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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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'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.
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.