TAOC ASRII-3S Ref audio rack 3 level 500Wx450D hybrid 5layer shelves

TC 13 RC ASR 3S
NZ$ 2,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
Tangent

Bring out the nuanced beauty of your music with TAOC

New
TAOC ASR II series - this hybrid construction has enabled the marriage of stylish form and performance, by using aluminium die-casting construction, the ASR II series realises stylish design, light weight, and excellent rigidity.

“Hi Terry, I am very happy with the TAOC ASARII rack, it looks great with Accustic Arts  gear! I can hear improvements across the whole spectrum over my old rack. Especially makes the stage stable, the lower end is more defined, a lot of unwanted fat has been removed, mid and highs are accurate. The changes are positive, worth every $ I spent”….. Martin

This series of racks is made of a hybrid construction for excellent audio performance. Aluminums low weight, high strength and aesthetic appeal are augmented with the incorporation of vibration-damping cast iron in strategic areas of the rack, resulting in a sound that exudes both elegance and calm.

1.Shelf Boards
Shelf boards comprise a sandwich construction with the newly developed cast-iron-powder-filled honeycomb core

2.Aluminium die-cast frame
A beautiful and lightweight form are achieved using an aluminium die-casting frame.

3.Cast-iron spacers
Cast iron spacers are fitted to aluminium poles to improve vibration-damping performance.

4.Oscillation-controlling sheet
Comes with TAOC’s unique oscillation-controlling sheet to tune the frame’s resonance.

5.Shelf boards supported by spikes
Shelf boards come into contact with the frame via a spike-support construction. Spikes include fine height adjustments.

6.Cable routing space
The rear side of the frame is designed to secure sufficient cable routing space.

The TAOC ASRII series is our better alternative to previous similar Finite Element racks.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Features

DESIGN
The rack’s stylish form was realised using moulding technology.
Elegant metallic finish

EASE of USE
Easy-assembly construction
Choose the shelf board spacing and the number of shelves in the rack to suit your equipment.

PERFORMANCE
Poles are fitted with cast iron spacers to damp vibration.
An oscillation-controlling sheet is applied to the frame to control oscillation.
Shelf boards comprise a five-layer construction with the newly developed cast-iron-powder-filled honeycomb core.
Shelf boards are supported by spikes (four) in a floating support configuration.

GENERAL
Excellent load-bearing capacity.(100kg per shelf, 400kg for the entire rack)
The surface colour of the shelf board is reversible.

Specifications

Frame: Aluminum die-casting
Poles: Aluminum
Shelf board: five-layer construction W: 500 x H: 22 x D: 450mm
Spacer: Cast iron
Feet: Cast iron

FINISH
Frame: Black Metallic (standard price)
            Silver Metallic (standard price)
            Pearl Crystal Shine White (available at extra cost)
Poles: Champagne Gold
Shelf boards: Reversible color finish (semi-matt)
Feet: Black

4pc pole sets - choose from the following pole lengths
ASRII P418 = 180mm
ASRII P423 = 230mm
ASRII P428 = 280mm
ASRII P433 = 330mm

Reviews

What the TAOC brings to the table far outstrips anything I can think of for its asking price. I would buy it just for the enhanced body and weight alone!
Marshall Nack

REVIEW SUMMARY: for the audiophile deep into the pursuit of advanced sound, who is already beyond mid-fi, including mid-fi racks, the next hurdles involve finessing more realism. This happens in small, incremental dollops. At this level, two-thousand-five-hundred greenbacks will get you one or two pieces of wire or maybe a power conditioner. You'd get a bigger bang by placing all your gear on a TAOC AS rack. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: "TAOC? Who's that?"

Potent bass; smooth frequency response; a tonal balance so well apportioned it made me suspect some form of equalization might be involved—powerful stuff, huh? These were outstanding in the rooms of a couple of exhibitors at HE2005 East I'm well acquainted with. Curious, then, that when I looked around the gear looked mostly familiar. It took a second glance to notice both exhibitors were using new component racks made by TAOC. "Made by who?" I inquired. "How do you pronounce that?" I jotted down: "Well-made and functional," and little else—the TAOC AS racks tend to blend in inconspicuously.

