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AudioQuest Niagara 1200 - My First Impressions

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ontheone, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. Ontheone

    Ontheone Poorly Understood Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    I know the topic of power conditioners is somewhat contentious on here as many feel they are quite worthwhile and others believe they are "snake oil". As posted on another thread, I just received a new AudioQuest Niagara 1200 yesterday. I spent some time breaking it in and listening last evening and I thought I'd pass along my impressions.

    My Objectives
    First, I'd like to make clear my rationale and expectations for this purchase. I'd recently noted my Brick Wall surge protector was contributing noise to my system. So first and foremost I wanted quality protection for my fairly heavy investment in audio gear - the 1200 checked this box. Secondly I was trying to clean up the effects of DC offset on my line which was creating a bit of transformer hum in my amp that crept into my speakers (audible from about 6 inches). An Emotiva CMX-2 cleaned up most of it and I thought perhaps the DC filtering on the high-current outlets may do the trick. Lastly I was hoping I might get an incremental benefit in sound quality through widening the dynamic range and lowering the noise floor. As my system has improved over the past couple of years I've noted that small changes in cabling, tubes, and isolation (among other factors) can have a more-than-subtle effect on sound quality.

    My Reaction
    So how does it perform? I immediately noted an almost startling improvement in sound quality that was equivalent to making a major component change like new speakers or new preamp. The sound stage was deeper, wider and much more dynamic. Music seemed to be louder but I think that's really just the widening of the dynamic range and lowering of the noise floor. I immediately noted details and textures on tracks that was I intimately familiar with that were never apparent to me in past listening. Truly a wow moment.

    So what about the toroidal transformer hum? It's further reduced but still there. I'm starting to think it's simply an amplifier design issue or perhaps noise on the line that I may try to further reduce taking other measures. It's certainly not enough of an issue to prevent my musical enjoyment.

    Suited for All Systems?
    I do think however I better understand why there are such wide-ranging views on higher end power conditioners. If my system wasn't pretty nicely resolving (~$30K invested), I don't think the sonic changes would have been very notable. Anyone plugging a 1200 into a mid-fi system probably would think it was a huge waste of money. I have a second system in my basement that consists of an $1,800 used Cary SLI-80, $400 Wharfedale Denton 80 speakers and a $400 Bluesound Node2. I may experimentally try the 1200 in the basement system but my gut tells me any sound improvements would be subtle at best.

    Bottom Line
    In my main system however the sonic improvements from the 1200 were much greater than I ever expected. However I don't think everyone will realize this level of improvement depending on how resolving your equipment is. Remember, every piece of gear is connected to the 1200 through either the high-current outlet (amp connection) or the linear-filtered outlets. So you get a cumulative effect of all gear benefiting from cleaner AC together. I also have piece of mind that my investment in gear is well protected electrically. It didn't fully knock out my slight remaining transformer hum but I suspect that is as much amp related as it is AC power related.

    For folks with resolving equipment and who need high quality protection, this AudioQuest Niagara 1200 is a no-brainer at less than $1K. I could never have otherwise improved the sound this much at this price point.
     
    dennem, MGW, pdxway and 5 others like this.
  2. swvahokie

    swvahokie Forum Resident

    Nice review, you may want to consider filling out your equipment profile. It helps folks get a perspective on your review.
     
  3. shaizada

    shaizada Forum Resident

    When you get a chance, you should fill out your equipment profile. Nicely written report!
     
    macster likes this.
  4. Ontheone

    Ontheone Poorly Understood Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Equipment profile now complete. Good point!
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2019
    shaizada likes this.
  5. shaizada

    shaizada Forum Resident

    Now that is one hecuva system!
     
    IanL and Ontheone like this.
  6. Ontheone

    Ontheone Poorly Understood Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Thanks...always a work in progress right? Someday I will upgrade the amp to a VAC 200iQ or similar. I'm certainly a tube guy. I checked out your system as well...that must sound incredible!
     
  7. swvahokie

    swvahokie Forum Resident

    Nice setup. I was experiencing some noise on my phono preamp and picked up one of the new PowerQuest 3 hoping it would help. Pretty pleased so far. It definitely lowered the noise floor. Long term plans I want it for my video equipment and hope to step up to a 1200 for my audio setup. I didn’t review it though
     
  8. JMCIII

    JMCIII Music lover first, audiophile second.

