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Review: AudioQuest Niagara 3000: Power conditioner with Noise-Dissipation System

Review: AudioQuest Niagara 3000 Power conditioner with Noise-Dissipation System is a Power Conditioner that I can recommend without reservation
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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.

Whenever he develops new products, he buys all relevant products out of old habit and if he gets the impression that he cannot do it better than the best, development dies. Or he recruits the person who should be responsible for his favorite product. This is what happened with Audioquest headphones and mobile D / A converters . During his research for the best power supply units, by far the best product came from the specialist Furman Power, whose focus is on the professional sector, but who at that time still had a heart for the audiophiles of this world.

Audioquest Niagara 3000: Schnittstellen von innen

Low made its chief developer Garth Powell an offer, which he could refuse. For one thing, he was happy with his employer and, for another, he didn’t want to move from the east coast to Southern California (SoCal). His resistance lasted right until CES 2012 in Chicago. Low had worked on Powell over and over again, the two had even become a little friend and now the time had come: Furman had been sold and from then on no longer wanted to invest in audiophile developments. So Powell said yes. Bill said to him: “Take your time, but don’t waste time either.” It was more than four years before the Niagara 7000 came out in 2017 – and from my point of view the care has paid off, I can already do so much reveal.

Fact check: AudioQuest Niagara 3000

Audioquest Niagara 3000 von innen

Now you might be wondering what the 3000 Niagara actually is, because if you follow AudioQuest it should neither be a network conditioner nor a line filter. Robert Hay, AudioQuest Marketing Director for Europe, laughed and said that this was typically American and that he had not yet been able to talk them out of it. So I’ll try not to present you with stupid German, but to work out the most important characteristics of the 3000 in a clear and understandable way. The AudioQuest Niagara 3000 is of course a line filter and in a certain way also a power conditioner, but it is called the “LOW-Z Power Noise Dissipation System”. What does that mean?

It should derive the carpet of noise from the alternating current / mass events again via the earth and the whole thing with the lowest possible impedance, which maximizes the energy transfer and minimizes interference. Let us still agree on “Power Conditioner”, because that’s what it does in the end, it prepares the electricity from the socket and is supposed to free it from malfunctions. In a cool company video, Garth Powell points out that alternating current was initially only intended for illuminating lightbulbs and never for fine hi-fi systems, where, for example, it distorts, masks or boosts up to a third of the bass signal. That is much. According to Powell, “impurities” sneak into the system’s power supply via the ground connection of the mains cable and torpedo the signal purity. which, as is well known, cannot be restored afterwards. So how does the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 try to keep that from happening?

Tech talk

AudioQuest GND-Technologie „Ground Noise Dissipation“

In the front part of the device sits a circuit board with three coils, which is, so to speak, the heart of the device. AudioQuest calls the underlying, patented technology GND – “Ground Noise Dissipation”. This can and should of course also be read as an abbreviation for “Ground”. What is meant, however, and that seems to distinguish the AudioQuest stuff from the competition, is that it covers an extremely wide range. A good 21 octaves or 24 decibels of unwanted interference in a frequency range between 1 kHz and 1 GHz should be kept away from our music playback devices. What the Niagara doesn’t do, it doesn’t stabilize the tension , otherwise, to put it bluntly, exactly what comes in at the front comes out at the back.

It is particularly important to Garth Powell that his noise dissipation technology (what a word!) Works equally (linearly) and broadband for all three conductors and not with different resonance peaks, as is the case with competing products. They would only be eliminated if they happened to coincide with the disturbances. Ultimately, this has the effect of re-tuning your system. I’ll leave it that way, the rest will follow in the physics or electrical engineering seminar.

Audioquest Niagara 3000: Rückseite mit Steckdosen

This so-called “Level-X linear filtering” takes place evenly, from which source devices and pre-stages benefit particularly with their comparatively constant power requirement, which is not significantly increased by power peaks. Five inputs are provided for them on the AudioQuest Niagara 3000

Power amplifiers or integrated amplifiers have different needs: They cause larger current fluctuations and have to fall back on appropriate power reserves depending on the loudspeaker, volume and dynamics. Two inputs with the so-called “Transient Power Correction” are provided for them, whereby a maximum current of 55 A can be provided within 25 mS. A circuit for direct current suppression and a huge super capacitor are integrated , from which the power-hungry output stages can make full use. Further details on this could not be extracted from the AudioQuest men. Anyway, my ears will judge later one way or another.

The large circuit board in the back of the Niagara 3000 is – according to AudioQuest – non-invasive overload protection, which does not suffer permanent damage even if triggered by the highest currents and voltages (6000 volts, 3000 amps).

The country needs new leaders

Audioquest Niagara 3000: Detailaufnahme innen

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

Audioquest Blizzard Netzkabel

I would like to take up one aspect. In the Monsoon and Blizzard power cables (from 329 and 919 euros, respectively) that I was provided with, there is a battery circuit that regulates the electrical conditions in the cable to a stable 72 volts. This is an idea that goes back to the loudspeaker manufacturer Richard Vandersteen. Vandersteen and Low are friends and when Low was shown the positive, i.e. noise-reducing effect of bias control in Vandersteen’s switch boards, he introduced the technology into his cable designs. When Low later showed the circuit to Garth Powell, he said: “Nice thing, but you also used it to produce an antenna.” So he retrofitted an RC filter.

Systematics

Listening to all combinations with all devices is beyond the scope of this report. By that I mean hearing each of my devices with and without the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 in comparison and then with and without the AudioQuest power cords. But I can reassure you that the character of the Audioquest Niagara 3000 is clearly recognizable.

Audioquest Niagara 3000 mit angeschlossenen Netzsteckern

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.

Audioquest Niagara 3000 Schriftzug

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

Audioquest Niagara 3000: Überspannungs-LED

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.

Audioquest Niagara 3000: Kontakte im Inneren

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

Audioquest Niagara 3000: Gerätefront

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.

Facts

  • 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

 

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