People believe they hear anything, so no doubt, some rack will be "jaw dropping".
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Depends. If you only have a few components consider a long/low piece of furntiure with a surface area large enough to hold all your components. Here's the twist:
Each component (maybe 2 max- size dependent) will be placed on a maple type board, under each board a set of Machina Dynamic Promethean springs. This is a simple and very effective rack.
I agree that is difficult (but not impossible) to audition a rack. I also believe that the aesthetics of your listening environment are an important contributor to enjoyment of the home listening experience. Twenty years experience also leads me to believe that a happy spouse is also critical to an enjoyable listening experience in the home.
That said, personal experience also tells me the importance of a solid foundation for your equipment. I was dubious until I installed my equipment on an EquaRack. (You can reference my impressions summarized on an equipment review thread on Audigon; just search for 'EquaRack'.) There was a definite drop in the noise floor which resulted in more low-level information. Bass was more extended and improved in quality. The whole musical picture seemed more 'realistic'.
Fortunately, there are several attractive products including Silent Running Audio and HRS that would fulfill your audiophile needs and should make your spouse happy.
As others have mentioned, there is no way to predict the sonic result from changing racks. It would at least be easier to make decisions if certain approaches always improve the sound but that is not the case. I have heard exotic shelves do exactly as advertised -- dampen and reduce vibration -- that sound great under one component and sound like crap under another.
My suggestion is to go with a very good, solid and stable rack that is presentable in your room. I would also focus on whether one with fixed shelves or one with adjustable shelves is what you need. Also, some racks and some makers of shelves have products that allow for mixing of shelves from other manufacturers. For example, Zoethecus (unfortunately defunct now) racks could use standard sized Symposium shelves. Some manufacturers of shelves also make custom sizes so you should also consider how well a rack would work with such products. I would consider building in a substantial extra margin of vertical spacing to account for the possibility that you will be adding in a custom shelf or couplers, etc.
After you get a good basic rack, you can then experiment with different shelves and couplers and other tuning devices. Good sound from support structures is a matter of "tuning" -- there is no one right approach and right sound.
A dealer for Grand Prix Audio told me his technique to sell GP racks.
He let the customer hear a system with all gears on GP rack except CDP which sits on another high end rack. Then he moved the CDP from that rack to GP and let the customer decide. 10/10 times, customers heard an improvement.
I am a believer in vibration control since 20+ years ago, started out with big wood rack and Mod Squad tip toe. Now I use Grand Prix Audio Monaco thru out, just debating if I need to continue using Black Diamond Racing cones.
I cannot say about high end racks. But when I replaced my makeshift stand with a Salamander Designs 5.0 (cherry finish), the images stabilized and I heard a lot more clarity in the sound than I used to before. Note that I also have the Mega spikes installed on the stand instead of the regular feet caps that came with the stand. So you can say, I am a believer in the fact that good stands do make a difference.
For many (30 years) I never believed in vibration control or high end audio racks. But on advice from someone I trust I switched the rack for my mbl 6010D pre amp and mbl 1621A transport and 1611F DAC from a very functional Billy Bags to a Finite Elemente Master Pagoda rack. Immediately upon setting my system up, I could hear a very distinctive improvement in the sonic signature of my system. In a word everything became more natural sounding. A touch of harshness which characterized the sound of brass and strings disappeared. For me it was a meaningful change, and I am now a believer.
Regarding aesthetics and WAF, you are on your own but you have our moral support
Semi forgot to mention the experiment we conducted at his house several years ago. He told me that he had tried at least 10 - 15 different amp stands under his BAT tube amp. He ended up with a piece of 300 lb slab of stone that he was using under smoe electromicroscope in his lab at work. He had been using that slab ever since I met him.
One day when bunch of us were over, he told us he just spent $$$$ on these new racks (Grand Prix) sitting in the back of the room. We helped him move the slab back and put the GP amp stand in front of the slab. I thought he was going crazy spending that kind of money for stands. Then I left the amp stand up (without the acrylic board) with 1 finger, and thought he was for sure a nut as I was a believer of more mass the better.
We then move the amp forward onto the Grand Prix stand for another round of listening. None of us had heard of this company before. But we definitely heard a big improvement in various areas. We then moved the amp back and forth several times just to confirm.
And it make sense. Several of the guys at that listening work for semiconductor companies, and we've all seen various types of vibration control devices used in labs for vibration sensitive equipment. So it make sense that any mechanical system (LP or CD playback) and tube equipment would benefit from vibration control devices such as a rack.
Undoubtedly.I like Finite elemente a lot ,and used the Pagode ref for my main system,and the spider for the other 2..can't imagine living without them.The systems just sound so much better,the electronics seems so much more at peace sitting in racks..Certainly it helps that the Finite copme with resonance controll technology.
In short,a must for every system,IMHO
yes, Racks do make a diff.... but one doesn't have to pay a ransom for great sounding racks either.
A friend told me once Mass. Density. Non resonant. Well damped.
Good luck getting all the above in one item without paying lots.
Ive had several racks. Mostly non descript MDF or laminated particle board . Even constructed one or two myself.
The best move I made in the rack department was acquiring a Sound Anchor upright rack preowned. Lots of folks gave me plenty of advice, and shared numerous experiences with me in how a rack will help a system reach another level.
Solidsteel, Finite elementee, Systrum, Bags, Isis, Adonna etc. What to go for, esthetics, isolation, or both? Naturally both is the ticket. That ticket is a substantial sum usually.
I went with the Sound Anchors products for a few reasons I got it reasonably priced, less than half its orig value. It is exceptionally well constructed, and damped. It looks pretty good, in a mechanical, contemporary, manly sort of way as its massive uprights and cross members speak strength. Its flat black color allow it to hide out some by not drawing attention to itself.
Mine is hidden entirely. Its in another room altogether. Though Id not be opposed to having it in my listening room if that room were larger.
What it did for the sound was add another level of coherency and cohesiveness. Balance . And bass. In fact I liked what it did so much so, I bought more Sound Anchor products. Two amp stands, and a pair of speaker stands.
Mine is tall though were I able to be picky, and have it in my living room, Id go with several two tier racks, or have them all combined into a low boy approach, and if monos are in use, add a pair of amp sands for them, thereby limiting the vertical expanse of the equipment rack and keeping things low key . Less noticeable.
Low profile doesnt catch the eye quite so easily and allows it to become less obtrusive. Bob at Sound Anchors is indeed a good person to deal with, and naturally, customizing their inventory is what they do.
Heavy, well damped, value, and with shelving options and an item that will blend in are points I would seek out.
Do yourself a favor and try to avoid MDF and particle board racks they do nothing to aid the sound. Also, hollow metal, racks were trouble for me . Even after filling them.
Flick it with your finger nail, or rap it with your knuckles. Whatever sound you hear will be added to your system . The less sound the better. IMHO
Solid construction & heavy weight does not translate to better sound, unfortunately.
As Frank pointed out, I also own a 300lb granite that is used in multi-million dollar semiconductor equipment. For those who knows, it's for reticle inspection. Like wafer inspection, to resolve that 20nm geometry vibration has to be well controlled. In typical wafer inspection system, regardless bright field or dark field, chuck that holds the wafer will sit on a massive slab of granite which is suspended by air table. But to completely eliminate vibration introduced by the stage which moves the chuck, active damping is required to compensate the force exerted from the stage.
So in theory, one can build an active vibration control rack by reading in the sound, reverse the phase like noise cancellation headphone, and counter the vibrating transmitted thru air and floor with active device. It will probably cost half million to build such rack, maybe with all the insane audiophile on earth we can volume productize it and lower the cost to $100k. But when your system cost fraction of that amount, it does not make economic sense.
Grand Prix Audio designer was a race car chassis designer (Swift engineering who dominated CART in the early 90's). He knows the drawback fighting vibration only with mass, so he came up with something more creative, a combination of geometry, material, and assembly. Go read his white paper, I don't believe you can buy a more advance rack for less money.
Yes, in fact, when done right I would attest that a true performance-oriented racking system could quite possibly be the most cherished component in a given system regardless of the other components one may own or how much one may have spent. Most cherished from a performance perspective that is.
Hi Joe Kapahulu,
A good, solid, rack tht fits your needs is a basic requirement. Some racks have adjustable shelves (a big plus) or can be custom built to your specifications (e.g., Billy Bags). If you have a turntable, a proper rack is even more critical, particularly if the floor is a suspended wooden floor. I have a custom built Zoethecus rack (no longer in business) that is more than five feet high. To make it stable, I used a cleat to a back wall to anchor it to a back wall. If you have a table, consider a low rack for stability or a similar arrangement to stabilize the rack.
My own experience with extreme vibration dampening through use of exotic racks and shelves is that results vary quite a bit depending on the system and components. I use a Symposium Ultra shelf under my Linestage and another under my amps, which sit on the floor. These shelves provide a very subtle improvement over regular shelves/amp stand. They don't appear to help with my CD player (Naim CD555), and in a friend's system, the shelves sounded bad (lean and bleached sound) under a CD player (Audio Aero Capitole). Under a Levinson No. 32 preamp, Symposium Rollerblocs provided good coupling to the shelf, but I don't use them for my current linestage (Emotive Audio Epifania) because of the perforated bottom on the unit. That is why I earlier recommended that you experiment with the shelving and coupling of components to the shelves after getting a good basic rack.
I have no idea how high end you are looking for racks. Good basic racks can be had from Atlantis (adjustable shelves) and Billy Bags (customizable spacing of shelves).
On the higher end extreme, Silent Running Audio is a possible choice. I am not familiar with their rack, though I have heard, and I like, their equipment support shelves. A friend's Tron amps came with two custom sized SRA amp stands so the manufacturer thought it was a worthy addition. Their stands/shelves are custom designed for the specific weight and weight distribution of each component (different elastomers at four corners of the shelf).
A similar approach is taken with HRS racks and shelves. A friend bought a huge, three section HRS rack. It is the most heavy, beautiful to look at and solid rack I've encountered. Another friend was in charge of construction/setup. He was amazed at the close construction tolerances and perfection of manufacture. Each shelf was specifically tuned to the particular component that was being placed on the shelf. The BAD news is that the whole set up cost $50,000. I hope this represents the extreme of what one can spend.
don't think of it as a rack. a rack is like a drill. and when you buy a drill, you don't buy a drill. you buy holes...
the rack is to do 2 things (aesthetics excluded): safely support equipment, and isolate gear from horizontal & vertical vibrations. the first is paramount in any rack.
the 2nd can be had after the fact w/ footer & shelving combinations.
and here's a hint (which the author of the grand prix dealer trick hinted at): if you don't hear improvements w/ source gear, you shouldn't expect anything else to improve either.
Haven't read all the posts here, but I'll chime in for a quick second to say that racks definitely influence sound.
I've never owned a nice rack, but I used to have my system on a cheapo tv unit... Moved it to another cheapo Ikea tv stand...the thing looked nice, but was hollow on the inside. Well, wouldn't you know it, the system took on a 'tubby', 'hollow' sound coinciding w/ the rack on which the equipment was sitting. Upon switching everything back to the old rack, everything snapped back into place audibly speaking. I further experimented by putting equipment on tempered glass and lo and behold, the system took on a bit of a sharper edge.
I am a firm believer that the item on which equipment rests influences its sound character beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Semi. The Adona shelves are made of combination of MDF material joined with granite. Yes, they are solid, but also scientifically enginered (check out their website). I'm not financially in your leauge. I've heard what the Grand Prix's can do and I would buy them in a heartbeat, but the $1000 I spent was well worth it for the Adona rack. Good listening, Jeff L
You bet you can hear the difference!
I went with the Mapleshade solid 4inch thick maple racks. The difference was far from subtle. If I had to quantify my gains in percentage basis I would say somewhere between 10 to 20 percent better depending upon which individual characteristic your talking about. It was literally jaw dropping how much better it sounded than sitting on a concrete floor and a mediocre salamander rack.
When I switched to the Copulare racks, http://www.copulare.de/english/home.html I found that the music was more intimate, more detailed and the bass more solid, all of this was missing on my ad-hoc home made wood platforms. I was balancing the edge between the Finite Element and the Copulare, until Mr. Copulare came to my house personally and let me test several products, and lelft them with me for about 2 weeks to experiment, well I was sold after that.
The fact is, any type of rack system with good decoupling, good damping and offering a somewhat solid build will be a benefit then a standard piece of granite on cinder blocks or pieces of Ikea cutting boards on cinder blocks, not exactly what I had before, but close, haha. I still like the looks of the Finite Element stuff and might experiment with the amp stands to compare to the Coppulare.
There is no doubt in my mind that a good rack will upgrade the quality of what the listener is hearing in better details, accuracy and lower backgroud noise. Then of course, you can further experiment with spikes, anti-coupling absorbers and the like until you go crazy.
One of the best looking stands, at least to me, are the new SolidSteel HS stands.
I have all my components on SolidSteel Series 5 stand and I have heard a clear sound improvement going from VTI to SolidSteel. BTW I have the spikes on Target Spike Shoes which also help with vibration. I would not hesitate to recommend SolidSteel. Reasonably priced and effective.
Joe, I also live in Honolulu. You don't necessarily need to order your audio racks from the mainland. Since you live in Honolulu, I recommend you visit Audio Lab, on Ala Moana Blvd. Tom, the owner, is a great guy and very knowledgeable. He should be able to show you a number of good racks, as well as other hi-end equipment. Good luck on your search.