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Audioquest Niagara 1200 Review (Power Conditioner/Surge Protector)

VintageFlanker

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I really need to do something about my Google News recommendations...


"My feelings on this are that Power Conditioning within your HiFi system is not Snake Oil at all but at the same time, it may not be for everyone."

Here we go again... the "not for everyone" or "depending on your system" thing. Followed by the classic "I kept it regardless of the 30 days return policy". Isn't that some kind of proof it works? And of course, last but not least, "it reduced Noise". Oh... did it? Isn't noise something that we can mesure quite easily?

AcceptableCheeryBluegill-size_restricted.gif
 

beefkabob

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I really need to do something about my Google News recommendations...


"My feelings on this are that Power Conditioning within your HiFi system is not Snake Oil at all but at the same time, it may not be for everyone."

Here we go again... the "not for everyone" or "depending on your system" thing. Followed by the classic "I kept it regardless of the 30 days return policy". Isn't that some kind of proof it works? And of course, last but not least, "it reduced Noise". Oh... did it? Isn't noise something that we can mesure quite easily?
"Since I have $50k worth of components in my system I realized that the $1295 cost of the Niagara was peanuts for what it offered, even if it did nothing to the sound of my system."

Money for nothing? Did he get chicks for free?

"As long as it did not effect the sound in any king of negative way (which some power conditioners may do) it would be a no brainier within my system."

He admits he has no brain.

I am happy with my stereo because I got as good a sound as I did for relatively little. He is super proud because he spent so much. Your graphic is proper.
 

Dennis_FL

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When I get close to my rack - I can hear a faint buzzing. I never suspected the power conditioner until now. I think that's what's buzzing.
 

tvrgeek

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One must not forget the primary function of these devices. That is to exchange money for bragging rights.

Now, a valid well built surge protector with DC blocking is worthwhile. Not for any magic sonic improvement, but to protect modern devices without the protection of massive E-core transformers which did a fine job of it in the past. I lost a TV to a power line hit.
 

SvanTeK

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If you live in an underdeveloped country, with power lines up in the air in cities, it's a "must-have".
 

restorer-john

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When I get close to my rack - I can hear a faint buzzing. I never suspected the power conditioner until now. I think that's what's buzzing.

You check your rack for wasps lately? Maybe they built a nest. Can't trust wasps.
 

MacCali

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I think most people don’t realize on top of this, that this is useless junk, what most people may actually be hearing is the coloration.

I am certain this may create fairly negative opinions, that a “power” supply can’t color sound. Some may agree.

Just hear me out.

But the piece of advice I got, from a person who only deals with high end audio, and I mean systems[plural] that cost 400,000. That person is Jay from Jays audio lab, just to get to the point the guy doesn’t care what it costs he’s well off. That he does not like power conditioners and that plugging straight into the wall is your best choice hands down. Obviously he has owned 5 figure power conditioners and is always having this experience. Further making it useless and unnecessary.

Just something to really think about, and honestly something I don’t doubt. From my personal experience I got a crap power conditioner, not for my stereo listening or sound quality but strictly for automatic voltage regulation[AVR]. Never even knew that I had sags down to a 100 volts sometimes, but I purchased this prior to my audio video receiver even being hooked up and it only cost me $200.

It definitely makes my music brighter and more sibilant but has never been a factor since I don’t use it as a dedicated stereo listening. It’s definitely doing something to the sound and this what makes people go bonkers and say they hear a difference

Edit, also referring back to Amir’s post/video of providing audio equipment the dirtiest possible signal and it having absolutely no effect on a well engineered component designed unit further smashes AQ’s bs into the ground
 

Ata

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If you live in an underdeveloped country, with power lines up in the air in cities, it's a "must-have".
I live in such a country, called Australia, and even though the power lines are up in the air, I have no use for such equipment. :cool:
 

MacCali

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I live in such a country, called Australia, and even though the power lines are up in the air, I have no use for such equipment. :cool:
You hear a lot of things online, the situation at hand is to each their own. I’m not saying this to create an issue, but as you may see the going trend a lot of people just join on here and put in their opinion on a topic and we are very objective based forum.

Let it be is the best thing. We need to grow and nurture our community as a whole regardless of beliefs. Objective or subjective we are all here for the same thing, and we are given advice and if the person wants to take it so be it. If not who cares.

We live in world where we all advise each other not to do drugs, yet some people jump on that train and everything goes to hell. Anyone who sees that is saddened by it, even if it’s a close friend or just someone you remember. You got to take this situation for somewhat of the same matter.

Not saying this to you specifically @Ata, but everyone on here. I myself am a firm believer in objective analysis. We just needed to be more united and less about the politics of audio
 

TrevC

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If you live in an underdeveloped country, with power lines up in the air in cities, it's a "must-have".
I live in the UK, and my power is from power lines up in the air.:)
I don't have a conditioner because they do nothing, but I do have a surge limiter power strip.
 
