Robert Harley on AXPONA Chicago

Show report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers,
Solid-state preamplifiers,
Tubed preamplifiers,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Robert Harley on AXPONA Chicago

The Chicago AXPONA show was a bit of a gamble—as is any first show in a city—but this is one gamble that paid off. The Doubletree Hotel at O’Hare airport featured many fine-sounding exhibits, excellent organization, and most importantly, throngs of enthusiastic attendees (the official count was 4386). The showgoers I spoke with were happy to have a hi-fi show in the Midwest after a 14-year absence.

My colleagues Jonathan Valin and Scot Hull (who is new to our staff) did such a great job covering the show that I’ll just include my highlights here. You can find extended coverage with more photos at

Although it’s exciting to see and hear the most exotic and ambitious systems at shows, I really like it when exhibitors make great sound with “normal” products that the average music lover can afford, relate to, and imagine having in their home. Two such systems that met these criteria were shown by Chicago retailer Pro Musica. The first featured Naim’s UnitLite ($3000) integrated amplifier/server driving a pair of Dynaudio Focus 160 loudspeakers ($2900). The system fit the room perfectly, and sounded better than many expensive systems. Pro Musica’s other Naim/Dynaudio room was more upscale, but still decidedly “sane.” It featured the Dynaudio Confidence C2 Signature speakers ($13,500) driven by a Naim NAP 300 with 300PS power supply ($11,495), Naim 282 preamp with the NAPSC2 ($6795) and the SuperCap2 power supply ($6595), a Naim NDS streaming player, and UnityServe solid-state server. This system sounded absolutely magnificent playing Pro Musica proprietor Ken Christiansen’s own recordings.