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April 2019
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 Diagon Equipment Rack
A world-class modular design manufactured to the highest standard.
Review By Rick Becker

 

Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 Diagon Equipment Rack Review

 

  Before the emergence of minimalism as a lifestyle and de-cluttering as an admirable hobby, there were audio equipment racks. In fact, there was an entire genre of mid-fi and low-fi audio systems neatly packaged in vinyl clad chipboard. Organization was essential to keep the dreaded wires (they were "wires" back then) out of sight lest Perseus should glimpse Medusa's head and be forever turned to stone. For an audiophile this is a decidedly unwelcomed outcome.

As the audio hobby matured and people became aware of heat build-up as an unwelcomed event detrimental to electronic components, tiered open shelving units emerged to solve the problem. As the High End scene gained traction cables evolved into a significant component category and became something of a status symbol for audiophiles, so their visibility became important. Eventually people began to discover that almost everything mattered when it comes to improving the resolution and quality of the music. To paint a broad brush stroke, the evolution of spikes and more technical component footers paralleled and became entwined with the development of more sophisticated equipment racks. Today, racks for serious audio enthusiasts range from basic $99 versions to seriously engineered units that break a five-figure price tag. They have become a legitimate component category on their own, recognized by professionals throughout the industry.

Codia Acoustic Design makes several levels of equipment racks that include multi-shelf units and low profile amplifier stands for those who wish to give their power amps a place of prominence close to their speakers. (Long interconnect cables to the amps combined with short speaker cables is preferred for optimal sound quality, if not the most convenient configuration from a lifestyle perspective.) I have long admired Codia's casual elegance at the Canadian shows where they were displayed by Charisma Audio, who are a dealer for North America. For myself, as a reviewer who is frequently changing equipment configurations, I preferred a long table to minimize lifting and bending. I also have championed numerous brands of footers that I have faithfully used under virtually every component and power supply. How could a rack be much better than all those wonderful footers?

 

Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 Diagon Equipment Rack Review

 

It took Bernard Li of Charisma Audio a lot of arm twisting and a promise to allow me to return the rack if it didn't earn my approval and convince me of its value. I wasn't eager to make a sideways move in audio quality if it meant a loss in ergonomic flexibility. Well, the Stage 3000 BAB rack not only won me over on audible excellence, I was able to re-configure my layout to improve the ergonomics of daily operation at a slight cost in the convenience of swapping cables. And if truth be told, it looked a whole lot better, too. Now granted, the BAB was their top-of-the-line model and you shouldn't expect the same results from their more affordable line. You can read my review of the Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 BAB Audio Rack and AmCan Audio Isolator Footers here. You will see that I went through a lot of permutations of components and footers that I felt were unnecessary to repeat in this review. That rack also earned a Blue Note Award in 2017.

When Bernard informed me of the new Stage 3000 Diagon flagship model I was in the throes of closing down my retail furniture business with not a lot of light at the end of that tunnel. As much as I wanted to review it, I was just overwhelmed with work. But as the short days of winter began to lengthen and life was becoming a bit sunnier, I gave him a shout. I was a bit skeptical of the change to the deeper footprint of the Diagon, but I ordered up the same four-shelf configuration in the light wood with chrome plated solid aluminum pillars. Within a few weeks it arrived from South Korea in perfect condition in spite of an ominous hole punched in one of the three boxes. The thick cardboard box and internal Styrofoam fillers were very well designed and served their purpose well. The packaging could easily be used to re-send the rack several more times if handled with care during shipping.

 

 

 

The rack was easily and methodically removed from the packaging with little mess. It seemed like it went together in about a third the time it took me to assemble the 3000 BAB, but Bernard assured me that the parts were essentially the same and that it was probably just the old med-school mantra for surgery taking effect: See one, do one, teach one. I've also had two and a half years of living with the BAB to know that the materials and finish are durable so I need not fear scratching or denting something from minor carelessness. One still needs to pay attention, as I learned when I discovered I had reversed the rubber and carbon graphite washers on one of the posts and mounted the top shelf upside down as seen in the above photo. I should also mention that tools are supplied for the fine adjustment of the spikes that contact your floor as well as finely machined protective footers for those with exposed hardwood floors. This adjustability is probably more important for those with hard surface or uneven floors. Just screwing the posts together wearing my leather palmed bicycle gloves provided enough grip and torque to easily make it rock steady on my carpet-over-flake-board flooring. If you're obsessive about having the shelves perfectly level, the Codia is designed to accomplish that feat. What actually happened was, having written the prior sentence I went out and checked the level on the shelves and found them to be slightly low on the back edge.  After the rack settles for a while with equipment loaded on it, I may level it off, though the tilt is very slight.

