Stereophile‘s August 2021 issue contained further looks and listens to two high-performance products: the Audio Research REF 6SE line preamplifier and the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 Low-Z Power Noise-Dissipation System.
In his November 2020 review, Jason Victor Serinus found that Audio Research’s REF 6SE tubed preamplifier $17,000 was very sensitive to system tuning. John Atkinson took a listen to the REF 6SE and compared it with three topnotch preamplifiers: the MBL N11 ($14,600), the Pass Labs XP-32 ($17,500), and the Benchmark LA4 ($2599). He decided that the Audio Research was indeed a superb-measuring and superb-sounding preamplifier, but noted that its sonic signature would work best with systems that were a little laid-back in the upper midrange and that didn’t have underdamped or poorly defined low frequencies.
“But, as to why the REF 6SE sounded the way it did in Jason’s system, I don’t have a measured clue,” he concluded!
AudioQuest’s Niagara range of AC power conditioners, designed by Garth Powell, have consistently impressed Stereophile‘s reviewers and the Niagara 3000 was no exception when Tom Gibbs reviewed it in January 2021. Fred Kaplan had felt for a long time that he didn’t have a need for power conditioning but after trying the $2995 Niagara 3000, he experienced an epiphany: he learned from his experience with a conditioner that was in his budget ballpark was that “AC power is a nightmare, grounding is a nightmare, noise from anything and everything that’s plugged into a socket is a nightmare. The Niagara 3000 or any of these other devices won’t make your stereo system better than it already is, but to make it sound as good as it’s capable of sounding, you probably need something that clears out the electronic gremlins, unless your power is already pristine, which isn’t likely.” Fred bought the review sample!
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