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REVIEW: AUDIOQUEST NIAGARA 5000 AND STORM SERIES POWER CABLES

AudioQuest Storm Series power cables
The new AudioQuest Storm Series power cables came on the market at the end of 2017, in the wake of the Niagara series power supply products.
5 - 1 vote

The new AudioQuest Storm Series power cables came on the market at the end of 2017, in the wake of the Niagara series power supply products. Both series have been designed by Garth Powell, formerly as a power specialist at Furman Sound, who has amply earned his stripes in the professional audio market.

AudioQuest Niagara 5000

Since Garth joined the AudioQuest design team in 2012, he received Bill Low carte blanche from owner, to cast his knowledge about the behavior of electricity into unrivaled products. That resulted first in the Niagara 1000 and Niagara 7000 ‘power conditioners’, and a little later the intermediate Niagara 5000 was added. In order to make the technology used in these power conditioners work optimally, new power cords were ultimately needed, and with the Storm Series, after many years, the NRG Series was added to the highly successful market.

Current = Current?

Smooth ice cream, that’s it. Writing about power cables and power conditioners. Because there are plenty of objectivists who like to shave their teeth on reviewers who venture to claim something else than that electricity is simply electricity. Whether that flow behaves the same under all circumstances. I would not want to give the technicians who claim that the transformer provides sufficient protection against mains pollution in any hi-fi device. However, we will not be conducting this discussion again. I rely on my own perception, and it has been telling me for years that Stroom ≠ Stroom. But also that I have had very different experiences with active power care products. With the main – and best known – complaint that ‘inline’ net filters may be effective in filtering noise and distortion, but almost without exception the dynamic of the music is in the way. And that the ‘rest’ that brings with it cleaner energy sometimes costs more than I wish to surrender. It is in particular that additional dynamics problem that, according to Garth Powell, has been solved at the Niagara Series. I would like to show that by means of a listening experience, and so I set off with high expectations.

I usually prefer the familiar environment of my own listening room, but in a listening session where a lot of power cable needs to be changed, a tube amp is not the ideal partner due to the constant switching on and off. What’s more, I simply lack the space behind the hi-fi furniture that you actually need to ensure that these changes take place quickly and easily. In order to fully establish the effect of the innovations in both the Niagara Series and the Storm Series, I therefore gratefully accepted the invitation from AudioQuest to have the listening session take place in their special demo room in the Roosendaal EU Headquarters. I know their large and comfortable space pretty well, and it is equipped with two separate power groups that provide a high-quality sound system with juice.

The set I was going to listen to consisted of the Primare Pre60 preamplifier with built-in streaming module and the matching A60 power amp. They were connected to AudioQuest Elements Series Fire interconnects, while Oak speaker cables provided the DALI Epicon 8 loudspeakers with amplified signal. During the extensive listening session – of which more will of course later – I was accompanied by AudioQuest employee Jan ‘t Hart, who would provide the’ changementen ‘during the day so that I only had to listen to the iPad on my lap.

Niagara Series power supply

The three products in the Niagara Series for power supply assume as low an internal resistance as possible, for an uninterrupted flow of power, and the cabling used is fully controlled in the correct direction. They all offer an active and very broadband filtering of the electricity coming from the mains, with the aid of the patented Ground-Noise Dissipation System and the Ultra-Linear Noise-Dissipation Technology. This concerns the prevention, and the collection and dissipation of unwanted noise and distortion from the cable, which penetrates in the form of electromagnetic radiation and radio radiation. But also think for example of switching pulses (whether or not caused by industry).

The Niagara 5000 and Niagara 7000 also offer Dielectric-Biased AC Isolation Transformers in addition to these two filter systems, and a unique Transient Power Correction, a type of turbo reservoir that allows power to be added during longer, more demanding, highly dynamic passages in the music. I was very curious about the latter effect, because all the articles I have read about it now have a lot of emphasis on it. In a positive sense, I mean.

Listening with a standard ‘audio plug box’

Although it is formally not part of this review, I decided to take the opportunity to also listen to the Niagara 1000 ‘plug-in block’. Upon arrival, the set had been playing since the night before, with at my request an unfiltered, but for audio, much sold metal plug block of good quality, and NRG10 power cables to both preamp / streamer and power amplifier. I had asked for the NRG10 because that cable costs about the same as the Thunder, the entry-level model of the Storm Series. I had chosen three tracks to listen to: Moten Swing # 1 of Count Basie & His Atomic Band, of the 5CD box Complete Live At The Crescendo 1958 (because of the nice live atmosphere and the crushing dynamics), Resurgam van Fink, van the album of the same name from 2017,

In the setup without Niagara or Storm Series Count Basie actually sounded very good. A beautiful, reasonably large image, a lot of dynamism and not too bright. Fink showed a similar picture. A warm sound, tasty rhythm and generous spatiality. Desolate was, as expected, very spatial and the low rolled through the room. My supervisor Jan had made great use of his years of experience in the hi-fi retail sector the day before, and set up the set in an exemplary manner. Here I was really good at the feet, the music was really under a beautiful clear magnifying glass.

