Audioquest sure knows how to build a quality product. The Niagara 1200 comes in a more or less compact form of 19.4” x 3.2” x 7.5” (WHD) that’s 49 x 8 x 19cm for us metric-heads. The cool thing is, that the Niagara 1200 is designed to be used in different positions. You can use it in its regular position, tilt in on its front or use it standing up, as I am doing at home.
The unit weighs roughly 8kg, so there is some weight to it, but not so much, that you need a second person carrying it.
Overall the build quality is very good. The housing is made of aluminum and the looks are very sleek and minimalist, just as I like it.
As I mentioned before, the Niagara 1200 is going to show its benefits the best when you have poor and polluted power coming out of your walls. This is going to be the case where you have to share your power with many other parties, or maybe even businesses, in one building. If you’re living in a house on the countryside, there’s a better chance of having better power than in cities.
For this section I decided to listen to my stereo system with the Niagara 1200 plugged in for a week, only to go back to my regular power strip after that for the same period. I was doing this for quite a while before I landed on keeping my system hooked into the Niagara.
My system consists of a Roon Nucleus streamer/server, a Chord Hugo TT2, PS Audio’s Stellar S300 and Gain Cell DAC (as pre-amp), KEF LS50 speakers as well as my CD transport and turntable with phono amp. The entire thing has been using a variety of Audioquest analogue and digital cables, with the only exception of the Ethernet cable, which is a generic one. In view of my entire chain, the Niagara 1200 comes in at a relative good position when it comes to pricing.
Let me get this out right at the start, there were definite differences in the sound of my system, but I would not call these night and day differences. They are rather small, but big enough to notice.
The first thing I noticed, was that my system had a bump in volume. My Gain Cell pre-amplifier automatically starts at volume 25 out of 100, but with the Niagara 1200 in the mix, the volume was a good five to six clicks above as before. Other than that, there was also a change in dynamics and detailing as well as the sound stage.
With the Niagara 1200 the background became darker and the stage stretched especially further into the back. The music became snappier, livelier and for the lack of a better word cleaner. I noticed that the resolution stepped up a notch, where strokes of string instruments became more defined. Kick drums sounded more dynamic. Overall it was like going from high def TV to 1080 full HD, where the image is just crisper and more detailed.
When I went back to my regular power strip, the sound changed to be more dull, and even hectic at times. This might be from the added noise the power outlet introduces into the system. A point the Niagara 1200 definitely handles well here, reducing and filtering these noises before they go into your amps and sources. Without the Audioquest power conditioner in my chain the music again sounded less resolving and a bit like a foot that fell asleep. I was missing the dynamics, the snap and the spark that I had. Again, these are not big massive changes, but certainly ones that make a difference. To me at least.
After about a week of listening to my HiFi system without the Niagara 1200, I went back and got all the things I was missing before. The added resolution, dynamics, liveliness and micro-details all came back. It is as if the Niagara 1200 just gave you a view out of a cleaned window, that has been dirty before.
I would have loved to include comparisons to other power conditioners from other brands as well as the Niagara 3000, but I think for the entry level the best comparison is done against the regular power outlet. To highlight the benefits of what the Niagara 1200 can do.
I told you before, that I live in a building with 70+ other apartments, so there were high chances of getting more out of the Niagara 1200. A power conditioner does not always make the same sense, but what is a consistent benefit is the surge protection the Niagara 1200 brings. The fact, that in the worst case scenario of high power surges or lightning strokes, the Audioquest will keep your gear safe is just worth so much to me, that I recommend getting it to anyone who’s serious about HiFi and high end audio.
Even if I was very happy with how everything sounded before the Niagara 1200 stepped into my apartment, I apparently didn’t know what I was missing before I had it. The Niagara 1200 does make a noticeable difference in sound at my place.
The most welcome difference in sound quality the Niagara 1200 makes to me is definitely the liveliness and dynamics it brings to the table. Music just sounds so much cleaner and higher resolved than before. The biggest benefit to me however remains the surge protection. I can’t stress enough how important it is to me to keep my gear safe at all times. With the Niagara 1200 there’s no way a power surge could do any damage to my system. And that’s one of the main reasons why I wholeheartedly recommend getting it.