Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar 2 equipment rack
Now, however, as we enter the advertising-defines-reality 21st century, it seems as if "form follows function" is being liberally applied to everything from cars to clothing to oddly configured European kitchen appliances. In most cases, it seems as if the phrase is used as a talisman, as an attempt to deflect inevitable criticism from designs that are not only ugly, but completely at odds with their intended functions.
Bright Star Audio's Rack of Gibraltar equipment racks are exceptional cases whose forms truly do follow their functions. They're obviously designed and built—and exceptionally well built—to provide a rigid, super-stable platform for audio and video equipment. To be more precise, the racks are intended to provide the platform for Bright Star's Ultimate Isolation System, which actually cradles the component and isolates it from the environment.
First, the Function
Bright Star products have been covered many times in these pages and are de rigueur in a well-tweaked system, but just in case...
The Ultimate Isolation System consists of the stacked combination of an Air Mass (pneumatic base) and Big Rock (sand-filled damping platform) below the component, and a Little Rock (ferrite-composite slab) above. It's designed to: a) isolate the component from external vibrations across a wide frequency spectrum, b) damp resonances generated within a component, and c) provide a modicum of electromagnetic isolation between vertically stacked components. In this system, the support structure must be as rigid and stable as possible, to resist large-amplitude, low-frequency inputs and to provide a backdrop for the other isolation devices to do their job on the high-frequency vibrations.
Then, the Form
The Rack of Gibraltar 2 is Bright Star's largest model and, at $1995 for the dark granite finish, their most expensive. It's a two-wide/three-high design with large enough shelves (21½" by 17½") to handle almost any size of component short of a monster power amplifier. The shelves are widely spaced (to provide room for the Ultimate Isolation System), so moving equipment and connecting cables is a breeze.
Although the Rack of Gibraltar doesn't look like something from the Guggenheim or MoMA, and is not adorned with endangered rain-forest veneers or neon lights, in its simplicity and quality it's attractive, even elegant. The RoG is built of 14-gauge rectangular-section tubing: 1" by 2" at the base, 1" by 1½" above that. The shelves are built of ¾" MDF and are supported around their entire perimeter, to increase their rigidity and load-bearing capacity. Similarly, the rack is supported by spikes at its center as well as at the corners, resulting in an "official" load-bearing capacity of 1000 lbs. (According to Bright Star's fabrication shop, the actual limit is more like 3000 lbs.)
The RoG is welded throughout, and powder-coated in a thick, textured finish. All of the welds are beautifully made, and the attention to detail—how evenly the welds are ground back, how consistently the corners are chamfered—is superb. Heavy screw-in feet are provided to level the rack on uneven floors, and it can be filled with sand or lead to further increase its mass and stability.
Despite its simple appearance, the Rack of Gibraltar has earned favorable comments from everyone who's visited my listening room lately. It's not surprising that my friend Charlie—he of the Snap-On tools and Leica cameras, and a consummate engineer—was particularly impressed. Charlie scrutinized it carefully, then commented approvingly, "This is a really nice rack. I mean, it's not pretty or anything—well, it's pretty in its own way...but it's really nicely built, and jeez, is it sturdy."
A Bit of Use and Listening
I installed the Rack of Gibraltar in my main, downstairs listening room, where the floor consists of a thick carpet and pad over a concrete slab. My rack came pre-filled with sand, so getting it down the stairs and around the corner was difficult—but getting its spiked feet to penetrate the carpet and couple solidly to the concrete floor was not.
Once the rack was installed, stability was not an issue—it passed my "glass of water" test with flying colors. Walking across the room, jumping up and down right next to the stand, even a session of furious hot laps by a pair of 60-lb dogs—all failed to cause so much as a ripple in a glass of water set atop the RoG.
Footnote 1: "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered," Lippincott's Magazine, March 1896.