Isolating components on a HiFi rack

Hi, following a bit of redecoration I’m getting my seperates set up again and am reviewing the support. Have a solid (read old) metal 4 tier rack (it’s had a paint makeover too) and I’m looking to replace the thin mdf shelves (2 have warped) with something a bit more substantial and a good isolator. Naim XS3 on the lowest shelf, Gyrodec on the top. Do I stick with mdf and get thicker ones, plywood?, oak? Not looking for a mega bucks solution here but interested in what makes your Naim gear truly sing.

How long before someone recommends Fraim…?

Find a local glass dealer and order a pair of 10mm Toughened glass pieces to fit.
My shelves are 800mm x 450mm x 10mm and cost me £70 each.

Edit: Which is not cheap when you have 21 of them by the way… :face_with_peeking_eye: :joy:

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Glass may or may not work. A lot will depend on the material of the rack. If it’s steel then I’d imagine the results might be a bit bright and edgy. I’d go for something like 10/12mm chipboard spayed matt-black. You may find chipboard better than MDF. The old Sound Organisation table tops were chip-board as were the Mana tables. If you want a more professional finish you could try black Formica stuck to one side? Are your current boards decoupled from the rack on spikes. If not they’ll need to be to work properly.

Worth remembering that you are not trying to isolate your equipment. You are trying to dissipate mechanical energy from your equipment as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

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When I needed a solid shelf, I also went down to the local glass-cutter and had a 3/8" shelf cut (that is 10mm equivalent), along with a small central cutout to route cables for around $90.

Yes, not inexpensive, but much cheaper than Fraim shelves and probably as effective. And the Fraim shelves do not come with custom cutouts.

IME it’s totally hit and miss. Anything material you use for the shelves will impart a particular sonic signature. Which is the best for your metal rack? Who can tell? Same with ‘isolators’. Where to start? Spikes, cork pads, rubber pads, ball bearings, springs, squash balls cut in half etc. etc.

The only way is to experiment. No way at all of knowing which will be best.

For what it’s worth, for an old metal rack I’m inclined to agree with @Geko that chipboard might be a good starting point. Many such racks back in the day used chipboard shelves. I would rest them on small rubber bump-ons or rubber pads stuck on to the metal. Or you could go to town and glue some small metal cones to the rack to rest the shelves on - available cheaply from the big river.

This would be a low-cost solution and stands a chance of sounding half-decent at least.

I wouldn’t be inclined to start spending significant money here. There’s no guarantee at all that the results will be worthwhile. Save your money for a better more up-to-date rack.

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Did Mana supports not have thick glass tops sitting on sharp spikes ?
With “rubber” damping strips attached to the underside?

You just did recommend Fraim!

They did for the last shelf but all the intermediate shelves were laminated chipboard. And there might be several of these if you were using one of their top supports.

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The infamous Ikea bamboo butchers block?

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You should generally use materials with low mass and high rigidity. So I would certainly stick with MDF that’s not too thick, as the majority of dedicated racks do. Definitely avoid oak due to its high mass, and solid timber in general due to reduced stability compared to composite materials.

Naim use glass as part of the design of Fraim, but I certainly wouldn’t use it on any old rack that was designed with MDF. Perhaps consider using it on isolation points sitting on top of a shelf, but that’s different to using it as the shelf itself.

Go online and look for kitchen cabinet door suppliers. Most have doors of MDF 3/4 inch thickness primed or thermofoiled.

All my gear except for my LP12 sits on a pair of Sound Factory Tripods, a modular system developed in the early 90s and long discontinued. The isolation is rudimentary – spikes under each level, with laminated fibreboard shelves resting on small neoprene pads.

I’ve upgraded mine down the years by putting small ceramic balls below the shelves, and adding 10mm toughened (=tempered) glass shelves, separated from the fibreboard by tiny silicon carbide balls resting on dimpled shirt-button-sized brass discs (inspired by a thread on this forum from a few years ago).

Each of these upgrades has improved the sound to the point that I don’t hanker after a better system (although I’d welcome more space for cable dressing and general access, a separate issue). The somewhat coarse sound of the stock Tripod is completely gone. I’d say these tweaks are among the best value for money upgrades I’ve ever made.

Although fibreboard feels cheap (and is cheap), I’ve found it to be better sounding than MDF. Assuming your rack is decent to begin with, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you can get out of it for not much outlay.


I had these back in the 80’s. Bought from Sound Advice in Moseley Birmingham. (which were effectively the same company as The Sound factory). I thought they looked terrific in a puroseful industrial kind of way.

Can’t really comment on the sound as I never compared them directly to anything else. Had them for a few years after we got married then when we moved house/area I replaced them with an Ash Design wood/glass rack. Eventually replaced that with Fraim which was a very noticeable improvement.

Great to hear of some Tripods still doing service though!

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Fraim or higher level Quadraspire has always worked for me. Currently using 20 yr old acrylic reference and it’s very very good.

Is there a difference between Quadraspire acrylic and Quadraspire acrylic reference?

I used 10mm toughened glass shelves, separated from wooden shelves by small ceramic balls resting on dimpled brass discs, but in the end, I found that the system sounded better with my Naim components just sitting on the wooden shelves.

I think this was because that suspension system allowed the components to move and this introduced instability into the system of cables and Naim boxes.

Not sure. mine is the ‘acrylic reference’

If this rack has spikes at the bottom to connect with the floor, it could be worth taking them off and resting it on some cork mats (a picture paints a thousand words) unless you have a really uneven floor - in which case using a spirit level, using thinner and thicker cork mats.
Some metal racks back then were designed to have a “ding” when struck - that some hifi kit preferred.
Trying to add some compliant grounding might have a good result.

Can you show close-up of it in a photo?

I’ve got one or two Quadraspire acrylic shelves.

When I next disassemble the racks, I might try them.