Best building material for vibration free shelving

I am building some built into the wall shelves for my VPI Classic 2 SE turntable, amp, preamp, CD player, and old Burwen TNE 7000A transient noise eliminator (that’s one for you old-timers to remember), as well as my DISH Network receiver box. The shelves must match in appearance the typical looking built-in wood bookshelves already in the room. The shelves will be located directly under my 45" wide flat screen television. They will be wide enough to hold two components side by side, other than the VPI turntable which will have the top shelve to itself due to its extra width. I will be building the shelves high and deep to allow for plenty of air circulation around the components. They will be painted.

My question is, what materials might you suggest building the shelves with to minimize vibration? If they were for books I’d normally build the sides, and top out of 3/4" birch sided plywood, the back out of 1/4 inch luan plywood, and the shelves out of oak to deal with the weight of the books without bending. I will be adding vibration damping feet under each component and am not looking for suggestions along those lines, only material and perhaps design recommendations to reduce vibration.

I was researching this last night online and on site, and saw recommendations to use four thicknesses of 3/4 inch High Density (HD) MDF, also to use granite or marble under the turntable, among other recommendations. I was wondering how birch veneered plywood would work too, as it’s ply’s, I believe, have their grains running in opposite directions. Maybe there’s some way to isolate the uprights from the horizontal shelves to reduce vibration transmission.

What would you think would work best for these built-ins. I’d appreciate any recommendations you have or your experience on this subject. Thank you for any ideas.


lowrider, to be honest, I made those because I was bored and bought the sorbothane on a whim. I can hear absolutely no difference in SQ from when the line stage sits right on the rack, right on the sorbothane or in the configuration I described above. I suppose I just don't have the ear for it.

But one has to wonder why a company like Audio Research would put crappy feet on an otherwise high end and fairly uncompromising piece of audio equipment. And for all I know, they are not rubber. They are also more or less cone shaped. So the contact point with the wooden blocks is actually very small

So here's my somewhat facetious take on my setup:

Special cone shaped vibration damping feet on the pre amp fit into a custom designed dish shaped concavity within the American walnut isolation blocks (English walnut will not do) whose grain orientation, aging and density limit sonic vibration transmission. These blocks sit on sorbothane pads which isolate the system as a whole. These sit on a spiked audio rack with thick MDF shelving. Considerable effort was expended tuning this components for that perfect sonic quality. ;-)
Bdp24, what are you using for the "constrained liner damping"? Also How are you connecting the two pieces of 13 ply Baltic birch together, or are you simply setting one on top of the other withe the damping material in between? I read somewhere where one person glued damping material on either side to two separate boards as you describe. Are you setting the shelf on clips, like a typical adjustable shelf like George described above or are you connecting the shelves to the vertical uprights? Do you feel the 13 ply would be less resonant than HD MDF. Sorry for so many questions but I think you’ve put forth some good ideas here.

N80, agree with you that MDF would sag spanning 40 inches. I figured on bracing the shelves with an upright in the center, probably have to do the same with Baltic Birch plywood too. I’ll look on Amazon, and also price, sorbothane as you suggest. I was hoping one of the big box stores like Lowes or Home Depot might carry it.

Stereo5, dill, and schubert4, thank you for the suggestion on using maple.

Czaeivey, I like you idea for using sheetrock squares. They likely wouldn’t vibrate, but also would likely collapse under the weight of heavy components like the amp, unless you are laying the sheetrock on another shelf material. I’ve lots of scraps of sheetrock laying around.

Steve (Williewonka), After reading your suggestion, I might try using my piece of leftover marble, and set it on the top shelf under the turntable with a piece of tool drawer liner, or constrained layer damping in between, once I figure out what that is and how to get it., Thanks for your ideas.

Thanks all for you input and suggestions. I'll be incorporating several of them. I’ve learned some new things already too, Never heard of using sorbothane, or of constrained layer damping before.

Also, and I’m repeating myself, if anyone knows which is less resonant between High Density MDF and 13 ply Baltic Birch, I’d very much like to know.


@n80, I'm sure the feet on your ARC aren't crappy. In fact, some high-end manufacturers use quality aftermarket footers on their amps so that the voicing is what the designer intended. My point is that usually the feet on a pre or an amp are screwed or bolted into the chassis. This creates a weak spot that is vulnerable to vibration.

It's great that you're pleased with the sound of your system. i remember when you came to the forum asking for advise. And BTW, your walnut isolation blocks look better than most tweaks I see for sale.

@skyscraper, I use ASC (Acoustic Science Corp., maker of Tube Traps) Wall Damp as constrained layer damping. It has a "tacky" surface like double-sided carpet tape, so holds together the two pieces of wood it is installed between. It was designed by Art Noxon to be installed between double layers of sheetrock in listening rooms, as a vibration killer. It absorbs and dissipates the energy fed into it, making it a great means of constructing non-resonant shelves. I have been in a room constructed with Wall Damp between two layers of sheetrock, and the walls were VERY dead.

Another product created to provide constrained layer damping is EAR Isodamp, the blue stuff you may have seen. It's not as tacky as ASC Wall Damp, so the two pieces of wood it is placed between may need to be glued together.

I'm not sure if 13-ply Baltic Birch and MDF are equally non-resonant (I suspect MDF is), but BB is much stiffer than MDF. I put my 60 lb. turntable (with four feet) on top of two layers of 3/4" MDF, the MDF supported on two cones in front and only one in the rear. The rear of the MDF bowed under the weight!

Bdp24, appreciate you getting back to me. I’ll give the 3/4" Baltic birch a try. I’ll track down some ASC Wall Damp too.

What I think I am going to try are shelves constructed as bdp24 recommends. They will be edged with a strip of sorbothane to butt against the vertical side walls as Steve suggests. I’ll make the shelves adjustable in height, sitting them on clips on vertical tracks with sorbothane between the shelves and the clips, as George suggests. Lastly I’ll set my slab of marble on the top shelf for the turntable, over a piece of padded shelf liner as Steve suggests. I’ll edge the slab with sorbothane too.

I’ll set the components on footers, likely the economical $6 virapods schubert recommended.

If anyone see any flaws with this plan or ways to improve it, please let me know. Thanks you all.