wow, my stuff is sitting on a kitchen table. Maybe it's time to do something about that... My upgrade heirarchy went chronologically like this over the past year:
speakers, amp, CDP,power cords, interconnects, speaker cables (that's where I am now), soon to be room treatment, then rack, feet etc... So do the feet/rack issues really affect the sound? (This area of tweaking is all new to me).
I don't want the mantle of expertise on this issue. I just want to report excellent results with the light and rigid approach, when using Neuance shelving.
Mwalsdor, your rack arrangement goes in the opposite direction, plumping for mass in most cases. I am sure that there are lots of ways to skin the cat, but my experiments with the mass approach were not successful for me. The sound was often lovely, but the music failed to grab me. This is an odd thing. We can make our systems cause saxophones to sound beautiful, a voice to sound resplendent, a drum to be crashingly impactful and strings to soar. But this is not the same approach as seeking to remove all time smearing and go the PRAT route.
There are some that insist that their massy structures achieve PRAT. I am sceptical, I can't help myself. It defies my understanding of the issues, and does not gel with my experience. But I admit that does not mean I am certain that they are wrong.
The PRAT approach can result, in lesser systems, in a fast, infectious, but colored and fatiguing sound. The mass approach can result, in lesser systems, in a sluggish system where the instruments don't seem to be quite playing together, but often with good neutrality and powerful bass. At the pinnacle of each approach it may be that the sound quality converges to the same point.
But for me, I have found some form of previously unobtained musical bliss from the light/rigid/damped method. It is easy to implement, gets you great PRAT and is very neutral.
Get a welded steel rack that is spiked to the floor and supports its shelves on spikes. Get Neuance shelves. Possibly, use E-A-R feet between shelf and component. Simple and works great - you just have to wait a week while the sound stabilises - something to do with how the Neuance settles under the weight being applied to it. No need for cones, Vibrapods etc.
Almost everything in your shelf strategy Mwalsdor follows the opposing path with mass, and then has cones as a light/rigid interface to dissipate energy. It may sound great, and I have no reason to doubt that. But I reckon you would be surprised if you heard my system on my rack and would expect it to have a fresh vibrancy and speed that would make it very different from yours. What you may also notice is that your system had more bass weight and more solidity. I don't know which you would prefer, but I urge you to give the light/rigid/damped method a try. But throwing a Neuance shelf into your current rack is not the same thing.
I have to admit I am struggling because I don't really know what your rack sounds like or what you will like. All I can say is I am delighted with my rack, and it works best if I just keep it simple, no lead or sand filling, no concrete or granite blocks, no cones....
Redkiwi, this is an excellent post in response to a lot of variables with which you are not intimately familiar. I would like to follow-up with a question about the type/brands of welded steel racks you think would meet your criteria for your light/rigid/damped method. For example, would the "Reference Rack" sold by Atlantis meet this criteria:
Do you have some alternatives to suggest?
Rushton...that's my rack! I can vouch for it's effectiveness, but, some tweaking still helps. I use a Cambridge Audio Isomagic Isolation Platform under the turntable, and EAR Feet on the rest of the gear. Solid rack, looks good too. Jeff
Thanks, Jeffloistarca. A dealer I work with recommended the Atlantis rack to me after I mentioned to him an interest in the Arcici Suspense rack. His recommendation is that the Atlantic is effective for a lot lower investment. I'm curious as to whether the Neuance shelving could be custom ordered to replace one or more of the shelves and whether the shelf support spikes in the Atlantis would support the Neuance. Redkiwi has been so enthusiastic about the light/rigid/damped method with Neuance, I'm tinking about trying that approach with the appropriate rack.
Rushton: I had the Neunance shelves custom made for my Studio Tech rack with no difficulty (each shelf has eight sides to it as the corners are "snipped" off). I have had them quite a while but just got around to installing them earlier this week. I will need a month or so to audition them (due to additional system changes), but love what they do so far. I discussed my rack with Ken at Neuance and sent then a crude paper template to go by (just to avoid any communication errors), the shelves are a perfect fit.
Hi Rushton. They look beautifully made but perhaps kinda heavy to me, but hard to tell from a picture. But any weight in them will pay off in extra rigidity since it is all welded steel, so I have no reason to doubt they would do the job well, particularly with heavy components. I like the Mana racks, but they are pretty expensive, particularly when you are not going to use their special damped glass shelves. I reckon the most important issues are welded steel of sufficient guage (where the Atlantis certainly qualifies), spiked up and down, not filled with anything, and using one rack for each component. The last point is very beneficial, which I proved to myself recently. It may not be practical for everyone, but I have one rack for my CD Player (which has volume control), and one each for my monoblocks. The sound is definitely better than when all components are in one rack.
Has anyone tried perspex shelves? Also, Red, other than rack/piece of equip. is there an optimum height of racks in your experience.
