Slimmer Products Influence Rack, Mount, and AV Enclosure Designs
Thin, as a form factor, has defined the industrial design of many products that are central to custom integration. In the past five years alone, the ascent of the slender profile as a sign of advancing aesthetic and technological advancement in consumer electronics has exerted considerable influence on the look of everything from AV receivers and players to, most significantly, televisions. By their very nature, racks and mounts are designed to either show off these products, or in some instances, hide them from view—a duty that is tied into the development of the products they support and showcase.
In answer to the advent of wireless, portably mounted televisions, Peerless has launched the PeerAir line of wireless mounts that incorporate wireless technology into the mount. The line enables full HD 1080p (60Hz) AV content to stream on a 5GHz Wi-Fi band up to 131 feet from the transmitter, even through walls and ceilings, and includes the HD Flow Wireless Multimedia Kits, that provides an alternative to running cables for any AV project. PeerAir products are plugand-play, requiring no additional software or setup. “With the rising popularity of ultra-thin and large-size displays in residential environments, integrators are faced with both challenge and opportunity,” said Vlad Gleyzer, president of Crimson AV when asked what technology advancements have influenced his company’s products most. “Mount solutions must be sleek, slender, and solid in order to accommodate not only the type of display, but the manner and the environment in which it will be used. Ultra-thin TVs, for instance, need proper support when mounted to prevent warping. Using high-quality, professional-grade mounts therefore have become exceedingly critical as they provide rigidity, security and stability, which may otherwise not exist.
“At the same time, it is equally important that the sleek aesthetics of the TV are maintained so that the TV becomes a focal point in the room rather than an eyesore,” he added.
At Middle Atlantic Products, the meme is much the same. Taking into account the smaller form factor of today’s electronics, the manufacturer’s director of marketing, Kevin Handerson noted that the trend has allowed MAP to explore different techniques for their integration partners to support and protect those components.
“There is also a trend toward utilizing more space more efficiently within enclosures that brings up a related challenge: managing heat output,” Handerson said. “More equipment in a given space means more heat being generated, so the key is designing rack systems with flexibility and provision for addressing this cooling challenge. This challenge is particularly important in residential applications where there is often not a dedicated rack room or open utility space available.”
Sanus’ EcoSystem is a fully customizable accessory that serves as the single power source for all low-voltage equipment in an AV rack. The Ecosystem also eliminates the need for individual transformers or “wall warts” and includes accessories aimed at controlling temperature and keeping the rack neat. Handerson and Gleyzer’s manufacturing peers, including Chief Manufacturing, Salamander, Lowell, Video Mount Products, Premier Mounts, Peerless AV, and Sanus Systems, have all voiced similar observations, noting that the impact of slimmer products has influenced not only the evolution of their rack and mount products, but in how their integrators sell them as well.
“Racks and enclosures are holding more equipment in smaller spaces so efficient designs are paramount to successful installs,” said Kevin Ditch, engineering manager for Lowell. “In addition, the green initiative and sustainability continue to be very hot topics. And with so many customers cutting expenses, installers are more inclined to look for energy-savings wherever they can offer them as a benefit to their customers.”
DESIGN WITH INTEGRATION IN MIND
Chief Manufacturing, after launching a series of rack solutions last year, decided to turn its focus to enhancing the customer experience with its products. Having already incorporated a range of installer-friendly features in the new rack, including pre-welded ganging nuts and reversible doors, Chief decided to improve the ordering and installation process.
“We created RackBuilder Delivered, the industry’s first program for custom, preloaded AV racks,” said Rob Zurn, product manager for Chief Rack Solutions. “ The program delivers Chief Raxxess Series racks preloaded with accessories, saving valuable installation time. Customers can quickly build a custom rack configuration using our online, newly renovated RackBuilder application, and have it preloaded by the Chief team. On average, this saves about an hour of setup time per rack for our customers, and significantly reduces the amount of packaging used in shipping, and the amount of packaging that the customer is responsible for disposing of or recycling.”
One of the main features in the new application, Zurn explained, is the smart logic that guides users in product selections and compatibilities as they build. Other enhancements include drag-and-drop editing, the ability to save and email configurations, a third-party components compatibility database, access to MSRP pricing, and a SpecBuilder automated collection option that gathers all necessary DWG, CAD, and related documents.
Taking its inspiration for new products from dealer feedback, Salamander Designs offers furniture-grade alternatives to the standard black metal box-style racks made for pro-audio equipment. In addition to its cabinets, which can often accommodate 19-inch rack rails for individual rack components or a full rack, the company has also developed wall hanging cabinets to complement those sleek televisions. With products made of high-grade coldrolled steel and aluminum, Crimson has also taken steps to make integration simpler by including pre-installed security screws, presorted hardware kits, and jobsite-friendly packing.
“An example of our diligent and dedicated design process can be found in our new low-profile F Series mounts,” Gleyzer said, “which feature a universal hole pattern (400x400mm) to fit a wide selection of flat-panel screens, post-installation leveling for perfect screen positioning even when the surface is not perfectly level, and a convenient click-in-place screen placement that simplifies the installation process by eliminating the need for tools when affixing the screen to the wall.”
The F Series also comes equipped with pre-installed securing screws, an open wall plate design and a kickstand feature that provides easy access to wiring.
In line with its observation of shifting component sizes and space constraints, Middle Atlantic Products recently released the HRF Series family of half-width rack systems that are suitable for integrating AV systems in tight quarters.
“These Half Racks are specially purposed for rack-mounting components that are half the width of those used in traditional-width enclosures, and we have seen an increase in the number and availability of these small components,” Handerson said. “We’ve also developed a line of options uniquely suited for a smaller system like the HRF Series. These solutions include a small, slim power strip, along with half-width high-static pressure quiet blower panels, shelves, blanks, and vent panels.”
