The most immediate and salubrious effect of the Niagara was to offer a more controlled and refined performance. On Uncle Kracker’s memorable debut album Double Wide, for example, there was an enhanced sense of transient snap and accuracy, relaxation and mellifluousness, on songs such as “What’chu Lookin’ At” and “Follow Me.” The syllables of the epithets he employs as well as his more emollient croonings came through with a greater sense of precision.At the same time, the backing chorus was better separated from his solo lines.
This sense of precision was also vividly apparent on the Alabama Shakes’ imaginative album Sound & Color. On a variety of songs, the enhanced clarity that the Niagara supplied seemed to have the effect of subtly widening and deepening the soundstage. Once again, the bass lines were more starkly delineated, providing a better foundation for the vocals. Time seems to slightly slow down with the Niagara—lead singer Brittany Howard’s voice appeared to hover for a split-second longer in the air on “Gimme All Your Love.” Similarly, on the Christian McBride Trio’s CD Out Here, the Niagara delivered audibly tauter bass. Both McBride’s initial pluck and the decay of his bass appeared to be more elongated and controlled. What this all added up to was a more suave and sophisticated performance.
Did the Niagara shear off the treble to achieve these effects, as is the case with many conditioners? Not that I could discern. The treble is definitely smoother and rounder with the Niagara. On a Harmonia Mundi recording of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra playing Bach’s violin concertos, I was smitten by the overall refinement of the sound of the violins as well as the deftness with which the Niagara helped placed the harpsichord in the context of the orchestra. On the violinist Hilary Hahn’s CD Encores, both her violin and the piano had a pleasing fullness without a trace of etch in the treble. What’s more, on other recordings, telltale instruments such as triangles didn’t appear to suffer any diminution in resolution or sparkle, near as I could tell.
There is no gainsaying, however, that the Niagara will enrich the sound. Whether you conclude that this is an artificial enhancement or an actual diminution in distortion is going to be a judgment call, which is why it’s best to demo a unit like the Niagara. In my view, the latter was emphatically the case. My only slight reservation about the Niagara centers on a different aspect—the unit itself can emit a buzzing sound. I have one friend in whose home it is dead silent, to the extent that he stuck a stethoscope on it and couldn’t hear any noise at all. But another acquaintance of mine, who couldn’t live without the Niagara, does experience some slight hum. I plugged my Niagara into both the house wiring and my Equitech-fed lines to see if there was any difference. There wasn’t. I don’t want to make too big a detail of this, but feel I would be remiss if I didn’t point it out.
Overall, the Niagara is a fabulous piece of equipment that adds sheen and palpability to the music that are utterly addictive. Once you’ve heard the Niagara, it may be impossible to go back.
Specs & Pricing
Type: AC power device
Outlets: 12 (four of them high-current)
Dimensions: 17.5" x 5.24" x 17.2"
Weight: 81 lbs.
2621 White Rd.
Irvine, CA 92614
We greatly appreciate the time Jacob Heilbrunn spent evaluating the Niagara 7000, as well as his ability to effectively communicate his experience with TAS readers. The very slight mechanical hum that Mr. Heilbrunn sometimes experienced has to do with the quantity of harmonic distortion on the utility line. The Niagara 7000 is doing its job and is converting this line distortion into heat via magnetostriction, which manifests as the very low level mechanical hum that Jacob refers to. Even electrical panel isolation transformers, though potentially beneficial, will not reduce that type of distortion. Thus far, an exceedingly small percentage of users—approximately 1% — have experienced this. Most importantly, Mr. Heilbrunn enjoyed a wide variety of music with an enhanced clarity and solid musical foundation that he found enriching.
Bill Low, Joe Harley, Garth Powell, AudioQuest