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AudioQuest - Nighthawk Headphones

  1. SoundApprentice
    Late-Night Listening All-Star
    Written by SoundApprentice
    Published Nov 7, 2017
    Pros - Build, Comfort, Relaxed
    Cons - Too Polite

    Its sound is as unique as its looks. Its place in the market is as contested as its creator’s cables—OK maybe not that contested. And its performance appears to be either loved or hated. So often in audio, enthusiasts position a product in the black or white, better or worse, endgame or bust. But if there’s anything I can say about my audio experiences, it’s that every product worth writing about, discussing, photographing, and hearing has a place. For me, the NightHawk’s place is wherever I do my late-night listening.

    It’s fall, which means my outdoor activities are winding down for the season, night comes early, and the tubes on my amp start glowing a bit more. It’s that time of year when longer nights get passed in pursuit of #AudioNirvana. Whether its name was aptly chosen or just coincidental I don’t know, but after 10 months with AudioQuest’s first-ever headphone (yes, I was late to the game), I find myself reaching for the NightHawk whenever I’m settling in for the evening. There’s just something about its uniquely rich tuning that compliments the albums I spin up when I want to drift off into the darkness. But this isn’t a realization that came quickly for me.

    At first listen you’ll think something is amiss with the NightHawk—or at least I did. In fact, I hated it the first time I put it on my head—and quickly cursed myself for dropping a couple hundred dollars on a lightly used unit. Sure, it looks lovely and is surprisingly comfortable, but its sound made no sense to me, and it still continues to surprise me from time to time.

    To my ears, at first listen, the NightHawk comes off as sounding kind of hollow and reverb-y, almost too unbalanced, like a half empty music venue during sound check. This feeling is further reinforced when quickly switching to the NightHawk from headphones like Sennheiser’s HD650 or Beyerdynamic’s Amiron Home, which both have more forward, mid-centric tunings. But when you pause, sit back, and actually listen, giving your ears and brain several minutes to acclimate, you start to hear a darkness in the NightHawk, a deep musical presentation that’s actually far more revealing, natural, and delicate than expected. And, given time to immerse your ears in its sound, AudioQuest’s NightHawk proves to be a true high-fidelity headphone—albeit a polite one.

    What I mean by polite is that the NightHawk plays it safe with its warm and inviting sound signature that’s skewed to the lower end of the response curve. The powerful bass and rolled off treble will undoubtedly be deterrents to audio purists looking for flat response curves, but this is what I like about the NightHawk. It easily hides the flaws of weak recordings and low-res streaming audio; sibilance and tipped-up treble are non-existent; and the mid-range tuning is dialed in to a point where it retains nice vocal and instrumental clarity and detail retrieval without being forward or analytical. All this combined is why I say the NightHawk is excellent for late-night listening. It’s relaxed, it’s deep, it’s dark, and yet it’s still detailed enough to be hi-fi but non-fatiguing.

    The trouble with comparisons is that I find the NightHawk to be pretty unique—it’s not really like anything else that I have heard or owned. I mean, it makes the HD650 sound downright thin and aggressive. The NightHawk’s visceral bass can be thick and meaty, the mids a touch relaxed and passive, and the treble tame by all accounts, but in the grand scheme of things, the presentation, while lacking punchy presence, is intimately intriguing. Because of its relaxed nature, the NightHawk actually draws you further into the listening experience, which is what finally reveals the details it achieves in all its subtlety.

    If I had to place the NightHawk somewhere among some of its peers, I’d say it takes after Meze Audio’s 99 Classics and ZMF Headphones’ Ori, which favor darker, smoother, and ultimately safer sound signatures at the expense of some upper-mid and treble detail and extension. One could argue the NightHawk is similar to Shure’s SRH840 and SRH1540 as well, but I find both to have more cutting mids and treble, despite both also being considered darker in nature.

    Only being semi-open, the NightHawk also doesn’t expel the expansive 3D extension or airiness of fully-open planar magnetic or dynamic driver headphones. Given the NightHawk’s tuning, a sound stage that extends about an inch beyond the cups still seems like an accomplishment to me, and I think its controlled, natural tone and timbre make up for added sound stage depth and height anyway. Don’t take that as me saying the NightHawk sounds claustrophobic, if anything it’s that the NightHawk centers the sound stage with nice accuracy but less extension. The takeaway here is that I encourage you to give the NightHawk a fair listen before deciding it is or isn’t for you.

