Artesania Exoteryc Shelfless Rack
Do you believe in serendipity? Do you think when all of a sudden, just when the universe sends gifts your way that it's “meant to be?” Or just some statistical fluke? I tend to dismiss them as a weird statistical noise of sort and move on with my life. Here is a "meant to be" situation which I almost dismissed as a statistical fluctuation.
I've always been very keen on vibration control for my components. Early demonstration of benefits of vibration control by audio guru Bill Brassington made me a true believer in the benefits of component isolation long ago. Almost immediately, I dished my stylish Bell'O glass equipment rack and ventured in to the deep and mysterious world of high-end isolation racks. Through my trails and tribulations I ended up settling on Solid Tech's Rack of Silence. The large 5-shelf model offered enough room for me to try a combination of different tweaks for each component. Of course, this means I tried everything: rollerballs, footers, pucks, magnets and cones. Many were sandwiched between, on top and under carbon fiber, marble, wood or acrylic shelves. Needless to say, countess hours were spent attempting to fine-tune my rack. And to some degree I think I was successful at obtaining a sound that was highly resolving and enjoyable. As time went by I ventured into purchasing a vinyl rig and that presented problems as space became an issue.
The arrival of the massive (four-chassis) Jadis JP200 preamp forced me realize rather quick and abruptly that I finally outgrew my Solid Tech iso-rack. Looking for a solution, I called cable guru Serguei Timachev, owner of Stealth Audio Cables. Over the years Timachev has demonstrated a keen ear and eye for outstanding products. "Artesania Audio..." were his first and only words of advice on the subject of my finding a new iso-rack. Timachev informed that me that – a few of his dealers in Europe and some of his customers were swearing by the Artsania Audio iso-rack. An hour later George Vatchnadze of Kyomi Audio Chicago calls me to share his experience at the Munich Show (2012) and gave me and earful on these new wonderful looking spanish built racks. Obviously impressed by what he witnessed, George went on to express his interest in becoming a US dealer.
As soon as George hung up I got call from Clement Perry (CP). He also gave me plenty on the Munich Show and at the end of our conversation asked me if I would be interested in hearing a great isolation from Italy – Exoteric Rack made by, of course Artesania Audio. That’s when I put it all together: Serguei Timachev and George were talking about same shelf! Three honorable mentions in one day! And on top of it an offer to a possible review (since I mentioned months earlier my desire and write again). Not to mention how desperately I needed a new rack. So I selfishly told CP it would be my honor to hear this newest rack from Artesania Audio.
After going over configuration I told CP my ideal system requirements would be two 4-tier racks. One with a glass top to support my Acoustic Solid Royal turntable and one without for my electronics. Upon their delivery some weeks later, I had a couple audiophile friends come down and assist me. As we opened both crates boxes down we all shook our heads in disbelief. I’ve seen many pictures of the Artesania Exoteryc and knowing the price, I expected to see another good looking rack. It’s not just a beautifully built, but the overall attention to detail and the quality of workmanship places them in an entirely different category. The Exoteryc screams high quality with zero glitter. The Esoteryc comes to do a job. And I love its ulitarian dress code.
The Exoteryc's outer-frame is made of four high-density metal tubes that support four independent metal support beams. The metal tubes, I'm told, are filled with a damping material to ward off any hint of ring and resonance. Each of tier (4) of support are smartly designed on nylon bushings to serve as shock absorbers. By the way, each support beam is fully height adjustable thanks to the stainless steel metal rods which support them. My only job after getting the Exoteryc out of its crate was finding the correct width for each component to rest atop the nylon fitted feet. Lastly, the base spikes that support the entire Exoteryc were designed with huge chrome cups to guard against damaging wooden floors or carpet.
We listened to my system for a good half-hour for reminder's sake. The three-man setup turned out to be a breeze (thanks in part to the very informative video on YouTube). It took, maybe 45 minutes total. And that included breaking down and removing the old rack. Keep in mind, I've two Exoteryc racks side by side. One with its beautiful three-layered glass laminate top to support my vinyl rig. The other is without. Of course, I am proud to announce that I was able to get all of my components on the Exoteryc and that includes the 4-chassis Jadis preamp as well.