On the following show days I made the rounds. Racks were on my mind—I was in the market for a new generation product, so I made a point to spend time with Mike Latvis, the designer/manufacturer of the highly regarded HRS rack system. I even setup a tentative post-show meeting to audition some of his products. Separately, I was also considering the finite elemente line. These two, plus the Harmonix Royal Stage, represent the cutting edge in rack systems, in my opinion.

But I liked what I was hearing in those rooms with the TAOC. That, plus the firmly positive accounting given by the two exhibitors, decided it for me.

Trust Your First Impression

That first impression at HE2005E was indeed prescient. In short order, I heard just what I imagined and hoped I would hear. (This is generally not a good habit to indulge in. Back when I was involved in photography, I came up with a motto explicitly forbidding such advance fantasy. I made it one of the Ten Commandments that I scribed on museum board and posted in my darkroom: "Thou Shalt Not Fantasize Pre-Positivo." It means: don't fantasize about images from a shoot that are still undeveloped on the film. Save your enthusiasm until you at least have the contact sheet.) [Your editor, long-time in photography and possessor of my own darkroom, agrees heartily. Good proverb.]

Before the swap, with my analog front-end on my reference Polycrystal rack, I gave the Benjamin Britten Sinfonietta a spin (Lyrita SRCS.111, LP). This average sounding Lyrita from 1982 (average for a Lyrita means at least "Class A" in LP-land) is difficult material. I wasn't bowled over, even though I was running it through the Audio Note Ongaku M77 pre-amp with its built-in MM phono and separate ANJ step-up device, the best phono amplification I've ever encountered. The piece is all about dense section counterpoint, but I couldn't resolve individual lines. How can you appreciate the composition when it all tended to congeal in a center-of-stage mass? And consider that Polycrystal's strong suit is its uncanny soundstaging and imaging, its ability to float a highly dimensional and discretely layered stage, albeit at the cost of being somewhat weightless and thin.

The view changed considerably with the ANJ gear moved onto a TAOC AS rack. Imaging was about as good, but was now spread out over a wider stage, opening up the soundscape and effectively surpassing the Polycrystal at its strong point. Instrumental lines segregated—the blurring and blending evaporated—as the TAOC laid out discrete, unwavering section lines upon a granite-like foundation. And, lo, there they were: the powerful and dynamic low-end; the smooth frequency response; the near-perfect allotments of bass, midrange and treble. Plus, there was an unmistakable body attached to those anorexic cutouts, they became substantial. Talk about weight—the TAOC rack will give it to ya in spades! This time around, the promises were fulfilled—I couldn't get rid of the silly grin across my face.

To get to this point, however, I had to do some re-balancing because tonality took a decided shift downward. This was easily accomplished by lowering the output level and cutoff frequency of the Kharma Ce-Sb powered sub and removing one or two Golden Sound Magic Rings. Out went the Shunyata Hydra power conditioner and the Reimyo ALS-777 conditioner, which I had piggybacked for front-end duties, and both of which boost the low-end. I did my listening with zero power conditioning.

Back to the rack

So, this is a happy thing—I love to take tweaks out. Generally speaking, if the gear is up to it and well chosen, a system will always sound better without tweaks. Some might argue that the rack itself is a tweak. Yes, I suppose one could say that, to the extent that it imposes a change. To my mind, the difference between the TAOC and tweaks is that it doesn't attempt to identify and somehow tune or nullify source problems. It is pure engineering, an uncoloured ingredient that just does its job well and passes along the exact quality of your source.

So far, we've compared a rigid, high mass, inert rack without any damping (the Polycrystal), to a lighter, less inert one with damping provided by cast-iron powder (the TAOC).

The competition got tougher when I switched to CD. I chose Symphony No. 4 from Schumann Revealed (Archiv 289 457 352-2), the eye-opening account delivered by John Eliot Gardiner with his period instrument Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir. This is Schumann like you've never heard him before. The performance is loaded with fresh insights and drama. Sound is rather good, too. I use Gardiner's agile, powerful intro to the second movement for demonstration purposes. It has great momentum and flows easily, while avoiding excessive control.

