TRIED & TESTED / Rack and rolling: CD collections hate order, but there are effective ways to store them. Our panel tests five self-assembly units

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The Independent Culture
WHILE traditionalists mourn the death of vinyl and the demise of that great art-form, the album cover, there is still an outlet for those who like to make an impression with their music collections. CDs don't have to be strewn all over the floor or piled up on top of the TV. Take a look in the record shops and you will find them crammed with CD storage units: objects that look like triangular metal toast racks; tiers of shelves arranged like the branches of Christmas trees (are these the Nineties equivalent of the mug tree?); high-tech towers topped with Star Trek antennae; and for those with a more classical taste in music perhaps, stained antique pine cabinets.

If you don't want to invest in expensive designer units and don't mind doing some basic DIY, you could try some of these self-assembly racks. We asked a panel of music lovers to have a go at assembling five types. Whether your taste tends towards Mahler, Miles Davis or Metallica, read on to find out which is the most practical and stylish.

THE PANEL

Nick Barber, Independent on Sunday rock critic; Alan Scholefield and Mark Ainley, owners of the London record store Honest Jon's Records; Stephen Butler, research scientist/student; Sarah Cabaniuk, student.

THE TEST

The panel gave marks for how easy each unit's instructions were to understand and carry out; quality of finish; how sturdy the unit was when assembled; how it looked; how practical it was for storing CDs; and value for money.

**TECHSTYLE TANGO CD CAROUSEL

Stores 120 CDs; plastic; 18.5in high x 11in wide x 11in deep; pounds 39.99

You can pack a lot of CDs into a small space with this carousel, which looks like a plastic box mounted on a revolving base. Plastic CD holders pivot out from the unit and you take the disc out without removing its case, which should help keep your collection in order. Nick Barber described this as 'A very clever design', but the panel thought it was poor value for money and tacky looking. Some testers also had trouble with the instructions: 'Like squiggles from outer space,' said Alan Scholefield and Mark Ainley. Stephen Butler thought he had the solution: 'Simple to put together if you ignore the instructions.' The unit took 20-30 minutes to assemble, and was not suitable for singles (about half the depth of an album CD) or double CDs (roughly twice the depth).

***IKEA LANGA CD STORAGE UNIT

Stores 60 CDs; lacquered metal; 47in high x 5in wide x 4in deep; pounds 17

Most thought this black metal tower with slots for the CDs was fairly simple to put together, although Alan Scholefield and Mark Ainley found it a struggle. It took them over half an hour. Panellists were lukewarm about the design: 'Quite sturdy and almost attractive when filled with CDs,' said Stephen Butler. Nick Barber had mixed feelings: 'Basic toast rack design; good if you don't have much space. Because it's tall and thin it fits neatly into a corner. Awkward to get CDs in and out.' Very good value for money.

ARGOS CD TOWER

Stores 60 CDs and five doubles; epoxy lacquered metal; 63in high x 30in wide

x 8.5in deep; pounds 19.99

A good choice if you're hopeless at DIY, this angular metal tower stabilised by a flat base couldn't be simpler to construct. Otherwise, it wasn't popular. 'Very easy to assemble but hardly worth the bother. Too wobbly and all the CDs fell out,' said Sarah Cabaniuk. Alan Scholefield and Mark Ainsley commented: 'Incredibly easy to assemble, but the design with its silly post-modernist New York skyscraper top is totally dumb.' One feature appreciated by our panel, though, was space for double CDs.

**MFI ARCADIA CD STORAGE UNIT

Stores 120 CDs; black ash/glass; 42in high x 17in wide x 11in deep; pounds 39.99

The most attractive, sturdiest unit, a black ash cabinet fronted by a glass door. It had the best quality finish - but with one major defect: putting it together. 'My flatmate was so disgusted with my efforts that he took over,' said Nick Barber. 'As he is a DIY expert, he managed to complete the job in a few hours.' Alan Scholefield and Mark Ainley agreed: 'Only for DIY types on a wet weekend.' Unlike the others, they weren't keen on the unit altogether - 'Black ash is a cliche. It has a cheap feel,' they said. Stephen Butler listed its good points: 'Solid design, holds loads of CDs. Looks more expensive than it is.' Nick Barber concluded: 'One for people who want to show off their collection.' As with most of the units, there is no space for double CDs.

****ARGOS CD STORAGE UNIT .TX.- Stores 75 CDs, including six doubles; black ash effect finish; 18in high x 14in wide x 6in deep; pounds 11.99

This was another very easy one to put together and the panel appreciated the extremely plain, simple free-standing box, which is uncluttered by any fancy frills.

Stephen Butler found that it was 'Easy to assemble, neat and not too imposing - a unit that is practical rather than aesthetic. It fits all CD sizes, including double albums.' Nick Barber approved of this storage unit's 'Good solid, basic design, perfect if you don't have too many CDs in your collection. A good choice for a teenager's bedroom.' Sarah Cabaniuk commented: 'It's a bit dinky but does the job. Good if you're pushed for space.' The storage unit was seen as offering good value for money, too. It can also be mounted on a wall, which our panel thought could well be a better option than standing the unit on the floor.

Stockists for Techstyle Tango Carousel: Innovations, John Lewis, Tower Records, HMV, Fenwicks and independent record stores. All others from Argos, Ikea or MFI as described.

Next Week: Opening a student bank account

(Photograph omitted)

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