With this year’s Consumer Electronics Show behind us, readers of our on-line show reports know the sad truth: that the largest industry-only technology show in North America attracted even fewer “high-performance” audio exhibits in 2019 than it did in 2018. The phrase “CES is dead” is now a mantra, and no one should be surprised if this year’s poor showing proves to be the final nail in CES’s coffin as far as high-end audio is concerned.
Last year also saw the number of exhibits decline at two regional audio events: the California Audio Show (to be held July 26–28, 2019, Oakland Airport Hilton) and the New York Audio Show (November 8–10, 2019, Manhattan’s Park Lane Hotel). On the other hand, a new audio show surfaced in Florida. With promises of “The Best Audio in Paradise,” the Florida Audio Expo took place just before this issue hit newsstands, tablets, and mailboxes: February 8–10, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton at Tampa Airport Westshore. The FAE, spearheaded by Bart Andeer of Resolution Acoustics, was off to a strong start with over 40 active exhibits, free admission, and shuttle service from the airport.
Also featuring free admission, the attendees at this year’s Montreal Audio Expo (March 22–24, Hotel Bonaventure) could top last year’s total of 6000, thanks to new enticements that include a daily “Music Awakening for Kids,” at which a professional theater troupe will introduce children to music and musical instruments. In addition, Montreal will see the return of a sommelier who will match wines with particular songs, and acoustic performances every hour in the Bonaventure’s relaxed, intimate lounge.
Promoters Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, who plough all profits back into the Expo, also run the free-admission Toronto Audio Fest (October 18–20, Westin Toronto Airport). Given that TAVES, Toronto’s all-purpose audio-tech extravaganza, is no more—it was one of two shows to fold in 2018—the Toronto Audio Fest will likely best last year’s attendance of 4000. Says Plante of both his shows, “There is a vibe that is contagious, that goes with the quality of the traffic and the happiness of the exhibitors.” Given that exhibitors have a genuine stake in the show’s outcome, and that its organizers have taken the vision of a thriving industry to heart, this comes as no surprise.
AXPONA (April 12–14, Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, outside Chicago) almost blew it for 2019 when they suddenly announced, in fall 2018, that they were moving the show from April to October, perilously close to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and CEDIA Convention. Although their intention was to further transform AXPONA into the US version of High End (May 9–12, Munich) by scheduling it many months apart from that show, industry blowback at the conflict with RMAF and the prospect of three shows in the same month was so fast and furious that, rather than risk a major debacle, AXPONA’s organizer, JD Events, canceled the rescheduling in record time.
More than five months before it opens its doors, AXPONA had already booked 90% of last year’s record high for this show of 165 listening rooms, and was on course to book more than 190 rooms. Promising a return to its genuinely exciting and spacious convention venue, a dedicated space for its Ear Gear Expo, and major attendance, AXPONA seems on course to become the prime audio show in North America.
Marine Presson, who had taken over the 2018 Los Angeles Audio Show from the Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society, went AWOL last spring, then briefly resurfaced, announced that she’d dedicated herself to her faith—and canceled the show. Exactly how and why everyone who had championed and promoted the first LAAS in 2017 could apparently hand over all ownership and control to a single person unequipped to follow through during a time of great personal and professional turmoil, then manage to absolve themselves of responsibility for the debacle, remains a puzzle.
Regardless, the demise of LAAS certainly benefited Maurice Jung, who took over the long-running T.H.E. Show following the 2016 death of its founder Richard Beers. T.H.E. Show 2019 takes place at the Hilton Long Beach on June 7–9. Jung stated that he was rebuilding T.H.E. Show to emphasize “the companionship between high-end audio and music,” and expected to easily grow the number of active exhibits from the 50 of 2018.
The two other big developments of 2018 were that the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest announced its new dates (September 5–8, 2019) and new venue (the huge, brand-new, Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado) in a year that saw major exhibitor participation but less than record attendee turnout, and that Gary Gill’s Capital Audio Fest (November 1–3, Hilton Washington, DC/Rockville, MD Hotel and Executive Meeting Center) expanded to 67 exhibit rooms and increased attendance. Two months after RMAF’s new dates and venue reposition it as the premier North American gateway show to fall and winter audio sales, CAF will follow its lead by capitalizing on past successes while attempting to maintain its reputation as a fun, manageable show at which you can see everything over the course of three days.—Jason Victor Serinus