The Arcici Suspense Rack
Arcici, Inc. Box 704,
Set-up and Preliminary Suspense
The Arcici rack has garnered rave reviews from ‘The Absolute Sound’ and ‘Bound for Sound’, so clearly deserved a listen. My existing rack was a ca. 7 year old Premier modular rack—reasonable, but a far cry from the best, with wood shelves and rather chintzy spike supports for the shelves. The Arcici rack arrived in four different boxes and required a surprising amount of labor to assemble, in my case portions of four days. The clever idea behind the Arcici is that a top shelf and four lower shelves are all air suspended, thus presumably minimizing vibrational effects on components. Parts were of high quality and everything was included, avoiding the all too common calls to the manufacturer for missing items. The Suspense has two wooden box enclosures, one of which sits on short feet on the floor and to which are bolted the four metal vertical supports. The other box enclosure is bolted to the tops of the metal supports and contains four wheelbarrow inner tubes that are the heart of the system. Both wooden enclosures are constructed of good quality hardwood but arrived unfinished and were stained an awful reddish color that invoked immediate wife acceptance factor. This necessitated that I burn two days to sand down the enclosures, re-stain them a more civilized walnut color and then finish them with three coats of high quality semi-gloss varnish. After all this, the enclosures looked good, as they should have straight from the manufacturer. Further assembly went smoothly, albeit considerable time was required. The inner tubes in the upper box were inflated and a heavy (ca. 70 pound) steel plate was set onto them. From holes near the corners of the steel plate, four T-bolts suspended long screw rods onto which, in turn, threaded T-bolts and padded washers were screwed to determine shelf heights. It turned out to be very laborious to position the threaded T-bolts, but once they and their associated washers on top were positioned and leveled, the attractive acrylic shelves could be inserted with no trouble. After components were placed onto the shelves (four suspended acrylic shelves come standard plus another acrylic shelf positioned on top of the steel plate for source components), valves located on the back of the top wooden box were used to further inflate or deflate the inner tubes in order to empirically get desired acoustic properties (yes, we are dealing with a tuning device here).
How it Sounded
Once assembled, I set the Arcici rack up close to the existing Premier rack and A/Bed the Krell CD player between the two racks. Surprisingly, the Arcici rack did not provide much change in the sonic character of the system, a finding somewhat at odds with the rave reviews noted above. Bear in mind that I had evolved over time with the Premier rack to use Black Diamond Racing (BDR) #3 cones between the CD player and the excellent BDR Shelf for the Source (all 30 pounds worth!), and also found that using multiple Vibrapods between the Shelf and top of the equipment rack made major improvements. When I used the CD player directly on the top shelves of the Arcici or the Premier racks with no BDR stuff, the Arcici showed a major sonic improvement, as it should have—no contest there. However, after messing with various permutations of BDR cones/shelf and Vibrapods on the Arcici rack, I concluded that these further improved the perception of natural imaging and instrument position, as well as high end purity. Accordingly, I ended up with exactly the same array of BDR and Vibrapods with the Arcici rack as used previously with the Premier. I characterize the system sound with the Arcici rack under these conditions relative to the Premier as slightly improved for midrange timber and clarity, the treble was slightly cleaned up and extended, but little if any change was noted in the bass frequencies or in soundstaging/imaging. To give music examples, two well recorded string CDs provided useful comparisons. The cello and violin on ‘Music for a Glass Bead Game’ (John Marks JMR15) and ‘Auer, Delmoni, and Rosen’ (Clarity CCD-1007) were improved, especially in the top registers by the Arcici rack relative to the Premier, both used with the ancillary isolation items. The Arcici rack seemed to provide greater purity and resolution, especially in the treble and upper mid range, but differences were small and required careful attention to certain notes/passages. Thus, while providing marginal benefit as compared to the Premier rack (with the BDR/Vibrapods), the Arcici (also with the BDR equipment/Vibrapods) was not revelatory, instead providing only incremental improvement in my system.
The next step was to position the amplifiers onto the lower acrylic shelves of the Arcici rack. This was quite a chore, with the Krell amp placed on the bottom shelf and the KR monoblocks on the next two shelves (for a total weight of about 360 pounds!). All amps were placed on BDR #3 cones or a mixture of #3 and #4 and the Krell amp used ‘those things’ under the points of the cones. This left only one remaining Arcici shelf, which was used for the Adcom 5 disc player—thus, there is no room for future components. Disappointingly, little or no difference was noted in the sonic signature of the system with the amps on the Suspense rack relative to their former placement on a three inch slab of granite on the floor with black Diamond Racing cones and ‘Those Things’ between the amps and the granite. This conclusion was true based on jazz, piano and vocal pop material to large scale orchestral music.
Arcici recommends inflating the inner tubes to provide about 1/8 inch of clearance between the upper steel plate and the wooden box holding the inner tubes. Increasing or decreasing the clearance made small differences in sound, with a more analytical character obtained by over-inflating and a more lush, but mushy character observed with severe under-inflation. I ended up liking a clearance of about ¼ inch, but preferences will vary and will depend on system considerations such as other isolation components, power cords and cables, and naturally front end and amplifier components as well as speakers--we are in part talking about tonality tuning here!
I ended up keeping the Suspense rack, but that decision was predicated as much on its larger shelves as on sonic bliss. The Arcici Suspense rack is very functional, with large shelves that will hold virtually any component and is a beautiful piece of furniture (at least when the wooden pieces are properly finished). The rack is solidly built and would appear likely to offer long life and high performance. As others have stated, the inner tubes do not seem to leak air at a significant rate, thus avoiding frequent inflation. Relative to components set directly on shelves of lesser racks, the Arcici can be expected to provide a major sonic improvement. However, in comparison to the outdated and much cheaper Premier rack tricked out with Black Diamond equipment/Vibrapods, the Arcici offered only a small, incremental improvement overall. Accordingly, in view of the substantial cost of the Arcici Suspense rack, only audiophiles with top tier components (and budgets) should apply.
Von Schweikert VR-8 speakers with the silver internal wire option were set up in a large room about 6 feet from one side wall and more than 15 feet from the other (only 29 inches from the front wall proved to give the best bass compromise) in an irregular California style split level living area of greater than 25,000 cubic feet. The back wall was not parallel, with the furthest point about 45 feet away from the speakers. The floor has a moderately thick carpet and the ceiling is open wood-beamed cathedral, angling up and away from the speaker position. The speakers sound good in this location without room treatment (not to say the usual tricks would not improve things), almost a necessity due to WAF. The speakers were separated by about 12 feet center to center and the listening position was about 11 feet from the speaker center line between drivers of the two speakers. Only slight toe-in proved the best compromise for imaging and sound-staging since the speakers are not particularly directional. Amplifiers were the Krell FPB600 and/or the KR Enterprises VT8000MK monoblocks run singly or bi-amped. CDs only were used as source material through a Krell KPS-20iL CD player run directly into the amplifiers through Harmonic Technology Truth Link interconnects. An Adcom GCD600 5 disc player was utilized for entertainment music through the Krell DACs and sounds surprisingly good. Speaker cables were Harmonic Technology Pro-9 cables run bi-wire to the bass and mid/tweeter modules of the VR-8es. Magnan Signature and Electraglide ReferenceGlide power cords also provided noteworthy improvements in the sound.
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