Furniture is an important and essential
part of any A/V system and it is not always easy to find something that is both practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. A company called StudioTech introduced
the original U-22T A/V cabinet back in 1998 and about five years ago we reviewed it and were really impressed with the style, build quality and functionality of the cabinet. StudioTech has recently redesigned the U-22T, so who better than us to evaluate the updated design after having spent so much time with the initial cabinet. The new U-22T offers a better finish with improved features with a slight increase in overall dimensions and is now entirely made in the USA. The U-22T is priced at $2495 (cloth version $2895) with free shipping.
The U-22T cabinet dimensions are 73-inches wide, 24-inches deep and 24-inches tall. The overall cabinet is 6-inches wider than the previous design and unit has a straight front instead of a curved front. The wider design is a result of increasing the width of the center door by 4-inches and extending the top another inch on each side. The height and center depth remain the same.
The assembly of the U-22T is straightforward and anyone with basic skills can put this unit together. One thing for sure is that this cabinet is well built. The structure is heavy and when put together creates a strong platform for your A/V gear. The assembly process starts with the cabinet inverted (top side down) and ends with installation of the feet. I recommend assembling it on a blanket to avoid any scratches on the top surface. Users can use the standard feet provided or choose to upgrade to the optional casters. We installed the casters on this unit and it proved to be a huge advantage when trying to move it on our hardwood floors. Personally, I prefer the look of the standard feet as they appear more elegant, but given the convenience of having the casters when loaded with heavy furniture, it is tough to go back. StudioTech
has pre-drilled holes in the base of the cabinet that accommodates either option (legs or casters),
so switching back and forth is not a problem.
The U-22T includes high quality European-style hinges on the front doors that makes assembly
simple and with the quick release design, they can be easily removed.
Adjustment screws allow the doors to move in virtually any direction, so getting the optimal fit is easy. The doors work similar to the older design, but the new hinges prevent the doors from slamming when they are closed. The rosewood finish is much improved on the new U-22T with a richer and deeper grain. The shelves are supported by four wooden pegs. The center compartment has more room than the previous U-22T design allowing for the installations of a center channel speaker as wide as 24-inches. In fact, it can be slightly wider since there are no walls to confine it. The side metal grates have vents to allow for air to circulate freely. There are many options available for this cabinet and we will cover some of them in the this review.
The deep design of the U-22T cabinet makes it easy to install most components without any issues. The design has plenty of room for cabling to exit through the opening at the base of the unit. This provides a much cleaner look on the back once everything is installed. The opening at the base is about 2-1/2-inches in diameter, which is large enough to fit the most difficult cables without a problem. The back of the cabinet is open, but StudioTech provides back panels for those who want to keep it closed up.
The rear panels are held in place with Velcro, making it easy to remove and re-install when cabling changes occur in the cabinet. The bottom side of the back cover has a 45-degree cut at the base and the rear opening of the cabinet is tapered downward at the ends to allow cables to exit more freely through the opening. It is a personal preference as to how one runs the cabling in the U-22T, but StudioTech provides a couple of good options for their customers. The back opening is a bit more limited than the opening at the base of the cabinet, but is adjustable to a large degree by sliding the cover over slightly.
The shelves have a cutout in the back that allows wires to easily exit the upper section and connect to other components. There is plenty of room even with the most complex wiring. Cables can also exit to the sides towards the center if needed. In some cases this might make it easier to connect to other components. Typical A/V centerpieces (receivers and processors) are the central hub for all interconnects and can require a large number of cables. However, this has been getting better with the advent of HDMI carrying both audio and video. Cable routing should be no problem on the U-22T.
There were some larger components that were more difficult to fit into the U-22T such as our Denon AVR-5308CI and Parasound HCA-2205AT 5-channel amplifier. These components needed some special attention so that the front doors could close.The opening on the back of the new U-22T is slightly different from the previous design in that the back opening is a cutout rather than fully open. This requires that some deeper components may need to be elevated slightly to clear the back panel at the base. We had to raise amplifier approximately two inches to clear the rear panel as shown in the photo. In this case we could not use the back panels.
StudioTech provided us with two different drawer/shelf options to get a feel for what can work in this cabinet. These products are designed and manufactured by Middle Atlantic and offer excellent build quality with great styling with a front brushed aluminum finish. We installed
a 1U (1.75-inch) pull-out shelf as well as a 3U (5.25-inch) DVD drawer. Rear brackets
on the shelf and drawer are included for additional support. Both products require special rack mount hardware
designed specifically for the StudioTech cabinet. StudioTech included a set of easy to install rails (RRF10), which accommodate standard
19" rack mount components. StudioTech also provided black panel screws that blend in nicely with the black hardware.
The pull-out shelf worked well with our Thorens 146 turntable allowing easy access to the unit. The knob in the center of the shelf rotates 90 degrees and latches the shelf in place. The large 3U drawer below below the shelf provides enough space for many DVDs or Blu-ray discs.
The center latch is spring loaded and keeps the drawer closed once it is shut.
closed, the shelf and drawer are hidden behind the main front cabinet doors. Personally, I would rather fill this cabinet up with more A/V gear and put discs elsewhere. However, it is nice that StudioTech provides this option for storage since my wife loves getting rid of the clutter in the room.
Keeping It Cool
The U-22T design allows for good circulation of air. There are no walls between compartments, making it easy for warm air to equalize and prevent heat build-up. However, should you need to move warm air out of the cabinet there are mounting hole provided on the back of the U-22T for standard 19-inch cooling fans. StudioTech provided a Middle Atlantic fan assembly (part number QTFP-2), so we installed it on the rear panel. The fans come configured to push air out of the cabinet and can be reversed to pull air in if needed. Other manufacturers such as Active Thermal Management can also be used since it works with standard 19-inch mounting holes. We have been using the earlier version of the U-22T, which has a similar design and we have never had any issues with A/V components over-heating.
Another enhancement made to the new U-22T is the ability to install an optional screen mount that slips into two top openings on the unit. Our installation did not have a flat panel mounted on the cabinet,
but instead was placed just under our 100" Stewart Filmscreen. The cabinet is supplied with finished plugs that fit into the top mounting holes for those who choose not to take advantage of the flat panel mount. The
cabinet greatly enhanced the look of our theater room and provided us with exactly what we needed functionally. The sturdy framework easily supported our heavy Denon AVR-5308CI and Parasound HCA-2205AT power amplifier without any issues thanks to the 1-inch thick top and bottom panels.
StudioTech also offers some variations on the U-22T design. Shown here is the U-22T in Espresso with Black (White is also available) Fabric Doors and sides. The fabric covers the entire front and sides of the unit giving it a softer look. Some may find this more appealing over the standard design. I personally like the rosewood grain on the front and sides, but the all fabric design provides another option for customers.
StudioTech's new U-22T A/V cabinet is a nice improvement on what was already a great product. My gear has been in the original StudioTech U-22T for over five years now and I have never had a desire to change it. Well, not until now. After spending time with the new U-22T design, there are clear advantages that I really have come to like. The new acoustically
transparent cover on the center door provides a much less colored sound than the legacy metal grill. This was indeed a smart move to improve audio performance. The improved rosewood finish is aesthetically pleasing and the anti-slam door design is a nice touch. The U-22T is not Ikea cheap, but you will be hard pressed to find this level of quality and functionality from local furniture stores.
- Kevin Nakano