 

 

Design And Accommodation
Like the BAB, the Diagon is a modular design with various post lengths available to accommodate components of different heights. Factor in additional height for the use of any footer you may wish to try, though in general, I found footers to be a lot less useful because the shelves do such an excellent job by themselves. You may also want additional space for hot air to escape above any tube gear or Class A gear that runs hot. Also consider the footprint of the shelves on the BAB and Diagon. The Diagon is squarer and has greater depth than the BAB. This concerned me at first because it reduced the distance between the rack and my right speaker, a narrow path I have to traverse to power up my monoblocks. Ultimately it made little difference and my particular gear fit equally well on the shelves of both styles, but I caution you to measure twice and order once. If in doubt, make a cardboard template of the shelf and see how your gear fits.

 

 

Aesthetically, you also have choices to make. The 20-ply Baltic birch wood shelves come in Birch (light) and Wenge (dark) veneers. I chose the light Birch finish as it shows the build-up of dust the least and the little black metric Allen wrenches and remote controls I always seem to need are easy to spot. The light finish also matches the wood sides of Eddie Wong's TubeMagic Research monoblocks that have been my reference for close to a decade. More likely, you're a set-it-and-forget-it kind of listener so choose what matches or complements your equipment and décor. The solid aluminum posts and the metal caps on the front edge of the shelves are also available in four finishes: Black, Chrome, Chrome & Titanium Gold and all Titanium Gold so between the metal and the wood finishes you have eight possible combinations. You might want to get an additional opinion from any significant others who spend considerable time in your listening room. Your cat is probably too indifferent to bother, but girlfriends and wives will likely be flattered that you asked. If you're considering a rack in this price range, you probably have a dedicated listening room so the choice may ultimately be exclusively yours. Choose wisely.

Another two dollar observation I'll throw out is that with the Chrome and Birch combination, it made little difference to me whether the components were silver or black. More significant was the difference between the BAB and the Diagon. With the BAB and its black metal caps on the wood shelves, my components always seemed to look a little more expensive that the rack itself. Those same components on the Diagon always seemed to look more expensive than they actually were. The Diagon flat out is a much classier look than the 3000 BAB. And having seen the Diagon now, I would certainly investigate the possibility of having the black anodized bars of the 3000 BAB chrome plated at a local plating shop.

Of course you can always rotate the shelves 180 degrees if you wish to see the exposed wood edges at the front of the rack. This rotation will also eliminate the redundant chrome plates on each shelf with the Codia logo.  Also — and this may be important to you — the light finish on the Diagon is more like clear maple. The light finish on the BAB has a pronounced yellow hue as you can see in the photo. It's not that one is right and one is wrong — it's just that they are different. In both cases the use of solid metal posts give these racks a light, open, airy look  that makes for a great display of your components — more so with the chrome finish on the pillars than the black. The Chrome & Titanium Gold two-tone finish is too formal and elegant for my personal style, but I look forward to seeing it in person at the upcoming Axpona show in Chicago.

 

 

You may want to consider the possibility of ordering different height shelves for different components but consider that your components may change over the years while the need for a new rack will likely diminish over time. The Diagon is that good! Once you have this rack, you won't be letting it go anytime soon. Another key consideration is the number of shelves you decide to order, though you can have up to four according to Codia. They aren't inexpensive so think this through. Stability-wise, I never had a problem or even a minor scare with bumping into the rack and possibly dis-lodging a shelf. The shelves are heavy by themselves and even more so with components on them. (Safe loading weight is 220 pounds per each shelf.)

Spikes on the legs of the shelf fit easily and securely into the deep receptacles on the shelf below it. Since the design is modular, you have the option of ordering another shelf down the road or even ordering just new posts if you need to change the height of a shelf. Consider too that the overall height of the top shelf may be important since that will likely be the shelf that supports a CD transport, laptop or turntable that will get a lot of hands on use. The height of the top shelf of the four shelf rack with 180mm posts is 36". Again, think it through. Measure twice and order once.

