AV Racks. What difference does it make?

Im not sure i understand what difference your rack could possibly have.

I understand everybody here seems to feel that reducing all sorts of vibrations is important as well.

How is that? its not like 1's and 0's get rattled off the circuit board by vibrations

Whats the point in a better rack? What is a better rack? And how does a $1,500.00 rack make anything sound better? I mean, technically, in depth, can anybody explain this phenominon?

Sounds like a buncha horse pucky to me. Kinda like the kinds new clothing.

Does anybody have a theory of how one AV rack can sound different than another? And dont give me any of that room accoustics stuff, i dont see people talking about which sitting chair is best for sound!!!! :)

"I found that wearing wingtips and khaki shorts really opened the soundstage compared to my nikes and TH bluejeans."

I have a good understanding of electronics and accoustics, but i cannot imagine any way a rack could make a difference.
What is the theory of how a Maplewood rack might sound better than an oak for example?

Do you all use racks and isolation pods at the same time?
Slappy, your best bet would be to check out some white papers at StarSound.biz. They are the mfg'er of the leading performance-oriented rack called the Sistrum (and Audio Points). Reading some of those materials should be enlightening.

But in essence, there are two major philosophies toward the handling of air-borne vibrations and resonance: 1) Isolation and dampening and 2) mechanical transfer to ground.

1. Some to many believe that one can effectively isolate and dampen air-borne vibrations.

2. Some to many others believe one only alter the vibrations (for better or worse) via isolation and/or dampening but cannot effectively isolate air-borne vibrations. Therefore, these others believe one must provide an efficient exit path must be provided to allow for their escape. Hence, the mechanical transfer to ground priniple.

3. Then there are some to many mug-wamps with their mug on one side of the fence and their wamp on the other side who believe they can effectively merge to two diametrically opposed philosophies who somehow think they can obtain the best of both worlds.

My experience tells me that isolation and dampening is the worst methodology of the three. And that it's a crap-shoot if altering the vibrations makes sonics better or worse, that mechanical transfer to ground is the surest and best methodology, and the mug-wamp is the second best because it can still provide some mechanical transfer to ground if done correctly or incorrectly (depending on one's point-of-view).

And given the right system and environment, if one chooses the right method, the differences can be so much more than subtle.

If you purchase an AV rack no matter which brand, make sure it is heavy, solid and has minimal vibration qualities.

If you can't hear a difference, it doesn't make any sense at all to get anything other than a heavy rack. Furthermore, it sounds like you're listening to digital equipment, so you have nothing to worry about. The difference comes when you are using turntables and cartridges, but I would not put speakers on the same rack as the rest of your equipment, regardless
A good solid support for the turntable, and perhaps the CD player is obviously a good idea. The notion that it needs to be "designed" in some exotic way, and cost more than any good piece of furniture is ridiculous.
Thanks for all the responses! Thats what i love about this place, if there is something i dont understand and ask about, i get some very educated and well put together responses.
Also keep in mind that while 1's and 0's may not get rattled off the circuit board as you jested above, unwanted vibrations can increase the number of 1's and 0's that are missed, or inaccurately read, either by a transport's laser, or a DAC's processors. Now, of course, with today's technology, many of those missed 1's and 0's may be reinterpolated, and compensated with 'error correction' algorithms... but in the end, these are only substitutes. The more you can keep to the original information on the CD (or LP for that matter), the better. Ultimately, isn't that what we're all striving for?
Vectorman67....A slight correction...Error "correction" does not interpolate data points. It recovers the original data values through processing of the redundancy in the data stream. Hence, error correction is not undesirable. In fact, to transmit a maximum amount of information the hardware should be operated at so high a frequency that correctable errors do occur. The error correction process permits this...if the hardware had to operate without any errors it would have to be run much slower.

Of course, at some point errors occur so frequently that the original data values cannot be recovered. When that happens, interpolation is used. If things get really bad, the machine gives up and quits.
The vibrations do affect the quality of the sound you hear. How your gear and the stand it's on handle these vibrations will affect how your ultimate sound comes out. You may not realize or even hear this in your system, but I assure you that some people do hear it in their more revealing systems.

