From the forests of Austria comes Hifi Holz Hutter, a furniture maker with over fifty years experience and lead by architect and Vienna Technical University graduate Armin Hutter. The alpine forests are world famous for their tradition of old-world craftsmanship. Hutter continues this tradition by his commitment to producing furniture made of the highest quality alpine spruce and engineered not only for aesthetics but functionality. Here I shall review his series of hi-fi racks, the Hutter Racktime Basic.
The first thing I noticed while unpacking these shelves was their considerable size and weight, as well as the quality of the blonde maple finish. Each shelf is constructed of three approx. one-inch thick components: the shelf itself and two side-pieces running the length of the shelf, which serve as the points connecting the shelves. The unit is available five finishes: maple, pear, satin black, cherry, and beech. As I said, this shelf is of considerable size at 23.6" wide and 18.7" deep, so it should be large enough to accommodate just about any component you choose to shelve, and consequently it will also be a noticeable feature of your room. While there is lightly over 6" separating the shelves, it is possible to increase that space to fit in even the biggest gear by using longer connectors that can be ordered separately. You probably would not want to put a shelf of this size in a small room since it would most likely dominate the entire room. That being said, I was nonetheless impressed with the sheer weight of each shelf as I unpacked it from the box, not to mention the flawlessly polished maple finish that adorned each component.
This is a modular rack system, meaning the shelf components stack on top of each other and the system can pretty much be expanded up to the height of your ceiling. If you're homeless the sky's the limit. I've seen some companies use acrylic or glass, which are not exactly known for their strength or resonance-dampening properties, as their material for their shelves. The Hutter's shelves have been designed for low resonance using layers of heavy spruce to dampen vibrations. Many shelves are also stacked upon hollow metal beams, which can be filled with sand to stabilize the rack. This is usually important because many low-resonance materials used in shelving are also intrinsically lightweight. Although the Hutter's design doesn't facilitate sand tweaks, the weight of the shelving is much heavier than your average glass, acrylic, or MDF shelf, and one would suspect the weight that this shelf can safely support is correspondingly higher. Still, I'm not certain I would test this shelf by placing that brand new amp with the dual-mono 150-lb. power supplies and two inch thick lead case on it. Still, the maximum load per shelf is indeed 176 lbs., the maximum load for the total rack 550 lbs.
Although the assembly of the rack was, in practice, actually very intuitive, the instructions included with the rack were quite sparse. Hardly one full page (containing large pictures and a lot of blank space) was dedicated to the assembly of the piece. This may sound like a major problem to those of us, myself included, not inclined to working with their hands. Vague instructions notwithstanding, I found the assembly to be pretty easy. It took me less than one hour to assemble. The shelves are connected via four aluminum (nickel-colored, or brass if you choose) rods which slide into pre-cut holes on the two side-pieces of each shelf. These shelves stand on a spiked base, which in turn stands on a base with screw in rubber feet. The only trouble I had assembling this was installing the spikes into the base. The spikes have to be perfectly level or else the shelf will tilt off balance. There are no guidelines on the spikes or any way to determine how far into the base they're supposed to go, so you end up using trial and error to get the spikes perfectly level. Another matter, whose importance may vary from consumer to consumer, is the disassembly of the rack. If you ever plan on moving the thing use great caution. The aluminum rods fit very snugly into the shelving. It's pretty easy to stack the shelves on top of each other and push the rods in, but it is another matter entirely to lift the shelf up and pull the rods out.
Included in my evaluation unit was the Racktime's optional CD drawer, which holds 75 CDs. This drawer, especially when full but even empty, is of considerable weight and should be installed below the shelves just above the base. The design of the drawer is elegant and rectangular, blending in perfectly with the rest of the shelf. It is constructed of the same layered spruce as the shelving, and at its front is a glass window reinforced with steel wire. The drawer is available in all of the same finishes as the rack. Sliding open the drawer reveals three rows of 25 aluminum slots set against flat black-painted wood on each wall of the drawer, giving the inside a very slick look in contrast to the rest of the rack's conservative appearance. The build quality of the drawer is among the best I've seen anywhere, and although it holds only 75 CDs it is a very massive drawer. In fact, it ships in its own box of the same size as the other three-quarters of the rack! It's also interesting to note that the CD drawer by itself accounts for over a third the cost of the entire drawer-plus-three-shelves unit.
Fully assembled, the rack is an impressive piece of furniture that can be admired by audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike. The build quality of the shelving is excellent, particularly the finish and weight of the wooden shelving components. According to the shipping labels the total shipping weight is 115 lbs., for three shelves and a CD drawer. Aesthetically the shelves are very simple and symmetrical. The look is of a very clean, modern piece with all vertical and horizontal lines. It looks like it was designed by... well... an Austrian architect. The simple, minimalist aesthetics and clearly evident attention Hutter has given to the rack's build quality and finish will be appreciated by all who see this rack. It is definitely a classy piece of furniture that would impress anyone. The blonde maple finish sent to me is probably the perfect choice for the audiophile who wants to assuage the fears of his skeptical wife. The light and bright maple finish, simple design, and heavy, woody looks make this rack seem to slip into a different furniture category; somewhat more like a bookshelf or an end table as opposed to a place to hold your hi fi gear. Indeed, most components and shelves these days have a sterile black or silver look. It's refreshing to see a piece of hi-fi furniture that actually looks like furniture and not just like another piece of gear.
The Racktime Basic includes three shelves, spiked base, and CD drawer for $1,639 (or $939 without the drawer). At this price I would say it is a pretty good bargain. Quality wooden shelving can cost many thousands of dollars. Hutter also manufactures a variety of bookshelves, TV stands, and other storage units using a similar modular design. My overall rating for the Hutter Racktime Basic is 75/100, meaning that at its market niche it is a cut above the competition.
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