Last edited:

MalinYamato

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the audioquest Niagara 1200 Power Conditioner/Filter and Surge Protector together with their NRG-Z3 AC power cords. They are on kind loan from a member. The Niagara 1200 costs US $1,000 and the power cords costs US $200 in 1 meter length and $280 from Amazon including Prime shipping. So the total package tested costs US 1,480.

The Niagara 1200 comes in a very wide and sturdy package:

View attachment 144940

The main power control switch is on the side. It has a reassuring feeling when you throw it.

The outlets are all nicely spaced and tight in feel as you plug something in them:

View attachment 144941

You can see the shorter NRG-Z3 cable on top of it. It is as inflexible and unmanageable as you can imagine. The longer length is that, plus being quite heavy. This stuff better do something to justify their pain in the neck usability!

I am glad the member sent these cables as that is what they recommend for usage with this device.

Audioquest Niagara 1200 Measurements
Before we subject the device to AC, let's treat it as a black box and measure what it does to its input to produce its output. I set my Audio Precision to 1 Megahertz bandwidth and ran a sweep up to 200 kHz (won't go higher than this):

View attachment 144942

So some good news here. The filtering inside the box goes down to middle of audible band. Company brags about "linear filtering" which is their term for constant filtering regardless of frequency. We can see sign of this in the way the attenuation flattens above 100 kHz or so. To me, this design is poor in that you want maximum attenuation, not flat attenuation of noise. What good comes out of just reducing your cell phone RF radiation by 6 dB vs 30 dB??? This is not an amplifier where you listen to its output yet the company designer seems to be confused to think this the case and hence you want a flat response.

That last point is important: we don't listen to AC mains. We listen to the output of our audio device. And audio devices already have massive amount of filtering of AC to convert it to DC. That job is a lot cheaper and simpler because the voltages are very low so components are smaller and much, much cheaper. But maybe there is benefit to having both filtering. To assess this, I tested my Topping A90 pre-amplifier with a generic, thin power cord versus going through the Audioquest Niagara 1200 with its two NRG-Z3 power cords. First, the A90 used as a pre-amplifier with generic power cord:

View attachment 144943

Distortion is whopping -140 dB below our signal which is some 25 dB below threshold of hearing. Combined with noise we get a SINAD of 121 dB which is 6 dB better than our threshold of hearing (assuming playback level of 120 dB). Clearly the filtering inside this little box is doing its job. But let's hook up the 1200 using its low current outlet, first with our same generic cable going through Niagara 1200:
View attachment 144944

Other than some run to run tiny variations, the results are the same.

Now let's use Audioquest's cable going to Topping A90 from the 1200:

View attachment 144945

Clearly the cables make no difference either.

Let's pretend that we do listen to AC mains directly and see what impact there is on that signal. I use a special high-voltage differential probe for this that has a 100:1 divider. This way, its output is no longer lethal and differential nature resists picking up interference from other sources:

View attachment 144946

Looking at top right for our spectrum, we see the mains AC "tone" of 60 Hz followed by a series of harmonics. Add those together and you get about 2% THD+N which translates into a SINAD of 34 dB. I am using a bandwidth of 90 kHz to allow ample headroom above our hearing and give this device a much better chance to do something. Here is the same test but now sampling the output through the Niagara 1200:

View attachment 144947

There is some filtering at higher frequencies but because the distortion is dominated by early harmonics below 500 Hz, our THD+N essentially doesn't change. If anything other than 60 Hz is bad, then this device is doing nothing useful.

Listening Tests
I used my RME ADI-2 DAC as the source to feed the Topping A90 and then listened through Drop Ether CX headphone. Headphones are much more useful to listen for small impairments since they block external noise and you can turn them up as much as you need to hear low level detail. I first played the system using Niagara 1200 as the power source for Topping A90. I then switched to generic cord. Instantly I could tell the sound was improved with the generic cable! Not a typo. The generic cable sounded better. I then switched back to Audioquest chain and sound was worse. Perfect proof that the generic cable sounded better!

OK, not a proof of anything. :) When impairments are this small, you need to perform such tests blind and with random sequences a number of times. Otherwise you may fall victim to "second one is better" as you focus more to hear more differences and you "hear" them!

Conclusions
If you want a non-destructive surge protector, the Niagara 1200 provides that. Other than, all the other claims made by the company and its promotional videos are without foundation based on my measurements and listening test. As are such comments from reviewers posted by AQ:

View attachment 144950

Darko knows of no other thing you can do to get this level of upgrade? Seeing how there is no upgrade in sound, that is a remarkable statement! As to Herb's comment, please, let's not get our blood pressure up over fantasies.

Company claims in one of its interview videos that AC mains can "distort or mask up to 1/3 of your low level content." And that any differential probe can show it.


Well, I used a differential probe and can't find any such evidence. Even the AC distortion itself is not filtered let alone be 30%. Let's have the company show us this if it is so easy to measure and presumably, they have done so. Why keep such measurement hidden? Wouldn't sell more product?