Wire is wire, racks are racks, nothing makes any difference, and other nonsense is pervading this site, and making a mockery of this entire hobby. Perhaps you should ask yourself why every top level system on this website has a performance audio rack or stand system, and why these well-respected and knowledgable audiophiles would waste their money on something that they think doesn't work. I think you are a little too green in this hobby to be doing alot of implying that the experienced people don't know what they are doing. You want an answer, do some research.
Twl...Cool it! Those who disagree with you may be just as experienced and knowledgable as you. You can't prove a technical point by personal insults.
Hey Slappy, I know exactly where you're coming from. When I first heard about the effect isolation or vibration control could have on a system, I was pretty skeptical. But the more I read posts on Audiogon and the more I talked to audiophiles about mechanical vibrations and their potential detriments it really started to make sense.

Over the years I've tried different types of platforms and cones, and have found some that worked very well for me. And I'm still experimenting.

I'll reiterate what many have said here already. Start with a good solid rack. Once that is taken care of, turn your attention to optimizing what's under your source.
Slappy, vibrations affect sound by smearing it. With turntables the relationship is intuitively obvious, but the fact is that vibration affects transformers, which are present in all audio components, motorized devices (like cd platters), wires (mechanical resonances), and likely many other subsystems.

If you have never heard the effect of vibration, you have simply never tried, as vibration can easily be experienced with cheap gear as well as expensive gear. The smearing effect becomes more noticeable and more intolerable as the resolution of your system goes up.

There is a basic article called "Bad Vibes", by Shannon Dickson (Nov., 1995), in the Stereophile archives at www.stereophile.com. You might read this for a basic discussion on the construction of resonance-damping platforms. I would certainly do this before accepting any particular design philosophy of audio racks.

Also, you might check Alvin Lloyd's discussions on vibration control in other fields as well as in audio itself at his website for Grand Prix Audio (www.grandprixaudio.com).
I hear Gunbei, all these little things that supposedly make a difference do seem far out. Just keep an open mind and observe the sonic effect of these quirky variables before fighting for a rationalization.
To add to the list of vibration effects including the ones I mentioned above, vibration produces microphonics in susceptible devices (wires, tubes) and also produces chassis ring if the chassis is flimsy. These effects manage to superimpose on the audio signal.
A High End audio system does not sound wonderful because it has "magical" speakers, the best tubed amps money can buy, or super expensive interconnects. Every small tweak from positioning and balancing the speakers, using special wall outlets, dedicated lines, room acoustic treatments, cleaning the stylus, using record clamps, cleaning the RCA jacks, isolating the componets on the shelves, using a rack that is not prone to transmit vibrations, etc. all add up to let your system perform to its best ability. The old phrase, "THE SUM IS EQUALL TO ALL OF ITS PARTS" applys very well to our hobby of reproducing music in our homes. The system sounds so real and natural because of all of the small things required to eliminate the negative aspects of the very componets we spend big money on to listen to music. For years, I had a solid wood rack with glass doors made by CWD. It retailed for about $700 dollars. I replaced it with 2 Sound Organisation racks, Z-560, Z-545. My entire system was transformed into a more solid, open sound. It can't explain why this occured, but is was worth the effort to switch racks.
Edartford, regarding TWL's posting, I believe it was you who used the word 'rediculous' for those believing anything other than what you believe in this regard.

Although I may have chosen different wording, I think TWL made some excellent points in every respect.

Prlscs also makes an excellent all-encompassing observation about the sum being greater than it's parts and is right on the money IMO. Even though I disagree with his chosen methodology for the handling of vibrations and resonance.

I used to think that one would want the heaviest, most rigid rack possible and then i bought one just like that. Each shelf weighed almost 25 lbs by itself and the entire rack fully assembled was 150+ lbs. I sold it a few months later as my system sounded like absolute crap.

Quite honestly, I could not believe how much something as simple as a "rack" could change the sonics of a system. This was not my imagination either as my Brother came by and thought my system sounded terrible too. I went back to using the 28 pound homebrew all wood rack that i had previously built and the sound was back to normal i.e. MUCH better. I have since changed racks again using a different design approach and it seems to be the best that i've had so far.

My current rack uses a metal structure with wooden shelves. I would like to use an all wood rack, but i can't do that and achieve the versatility that i like. As such, it is kind of a trade-off that i'm willing to live with.

