POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 40
the Dakota Collection of racks and stands
as reviewed by Peter Davey
Furniture… Not something you think about when it comes to listening to music. For some people aesthetics come into play just as much as function, for others it is just not important. I've met all types of people in this industry, some insist on keeping all of their equipment (price varies) on the ground. Some want it stacked neatly next to each other. Some people just throw it on a cheap table and call it a day. Well, if you knew me you'd know that it's almost as important as the equipment that I own (on an audio level.) Most of the people I know also feel that anything in the room of your equipment has a particular resonant frequency and can alter your perception of the sound. Scientifically speaking, that statement is true but I'm no expert, I go for what sounds good, right? Well, if it looks good that also influences my decision quite a bit. There, I said it.
The audio room doubles as a great room in my home. This means that it's publically visible to anyone entering my residence; it's not a dedicated listening room per-se. I also happen to share my habitat with a significant other, meaning she has some influence on the décor. I've been able to get away with having huge Apogee speakers, so why not make the rest of the system nice and clean? I had my speakers finished in birch plywood by a master craftsman and I figured, it sure would look nice if I could get some audio furniture in a comparable fashion.
Looking for furniture that has "form AND function" isn't an easy task! Well, it's easy if your pocketbooks are huge, I suppose. I happen to prefer wood; my floors are hard wood as are my speakers. Hell, most of my furniture is made of wood, dining tables, book shelves; I guess there's just something about it that puts my visual cortex at ease. There are all sorts of furniture out there made of acrylic, carbon fiber, glass, etc. It really depends on your taste obviously. At any rate, if you go to your favorite store, you don't really have many options when it comes to equipment furniture. Most of it is machine made, flimsy, light. This stuff can't be good for the sound!
It got to the point to where I decided to make my own stuff. While it wasn't that great looking (or sturdy) it did the job. Up until this point I had given up on trying to find the right stuff. Most of my buddies that had nice furniture couldn't remember where it was from or most likely it wasn't in production anymore. Well… I can't remember the series of events that lead me up to meeting Jim Pendleton of Osage Audio, but I'm sure glad I did. I was told that he probably had exactly what I was looking for. I gave him a call and wow I was blown away. Never have I met someone so passionate about audio furniture, from its creation to its influence on the sound! We spoke for a good hour and a half on the phone and it was then that I knew I had to give this stuff a try.
Now, normally when purchasing equipment racks, you simply choose the finish you'd like and that's it. Osage Audio was genuinely interested in the gear that I had, so that they could tailor the measurements accordingly. What a concept! Some equipment produces more heat than others some require more space on top. After going down a list of what I currently owned, we finally decided on the spaces between the racks.
One thing to keep in mind is that this furniture is custom. It is created in America by skilled craftsman and these things take time to get right. While discussing the length of time it would take to create, I was told he had a vinyl rack ready for me to try out as well. I never really gave much though to my vinyl collection as it's not as huge as I'd like it to be, but it sure would be nice to have a dedicated shelf for it! This comes from their James River collection, and is finished in Cognac Cherry.
As you can see, it's a nice dark Cherry finish. There are no details left out! The sides are braced with same type of wood as well for a few reasons, to keep the vinyl from slipping out, and for rigidity. Most of you out there know how heavy vinyl can get. Rest assured the engineering put into this equipment is no joke. The bottoms are terminated with adjustable spike stands, and as an option you can have disks that match their finish to keep your nice floor from getting damaged. These isolation spikes play a lot more into the design than just for looks, the key word here being isolation. I'm no physicist, but I can tell you that the less interaction one piece has with another while being just as structurally sound can really cut down on transferred resonations. Did I mention the word modular, too? At the top of each post there is a spot waiting for a rack above. These are stackable folks (to a limit of course!) What about if you're done stacking? There are nice little inserts to be used as finishers.
Like I mentioned earlier, I don't have a lot of vinyl so there wasn't any need to move above one tier. What I love about this furniture is that I can keep it out in the open and I don't have to hide my music anymore! I receive compliments every time people come over, and most of the people I interact with aren't audio enthusiasts whatsoever. Well, if I start to endeavor into vinyl, at least I have the option of stacking another unit on top for more space. Future proof …I love it.
All right. Well, several weeks go by and I get a call from Jim saying that they were ready to ship but had to postpone for a few days longer. I'm starting to get anxious but have to exhume patience, after all quality and craftsmanship is hard to come by these days. Jim mentions that they had a little issue with the wood finishing process and they wanted it to be perfect so they did a piece over again. I thought to myself, wow, who does that anymore? Can you say quality? Ok. A week goes by and I am told now that they are en-route to me! I receive two large boxes and whip out the dolly. Let me tell you guys, moving this gear isn't a one man job. You can tell right away that this stuff isn't your run-of-the mill "insert chain store here" furniture.
