Built around a screw together leg construction that’s similar to the popular Quadraspire racks, the PRS is about as straightforward and adaptable as they come. Short base legs with adjustable conical feet and a range of three different leg lengths (210mm/8”, 300mm/12” or 410mm/16”) provide enough spacing options without getting silly (and correspondingly expensive). Where the PRS scores is that the uprights are machined in one piece from solid stainless steel, a material whose resonant characteristics are definitely preferable to aluminium – just ask a cyclist! The execution counts too. The one-piece construction eliminates the mechanical discontinuities and practical challenges of the short lengths of threaded rod used by many manufacturers; the large diameter threads increase rigidity and stability. The slightly over-sized, knurled conical feet look pretty but also make adjustment a breeze, while the locking washers are equally easy and effective to use. Once levelled, locked and loaded the PRS stays that way.
Is there anybody left in the audio world that hasn’t tried the Ikea chopping boards as equipment supports? Apparently so, given how few of the racks on the market employ bamboo shelves – which is remarkable given the clearly audible musical benefits of the fibrous, mechanically disruptive but stable material. True to its “taking what works” philosophy, Blue Horizon has built its racks using the eco-friendly, carbon-positive material. The PRS shelves are 30mm thick, square edged and available in natural bamboo and black or white lacquer finishes. Like all such bamboo board, the sheets are built from thin strips, layered and laminated together, which offers yet another random aspect to the supporting structure and spaces its performance still further from the monolithic nature and single, thuddy resonance of MDF. But here too, execution is key. Shelves are available in single and double width versions, with the legs available in packs of four or six to suit. The two shelf widths can be combined into a single, composite rack or even an extended, multi-bay construction; so far so good; in fact – so far, so very good indeed. Blue Horizon even supply a trio of bamboo couplers with each support level, to sit between your equipment and the supporting shelf, perfect for bypassing those ‘isolation feet’ that are fitted to most electronics. Bamboo blocks might not be the last word when it comes to equipment couplers but Blue Horizon including them gives you another lift in performance and they’ll certainly serve until you can afford something better from HRS, Stillpoints, Grand Prix or Neodio.
Blue Horizon supply the base legs with standard brass footers, but also offer their optional Mk2 Spike Shoes machined stainless steel which is loaded with resonance deadening compound. If you are using the PRS rack on a hard or polished floor, these provide a more sophisticated and effective interface solution. Seriously? Believe me, swap out the standard footers for the Mk2 Spike shoes and you won’t be going back. A three-layer construct involving a steel body, internally damped with the company’s proprietary RDC resin-based composite and finished with a cork layer, these a-resonant discs offer a substantial increase in sound quality despite their modest (£80/4) price. I’ll describe their sonic benefits later, but suffice to say, I’d consider them an essential part of a properly constituted PRS solution.
Sensible choice of materials, excellent execution and carefully considered options add up to a rack that ticks not just the common sense boxes but also meets an awful lot of my own personal demands, requirements that have been arrived at after years of painstaking experimentation with varying support solutions and combinations. When it comes to racks I’m pretty sure what I like and I like the PRS’s choices a lot. It even succeeds where so many racks fail, actually looking better when it’s full of equipment than when it’s empty.
So what don’t I like about the PRS? Blue Horizon supply optional self-adhesive felt washers that you can place between the shelves and the uprights to protect the painted/bamboo surfaces. Don’t use them! They are sonically disastrous, robbing the rack of dynamic range, focus and transparency. Indeed, if you have an existing rack (where the felt was pre-installed) it’s well worth taking it apart and removing the offending material. Still, kudos to Blue Horizon for finally making the washers an option: given my druthers I’d eliminate them completely. My other pet gripe is the bent-metal tuning forks that are screwed to the rear of each shelf. Yes, really… Masquerading as a cable management solution, these aluminium plate ‘coat-hangers’ are recessed into small rectangular cut outs in the rear of each shelf. Leaving aside the practical issues with the arrangement and whether or not physically restraining your cables in close proximity like this is a good idea (it’s not) just ping one of the aluminum retaining plates with a finger to hear it sing! A nod in the direction of housekeeping as opposed to performance, they have no place in a serious set-up. Once again, the good news is that they are easily (and best) removed.
In use, the PRS rack has proved a God-send. The unit is astonishingly rigid for a screw-together structure, partly because it’s possible to get the legs and shelves really firmly clamped together. That, the height of the tallest uprights and the sensibly proportioned shelves has allowed it to be easily adapted to accommodate a whole host of different equipment. I change equipment and systems far more frequently than most members of the public, but I’m sure that the benefits of this rack’s versatility aren’t lost on end-users. The PRS has delivered consistently superior sonic results to my alternative, modestly priced rack solutions (Hutter Racktime and Quadraspire). However, there are a few specific steps to be taken if you are intent on getting the best from this product…
Let’s start with a simple rack. The stock PRS bamboo rack has a stable musical clarity that gives an impressive sense of space and musical separation. Compared to my stock alternatives, the basic PRS rack delivered a nicely spaced soundfield, with solidly rendered instruments and an impressive sense of presence and body. With plenty of energy and drive, there was no danger of the music lagging. That focussed energy and musical momentum comes to the fore with the hard coupled construction. Fit the felt washers and things lose that clarity and focus when it comes to musical lines and exchanges, dynamics and attack.