To sum it up, I would not have believed that a rack could have made a sonic difference, let alone a DRASTIC sonic difference, the way that my first expensive "Audiophile approved" rack did. Those results were NOT "good", so don't think that more expensive is better. I would take a lightweight all wood rack over a heavy metal based rack ANY day of the week. Sean
With my experience I believe using any kind of audio rack from reasonable to expensive one does not help improving the sound at all (except you put the rack far away from the two speakers). Since I have a small room (18x12x8) I am using the maplewood platforms (commercial) and separately put each audio component away (not stacking them on the rack). I found that way my system sounds a lot better, there is more clarity, musical, opened soundstage and dynamic than before(I used rack). Friend of mine he got the best audiorack in the market but his system sounds not much better than my system (he has all reference equipments). Once again, it depends on your ears. Good luck.
Stehno...My use of the word "ridiculous" really applied to the pricing policy of firms that sell racks, not to the people who buy them. Sorry if I offended. As sean pointed out, a low cost home-brew rack can be good. Figure out what characteristics to want heavy or light, rigid or compliant (shock mounts), enclosed or open (to acoustic input) etc. and then build it. It's not rocket science.

Of course, I forgot microphonic problems of tube gear (because it's a few years since I fought that battle)... it too could benefit, although my experience was that good mechanical design of the equipment, tube selection, and tube dampers or metalic tube covers were most important.

My source equipment mounts in a custom-build alcove that I constructed for extreme solidarity. Power amps live in the cellar. I have never experienced any problems with vibration...the background rumble level recorded on most LP's is greater than what I get from my turntable/pickup despite an elaborate subwoofer system that is good for 20 Hz.

Finally, cosmetics is a very valid consideration, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Hey TWL, you dont need to get so butt-hurt about it, i was wondering why people have these racks that is why i asked.

And research is exactly what im doing now. Why else would i ask? Is this some kind of hobby where you have to go out and learn everything yourself to be a true audiophile or something? If so, hold in, i will go get an engineering degree real quick. Am i not supposed to ask questions and get tips and advice? isnt that thge point of forums?

Sheesh! lighten up!

What i see is that vibration affect turntbles and tubegear more than anything else. If i stay away from tube gear and turntables (which i plan on, im going to stay SS for the time being, might go for tubre and turntables later down the road) then i should not have much to worry about eh? But it would probably be wise to build a rack out of maple? (i love bulding furniture, some day im going to have my own furniture line)

Im buying a new house soon, my existing gear is probably going to be a living-room HT type setup, in the basement i plan on building a dedicated theater once i get it finished, and i plan on eventually getting a 2channel setup in the loft/art-studio.
i get my best inspiration when i am listening to music and in an open space.

I dont think i will ever really worry about getting a really high quality rack untill maybe i have a dedicated listening room, but that will probably be another house later.

i really dont think i can ever get as far into this hobby as some of you. I like the great gear because i like the way the music sounds, but i really dont need "Perfection"
I guess im more of a Tech-file or a Gear-head than a true "Audiophile". I love hardware, i love technology, and i love seeing and hearing what cutting edge technology and craftmanship can create.

thanks for all the great responses! Lotta educated 'files on this board.
personally, I was taken aback by twl's tone. The last thing we need in this over-hyped hobby is people who use the poor logic of twl. Things are better because someone else says so? HUH? I have many years in this hobby, and don't expect anyone to defer to my opinion because of it. Somehow we've gotten to the point that buying expensive equipment justifies itself, how'd that happen? I am not some techno-dweeb who rejects anything that isn't proven by double-blind tests, nor am I likely to believe that just because some writer for stereophile says it, it's therefore true. One of the best articles I ever read in stereophile was a few years back, and related to the incremental improvements in our hobby. It was an honest, backward-looking piece about how all those "must have" tweaks and upgrades haven't moved us as far forward as we all think. To read all the hype, you'd think that anything made over three years ago is garbage. Luckily for me, I have the chance to evaluate my system against a baseline (so to speak) quite often. I have a very close friend who bought a complete system identical to mine about seven years ago. Now my friend is one of those lucky types who can be happy with "very good" and not yearn for "great", I on the other hand, can't go a month without an upgrade, however minor. In the intervening seven years, my buddy has only tried the few upgrades I recommeded, and rejected most of them as too minor to merit the cost. To get down to brass tacks here, the only thing that our systems still have in common are the loudspeakers, and yet, depending on material, his system can still sound as good or better than mine. How does this relate to this discussion? My basic philosophy on audio has developed into this: most changes we all make are based on creating a different result, not necessarily a better one. Racks, spikes, cables, whatever the topic, in most cases you are creating a difference that may be an improvement, or not. The very fact that so much good, high-priced gear sells here every day pretty much proves this point. Slappy, if you can hear a difference, and be sure that you prefer it to your previous set-up, keep it and don't look back or listen to any pompous, sneering blather from others. Your ears, your system, your enjoyment.
Exactly, Tplavas. Slappy, if YOU can hear the improvement, it was worth it.

