I consider it essential to design your own system as clearly as possible. The problem is, there are factors that work against you. Among other things, the electricity with its “impurities”. You might think that a well-made amplifier doesn’t need a power conditioner or the like, its power supply unit cleans and smooths the sine itself. Oh yes? With the increasing load on our power grids, not least due to high-frequency interference or RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) from LEDs, transmitter masts, electric motors, energy-saving lamps, switched-mode power supplies, … I unfortunately think it is wishful thinking that even high-end devices have correspondingly complex filter solutions integrated, that have an answer to all network problems. So I have long wanted an effective device for these purposes, I hadn’t found one yet. Until the line filter AudioQuest Niagara 3000 (2,999 euros ) fluttered into the house.
Here comes the SoCal gang
Bill Low, founder and head of AudioQuest, is a smart man. Before starting his manufacturing career with the founding of AudioQuest in 1980, he ran a small high-end store in Portland, Oregon. This naturally gave him a good overview of what was on offer and selected the components that he liked best – and of course that were the best to sell.
AudioQuest is also a well-known cable manufacturer, so I was given a generous amount of power cords. It is recommended that the Niagara 3000 be connected to the mains using one of the higher quality AudioQuest cables. The next step would then be to replace the accessory strips with in-house goods. The conductors of the cables consist of AudioQuest’s “Perfect Surface Copper” and silver-plated, so-called Drain Wires, via which interference picked up by the shielding is carried away to ground. The conductors should also be protected from high-frequency radiation and common-mode interference. However, the technical details lead too far in the context of this report.
The copper that you produce yourself is crucial for the quality of AudioQuest cables. Ultimately, it is based on studies by the Japanese professor Ohno from the 1970s, who, to put it simply, significantly improved the production of copper and greatly homogenized the results. There are three lines: Long grain, PSC and PSC +. The differences lie in the more complex refinement, especially during production: how the copper is drawn, the machines and tools required for it, the even, gentle cooling after casting – all of this costs time and money. The AudioQuest Niagara 3000 uses the PSC +, which does not stop at screws that influence the signal flow. I cannot say whether that will have any real impact there, but it shows the meticulousness
First I looked at my air tight tube chain, including a turntable and CD player. I compared the source devices first without and then with the Niagara 3000, and finally the preamp and power amplifier were added. Where possible (if no fixed power cords were installed) at the end with an AudioQuest power cord. The sonic influence of the cables is more subtle than that of the Niagara 3000, but sonically goes in the same direction. In the second step I replaced the tube devices with my Lavardin ISx Reference. As Rudi Carell said so beautifully: “Let yourself be surprised.”
Sound and no comparisons
Richard Drees, among other things responsible for the German sales of AudioQuest, advised me to import the Niagara 3000 because it had not been used much and the cables were completely new.
The biggest surprise in my work with the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 also addresses the biggest “concern”: the possible loss of dynamics. Let me put it this way: Garth Powell is a drummer, classically trained musician and jazz freak. Anyone who might believe that the man is developing a dynamic brake is very wrong. I cannot offer any comparisons with other products, all devices that I have used here so far have gone again sooner or later – I think that says it all.
First I connected my turntable to the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 and was immediately able to determine the overall order of the performance. With the great anniversary edition of Cat Stevens’ album Tea for the Tillerman was a form of silence between the pieces, even between the verses, which at first irritated me and then surprised me extremely positively. You have to understand something like that first. The music seemed to have a different breath, it also seemed better structured and the room widened significantly, while I was amazed at the increase in depth, especially in the bass. Arrangements became more clearly perceptible, the high frequency range and thus the subtle background events seemed clearer where it previously seemed much more approximate, without artificially moving into the foreground. The middle range, in this case especially Stevens’ voice, got a kind of presence and immediacy that gave me real goose bumps.
The dynamic, which was still minimally cautious at the beginning, was solely due to the aforementioned recording process, the calm that soon set in seemed more like a kind of acoustic detox.
After that, my CD player was allowed to take the next free space on the Niagara 3000 after I had previously heard it on my power strip. It is well known that all devices on a strip or on a filter usually harmonize better, but the increase in sound with the Niagara 3000 goes well beyond this effect. One of my island recordings is of the great Shirley Horn (album: You won´t forget me ). “If you go” is a magical-meditative piece. Horn is only subtly accompanied by bass and drums, and if their singing and piano playing don’t captivate you, something is wrong with the system. Now – regardless of meditative passages – Horn’s piano strokes almost frightened me with their unrestrained dynamics. “Almost” only because they sounded velvety and organic and were illuminated much deeper. I kept sitting in my listening chair, astonished: where was this going to lead to? Even with the connection of my preamplifier, these results were amplified and stabilized, so I was surprised what happened when I finally connected my power amplifier or, a little later, my integrated amplifier to the AudioQuest Niagara 3000.
You’ve got the power
The connection of my power amplifier marked perhaps the biggest sonic jump in my attempts with the AudioQuest Niagara 3000. Immediately and very clearly audible, the room was illuminated even more deeply, the clarity and shape of the entire sound image increased enormously. Again I heard the aforementioned Shirley Horn recording and literally hung on her lips as if I were seeing her sounds in three dimensions in front of me.
The bass seemed sinewy, and I actually experienced the sound image as clearly more rhythmically structured. My Air Tight ATM-4 now seemed to be able to act more casually, more naturally. The results with my Lavardin integrated amplifier were on a similar level as with my tube chain. Again and again my attention was drawn to the fine details without losing sight of the big picture. This almost unbelievable silence and blackness between the lines inspired me with every new piece because they actually seemed like a liberation from artifacts.
With the Charlie Byrd Trio (album: In Greenwich Village ) I also notice an increased resolution in the highs and an insane dynamic in the play of drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt. And on Shirley Horn’s “It had to be you” (album: You won´t forget me ) the blowing of Branford Marsali’s tenor saxophone really knocks me out: Have I ever seen it so physically and colorfully?
Conclusion: AudioQuest Niagara 3000
Now the time has come. Now I know one – what did we call him? – “Power Conditioner” that I can recommend without reservation: the Audioquest Niagara 3000. It gives my system a new form of relaxation and sovereignty, as if it had a spring cleaning behind it. Disturbances like the ones I often experience in my big city apartment occurred much less frequently during my time with him. My current system has never sounded so good.
- Model: AudioQuest Niagara 3000
- Concept: network conditioner / power conditioner
- Price: 2,999 euros
- Interfaces: 5 inputs for source devices and preamplifiers with lower power requirements (Level-X Linear Noise-Dissipation) from 10 kHz – 1 GHz with up to 24 db, 2 inputs for power amplifiers or integrated amplifiers (High Current Low-Z)
- Power reservoir for power amplifiers and integrated amplifiers (Transient Power Correction) up to 55 A at 25 mS
- Other: patented “Ground Noise Dissipation” for all inputs, overload protection (Non-Sacrifial Surge Protection) up to 6000 V / 3000 A
- Dimensions and weight (W x H x D): 445 x 88 x 386 mm, 11.3 kg
- Guarantee: 2 years