 

New And Good
The price difference between the 3000 BAB and the Diagon is relatively small, probably due to the difference in the amount of Baltic birch used on the shelves. What are the differences? Obviously the posts run diagonally off the corners of the shelves of the Diagon instead of straight off the sides as on the BAB. Closer inspection indicates the resonator protrudes on both the top and bottom of each shelf, rather than being largely concealed underneath the shelves as on my older BAB. The late breaking news is current production of new BAB will come with the same resonators as the Diagon reviewed here. If the dimensions of the more rectangular BAB are more to your liking, I would expect the sonic results to be comparable to the Diagon. The washers used to isolate the shelf from the pillar at each corner are now the familiar graphite washer above the shelf and a new rubber washer beneath it that replaces a second graphite washer where the pillar compresses toward the bottom of the shelf.

 

 

Different materials will have different filtering effects in such a constrained layer damping arrangement. The shelves on both models are the same 30mm (1.187") thick and use the same shelf grips that conceal additional rubber isolation rings in an oval race track shape. The pillars and their caps are fastened together through a hole in the shelf clamps as in the earlier model. The resonator on each shelf has been a key differentiator between these Codia shelves and their competition in this price league and above. Since the resonator on the Diagon and current production of the BAB has been significantly redesigned, I was prepared for an audible improvement ranging from modest to significant.

 

The Set-Up
Comparing racks is a good bit more difficult than swapping a cable from one component to another. Being a modular design facilitated the process because each shelf could be unloaded and removed in the dismantling process and then each new shelf can be placed and reloaded in sequence during the rebuilding process. This gave me easy access to the cables and relatively straight up-and-down lifting of the components. In the grand scheme of my rig only the digital front end and the phono stage and preamp with their individual power supplies occupied the rack. The monoblocks are set off to the side on a separate homemade amp stand and the analog FM tuner and my Linn LP12 turntable are mounted on the wall above the Codia rack with industrial grade shelving. Sharp eyes will notice that the power supplies for the Coincident phono stage and preamp are facing the wall to give me easy access to the IEC input for the power cords as well as the power switch itself. Being tube components I fire them up and turn them off for each listening session to conserve tube life.

 

 

So all totaled, it took the better part of an hour to swap racks in my system. This is a significant amount of time working against a critical A/B comparison. And then there is the factor of the equipment warming up once again. But by the time I had returned to my listening chair after restarting my compilation CD, say five seconds or so, it was evident that something good was happening here. A minute into the CD and it was readily apparent that the resolution of the music was significantly improved. And as the tubes warmed up again, the music got only better. To my experienced ear I'd call it dramatically better, particularly because the starting point was so high with the older BAB rack. The better your rig gets, the more difficult it becomes to make incremental improvements and often at a very large price.

 

Critical Listening
What changed? Principally, there was improved resolution from bass to treble. It was most notable in the bass in my system. It is asking a lot of the 9" carbon/Kevlar driver in my three-way Kharma speaker to fill a 6000 cubic foot room with18 watt SET monoblocks using parallel 300B tubes. It is a compromise I have chosen because I treasure the beautiful midrange and three-dimensionality of SET amplification. The Diagon rack tightened the bass up right down to the 32Hz limit of the bass driver, virtually eliminating any sense of compromise, though who knows what a pair of good subwoofers might do? Along with the improved resolution typically comes improved transparency and that was the case here with the soundscape appearing more brightly lit. The air in the recording venue seemed cleaner and the micro-dynamics gave a much better sense of presence to the recording venue on live recordings and orchestral works in particular. Sections of the orchestra were more clearly defined as well as their spatial relationships. Tonal balance seemed largely untouched, save for the tightened bass. Tonal color seemed more vibrant and richer due to the improved resolution and greater transparency. Overall, it felt like the entire rig had received a major upgrade — as well it should given the digital front end and preamp were all affected by the Diagon rack.

 

Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 Diagon Equipment Rack Review

 

So What Was The Gut Reaction?
The above was the critical analytic reaction. How did it feel? At first listen, the increase in resolution seemed a bit harsh like sonic fingernails scratching across a blackboard…well, not really that bad. Was it the amps that needed warming up? Could I live with this increased detail? Or was it my brain that needed to adapt to the new higher resolution? After repeated use over several days, it would seem that my brain just needed recalibration. It was not unlike the period of adjustment people go through when they first adjust to wearing high quality hearing aids that give them higher resolution of everyday speech and sounds. More specifically, my brain seemed to relax even more because it didn't have to work so hard to "figure out" the music. Key lyrics that I normally have to struggle to cognitively understand were now easily or more easily recognized depending on the degree of difficulty. The jury, however, is still out on "Louie, Louie."