Premier Mounts’ CMT low-profile mount for flat-panels is said to simply install with the company’s patented MagnaGuide feature, which uses strong magnets to align the plates together behind the display. A kickstand feature holds the flat-panel up to 4.28 inches away from the wall, making it easy to connect AV components. In addition to the HRF Series, Handerson also pointed to new features in other lines, including the introduction of the Leverlock internal management system in MAP’s BGR Series of equipment racks that allows mounting of small devices in otherwise unused side spaces of a rack as well as the company’s development of new thermal management products with “more robust capabilities that cool more efficiently, function automatically and save energy.”
Equally space conscious is Video Mount Products, whose patented ER-8RSA adjustable eight receiver rack shelf addresses both space constraints and dwindling component sizes. As VMP president Keith Fulmer explained, the ER-8RSA is a solution that “not only futureproofs your installation with its size-adjustable partition system, but also allows for up to eight receivers on one shelf, as opposed to otherwise needing eight rack shelves to accomplish the same thing, reducing substantially the need for added rack space.”
Taking its inspiration for new products from dealer feedback, Salamander Designs offers furniture-grade alternatives to the standard black metal box-style racks made for pro-audio equipment. In addition to its cabinets, which can often accommodate 19-inch rack rails for individual rack components or a full rack, the company has also developed wall hanging cabinets to complement those sleek televisions.
“This range of cabinets allows the installer to give their customer an on-wall custom cabinet that is as easy to hang as a flat-panel TV,” said Sal Carrabba, president of Salamander. “Many of our cabinet designs incorporate large internal bays to house L/C/R speakers, making complete home theater integration simple and a wonderful complement to any décor.”
Acknowledging that the proliferation of connected devices with simplified content streaming have impacted the development of Sanus’ rack and rack accessories, director of product development for Milestone AV Technologies, Dominic Grey said that “this technology change has deepened our understanding of common systems that include an increasing number of small and low-voltage components.”
The result of Sanus’ observations is the Sanus EcoSystem, a fully customizable accessory that serves as the single power source for all low-voltage equipment in an AV rack. The EcoSystem also eliminates the need for individual transformers or “wall warts” and includes accessories aimed at controlling temperature and keeping the rack neat.
In keeping with their cost-conscious customers, Lowell has expanded its line to include rack designs for every budget, with Ditch pointing to the new LPOR series that fits easily into closets or credenzas and provides easy pull out access to equipment.
“We’ve also added an integral thermostat option to our line of turbo and whisper fan panels,” Ditch added. “Built into the cord, the thermostat activates and deactivates fans when the ambient temperature reaches pre-set points, saving wear and tear on the fans, while avoiding wasted electricity. And the cord is bright green, which highlights the energy-savings benefit to customers.”
In answer to the advent of wireless, portably mounted televisions, Peerless has launched the PeerAir line of wireless mounts that incorporate wireless technology into the mount. The line enables full HD 1080p (60Hz) AV content to stream on a 5GHz Wi-Fi band up to 131 feet from the transmitter, even through walls and ceilings, and includes the HD Flow Wireless Multimedia Kits, that provides an alternative to running cables for any AV project. PeerAir products are plug-and-play, requiring no additional software or setup.
Premier Mounts’ CMT low-profile mount for flat-panels are said to simply install with the company’s patented MagnaGuide feature, which uses strong magnets to align the plates together behind the display. A kickstand feature holds the flat-panel up to 4.28 inches away from the wall, making it easy to connect AV components.
IN THE WORKS
Racks, mounts, and AV enclosures are not glamorous products, but they are essential in maintaining the look that only professional AV integration can bring to home entertainment. Taking cues from their dealers and integrators, rack and mount manufacturers are anticipating that, as Lowell’s Ditch pointed out, the continued dominance of energy-efficient and space-saving demands will exert influence on future rack and mount designs.
“Technology will continually evolve,” echoed MAP’s Handerson, “but one thing that will remain constant is the necessity of ensuring reliable systems by incorporating effective cooling, cable management, and power distribution and protection in product and system design.”
Llanor Alley is a contributing editor to Residential Systems, based in Brooklyn, NY.
ERIC DIDION ADVANCED ALARM INC., BUFFALO, NY
How are you utilizing Sanus’ rack designs to enhance your integration projects?
We were using a competitor’s rack system for years and recently tried the new 2100 rack system from Sanus. In comparing costs and quality Sanus racks are a “no brainer”. The only complaint that we had was that we had to still purchase a few products from the competition in order to complete the project. One thing that could help going forward are more accessories and a catalog that shows them together to help in the design and quoting process.
MARK T. JONES
WORLD WIDE STEREO, MONTGOMERYVILLE, PA
How are you utilizing Salamander’s rack designs to enhance your integration projects?
Salamander racks are the only I know of that integrate a standard rack-mount system in a real piece of quality furniture. Other standard rack-mount systems are nothing but a steel utilitarian looking metal rack. Salamander integrates beautiful woods, specially treated glass and accents into a fully functional cabinet. You can even add a fan system to keep the equipment cool, or an IR repeater so the remote will still work even if the door is closed. Most of the wood finishes come from Italy, and the cabinets are assembled to order in their American factories.
What would you like to see next in rack design and capabilities?
I would like to see them start to think about how they might make installing smaller network products more easy inside the cabinet. Many of today’s systems include a network switch, new router, or wireless access point and it isn’t uncommon for these to be installed in the same cabinet as the audio/video components. They should think of a way to make it easier to mount these often odd shaped network products along with a way to better wire-manage them.
Tell the world that most of the better products are made in America. That goes a long way with our customers.