They’re one of the key pillars of custom installation–something that high-end AV systems will always require and that do-it-yourselfers will never find at the big-box store. So vital to a well engineered system, yet so peripheral that even your most tech-savvy clients have probably never given them a thought. We're talking about equipment racks, of course–and there’s a lot more going on with these behind-the-scenes stars lately than even you may have realized.
First of all, the need for racks is beginning to expand beyond just AV equipment; burgeoning mainstream prevalence of smart home technology means more and more devices are going into homes–driving a greater need for other devices to support them on the backend.
“The popularity of smart speaker assistants including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have homeowners integrating more smart products into their homes like lighting, locks, and thermostats, which requires more equipment and routers to keep smart homes up and running,” said Dennis Holzer, executive director, PowerHouse Alliance. “Our A2V line of racks provide a central location for homeowners to neatly store and connect networking devices out of sight. Available in a variety of sizes, A2V racks organize all routers and hubs and can be easily hidden away in a closet.”
Video Mount Products’ (VMP) president Keith Fulmer also has noted the rise in the number of devices going into installations and is offering a novel solution for handling it. “In situations where you are upgrading an existing home theater or automation system and need to add one or two additional components such as another switch, amplifier, or power source, and don’t want to replace an entire equipment cabinet, you can add one of the ERVR Series Vertical Equipment Racks at a nominal cost and a marginal increase to your system footprint,” he said.
Available in 1U, 2U, and 4U configurations, the ERVR Series can mount equipment of any depth both horizontally and vertically–perfect for mounting something as basic as a wireless access point, Fulmer said.
Middle Atlantic Products has for some time now been focused on the trend of devices with atypical form factors needing to be properly mounted. “As the technology shifts to smaller form factors, designers need to ensure that these non-rackmount devices can be properly secured in the rack while at the same time account for proper thermal, cable, and power management,” said Jay Franetovich, application engineer/product manager at Middle Atlantic.
Another trend, Franetovich pointed out, is the decentralization of systems in media rooms and home theaters. Its Proximity Series AV storage solutions includes an in-wall box designed to fit both 16- and 24-inch stud bays for greater systems storage capacity, as well as the Sliding Mounting Plate for accessible AV storage behind a display.
Lowell Manufacturing Co. has also taken into consideration the increased diversity of devices when designing its LCDR Series equipment rack, with the acknowledgement that contemporary racks are often open to view. “The ever-changing landscape of smart home technology has driven the need for greater variety in rack design, allowing integrators the flexibility to accommodate an assortment of audiovisual, communications, environmental, and security devices to fit a wide variety of residential space and décor,” said Lowell’s marketing communications manager, Kathleen Lane.
With this in mind, Lowell made its LCDR Series configured design rack for the high-end décor of home theaters, home offices, and similar areas. It includes a set of factory-installed accessories like whisper-quiet fans mounted in the top vents, and several shelves and blank panels.
Salamander Designs has taken the concept of matching a home’s décor a step further with its Tech Racks. “Traditionally, equipment racks have had an appearance akin to industrial shelving, and as such have been relegated to low visibility areas such as closets, back rooms, basements, etc.,” said Salvatore Carrabba, president and founder of the company. “The shame is that enthusiasts have pride in the systems they’ve assembled and invested in, and have almost everything they need to deliver the complete experience, but lack a key component: the equipment rack itself.
Salamander’s Tech Racks are designed with the look and feel of fine furniture to house and display AV and home integration equipment. Modular and configurable in form factors from towers to credenzas, the systems can be “re-skinned” and are retrofit-able and modifiable to accommodate changing technology and aesthetic requirements.
For SnapAV, the only trend in racks is the enduring need to supply solutions for pretty much every use case conceivable. “We’re still selling all sorts of rack heights as technology continues evolving,” said Emily Heichel, one of the company’s product managers. “And overall, our dealers just want solutions that are flexible and able to be customized.”
To meet that demand, Snap has created Rack Builder to help integrators select and order the mounting solutions they need. “Building a rack is a huge part of custom integrators’ daily work life,” Heichel said. “It requires precise measuring, load balancing, and technical know-how. Our Rack Builder (in Beta) makes it easier to design a rack, create your job bid, and implement your install without missing a beat.” Integrators can add products to their cart in bulk, personalize them with labels and detailed install notes for technicians, and export finished projects to PDF for bid presentations.
As the landscape of technology and the preferences of end users continue to shift, manufacturers of equipment racks have rolled out solutions to fit these needs–ensuring that whatever kind of product comes along, there’ll always be a way of neatly and efficiently tucking it away.