This was a closer match-up as the digital front-end sits on last year's favorite rack, the Solid Tech Rack of Silence (ROS). In addition, I use Harmonix RF-66ZX footers under the components on the ROS. This represents my maxed out, top-level tweak support, arrived at after years of shopping around. With the digital setup this way, there's no edge in those violins at all. Dynamics, timbre, staging—I've lived with this arrangement for a year and it's really great.

Murk Begone

Just by moving the DAC from the ROS (plus RF-66ZX) onto the TAOC without any footers, there it was again—everything was firmer, more solidly placed. Dynamics kicked in forcefully, adding to the drama, and there's that evenness of response and tone quality—this is pure sound. The stage is noticeably wider again, as wide as it gets in my room. The damping from the cast-iron in the TAOC means judicious control of resonance and vibration, which translates into stunning, realistic soundstage resolution. Whatever murkiness or lumbering fat had been present became taut—not shrivelled up and shrunk, because images are just as big—simply, that the fat has become firm. And the mass comprising the image moves in unison. Not only do you know who is singing at any given moment, you can clearly hear each word. Percussion instruments pop out with startling immediacy and transient power.

While the ROS with Harmonix footers has even more weight, it is also softer, tuned so it sounds more acoustic. The soundstage is more distant. The treble is more noticeable and thinner, its quality has changed—we've lost the evenness of response.

So which one is better? They do very different things. They're each at the top of what's available in component support, but I think the strengths of the TAOC AS rack on its own will be as appealing to folks who value accuracy as the ROS and Harmonix combo are to those into warmth and acoustic tuning. (Figure, that's one TAOC AS = ROS plus four sets of Harmonix footers, for about double the cost). Now let's see what happens when you give it the benefit of those high quality footers. Which one is better? Slipping some RF-66ZX under the digital gear on the TAOC brings out the tuning effects: the timbre becomes more acoustic; it's more holistic, the performers are occupying one space; it's like somebody applied an airbrush. Instrumental sections are more discrete in spite of the fact that the soundstage has moved back from the speaker plane and its width has shrunk. And tonal balance has dropped some more. You could say the RF-66ZX builds upon the strong foundation laid by the TAOC, adding tuning effects, relaxing the sound, adding even more weight. You might also make a case that they compromise the strict neutrality of the TAOC rack.

After all the testing, what it boils down to is 1) the TAOC, or 2) the TAOC. 

The AS rack solo is nonpareil for a totally neutral, SOTA voicing. With added Harmonix footers, it's similar to the ROS/Harmonix, but stronger. If you like these effects, this is the way to go, no contest. Which variation is for you depends on what the system needs and your personal taste. Do you want your cuppa-jo straight up or with a scoop or two of sweetener and a little more weight? When I was running a low-wattage SET rig, I definitely preferred the TAOC straight up. Later, when switching to my reference high-power Kharma speaker-based system, I wanted to loosen things up and add warmth and weight—that's when the Harmonix footers went back in. I also liked the coherency ER Audio Space Harmonizer boards brought to the digital front-end.

Cast-Iron Powder

TAOC products are distinctive in their use of graded cast iron and cast-iron powder—this is the "active ingredient," so to speak. Most audiophiles know about pouring lead shot or sand into the hollow steel tubing of their shelving or into boxes placed under components, but I've never come across the use of cast-iron powder before. All three fillings employ damping to control vibration and resonance, and all impart a tonal shift downward. But with the first two, the presentation becomes dull and lifeless; the TAOC cast-iron actually adds life and naturalism, provided it is not over-applied.

I tell you, I'm not missing my power conditioning. There's something about TAOC's application of cast iron that does things I hear with good conditioners. The background is dead quiet. Low-level details abound. Frequency response is definitely more linear. When's the last time you heard a double bass solo that didn't give you a mottled impression, some notes jumping forward and others receding? (This is a common problem. The room is a big factor in lumpy and uneven bass, but not the only one. If you've ever tried to fix it, good luck to ya—you know how difficult it is.)

