AXPONA 2018 Day One Video Coverage

Show time! Thursday April 12th began poorly with the AnalogPlanet inbox filled with "in case you missed it, there's this big news about HD Vinyl" that this website covered a year ago and it continued poorly when, as I was getting my badge, I spied the sign in the image that leads this story. See what's missing?

I fixed it, adding "AnalogPlanet" using a big Sharpie. There was no time to steam or even to attend the event. The hectic schedule began with a planned visit to MusicDirect where MD's Josh Bizar took me on a video tour of the company's gigunda warehouse filled with records, SACDs and all of the equipment the company offers for sale on its website and sumptuous print catalog. The video will post after AXPONA coverage.

The show moved this year to the sprawling, architecturally dramatic Renaissance Schaumburg. The only disadvantage to the location was the additional distance to downtown, which meant fewer show participants were willing to fight traffic to get there for dinner. Fortunately the hotel food was good and the prices not exploitive.

The show itself was 30% larger than last year, sprawling across six upper floors, the large conference room filled lower level floor, the mezzanine and especially a positively enormous EXPO hall where the vinyl vendors, headphone and cable companies and the rest of the entrepreneurial class congregated. It took much of the first day just to cover the EXPO as you'll see in this hour long plus video.

It starts with a quick run through the large lower level rooms, most of which were hosted by Ann Arbor, MI based Paragon Sight and Sound and Chicago-based Quintessence Audio. Dealer support for this show has historically been strong. The video "breezes" through those rooms just to give you a show "flavor", in part because there was little analog news there. You'll see more detailed analog coverage in the EXPO coverage later in the video and especially in the hotel room show coverage where there was a great deal of news and new product introductions.

Large and friendly crowds populated the entire show. While rooms were crowded most of the three days, because of its overall size and the way it was spread out, it never became claustrophobic. What's more, while many of the 15th and 16th floor rooms were small, most everyone got good sound. For some reason the usual toxic mid-bass "bump and bloat" found in most hotel rooms was refreshingly absent.

AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer moderated a "vinyl industry update" panel with William Voss, Technics, Josh Bizar, Music Direct, Mat Weisfeld, VPI and Discogs' Jeffrey Smith. Music Direct's Bes Nievera video'd the panel, streaming it live on Music Direct's Facebook page, where it's still up and available for you to watch.

Among the more striking looking new products debuting at the show was the Audio Research REF 160M monoblock tube amplifier. Look closely at the transparent front panel and you'll see the working meter etched into or reflected upon the glass. It's a great look! The amp outputs approximately 160 watts using 4 KT90 output tubes.

Also striking was the pair of giant Avant-Garde horn speakers including subwoofers that somehow were made to fit into a hotel room. They're not new and have been seen in other shows, especially at Munich High End, but they popped in a small space both visually and sonically.

I hope you enjoy this first video. More to come ASAP!

OldschoolE's picture

I can hardly wait to watch the whole thing when I get home from work. As to Analog Planet not being listed on the billboard, I would not take it as a complete slight Michael. No doubt it was likely supposed to be on it, but obviously something happened. I think many folks are now thinking Analog Planet and Stereophile are one in the same so they just list Stereophile with that assumption. Those of us in the know realize that technically Analog Planet is part of Stereophile (in the technical aspects such as hosting, network and such), but also it's own entity entirely where content, editing and everything else is concerned. What can I say, people get lazy so they just assume Analog Planet is included without mention. (I agree, that is not how it is supposed to work).

Sounds like it was a good show overall and I am looking forward to all your coverage and videos and such.
While I love your videos as you know, I also fear them because inevitably you are going to show something I have to look into for purchase consideration and I end up chasing my wallet flying all around the room( ok, not really, but.....) It is always a real delight seeing gear with pedigree at earth based pricing so that more folks can afford to get involved and "re-engage with music" to quote myself....which feels weird by the way.

Munich coming next for you? Uh oh, that means we might see some new tricks Heinz from Pro-Ject has up his sleeve. I say that in respect and admiration, he is a rock star. So passionate about making fine audio affordable to all, what's not to love about that? I'm still admiring one of the phono stages he has out and have almost justified getting it!

Geez, right after Munich is the LAOC show! Your right Michael, you don't have a life, just and endless hallway of shows.LOL!

Michael Fremer's picture
Of course it annoyed me but I didn't take it personally. I just thought it would be funny to lead with that....
foxhall's picture

I appreciate the long form video and conversations with manufacturers.

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls blew my mind when I first heard it. "September Fifteenth" (dedicated to Bill Evans) is one of my favorite tracks of all time.

Rudy's picture

Now I wish I had time to view the video--that is also one of my all-time favorites by Pat and Lyle. I don't know what Lyle was channeling on "September Fifteenth" but it's a lot more than a eulogy IMHO, on top of it being one of his best-ever solos.

Rudy's picture

Thanks again for the coverage!

Paragon and Quintessence are on the board of AXPONA, so I expected they would have a few rooms each.

As for the restaurant scene, there are literally dozens of restaurants within a two-mile radius of the hotel, some of them a little above my pay grade. There is everything from the usual Giordano's and a heavy metal burger bar (yes, it's a thing), up to something like the Weber Grill Restaurant (a personal favorite of mine) where they grill everything over large Weber ranch kettles, and a Morton's Steakhouse right next to the Springhill Suites I stayed it. It would have been nice to go downtown, true, but I live close enough that I can get to Chicagoland in about 4-5 hours.

If only the weather hadn't been so made trips to the car a rather soggy affair.

isaacrivera's picture

I believe those are KT150 tubes not KT90s.

Rudy's picture

Yes, those were KT150s. That bottle shape is unique to that tube. I wouldn't expect Mikey would have these tubes memorized, but I would think a rep or distributor should know what tubes are used in the amps they are selling. No harm, no foul though! Those room heaters still sounded damn good! The KT120 and KT150 are made only by Tung Sol--the KT120s get good remarks (I have a quad set of those myself), but the KT150s are a newer tube that manufacturers have only just begun to use to their full effect. They are technically a drop-in replacement for that whole 6550/KT88/KT120 family, but the power supply needs the full capacity to drive them.

isaacrivera's picture

I have owned and used KT88s, KT120s and KT150s. The KT150 is very dynamic, and expensive!, tube. However, for me, the punch phase passed after a few months and I was left hungry for texture and touch which I found them lacking at in comparison with other tubes. At the moment modern Russian Mullard EL34s are my favorite.

Rudy's picture

Yes, expensive tubes--they are twice what the KT120s cost, at most places. My amp can use EL34s only if the internals are modified. The KT120s in my amps strike a good balance (they add a little of that punch, but still have that creamy midrange), plus the original GE 6550s that the amps shipped with sounded a bit tired when I bought the amp last year. No complaints though--the nice part about the choice in tubes is getting to choose the sound we would like to achieve out of our gear. If it's EL34s, KT120s/KT150s, 300Bs, etc., we're lucky to have these choices. Enjoy!

Shindo's picture

I enjoy your coverage of Axpona very much, as I do all your videos. I have seen you at the show quite a few times over the years and I always wanted to approach you, but I don't like to impose. Keep up the good work and maybe we can talk someday at Axpona . I'll treat you to a cocktail or two.

Shindo's picture

some day

ButtUglyJeff's picture

This video is packed with cool stuff. Thanks for this.

Two review request please.

The Zavino1877 tables look super interesting, and would love your opinion from your ear balls. Whichever table you could get your hands on...

And the washing machine from Kirmuss Audio for $800 also looks really cool...