Upwardly mobile. What should I do next? It’s how some audiophiles work. They play their hobby not just on the music level which, if you stream content, is cheap these days. They also are constantly busy on the gear level which hardly ever comes cheap. Whilst some hardware buys might eventually turn out to be detours or explorations of alternate but not preferred flavours, the motivation behind it all tends to be simple: to ascend to the next level by significantly improving one’s sound.
Today’s column is for those who ask the ‘next’ question; but with a twist. Today we assume that they’re actually quite–or already very–happy with what they have. Their question is simply an old habit whenever their hifi account tops up again. To have these lucky folks prevent a potential detour aka sideways move of losing some, winning some, let them consider a topic rarely covered: racks.
The underlying rationale is not to change their signal path by one iota. The idea is to improve what they already own. It’s like taking a tired old car for a major tune-up. Think new timing belt, spark plugs, filters, brake pads, bearing repack, tires, oil change, the worx. It won’t fix dents or faded upholstery. But suddenly the car will handle like new to return long-lost driving pleasure, even exhilaration. It’ll have you wonder why you put up with much less for so long.
For today’s hifi tune-up, we aim higher – at a ride you never yet had with your system because you forgot its mechanical foundation. If you still think that standard wood furniture or some Ikea-level steel/glass or bamboo affair is sufficient to harness your components’ full potential, this will be a very loud wakeup call. The topic just isn’t much publicized because, once handled properly, you’ll never revisit it. You will still play the amplifier or DAC roulette until the cows return but racks will have been ticked off the list. That’s how foundations work. Once laid, they remain in place.
For reviewers, comparing racks also is a pain in the arse so few ever do. One must be a bit nuts to even sign up. I am. It’s why I recently took on comparing a very advanced rack to none at all; and to our resident rack. I’d not been racking for years. Our double-wide non-modular Artesanía Exoteryc does the stoic business and is far too big and heavy to be disappeared from the room. Prior ownership of two Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular racks had started my handling of the mechanical system foundation. I’ve been convinced of its importance ever since. I’ve simply not bothered to revisit it. Why would I? Don’t fix what ain’t broke.
In my smaller upstairs system, I’d actually never gotten around to it. A €60 wooden footstool from TJMaxx hosts one or two full-size components atop. Two smaller ones huddle between its legs on the floor. It looks as neat and compact as this cozy room warrants. Then a big greasy Brazil nut fell off the tree onto my curious head. Hifistay’s Mythology Transform X-Frame in for review was modular. Each nested tier would carry up the stairs lickety-spit, then stack up like lego. It could go where our Spanish rack never will – well, shy of professional movers cursing narrow stair turns and us patching scratches and holes in the wall after.
The upshot of my upstairs rack trial? Mega! Far bigger than DAC comparisons I’d done there just a week prior. Of course, I shoulda known better. From actual experience, in that room, 2020, I didn’t until the Koreans sent me their goods. Downstairs too this usurper showed our resident rack a new trick or two. That too was news. Again, I’d not touched the subject in a long time. My latest review tells that tale in plenty of detail. We needn’t retell it here.
All we’re doing here is say, loud and KIHlear, that where a car’s rubber meets the road is for a hifi what gear and speakers sit upon. Proper air pressure and quality rubber are key for a good and safe ride, for tight cornering, fast stoppage and low road noise. It’s equally true for a hifi. Now we want to avoid any and all ‘road noise’ as the proliferation of mechanical vibrations between components. Unless tried, you simply won’t believe what the elimination of micro resonances will do for the sound of your existing hardware. So before you ask “what next?” whilst perusing the glossies and classifieds for a shiny new amp, consider that prior to making any other changes, doesn’t it make more sense to first hear what you already own – at a much higher level of reveal?