I've tried various iso-tweaks with varying results. I don't pretend to know how all these different cones and platforms, and isolation or vibration draining theories work, but in many instances I have been able to hear noticable differences in the way claimed.

A little tidbit from my days at the IMB Academy. "Absorb What's useful and reject What's useless" - Bruce Lee.

Keep what sounds good, and put up for sale on Audiogon the stuff that doesn't. Heheh.
Personally, I read TWL's posting as directed toward Eldartford only. Not to the originator of this thread nor anybody else. And it also appeared to me that TWL responded in a certain way because of that individual's use of the word rediculous in describing what I thought was directed toward the owners of certain performance-oriented racks and associated pricing.

Eldartford was kind enough to clarify later what he meant by his use of that word and it obviously was a misunderstanding.

I also misunderstood Eldartford's original choice of words in his first post and applaud TWL's willingness to go out on limb via his response to that poster.

Sure it was a misunderstanding this time. But all too many times there certainly are some to many on this web-site who believe simply because something has not worked for them, therefore, it cannot work for anybody else and will even resort to rediculing those who's experience has demonstrated otherwise.

For example, we've all heard of component and cable burn-in time periods where the sonics improve over a certain amount of hours. Some to many believe burn-in is real whereas others believe it's snake oil.

But who would believe there is also a mechanical burn-in or break-in period of time for certain products i.e. racks, points, etc.? I'm sure there are some people would just snicker at such a thought and then look to ridicule and belittle anybody who believes such a concept as this.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that it is this ridiculing attitude that TWL thought he was responding to.


Im pretty sure he was responding to me, there was another thread about AV racks, i started this one because i thought my question would be a little too off the point of the other thread.
I think i offended TWL in the other thread, in fact, his response to me in the other thread was quite nasty.

Im not too concerned about it, as even though TWL decided to get all offended and take things personally, i still got a multitude of very well put together responses. Im still not too sure how much credit i will give a rack to the sound quality, but apparently there is some credit to be given, and its nice to understand the theory to how the rack affects the sound

Regardless my question was well answered. And i will continue to ask more questions because i know i can count on the people at the 'gon to give good answers

Yeah. i might be younger than alot of people here, and i might have only really been into the hobby for the past 6-7 years, and only financially able to play in it (ex military) for the past couple yearz, but im definatly not stupid. I will not let somebody else's crappy attitude deter me from learning more. :)

Anyways, Thank you for your responses as well Stehno, you sure seem to know alot about this stuff! :)
OK everyone...Question.... is there ANY idea that you would dismiss as being wrong without taking the time and trouble to try it out? (In other words "ridiculous" in your opinion).

What if I told you that Side 1 of an LP sounds better when played during odd hours of the clock, and side B during even hours?

To go back to my original comment...I completely agree that "a good solid support is important...) but I respectfully suggest that this is not hard to achieve, and should not cost much.