    Whether its sound is for you or not, you have to respect the thought put into the NightHawk. AudioQuest spared no expense in the design and engineering of its debut headphone. From the sustainable liquefied wood cups, to the truly loudspeaker-like biocellulose drivers and 3D-printed grilles that are real functioning acoustic diffusers, the NightHawk is as over-engineered as AudioQuest’s cables—and that’s not a bad thing.

    This is a headphone that makes me feel like I actually got my money’s worth—in fact, it’s a stealin today’s headphone market that keeps pushing prices higher and higher. Inside and out, the NightHawk exudes quality. In fit and finish, the NightHawk is polished, clean-lined, sturdy, and minimalistic. Every part has a thoughtful purpose without excess embellishments. In particular, I really like the leather-wrapped elastic suspension strap, which allows precise positioning on the head and ears in comparison to standard headbands or yokes that have set positions to “click” into. The suspension strap is also receptive of my go-to headband mod for those looking for extra padding or that need to lessen the extension of the strap. The ear cups also are held on the yokes by a unique suspension system that allows them to articulate and easily conform to the shape of your head, making for a very comfortable fit. I find it quite easy to wear the NightHawk for several hours at a time.

    The NightHawk also maintains a cohesive look and feel, seamlessly integrating into the style and branding of all things AudioQuest if that sort of thing matters to you. Of course, the NightHawk also comes with AudioQuest’s high-end star quad direct silver-plated pure red copper cable (removable), a silver-plated pure red copper ¼" headphone plug adapter, and a nice padded leather storage case.

    With its uniquely deep and inviting tuning, excellent comfort, impressive design, and quality build and accessories, I think the NightHawk warrants a serious audition. To me, the NightHawk isn’t so black and white—it falls somewhere in the gray, not quite endgame, but still an underrated instrument and excellent addition to a flock of headphones that deliver different degrees of Audio Nirvana.


      Vero Golf Champ and volly like this.
    1. volly
      Damn good read, thank you!
      volly, Feb 6, 2018
      hqssui likes this.
    2. Vero Golf Champ
      Nice review. Had mine for 18 months or so and initially I thought they lacked excitement too. Upgrading my front end and amp may have helped and I grew to love them. Possibly the perfect cans for a recovering basshead. Sadly the leather strap on mine is deteriorating around the stitching on one side. Not a tough repair, given it slips off. Recently acquired the HifiMan Sundara and am enjoying the fully open planar characteristics you mention, however the Nighthawks aren't going anywhere.
      Vero Golf Champ, Apr 1, 2018
    Audioquest NightHawk - these or the hd650s?
    Written by SOULSIK
    Published Jul 7, 2017
    Pros - good design. good bass quantity
    Cons - weird sound signature, competes poorly in this price range.
    Video review here:

    Sound Demo here:



    Nighthawk was definitely on my “must review” list for a while now because of how much praise it received from other reviewers. However I was a little skeptical on how a company that has never created a headphone, not alone a single iem or earbud can suddenly come up with such brilliance. I was finally able to get my hands on the nighthawks this time around and not to spoil anything in particular, but they surely did not meet my expectations. However, do not get the impression that these are not good headphones, in fact these would be great headphones if they not choose to compete in this particular price range, where a lot of great headphones already has its place in the market.

    ABOUT Audioquest

    I would normally post what the manufacturers put on their website because I believe they best represent who they are but I will make an exception to this one as all audioquests’ website talks about is how Bill (creator of audioquest) started building amplifiers in his college years and suddenly started making expensive cables that make sound better. In my opinion, Audioquest is a good brand name and has to potential to represent may of our dreams. I mean our quest for audio is really no more than a game that we keep for that euphoric ending. However, they decided to taint the name of audioquest by putting cables as their main point of interest rather than headphones or speakers that actually matter more in one’s quest for better audio. And better yet when they contradict themselves directly by saying ” Bill hooked-up a twenty-five foot pair of his “original recipe” cable, everyone was very impressed with the much better sound.” in their “about me” section and “Cable design is all about damage control. No Cable can make your system sound or look better, they can only cause damage to the original signal. AudioQuest’s perspective has always been to design cable that DO NO HARM!” in their education section… you loose some respect right off the bat.

    Am I being harsh or brutally honest? who knows, but I am very glad that they made some dacs like the dragonfly and such, and that they started making headphones. Now I think it is time they dive into the deeper game of things to earn my respect as well as the consumers’ respect. When they claim to know so much about audio through cables and come up with a headphone like the nighthawks, there is disappointment that follows. I do not mean to bash on audioquest, I mean no harm, I just hope that they take this review to the heart and make the improvements needed. Hopefully my future reviews of them will be more respectable.


