I usually define quality furniture as something I purchase at Target rather than Walmart. But several years ago, I acquired a large media center from BDI that helped me truly appreciate the difference between fine furniture and the stuff I typically buy. Features like styling and durability contribute heavily to that difference, but functionality also is a major part of the equation when you're considering furniture made for a singular purpose, such as housing your AV gear.
BDI's Corridor (8175) Corner Media Cabinet (available on Amazon) is a shining example of how the company melds form (style) and function (utility) into a piece of furniture built well enough to last for years ... maybe even decades. I say that with a conviction based on first-hand experience. I've owned a BDI Novia Triple Wide Entertainment Cabinet for more than 13 years.
At the time of acquisition, its main attraction was it accommodated all of my gear, including a 140-pound TV. But I quickly came to appreciate its styling, quality construction, and the functional features BDI builds into its furniture. These include flow-through ventilation, integrated cable management, and hidden wheels that simplify connecting and reconnecting component cables. I also discovered the allure of a scratch-resistant glass top, IR-friendly smoked glass doors, and damped doors and drawers that close gently after a nudge.
It took more than a decade to fully appreciate the final attribute that made me a big BDI fan: durability. Two other media stands that previously held that 140-pound TV hadn't fared well, sagging in the middle after one-to-three years. But BDI's Novia cabinet stood up to that weight for eight years before I replaced the TV with a lighter one. Five years later, the Novia still shows no sign of sagging.
It's worth noting that since I've owned it, BDI's cabinet has been subjected to three different household moves covering hundreds of miles. Despite being bounced around in a moving van and moved up and down stairs in multiple houses, the Novia's drawer still glides effortlessly, its doors remain perfectly aligned, and the cabinet structure feels as solid as ever.
Given my experience with the Novia, I had very high expectations for the Corridor 8175's build quality, features, and functionality. If anything, it has exceeded those expectations. For example, it may actually be constructed more robustly than the Novia. How's that? Well, like all five media cabinets in the Corridor lineup (like the 8179 reviewed here) and most other current BDI media stands, the 8175 has a powder-coated steel frame foundation that looks like it could support a platform bed for Shaquille O'Neal, let alone a TV and some A/V components. Calling it robust is an understatement, like calling Shaq a big boy.
Assembling the Corridor's base and attaching it to the cabinet were the first two steps in a delightfully simple five-step process that made putting together typical flat-pack or Ikea furniture seem like aeronautical engineering. The bulk of the cabinet is pre-assembled. Once the base is attached, you screw on a couple of door handles, insert pegs for the adjustable shelves, and affix self-stick rubber spacers that support the Corridor's glass top.
The instruction booklet illustrations are clear, and the assembly steps are detailed in easy-to-follow English. The tools required for assembly (a hex key, box wrench, and screwdriver) are included. The pieces that require assembly and the screws used to fasten them fit perfectly. When was the last time you could say that about furniture you had to even partially assemble yourself?
It took only about 35 minutes from the time I began unpacking the Corridor 8175 until it was ready to fill with components. That was enough time to notice several features indicative of the attention to detail BDI has been putting into its furniture since the company was founded more than 35 years ago. Two of those features were the cabinet's door hinges and the pins that support its two adjustable shelves. If you're wondering how I could be impressed by hinges and shelf pins...
The European hinges are spring-loaded and damped. They enable the cabinet doors to close with just a nudge and settle gently against the cabinet frame instead of crashing into it. They also enable the doors to open a little more than 90 degrees, which is easy to appreciate if you've ever been frustrated by a cheaper cabinet whose doors blocked some of the available shelf space even when fully open. The hinges are adjustable, but the Corridor's doors were perfectly aligned right out of the box, and my experience with the Novia suggests they may never need to be tweaked.
The steel shelf pins impressed me because they're threaded and feature rubber grommets that cushion the shelves to minimize vibration. The pins screw into height-adjustment holes that also have threaded steel inserts. Snug them up during insertion, and you'll likely never have to worry about a pin falling out and vanishing. The Corridor 8175 has four adjustment positions spaced 1.25 inches apart.
The cabinet's venting is another great example of BDI's attention to detail. There are large cutouts on the back panel and all of the horizontal cabinet surfaces. They are designed to provide passive convection cooling as air flows naturally through the cabinet to help your components keep their cool.
The rubber spacers that support the glass top help make that air flow possible. The glass itself is smoked and tempered, rated to support a whopping 175 pounds. It has beveled edges and a satin-etched matte surface designed to resist smudges and scratches. It's a big hunk of glass that should last a lifetime, and it's heavy enough that I recruited an assistant to help me place it properly.
