Product Review (January 2007) - StudioTech
U-22T RW/B Rosewood/Black Screen Cabinet

By Kevin Nakano


Anyone who has taken the plunge into a home theater system has quickly realized that there is more to a system than the A/V components alone. Furniture is an essential part of any A/V system and finding that piece to house your components and be aesthetically pleasing can be challenging. A company called StudioTech has introduced a contemporary line of quality A/V furniture that not only looks good, but offers a design sturdy enough for heavy components and displays. StudioTech is based locally here in Irvine, California and initially broke into the market in 1989 when they introduced the S-1 speaker stand. Soon after, they found themselves creating A/V furniture for the audio and home theater market. We had the opportunity to review one of their latest designs, the attractive Ultra U-22T cabinet.


Latest StudioTech U-22T Reviewed


We received the Ultra U-22T RW/B, which features a beautiful hardwood (rosewood) veneer contrasted with a sturdy metal black screen material. The combination is stunning and adds a rich look to any home entertainment system. Handle bars are symmetrically placed on the right and left doors. The black metal screen design allows air to pass through freely, which works well for sound transparency (for the center speaker) as well as preventing heat buildup. The cabinet can easily accommodate a large plasma or LCD display up to 70 inches diagonal. The unit measures 67 inches wide, 24 inches tall, and 24 inches deep.

Packaging
Normally, packaging is not a topic we would cover on a review such as this, but having dealt with so many products shipped via the Internet it seemed appropriate. The Ultra U22T cabinet comes in three separate boxes. The first box is the largest and contains the top and bottom pieces along with the back panels. This box is 71-inches long and requires an oversized pallet for delivery. A full 2-inches of foam padding is provided on each end of the 40 pound pieces. Padding is provided on all six sides of the contents to protect them from damage. Other pieces inside have their own boxes for extra protection along with each panel being foam wrapped. The second box contains the cabinet sides and center support panel. Finally, the last box contains the front doors. This type of packing is very important to a company as it minimizes the number of damage claims and avoids dealing with ultimately unhappy customers. I've personally have had many items damaged in shipping and it is not fun to resolve. Even the picky customers will be impressed the the packaging.

Assembly
One of the advantages of putting together this type of cabinet is the user gets to really see how well the unit is built. Each part of the main structure is 3/4" boards capable of handling a significant amount of weight. The rosewood finish is also impressive with the beautiful stained wood grain. For anyone who has ever assembled furniture, this is a piece of cake. Assembly was well documented, with each of the screws and small parts clearly labeled in individual pouches. We found that a good Phillips screwdriver and a power drill with screwdriver attachments made the assembly more efficient.

Normally I would shy away from using casters on fine looking furniture. However, there was a need for us to move the unit around once the wires were in place, so we went ahead and installed the optional wheels. In doing so, we forfeited the attractive looking legs that were included with the cabinet. If there is no need to move the cabinet, we would recommend staying with the original legs as they look more elegant in our opinion. However, we moved the cabinet quite a bit during installation and the casters were wonderful, especially on our hardwood floors. StudioTech has pre-drilled holes in the cabinet that accommodate either option (legs or casters), so switching back and forth is not a problem.

The high quality European-style hinges used on the cabinet doors make assembly simple and with the quick release design, the doors are easily installed or removed. Adjustment screws allow the doors to move in virtually any direction, so that they fit optimally on the cabinet. The doors have rubber pads that prevent them from slamming when they are closed.

Cable Management
Once you have wired a 5.1 or 7.1 audio system, you soon miss the days of two channel stereo. An over abundance of cables can make wiring a system very busy. The A/V processor is almost always the most difficult component to wire simply because all other components must connect to it. It is essentially the Center of the Universe for all A/V systems for this reason alone. The thought of rewiring the back of our Parasound AVC-2500u makes me cringe and I always seem to have to allocate a least a couple of days for the task. To make matters worse, wiring components inside a cabinet can be a even more difficult with the limited space and no visibility to the connections. In fact, wiring the processor in my custom cabinets I built over a decade ago required that I get a diagram of the back of the processor to know where the connectors are located. Since I could not see what I was doing my sense of touch had to be used to wire to the correct interface. StudioTech must have experienced the pain and suffering because the back panels on the U-22T were completely removable, leaving full access to the back of the processor. For once, I could actually see what I was connecting to. The removable panels are also handy for those oversized components such as our behemoth Parasound HCA-2205AT 5-channel power amplifier weighing 85 pounds and measuring 21 inches deep. My back still hurts from lifting this monster into the cabinet, yet the U-22T handled it with no problem. I would recommend placing any item this heavy on the top or bottom portion of the structure. While the shelves are strong, they can't hold the same amount of weight as the top and bottom portions of the cabinet.

Routing the cables to each of the components is made simple with the channel design of the rear portion of the vertical supports. No longer do cables have to lay on the floor. Instead, they can sit in the angled cutouts designed to organize and keep them off the floor. This design also helps minimize dust buildup which often occurs over time. Once the cables are in place, each of the three rear panels can be installed by sliding the door into the upper slot and dropping down into the lower slot. The design works well and is a simple concept. However, due to play in the upper slot, the door can vibrate. We recommend placing some dampening material (thin foam from the packaging) in the top section to help prevent vibration. As you can see from the photo, there are large openings on the sides that allow for plenty of air movement. This design helps keep the components from overheating.