Less is More
Our first impression was that the sound had not changed much. Maybe, a hair more presence and air and bloom. But these differences were oh so small I wondered whether it was my imagination. I was frazzled. My cohorts John and Alex agreed the differences were not night and day. John admitted to hearing a slight improvement while Alex claimed the system sounded no different. I started to become disappointed until John pointed at the HUGE pile of tweaks resting in the middle of the floor. He rolled his eyes and exclaimed – “Dude – the Exoteryc is doing same thing ALL THAT attempted to do!” Then, it hit me – it took me years to optimize these tweaks under my components. Years, I remind you. The Artesania Exoteryc rack was performing at the same or slightly higher right out of the box! In my case, the addition of Artesania - and the subtraction of about $10k in tweaks - maintained the panoramic soundstage I've come admire in my Perfect 8 line-source loudspeakers (model The Force). Midbass, for example sounded slightly more neutral. But to my taste, lighter and with less weight. Voices however, remained engaging and holographic while high frequencies retained their life and luster.
So, as expected, we tried to tweak it.
Different shelves, cones, spikes, rollersballs etc. Almost all of the combinations made the sound worse. Some combinations were able to maintain a high level of performance. but nothing really improved the overall performance. One set of nylon feet sounded better under DAC than the Polyurethane feet. In the end, the same story kept coming back – the Exoteryc rack sounds best as is. My Acoustic Solid turntable sitting atop the three-tier glass shelf only reinforced my position as to this being an easy candidate for the best rack I have encountered due to the sense of substance it added to the bottom end of my beloved vinyl rig . Further, it's among the only rack that I have ever heard that proved tweak-proof. I discovered just turning up the bass, ever so slightly, on my woofer's crossover gave me the added weight I desired in the midbass. Now, for some reason, the sound of the midbass, after a small adjustment, had improved the speed and timbre. Go figure. Maybe this is due to the midbass coming more from the source rather than the rack (and the plethora of tweaks)? Perhaps. But one thing is certain, I can hear the difference. More importantly, I like the differences.
After about two months of comparing a VAC reference pre against the Jadis, it was relinquished into a second system in another part of the house. My significant other then posed a very honest question "Since you no longer need racks capable of holding nine components how do you justify buying such an expensive rack?" "Very simple, I responded. - I sold my entire arsenal of tweaks from my other rack and purchased the Exoteryc!" The Exoteryc also gives me the extra space required to move components in and out. I also find the Exoteryc very convenient for future reviewing duties due to it being infinitely more flexible. To me the Exoteryc is a clear winner even without its gorgeous looks, wonderful ergonomics and easy accessibility. It’s a keeper based purely on the safety and sonic merits. In addition to that everybody compliment me on the looks and my girlfriend loves the look.
CP came over for a regular Saturday afternoon visit some weeks after the Exoteryic's installation. I make no apologies that I do get a little nervous when CP comes. And for good reason. First, he's got perhaps the finest system I have heard anywhere bar none (and I'm not saying that because he's my editor or friend, I say that because it is actually true). His system has become legendary in these parts so you can ask anyone that has visited his place if you don't believe me. What's more frustrating is you don't get the level of sound he's obtained by simply buying wildly expensive gear. Trust me, I know because I have spent way too much already trying to surpass his sound. I think I might have equaled it with the addition of these racks. Needless to say I was nervous as to what he might hear. Surprisingly, all he had to say after putting on one of his music samplers was "Wow Leon, the speed, body and overall articulation has taken a huge leap forward. This is easily the best your system has sounded. Congratulations!"
After living with Artesania Exoteryc racks since the fall of 2012, and doing some additional experimentation, I discovered, believe it or not, that grounding the racks using the provided ground straps improved their performance considerably. In my case, I grounded them to an independent ground – preferably a true earth ground - located in my backyard. This removed an additional layer of low-level grunge and gave my system a better insights to its inner details and dynamics. I also found the Artesania accessory called the Disk Weights, do in fact improve the performance of lighter made products such as an inexpensive PC DAC, DVD player or Music Server.
I've since become settled in with my new Artesania racks and admit that I'm enjoying my system's overall performance like never before. The overall sense of freedom of constriction or constrain in the low frequencies has given bass greater definition.
In the end, I put in a lot of the time putting my former rack together. I've not had the Artesania Audio Exoteryc for a fraction of that time and it has eclipsed my reference with well over $10k - $15k worth of tweaks added on top of its $5k asking price! I now can conclude that not only does the Artesania Exoteryc isolation platform work but I found its performance to be surprisingly effective at lowing the noise floor and allowing the music to come through in most neutral, clean and three-dimensional manner.
All in all I love this rack even more. I'm just glad that when serendipity came and knocked on my front door, someone was home.
Artesania Exoteryc Rack Specifications:
4-tier rack: Price $6500.00
4-tier with glass top: $9500.00
US Importer: Audio 202