Levelling Up…

Using AcouPlex shelves in third party racks

By Roy Gregory

Having already both reviewed and written about the Music Works AcouPlex support products in a peripheral context, covering the standalone platforms, shelves and cones, it might seem unnecessary to expend more time and pixels on the material and subject. But the initial results were sufficiently impressive to warrant a wider investigation, a discussion of possible applications and a more considered ranking against the established competition.

Music Works do have a rack built from AcouPlex, a variation on the popular ‘screw together uprights clamping shelves’ design, in which the shelves, uprights and conical feet are all manufactured from their proprietary material. Even the fixings are non-metallic, a further step on the path to goodness pursued by the company’s personal jihad. But most existing systems have, by definition, an existing support solution. With many owners still underestimating (and under –budgeting for) the musical contribution to be made by effective equipment support, there’s a far from surprising reluctance to replace an installed solution (one that’s considered perfectly adequate) with a more expensive alternative. Then there’s the fact that racks are de facto furniture, a product category that strays dangerously close to domestic concerns. Having negotiated the presence of one audio specific item of furniture, trying to explain why it needs changing for another, different looking one, raises all kinds of possible red flags and issues. All of which means that, when it comes to taking advantage of a material like Acouplex it’s often a far easier sell to incorporate it into an existing rack or support solution, rather that opting for wholesale replacement. What’s more, with so many racks relying on drop-in or clamped shelves, creating replacements presents a reasonably easy task. A set of dimensions and the location of any through holes for legs and away you go. On that basis, you could apply Acouplex shelving to anything from a basic Target metal frame rack or Quadraspire clamped shelf design, all the way up to the likes of Solid Steel or HRS. Even skeletal designs like Artesania or Stillpoints could easily be adapted to accept shelves of appropriate dimensions supplied with fittings to suit.

With all that in mind, I set out to give the Acouplex approach a closer examination. I saw no point in testing it in the context of a Target or Quadraspire rack, or any rack that uses MDF shelves: the AcouPlex is going to be immediately and obviously superior. What I wanted to hear was how it stacked up against the more serious competition, in this case the HRS R-shelf. Although the R-shelf was for a long time, the most affordable HRS platform and designed to be used in conjunction with its different frames, it was to my ears, also one of its most effective. I preferred its performance to all but the M3X platforms, especially when used with couplers (Nimbus, Vortex or third party) and Damping Plates. I also liked its flush-mounting arrangement, both aesthetically and practically, as it maximised the vertical gap between support surfaces that the deeper platforms ate into. The RXR rack and R-shelves have been a constant part of my system for nearly a decade, so replacing the R-shelf with an Acouplex alternative was going to be a stiff test, not least because the R-shelf has a more complex structure than it initially appears. I wasn’t expecting the AcouPlex to banish the R-shelf, but I did expect to get a clear sense of how the two shelves performed relative to each other.