If you want to spend $1000 on a sturdy box with surge protection, go ahead. But please don't assume it does something for your sound. It does not.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Niagara 1000 or the RG-Z3 AC power cords.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Great ASR, you are my snake oil protector.
 

MalinYamato

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Ata

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You hear a lot of things online, the situation at hand is to each their own. I’m not saying this to create an issue, but as you may see the going trend a lot of people just join on here and put in their opinion on a topic and we are very objective based forum.

Let it be is the best thing. We need to grow and nurture our community as a whole regardless of beliefs. Objective or subjective we are all here for the same thing, and we are given advice and if the person wants to take it so be it. If not who cares.

We live in world where we all advise each other not to do drugs, yet some people jump on that train and everything goes to hell. Anyone who sees that is saddened by it, even if it’s a close friend or just someone you remember. You got to take this situation for somewhat of the same matter.

Not saying this to you specifically @Ata, but everyone on here. I myself am a firm believer in objective analysis. We just needed to be more united and less about the politics of audio

I suspect you took my post as a confrontation (?) or subjectivity (?), when it is a simple statement of fact. There is no impact where I live, subjectively or objectively (and I have done hundreds of measurements).

If anything, generalisation and simplification, such as what my comment replies to, are not helping anyone.

Once you have read the reviews Amir posted on this type of devices, you'd see all the objectivity you need.
 

BDWoody

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You hear a lot of things online, the situation at hand is to each their own.

That's very true. That's exactly why an evidence based site like this one is like a refuge, where the silliness can be discarded without having to wade through quite as many well intentioned but fundamentally flawed anecdote based stories.

We live in world where we all advise each other not to do drugs, yet some people jump on that train and everything goes to hell. Anyone who sees that is saddened by it...

Friends don't let friends buy into Audiophoolery...

It is sad when people send their money to people who are knowingly taking advantage of their ignorance.
 

MacCali

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I suspect you took my post as a confrontation (?) or subjectivity (?), when it is a simple statement of fact. There is no impact where I live, subjectively or objectively (and I have done hundreds of measurements).

If anything, generalisation and simplification, such as what my comment replies to, are not helping anyone.

Once you have read the reviews Amir posted on this type of devices, you'd see all the objectivity you need.
No definitely not confrontational at all, but assuming it can possibly create a situation on here which is unnecessary if the other user takes it in a negative fashion.

As mentioned I am not strictly targeting you, but I notice on all of these reviews by Amir as the thread grows has these situations arise and all I’m saying is it worth it. That’s about it

You know how this works lol. My comments above are in the same regard but more on the informative basis. The comments right above yours
 

MacCali

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That's very true. That's exactly why an evidence based site like this one is like a refuge, where the silliness can be discarded without having to wade through quite as many well intentioned but fundamentally flawed anecdote based stories.



Friends don't let friends buy into Audiophoolery...

It is sad when people send their money to people who are knowingly taking advantage of their ignorance.
So that’s the point right, that’s what I am trying to say. The silliness can be discarded. Edit, and also I don’t see it being discarded when it’s being brought into the spotlight.

However, this won’t be the first or last time someone coming on here to give their opinion. Whether there opinion is right or wrong doesn’t matter right. The proof is in the pudding.

That’s why I’m trying to be clear and get the point across, nor am I here to be confrontational with anyone and more so on someone I agree with but just saying consider what you say and possibly refrain from to not have a stir in the thread.

That’s merely it. Basically like the saying goes, if you got nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.

You think your comments are going to hammer home the point when even the proof and evidence didn’t.

Yes I agree, but just like my prior paragraph do you think you’re going to be able to save someone money when they claim the facts are false.

If you want to help someone save money you don’t want a possible conflict that will further push them away from the truth right?
 

TrevC

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I think most people don’t realize on top of this, that this is useless junk, what most people may actually be hearing is the coloration.

I am certain this may create fairly negative opinions, that a “power” supply can’t color sound. Some may agree.

Just hear me out.

But the piece of advice I got, from a person who only deals with high end audio, and I mean systems[plural] that cost 400,000. That person is Jay from Jays audio lab, just to get to the point the guy doesn’t care what it costs he’s well off. That he does not like power conditioners and that plugging straight into the wall is your best choice hands down. Obviously he has owned 5 figure power conditioners and is always having this experience. Further making it useless and unnecessary.

Just something to really think about, and honestly something I don’t doubt. From my personal experience I got a crap power conditioner, not for my stereo listening or sound quality but strictly for automatic voltage regulation[AVR]. Never even knew that I had sags down to a 100 volts sometimes, but I purchased this prior to my audio video receiver even being hooked up and it only cost me $200.

It definitely makes my music brighter and more sibilant but has never been a factor since I don’t use it as a dedicated stereo listening. It’s definitely doing something to the sound and this what makes people go bonkers and say they hear a difference
It's obvious that a power conditioner can't make the sound brighter and more sibilant.
 

egellings

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I tried a power conditioner with my setup and was unable to tell the difference in sound quality with it or without it. I left it in for the surge protection it provides.
 
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