Artesania Exoteryc Audiorack 3 shelf version (part 4)
Due to my ever-expanding CD player collection I was running out of space in my Artesania rack. The solution: to add more racks.
But surely the extra racks would have to carry the Artesania brand name. But not only would they provide space for extra CD players, they would also house the power amps.
Retail price in the Netherlads for the 3-shelf version reviewed here: 5075 euro
In spite of my best efforts (and naturally Artesania’s), not many people are familiar with the brand, and that has got to change. I know audiophiles are part of a market niche, but even in those circles, people are familiar with Finite Elemente and Copulare, but not Artesania. Price certainly may have something to do with this, likely prohibiting retailers to add them to their portfolio in the first place. Then again, I can think of several other luxury high end audio furniture brands that do get frequent coverage. So, I am here to tell you all that these racks are so fabulously built, so luxurious in use and so benefitical to the sound, that they really deserve an audition.
I was already a fan of the brand after the purchase of my first rack, but adding two more racks to the system and installing the power amps in them convinced me of their quality even more profoundly. Let me tell you all about it!
The two new racks are the exact same type as the larger one, but less tall, and with 3 levels instead of 5. The tall rack by the way normally has 4 levels, but I requested one extra for the very flat Rowland Aeris DAC. Like the larger rack, they are incredibly heavy, which is a very good thing.
The two new racks are the exact same type as the larger one, but less tall, and with 3 levels instead of 5. The tall rack by the way normally has 4 levels, but I requested one extra for the very flat Rowland Aeris DAC. For further desciption of the rack’s technicalities, please read the original review.
The racks arrive in big boxes, readily assembled. All that needs doing is to remove the 4 heavy screws on top as well as the red wood spacers, to allow the inner structure to hang freely on the 4 teflon dampers. Top and bottom level are fixed in position but the middle one can be freely adjusted. For my initial tests, with the Rowland model sixes sitting atop their partnering BPS sixes, the levels would turn out to be just right.
On my laminate floor, the racks are easily moved in position once the teflon washers are installed under the bases. The quality of assembly is impressive: all adjustments are made to very tight tolerances, the inner structure being spot on level once the outer structure has been set up to be level.
These racks’ primary function is to create space for my CD players, but because the racks are taking up the space where the power amplifiers used to be, the latter will now also be placed in the racks. “Naturally”, I hear you say? Not quite, as a matter of fact. I have had very bad experiences with placing my power amps in racks, which is why they have been on the floor for many years. People generally don’t give it much thought, but a rack’s various levels can sound very different from each other, oftentimes the lowest ones sounding worst and the top ones sounding best. This is very much the case for the now discontinued Finite Elemente Spider racks.
These differences in level sound are the reason why I had the power amps set up on top of separate Spider racks in a previous setup. The bottom levels kind of suffocated the natural flow of the music and topped off the treble air. The top levels, in this case only 30cm higher, did not exhibit this behaviour. Still, with the amps set up on top, I found that while the Spider racks now brought extra speed and dynamics to the sound, they also robbed the music of some color and substance, compared to being on the floor.
Once moved to my current appartment, I chose to leave the amps on the floor, and build around them in order to add space for the expanding collection. The Spider racks are very flexible this way, these particular E&T imitations ones even more so because their aluminum uprights are of one piece instead of the original’s 30cm segments. But it doesn’t look very nice, nor are the racks very stable when used this way. But none of that all matters now because the Artesania racks sound so much better that there is no way that I would still use Spider now, originals nor E&T.
Artesania have revamped their brand style and the racks now sport a fresh new logo.
I really liked the old one for its workmanship-like feel, but after comparison to the new ones, they do look dated. The new ones are much fresher, and have a nice understated way of making clear that Artesania racks are king of racks.
But let’s return to the subject of amplifier placement. Initially I set up the Rowland Model sixes on top of their BPS counterparts, just like they have been used on the floor for years, and both on the lowest levels.
