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Reviewer: Linnman
Review Component Retail: custom

Reviewing -- or, writing about -- a rack is not exactly easy. In this case, there was no way I could perform an ABAB comparison by moving all the heavy equipment on and off before breaking my back. As a result, this review is a condensed account of my experience subsequent to the installation; and incorporating feedback from fellow users in Hong Kong rather than directly drawing any comparisons against equivalent offerings, which I don't believe exist at present. The amount of technology employed in the Craz Rack is beyond my layman's comprehension. I had to re-read another review Kevin of Silent Running Audio forwarded for its technical introduction many times before I felt confident enough to hint at the technology behind it. I constantly reminded myself that I was reviewing what most would casually call a "rack" as I dug deeper into the science involved.

The technology behind this "rack"
The build quality of the Craz Rack is superb. The outer wood frame is made from 15-year old air-dried solid mahogany and maple. SRA picks timber parts exclusively from near the core of their wooden logs for better rigidity. The exact thickness of the frame supports and legs will vary depending on the size of the Craz and its required load parameters. The art of wood joinery is perfected not only for aesthetic beauty but to represent the best wood construction methods to attenuate vibration. The amount of work hidden inside the wooden frame is what distinguishes SRA from all other manufacturers.

The wooden rack hides a Titanium iso-skeleton, i.e. a rack within a rack. The horizontal Titanium tubes extend the full rack width underneath each tier, with a hole at each end through which the vertical titanium members pass with extremely tight tolerance. This inner Titanium skeleton is then coated with a custom adhesive to damp the entire structure after the compound has dried. The tubular Titanium stock is filled with various viscoelastic damping gels intended to tackle resonances at different frequencies. The gel filling beneath the bottom shelf thus is tuned specifically to address more bass frequencies since floorborne vibrations have a tendency to propagate up the iso-skeleton.

The feet underneath the Craz rack couple to the Titanium substructure via high-pressure links. Only a tiny portion of the feet makes direct contact with the frame. The idea is to allow floorborne vibration to travel freely inside the iso-skeleton for complete dissipation of vibrational energies. The feet allow for some finite adjustment for uneven floors. Like everything else inside the Craz, the size and specifications of the feet are a function of the components atop the Craz.

Due to the presence of sonic colorations from materials such as acrylic, glass, carbon fiber etc, Kevin went 'whole hog' to construct each shelf on the Craz Rack from a special nano-particle material that is designed around a complex irregular void matrix. The voids around each nano particle are predetermined air pockets. This highly specified technology ameliorates structure-borne vibration. Each Craz shelf is unit specific, with standard thickness of 1.25". The weight of each shelf is a function of the equipment to be placed atop. i.e. an optimized load-bearing relationship.

The shelves themselves sit inside the wooden frame without any metal spikes. The use of strong metal spikes to suspend audio shelving either horizontally or vertically is deemed insufficient because of eventual metal fatigue. From the SRA perspective, these spikes are in fact often the very sources of vibration they purport to eliminate. This view is shared also by the acoustic master Franck Tchang whose audio equipment rack eschews metal joiners and spikes for the same reason.

So-called isopods tie across the corners of the Craz rack. These isopods are filled with patented thermally reactive urethane hybrids which remain unaffected by temperature variations and are expected to work for 100 years. They are made to react to all manner of vibrational attacks by instantly auto-adapting their darometer (stiffness) index to generate the necessary counter motion which dissipates vibrational energy into heat. They self-restore to their original state for the next attack. These isopods are customized for the intended components to be supported and Kevin will supply different ones when a customer upgrades equipment.

The Craz Rack has been tested with a long list of laboratory gear such as accelerometers, oscilloscopes and in anechoic chambers.

What's beyond Craziness?
After living with my Craz Rack for 2 months, I am confident to report that the answer is happiness and total satisfaction. The Craz rack cleans up the entire musical picture from front to back and top to bottom, with the only apparent limits imposed by your acoustics and equipment quality. There now is more depth and dimension to each musical note. The effects on piano recordings are truly phenomenal. This goes well beyond just recreating the physical presence of a piano in the room. I can now sense a distance perspective from the fingers traveling from the far left hand corner of the piano to the right hand side. There is a strong sense of silence between the notes even during very fast passages. The clarity arising from fortissimo passages is another shock. I can listen to the development of the bass notes from the attack through the development all the way to the decay trail without loss of weight. The switching of one note to another is rendered with more elasticity which improves the overall flow of the music otherwise often achieved by smoothing out small musical details. The Craz Rack will reveal an immense amount of hitherto unheard minute details that may seem negligible but are in fact the missing links that make the music tick.

