That’s a pretty fancy title for a power conditioner. A device to clean up the nasties that find their way into your system. Fancy, maybe, but I find the good ones an indispensable component. Is the impressive moniker apt?
AudioQuest, maker of very fine cables and digital devices has produced a new series of power conditioners (the conditioner under review, the 5000, USD$3995—sits between the 1000, USD$995—and the 7000, USD$7995). AudioQuest is very serious about the technology and ingenuity they bring to solving this pesky audiophile problem.
AudioQuest says: ‘The science of AC power delivery is not a simple one; it demands focus, and the devil is in the details. In fact, the great increase in airborne and AC-line-transmitted radio signals, combined with overtaxed utility lines and the ever-increasing demands from high-definition audio/video components, has rendered our utilities’ AC power a somewhat antiquated technology.‘
I was convinced about the difference a power conditioner could make years ago with an example from MIT placed surreptitiously into a system I was thinking about buying. It was transformative. I’ve heard a few dogs over the years — basically, power suckers. The best ones have dedicated outlets for power amplifiers and retain enough current capability so the amp isn’t brought to its knees by the need for instant peak current demands (see last of the Features below).
For AudioQuest, ‘honouring the source is never a matter of simply using premium “audiophile-grade parts” or relying on a proprietary technology. When it comes to noise filtering for AC power, many approaches can yield meaningful results. However, these approaches may also impart ringing, current compression, and non-linear distortions that can render the cure worse than the disease!’
Patented AC Ground Noise Dissipation System.
The widest bandwidth-linearized AC filter in the industry.
A unique passive/active Transient Power Correction Circuit.
An instantaneous current reservoir of over 90 amps peak.
Kind of an odd subtitle where power conditioning is concerned. They produce no musical information into the system. Yet, one has a house or an apartment. You clean it. You have a car. You clean it. Should be the same for your power, even if you live in an area, where, like mine, you rarely see a brownout, and power failures even rarer. Don’t you feel good when the house is tidy and the car’s sparkling? I feel that way about my reference system. I lavish real love on it as if it’s a living, breathing thing. I don’t want it overly complicated—no green CDs, Shun Mook stands, cable supports—and it has to look good. Adding a quality power conditioner will do wonders for your system. Unsure? Read positive reviews from publications you respect and ask a dealer to bring one of the conditioners to your home. My bet? It won’t be leaving.
My local AudioQuest dealer has sold a pallet load of 5000s this way, and at just under 4 grand US each, very impressive!
The results of the best examples? I find the really good ones stay the hell out of the way—like great cables, you forget what they are doing. As such, I have only three requirements for a power conditioner, which this superlative new AudioQuest does brilliantly.
1. Lowers the noise floor.
2. Removes all hash and grain from the system.
3. Does not drain power from the amplifier.
You had me at number 1!
AudioQuest put a lot of time and research into their debut conditioners. I heard the 1000 and the 7000 casually, and they both have a family resemblance to the 5000.
The 1000 was excellent but the 5000 really upped the game—the proverbial veils were lifted. The engineer, producer and performers produce the music then electrons do their damnedest to cloud the issue. Just like great gear will give you a better view of the performance, same for the 5000. To be clear, the 5000 will be as important a component as your DAC, amplifier or turntable.
Everything I threw on, digital or vinyl highlighted the music from a truly black background. The noise floor on my digital setup (presently, Antipodes Audio Core--review forthcoming, and Bel Canto DAC 3.5) was very low, same for my vinyl setup (Rega Research RP10 Turntable, Rega Research Apheta MC Cartridge and the phono stage card in my Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 Integrated Amplifier). Almost below sea level!
The most important test was the amp. Rowland builds his amps with exquisite precision, both technically and aesthetically. It sounds pretty damn fine with unfiltered juice. The Niagara did no harm. No loss of power, no musical anemia—the two bugaboos I’ve found on other, far less effective power conditioners.
