If you’ve ever walked around an office, it’s likely that at some point you’ve spotted a device safely locked up in a box with all its lights flashing and all its cords and wires neatly tucked away. And you were never able to get your hands on it. Why? Because that box is designed specifically for that – to keep you and any other snoopers out while protecting an asset that not only controls their operations but something that they’ve invested in financially that deserves to be protected from the elements as well.
Think about the purchase of a new cell phone. The first add-ons to your purchase would likely be a screen guard and cover because these protect your phone. Makes sense, doesn’t it? This is the approach we should be taking with all our valuables, especially those that cost more than just a pretty penny. Thankfully, audio component racks don’t have to be as visually displeasing as those that we see in offices, and we can have our bread buttered on both sides when it comes down to style and practicality.
Of course, while the topic of audio racks may excite audiophiles and techno geeks, it’s not something that the average Joe finds tickling his fancy. But, quite frankly, the average Joe is exactly the person that needs to invest in an audio component rack since he probably doesn’t have the extra dollar lying around to replace or maintain his electronics when they break down due to negligence. And, after all, what good is it to have a beautiful home theater with unsightly cables and things that look as though they actually don’t belong there? So, let’s edify ourselves in the simplest way possible.
What Is An Audio Component Rack System?
Before we delve into this, what is an audio component system? A basic audio component system is made up of three pieces; the source- this can include turntables, cd/DVD/blue-ray players, a computer or even a streaming device, an amplifier, and speakers. While this as I’ve said is basic, there are other components that actually improve and enhance the performance of these basic pieces. With that being said, a standard, functional audio system is made up of five key components :
- An audio interface – this module conditions your sound and removes noise. Its heat signature is almost non-existent.
- A power conditioner – this regulates all power that runs through your equipment and has a higher and continuous heat signature.
- An amplifier – this is a key component that allows the adjustment of sound to achieve perfect aural quality, and its heat signature is small.
- A monitor management system – distributes sound to create a stereo effect with almost no heat at all.
- A multi-channel mic preamplifier – this piece is filled with micro-circuitry that produces a large amount of heat.
The beauty of this is that this system is “built-up” which means that pieces can be added whenever you wish. It’s completely understandable that a beginner may see fit to place their audio components on a shelf, but exposing ourselves to the science of sound and energy shows us why this isn’t such a good idea. You’re not just putting your equipment in danger, but you’re also compromising on sound, the very sound that you’ve spent time and money on. Every piece of equipment has a vibration signature which is magnified when placed on a shelf. Each piece also has its own heat signature, and since there isn’t much airflow encouraged on a shelf, it’s automatically at risk of overheating. Enter the audio component rack.
Think of an audio rack as furniture. You’ve just spent thousands on a sound system and it’s in your best interests to house or store it in furniture that’s designed to protect it from any dangers that may cause damage. This is what an audio rack does. So basically, audio racks are specialized furniture designed to keep your components safe and secure, without inhibiting their performance.
Most Important Consideration When Selecting An audio Component Rack System
An audio component rack should be at the top of your list of priorities when planning a home theater room layout. With all the options available in terms of size, and material, you’ll have no shortage of choice. The most important thing to consider when purchasing one would be the type of audio rack that you require. It’s a no brainer that sound system components have a myriad of wires and cables unless you are going wireless, and even these would still have a few cords. With this in mind, a good audio rack would have holes at the back of the cabinet for your cables and cords, keeping them out of sight and safe from damage.
Most standard audio racks are consistent in size, with a width of 19 inches and a height of 1.75 inches between each unit. Your decision would ultimately be based on your particular requirements in terms of the number of components you need to house, whether you’d want an enclosed or an open frame, your airflow and aesthetics. An audio rack is more than just a simple metal rack from your local store. It can be as utilitarian or as modern as you need it to be. It can be a plain and practical metal box or made of wood, glass or chrome. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you also have the option of having one custom made.
How To Select The Right Size Audio Component Rack System
Again size does matter. From the size of your room to the number of components that you need to house. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the importance of adding the audio rack element to the planning phase of your home theater. This makes selecting a size easier because you’ve already assessed your space. The only consideration left would be the number of components that you’d need to house, and it really won’t be a bad idea to leave a little space open for additions at a later stage.
Since most audio racks come in a standard size, the major difference would be in their actual height, and this is dependent on their units. You also want to leave a few spaces open for air venting, so it’s a good idea to start off with a rack of at least six to eight units. I know that open spaces can drive anyone insane, but these don’t need to be unsightly; you can cover them with blank panels that will also serve to improve your cooling system. These spaces can also be used for storage of your gear – just don’t overcrowd them.
The Best Materials For Audio Rack Systems
It does go deeper than just a little box doesn’t it! Back to the example of the phone that you use. After long periods of usage, it’s likely to feel a little hotter to the touch. It’s the same with your audio equipment. After periods of use, energy turns into heat, and it would make sense to select a material that is able to withstand this without compromising your sound.
A stereo rack made of plastic will unlikely hold up to the phonic resonations over time. Metal tends to overheat and invites a brittle echo to your sound. Wood, on the other hand, is rigid, dense and durable, and will give good protection to your items. High-quality wood is therefore highly recommended. Not only does it fit in well with enhancing acoustics because of its density, but it’s also naturally resonant and can be decorated to match your interior designs.
Types Of Audio Rack Systems
There are a million different styles of racks, but all of these can generally be thrown into three different categories:
- Basic stereo racks – these are the cheapest and most suitable for the average Joe to use at home
- Portable racks – these are durable and as the name suggests, can be moved around easily
- Premium stereo racks – this is something to consider for those that have the resources to afford it. They are rather pricey but offer amazing features such as temperature control and noise reduction
What Audio Rack System Is Best For My Home Theater
Before considering a stereo rack that’s ideal for your home, think again about all the elements that affect this decision. While you need something practical that actually does what it should do, you’re defeating the purpose if it compromises your quality of sound. Based on the three categories mentioned above, as well as considerations of the material, the size of your room, your number of pieces and your budget, the choice is yours. There are a variety of options available for home use, including the Startech 8 unit open-frame rack, the Odyssey carpeted studio rack and the Samsung SRK-12 rack stand.
It is, however, helpful to bear in mind the acoustics and soundproofing aspects of your home theater. If you’ve soundproofed your home theater, you need to consider that this restricts airflow, and you may want to consider an audio rack with a cooling function, bearing in mind that you need to keep the ambient temperature around your equipment at below 85°F. On the other hand, if your audio rack is standard, the onus is on you to create a space that would support proper thermal control. In order to allow natural airflow through your equipment, start out by placing the component with the highest heat signature at the top, and continue your arrangement in order of heat signature. This creates an effect that draws cooler air from the bottom.