On violin recordings, especially those on LP, the much improved transparency brought by the Craz Rack allows me to appreciate the tonality of this small wooden musical instrument much more so than before. When the components were still sitting on my wooden rack, I often described a smoothing extension of the upper treble alongside a woody midrange sweetness. Many musicologists however describe the tonality of Arthur Grumiaux as crisp and light without self-indulgent romanticism. What I heard did not fit such descriptions until the Craz rack. Instead, I found the tonality of Arthur Grumiaux to be somewhat similar to Szeryng's sweetness. With the Craz Rack, the violin sounds less woody than before but Arthur Grumiaux's fine tonal palette remains well captured. The highs have become both crisper and more eloquent with a new sense of lightness. His lightness of expression does not diminish the long-term appeal. The resonances from the small wooden violin body are felt more and there are much more microdynamics in the treble such that the air surrounding the high frequencies seems full of serene whispers.

The performance of cello and piano duets is another showcase for the dramatic improvement brought forth by the Craz rack. The cello's generous sonic flood is expansively rich and resonant even during fortissimo passages from the piano. The spontaneity of rhythmic piano attacks in the low registers are presented with full clarity without causing ear/brain fatigue over a long listening session. The communications between cello and piano are subtle at times but mostly expressive. Prior to the Craz, the subtle, extremely small micro details in the dynamics were absent. The delivery of eloquence, tenderness and lyricism from the cello now constantly evokes awe.

The biggest challenge for all high end equipment in my opinion is the human voice, especially mezzo soprano and baritone whose frequency range can be extremely wide and the associated energy variations enormous. Enter the Craz rack. The notes of Frederica Von Stade are well-formed, property pitched and eloquently phrased. The clarity however does not betray the rich and creamy tone of her voice. Her extraordinary ability to shade and color her voice imbues her singing with constant variety. At times, her voice grows firm and strong from bottom to top. Yet there is no compression or glare at peak volumes. The voice simply flows and the rhythm of the accompanying orchestra from behind is still clearly felt at the correct tempo.

I remember clearly how the experience without the Craz rack was completely different. In the past, I felt the energy of the orchestra somewhat held back during loud climactic passages. With the Craz rack in the chain, there is no holding back of orchestral energy even when the vocal energy approaches peak levels. All the steps and plots leading to the orchestral climax are presented with an unspoken sense of ease and with pristine clarity.

I next listened to the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, regarded by many as the finest Lieder singer of the past century. On his interpretation of Schubert's Winterreise, his lower register is rich and uncannily smooth. The lyrical clarity fully maintains during subdued passages. His voice is actually never really too loud nor too ostentatiously soft. It seems that he can produce any note in his range at any volume. The Craz rack really allowed me to understand his vocal command far better than before. The approach of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is to give each word and phrase an individual importance. (By comparison, Hermann Prey, another German baritone, allows the whole composition to unfold as an entity.) DFD can easily imbue whatever shading he desires from his sonic palette between medium loud and medium soft. Before the Craz arrived, most of the steps/shades were missing and the delivery in his low register over-dominated the upper octaves. Hence I was not able to discern the full artistic differences between Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hermann Prey until now.

Are we crazy?
If the Craz rack already is such a divinely inspired work from the audio heavens, what's the point of further adding Ohio XL+2 vibration control platforms for each component? The only answer I can think of is, "we are crazy". Cutting straight to the point, the addition of Ohio XL+2 platforms atop the Craz rack yields further improvements across the board and those are not subtle at all. The sense of ease (the unforced delivery of musical energy) deepens at all frequencies. Each musical phrase arising from the background now gains a palpable quality.

Frankly, I am running short of vocabulary to describe the merits of the Ohio XL+2 after hinting at the magic of the Craz rack. Why don't we look at further evidence from real users? Marvel was the first insane audiophile in Hong Kong to acquire this rack and he subsequently acquired two other Ohio XL+2 platforms for his Wavac LCR-X2 phono and Zanden 2000p transport. Calvin was the 2nd owner of a Craz rack in HK to house a full suite of Da Vinci electronics. Mr. Zanden has Ohio XL+2s underneath all his Zanden electronics including their external power supplies. Studiogrey has a pair under this Wavac 833 v1.3 amp and subsequently decided to add more Ohio platforms for his 3-box Wavac PR-T1 preamp. Peter Tsang and Brother Fat both have Ohio XL+2 platforms underneath their Shindo/Garrard 301 turntables and the performance according to both of them is jaw-dropping. There are now many SRA users in Hong Kong despite the absence of any formal reviews or high profile advertisements in the local press.

The obvious conclusion is that both the Craz rack and the Ohio XL+2 platforms are instrument-grade devices which very effectively attenuate resonance pollution in your musical enjoyment. These are not accessories but necessities if you are really serious about getting to the state of hifi utopia.

Publisher's comment: Linnman is part of the AudioExotics network of serious audiophiles. I visited with and wrote about some of them in my Hong Kong RoadTour. Importer J.Lam of AudioExotics maintains a lively online forum where the above-mentioned Craz Rack owners with some of the shown systems and others share experiences and invite each other to sample the latest acquisitions and discoveries. This is the hifi hobby spirit at its finest and our readers might enjoy to visit said forum for a look-see on how "it's done" in this enthusiasts' circle of faraway Hong Kong. - Ed.
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