TRIED & TESTED; Storage for CDs shouldn't just be practical, it should look good too. Our panellists try a selection of solutions
Click to follow
Today's on-the-move generation doesn't stop anywhere for long, which is why portable CD racks, along with takeaway pizzas, mobile phones and laptop computers, are so handy. Once, you were judged by your book shelves, nowadays, a CD collection is just as important an indicator of cool. Neil Diamond relics may be consigned to the same cupboard as the dog-eared Mills & Boons, but if you're proud of your taste, why not show off? Industrial designer John Clear, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, has engineered a solution for exhibitionists. His Splat! CD holder, a giant wall-mounted wedge of foam resembling an intransigent ink splodge, removes even the need for cases. Discs simply click into place on rubber knobs. Clear, who has already applied for a patent, is currently looking for a manufacturer. He plans to make the whole contraption portable by using a Blu-tack-style adhesive backing. But until Splat! comes to a store near you, what other options are there for carting Cher and the Cardigans from one room, or indeed one flat, to the next?


Our testers had a wide range of musical tastes, from Billie Holiday and Berlioz to Dire Straits. The panel included graphic designer Caroline Harper, music student Joan Thackray and Adrian Hilton, an opera director. The others were Mike Eagleton, a jazz promoter and record producer, and public affairs consultant James Cansdale who is a self-confessed CD addict with nowhere to display his 150-strong collection.


Portability, sturdiness and design were all factors, with points given for innovative touches. We looked at how easy it was to get at CDs without disrupting others, and whether you had to crick your neck to see the titles. We also took into account whether the rack could hold either double or extra-thin cases.


pounds 4.95

The panel was glad that this minimalist chromium rack with rubber feet came in clearly-labelled packaging - it could have been mistaken for a toast rack, they claimed. Adrian Hilton liked being able to flip through CDs, but reported difficulty in extricating individual cases from the rack. "Several of these along a surface would make dusting a nightmare. And the unit can't be picked up when it's full of CDs," he said. Joan Thackray agreed that it wasn't easily portable, but liked the tilt of the CDs and the small amount of space it took up. All the panel admired its durability and sturdiness, but Mike Eagleton had a problem in getting his jazz double CD cases to stay put. "It's a flop," he declared. "It wouldn't look brilliant unless it was full, and you're going to need a lot of table-top space. You couldn't put it on the floor." James Cansdale said the rack was his favourite. "It reminds me of selecting CDs in a shop - it's a clever marketing idea which makes you feel you've got a lot of choice." Caroline Harper was also enchanted: "I really liked the simplicity of it. You could put it on a windowsill and the CDs would stack up neatly. In fact, you can put this little rack anywhere."


pounds 6.99

This tall, slim, black tower was the only one which needed assembling, but even the most cack-handed of DIYers could handle the simple job of screwing the base into the rack. Unfortunately, the whole thing had a tendency to wobble when full, not ideal for the faint-hearted or fussy. Testers were divided on its attraction. "Very nice," said Mike Eagleton, but admitted that manoeuvring the CDs into looking exactly straight would keep a neat person occupied for hours. "You'd look a bit daft if you had them all over the room. And it wouldn't look right in a Georgian set-up," he added. James Cansdale liked its "sleek skyscraper" style, and found the hole in the top of the rack useful for moving it around. Adrian Hilton judged it "pretty ugly", and disliked the amount of room it took up, while Joan Thackray branded it "a bit space-age". The main problem was its height: it was too tall to put on a table, but testers found it too fiddly on the ground. Squinting at the titles was back-breaking. Caroline Harper hated it. "It isn't pleasing to the eye at all; it just stands there. It is good value because it holds a lot, but I don't like to put so much emphasis on CDs. I think they should be a bit more hidden."


pounds 9.95

When it came to genuine enthusiasm from the panel, this rack collected it in stack-loads. "It's very classy. You will let me keep it, won't you?" asked Adrian Hilton, who found the burgundy wood frame an ideal match for his decor. "As close to being perfect as I think you'd find. A well- designed bit of stuff and a nice smooth fit," pronounced Mike Eagleton, who was delighted to discover he could remove the shelves and fit in his doubles in too. Testers were impressed to find that it came in three colours and was designed to stack easily. It also appeared sturdy and durable. The design sparked off different associations; James Cansdale labelled it a "Sixties jukebox", while Mike Eagleton thought it resembled a modern tower-block. Joan Thackray said it would only make a conversation point if your dinner guests were bored. The men on the panel loved its architectural lines, but Caroline Harper didn't warm to its "masculine" look. "It was one of the most stable ones, but it didn't really do anything for me," she admitted. Some of the panel reported slight difficulty in pulling out cases. But most agreed it was a reliable and classy-looking rack which exuded quality.


pounds 12

The male voices on the panel greeted this elegant-looking box with shouts of derision and disgust on discovering its price. "I could get a box file for a quarter of the price," claimed Mike Eagleton. "Only a nutty millionaire would buy it. I would solely use it as a carrying box." Adrian Hilton's opinion was similarly coloured by the price tag, reporting that "it would only be eye-catching if a corner of it poked me in the eye. Cardboard boxes are style-less." He thought that "opening and closing this would soon cause bends and tears. It's absurdly expensive, but it would make a good hamster house." James Cans-dale labelled it "boring", finding no gadgets to play with. "It's bog standard," he yawned. All three found it frustrating to have to lift the lid every time they wanted to get a CD out - no doubt it evoked the same annoyance as a toilet seat. But they grudgingly conceded that at least they could fit in doubles. Caroline Harper adored its neatness. "I love boxes and I like hiding things. I bought two boxes like this for my cassettes just last week." She admired the side-label and lining, saying "I love the old-fashioned way of putting things away." Joan Thackray called it a "glorified shoebox", but admitted that she liked its unobtrusiveness, stability and portability.


pounds 7.95

This futuristic rack can be balanced in any of several ways. You can even screw it into a wall alcove with the rivets provided. Made of black perforated metal, it reminded some testers of a cheese grater and prompted Joan Thackray to say it would look at home in a kitchen - but not in a living room. "It's too utilitarian and no frills. It would look fine in an office but it's not very imaginative," she reported. One drawback was the rather loud metal clang whenever a CD was put in. "It's not that easy to carry either," reported James Cansdale, who found CDs toppled out when he lifted it vertically. "You could squeeze it into a corner and save space, but I wouldn't buy two and stack them together. It doesn't look stable enough." Caroline Harper put this rack at the top of her list because of its versatility and styling. "It's really simple, and good value as well. You could either use it flat or standing, and it is easy to assemble." Other testers found there was more than adequate room for CDs, and easy accessibility. "It can be horizontal or vertical, depending on how you spend most of your life," mused Adrian Hilton.


The Techpoint and Avec Trio racks are both available from branches of John Lewis (0171 828 1000). The Aero rack comes from Aero Contemporary Design Store, W2 (0171 221 1950). HMV tower is available from local stores or by mail order (0171 580 1862). The Epoch box is available from the Epoch mail- order catalogue (01242 524000).