Some Thoughts on Axpona 2019--from an Axpona Newbie


Lifelong music lover and player here.  I went to my first Axpona this weekend.  I wanted to share a few things to see what others think. 

1.  One day is not enough.  I had a buddy and a game plan.  There still was way too much to do and see to get it done in a day!

2.  Meeting certain manufacturers, engineers, designers, reviewers who are essentially "famous" in my hifi mind was super cool.    

3.  There were some expensive rooms (I'm defining that as systems with pieces of kit north of $25,000 piece and overall $75,000 and above for the system) that weren't all that great.  In some of those rooms I thought that if I had that money to spend I'd buy lesser priced gear because it sounded better to me. 

4.  Speaking of budget gear, the Elac room (bookshelf speakers) and the Wharfedale room (Linton speakers) sounded so great--notwithstanding their small price tags. 

5.  My favorite "big money" room was the VTL/Stenheim Alumine Five loudspeakers room.  The sound here was spellbinding.  

6.  Many folks running the systems were pushing the loudspeakers too hard.   In my humble opinion, they needed to back down the volume as things could start to sound harsh.  

7.  I loved meeting Clinton and hearing Spatial Audio speakers in person.

8.  My personal favorite for near $10k in loudspeakers was Volti Rivals.  

I'm definitely going to be doing this again next year!
jbhiller
Stereophile has quite an extensive set of articles covering that show online.

Seems like it was quite big!

Unfortunately, my big tax decrease never developed this year, in fact local taxes will be going up, and I have kids still going to college so even if I wanted to try to fit some of that very nice large expensive gear in my house, it ain’t happening. Will have to stand pat. Will probably want to downsize even more over time. Lot’s of good sounding, practical stuff out there these days though for sure.

I made a mistake...It was the Steinheim Aluminae 5 speakers and VTL that I loved. 

https://www.stereophile.com/category/axpona-2019?page=2
I had many of the same impressions as the OP as this was my first AXPONA as well.  I was only there one day so I missed many more rooms that I could attend but I was quite impressed with the Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde speakers and the PranaFidelity Vayus.  I'm also now lusting over the Kuzma TTs.
Post removed 
Thanks for your post, nice to hear impressions from another person as a visitor. Must have been an amazing experience. Many of us must wonder whether the ultra expensive gear is that much better than affordable as such - not always! 
Well there definitely were pricey systems that sounded amazing.  But there also were pricey systems that sound good but not great. And there were reasonably priced systems that sounded amazing too.  Oh and there were budget systems that sounded amazing as well.  I'm defining pricey, reasonably priced, and budget subjectively of course.  

I loved how a $2k Quad amp, Mofi turntable (is it ~$1500) and Wharfedale Linton (Harbeth killers?) speakers ($1500) sounded sooooo good.  
One other newbie takeaway...  The music!  Man, these exhibitors love to play stereotypical audiophile music.  Think Rebecca Pidgeon, Chesky, instrumental sounds (windchimes, wood blocks), etc.  I like that stuff for sure. However, I'd rather hear how Aretha Franklin or Sam Cooke sound on a killer system than Rebecca Pidgeon.  Disclaimer:  All due respect to Rebecca and many others.  
I've been to two audio shows; AXPONA last year and the Tampa show this winter. I think the thing that struck me most was an almost complete disconnection between the price and the quality of sound. I heard modest systems that sounded wonderful and I heard 6 figure systems that sounded awful - at least to my ears. Granted, the best sounding system IMO at last year's AXPONA was also the most expensive (VAC, Von Schweikert - $1 million) but there were several reasonable systems that were amazing. The other thing I came away with is that my 90's vintage system (Krell, Mirage) sounds pretty darn good.
The thing with shows is there are may large expensive systems that would probably best demonstrate unique value set up well in a larger room where more is needed but most rooms are smaller scale where size and often associated cost matters less. Good sound need not be expensive to produce these days but doing it on a larger scale will tend to cost more.   Need it cost as much as many setups at these shows?  No.   But it is always interesting to hear what should be the creme of the creme is capable of in person.
@8thnote,  your view and mine are identical.  My favorite system at Axpona cost $150k.  But, a silly little $1200 pair of Elacs sounded more like music and what I'd take home than a couple of really pricey rigs.  

     I bought 2 tickets and was planning on attending Sunday. We drove up from Indy to Shaumburg and celebrated my mom's 90th birthday Saturday afternoon, which was great. 
     We stayed at the AXPONA hotel Saturday night, ate breakfast and I was all set when they opened at 10 am Sunday.  But the hotel had no wheelchairs available.  I thought about walking the 12 floors and expansive show using my cane but knew I'd get quickly exhausted and it'd take away from my enjoyment.  
     I was able to listen to the very nice sounding McIntosh setup in the lobby for about 5 minutes before we all drove back home.  My mistake, I'll make sure I bring my wheelchair with next show.

    Too bad, I was hoping to meet ozzy there.

Tim
Sounds like fun---I hope to go for the first time next year. Did anyone meet Kevin Deal from Upscale Audio?
I saw Kevin a number of times but he was pretty busy so I didn't talk to him. I wanted to as I own a Primaluna product and like his firm.