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The Neoteric Listener - The Butcher Block Acoustics Rigidrack 3 Shelf Rack

09-20-2019 | By Dean Seislove | Issue 105

I don't suppose I'm alone in admiring those who can really work with their hands. Years ago, while serving a semester-long sentence in woodshop, I envied my pals who could cut, glue, plane, and sand mundane articles like planters and bowls into magnificent works of craftsmanship. Not being able to do any of this, I quickly found myself sitting on a stool on the other side of the room. Here, the inept and indifferent haphazardly labored on projects both assigned and illicit, with no expectation of ever actually bringing anything into being. There was plenty of noise and nonsense, but no serving trays, book ends, pipes or nunchucks ever saw the light of day from this crew. Eventually, I was offered the chance to take a gift "C" if I would just go away to somewhere, anywhere, else. So, I found myself reading novels in the class of another teacher (the tale told on my side of the shop class was that she was dating the woodshop teacher, but that's a scandal for another time). I was given the bargain of a free pass, "No hassle for you, no hassle for me!" Ah, the seventies. But, whatever…deal! 

Anyway, I never lost my appreciation for the kids on the capable side of the room, who were busily making skateboards, fruit bowls, and lovely end tables, all perfectly shaped, sanded, and stained. You would think getting cut from the Woodshop B squad would have set me on a path of polyurethane forever, but despite my total lack of usefulness, it only kindled a love for fine woodworking that continues to this day. Consequently, I appreciate that high-end audio is a place where artfully crafted woodwork abounds, and no less so than in a product like the Butcher Block Acoustics Rigidrack 3 Shelf Rack. (For those who are not familiar with Butcher Block Acoustics, I highly recommend reading Robert S. Youman's fascinating review HERE).

Butcher Block Acoustics Rigidrack 3 Shelf Rack

The Rigidrack is a stoutly constructed, aesthetically pleasing three shelf rack, featuring 1½" thick maple shelves and tapered 1½" legs. My review sample measured 60" x 18", which provided more than ample room for my turntable and several phono stages, integrated amps, and DACs that I had on review. You might feel that a 60" x 18" piece of audio furniture would dominate a room, but the Rigidrack looked stylish and sleek against the back wall of my small listening room. Although the Rigidrack was technically in between the Nola Boxer S3 speakers sitting on their stands, I set it several feet behind the speakers to minimize any possible impact on optimal sound. I was concerned that placing the rack between the speakers at any proximity might affect the imaging, soundstage, or presence of the speakers. All seemed in order but, to be sure, I later moved the Rigidrack to the side wall at the rear of the room to see if there was any audible changes. Truly, I didn't hear much of a difference due to placement, and the fact that the Rigidrack did not negatively impact the sound could owe to the rack's open architecture and relatively compact height. The relatively flexible positioning of the rack allowed me to keep the Rigidrack in its most functional location and avoid running long cables across the floor, always a good thing.  As an added bonus, the open architecture design provided more than adequate airflow for both the all-tube, (and all-warm) Acoustic Research Vi75 and the Glow Audio Amp Two integrated amplifiers playing for hours on end. 

My all-maple review Rigidrack handsomely complimented the room's dark wood floors, and elicited nods of approval from family and friends alike. Unlike the rest of the house, where I reside as a mere figurehead with no investiture of actual governing authority, I have somewhat more existential worth in the listening room. Unfortunately, the room has gotten away from me. Quite frankly, it has become an ungovernable eyesore of mismatched audio gear that is forever threatened to be enveloped by acoustic wall treatments, cables, and abandoned audio esoterica. Consigning the prim and stately Rigidrack to this audio barnyard, I'm surprised it didn't stalk out of the room on its finely tapered maple legs. Once settled in, though, it gave flair to the room, thus mitigating some of my more questionable design choices. This is all to say that, if you value the aesthetic touch that tasteful wood furniture adds to one's interior, I suspect you'll be very pleased with the Rigidrack's contribution to your home's décor.

The Rigidrack's options for feet include ½" gold spikes or their patented Snaplock Level-It Feet w/Neoprene pad. Leveling heavy furniture is a royal pain, especially if one is trying to do it alone. Happily, everything went smoothly, as the Level-It Feet work as designed. My bubble level showed that the Rigidrack was dead on. If you've ever tried to perfectly level a turntable on a sloping surface, I'm sure you can relate to how pleased I was to find the Rigidrack's heftiness and, um, rigidity, made it a solid bulwark against shakes and wobbles. 

The Rigidrack replaced an unbranded audio rack employing a wood frame and glass shelves resting on steel supports. I purchased this rack from a manufacturer who had used it to show his wares at various audio shows. It was very nice in appearance, but I always worried that the previous owner might have overstated the weight limits of the glass shelves. I was haunted by a vision of my turntable and phono stage cascading down through three glass shelves, taking out a raft of electronics, and all of it crashing in a tumultuous explosion of shattered tubes, dented metal, and smoldering wire. The next vision was me packing my bags after unsuccessfully explaining to my beloved the scorched wreckage in the middle of our fine wood floors. I was careful, and none of that happened, but let's just say I was reassured by the Rigidrack's 500 pound load capacity for each thick, kiln-dried shelf, firmly secured in its attached shelf brackets. 

Butcher Block Acoustics asserts that, "Most, if not all, high-end audio components emit a signal that causes unwanted vibration. Our hardwood platforms absorb and dissipate that energy." If you've ever delved into the online debate about rack materials and design (and more's the pity for you if you have) you know that it quickly veers into a pigsty scrum, where armchair mechanical engineers, metallurgists, and conspiracy theorists futilely slog about in the muck. None of that for me, thanks. At this point, I'm just going to say that switching out my glass and wood shelf rack with the Rigidrack made an improvement in the sound. No, I can't definitively say that the improvement in sound owed to the Rigidrack's maple magic. But maybe it did. Certainly, getting glass shelves out of an overly lively listening room was a step in the right direction. As noted earlier, perhaps the improvements came from the open architecture and compact shape. Maybe my satisfaction with the sound could be from the psychological boost produced by seeing a neatly spaced display of audio gear sitting atop of lovely veined maple shelves. Who knows? 

Listen, I'm as dazzled as anyone else by those ten grand aircraft aluminum racks with NASA approved certification. Everything makes a difference, and I'm sure that an elite, high dollar system benefits greatly from an the world's priciest and most complicated audio rack. In my home and at my budget, however, the sound and aesthetic appeal of finely crafted wood furniture works perfectly. Evaluating the Rigidrack as a home for precious audio components, I keep coming back to Eastwood's line in Pale Rider, "There's nothing like a good piece of hickory" (allowing for difference in wood type and minus the disconcerting beat down of cowboy toughs). 

In addition to its sonic qualities, the Rigidrack comes in either three or four shelf models. You can choose from maple or walnut. Personally, I prefer the stunningly beautiful walnut shelves and maple legs model. If I sound pretty fired up over audio furniture, I guess it's because I see the Butcher Block Acoustics Rigidrack as a product that will deliver lasting value for the life of one's audio adventure. Long after this or that cartridge or cable or other momentary diversion is sold or broken, your steady, stylish rack rocks on. Though I still have no hope of ever building anything as lovely and functional as the Rigidrack, at least I'm capable of admiring it for its worth. Very highly recommended. 

Rigidrack 3 Shelf Rack 

Retail: $1514 (as reviewed)

Butcher Block Acoustics