Rushton & Red, I decided against filling the legs with sand or lead shot mostly because the rack is plenty heavy as it is. The rack itself is 34" high, by 26" wide by 18" deep. I forgot to mention a few other things about my rack, first off I ordered an extra shelf so I'm using five shelves in mine. Bottom shelf is a Classe Audio DR8 amplifier, second shelf from the bottom is an Audio Refinement Complete tuner, third shelf is a Classe Audio Model Thirty preamplifier, fourth shelf is an Audio Refinement Complete CD player, and the top shelf is my Oracle Alexandria turntable. Without the extra shelf I would have to stack components on at least one shelf. I used threaded tiptoes between the top of the rack and the underside of the top shelf, this is an additional cost but worthwhile. Took me about an hour to put together. All told the rack cost me $500 (new), and as previously stated it looks terrific. I'm using this in a second system in my home office and the finish matches my mahogany office furniture perfectly. What would Neuance shelves cost, more out of curiousity than anything?
Dekay,Jeffloistarca, and Redwiki, Thanks for your follow up. I have some new equipment coming later this summer and will need a better solution than the current walnut table with gear stacked on the floor below it! Dekay, thanks for the encouraging note about getting the Neuance shelves custom made. That's what I was thinking might be possible.
Rushton: I forgot to mention that I had previously been using Mapleshade brass cones and Vibrapod soft footers with Maple platforms (a three decker stack). This was the best that I was able to come up with (per my equipment and tastes) after trying different isolation footers and non-Neunace platforms. These were used in combination with a furniture cabinet that holds our CD's as well as many other items and which weighs in at 400 pounds plus. Anyway, this is where I am coming from. I do not know if Ken applied a discount or not, but my custom shelves did not cost any more than the price range noted at the Neuance website. I did get the impression that they do a lot of custom work as I offered to use four sided shelves that did not extend to the side edges of my rack and was told not to worry about it and they went ahead and made them in the odd shape that I mention above.
Dekay, are you using one of the Studio Tech racks that has spikes extending from each of the four corner posts to support the shelves? Such as the Studio Tech PS-6B 6-shelf model shown here:
I'll be interested to hear your comments once you've had a chance to live with the Neuance for a while longer.
Hi Rushton: The photo at the website looks different than my rack, which I think is a PA-04 (I have the model # buried in emails somewhere). Mine had four side rails(with four upturned spikes) for each shelf. I also had the rack mig welded into a one piece frame (so it is no longer a bolt together rack). Unfortunately when I installed the upturned spikes and shelves last week (three of the upturned spike assemblies (the horizontal posts) snapped off from the weight of my components (which are all under 20 pounds each and only one per shelf). I was not going to use the rack because of this, but ended up making a "safety net" for the three top shelves out of silk ribbon laced under each shelf from the side rails. I just emailed Audio Advisor, where I purchased the rack in February and requested 16 replacement posts (the spikes themselves can be reused) as I do not trust the other posts that came with the rack (would you?). The metal looks "chaulky" where it broke off and is obviously not capable of doing its intended job. Also without the posts, the rack is pretty much rendered useless. Because of this I cannot recommend Studio Tech until the problem is resolved. I wish that I had a direct line to the manufacturer, but we recycled the shipping boxes and I cannot locate the original paperwork (I just have the computer generated invoice from Audio Advisor). Anyway, if suitable replacement parts are available the rack will be a steal, but other wise it was just a waste of money, plus I now have custom shelves made for it. Hopefully this was just a bad run of parts and replacements are available. Neuance has a recommended rack list at their site, but had I purchased one of the racks on the list (as they are more expensive) I would not have been able to budget for the shelves.
Thanks for the description, Dekay. Sorry to hear of the problems you are having. The Studio Tech rack is so inexpensively priced, I was thinking to do as you are doing - buy it and then purchase custom shelves from Neuance. In my case, though, some of the individual components are quite heavy. Among other items, I'll be putting an Aesthetix Io with two dedicated power supplies - at 50 lbs for each power supply, plus 30 lbs for the audio section itself - so I need something that will be quite dependable under a heavy load. Hopefully, your experience with the Studio Tech is just a bad run of parts as you hypothesize.
Gregm. I have tried all materials known to man (ask my wife how many shelves lurk in the basement), so can report on Perspex. The best thickness seems to be around 12mm. It is really too heavy in my opinion and not damped sufficiently in the lower treble. Therefore you get good bass weight, but slightly behind the beat, and a bit of accentuated presence. The accentuated presence gets obscene if you support the perspex with spikes, or if you use cones between component and shelf. In particular the BDR cones seem to really set off a mutual resonance with Perspex. I found Corian to be better (which is also an acrylic but much denser than Perspex) than Perspex, and really not bad. But neither approach the Neuance. If you use Corian or Perspex, I recommend using very thin hard rubber pads (3 or 4) between rack and shelf. And then use soft footers between shelf and component. This will tame the resonance I have referred to reasonably well and if the footers are Vibrapods the bass will speed up a bit.
