We live in a world today in which everything seems to be labelled either family-run or handmade. What once were vernacular rosettes to be worn with pride and prestige have, largely through their ubiquity, become more than a bit preachy.
That’s why we must thank companies such as Hi-Fi Racks for safeguarding ‘handmade’ and ‘family-run’ from becoming entirely synonymous with spreading artisan pickles onto sourdough bread (whatever that is).
It’d be difficult, in fact, to imagine a more honest beginning than that of this now Award-winning business. Quite simply, Bradley Walters, now Managing Director, needed a rack for his own hi-fi system. So he built one.
Then he built more. He built bespoke racks for customers to whom he delivered them himself, sponging feedback as he developed his craft. And that, minus the personal delivery, is pretty much how it’s been since.
And that’s also why you pay £900 for a three-tier Grand Stand, but only the same pro rata for any customisation – table dimensions or leg length – and can be sure you’re getting premium hardwood.
Ease of use
Now, when we say handmade, you’ll be doing some of the making with your own hands. It’s dead easy to follow, and takes us only about half an hour, but does take a bit of stiff twisting to get the legs square and tight.
Once built, essentially it looks just like a conventional hi-fi rack. In no way is that meant to be a criticism; from the moment you lift the first piece from the box and inhale that new wood smell, you know the onus is on quality rather than gimmick.
You’ll need to factor in the size – it’s quite bulky, with the legs supporting the top tier but running along the edges of the other shelves. It means that a unit is wider and deeper than your largest shelf – but, unless you’re extremely short on space, that’s likely only to be a case of placement or system configuration.
Less easy to remedy is the fact that the legs aren’t adjustable. If you have an uneven floor, as with a wonky pub table, you’ll have to balance it with whatever you can find.
Loading the Grand Stand with a Rega Elex-R amplifier and Cyrus CDi CD player, connected with ATC’s SCM11 stereo speakers – all three 2015 What Hi-Fi? Award winners – we begin by playing The National’s Trouble Will Find Me album.
Though our gear isn’t yet fully fired, we are already able to bask in the smooth glow of I Should Live In Salt’s opening chords.
There’s a good amount of detail too as texture builds and different guitars strum and squeal, separating while issuing a charismatic, full-bodied performance. The Grand Stand particularly helps our system deliver the velvet-upholstered baritone of Matt Berninger’s voice.
Tracks such as Demons and Slipped benefit most, with delicate and tonally deep vocal lines afforded enough anchor not to let their impetus be lost. Still, despite its gloss, there is enough grit to force through more immediate tracks such as Sea Of Love and Graceless. In short, it aids the system in releasing a thoroughly engaging listen.
So where are the holes we’ve picked? Well it’s only really upon comparison. Using the same system with the Award-winning Atacama Evoque Eco 60-40 Special Edition, the soundscape is clearly more open and, as we listen on, the music tends to knit better rhythmically and in terms of organisation.
Then there’s the price. While we truly appreciate the craftsmanship involved in creating a Hi-Fi Racks product, we review based on a performance per pound basis.
Sadly, £900 for three shelves is too steep a jump on the £525 we’d pay Atacama to house the same amount of equipment, which we think, acts as a conduit for better sound.
In that sense, it’s an odd three stars to award. If the solid hardwood, craftsmanship and smooth, full-bodied sound suits your taste and hi-fi pairing, place your money here.
In true handmade style, Hi-Fi Racks says no two racks are the same – and that’s a good ethos to share when picking one out for yourself.
See all our hi-fi rack reviews