Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.
Once upon a time I made my own equipment racks. Then I graduated to so-called "audiophile racks," which often cost more than the gear I was placing upon their shelves, but that's a whole other story. Following my foray into the realm of audiophile foolery, I migrated to a Middle Atlantic rack, which I used for five years without a second thought. It was a move to a new home that prompted me to get a new equipment rack: one Omni+ Vent entertainment cabinet, which worked well until my wife brought home our new dog Monster. Monster is an Irish Wolfhound and, in the eight months since his arrival, he's grown to sizes unimaginable to many, weighing over 130 pounds and standing just under 40 inches at the shoulder. As it turns out, Monster can move my Omni+ Vent cabinet with relative ease, so I needed a sturdier, safer way of housing my equipment. Naturally, I looked to Middle Atlantic for a solution. However, a visit to Sanus' booth at CES 2012 got me to change my mind.
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Sanus is most known for their flat-panel mounts and perhaps speaker stands, at least to me. However, they make a wide range of décor-friendly entertainment furniture as well as - wait for it - pro-style equipment racks, à la Middle Atlantic. The big difference between Sanus' Component Series AV Racks and, say, a comparably equipped Middle Atlantic rack: price. Sanus' Component Series is now in its second iteration and, with the revision, Sanus offers up four standard sizes: a 15U (U refers to the number of rack spaces), 27U, 36U and a 44U. All of the racks are built to the same exacting specifications and come standard with the same amenities such as shelves, blanking plates, etc. Only the quantities of each vary as the number of rack spaces diminishes or increases. The rack I ordered up was the Model CFR2136, which offered up 36 rack spaces, making it the second largest model Sanus offers. With a retail price of $1,199.99, it's also the second most expensive, but compared to my previous Middle Atlantic rack, it's downright affordable. Prices for Sanus' Component Series AV Racks start at $579.99 and max out at $1,499.99.
The CFR2136 measures 23.6 inches wide by 23.6 inches deep and 70.5 inches tall. It weighs a hefty but still manageable 132.3 pounds, but has an overall weight capacity of 800 pounds. It lists for just under $1,200 and comes standard with two 1U shelves, three 2U shelves and three 3U shelves. Included blanking panels consist of two 1U, two 2U and two 3U panels. For those who may not be familiar with them, blanking panels are blank strips of aluminum that screw into place to dress up the gap between your components. Trust me, they're a good thing. Sanus even includes three adjustable tie bars in as well. The rack itself is forged from heavy-gauge welded steel and features quick-release side and rear doors, as well as a lockable tempered glass door, which can be removed and adjusted to swing out either to the right or the left. One of the best parts about the Sanus rack (as if one needed more good news) is that it comes fully assembled, rather than in a mountain of boxes that would make even the most experienced Ikea customer cry, "Mommy!"
If you are a first-time customer in the pro rack arena, you'll most likely find everything you need included as standard, depending on which of the four Sanus Component Series racks you choose. However, for power users or those with more complex systems, you'll most likely want to hit up the options list, which I did. On Sanus' website, there are two areas dedicated to accessories for the Component Series racks, the first labeled Accessories and the second EcoSystem Accessories. Let's start with the basic accessories first. These include extra shelves, blanking plates, tie bars, extra screws, pull-out drawers, power strips and a rack-mountable power conditioner. I picked up the 27U power strip ($169.99) and a 2U pullout drawer ($144.99) for remotes, media and my HTPC keyboard.
Moving on to the EcoSystem accessories, you must first have an understanding of what Sanus' EcoSystem is all about. The EcoSystem is a series of accessories aimed at keeping your rack cool, your smaller components and smart phones charged and your working environment less cluttered. The EcoSystem is grounded by the MultiVolt Power Supply, which is a 1U power source for the powered accessories in your rack, whether or not those accessories are from Sanus. The MultiVolt Power Supply retails for $249.99 and does not come standard with any of the Component Series Racks. The front of the EcoSystem contains a system power switch, two light switches, one for front and the other for back, a USB charging input and two 12VDC outlets. Around back, there are three additional USB charging/power inputs, four power inputs dedicated to Sanus' work and task lights, six outlets that are always on and four that are controlled via the included thermostat. The four thermostat outlets are to be used in concert with any of the three rack-mountable fan options Sanus offers. Along with the MultiVolt Power Supply, I also picked up a 1U ultra-quiet fan ($119.99), a 3U high-volume exhaust fan ($119.99) and a 3U ultra-quiet fan ($119.99). All of the fans are controlled via the thermostat kit, which comes standard with the MultiVolt Power Supply and kicks the fans on when your rack reaches temperatures in excess of around 80 degrees. Once the rack has been brought down to a cool operational temperature - I believe Sanus deems this to be less than 75 degrees - the fans shut off. All of the fans are virtually silent, except for the 3U high volume fan, which is used as an exhaust, pulling air up from the bottom of your rack and venting it out the top. This fan sounds like a small jet engine taking off but, thankfully, the rack is so well-ventilated that I have yet to hear the 3U fan go off on its own (I tested it via one of the always-on power outlets just to get a sense of its output and volume). To make working in and around my new rack easier, I also scooped up a front-mounted task light ($119.99), as well as a magnetic work light ($79.99).