    I wrote up a review of the 1200's predecessor the Niagara 1000 on my Facebook page: Aural Musings. I think we agree on the benefits.

    Aural Musings
     
    Ontheone likes this.
  9. Morbius

    Morbius Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brookline, MA
    Nice review though I don't think you mentioned what power cord you're using with the 1200. I have the impression from the manufactures description that it doesn't come with one.
     
    Ontheone likes this.
  10. Ontheone

    Ontheone Poorly Understood Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Good point. The 1200 does not come with power cord. AQ recommended using any of the AQ cords to take advantage of their shielding and direction control - I went with the NRG-4 since they were selling on Music Direct for nearly half off. Perhaps someday I will trying a more robust cable.
     
    Morbius likes this.
  11. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Location:
    Netherlands
    Thanks for sharing......and I am glad to hear that you also had a wow experience after connecting a power cleaner! When I plugged in mine I could not believe how much difference it made.

    You suspect that the effect is larger with high grade systems, but could it also be that the degree of HF-AC and DC- garbage/interference simply varies per location, depending on users on the grid and interference from other home equipment?
    I have a <10k$ system and I got this great improvement with a 500$ power cleaner (6 sockets).

    Let us know please how your second, cheaper system responds to clean power!
    Any other recent experience with power conditioning out there?
     
  12. Ontheone

    Ontheone Poorly Understood Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    That's an excellent point and I intended to mention that. If your AC power line is plagued with noise issues to begin with I'm sure you will realize a bigger benefit using the 1200 than someone who had already fairly clean power coming across the grid.
     
    JMCIII likes this.
  13. Paopawdecarabao

    Paopawdecarabao Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    How is this compared to the more expensive Stellar Power Plant 3 from PS Audio?
     
  14. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    The AQ filters while PS Audio regenerates power. The latter approach seems better to me but comes at a higher price.
     
  15. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Location:
    Netherlands
    The problem with unwanted garbage in your power is that you don’t know how bad it is. And it could be variable during the day. Also, it is possible that it becomes worse by the day, as the grid adds more sources.
    So , you might have become a little tired of your equipment and are thinking of an upgrade, whilst the power impact has caused a very gradual deterioration of sound quality.
     
    dennem likes this.
  16. Morbius

    Morbius Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brookline, MA
    I'm considering the advantages of investing in a new power conditioner. I've been using an Adcom ACE 515 A/C Enhancer for about the last 25 years and though its been reliable and has definitely served its purpose as a surge protector I wonder what can be done better. It has some really interesting features though. It has seven outlets - 4 for accessories (wall wort power supplies for an FM tuner, turntable power supply, turntable light etc.), 1 un-switched grounded (phono preamp) and 2 high current (one for my integrated and I'm using the other one for my CD), a ground post and a circuit breaker. It also performs a turn on sequence where the accessories are activated first and the higher current components like amp after about 5 seconds. In addition it reverses the sequence when you power it down.

    I think the Audioquest is attractive in that it has also has 7 outlets 2 of which are high current and is non-sacrificial if and when it has to do surge protection, I think I would miss the power up/down feature though. Part of my quandary is that I've recently upgraded my interconnects and power cords and the noise levels in my system are pretty low right now, for example through my high gain MC phono input at my normal listening level I can only hear a faint rush through the woofer and mid/woofer and nothing through the tweeter with my ear right up against the speaker and there is absolutely no hum at all. As for high level inputs I can hear absolutely nothing. There are also other priorities as well such a replacement cartridge when the stylus on the current one reaches the end of its life and I also have to weigh whether I want to invest in a DAC to upgrade a recently purchased CD player though it sounds pretty fine right now.

    Decisions, decisions. Either way I definitely appreciate Ontheone's objectives and reactions to his purchase and would welcome anything you and anyone else could add to this discussion.
     
    teag likes this.
  17. Don Parkhurst

    Don Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    I used to feel the same way when I owned the PS Audio P5 and later the P10 power plants. I am now using a Shunyata Hydra AV, which filters/conditions instead of regenerating. I have found that in my system I had issues with the P5 and P10 (to a lesser degree) would restrict the dynamics of my system and that I had a lower noise floor and a more relaxed and natural sound with my Shunyata Hydra AV.

