Racking Up Your Home Theater Gear - dummies

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

A proper equipment rack for your home theater gear will complement your home theater more than a simple shelving system will. Home theater equipment racks not only store your equipment but also keep it cool and manage all the wiring behind it.

It used to be that you could just stack all your equipment on top of each other. That was fine, until the equipment starting having more energy-hogging processors and other components that collectively generate a lot of heat. If you stack your gear nowadays, you’ll burn out components, particularly if you put a PC in your cabinet. You need to space the equipment and you need a cooling strategy for your gear.

When looking for a rack for your home theater gear, get one that:

  • Cools: Don’t buy an equipment rack without a built-in cooling system. Some offer the ability to daisy-chain fans in one system so it can be automatically turned on and off based on temperature.

  • Powers: Your racking system should have a way to connect to multiple output power bars so that all your power cables can be managed nicely. The best power bars have slide-on stabilizing clips that make sure your power plugs don’t come out of the power bar.

    Note: These power bars typically are not surge protectors — they are power cable management devices designed to help you keep all your cables in order. You’ll still want to route these to a surge protector at some point. You can buy high-end, rack-mounted power protection that will make sure your power levels remain constant in your entertainment center.

  • Slides: Unless you have a special situation where you have rear access to your rack, say from a side room, changing cables in the back of your equipment is complicated. You have to pull equipment forward to reconfigure jacks, and this can disconnect your other lines at the same time. A sliding rack brings the equipment forward, out of your cabinet, so you can access the rear panels.

  • Rotates: An added bonus is if the rack rotates after it’s out of the cabinet, so you can maintain your connections. Once you’ve owned a rotating rack, you’ll never go back!

Equipment racks can be pricey — you can spend more than $1,000 on a high-end racking system. But if you go cheap here, you could lose much more than that in equipment. This is simply one area to invest in for the long haul.