Many of my friends have some ridiculous ideas (who doesn't) but I still like them.
While I believe we're all here to learn, and share our experiences, how one poses questions, directly results in the answers received. Sarcasm generally results in sarcastic answers, and mentioning rack differences must be "horse pucky" and akin to hearing differences because of wearing different footwear and clothing, and negatively implying that room acoustics make no difference is not asking for help, but implying rack differences are voodoo, and should be dismissed as such. Not a good way to seek help.
By researching this site and others, the above answers could have been easily gleaned, and perhaps TWL assumed you had done so, and your question was more to incite, rather than to enlist help. Slappy, only you know your motivation, but in the future, if you're truly interested in insightful answers from as many folks as possible, perhaps limiting the sarcasm and editorializing, may result in even more cogent responses.
This hobby has been fun and quite surprising. Things I didn't think should (or want to) make a difference, have. Over the years, I've kept an open mind, but more importantly, open ears, and have improved my system.
Obviously, the more resolved the system, the more important, or noticeable the tweaks. Differences are just that, it's up to the end user to determine whether the differences are for the better or worse, but racks, cables, footers, acoustic applications, et al, make differences.
Eldartford, right now I don't see the point in spending big bucks to purchase say, a Rix Rax, Grand Prix Audio or the like, although I did consider Zoethecus.

I've decided to build a rack system that will be bolted to the studs in my wall. I bought nice 16/4 piece of padauk as the spine support and had three maple shelves custom made to the sizes I wanted. All this for about $140 including shipping from hardwood suppliers I occasionally buy from on Ebay.

It's a little experiment to see if I can design and build an audio rack that is aesthetically pleasing and performs well.
Slappy, sorry if I offended you, but I felt that the main body of your thread was just as offensive. Whether you realize it or not, the majority of your thread body was directed at ridiculing the use of audio racks as a viable product that can help the sound. I understand that perhaps you felt that was being funny. But it was being funny at other's expense. When you set the tone of ridicule, you can expect a similar tone in response.

To answer your questions, the racks will make a difference, either better or worse, depending on how well they do the job of removing the offending vibrations in the system. There is differing opinion on what works best, but most agree that it does work.
Slappy, you are a white belt and a very poor clown. I'm the one who's notorious for spicy, fiery and entertaining posts in this forum. On classical comedy Nrchy can give you a run for your money speaking in Groucho Marx's style. So step aside. Like TWL told you, do your research and stop implying the experienced don't know.

For your information, I have mastered the art of *tuning* components using different woods, cones, materials and devices. I have absolutely no reason to write a treatsie on how to do it. You have to do your own legwork. Remember, this is a journey, not a destination.

With psychic power and primal intensity,
Having been in the server/storage networks and enclosure industry during a pervious internship, I garnered some 411 on how acoustics and vibration energy can induce the amount of transfer inaccuracies and bandwidth impedements during high speed/volume data transfer.

This has led me to come up with many different ways to augmenting/optimizing the stereo's musical acoustics. The root of this approach is in the belief that every material has a natural resonant frequency (remember plate techtonics and seismic waves?). And, any material that comes into contact with the stereo will mechanically or physically alter the sound characterstics of the stereo.

Most important, and this is a disagreement with previous threads, I feel a "good" rack is just as or more essential for digital than for analog since, in my opinion, digital data transfer integrity in audio is years behind computer network technologies which is the one of the culprit to why digital sounds so "digital."

So, along with better data transfer hardware and software, the casing holding the hardware is crucial in order to ascertain higher fidelity digital audio transmission.

Lastly, and perhaps this can be started/stated in a thread of its own, I've gained a tremendous amount of audio "heads up" from this forum. I would hate to see a few bad seeds in the form of 1) shills, 2) fallous logic and 3) vulgarities ruin it for the rest of us. So, to Slappy who has made these types of implications, you definitely earn and deserve this rarest of golden sombreros of disgrace. If you are offended, I did so intentionally.
Yeah, take it from Viggen! He used to use high school yearbooks and apple crates as speaker stands. Now, look at his cool system. :•)
Dean, you are like the audiogon mom I never had. Do you have to go around showing my naked baby pictures to strangers? = P
Viggen: That "naked baby pictures" was a great analogy i.e. it made me chuckle out loud : )

Gunbei: Shame on you : )

I would LOVE to have enough time to sit down and actually measure / chart / document "vibrations" using various types of racks / footers / treatments, etc... using an accelerometer. I bet it would be a VERY interesting and enlightening experience. Sean
Sean, I'll have to show you those darling baby pictures some time over a nice cup of warm milk. When Viggen was a little tyke he loved to mash his hands in his own poop. Needless to say he wasn't allowed near a remote control or allowed to adjust the volume knob when his mitts were in that state. Hahhhh!!