Once I was done checking all the boxes, the price of my Sanus rack had swelled to around $2,300, which may sound like a lot, except that I paid just about double that for my Middle Atlantic setup a few years ago and that rack didn't have an EcoSystem, let alone powered fans, work lights or even removable and lockable side doors. Hell, it didn't even come equipped with shelves, which were between $40 and $85 apiece.
Configuring my Sanus Component Seri
es Rack, complete with all of the added accessories I picked up along the way, was a breeze and was handled in no time. The rack was large enough to house my Parasound amplifier (4U), Integra AV preamp (4U), HTPC (3U), Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD Blu-ray player (1U), and even a 17-inch 16:9 monitor (5U) that I use as a secondary display so that I don't always have to kick on my plasma or projection system. Truth be told, I had room to spare, which is where the blanking plates came in handy. While I didn't use all of the included shelves or blanking plates, I'm glad I have them for, as a reviewer, I must remain flexible and the Sanus affords me that capability. The MultiVolt Power Supply works like a champion and the fans do an admirable job of dissipating heat, though they've only kicked on once and then only for a few seconds. The power strip makes power cable management a breeze and the work lights make the arduous task of cable management easy. Best of all, with the support legs (aka brakes) down, the casters don't roll, making the entire rack virtually impervious to shifting, even when my Wolfhound gets a little overzealous and crashes into it.
Read about the high points and low points of the Sanus Component Series on Page 2.High Points
• The Component Series racks are built to a
quality that is equal and in many ways superior to that of the industry
standard, which is Middle Atlantic.
• The removable panels and
adjustable door make working on and around the rack easy and
trouble-free. Best of all, the doors and panels can be locked to prevent
unwanted tampering, damage or even theft.
• The included shelves
are a nice touch, as are the blanking plates, making for a truly
professional and custom finished look once all of your equipment is
• Sanus' EcoSystem is a thing of beauty and, while it
adds to the rack's bottom line, its cost is a way of protecting one's
investment from damage suffered at the hands of overheating. This said,
those with modest or even more simplistic setups may not need EcoSystem,
for the rack already does a stellar job of venting warm air out the
top, even with all of the panels and door closed.
The base price of the Sanus racks is outright affordable, compared to
much of the competition. However, you can quickly drive the costs up if
you get too crazy with the options list. My recommendation is to live
with whatever Sanus rack you choose for a while before piling on the
optional extras, as you may not need them.
• The 3U exhaust fan is
ungodly loud, so if you're housing your rack in the same room as, say,
people, there will be no mistaking when your rack has reached its
boiling point and is in need of a cool-down. Thankfully, the sound
should only last for a few moments or never come on at all, due to the
Sanus' convection cooling setup as standard.
• I kind of wish Sanus
offered a tinted glass door option, for it would go a long way toward
dimming a lot of the overly bright LEDs that manufacturers are so fond
of these days.
Competition and Comparison
When it comes to
pro style racks, the number one competitor and arguably king of the
market is Middle Atlantic, with companies like OmniMount and others
offering their versions of a Middle Atlantic product. All largely adhere
to the same standards, yet vary dramatically in price. Doing a bit of
research will turn up prices that will in turn allow you to decide which
option is best for you and your budget, but believe me when I say I've
looked myself, and the Sanus Component Series is among the more
affordable options available to everyday consumers.
For more on
equipment racks, such as the ones discussed in this review, please visit
Home Theater Review's Home Theater Furniture page.
just under $1,200, I'm still amazed by what Sanus includes as standard
with their newly revamped Component Series Racks. Most pro style racks
cost as much for a raw frame, and then charge you an arm and your
firstborn for items such as doors, shelves, blanking plates, etc., but
not Sanus. The standard equipment list with any of the four Component
Series Racks should be more than enough to get any home theater
enthusiast or audiophile started. The EcoSystem is truly the icing on
the cake, though it is possible to drive the cost of the rack up
considerably with a happy mouse-clicking finger when shopping online.
Still, even fully loaded, the Sanus Component Series AV Racks are a
bargain compared to what I've seen and even owned. I love my new rack
and would sooner give away a piece of my home theater system than the