This review was prompted by a post by DaveWhit mentioning these racks. Normally I don’t have much time, or much to contribute, so am content to lurk and learn. But over here it’s Easter holiday now, and in this case maybe my experience is of some use to the rest of you, so a first post is in order.
I had been looking for something to replace my eight year old Aavik racks for some time, but not found anything I was really taken with. The Townshend stuff was tempting, but not flexible enough. There was a list of criteria any new rack had to satisfy:
- It had to be flexible in that it could be reconfigured with different shelf heights to handle changes in components.
- It had to look sexy (to us at least!).
- It had to NOT have glass shelves (just can’t believe they make audio racks out of glass, seems crazy, it effing RINGS).
- It had to have some plausible theory for how it could reduce component vibration, at least something beyond the usual willy waiving and ‘we’re ridgid and we’ve got spikes’ rollocks.
When I mentioned all this to a dealer I buy cables from over here he immediately sent me links to the Solid Tech site as he happened to be the Norwegian importer. Now I trust this chap’s judgment and liked the rack immediately, it fitted all the criteria, although it did look rather difficult to use for most components because of the lack of ‘real’ shelves. Figured I’d use granite slabs or some such as shelving, and just ordered one to use on the CDP and preamp. About 700 quid for 60cm legs, two solid shelves and one suspended.
Review interrupted for a shameless plug for the dealer Paul. Top bloke, real music lover, and makes awesome cables that can get the best out of solid state systems: http://www.pmaudio.no. Now he just needs to get his English web pages up and running again. Disclaimer: Though I am living in Scandinavia, I have no financial or other interest in Solid Tech or PMAudio, I believe they are just both good at what they do.
At this point, despite claims the rack worked, I had very low expectations. Really bought it ‘cos both me and the wife thought it was sexy (but then we would given our amps), and I had to at least try a top-end rack.
It arrived in extremely impressive packaging along with very explicit instruction for assembly. All components have colour coded adhesive paper dots on them, and there is only one way to assemble it correctly. I followed the instructions to the letter, still made some mistakes, and ended up using 4 hours to finish the job.
Turned out the ‘shelves’ worked just fine as they were. You simply blue-tac the component’s base to the struts, with its original feet hanging free. End result is in the attachment, couldn't figure out how to paste in a jpeg.
Audiomeca Mephisto on the top bouncy shelf, its power supply below, DSP 8000R on the solid bottom shelf. If it’s possible to get the weirdly shaped 8000R beast supported on this rack, it should be possible for almost any component. CDP outputs analog via XLR, for music the DSP runs as an analog pre in stereo bypass connected via XLR into a Chord SPM 1200E driving a pair of B&W 802s. The room is very solid, concrete floor with wood over, breeze block walls with wood paneling, 7 by 4 meters, system on the narrow wall.
So to the crunch, did it make any sonic difference? Yes, most surprisingly so, instantly obvious from the first few bars of the first CD. And not a small difference, sounded like a new and way[/i] better DAC section had been slotted into the player. Throughout the frequency spectrum notes were better delineated, with far more space between them. Music sounded significantly slower (again, that means it’s a real upgrade), and with much better rhythm. The bass effect was really fun, way punchier and cleaner, and passages that had made the sofa vibrate no longer did ‘cos it was so much cleaner. But best of all the rack pretty much removed the last traces of upper midrange ‘grain’ from the system, not an effect one would expect.
Just for comparison, a few weeks before the rack arrived I had loaned a Chord Blu/DAC64 combo, running their dual data link, for comparison with the Audiomeca. They were nice, very dynamic, but sounded a little coarse next to the Mephisto. The difference between these two players was not close to half as big as the difference the rack made.
Maybe it’s just my system, the CDP is very close to one of the speakers, and both are rather close to the wall behind them. Also the Mephisto is a finicky beast, that’s for sure, it took months to settle in. Yet it seems far fetched to ascribe such a major effect to the configuration of one system. I’ll bet that anyone who has invested significantly in CD replay kit will see some benefit from adding this rack.
So an overall assessment.
- Absurd sonic effect, hard to believe in my case.
- Dead sexy looks, if you are into alloy and black.
- Extremely convenient as a rack; the lack of any actual shelves makes access to the components very easy for changing cables or cleaning.
- Shelf heights can be altered, up to a point.
- Upgradeable with new bouncy bits.
- Not exactly cheap.
- North sea oil rig looks not for everyone.
- Vertical depth of the struts mean you get less room in the rack than you would expect.
- Careful assembly required.
- Impossible to disassemble without leaving on the colour coded stickers. Look carefully in the picture and you can see mine are still on, just in case…
Am I pleased with it? Hell yes. To me this represents the single most cost effective upgrade yet to our system for music replay. Biggest bang for the buck in terms of sonic performance.
The configuration pictured above is in fact not even one recommended by Solid Tech. Placing the suspended shelf on top means that the rack is not as rigid as it should be; in a three shelf config the suspended shelf should be in the middle. I’ll probably be able to shift that around because this rack will go to support the DVD player in the autumn. Then we’ll buy another, with isoClear feet, reinforced upper shelf, and Disc Of Silence suspension for the CDP. You could say that represents ‘phase 3’, as in three levels of suspension instead of the current one. Paul reckons that I’ll notice a further improvement, and fact is now I believe him!
Well, hope that was useful to somebody. All the best.