As you might expect, a quality power cord (no power cord supplied) is essential to get the best out of the box. I was supplied with an AudioQuest NRG 1000 USD$1039 (3 ft). Now we’re into 5K plus for conditioning.
I was spoiled as I had just finished reviewing the USD$1999 Core Power Technologies Equi=Core 1800 Power Conditioner (CPT), which received an Audiophilia Star Component Award. It’s also a clean—the—house knockout, but for considerably less dosh than the Niagara 5000 (and is supplied with an excellent and gorgeous-looking power cord).
I preferred the CPT over the entry level AudioQuest—although the 1000 gave a very good account of itself, emulating lots of the best qualities of its bigger brother; the CPT allowed more emotion through. There is a cleanliness about the CPT's presentation that's difficult to describe. You'll hear it (or not hear it, is maybe a better description) on the Niagara 5000, too. Clean, clean clean. Where the Niagara 5000 beats all comers is the build quality. Nonpareil. It's a tank, sure, but an exotic tank.
One track I used a lot in the review was Tony Bennett’s Duets II . Specifically, the track with Amy Winehouse—Body and Soul.
Hearing the track ad nauseam (actually, a superbly musical performance considering the cynicism of this type of project) was highly instructive. Listening conscientiously to the track with the 1000, CPT and 5000 rotated (in order) added layers and musical information as each unit, each more expensive than the other, was placed into my system. Think of it as clean, cleaner, cleanest. The 5000 even revealed the late, great Winehouse's use of glottal stops to emulate her musical hero, Billie Holiday. The other conditioners were revealing of the information, but the 5000 really dug into the musical fabric.
As for amp control—famous power suckers like Uranus (from The Planets--Montreal/Decca CD), Arcana (Varese/Mehta/Decca reissue LP), Burmester Test CD 3 CD, and Reference Recordings' magnificent Arnold Overtures reissue LP—were zero problem. Nothing lost, and more importantly, nothing gained.
You plug in the 5000 and forget it. It sits there beautifully in your rack, never needs tweaking, never needs calibrating, and you can plug anything and everything into it. Duracell-like, it just keeps going and going.
Most times over the past 20 years, I forgot my Audio Power unit was in my system. Only when upgrading to the CPT, did I notice a considerable improvement. As such, if you have an old workhorse in your system and are looking for a significant upgrade, why not give the Niagara a test run? You're thinking better cartridge, better amplifier, right? Before you call Audio Research or Lyra, get hold of a 5000 and listen for a couple of days. I adore Audio Research and Lyra, but you know what I'm betting on. Very highly recommended.
- Surge Suppression: Non-sacrificial (nothing to damage with repeated 6000V/3000A input surge tests, which is the maximum that can survive through a building’s AC electrical panel).
- Extreme Voltage Shutdown Voltage:140VAC (will activate the main high-current relay to open within less than 0.25 second; automatically resets once the incoming power is within a safe range).
- Common-Mode Noise Dissipation: In excess of 30dB from 20kHz to 100MHz, linearized for dynamic (rising) line impedance with frequency (source) and 10 to 50 ohm load, system current dependent.
- Input Current Maximum Capacity: 20 amps RMS (total).
- Ultra-Linear Noise-Dissipation System AC Power Outlet Banks: 4 Isolated groups – total (bank three through six).
- Number of AC Outlets: 12 (4 High Current/Transient Power Correction; 8 Ultra-Linear Noise Dissipation System Power).
- Power Consumption: Typically, less than 0.25 amps at 120VAC input, or with the power correction switched to Standby setting. (This is dependent on a reactive vector load. For more info, see “Operation and Continuous Use: Rear-Panel Power Correction Switch – Niagara 5000 current draw.”)
- Dimensions: 17.5” W x 5.24” H x 17.2” D (3-RU rack-mounting ears, optional)
- Weight: 38 lbs.
Further information: AudioQuest