When I attended the Chicago AXPONA in March, I noticed that three of the best-sounding rooms I heard had their gear placed on an elegant and beautiful audio rack that was built by KroloDesign from Canada. I had a lengthy discussion with the company's CEO and designer, Mirko Krolo, regarding his theories of isolation, materials, and design that guided his development of the Tomo Audio Rack, which retails for $5,885. His basic theory is twofold: 1) Electric gear, because of its power supply, causes vibrations that contaminate the purity of the audio signal; therefore, it is necessary to allow these vibrations to be bled off and released through the audio rack; 2) room vibrations can travel both through the air and the floor and negatively affect the sound of a system. Mirko only uses materials and strategies of isolation in his racks that allow the passing of self-induced electrical vibrations out of the system and at the same time prevent air- or room-borne vibrations from entering as a negative form of distortion. The Tomo Audio Rack can also be ordered with the Tomo Acrylic/Aluminum Platform that sits on top of the rack for further isolation of turntables, digital-to-analog converters, and CD transports; the Platform retails for $1,710. I decided to review both products.
The Tomo Audio Rack that I reviewed had its Russian Baltic Birch shelves and outside support pillars finished in a very high-quality piano black lacquer. The Tomo Audio Rack is shipped with three shelves, each of which can hold over 100 pounds of gear. The shelf bottoms have three cones made from Delrin that are placed on top of support rods that further isolate them from vibrations. In front is a pair of two-inch aluminum rods that are polished and anodized to a clear finish. The aluminum rods are drilled to accommodate adjusting of the shelves. Each drilled hole has steel buttons to fill in the hole for a finished appearance and for total isolation of the posts. Into the posts you insert stainless steel supports upon which the individual shelves float. The aluminum rods go through the top of the rack and end in top caps, which have cups for the massive Tomo Acrylic/Aluminum Platform to sit on. The Platform is composed of a slab of one-inch acrylic and aluminum supports/braces that fit onto the Rack's top caps. The Tomo Audio Rack also has very special adjustable isolation feet/spikes that are composed of aluminum and Tellurium copper. The Tomo Audio Rack weighs 120 pounds, and its dimensions are 36.5 inches high by 25 inches wide by 28 inches deep. The appearance and build quality of both the Tomo Audio Rack and Platform radiate craftsmanship and design of the highest order.
As a writer and dedicated audiophile, I have spent many years tweaking out my reference system by auditioning many highly regarded audio racks, footers, and isolation platforms. Not only did many of these audio racks not improve the sound of my system, but they actually had negative effects, such as drying out timbres and tones of instruments, throwing out of proportion the overall dynamic balance between different frequencies, thinning out the individual images in the soundstage, and finally shrinking the overall size of the soundstage. Therefore, I was somewhat of a Doubting Thomas that the Tomo Audio Rack would in any significant way raise the level of my system's performance to even a higher and more noticeable degree.
The above-stated assumption turned out to be totally false. The effect on the performance of my system was not just slight or a minimal quantitative improvement, but a qualitative shift virtually in all parameters across the sonic board. Regardless of whether I was using solid-state or tube-based gear, the following changes were easy and clearly heard throughout the entire review process. Instead of mentioning individual music selections, I'll give you the big picture: I used small jazz quartets, big bands, hard rock, blues, acoustic groups with vocals, and finally large dynamic classical symphonic recordings to come to these conclusions during a lengthy reviewing process. The level of transparency increased, allowing more micro-details to emerge effortlessly. I thought that I could not decrease the noise floor any more in my system, but the KroloDesign pieces dramatically did so. The overall dynamics and speed of my system were increased, which gave more rhythmic pulse to the music. The lowest bass frequencies became tighter and better integrated with the lower end of the midrange frequency. Finally, the location of individual players was more precise, with an increase of air around them in a soundstage that increased in height and depth.
Another effect of using the Tomo Audio Rack and Platform was the subjective experience of being closer to the music and being able to relax and enjoy it more. I never encountered any shortcomings or a decrease in the system's performance, as I had with other racks that I had auditioned in the past. I also experimented with omitting the Tomo Platform and just placing my MBL 1621 reference digital transport on the top of the rack. There was not a dramatic drop-off in performance, but the system did slightly lose some transparency, air, and speed. The Tomo Audio Rack by itself still produced a remarkable change in my system.; however, if you want that last percentage of sonic bliss that can be gotten by putting your digital or analog front end on top of the Tomo Platform, it's well worth it in a high-end system.
Continue on to Page 2 for the High Points, Low Points, Competition and Comparison and Conclusion . . .
Competition and Comparison
The audio racks that I've had experience with that would be in the Tomo Audio Rack's price range are the Walker Audio Rack, which is valued at $7,500 and the pARTicular Triangle Rack that is valued at $7,775. Both of these racks are extremely well built and use very different strategies to isolate a system's electronics from room vibrations. They both will have a positive effect on gear that's placed on them. However, neither rack uses the bleed-off of the internal vibrations from the gear itself and the "isolate from room vibrations strategy" that the Tomo Audio Rack uses in its design to take care of both types of vibrations that can cause distortion and downgrade a system's overall performance. I believe that the Tomo Audio Rack would bring an even higher level of finesse and musicality in most systems compared with the two other racks.
The Tomo Audio Rack is elegant looking, is extremely well built, and most importantly will improve the overall sonic performance of any system when the upstream gear is placed on it. I went to great lengths in my reviewing process to try very diverse equipment - such as solid-state amplifiers and preamps, tube-based amplifiers and preamps, solid-state and tube-based integrated amplifiers, and solid-state and tube-based digital-to-analog converters - to test if I would get the same great results that I mentioned in the body of the review. Regardless of what type of gear was put on the Tomo Audio Rack, the same superlative effects took place in my system. Therefore, I believe that it is a safe bet that the Tomo Audio Rack would only raise the performance of virtually any system and do nothing negative to the system's sonic performance. You can get that last 10 percent of performance out of your system when using a digital transport, CD player, or analog turntable by adding on the Tomo Acrylic/Aluminum Platform. After a short period of time, I knew that the Tomo Audio Rack was never going to be sent back to KroloDesign. It made one of the most significant upgrades in my system that I have experienced in many years. The greatest compliment a reviewer can give a piece in for review is to purchase it for their system. I did. If you are at the point where everything is in place in your system and you want to take that last step to elevate its performance to its possible highest potential, I highly recommend that you put the Tomo Audio Rack on your audition list.