    The caveat of course is that this was with my system in my room, dealing with the power issues in my neighbourhood. Others may have a different result in their location. So, if possible, try out dealer loaners of a couple of different types of conditioners/generators to see which is the best for your system and your budget. I was lucky and picked up my Shunyata as a dealer demo at a very friendly price. I also put a high end Shunyata power cable on it to help as much as possible. It cost about 70% of what the conditioner cost.
     
  18. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    Yeah, a post I made yesterday in another power conditioner thread was that while the PS Audio tech seems better from a technical standpoint, it seems to get hit or miss reviews while Shunyata tends to always get high praise.
     
  19. Don Parkhurst

    Don Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    I will say that the Power Wedge 116 that I used to own, as well as the P10 and Shunyata have all been really well built (just try lifting up any of those d*** things. Oyy!). Definitely instills confidence in the long term satisfaction of ownership.

    I have no problem if someone says that in their house, the PS Audio sounded better. To each his/her own.
     
    sfoclt likes this.
  20. sfoclt

    sfoclt Forum Resident

    Location:
    United States
    I still use my power wedge and often wonder about trying something else. I can’t really tell the difference between all the Shunyata models frankly. I like the isolation transformers in the PW, and my system is very quiet so it’s been pretty much a set it and forget it device for going on two decades.
     
  21. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Location:
    Netherlands
    I couldn’t say, but I found a review of power conditioners and re-generators in a German magazine. Their conclusions were:
    1) All tested equipment improved sound and is considered great value for money (price range 600 - 3400 €).
    2) There has been considerable progress in power cleaning conditioning in recent years.
    3) power re-generators, which use transformers, are great for low power consuming equipment. For high power they recommend there were concerns that they can limit dynamics.

    And in another test they thought they found the ultimate clean power supply, a powerful chargeable battery powered AC generator (Stromtank). Alas, smallest model cost 10k€....
     
  22. Ontheone

    Ontheone Poorly Understood Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    I was experimenting last night swapping some power cords around in my system. I found that the AudioQuest power cords reduced line noise (likely ground noise and RF noise) the best when plugged directly into my tube amp (from the 1200) compared to my Nordost Blue Heaven or stock power cords that came with the equipment. I suspect the Nordost aren't shielded as well and AudioQuest are known for their noise reduction design, especially as you move up the line. I'm not using anything better in the AQ line right now than the NRG-4 ($150) so I just ordered the AQ Thunder high current version to see if I get further improvement now that I know the power cord can have a big impact on the now very slight 60hz noise that still persists. I got a good deal on a demo power cord from a dealer with a 30-day return period.

    [​IMG]
     
    JMCIII likes this.
  23. jslcaballo

    jslcaballo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Any update on the thunder vs NRG 4? Thanks!
     
  24. innocent_bystander

    innocent_bystander Forum Resident

    Location:
    Anaheim, CA
    I just got mine yesterday with a Thunder cable....

    Did a quick A/B with my Furman Power Station PST8 Line conditioner and the Audioquest Niagara 1200 Power Conditioner with an Audioquest Thunder Power Cable. Im not good with reviews but here is my initial impression with the NIagara 1200 and Thunder Power Cable.

    Here is the Signal flow of my equipement. VPI Rosewood Prime Sig with Transfiguration Axia S MC Cart > Zesto Andros 1.2 Phonostage > Zesto Leto 1.0 Linestage > Zesto Bia 120 Stereo Power Amp all wired with RCA Cables Kimber Hero's > Tannoy XT8F Floorstanders wired by Kimber Monocle XL Speaker Cable. All power cords are stock/generic that came with the equipment only. These are all plugged into the Niagara 1200 and thunder power cord towards wall outlet.

    Music played was Money for Nothing Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 45rpm MoFi. Money and Great gig in the sky from Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon MoFi.

    My system is already dead quiet without the Niagara 1200. But with the Niagara 1200 and Thunder Power cable. Bass was more tighter, top end was balanced/less harsh. Soundstage was better. Yes... There is a noticeable improvement from the Furman in terms of overall sound. Build quality is superb with Niagara. Only gripe is the Thunder Power Cable is damn stiff. Would I recommend it.... Yes...

    Next upgrade are the power cables in my components and speakers....
     
    teag and LakeMountain like this.
  25. tie_breaker

    tie_breaker Well-Known Member

    Location:
    USA
    Has anyone upgraded from Niagara 1000 to 1200 and heard improvements? Thank you in advance...
     

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