Earlier, before the TAOC came, I was hearing a hump in the mid-bass and I was all set to attribute this to the speakers under review—that would have been an egregious error.

Bingo! I just had one of those "aha" insights. For a while now, I've been remarking how good analog has been sounding, how the gap between it and digital has widened. I couldn't understand why—I spend no time tweaking it—all my efforts go towards improving the digital or the downstream components. Now it dawns on me; the last two pre-amps I've used had built-in phono stages—and both sat on a TAOC shelf, while my digital has remained on the ROS! Now that I've got extra TAOC shelf space to hold the transport and DAC (yes, I've gone all out TAOC for my racks), I have to say that gap has narrowed. And I've got a lot of footers I won't need any more.

Hardware

When I learned that TAOC is a member of the Toyota group of companies it instantly established high credibility. I figured, here's a commercially successful Japanese powerhouse who obviously knows what they're doing, who could throw huge R&D resources into their products. The TAOC division of Toyota is the largest producer of cast-iron automobile parts in Japan, and unbeknownst to us, they've been in the audiophile accessory business since 1983. They've just recently acquired a US distributor. What's surprising is that a large conglomerate would bother with such a small consumer marketplace.

As for the AS Series Rack, the instruction booklet may be in Japanese, but assembly was easy. Shelves are constructed of five constrained layers. The core layer is cast-iron powder. This is sandwiched between high-density particleboard, then overlaid and finished with hard melamine on both sides. Visually, ain't nothing special to note about them. Black on one side, light grey on the verso, average weight, they appear much like other audio-grade shelving. Each shelf sits inside an aluminium die-cast frame with a pin at each corner—the shelf rides on four pinpoints, which are adjustable for levelling purposes.

 Conclusion

The TAOC AS Component Rack lived up to my expectations—and then some. It adds body and weight in equal portions across the frequency spectrum and boosts dynamics and definition. This is a powerful tool in the battle for realistic weight and body. Its strategic use of cast-iron easily surpasses sand-filled component platforms, lead shot in your rack's tubing or other forms of mass loading. The TAOC will give you more natural weight and resonance control than any combination of the former could provide. And if you're doing battle with an aggressive treble, this is the Rx.

As far as sound, there isn't a single negative I can come up. Once you've made the necessary adjustments to offset the decrease in treble, everything will be better. When I was running a low-wattage SET rig, there was no contest—I definitely preferred the TAOC AS Series AV Rack on its own to my most tweaked-out component support, the Solid Tech Rack of Silence plus additional Harmonix RF-66ZX footers.

Then, when all the guest linestages and amps had departed and I was left with my cost-effective but admittedly lesser quality, high-power reference, I needed to warm things up, and add even more body, weight and flesh—in general, to fill in the sound—the Harmonix RF-66ZX were re-introduced. In the end, whether with a low-wattage SET rig or a high powered one, adding the TAOC AS rack to the equation put me solidly ahead of where I began. I now play LPs I know well—and they sound like they've morphed into 200gram, 45 RPM, single-sided collector's items.

For the audiophile deep into the pursuit of advanced sound, who is already beyond mid-fi, including mid-fi racks, the next hurdles involve finessing more realism. This happens in small, incremental dollops. At this level, two-thousand-five-hundred greenbacks will get you one or two pieces of wire or maybe a power conditioner. You'd get a bigger bang by placing all your gear on a TAOC AS rack. 

What the TAOC brings to the table far outstrips anything I can think of for its asking price. I would buy it just for the enhanced body and weight alone! 

………Marshall Nack

Testimonials

Worth ever dollar spent

“Hi Terry,
I am very happy with the TAOC ASARII rack, it looks great with Accustic Arts  gear! I can hear improvements across the whole spectrum over my old rack. Especially makes the stage stable, the lower end is more defined, a lot of unwanted fat has been removed, mid and highs are accurate. The changes are positive, worth every $ I spent”
….. Martin