An Outsiders Journey Though The Looking Glass – AXPONA 2018

by Bryan Beasley

We hopped on a Thursday morning flight out of sunny Los Angeles and touched down in cold & rainy Chicago a few hours later.  Undeterred by the weather, we soon found ourselves on the AXPONA show floor at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Centre.  The place was a shuffle of activity as vendor after vendor rushed to get their booths perfectly set up for the show’s official launch the next day – Friday morning. I made the rounds, and introduced myself to many of the exhibitors I’d be photographing over the next 48 hours. I would be covering everything in the biz; Headphones, Amps, Speakers – you name it, I was gonna shoot it.

Friday morning I was off and running as I photographed a few of the exhibitors that had private “Listening Rooms” in the actual hotel rooms at the Renaissance.  I covered Wyred 4 Sound, Vinni Rossi, Schiit, Elac, and McIntosh. I enjoyed Elac’s Andrew Jones’ audio presentation of their new products – plus his english accent just makes him sound so bloody brilliant.  I also found the look of the McIntosh amps to be very appealing. As a photographer, they were a joy to photograph, it would have been hard to make them not look cool.

The rest of the afternoon I was on the show floor shooting Astell & Kern, MrSpeakers, and ZMF.

I was particular taken with Zac Mehrbach at ZMF Headphones.  We both share a background in filmmaking and that jump started some great conversation that ended with us talking about his new ZMF Auteur in Teak headphones.  The headphones are not only visually pleasing, but sounded great to my novice ears. Big fan of Zac and ZMF.

AXPONA at NIGHT was a whirlwind of dinner and drinks.  First off, dinner with the rest of the Part-Time Audiophile crew; Eric Franklin, Rafe Arnott, Mo Samji, Brian Hunter, and the boss man Scot Hull.  Most of the conversation was full of deep audiophile-isms that went over my head, but like I do on the podcast, I threw in a jab here and there and that kept me endeared to the kids at the cool table.  Then it was a string of one late night listening room after another, with wonderful music, open bars, and thorough discussions that usually started with “What’s your home rig?”. Also, it seemed that Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” was following me from room to room, must have heard it a half dozen times.  Or maybe I just heard it once and all the free Scotch did the rest – we may never truly know.

Saturday started with a touch of a hangover, but that couldn’t keep me down as I jumped right back in – photographing Audeze, HiFiMAN, iFiAudio, PSB and AURALiC.  Shout out to Xuanqian Wang at AURALiC (the guy’s a rock star for sure). Then Brian Hunter and I ended my AXPONA experience with a very special FaceBook Live edition of The Occasional Podcast from almost the show floor (more like the show hallway).  You can go listen/watch it on the Part-Time Audiophile Facebook page, which you should do right this second – It might just save your life.

After spending the last 48 hours here at AXPONA taking in everything audiophile, here’s what I know for sure – I have so much more to learn.  So I’ll be back, camera in hand, clear ears, full heart, more booze.