    This review unit was lent to me by audio excellence, for a review. Nevertheless, my review will contain no bias


    Impedance: 25 ohms
    Sensitivity: 99dBSPL / mW
    Power Handling: 1.5W
    Weight: 346g (12.2 oz.)
    Driver: 50mm Dynamic – Biocellulose Diaphragm – 1.2T Split-Gap Motor


    The headphone band self adjusts like the meze headphones but tends to slide up time to time nevertheless, the comfort is outstanding.

    The Pads are also comfortable. Not the best but definitely one the better stock pads. cables are pretty descent with 45 degree termination.

    The 3D printed carbon mesh looks amazing and screams quality. It would be interesting to see more added based off this mesh design


    The case that comes with the headphone is high in quality and very practical

    The housing is made of something new called the “liquid wood” which I found to be similar to plastic in quality, subject to easy chipping or other physical damages. It may look nice but the sonic improvement due to so called “liquid wood” seems to be no more than their cable story until proven further.



    Lower Frequencies: Nighthawks shine the most in this frequency with quite a bit of extension into the sub bass. Not as much as the planar headphones or meze headphones but definitely somewhere in between and more than the HD650s. However the control and tightness of the bass seems to lack. In a simple sentence, there is more in quantity but less in quality bass.

    Mid Frequencies: This is where I found the problems to be most prominent as there is some weird reverb going on that brings on a bout some kind of ringing sound signature. Some may enjoy this but as a reviewer, I have to keep with the norm and point out things that sound, for the lack of better words, “off.” Also any string instrument sound quite remarkable until you hear violin. Violin has this weird sibilant/shouting on this headphone. Also while the vocals presence is euphoric like the HD650s, it sounds rather drier. Overall unnatural feelings crosses over this frequency in particular

    High Frequencies: being a rather darker/warmer headphone like the HD650s, while trebles are present there is not much of extension or presence. What surprised me was that there is a spike around 5 to 8khz area (vocal sibilance) where S sound more sibilant than other headphones in this price range, which can be quite bothersome.

    Sound stage and imaging: while imaging is quite good on the nighthawks, the sound stage is somewhat similar to that of the modern closed back design. With closed backs being able to produce more sound stage than before, it certainly does not go in favor of the semi-open back (leaking) nighthawks.


