked about mastering and its impact on fidelity as discussed in the book and demoed on the Blu-ray disc, and chatted briefly about MQA and the new MQA-CD format that one of their team members told me about. I’ll write a full account on MQA-CD in a future post. Following my presentation, virtually the entire group headed to booth 424 to listen to some real high-resolution audio, sit in front of the YARRA 3DX 3D audio sound bar, and check out the new book.

The show was a success. I’m glad that I went as it’s always fun to spend time chatting with colleagues, friends, and customers. I didn’t manage to visit very many demo rooms but I had more than a few people come to the table and audition the YARRA 3DX sound bar and tell me that it was the most innovative technology at the show. BTW – The Indiegogo campaign in support of the YARRA 3DX sound bar is coming to a close at the end of the month. If you are interested in purchasing one, you can get one for 50% off the retail price by visiting this secret perk (YARRA 3DX discount). Quantities are limited.


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

5 thoughts on “AXPONA 2018 Show Report – Part I

  • Jeff Roadwrench

    For someone who often complains about misleading the public when analog tape is converted to 24/192 or DSD.

    How can you approve of YARRA calling “a 5.25″ driver and 30 Watt amplifier that outputs deep bass from 50 – 100 Hz” a subwoofer? We both know 50-100Hz is not deep bass.

    • Jeff, I am not the marketing person at Comhear — the company behind the YARRA 3DX. And I would agree that butt-kicking bass is not possible from the subwoofer that is included with the sound bar. But having demoed the unit for countless people, I can tell you that it does a great job augmenting the directional 3D audio output from the YARRA 3DX sound bar. If you want more, there’s always the possibility of replacing the included subwoofer.

      • 50 Hz is actually deep bass. But if one lacks bass immensely, should buy the 1 Hz subwoofer and place it in the attic. One reason not to strive for that is decreased sensitivity of the ear on frequencies that low, that’s why 50-100Hz might be enough for anyone.

        • Jeff Roadwrench

          50 Hz is not deep bass, an acoustic double bass or electric bass both go down 40Hz. Deep bass is 20-25Hz

          I realize that this Yarra device is being sold at a price, where supplying a true subwoofer would not be possible. But Dr AIX is often quite picky about misleading statements and numbers.

          In reality that box is not a subwoofer, if they can get it down to 50Hz it could be considered a woofer.
          Deep, even if not tuneful bass is more a requirement for home theater, as movies often have synthesized low bass in action movies.
          Take a look at Stereophile’s recommended components. For speakers they have “Full Range -ie, feature bass extension to 20Hz” and “Restricted Extreme LF – for inclusion in this class must still reach down to at least 40Hz, below the lowest notes of the four-string double-bass and bass guitar.

          I am just saying the ad is misleading, and usually Dr AIX is a stickler for the facts. While I am not a fan of MQA, I think any improved sound is that it is coming from the master, while earlier releases were sometimes 2nd or 3rd generation copies that were digitized.

          I would not have replied, but THAMINI is wrong in thinking 50Hz is deep bass, and also talking nonsense about 1Hz subwoofers, in an attic. 50Hz might be enough for some, but I prefer speakers that go down to 20Hz. My speakers are rated at 16Hz -30,000Hz +/- 2db, which gives me real world usable bass down to 25Hz in my room.

          • Jeff, I generally agree with your sentiment. 50 Hz is actually very low acoustic bass information and it is quite common to use suboctave generators or synthesizers to hammer another octave below that. Certainly games and moves produce large amounts of “deep bass” but it’s artificial and meant to kick you in the butt. Acoustic music — even electrically amplified music — doesn’t have that kind of information in the deep bass. Many people have commented that my recordings sound somewhat light in the bass frequencies…but that’s because I don’t add anything to the sound that came in the microphone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *