High End, and Rack Mountable

One thing that has really helped tidy up my system was changing from tables and audio furniture to a tall, rack mountable cabinet, with a rear door, a shelf, a drawer and casters.

For me, it has been a real treat, albeit a bit more work to initially get the components screwed into the rack.

Now, I am pondering a system change, mainly to warm up the sound of my Audio Research SP11, and also switch out my Sony SCD-1 for hard drive based digital and a new turntable.

I would really love to keep the rack, however, and probably also my Magneplanar Tympanis.

Could anyone therefore, make suggestions for truly rack mountable components that are genuinely high end, could drive my Tympanis nicely and also look great in a matte black, studio type 19" stacked rack configuration.

If you want to check out the rack, it is made by Raxxess.

I hope this isnt too tall an order and thank you for any ideas or opinions.
Hi CW,

I would suggest that you install rack mount "shelves" into the rack and affix them to the rails. This will allow you to place any component you choose into your rack as well as providing a method to employ vibration control feet or platforms. Attaching a component directly to rails rigidly connects it to the rack frame itself and provides a directly coupled path for vibration to enter the component and contaminate the signal.

Best Regards,


Barry Kohan
Bright Star Audio
Bryston and McIntosh have rack mountable gear. I'm not sure about the new MAC gear, but the older MAC gear was rack mountable with the Panlock system.
Benchmark (especially for a hard drive system...it's half rack and needs the other blank half rack to work with 19")
Space-Tech Labs as an option
Counterpoint - vintage
Goldmund - vintage
Audio Research - vintage
Mark Levinson - vintage

Computers for your hard drive system: Sweetwater creation station and many DIY computers...just find a rack mount case.

Lots more I'm forgetting about
I use equipment racks for my video system, including for the audio amplifiers that support the video system. (Mine are from Mid-Atlantic, but are the same concept- full sized enclosed racks with back doors, shelves, etc.)
I'm not sure how well these things treat the components sonically, though. Mechanical isolation? The lighter stuff gets bolted in and needs no shelf to support it, but the heavy stuff is not just bolted in, but also sits on a pretty substantial shelf.
Having said that, I just bought a Mac 2700 as a gift for a friend with a pair of Sequels- it was pretty reasonably priced- and is fairly bulletproof. It should have the power to drive your Magneplanars, and, I'm told, is a sonic sweety.
The other thing is, once you get to using bigger tube amps in a rack, you've got to cool it with fans which contribute their own ambient noise. The Mac, being solid state, should run without cooling, but don't quote me, since I don't have one installed in the rack. (I do use a recent multichannel Mac for a couple of the surround channels, but don't run it in the video system alone- it is on with other tube amps that do generate some serious heat, and yes, my racks are fan cooled).
Since the harm from floor-borne vibrations are negligible in comparison to the far more harmful air-borne and internally generated vibrations and resonance it is actually a very good thing to direct couple the components to the racking system.

In other words, if you did not direct couple the components to the rack, where do you suppose the air-borne and internally-generated vibrations and resonance captured by the components in a moment in time but only disapate over a period of time would go?

However, it's really a moot point considering the design of the rack you describe since it is on casters (not appropriate for direct-coupling) and since the rack was probably designed for nothing more than perhaps an industrial look, computer server consolidation and convenient and controlled access.

Moreover, the rack walls and access door may also rattle at louder listening levels thereby making a bad situation worse.

I would suggest that you not attempt to rebuild your otherwise nice system around this rack that was never intended for this purpose and that will probably induce more sonic harm than what you had previously.

Brystons love Maggies. Personally, I'd buy 2 of the Bryston Pro Pak 500 watt mono plate amps and mount them to the back of the Maggies. Forget speaker cables, and just run long ICs.

As for the rack thing: I used to do that back in the day (mid 80s to mid 90s) both for audio and HT, but it can be a hassle, unless you take Barry's advice (but then the use of a NAB-type rack becomes moot) It is definitely hard on equipment cosmetics, and unless you use insulating washers on all mounting holes, tying all the chassis together electrically can cause major ground loop problems unless you are able to connect everything together using balanced (XLR) interconnects.
Another consideration is using plastic or hard rubber isolation washers to not scratch the components when mounting.
I have used plastic washers on all of the components which, to me, doesn't seem like a big deal.

I never understood why any rack mounted components would turn up for sale with scratches around the mounting holes.

No offense, but HELLO - we are talking about faceplates DESIGNED to be mounted on a rack?!

Re vibrations, this is an interesting thought, but I am not so concerned about this. Stehno, given that Audio Research and others are sold with rack mountable faceplates, do you think they had more of an "audiophile" rack in mind? Or were these faceplates all the rage cosmetically, but never intended to actually be mounted to a rack?

Whart - yes, heat is a concern and certainly for amps and tubes. At this point, I have kept my Mark Levinson amp out of the rack - it sits closer to the speakers. And for my SP11, I searched and scraped around ebay to find the rare rack mountable Audio Research ventilation units so I have one above the preamps power supply and one above the preamp itself which I think is fine. I also leave the rear door open a bit.


I have checked out the Sweetwater device and THANK YOU - yes, that is more or less exactly what I have been looking for.

Now hmmmmm.....I wonder if that SPDIF output (?) can go straight into a rack mountable, Audio Research DAC III.......

another rack mountable shelf for a turntable......

...will try later to post some photos, but to me it is the best way to go.

Since you're interested in the Sweetwater you should also check out this idea:
You can get the computer built inside this case. It's a lot cheaper than the Creation Station (which is overkill for what you want to do...but still cheap for an 'audio component' so who cares? but this last idea is likely to be noisier than the creation station.

Also...you can get something small and fanless which looks like an audio component:
Mount that on the side of your rack or even on your wall behind the rack...

And then for a hard drive to hold your music to go with it you can get something REALLY COOL for a rack system:

That glyph rack is what i have, by the way. i don't have it rack mounted, however. (those glyph drives in that case are very quiet) you can obviously also use this with the creation station which would look really nice together in a rack.

You might also be interested in building your own rack using rack mount pieces you can buy at dj stores or at www.sweetwater.com - it's easy.

Thanks for the suggestions.

So far, I feel most comfortable with the Sweetwater device, both for the appearance as well as the apparent build quality and design features which seem to make it an obvious choice for audio.

But here are a few questions:

If this is a pricier, higher powered machine, is that a total waste if I am mainly going to use it for iTunes and music storage?

What interface would you connect to Creation Station, and from what output, in order to stream bit for bit perfect WAV files to an external DAC, say the ARC DAC III to match the rest of my system? And why wouldnt it be able to do this on its own?!

Otherwise, I think it looks great, seems to be well built, and is apparently designed well for audio applications, albeit more like RAM intensive studio and recording applications?


Cwlondon, I'm not an expert so take what i say with a grain of poop.

I've read that a 2.4GHz pentium is recommended for playing audio to handle upsampling properly. Other than the processor you have a hard drive (any will do as long as it's quiet and reliable and the right size for your collection) the dvd/cdrom drive (any decent one will do), the sound card and various programs. So any computer that has the right processor will suit your needs. (You pay more when a computer is loaded with software, obviously, and you don't need much in that area for your application.) Therefore, the creation station is overkill but not a waste. It's quiet, reliable and has great customer service (you should call sweetwater with these questions, btw.) I would suggest buying what is most quiet and looks the best with your audio gear if paying an extra grand or so is not a problem. if it is, look into other computers as options.

Regarding interface. I think what you're asking is whether or not you'll need a sound card and the answer is yes. Do you need a good one? This is a question for someone else. I went a different direction. After reading about jitter the best theory (theory becasue i haven't heard it) seemed to be Steve Nugent's (empirical audio) "Off-ramp I2S" - this connects between your computer and dac and significantly reduces jitter. It's an elegant solution. You do not need a sound card in this case. Basically, it is a sound card. Once i read about this device i stopped researching sound cards. The I2S is a connection that your dac doesn't have. Steve adds this connection to some dacs like the Benchmark Dac1 (this is what i went with.) I don't know if he can do it to your arc. Anyway, i'm waiting for mine and it's going to be a LONG wait but i'll let everybody here know the results.
Re "Sound Card"

Maybe I don't get it but I always assumed a "sound card" had an "interface" which somehow interfaced with the data on a hard drive and delivered a stream of bits to said "sound card", which also a DAC of higher or lower quality (typically lower) which would convert the bitstream data to an analogue signal, and finally output that analogue signal into, for example, RCA jacks or a female stereo mini jack.

So I still am not quite clear why I need a "sound card" other than the fact that I need some sort of interface to create a user friendly connection (optical?) between the WAV files which live on the hard drive and my external DAC.

It continues to puzzle me as to why such a connection would not be part of the premium priced Creation Station in the first place, unless it is simply a mismatched convention between "pro audio" and audiophile audio.

I spoke to Sweetwater who are normally pretty helpful and had the sensation that they thought I might be insane.

So any additional explanation greatly appreciated.