Adding my Synergistic Research MiG 2.0 footers under the DAC took it up another notch giving me goosebumps on virtually every cut while listening to my ultra-familiar compilation CD that I've heard hundreds, if not over a thousand times. The music had serious emotional grip on me and my toe bounced throughout the CD with pop music. Another true test for me is the American Folk Blues Festival '70 CD. The opening round of introductions is a good test of a system as the musicians take turns with a solo, but on the first song when Shakey Horton opens with a solo and honks his harmonica right into the mic with a sustained high note — on lesser rigs I'd be diving for the volume control for fear of destroying the speakers. With the Codia Diagon…man, I get goosebumps just thinking about what it sounded like as I write this. The man was in the room…or rather, I was in the venue of this live intimate recording.

 

Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 Diagon Equipment Rack Review

 

Value And The Importance Of System Balance
More sagebrush than sage, I'm here to echo what so many experts say, that "everything matters," even your equipment rack. Most of us (and I'm no different) work our way from entry level gear up a spiral of improvements to a level where we are comfortable, or where our resources top out in retirement. Hopefully, somewhere along the line we figure out that a system needs balance among all the individual components and that it takes some additional synergy to really make a rig sound special. Hopefully we come to appreciate how important the listening room is to the overall sound and how to tweak the room itself. While I was early to jump on the bandwagon of taming vibrations with footers and painting tubes and connections with fancy goop, I was late to the party when it came to expensive power cords and cables. And now, I'm very late to discovering the importance of high quality racks. The Codia Diagon costs about as much as my preamp or phono stage and about half what my monoblocks are worth.

With the Diagon working on almost all of my system it takes this system costing tens of thousands of dollars and boosts it up to the level of rigs costing up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars. To put it another way I could be looking at new loudspeakers in the range of $20,000 to $30,000 or more in an attempt to achieve this level of resolution and still not be certain I would achieve the results added by the Codia Diagon. Or maybe a $10,000 phono cartridge or DAC. With all due respect to those whose rigs are less expensive, you might consider starting with good footers and work your way up to a Codia BAB or Diagon rack with fewer shelves and a less expensive finish. Their system is modular so you can add shelves in the future though I would caution against mixing wood or metal finishes in a large rack.

 

 

Three Shelves Or Four? Stacking Components We Go!
Most of my time with the original BAB rack I used it with only three shelves, stacking my DAC on top of my CD player used as a transport only. Typically I would have a set of Synergistic Research MiG footers between them. The fourth shelf would come into play when I wanted to test a piece of gear without disturbing the rest of the rig. Some very high end DAC and transport combinations are actually designed to stack.

 

 

On a whim, I added the fourth shelf and placed the Calyx 24/192 DAC and its upgraded power supply on it. It was yet another step toward enlightenment. Would adding a set of MiG 2.0 footers under the DAC take me one higher? Well, it got a bit better, but not as much as putting the DAC and power supply on its own shelf. At roughly $1400 per shelf (depending on finishes) there is temptation to compromise. If you have the means, don't.

 

Analog, As In Turntable
Switching over to my turntable, the results were not as convincing due to a couple of factors, not the least of which was that the Linn was left on its wall mounted shelf rather than placed on the Diagon. Secondly, I had recently replaced the fiber base board of the Linn with a superb aluminum base plate from Stack Audio in Great Britain that uses constrained layer damping to vastly improve the sound of the LP12. (Review in progress.) I was not yet fully familiar with the new sound quality of the Linn. And finally, I only reviewed the BAB rack with my digital front end before tearing down the rig and setting up the Diagon rack. So my memory of the LP playback with the BAB was more distant — like a day or two prior to the changeover in racks. I only bring this up because I thought it might occur to a reader to ask about how the Diagon sounded with the turntable.

 

Oh, Why Not?
After a good night's sleep I decided to tackle the turntable comparison. Unfortunately this meant I had to remove the wall mounted shelf for the tuner to gain sufficient clearance for the turntable. Removing that shelf was more difficult than I thought it would be. Four letter words were needed to expedite the task. Among them, "love" was the most successful. Only six screws held the wood shelf to the metal arms, but they went into solid oak and they were slotted round-head screws. Slotted screws should be outlawed and replaced by Allen head or Torx head screws. I was almost two decades younger when I installed the shelf and I can't imagine what I was thinking at the time. Probably, there were no high end equipment racks to consider back in the day.