The Neuance is not a perfect solution, but it is damn good. Being very light compared with what most people use for shelves, you will find the bass is much faster, but you may find it lightweight compared with what you are used to. I reckon the Neuance is just more accurate, and the bass weight when using heavier shelves comes from the energy stored by those shelves being dissipated slowly - causing a perceived slowing of the bass. What you prefer will depend on whether you prefer the bass weight or improved PRAT.
The other issue with Neuance shelves is that the heavier the component, the more you tend to get a bit of unwanted warmth creeping into the lower mids and upper bass. I reckon that Neuance is trying to make a shelf that tries to optimise the trade-offs between each of light/rigid/damped, but that when the component gets out of the expected weight range it starts to flex a bit. That is probably why they make an alpha (for light components) and a beta (for moderately heavy components), and I think Ken is still working on a shelf for very heavy components. So it is a good idea to get the right grade shelf for the weight of the component to avoid the only slight coloration I can detect with the Neuance.
Hi Rushton: I will let you what happens with Audio Advisor and Studio Tech in regard to replacing the defective parts. With equipment as heavy as yours though I would look for upturned spikes that do not use any type of horizontal support system (other than the side bars/supports themselves). As a last resort I will machine the posts myself, but will need the use of a drill press and a tap and die set.
Thank you, Redkiwi. I assume Neuance is the current way to go. In cheapo mode however, other than corian (txs, again, kiwi) any experience with Maplewood or similar?
I am thinking of building a custom rack where each shelf will be individually suspended using plastic-covered metal wire -- two wires for each shelf. The rack: two rectangles connected via two metal boards welded on top and one (much wider) on the bottom. Spikes at the bottom.
Any ideas? Thanks in advance.
Gregm, I have tried the suspemded shelf idea and found it promising but eventually abandoned it. My main concern was that the wire used has a resonance like a guitar string and gets through to the shelf unless you do something to decouple it. Nylon coated wire was, in fact, the worst sounding that I tried (sorry). Solid nylon fishing wire of high strength is OK, and so is nylon rope. But their colorations were still quite evident. I even tried suspending the Neuance shelves but they definitely worked better sitting on top of point contacts. Therefore I conclude that the suspension idea would probably work best if you used a shelf like Corian or Perspex, where you decoupled the wire from the shelf by some form of rubber, polymer etc (which happens to be what the Arcici does using Navcom and Perspex), or with a more damped shelf like the Neuance if you found some way of ensuring the Neuance was suspended in a way that it sat on top of point contacts. I suspect there is merit in suspending racks rather than sitting them on steel racks, but that just as with a steel rack you cannot just let the shelf rest on the rack (ie. you need a soft pad or hard spike between them), then the same applies to not letting the shelf connect directly to the wire.
Thank you, Redkiwi, for offering yr invaluable insight. I can easily get solid fishing wire and nylon. Assuming that the resonance frequency of the whole thing is the tricky part, the metal wire probably vibrates like an instrument string, making things worse. I ordered Corian shelves as per yr experience; I'll get a couple of Perspex 12mm, too.
And give it all a go... If anyone is interested in the experience, I'll be happy to report. BUT this will take time; if you wish, do mail me directly.
Oh, yes: the components. All on the heavy side (12-25 kgs) each, one comp. per shelf. Power supplies (3) not on rack.
Gregm. Because neither the Corian or Perspex are totally neutral, you may get the best result using Corian on the source (and maybe also preamp) and perhaps Perspex on amp. Mixing different shelf materials together will hopefully avoid any too obvious resonances. I found Corian everywhere to be something of a problem. By the way I did find Maple Butchers Block to be OK too - it sounded slow and murky, but not nearly as much as MDF did. It was able to be improved with cones. I mention it because it may be OK with the very heavy stuff and provide still more variety to your tuning of resonances. I believe you have got my point on the steel wire - it sounded very much like there was a steel stringed guitar playing along with the music.
G'day, Redkiwi, mate -- & thanks again for your help.
You're very welcome cobber.
Thanks for sharing the information. I'm in the mist of evaluating my Shunyata Hydra PLC among other unforseen changes (tube dying) so I think I'll let everything settle
and then look into my rack / shelves / footers.
Just thought I'd weigh in with my comment that I'm still very happy with how the Neuance platform has tightened up and integrated my old CDP's upper octaves, without changing spectral tilt. PRaT is outstanding, and only lean or fatiguing with poor CDs. Your analytical portrayal earlier in the thread is outstanding. Glad to see Ken's product will get some success. Cheers! Ernie