Listening with the AudioQuest Niagara 1000

When the standard plug block was replaced by the AudioQuest Niagara 1000, Desolate let more control be heard in the low, and there was a certain calm that made the whole sound more even, with greater spatiality and more coherence. At Fink, the bass went deeper and the whole sounded cleaner and there was more coherence between instruments and vocals. Count Basie sounded a little drier, and the explosive dynamics where I always feared inline net filters remained completely unaffected. There was also more spaciousness to hear, so that the live experience was more realistic.

I have to rush into the review at this point to tell you that the changes (which I have mostly seen as improvements) are in reality always somewhat smaller than I describe them. This makes it easier to clarify their effect on the reproduction, but also take account of this in the follow-up of the described listening experiences. The differences are indeed audible without too much effort on this highly dissolving set. However, do not expect similar results in an all-in-one mini-set from the 1990s. The set must have it in itself, otherwise it simply does not come out.

Listening with the AudioQuest Niagara 5000

The Niagara 5000 has, as mentioned, a filtering comparable to the Niagara 1000 on board, but with the AC Isolation transformers and the Transient Power Correction it is even more than that. What am I saying? A scoop? Dear help, just say a shovel! Or two scoops! I was prepared to accept any difference in advance, but what the AudioQuest Niagara 5000 did with the music was spectacular. At the same volume (represented by a number on the display of the preamp, so error is impossible) the music seemed to be louder from the first note. Or maybe I should say: more energetic. And not just at high volumes. There was suddenly much more ‘pressure’ in the display, but I did not really hear a difference tonally, very well! No half octave layer there (something that never happens in practice, ever written), no turned on high, no change in the timbre of the middle area. Only cleaner and more dynamic sound. More impact, and the whole sounded a bit closer. There was more balance and peace and the timbre became clearer. Also more tangible, the loudspeakers largely disappeared from the image due to the considerably increased spatiality. The ‘flow’ of the music was lesser, sovereign.

AudioQuest Thunder

It was time to listen to the Storm Series. These cables are different from all other power cables I know. They consist of three interwoven individual shielded and jacketed cores that are different in structure. The theory behind the new Storm Series is that because of their special construction they are much better at removing pollution (noise) and that is what the Niagara Series is doing. In other words: it works together optimally. If you decide to buy a Niagara product, you will achieve the best results with the new Storm Series. Cynics would see a cunning way of tying in this, but I think it is a completely logical approach. And in addition, other good power cables work just as well. In any case, the braid looks extremely impressive, but honesty dictates that the cables have also become rather stiff and that you can actually forget the folds around short corners. Whether or not you have to find that little bit of loss of convenience depends on performance, of course, but in my opinion it should not be left unmentioned.

Jan replaced the NRG10 which ran from the Niagara 5000 to the preamp through the entry-level model of the Storm Series, the Thunder. What the Thunder does with the sound seems a bit like the step from the regular plug-in block to the Niagara 1000. More timbre, increased spatiality and a sound image that was placed a bit further forward. The demarcation of the various parts in the mix also became more accurate, and the background was ‘quieter’, while the increased energy of the Niagara 5000 became more pronounced. With the live recorded track of Count Basie, the feeling of being there was a lot bigger because the audience seemed to sound more around me.

Listening with the AudioQuest Tornado

The Storm Series Tornado, on the one hand, gave a somewhat more dynamic dynamic, but also gave a somewhat ’rounder’ sound, with the ends of the frequency spectrum getting less emphasis. This, however, was more attractive and balanced, with an image that was more spatially and even more sharply projected. In the recording of Fink there is a humming choir that suddenly more clearly consisted of several members, and the ride cymbals were reproduced with more yellowish copper colors. The layer became more energetic and elastic in all recordings, while the dynamics again increased. We are of course still talking about subtle differences, but it is audible.

Listen with the AudioQuest Hurricane

The Hurricane had more audiences around me during the live recording of Count Basie, and the dynamics of the wind players and especially the extremely energetic drummer seemed even bigger. At Fink, against the still quieter background, there was suddenly more reverberation on the drums, and there was more energy in the hi-hat. The electronic bass of Desolate was more generous, and again it seemed as if the volume knob had been turned further open. The whole was more exciting, exciting and drew me deeper into the music. At this point in the comparative listening test the interim conclusion began to urge me that with the Niagara 5000 and the Hurricane power cable you have so much more energy, timbre and detail in the view that you could lower the volume in principle for the same experience.

