This article is about the AudioQuest Niagara 1200. The Niagara 1200 sells for 1,299 USD, while the NRG-Z3 cables go for 229USD respectively.
Disclaimer: Audioquest kindly supplied the Niagara 1200 as well as a couple of NRG-Z3 cables for this review. I apologize for not taking any photos of my own, I am currently coming back from knee surgery and can’t move big gear around to set stage for it.
Audioquest is probably best known for their mobile D/A converters in our corners. We have covered their excellent DragonFly series in the past, as well as some of their cables.
They make a very wide range of different products. From analogue and digital cables to headphones and D/A converters to what we are looking at today – their power conditioners.
Audioquest started out in 1980 when their founder, Bill Low, founded the company after two years of building custom cables for his one-man HiFi shop. Since then Audioquest has been expanding in growing in their business and has become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, cable manufacturer in the hifi segment. Their portfolio also grew in diversity during that time, but it was especially after 2012 with the launch of the DragonFly DAC that they tipped their toes into unknown territory. Since then they have introduced three generations of that series, with the Cobalt being the latest and greatest.
The Niagara power conditioners have been successfully introduced to the market in 2015 with the Niagara 7000. The Niagara 5000, 3000 and 1200 were added to the list of power conditioners over time as more budget friendly solutions to offer for smaller HiFi systems. As even cheaper options there is the PowerQuest series of power filtration products.
The Niagara 1200 is Audioquest’s most affordable power conditioner in their Niagara range. It can be yours for 1,299 USD. One thing to mention is, that the Niagara 1200 does not come with a power cable on its own. So you will need one to begin with.
Power conditioners haven’t really set foot in the headphone business, though their use case would be relevant in it as well. Their standing in the stereo HiFi world is a lot more solid, although also debatable as many customers swing the snake-oil bat quite easily.
The thing in my opinion is, that a power conditioner does not always provide the best benefit. This might be an example in areas or living arrangements where the power is not as polluted as in others. Single houses in rural areas for example don’t have to share their power with too many others, yet the improvements might also be there, due to bad power. For me, living in a city, the Niagara 1200 is more promising, as in my building there are 70+ apartments alone. Here it makes more sense that the power conditioner can show its work and benefits.
But what is it a power conditioner does exactly?
The Niagara 1200 provides a clean power, meaning power that will be filtered of incoming noise. Something that you could actually measure with a power line noise analyzer. Unfortunately I don’t have one at hand to include measurements in this review, but there is one available on ebay (US) for about 40$. Here in Europe these things cost quite a bit more and aren’t as available.
The Niagara 1200 also provides a stable power signal. Most outlets have a Voltage swing, which makes your gear not work at its optimum. Amplifiers and other electronics are designed to work at specific Voltages (120/230, depending on your location), if that Voltage is not precisely met, it can’t work at its best.
Let’s go over some technicalities. The Niagara 1200 comes with a total of seven outputs. Two of which are designed for amplifiers, as they require a higher current. Connect these to your power amplifiers. The remaining five outlets are to be used with your D/A converters, pre-amps, streamers, CD Players, turntables etc.
The Niagara 1200 has a built in over voltage protection, which ensures your system doesn’t get fried. That’s actually something that happened to me in the past. Remaining power surge in the PSU caused my Hugo TT2 to blow up and go back to Chord Electronics for repair. The Niagara 1200 offers that surge protection, that basically makes sure, that your products are safe when it comes to lightning strikes or massive power surges. That alone is a massive plus in my books.