The Hub: Audio Expo 2010: Axpona overview

NASCAR begins its season in Daytona. The Harleys first come out of the garage for Bike Week, also in Daytona. NHRA drag-racing starts its season with the Gatornationals, in Gainesville. It's only fitting, then, that the audio show season began this year in Jacksonville with the Stereophile-sponsored Axpona.

To the diehard audiophiles who came from the land of frozen tundra, the sunny days and temperatures in the mid-60s must have seemed heaven-sent, and strolls in shirt-sleeves were common. Locals, however, wore jackets as they spoke of the region's most severe winter in decades, hitting the local citrus industry hard.

A similar relativity in perspectives was evident amongst exhibitors: the many newbies shone with enthusiasm in their new enterprises, while those with decades of experience spoke with cautious optimism after having survived one of the worst years ever for the audio industry. The upbeat attitude seen at CES and THE was still seen, but the less-manic venue allowed for a more measured contemplation of the market.

The signs of recovery were there: several manufacturers and distributors spoke of having posted record months recently, and foreign brands which had left the US market had returned. Most encouraging of all, a number of new brands made their first appearances in the show world.

Despite being home to a many well-known audio manufacturers and several famous audio salons, Florida hasn't hosted an audio show in ages. Those attending Axpona seemed enthusiastic, if perhaps a bit older than the attendees seen at RMAF. Such is Florida.

While RMAF's site is amidst a number of other hotels and corporate headquarters in a suburban sector, the Wyndham Riverwalk is in an old section of downtown Jacksonville, in an area which seems to be undergoing rehabilitation and reinvention as a center of nightlife and entertainment. The Wyndham is located on the bank of the St. Johns River, which empties into the Atlantic east of the city.

Jacksonville itself is a bit of an enigma to urbanites; in area, it is the largest city in the US, at nearly 900 square miles. That enormous area also envelops the largest population of any city proper in Florida, of more than 800,000. In terms of atmosphere, Jacksonville has more in common with southern agricultural and distribution centers like Memphis or Little Rock, than with Miami.

The show itself seemed fairly relaxed as well. Preliminary attendance estimates are about 2,000 attendee days, similar to the first year or two of RMAF. Organizers Steve Davis and Andrew Spaulding spoke of the possibility of similar shows in other cities, and Washington, D.C. was mentioned as a potential site. It's unclear at this point what that means for the future of a show in Jacksonville.

Whatever happens, Axpona at Jacksonville will be remembered as a first, positive step in the renewal of a season and of an industry. Surely, that's not a bad thing.

Up soon: Axpona 2010 will be commemorated by Audiogon's exclusive room-by-room photography by Albert Porter and crew, and soundbites! A world-exclusive feature from Audiogon.
..i attended the show friday and saturday and enjoyed it greatly...i certainly hope it continues to grow as it is a great spring compliment to the rmaf's fall show..steve davis and stereophile did a great job of making everyone feel at home..the hotel was good and the surrounding restaurants were superb and within easy walking distance. the number of great audio systems was impressive and the ease of entering a room and listening to the systems and talking with the designers was very favorite room was the tidal-argento room ...the music was the most emotional sounding at the show to my ears and that of the friend that went with me..doug white of 'the voice that is' and ricardo reyes of 'argento' were great at explaining their equiptment but it was the sound eminating from the small piano cera speakers that was incredible...the most natural ..musical..detailed and emotional music i have heard from any speakers..i certainly hope this catches on and continues for years to come...
I certainly hope so too.A fine review and overall positive attitude can only be seen as a step in the right direction.The roller-coaster rides of commerce and carbon-based units is another good reason to indulge in unique and fulfilling pursuits such as ours.One can only look back on time with glee and mirth when the extremely negative headlines are constantly blaring out the bad news such as "Pool hall fire burns down building,75 left homeless".Not to mention the Black Plague and the World Wars etc. etc.Thanks again for all the enlightenment,I mean that sincerely,A.E.Neuman Esq.Mad Magagzine

Thanks for the comments, Calloway and...Alfred?

The show was a positive step for the high end, and the relaxed atmosphere was helpful in building relationships and in allowing attendees to listen for more than the few minutes possible at most shows.

For what it's worth, most exhibitors say it was good for business, as well.

Glad you enjoyed the show, and thanks for taking the time to comment.