A lot of folks swear by maple!Go to the Mapleshade website,they believe maple is the best way to go,,www.mapleshaderecords.com,,seems to me the harder the wood the tighter the sound,,thats just my opinion .
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I have to agree with Mapleshade about materials--maple has the best tone--but I can't say I agree with their prices.
The good news is: you can have a local shop make a platform in most any size and thickness, and for a fraction of the boutique audio cost.
I'm a firm believer in sandbox-type vibration sinks. I made my first one from the walnut plinth of an old Garrard tt. They work! All hardwoods are good, but stay away from MDF or bamboo laminates.
Also, use play sand rather than Sakrete or tube sand--it's finer. Spike your component into that maple (or cherry, or whatever) top plate, and enjoy. Incidentally, ACI sells inexpensive solid brass cones with removable threaded inserts. A total bargain.
Air dried maple is better than kiln dried. Kiln drying ruptures the cells of the wood while air drying preserves the cellular structure (or so I have read). It is the nature of the cellular structure that gives Maple it's harmonic quality. Regular old maple cutting boards are probably better then nothing but don't be fooled into thinking they are the same as air dried. Just glue 2 or 3 air dried pieces together, plane 'em flat and you are good to go. Sides of the box don't really matter as they are just holding in the sand. I prefer walnut myself just for looks. Send me an e-mail if you'd like to see what mine look like.
Skip the sandbox, it has no magic quality and it only adds mass. The box is enclosed in a solid-to-solid connection with the sides, so transfers throughout the platform. You can read the "theory" on audiav's website for more information.
The best materials for shelves: VERY THICK
Hardwood crossed (like Boos) butcher blocks
Layered Composites... in that order :)
After a long talk with several HiFi stand companies a year or so ago, several stand makers, including the head honcho at Particular told me that no matter what wood you use, it usually warms up the sound slightly and that's why people like it. Something to do with air content (in the cells or whatever) that makes the thing resonate "pleasantly" for want of a better word-- which acrylic lacks.
For proof, witness the ubiquitous use of Acrylic as a turntable platter. They use this material for this purpose owing to the non-resonance (relatively speaking of course) necessary in that application. In fact, one famous turntable -- the Spotheim La Luce raved about years ago (and priced stratospherically)--is made entirely out of acrylic!!
As such, these stand makers told me that I should consider using acrylic shelves with their stands (at a major up-charge of course!)if I wished to hear my equipment as it really is and not slightly euphonically colored (as by even excellent wood such as maple). You will note Mapleshade LOVE tubes-- and the warmth wood provides may juice their lizard as well. They may hear it as more 'natural.'
After these manufacturers suggested acrylic as the non-resonant material of choice (and wanted to charge me accordingly!!) -- I went out and bought some sheets of it, along with a few butcher block maple cutting boards.
Lo and behold-- those guys were right! To my ear, the butcher block warmed up the sound to varying degrees of all the stuff I placed on it- from tube amps to CD players. The acrylic-- well-- I heard more bass solidity with my CD player and a touch better imaging. But it did not seem to warm things up or even chill them out (thankfully).
So moral of the story-- I now use 3/4" to 1" acrylic shelves under my components and the best part is-- you dont need to spend thousands to get them. Cheap on-line!! Unless-- you wanna buy say, an Arcici suspense rack-- which makes use of acrylic shelves among other tricks at like 4 grand or something!
Companies like Atacama know well the value of acrylic and now make even speaker stands out of it entirely.
I'm not saying "acrylic is the best-- end of story." All I'm saying is wood seems to warm up the sound- maple included- of the components I've tried on it and some manufacturers seem to agree. Ever seen a turntable with a butcher block maple platter?!!
I may even get around to posting a separate topic about these findings-- meant to do it for some time- 'cause it was really quite something, and as I say, cell cast acrylic can be had cheap and can be made into practically anything. Wonderful stuff long known about and used but rarely talked about. My two or three cents...now I'm broke.