How does an accelerometer represent the measured vibration? Is it a graphic display like a sine wave? Would the device be placed directly on the platform or rack being tested? Would it be able to show both the amount and frequency of the measured vibrations? Is there a way to correlate the measurements with the possible effects on the audio system, such as if a noted bunching of measurements around a certain frequency possibly causing a tonal change in that area during playback? Yeah, that would be an interesting test.
I think im going to try making an AV rack using Maple and seismic Bolts. A nice 200LB job.

I dunno if anyone has used sseismic bolts, but they can be bought at any telco harware store like Greybar. they are supposed to supress vibrations against earthquakes, im curious how much they do to prevent vibrations from the floor.

Has anybody ever messed around with various types of suspension to see if they can eliminate vibrations? I dont mean little rubber feet and stuff, but used car shocks, or tension springs, or maybe even some type of neumatical or gell based suspension system?

What about Dynamat? they used that to eliminate vibrations in cars. Ill bet that stuff would make a pretty wicked isolation pad.
Slappy: I think that you'll find that there are MANY schools of thought as to what makes for a "great rack" ( oooh boy.... ), but there is no single ideology that covers every aspect perfectly. That is why there is such a vast market of products available in terms of racks, isolation, damping, absorption, coupling, etc... I think that this is something that people have to learn / experiment with on their own and learn from that i.e. the hard way. It seems to be about the only way that people "open their minds" when dealing with controversial subjects like this.

Unfortunately, this can be both expensive and time consuming, so try and learn as much as you can from others and be selective about what you spend your money / concentrate your efforts on. There are quite a few excellent suggestions in various threads here on Agon and at AA made by people that have spent the time and money to learn the hard way. Let their experiences work for you and i think that you'll find that you are both happier and not quite as poor as others that aren't quite as open to suggestion. Sean
Thanks Sean, however, i think i have made my mind up, because i think i have the perfect solution for an AV rack

Get a bunch of paint-mixers and place the audio equipment into the clamps of these babys and turn em on!

they will be shaken so violently that no airborne vibrations will make any difference!:)


just kiddin!
Hey Sean,

The purpose of understanding natural resonance frequencies of different materials is so you can combine different materials to mechanically/sympathetically minimize vibration (instead of amplifying it.)

If you examine the Symposium shelves where it sandwiches materials of varied densities together, you'd see how this phenomenon works. Lexus does something similar with their car bodies and IBM does something like this with their high end server/storage cases.

With my speakers, I have good luck using the wood/graphite/granite to tailor the speaker to sound the way I like it. This reduced a bit of boominess in the lows and LOTS of hashiness in the highs as well as expanding the soundstage.

So, when using your vibration measurement machine, try using it on a combination of materials such as rubber on wood or metal on marble etc, and, ofcourse, tune with your ears.
Materials don't have any natural frequency. They have properties like mass, elasticity, etc. Natural frequency is determined by the shape into which the material is formed, how it is attached to other objects or otherwise damped, and the abovementioned mechanical properties. Consider that you can make a whole belltower of bells, playing different notes, out of the same metal.

To be specific, the fiber board that speaker enclosures are usually made of can ring like a bell, or be completely dead, depending on the bracing and damping material included in the design.
El, materials do not have natural frequencies, yet it is the form that determines its physical properties? So your bell tower can consist of bells made of wood, metal and plastic and they will all sound the same so long as their shape is idential... absurd.

Well, there is a difference between natural frequency and natural RESONANCE frequency. This concerns the differences or sameness at which vibration or waves move through the material(s). And, the key part is, the more sympathetic the natural frequency is to the vibrating waves (catylist), the more compelling waves will be created thus maximizing vibration.

Bells and tuniing forks specifically work in these methods which have opposite results in what we want to achieve concerning audio racks.
Viggen...Shape, damping..AND PHYSICAL PROPERTIES is what I said. Some materials are easier to make resonate than others. Bells are usually made of metal, not styrofoam. However, a metal structure can also be non-resonant if it is designed and built with that objective in mind.
Lets just say we are talking about two completely different properties.
What if it's a flat platform to place a piece of audio gear on?