The Absolute SoundAugust 2014
It wasn’t too long ago that I figured my vinyl-buying days were over. By high-end standards my collection was a modest one, maybe 1500 or so LPs. But they were choice—carefully culled over the years, only the best discs had survived. These were stored on classic Per Madsen stackable oak record racks accumulated back in the 1980s. By the turn of the millennium my collection was neither growing nor shrinking, and Per Madsen was no longer building record racks.
However, with the premium vinyl resurgence of the last few years my collection has begun increasing once again. I’ve been playing more records than ever. And as in my long-ago college days, I’ve got batches of records sitting on the floor once more. Long story short, I never thought I’d be in the market for another LP rack system.
But riding to the rescue was Mapleshade. A stalwart of the high end, Mapleshade’s beginnings can be traced to the purist recordings of engineer Pierre Sprey, who built the Mapleshade Studio in 1986 and launched the Mapleshade label in 1990. Achieving renown for their indie audiophile recordings, Mr. Sprey and his partners also researched and developed what has turned into a full-blown catalog (68 pages and counting) and a grab bag of tweaks, cable, racks, and mods.
The racks are constructed of 3/4" finished or unfinished oak or finished Ambrosia maple, and are still hand-crafted by the same Amish family that also builds Mapleshade’s massive Samson racks. They are beautifully sawn with clean edges and immaculate corners. Even in the unfinished oak that I opted for, the smooth grain was like silk to the touch. The racks are stackable and stable up to four units high. At 27", they are wider and heavier than the Per Madsen 18" standard, and the planks are cut thicker—all the better to support the latest crop of 200-gram reissues.
Admittedly I’m no Thomas Chippendale, so the prospect of assembling anything with more than two or three parts was a little unnerving. However these Mapleshades were a snap. The materials arrived so carefully packaged that the planks and end pieces hadn’t shifted an inch within the box. Each rack is made up of two square vertical end pieces, a pair of right-angle planks, and two flat planks, all connected by eight wood screws and four tiny wood plugs. (Pre-tapped holes are aligned and neatly sunk into each rack to accept the wood plugs for righteously secure stackability.) No glue is required anywhere.
It took a mere fifteen minutes to assemble a Mapleshade rack, gather up a few dozen homeless LPs, and slide them securely into place. Aligning the edges of each jacket just as I always have, I stood back and surveyed my efforts and felt a wave of nostalgia. I recollected a time when I nearly gave up my records for a new “improved” format. But now, years later, I’m far more skeptical of such claims. As vinyl continues to be issued and reissued, LPs have never seemed more alive and relevant. Thanks to Mapleshade finding a place to store them will never be a problem again. —Neil Gader