 

 

A side benefit of this exercise is that I needed a place to rest my tuner while I tested the turntable. I discovered that the 2.125" (74mm) tall tuner plus the Synergistic Research MiG footers fit very nicely between the shelf below and what was normally the bottom shelf just above it. The shortest standard length post would double the 4.125" (105mm) distance between the shelves pictured here, but you could simply order a shelf with the bottom spikes as shown in the photo here if you prefer minimal clearance. Basically, it amounts to their amp stand.

 

 

Good News / Bad News
After listening to a couple of cuts with the Linn on the wall shelf, I moved it down to the top shelf of the Codia rack. The good news was the resolution improved enough to justify the cost of a shelf to hold the turntable and it was far more cost effective than upgrading to a $2000 to $10,000 cartridge. (I was using my daily driver Codia 103, a $750 cartridge that leans toward accuracy rather than warmth. I reveled in the glorious sound of familiar songs. Without extended listening, I'd say the improvements were equivalent to those I experienced with my digital front end. Your experience will differ somewhat depending on your turntable and cartridge. The bad news was, when stepping down from the entry way or from the dining room into the sunken floor of the main listening room, the stylus skipped across a couple of grooves. Not good, but it didn't seem to cause any sonic damage to the record when I replayed the cut.

Of course this means rack mounting would not work in party situations where people would be traversing through the room or even getting down to boggy or play air guitar. No Chuck Berry duck walking allowed. Remember though, this is on a joisted floor. On concrete floors…well, I'm not about to set up the rig in my basement, but you are much more likely to be free of this problem. If you only listen to LPs in the room by yourself, you should have no problem walking back to your listening chair unless your floors are really weak.

 

Spit And Polish
There are the old sayings about beauty and pigs' ears, but in reality we all have our own sense of style or a sense of style dictated to us by our significant others. Lately, in the early months of retirement, I'm being accused of dressing like a homeless person. My listening room on the other hand is evolving toward a more Zen-like environment with a hundred year old jade tree placed between and behind the piano gloss black speakers. The chrome pillars and light Baltic birch plywood shelves brings a touch of elegance that complements the polished stainless steel chassis of my preamp and phono stage. With two wood tones and four metal finishes available there are a lot of variations on this theme. It is more jewelry-like than the high-tech looks of much of the competition available today, yet I'm still comfortable with it in my torn jeans and leather listening chair. If this is your first foray into this price league, two things are for sure: your rig will both look and sound a lot richer than it does today.

 

 

Summary
I pretty much knew I was going to buy the Codia Stage 3000 Diagon rack going into this review. It is rare for a company to take a backward step when introducing a new model and Codia did not disappoint. What surprised me was just how much better the Diagon was than my older Codia BAB rack, and how much I came to love the more jewelry-like styling with the chrome front edges on the shelves (or what other available finish you might prefer). The Diagon was not designed by rocket scientists with secret technology, but it is a well-thought out modular design created by very competent engineers and manufactured to the highest standard. It's a world class product worth every penny…and then some. Music in my home has never sounded better.

 

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Audio / video equipment rack
Shelf size: 555 x 530 mm (WxD)
Total dimensions: 615 x 590 mm (WxD)
Shelf material: 30mm Baltic birch plywood (Natural or Wenge finish)
Hardware finishes: Black, Chrome, Chrome & Titanium Gold or Titanium Gold
Height between shelves: 150, 180, 210, 240, 300, or 360 mm
    Add 30 mm for the spike to each pillar length to get the total height between shelves.
Product weight: about 20 lbs per shelf
Stable loading capacity: 220 lbs per shelf (max 330 lbs per shelf)
Shelf panel thickness: 30 mm
Shelf panel size: 600 x 530 mm (width x depth)
Internal dimensions: 640 x 530 mm (width x depth)
Overall dimensions: 715 x 530 (width x depth)
Price: Stage 3000 Diagon Natural panel / Chrome metal compo
         One shelf : $1,550
         Two shelves: $3,000
         Three shelves : $4,450
         Four shelves: $5,900

 

 

Company Information
Dealer For North America
Charisma Audio
Suite 86, Unit A14
4261, Highway 7
Markham, Ontario
Canada L3R 9W6

Voice: (905) 470-0825
Fax: (905) 470-7966
E-mail: charisma@rogers.com
Website: www.CharismaAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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