I'm convinced that if High-End Audio is to survive its battle with Home Theater and computer based Multimedia it must come out of the closet. No, not the "Ellen" closet, but rather the closet where weird Uncle Harold and his crazy hobbies are kept. The proverbial closet where all marginal or odd pursuits are stored, far from the public eye.
As every true music lover knows, music deserves a place of prominence in our lives, as well as in our living rooms. Music's ability to soothe, relax, calm, strengthen, fortify, engage, enrich, please, arouse and electrify us is needed now more than ever. We, in the inner circle of Audiophiledom, claim that the best and truest way to unlock those joys is through High-End componentry. Yet, High-End Audio equipment, generally, is not living room friendly. By the time the coffin sized speakers are placed, the wires masquerading as exposed plumbing are run, the massive, black, finned and lighted electronics are tweaked, and the giant sized, erector set equipment stands are set up in the "listening" room, the testosterone level is so high it's lethal to anyone lacking a Y chromosome. No wonder the fairer sex eschews the "listening" room and retreats to the bedroom to enjoy music on a boom box! And no wonder High-End Audio ends up in the closet. So, as I see it, to bring more people into High-End, we need to design products that succeed in two areas, with equal skill. First, they must be true to High-End performance expectations. And second, they must be attractive in the real world, to real people. Peter Lee, maker of The SoundRack, must agree with me, except that rather than moan on sidelines like I do, he has designed and built a equipment rack with an eye to accomplishing the above listed task.
SoundRack Systems Design, Peter's company, is based in Nepean, Ontario, Canada. For several years they have been manufacturing equipment stands that are rigid, functional and beautiful. Currently they have both 36 inch and 42 inch tall stands, each of which are available in Red Cherry, Mahogany or Specklestone finishes. The entry level rack, The SoundRack Signature, is composed of 4 shelves, three of which are clamped to the threaded 36 inch support rods, while the fourth or top shelf, is isolated from the rest of the stand using cones. Each shelf is made from 1 inch thick MDF with the finish hand applied. And, as you would guess, the rack sports spikes to couple it firmly with the floor. The Signature retails for $395 (USD), for the 36 inch model. The 36 inch Marble Signature ($550 USD/36 inch model) is identical except for the top shelf, which is (hey, no fair guessing!) made of marble. The Granite Signature ($620 USD/36 inch model) has a top shelf made of you guessed it -- granite. Additional MDF shelves can be ordered for $58 each. The model SoundRack sent (after asking what wood finish would work best in our listening room, a touch Robin much appreciated) was the Granite Signature with Mahogany finish. The top shelf was an absolutely gorgeous green granite. In fact, one of the photos that Peter sent is an exact copy of the shelf n my listening room.
Assembly is a snap. Following the instructions I had the rack up in less than 30 minutes. Each of the lower shelves are sandwiched between a nut/rubber washer/fiber washer combination. The top shelf floats on cones which screw into the top of the support rods. The only word of advise I have for some one assembling The SoundRack is to screw the bottom support nut for the second shelf on before you start to assemble the bottom shelf. This will save you from screwing it on from the top all the way down.
How Say Ye on Count 1?
First things first, does it work? -- Well, that question deserves a two part answer. First, it easily and comfortably held all the equipment I put on it, including an 85 pound amp. The threaded support rods mean that you can make the distance between shelves what ever works best for you. The finish was slightly prone to scratches, but not to much as to inspire obsessive attention. If you take reasonable care when moving equipment everything is fine. I checked for level carefully as I assembled the unit, and it never went out. I have seen 1/2 inch MDF deform under a heavy load, as well as go out of level due to warping. In other words, The SoundRack was as stable as granite (pun intended).
As for working in the audiophile sense, the SoundRack was effective at controlling vibrations and isolating components. To test out a turntable I hauled The SoundRack over to a friend's place, where we put his Rega Planar 3 on the top shelf. With the Rega on a standard issue oak entertainment center, sonic feedback was easily audible, even at modest volume levels. When the Rega was on the granite shelf background noise was reduced by a noticeable degree. Enough so that we looked at each other with some shock. I had expected things to quiet down, but this was real enough to warrant the purchase of The SoundRack regardless of how it looked.
In my normal, and largely non-vinyl existence, The SoundRack worked well, although with a more subtle effect. The Warner Imaging amp is very sensitive to internal vibrations, as well as air-borne ones. Placed on the bottom shelf, it seemed to handle everything with a bit more ease, a bit darker background, and a bit more dynamics. The Audible Illusions L-1 pre-amp loved the top shelf. On the MDF shelves it was very quiet, but on the top shelf it seemed to gain a bit more life. For example, the sonic differences between tubes were slightly more noticeable when it was on the granite shelf. The JVC XL-Z1050 CD player/transport also liked the granite shelf, but the system was sounded best with the L-1 on top and the JVC on an MDF shelf. Overall, The SoundRack made a very worthwhile advance in the sound of the system. Backgrounds were just a bit darker, highs were just a bit cleaner, and dynamics were stronger. In other words, it does everything you ask a rack to do.
And on Count 2?
How does it look? Two stories can answer that. First, I took a picture of the rack to work with me and left it on my desk for several days. Now everyone at work knows my hobby, so brochures and pictures of equipment are nothing new. Virtually all females know to steer clear of them or the inevitable dweeb monologue results. "Yes, that puts out 150 pure class A watts into an 8 ohm load, although the Absurdium upgrade makes the highs slightly cleaner ". Even many males view the stacks of literature similar to they way they view the almost as tall stacks of computer manuals on my desk. Yes, they know it's vaguely mechanical and so they should understand it, but it's still a bit intimidating. Anyway, the first day 3 different women commented on the SoundRack. That's a record. Each saw it as a beautiful piece of furniture. In fact, one brought a friend over to see it!
Second, Robin has been a bit overwhelmed with all the equipment in the house. When a new rack showed up I was hesitant to put it in the main listening room since she had previously mentioned that she was just getting used to the Dunlavy SC-III's, so, The SoundRack got put in the office system at first. After a week or so she wandered back to the dungeon and saw it. What followed was not pretty. The short story is that she wanted to know why I'd keep such a beautiful piece of furniture all to myself!
The Good Guys Win!
There is no reason why fine audio (not the B&O/Architectural Digest type) can not take a place of pride in the living room. Music is about communication, and it should be out there communicating, not stuck in a closet. Peter Lee is doing his part to make that happen. The SoundRack does a superb job of it's appointed task, to support and isolate audio equipment. But it also is very good looking. In that manner it functions just like a piece of fine furniture does. It serves a purpose, yet does so with style and beauty. Now, let's see a Home Theater subwoofer make the same claim!
|The SoundRack Granite
Price: $620 USD (36 inch model)
SoundRack Systems Design
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