I open up the packaging and am greeted by foam… lots and lots of foam, and paper. After digging through a few layers of foam, insulation and paper, I start to see it! Wow, these are really packaged nicely. This box could have been thrown off of a building and survived (read UPS/FedEx proof.) I like it! After removing the instruction manual, I then started to remove layer after layer of foam and wood. I started to see the shelves, and then the feet, then a bag of discs to put underneath the spikes. This is so cool!
To the right are the rack equipment shelves. To the left are two bigger ones that I'll get into later. You're probably wondering, what in the world is the black part for? These are actually the bottoms of the shelves, removable lids. Wait, back up here. Am I saying that these have compartments within? Yes. Oh yes. This means you can fill these up with any material you see fit for sound deadening. There is a lot out there for this purpose alone, and everyone has their own opinion as to what sounds best. Jim was telling me that I could use loose sand if I wished, but recommended that I enclose it inside of an airtight bag (i.e. zip lock.) I can certainly understand why, you wouldn't want this stuff getting all over the place. Between the lid and the shelf is a special rubber gasket that seals the lid from the environment, keeping whatever you put in there in there for good.
I decided for now to leave them empty to see how it sounds and feels after it was put together. I figured if I wanted to add material later I always could but it's always good to have a baseline. Looking at the instruction manual, not many tools were required. I got out my level, pliers, Phillips (cross) screw driver, and a HAMMER! Ok, just kidding... I didn't need my hammer, but it made me feel manly. Besides, you never know. Don't get me wrong, this was extremely easy to put together and even someone with no experience in this field will have no issues whatsoever.
Ok, so I should mention the finish that was chosen for this review. As you can see it's the lighter shade of Maple. Absolutely beautiful, when it was moved from the boxes the lacquer job was of the best quality I've witnessed. Super smooth and had a nice satin look to it. Keeping these dust free would be very simple, all that is required is a sort of feather duster. Osage refers to this as their "Dakota Collection." There are many options to choose from as far as tiers (levels) and finish. I felt that this combination matched my speakers and room most.
With regards to assembly, all that was required was to attach the legs to the shelves; this was done with one screw each and is very secure. After that, you attach the lid to seal up the cavity within. The bottom shelf gets the shortest legs and the upper shelves get the longer legs. If you have custom heights, this is where you pay close attention to where you place the shelves. They're all identical so it really doesn't matter however one shelf does have their logo branded into the wood, I preferred that one on top.
There you see the finished product. Like the vinyl rack mentioned above, the tops of each leg has an opening to stack another shelf on. If you are finished stacking (5 tiers is the recommended maximum I believe) then put the finishing caps in place. Here is a picture of two shelves, stacked.
A close-up shot of where the spike sits into the leg. As you can see you use their disks in here as well. The main reason for this is that natural wood will shift a bit depending on the relative humidity… using disks beneath the spikes allows for a secure fit that is adjustable.
Here is how it looks with another tier and the finishing caps on top.
What about those larger shelves you ask? Well, those are dedicated amplifier stands. After all, these are usually high-dollar pieces of equipment and keeping them isolated from the floor can have a large effect on both the sound and the longevity of the amplifier. I opted for two of these because at first I was planning on running two Plinius SA-250 Mark IV amplifiers for my power-hungry Apogee Scintilla's, but ended up with only one doing the job, and it was plenty! I must say though this beast of an amplifier weighs a good 150lbs. Jim took down the make and model of my amplifier and created a custom sized amplifier stand. Let me tell you, it came out perfectly sized and has no issues with the weight on top.
One other thing I almost forgot to mention, are their cable isolators/stands. There are a plethora of these out there, but matching maple? I couldn't resist, I had to get these to review as well, a very simple design with a cutout that is sized to the cables that you own. Each one has their logo branded on it as well, very nice.
Alright, so I'm guessing most of you are wondering, does it sound as nice as it looks? Then some of you are also probably wondering what is this guy talking about, sound? Yes, it's furniture. Like I mentioned earlier everything in your listening environment has a huge effect on how things sound. The most influential is usually what your equipment is standing on!
I noticed a huge change here. It almost reminded me of when I switched to my power conditioner (PS Audio Ultimate.) I had no idea that an audio rack and stands could change the entire synergy of a system. The effect is extremely positive in my opinion, everything sounded much richer, smoother. During quiet passages the micro dynamics present were oh so more evident! What did I hear? I heard quietness. How does one exactly hear quietness? Well, that's subjective, but after having a system comprised of cheap stands, furniture, etc I can tell you that it's very enjoyable. To say that something doesn't impose onto a system is simply impossible.
Here are a few shots of the equipment in use...
I can tell you that this is some of the sturdiest, most aesthetically pleasing audio equipment furniture that I've ever come across. I can't recommend it enough. If you are on the fence and need that last finishing touch of elegance, look no further. Highly recommended. Peter Davey