A somewhat sceptical Stuart Smith takes a listen to his kit sat ontop of the Quadraspire X Reference hifi rack costing £1000 per level.
I’ll be honest here and say that the whole concept of reviewing a rack really doesn’t sit well with me at all. I remember a few years ago watching a video made by a Greek audiophile group in which one character says “The rack is 50% of the sound” (or words to that effect) and oh how I chortled. A rack is a rack is a rack, but recently we were given a very heavy rack for our listening room and it really killed the sound we were getting and I’m sure that this was down to the combination of a heavy rack being used on suspended wooden floorboards. Somehow the rack was having a negative effect on the overall performance of the system. So, when the guys at Quadraspire offered us the opportunity to have a play with their X Reference rack, I thought why not.
The X Reference is 720mm wide and 590mm deep and will hold 120Kg per shelf. The one we were given to play with had bamboo shelves but you can get wooden veneered shelves too. The main body of the rack is made up of an X shaped shelf that supports the actual shelf your kit sits on. Each of these “inner” shelves (essentially the SVT Bronze Upgrade) has bronze feet which sit in little brass locaters on the main rack. Now, the bronze is very important we were told, but I remained very sceptical indeed!
You can order as many levels as you need, with the spacing columns between levels being available as 20cm, 250cm, 30cm and 35cm, so you can choose the rack to fit around your system and build it accordingly. Each of the levels on which the shelves sit on has a large hole in the middle on the X Reference.
Fit and finish are very good indeed, but this is very much a rack that is designed with the audiophile in mind – it’s not going to appeal to everyone’s taste at all and is pretty big by conventional standards. However, it appeals to me and looks like it means business in a techy kind of way.
The review process went like this. We placed our DAC on a conventional SV2T Quadraspire rack along with all our other kit and then placed one of the shelves with SVT bronze upgrade (these are the inner shelves of the X Reference) onto the rack and popped the DAC on that. We then moved the X Reference into place and put the DAC onto that. The idea here was to supposedly demonstrate a path of improvement to overall sound as you move up the food chain. Again, I need to reiterate that my expectation was that there would be nothing to be heard, no improvements or otherwise and that at £1000 a level, the X Reference would prove to be a bit of a white elephant.
I was wrong and somewhat perplexed to say the least. Adding the SVT bronze upgrade to the conventional rack made audible improvements to the sound, particularly in stability of the soundstage. Hats appeared to be crisper and bass more solid. We put the DAC back on the normal shelf and back again several times and every time we heard the same results.
The next step was to place the DAC onto the X Reference and again there was an immediate, if somewhat baffling change in perceived sound for the better and again the most obvious improvement was with stability of the stereo image and better (read sharper) detail in the music. The perception here is that because of this sharpening you can hear more fine detail in the music you are listening to. The best way to describe this is to say that at each step up the ladder it felt as though we were getting more definition and coherence to the music and less of a smearing effect – as if everything tightened up a bit and became more focused.
I remain perplexed as to how and why a rack can make the slightest bit of difference to the performance of a hifi, but it did. There is a clear and demonstrable improvement in the sound quality when you add the SVT Bronze upgrade shelves and then another improvement when the X Reference is brought into play. Playing with different bits of kit on the different shelves saw similar improvements, but the biggest effect was heard with the DAC.
£1000 a level is pricey by anyone’s reckoning for a rack on which to place your hifi, but if you are looking to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of your system then the SVT Bronze upgrade will give you a step up and the X Reference another step up.
This is not the same level of performance improvement you will notice when upgrading loudspeakers, source or DAC, it’s a more subtle, but definitely observable, tidying up of soundstage and instruments within it, leading to a more solid sound and stereo image with more detail apparent.
AT A GLANCE
Build Quality: Very nicely put together and finished
Sound Quality: An overall sharpening of the stereo image enabling more fine detail to be heard
Value For Money: Not cheap
Excellent fit and finish
Tightening up of the stereo image leading to more detail being heard
X Reference is physically big and definitely “audiophile” in the looks department but I quite like it
£1000 per level for the X Reference and £400 for the Bronze Upgrade