Cooling
The U-22T is one of the best designs I have seen with regards to thermal concerns and includes vents on sides. Even with these features, some users may have the urge to go the extra mile and install cooling fans. With the high power densities found in many of the new set-top boxes, A/V receivers and power amplifiers, it's not uncommon to have electronics overheat especially in conventional A/V cabinets. Running electrical components at higher than normal temperatures will certainly decrease their usable life and reliability. StudioTech offers an optional advanced cooling system from ATM (Active Thermal Management), a company that specializes in keeping components cool. Their System 2 Rack Mount panel included with our review unit features three variable speed fans mounted on a standard 19-inch 3U rack panel. A special rack mount kit is required on the U-22T to mount the 19-inch panels.

The fans change speed based on the temperature detected by the two wired remote sensors. The user can place these sensors on the hot components to control the fan speed as needed for cooling. This closed-loop design help prevent overheating of the electronics inside of the cabinet. Under normal circumstances, the fans will remain off or very quiet depending on the temperature of the wired sensors. In the event of high temperatures, the fans may become audible until the temperatures reach a reasonable level. Since the fan assembly is mounted in front of the shelf, components behind the fan will not be easily accessible. Some components such as our Dish Network DVR do not need to be accessed and run quite hot, making it an ideal candidate for the fan option. Since we use a wired IR repeating system that receives codes from our RTI T3 Remote Controller, this option works well for use. Other may need a clear line-of-sight to the component to control it.

Storage
Also available as options for the U-22T cabinet are storage drawers. These standard 19" rack mount draws are design and manufactured by Middle Atlantic and offer quality and styling with a front brushed aluminum finish. We installed a 1U (1.75-inch) drawer as well as a 3U (5.25-inch) DVD drawer. Rear brackets are included for additional support. Both drawers require special rack mount hardware designed specifically for the StudioTech cabinet. The smaller drawer is perfect for remotes and paperwork and includes a knob in the center that latches the drawer shut. The larger drawer provides enough space for many DVDs and/or video tapes. The center latch is spring loaded and keeps the drawer closed once it is shut. Both drawers slide on smooth rails that enhance the feel of the product. Once closed, the drawers are hidden behind the main front cabinet doors.

Final Placement
Our installation did not have a flat panel mounted on the cabinet, but rather the U-22T was placed just under our 100" Stewart Filmscreen. The cabinet measures exactly 24" high with the casters installed. We think the cabinet greatly enhanced the look of our theater room. Functionally the U-22T worked well with plenty of space for most system components. We had additional side cabinets for our other components, but with the thermal advantages of the U-22T, we moved the hottest units into the cabinet. The perforated front screen is designed to allow IR commands to pass through and we verified that it does indeed work, but in our installation we use an RF remote (RTI T3) that sends IR commands through wired IR repeaters. As you can see from the photo, our M&K S150THX center channel fit nicely in the center of the cabinet. The acoustically transparent cover on the doors worked well with this configuration.

StudioTech U22TConclusion
StudioTech's U-22T A/V cabinet is a wonderful addition to any home where both style and functionality are required and can offer factory direct pricing ($1099 with free shipping). While some may see this as expensive, most of the cabinets we have seen that look and feel this good have been significantly more costly. For those who want extras options especially for A/V applications, StudioTech has a great selection available and they can be customized based on individual needs. The large space inside the cabinet easily handles oversized components and the removable back panels make it a breeze to wire. The U-22T is well built, easy to assemble and looks fantastic. If you need a strong cabinet for your plasma or LCD and want a stylish design, then you owe it to yourself to take a look at the offerings from StudioTech. Their prices can easily fit into the overall system budget and you won't regret it.

Special note: I cannot say enough about the quality packaging that ensures that each piece of the cabinet arrives in pristine condition. Having received many damaged goods in the past and then dealing with rectifying the problem really makes me appreciate StudioTech's professional packing.

- Kevin Nakano






OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Projector: Optoma H77 High-Definition HD2+ DLP™ Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD+ A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Dish Network ViP622 HDTV Satellite and Terrestrial Receiver with HDMI
Set-top Box: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
HD-DVD Player: Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
DVD Player: OPPO Digital OPDV971H DVD Player with DVI Output
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
Media Server: Kenwood Sovereign MRH1 Entre
Remote Control: Remote Technologies Inc. T3 Controller
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables


Review at a glance


StudioTech™ Ultra U-22T A/V Cabinet

Ultra U-22T Assembly Instructions

Ultra U-22T Specifications

Company Information
StudioTech, Inc.
P.O. Box 5995
Irvine, CA 92616
Phone: 800-887-8834
Fax: 714-241-9520
Hours of operation: Mon–Fri (8am – 5pm) PST

Model Number: Ultra U-22T RW/B (Rosewood)
Source: Manufacture Supplied
MSRP: $1099
Warranty: Limited Lifetime when purchased from an authorized source

URL: www.studiotech.com

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