Salamander Designs

When I first acquired an audio cabinet for my system, I had no idea of the evolution my system would go through over the next two years. I chose a wooden cabinet that looked nice in our living room and seemed large enough for the task. Soon after, I realized the hard way that I had not thought this out well. The first challenge was how to fit the cables in through the back of the cabinet: There were only several small (1” diameter) holes for each shelf. This problem was ultimately solved by having my brother come by with a hack saw and removing about two-thirds of the back to allow for cables. My wife was appalled.

As time passed and I began acquiring more components, some to keep and some for review, stacking them and placing them close together became the only way to fit them in the cabinet (or on top). Meanwhile, the front doors were made of glass, and when shut would cause components to get very hot. But keeping the doors open, while solving (somewhat) the heat problem, made my system vulnerable to mischief from my young kids.

The last straw came recently while I was relaxing in the sweet spot of my couch, sipping a fine glass of wine while listening to a superb rendition of ‘Bach Suites for Solo Cello’ that had been recommended to me by Audiophilia Publisher Anthony Kershaw (Janos Starker on cello). My 16-month-old daughter wandered into the living room during the 4th track of Suite No. 1, strutted right up to the open doors and pushed the main switch of the power center thus turning off every component of my system in a flash. Thinking she had done me a favor, she then offered me a priceless smile, closed the doors and said, ‘You’re welcome Papa’. Oh dear: It was clearly time to get a new cabinet.

My intention was not to buy a new luxurious expensive cabinet (there are plenty out there), but instead one that was relatively inexpensive, very functional and focused carefully on my specific needs. An old family friend, Nick Perfito, owner of The Stereo Shop in Hartford, Connecticut suggested I check out Salamander Designs Ltd., a USA company that has been around since 1992, founded by Salvatore Carrabba, known as ‘Sal’, who applied his background in sculpture and design to create professional quality AV furniture made in the USA that is modular, adjustable and flexible.

Nick pointed out that they are located in Bloomfield, Connecticut, just north of Hartford, and only a short distance from where my father lives. Having already planned to pay my dad a visit, my brother and I drove off within days and stopped off first at Salamander Designs. The building was huge and looked from the outside more like a National Security Agency building than a commercial enterprise; there were few windows and we even had difficulty establishing just where the entrance was. We rang a bell and finally after some time, a man opened the door having come down a stairs with a friendly Labrador Retriever dog, and asked if we had an appointment. We did not but after explaining our interest in their ware, he kindly let us in and up the stairs.

What we saw was quite amazing: a large (85,000 square feet) modern loft-style factory show room filled with an extraordinary array of various beautiful looking audio cabinets, AV furniture including chairs, Ottomans, tables and iPad accessories. (The meeting room within had glass windows and was about the size of a typical NYC apartment.) Check out a slide show of the space here

The gentleman who had let us in was Michael Benedetto, the Vice President of Sales, and a very kind fellow he was. When I explained in general what I needed, he suggested the so-called ‘Design-Your-Own’ (DYO) option, in which you can choose a base cabinet and add on upper racks and so on. What’s cool about this is that you can just go on their website, choose DYO, and drag the various pieces onto a grid using their ‘Synergy System Configurator’. Once you choose a base, you can choose the finish, add sides, doors, drawers, feet and an extension rack. You can check this out here

Benedetto took me into his office and patiently walked me through this process on his computer, while I explained my main needs: A base cabinet with no back (completely open to the air), perforated sides and a perforated front door–with lock! And, I continued, an entirely open-to-the-air upper rack with no back or sides.

In a flash we had what I needed on screen: A single 41” high base in cherry wood (about 2’ wide and 2’ deep) with black rails and with a 39” matching extension rack (hence total height of 80”). Each unit contains up to 4 shelves; one dedicated for ‘heavy’ equipment (up to 100 lbs), and the others for lesser weights (up to 75 lbs), and the wooden bottom and top of the base can hold up to 150 lbs. My plan was to use the inside of the base to hold my amps, power center and internet hub (always kept on, and with the door locked) and the upper shelves for the various other components of my system. This basic construction (and variations thereof) was already set up in the showroom, and looked very attractive. After returning home to make last minute measurements to ensure this choice would work, I ordered it; it was ready within days. Meanwhile, Carrabba called me to apologize for not being able to meet with me when I had visited; he had been caught up in an important meeting. After some chatting he kindly offered to meet with me the next time I am in town; I certainly will do so.

I point out that the DYO option is also a ‘Build-Your-Own’ one: various boxes contain the parts and you then put it together yourself. All tools needed are included, even a small ruler and leveler. Nice, and this of course keeps the price way down. I set it up and it worked brilliantly for my system.

The only thing I had carelessly/foolishly forgotten was some dedicated space for storing peripherals such as CDs, extra cables, fine bottles of aged rum, and so on. No problem: I ordered yet another matching 41” base to place to the right of the system cabinet, but this one with 4 (removable) drawers instead of the shelves-front-door option. The cherry-wood top of this second base would also be used to hold a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse for controlling my music server and was high enough to keep my kids at bay–at least for now. And the drawers could be removed in seconds –no sweat–so as to use shelves in case I suddenly/temporarily needed some additional rack space for testing equipment. Very clever design indeed.

The Salamander Design Ltd. motto is ‘Furniture Shaped by Your Needs’, and I can attest to the truth of that. Given the quality, focus on professional use, flexibility, great service and relatively low prices, I highly recommend checking out their products when in need of audio cabinets and related furniture. And don’t worry; the dog won’t bite.

Salamander Designs Ltd.
811 Blue Hills Avenue
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Toll Free: 888-650-5289
International: 860-761-9500