[Soundstage!]- NY Marty Keane

[Audio Odyssey]
Authorized Black Diamond Racing Dealer

Black Diamond Racing's The Shelf

September 1996

Black Diamond Racing Isolation Products
2625 South Greeley Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Phone: (414)747-8733
Fax: (414)747-8734

You're probably wondering why Soundstage! is reviewing The Shelf. It's not a hot new amp or speaker. It has no knobs or buttons. There is no power supply. And yet, it will be an essential part of your sound system if you part with the cash to buy one.

I am not a tweaker. In fact, prior to The Shelf, the extent of my tweakiness was evidenced by spikes for my speakers and cones for my transport. I will admit that I have a very good stand, Solidsteel, but that's the extent of it. No "stones," "pucks" or cable bridges. I try to keep things basic and rely on the quality of my components and the room setup for good sound.

So, you may be asking, what is The Shelf and why does NY Marty have one? Who makes it? What does it do? To begin, The Shelf is designed and sold by D.J. Casser of Black Diamond Racing. It is beautifully constructed and is primarily composed of Carbon Fiber. Carbon Fiber is being used in many high-tech products and D.J.'s Black Diamond Racing is helping to successfully bring it into audiophile circles.

The Shelf is gorgeous and will improve the look of any system it's used with. It's a 3/4 inch thick panel in high polished black and grey. It almost looks like glass over a weaved fabric. The review sample is 15 inches x 19 inches, however you can get The Shelf in a variety of different sizes to accomodate your equipment or rack. For my purposes the size was perfect. I replaced the top shelf of my Solidsteel rack with The Shelf and started the review.

Some people claim that A-B comparisons are worthless in the review process, while others say it's the only way to review. I kind of straddle the fence on that one, and so does The Shelf. To put it simply, The Shelf clearly won in an informal A-B comparison and also enthralled me in long term listening.

The A-B comparison was made with my transport on The Shelf versus my transport on the Solidsteel standard shelf. The differences were astounding. When the transport was on the Solidsteel shelf I was able to enjoy the system I have enjoyed for some time now. The music sounded really good and I was happy. Then came The Shelf. Wow! All of a sudden my Los Lobos "Kiko" CD was alive. It was a fairly radical transformation. The sound was somehow cleaner and the soundstage seemed to further define itself. I tried this with several other CDs and noticed the same effect. I then tried different components on The Shelf. It turned out that while all of these components benefitted by being placed on The Shelf, the sonic improvement was not as great as when the transport was on The Shelf.

Why does it work? According to D.J. and Black Diamond Racing, The Shelf is an anti-resonance device that has 25 times the resistance to resonance of 8 inches of granite block. Vibrations from the floor and the environment have very little effect on The Shelf or the component that sits on it. In fact, I kind of wish I had several Shelves to Shelf my whole system. Unfortunately, The Shelf is a little pricey at $400 to $500. However, if you consider the fact that it will the one thing that you keep in your system from year to year, it's well worth the price.

One thing I noticed when using The Shelf is that it felt completely immobile when playing my music at loud levels. However, the same could not be said for my transport. It resonated with the bass in the room. How can I get the transport to be completely anti-resonant? That may be the thing that gives me perfection. Help may be on the way. It's my understanding that D.J. is now talking to audio designers. It's my hope that the materials used in The Shelf will make their way into audio components. Imagine a chassis made with this stuff, or a speaker cabinet. If that's too ambitious, what about just a circuit board? The possibilities are endless and the benefits to the audiophile innumerable.

If you're not a tweaker and you want to become one, The Shelf is worth looking into and worth the price of admission. If you're a confirmed tweaker, then I'm surprised you don't have one of these yet. Now that I've gotten such good results from The Shelf I may have to try one of those "stones." Until next time...

....Marty Keane