The materials that form the cabinet make all those large air vents possible. The basic structure is comprised of thick hardwood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is generally considered more warp-resistant than natural wood. The cabinet and its construction are so sturdy I couldn't detect any flex in the Corridor, despite its many air vents.
The cabinet's solidity also enables it to have a removable back panel without sacrificing structural integrity. That removable panel simplifies access to component connections, one more example of BDI's focus on creating purpose-built media furniture.
Making a purpose-built corner media cabinet is challenging because the unit requires angled side-rear panels that allow it to tuck neatly and diagonally into the corner of a room. The unit the Corridor replaced in my home was a good example of the compromises such a design can embody. It fit well in the corner but was too shallow to house my satellite receiver, requiring me to cut a hole in the cabinet's back panel, and its shelves were too narrow for my UHD disc player.
It was evident from the moment I unboxed the Corridor 8175, however, that BDI had put plenty of forethought into designing a corner unit with a configuration and dimensions capable of accommodating a typical home entertainment system. Its five shelves -- one full-width top shelf ideal for a soundbar or center-channel speaker and four equal-width smaller shelves, two of which adjust for height -- provided plenty of room for my gear, including the sat receiver and disc player.
Yet BDI's cabinet extends less than three inches farther into my room than the unit it replaced, measuring 37 inches from the corner to the center of its front edge. The Corridor is so attractive I wouldn't mind if it were more conspicuous. Its sides are covered in beautiful hardwood veneers, and its doors -- the entire front of the unit -- are comprised of hardwood louvers. All five Corridor media cabinets are available in one of three finishes: Chocolate Stained Walnut, White Oak, or my choice: distinctive Charcoal Stained Ash.
The louvered doors are the Corridor lineup's most distinctive styling cue. BDI says those louvers won't obstruct IR from a remote control or sound from a speaker. I found that to be true ... for the most part. I tried a couple of different soundbars and couldn't hear any acoustic differences with the cabinet doors open or closed. My IR test wasn't quite as successful. See the Low Points, below, for details.
The Corridor Corner Media Cabinet's top internal shelf supports up to 50 pounds and is 6.9 inches high and 48.5 inches wide for a depth of 8.4 inches. At that point, there's a structural support in the center and the shelf begins narrowing on both sides to mirror the cabinet's contours. The shelf is large enough for most center-channel speakers and soundbars, with the exception of rare giants such as the Bowers and Wilkins' 48.8-inch Formation Bar and LG's 56.6-inch SN11RG. Because it's enclosed, the shelf obviously is not intended for soundbars with up-firing effects speakers.
The other shelves are dimensionally similar but half as wide. The two directly below the soundbar shelf are height-adjustable and rated to support 50 pounds each. The lowest shelves support 75 pounds. All four are 23.9 inches wide for a depth of about 9 inches before tapering off on one side to conform to the cabinet's shape. They're 16.4 inches wide at their narrowest point.
The Corridor 8175 easily accommodated the handful of components I use in that room: the aforementioned satellite receiver and disc player, a 55-inch TV, a soundbar, and an HD-DVD player (because I own about 25 movies in that format). That still left one empty shelf on which I keep seldom-used remotes and miscellaneous items. Vinyl-lovers take note: The 8175 doesn't seem designed for a turntable unless it's perched on top of the unit, where the TV would otherwise sit.
Comparison and Competition
It's not fair to compare BDI with anyone else's furniture without having experienced the competitors' products. I can't even compare styling, since that's such a subjective element.
There are a relatively few companies that specialize in higher-end, dedicated media furniture, though: Diamond Case Designs and Salamander Designs at premium price points, and Bell'O and Legends Furniture with less expensive offerings. Best Buy's Magnolia centers sell all but the Diamond Case Designs products, so you might be able to compare some of the manufacturers' offerings there.
While researching this story, I noticed an interesting dichotomy in forum discussions about BDI furniture: People who own it rave about it; people who don't often say it's too expensive.
My take is the old adage, "You get what you pay for." Features, performance, and attention to detail can be expensive, yet still provide great value. Styling also contributes to value. I personally love the Corridor's styling, which is the handiwork of BDI Associate Design Director Matthew Weatherly. The three visitors I had while self-quarantining agreed that the unit is striking.
Taste in furniture is subjective, but BDI's media cabinet collection seems extensive enough to have broad appeal. I'm even more certain that anyone purchasing a BDI cabinet will be delighted with its quality, performance, and durability.
• Visit the BDI website for more product information.
• BDI Corridor 8179 Media Console Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Check out our Racks & Stands category page to read similar reviews.