U-22T Build Quality and Setup
Home theater furniture - I mean really, how hard can it be? You need something to hold your equipment with a hole in the back for the wires, right? I don't know how many homes I've walked into and seen an old cabinet or armoire converted into an equipment cabinet. Of course, you need to drill holes in the back (killing any resale possibilities for the piece) and open the doors if you want to control anything. And God forbid you have a receiver that runs hot 舑 you'll have to install a fan or replace it every couple of months. Plus, the whole point is to hide stuff away so you don't have to see it all the time (keeping the doors open for IR control isn't helping this). And don't get me started with people that get custom cabinetry made and listen to the carpenter. "What do you mean I shouldn't have put the subwoofer in the cabinet next to the display?" Sheesh!
Eight boxes. That is what the guy on the phone said. He was confused because the invoice said "speaker stands." Heck, I'd be confused too. How big must those stands be? It was delivered on a pallet and again the driver had specific instructions not to help me move them inside. Luckily, they weren't all that heavy and I easily moved them by myself. Honestly, I've never in all my years of receiving things in the mail seen boxes in such pristine condition. I mean they looked like they just came from the factory. Usually there will be a nick or a puncture on them somewhere. This time - nothing. It was eerie.
Everything was packed fairly well with solid styrofoam blocks surrounding all the pieces. I only noticed one bit of damage in the back of the unit where a thin piece that holds in the removable rear panel was damaged. I'm sure this happened before the furniture was packed. It didn't affect the functioning of the piece at all and was unnoticeable from the front.
The entire unit is constructed out of 5/8 inch MDF including the top and bottom and all the walls. All the exterior surfaces are covered in a hardwood veneer and stained (a rosewood stain in my case) as is the bottom shelf of the unit. All the shelves, the back, and all the interior surfaces except the bottom are painted a flat black. This is great for reducing the visibility inside the cabinet. The doors have a perforated metal mesh that allows IR remote use while creating a fairly opaque surface. With some backlighting you will see through it and know that your components are on, but you can't read the displays. Black components are all but invisible but silver will still be visible with some front light. In a darkened room, you shouldn't have a problem.
The back of the unit is removable in sections (notice the convenient up arrows). The inside walls of the unit are mostly cut away (each has a 11" by 10" cutout). The outside walls of the unit have slits and a metal mesh (same as what is on the doors) under them. The back also has plenty of holes for ventilation. Add to this the metal mesh in the doors and you've got all the air circulation you'll ever need. As I was putting it together I was wondering how it could stay upright with all the cut out areas in the load bearing supports.
The only thing I noticed with the build quality was some dampening and vibration issues. The bottom and tops of the doors have a strip of the furry side of a piece of Velcro along the length of the edge as well as rubber bumpers to reduce any impact vibrations, but that may not be enough. The smallest impact creates a sound reminiscent of a piece of sheet metal being shaken (not surprising considering the make up of the doors). While I didn't notice it in my testing, I could see it being a problem in some applications. The way the backs sit free (and don't lock down) could create a similar problem (I'm less worried about this because of the weight of the wood). A bit of rubber insulation tape could tighten up both of these issues for a nominal investment by the user.
Author's Note: Ease of Use
Reviewers are a strange and mysterious bunch. We love to point out every little problem with offering very few solutions. Case in point, I muse that the backs of this unit may vibrate - but they are very easy to get into to make changes. If the backs of this unit were better secured, I'd complain that they were hard to get into. If StudioTech invented some sort of air bladder system to hold them in place while maintaining easy access, I'd probably complain that the unit was too expensive. Occasionally, someone hits that balance of form/function/cost perfectly. So then I complain about the remote. It's a cruel world.
Set Up and Usability
Putting together furniture. I've got horror stories that'll make you cringe. I'm sure you have the same. I'm here to tell you that compared to some of my experiences - heck all of my experiences; this was a walk in the park. If I hadn't requested the optional equipment, I wouldn't have needed a power screwdriver at all. Hand tools would have been enough. The directions are simple and straightforward. I ran into no problems in the process until I got to the doors. Attaching the hinges is easy enough but I didn't want to screw it up (no pun intended) so I agonized over the directions. Snapping them in is not as hard as it seems. After each door I connected I'd think, "Why did I have so much trouble with this?"
Except for a Phillips head screwdriver, all the tools you'll need are included with the furniture. Every hole is either pre-drilled or tapped for you. There is little you can do to mess this process up. Even the hinges have the screws already started so placing them is easy. As far as assembling furniture goes, this was by far the best experience I have had. I had no problems.
Wire management is a snap with all the ventilation holes. There is no way you can have a problem connecting your components. You have the option of running the wires either through the big center holes or around the back of the center supports. Personally, I ran all my interconnects through the center and the power cables around the back. Shelves are supported by easily removable metal pegs with rubber tips. The wooden shelves are heavy enough that they didn't vibrate when the unit was moved or during playback even when empty. The 20+ inch depth of the shelves should be plenty deep enough for more receivers and amplifiers. The 300lb weight limit should be adequate unless you are really into those boat anchor amps.