AudioQuest Dragon HC and Dragon Source

The top model in the Storm Series is the partly made of silver conductors (and therefore also considerably more expensive) Dragon. AudioQuest has therefore made two versions. The HC (High Current) has the same topology as the Thunder, Tornado and Hurricane (all of which are also suitable for HC applications, for example on a heavy power amplifier or subwoofer), but because it is not necessary to make a source device so thick and therefore To use expensive partly silver power cable, the ‘Source’ version equipped with thinner conductors has been developed and therefore less expensive. This is – for those who wondered – also the reason why I used the Storm Series power cables on the Primare preamp and not the power amplifier: then the difference between the two Dragon models could be determined objectively.

The AudioQuest Dragon is the superlative in all respects. The display becomes more intense, there is considerably more musical information to hear, the spatial reproduction has become more layered and there is much more microdynamics, drive and timbre. The low, as I am used to silver, something deeper but also a touch of soft in the start. And at the same time there is more coverage in the bass. The display invites to analytical listening due to its increased resolution. That is, you would say, more audiophile, but I did not think it was more musical. When I compared the Source with the HC, I heard a similar signature, but all of them invested a little less thickly. As a result, I found the balance even more beautiful and the tension I found so beautiful at the Hurricane was back. Also with the Source the view was more analytical. That effect can also vary per combination and of course it is just where you prefer. Anyway: try before you buy!

Combine with the Storm Series: Tornado and Hurricane

Now that I was there it seemed interesting to me to listen to the cumulative effect of several Storm Series power cables in the set. That is why the AudioQuest Tornado was connected to the power amplifier, and the AudioQuest Hurricane went to the preamplifier. The positive effect of this combination was not small. The spatiality of the reproduction increased even to the level that we have already achieved, the placement now began to become truly 3D, even in the height the image became a lot bigger and more transparent, while the dynamics and energy … Oh well, you guessed it … Which, in my opinion, shows that Garth Powell, with the Storm Series, indeed travels new ways in the removal of unwanted components in the power we use to feed our sound equipment.

Combine with the Storm Series: Dragon HC and Dragon Source

You did not think I was going to skip that combination, did you? And people, believe me, I got a bit embarrassed about it. Because how was I to put this superlative step into words again? The energy level of the display increases again, but with a refinement and self-evidence that gives goose bumps. There is suddenly total synergy. You only know something like that when you hear it, when you suddenly notice what was still in the way of all previous rounds. Tonally, the view is suddenly completely natural to me. If you know what a big band sounds like in real life, and then at the recording of Count Basie (from 1958 onwards!) Suddenly appears to be sitting on top of the front table in the club with your snuffered, on a meter or three of the musicians, then you know that it’s right. There is peace and depth,

Conclusion

It has become a whole story, but it was also quite a few different products that had to be reviewed. And then I go ice in one night, then they listen, listen and listen again. It is clear that AudioQuest has taken a golden hold with the acquisition of Garth Powell, and that with the first of their power supply products they are reporting at the front of this busy market in one go. My resistance (pun intended) to mains filters is not only taken away by the Niagara 5000. The music reproduction was not only cleaner and more colorful, but there was no question of any loss of dynamics. In fact, the effect of the Transient Power Correction is exciting, stunning and also a bit bizarre. It’s like you press the nitro button of your street-racer and with a smile from ear to ear in your seat is pressed by the extra acceleration. Very addictive and there is actually no way back when you have heard once which beast was secretly hidden in your amplifier all these years.

The power cables from the Storm Series offer an unmistakable added value. Not only compared to their predecessors (the Thunder is already clearly better than the equally expensive NRG10), but certainly also in combination with the Niagara Series power supply products. The only drawback I could say is that the cables are rather stiff due to their construction and need quite a bit of space behind the devices to which they are connected. But be warned, once started to replace is also no way back. My personal favorite was the Hurricane, who did not achieve the ultimate refinement of a complete Dragon-fed set, but which provided almost 90% of the performance for considerably less than half of the money. As usual, the last 10% of quality is mainly reserved for the ‘happy few’, although the set will obviously have to be of corresponding quality. However, it offers confidence to know how terribly far you can go with this Storm Series and how bizarrely these cables perform.

Current = Current? That ‘truth’ can finally be removed from the table …

AudioQuest Niagara 5000

+ Makes music playback cleaner
+ No loss of dynamics
+ Extra energetic the display by Transient Power Correction
+ Consumes little power and does not get hot
+ Many outlets on the back

– Not cheap
– Chromed front is a taste point
– Large and heavy
– Must be connected to a grounded outlet

AudioQuest Storm Series

+ Clear improvement compared to NRG Series
+ Fine finish
+ Performance more expensive cables increase proportional to the cost
+ Mutually enhanced operation in combination with Niagara Series

– Cables are thick and fairly stiff
– Do their job separately, but perform better in combination with Niagara Series
– No cheap cables

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