Unlike Spider racks, Artesania Exoteryc racks’ bottom levels don’t sound overly tight, rather the contrary: top sounds tightest and bottom smoothest. Somewhere in between is the optimal balance. This is something that you you just need to be aware of and then can counter-balance for by smartly placing components in opposing positions. In my case by making sure that the bottom-level components use fast-sounding powercables positioned in the first positions of the extensionblocks, and in case of the Coherence II preamp, by using Ceraballs instead of either of the standard Artesania feet. This is not unique to the Artesania racks: all racks that I have used so far exhibit level-dependent changes in sound. In case of Artesania however, the bottom levels uniquely still sound utterly musical.
The earlier rack had perforations in all uprights, even if this was only needed for the rear ones.
The new rack has no perforations in the front uprights, which makes for a cleaner look.
Because the Artesania rack sounds so uncolored, I was initially fearing that the poweramps might start to sound a little slower when used on the Artesania’s bottom levels. The amps used to be set up directly on the floor, coupled via Finite Elemente Cerapuc feet, the floor lending a grounded, full-bodied and easy going quality to the sound, while the Cerapucs added some tightness and better articulation in the bass. The Cerapucs were needed because direct placement on the floor tends to muddle the sound a little too much.
Compared to setting up a component directly on the floor, any table, component rack, or even an amp stand, will usually tighten up the sound and free up the soundstage, but also add coloration or edgyness to the sound. In case of metal racks, oftentimes this is accompanied by dryness in the treble. Decoupling in the strict sense does not really exist: you’re always coupling a component to its underground. All you’re doing by having special component feet or racks is to change the resonance to somewhere where it hopefully better matches your component sound, or your preferences. I now realise that my Spider racks also did this, shifting bass-energy to the midband, making them sound “faster” and more articulate.
The interesting thing about the Artesania racks is that they seem to be tonally totally neutral while retaining fulness of tone and color. They lend a full-bodied tonality to components placed on it, but without making the sound leaden or woolly. Nor do they add any hardness or artificial transient snap. Where in some circumstances, the word “neutral” can be associated with a sound devoid of character or with undernourished timbre, this is absolutely not the case here. I would however characterize the racks as being full-bodied and relaxed, which means that some system-matching is usually needed when the prior situation involved harder coupling.
To my surprise, moving the power amps from floor to rack did not slow the sound down: in fact it sounded much as it did before, but with added low level detailing and a more obviously layered soundstage. Everything else was virtually the same. Needless to say there was absolutely no extra edginess, dryness, overt control or anything at all detrimental. Knowing just how much a rack can negatively impact the sound, even if it sounds like faint praise, it is indeed actually very high praise.
The earlier rack’s component feets’ bolts had their washers directly coupled to the metal.
The current racks have teflon washers inserted, which may influence the sound. I have not yet tested this but will do, and will report back.
While the racks sounded less thickened and forced in the midbass than the floor placement did, I did feel that I was missing some slam. Not so strange, when comparing to a situation in which the amps used to be coupled to the floor directly using hard ceramic balls. This was easily fixed by placing the Model sixes on separate levels, instead of on top of the BPS sixes. This meant that not only were the power amps now supported directly, they also were now sitting one level higher. This turned out to precisely restore the balance. The sound was still full-bodied, natural and relaxed, with better separation and definition in the lower registers, but in a wholly natural manner, almost as if I had not added the racks at all. Again: while critics might feel that adding a rack this expensive better do LOTS to change the sound, I disagree. For a rack to be constructed in such a fashion that it does the absolute minimum to change the sound of a given component is actually a huge accomplishment.
The above tells the story of my placing my power amps in the racks instead of on the floor and it is a slightly different story to my initial experiences with the first Artesania Exoteryc rack. Moving my source equipment from Spider racks to the Artesania Exoteryc rack caused a paradigm shift in my thinking.
These racks are breathtakingly well-constructed, immacculately finished and manage to hide their technological principles in plain view, making them appear as ordinary metal racks. But make no mistake: a huge level of engineering has gone into creating these racks, and their superbly full-bodied yet uncolored, naturally flowing yet perfectly timed sound is evidence to this. There are people that actually like overly edgy or shouty sound, and these people may not like these racks as much as I do, but anyone who appreciates natural sound and anywone who wants to hear their components the way they were designed, should seriously consider an Artesania Exoteryc rack. I should know: I am the proud owner of three of them!