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Writers: Marja Vanderloo & Henk Boot
Review Component Retail: €35/100; €390/1,400
Storage is one of the main challenges when building an extended music library. When CDs first came to market, the standard jewel case was handy and compact. When the years flew by as they do, our CD collection grew. And grew. One day the collection reached the limits of the cabinet that held the CDs. That cabinet was a stackable custom wooden rack, not very different from the racks we used to store LPs. We returned to the store where we'd bought the first racks only to find out that they had gone out of business. Bummer. Now what?
Then we chanced upon a second-hand office furniture store which sold a nice vintage drawer cabinet in the Gispen style we were very fond of at that time. Gispen designed and manufactured office and home furniture in the modernistic style. He was and still is famous for his steel tube chairs and his items combine fabulously with Le Corbusier classics. Anyway, we picked up the drawer cabinet and restored it. Each drawer was deep and wide and held all our CDs though we admittedly had little expansion space left.
A CD store we frequented had a similar problem with their inventory. To battle the problem of proletarian shoppers, they only had empty jewel cases in their bins. When a sale for true cash was to be made, the clerk had to find the shiny disc from a row of drawer cabinets not unlike ours where the discs were contained in paper envelopes.
Though this system was handy and bolstered weekly revenues, it was far from audiophile. We like our CDs pristine - without fingerprints or scratches. The first part was a matter of complaining to the shop owner to better teach his employees. The second was mostly caused by the actual envelopes in use, the kind where a paper sleeve sports a central round cellophane window. The paper itself was hard and when used several times, it collected dust and other hard particles that could and would scratch a CD. Scratches on the shiny side of a CD can be removed but scratches on the printed top side are lethal for optical media.
At that time, our own company was partnered with the late Digital Equipment Company. On a regular basis, they sent us OpenVMS software stored on CDs. To make their shipping as efficient and economic as possible, DEC shipped the CDs in envelopes from their European distribution centre in Galway, Ireland. Those envelopes were made of very soft and smooth cellulose backing with a cellophane front. These envelopes were perfect for audio(phile) purposes, very gentle to the disc and with a full view of its printed face. We ordered several thousand of those sleeves and happily transferred all our jewel-cased CDs to the much slimmer yet still highly protective sleeves. Where the artwork inlay did not contain all the information printed on the back insert of the jewel case, we performed some creative cutting and pasting. In the end, we had a few drawers filled with CDs fronted by their booklets. This resulted in enormous space saving. Now all the CDs we owned at the time were stored in a fraction of the space they had used to occupy, leaving ample space for the collection to expand.
And expand it did. The original drawer cabinet was eventually replaced by standard Bisley office media cabinets. These drawers sport ball-bearing sliders and each drawer holds four rows of CDs separated by metal dividers. Best of all, the drawers extend fully so the entire depth can be used and accessed.
This worked fine until such time that we ran out of our initial stack of DEC sleeves. By now DEC as a company had folded and Compaq who took over was itself overtaken by HP. In short, supply of our preferred sleeves had dried up. Déjà vu again. Bummer.
Then one day we walked into the record store around our Rotterdam corner, Sounds, and they pointed us at a Dutch product called Fleecepack. Fleecepack is an all-in-one CD envelope that not only holds the disc but also the booklet and complete back inlay. Measuring 15.5cm high and 13.2cm wide, with the opening 2.5cm from the top, it has the ideal dimensions for all jewel-case sold CDs. Digipacks still require some DIY adaptation.
The Fleecepack sleeves are meant to be used tall side up. In the upper part just above the opening, there is room for the supplied label. Here the user can write or print extra information or omit the label altogether and just use the booklet as the cover exactly as the jewel case did.
Unfortunately, our Bisley drawer cabinets were designed to hold discs in jewel cases. Those are only 14.3cm high, thus 2cm shorter than the Fleecepack. Enter the rotary paper cutter. With this handy device, we simply trim off the sleeves' upper 2.5cm label area. With that done, we can even turn the sleeve 90º so the opening is sideways rather than on top, minimizing dust capture.
In the photos you can appreciate how an original stack of jewel cases reduces rather dramatically in size once those cases are discarded. It can occasionally be a bit of a chore when dealing with carton digipacks and CDs delivered with complete textbooks in various odd sizes. In general however, Fleecepacks work for us and save a lot of storage space while protecting our disc treasures. Going through the rows in the drawers is easy and when a CD is selected for a spin, we use a bookmark as placeholder.
If interested in these sleeves, remember that the company's website is in Dutch. Still, even non-Dutchies should manage to navigate it. Boxes of 100 sleeves are €35, 1400 pieces will set you back €390. Both figures including 19% VAT.
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