    Overall Thoughts

    I think that Nighthawks is a good start for the company to really bring out their passion for audio however, really needs to listen to their headphones more and engineer the small details required in making greater headphones. Nighthawks also seems to have picked the wrong price category to compete with as HD650s and 600s surely exists and to compete with it, it either needs to be different or just simply be better. In this case, it does neither. It rather seems similar to the HD650s with annoyance factor added.
  3. kevingzw
    A Top Contender! A new competitor has arrived!
    Written by kevingzw
    Published Mar 26, 2017
    Pros - High Quality Acessories, Beautiful Aesthetics, Solid Build, Sweet Mids, Delicate Treble, Mellow low end, Natural and Airy Sound Signature
    Cons - Might be Gaudy to some, Polarizing Sound Signature
    A web of controversy:
    aq_header.jpg   audioquest_jitterbug_01.jpg
    The usual suspect of "snake oil items"
    Audioquest has established itself as a notorious company, solely focused on the manufacture of "state of the art" Hi-fi, primarily "exclusive cables" that focus on reducing audible distortion, bit errors and clean data transmission between audio sources and the output speaker/headphones.
    Started up by William Low, Audioquest's philosophy focuses on the sum of its parts. Every component of one's audio setup plays a key role in the reproduction of quality music.
    However, in the recent years as forums dedicated to Hi-fi have been gaining traction, many audiophiles are quick to call out Audioquest as a company selling wishy-washy products on the basis of psuedo-science. Products such as the Jitterbug and the plethora of high-end cables have been caught under the gaze of a group of "hard-core audiophiles". 
    Amidst all the flak they've been receiving for at least 10 years, the company has managed to hatch a few golden eggs; not limited to the brilliantly tiny yet mighty Dragonfly Dac. Audiophile zines for a more "mature" clientele such as Stereophile adore Audioquest's journey to sound nirvana.
    Be that as it may, the company has made a bold decision: to venture into the world of Hi-fi headphones. Their latest invention: The AudioQuest Nighthawk took the headphone world by storm. With over 9,000 replies on Head-fi, the Nighthawk's startling sound and design philosophy is something that must be experienced. From its unusual walnut earcups, to its wire-frame headband, the Nighthawks certainly knows how to leave a positive impression. 
    Priced at 699 USD at launch, the Audioquest Nighthawk's are steeply priced against an already crowded market of mid-fi headphones from the likes of Sennheiser and Sony. But against the backdrop of such established brands, how does the Nighthawks fare against the current market? 
    Things to take note: 
    1. I am not a governing authority for audio. This is merely my opinion. If there are any disagreements pertaining to the review, feel free to voice it out in the comments section. I'll happily share an open discussion.
    2. The headphones were burned in for at least 50 hours before testing. 
    3. I purchased a used pair with 1.5 years of warranty left. 
    What are the Audioquest Nighthawks?
    The Audioquest Nighthawks are an expensive pair of dynamic driver headphones. The nighthawks were created to reduce EMF (Electromotive Forces) and harmful resonances that tamper with the actual end result. Some of revolutionary features include:
    1. 3D Printed Crystal Lattice Grills (to reduce to EMF)
    2. Utility Patented Suspension System (to avoid resonances or unwanted interference)
    3. Bio-Cellulose Piston Diaphragm with a Split Gap Motor and Rubber Surround
    4. Liquid Wood Earcups with a special internal coating (Injection Molded)
    5. Audioquest Patented Thickly Plated Silver Braided Cables
    Engineered by a Sound Engineer named Skylar Grey, the aforementioned list of components listed above took at least 2 years of research and development. The Audioquest Nighthawks are targeted to musically inclined audience. Stating to reproduce music that wasn't focused on wonky frequency extensions, the tonality of the Audioquest Nigthawks is described as natural, airy and almost intimate. Akin to a pair of speakers, Audioquest has labelled it as a pair of "earspeakers" (alittle too pretentious for my taste). But enough chatter. Lets get on with the review. 
    The Included Package: 
    Foregoing the matte-finished cardboard boxes of its competitors, the Audioquest Nighthawks jumps right into its accessories, the packaging being an oversized leather bag with ample foam cushioning. Inside the case, we have:
    1 X Audioquest Nighthawks
    1 X Oversized Travel Case
    1 X Audioquest Thickly Plated Silver Cable (3.5 mm to 2.5 mm LR)
    1 X Audioquest Standard Cables (3.5 mm to 2.5 mm LR)
    1 X Audioquest Thickly Plated Silver Jack
    1 X Tidal Subscription 
    1 X Instructions and Warranty
    Now that's a giant package of accessories. Audioquest definitely nailed the "generosity" aspect. Seriously, that is a giant package! I especially love the oversized case as an added bonus. The case is entire is suspended in cushy foam interiors, ready to protect the Nighthawks at any costs. The silver cables are a nice touch, as expected from a company proud of its top-tier cable engineering. As a Head-fi first, I'll have to give the Nighthawks a perfect score in the accessories department. I'm duly impressed. 
    Comfort and Build:
    Thanks to https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8822/17780498244_098dd02fc7_b.jpg
    The earcups themselves are suspended in a strange web-like structure, with rubber poles keeping the earcups suspended in traction. The framed headband with pleather cushion is comfy and lies firmly on the head. The protein leather pads cup the ears nicely with its oval curvature. The clamping force is adequate, without bordering on the threshold of discomfort. Unlike other headphones that I previously owned in a similar price range (ZMF Vibro Mkii and the Sony MDR Z7). The oval cups cover the ears nicely, without pressing against the earlobes and causing unwanted discomfort. 
    The wood earcups are finished beautifully, with its burled edges and lacquered/glossy finish. The cables are termed with 2.55mm connectors, allowing the headphones to run in Balanced mode. The cables are a strange bland of straight and twisted design, with uneven twirls occurring as it reaches the 3.5mm end. The 45 degree angled jack is a nice touch, allowing the cable to tugged without weary of it every snapping into half. Another Head-fi First, the headphones get a perfect score in this department. So far, so good. 
    Sound Quality:
    Sources used: Spotify Premium on PC
                              Cowon Plenue D
                              Sony Xperia Z5

    Amplifiers/Dacs used: Aune X1s
                                           Fiio K1

    She and Him: Stay Awhile
    Case Lang Veirs: Honey and Smoke
    Bloc Party: Banquet
    The Twilight Sad: The Airport (Acoustic)

    The Jam: Town called Malice
    Burn in: 50 Hours
    Impedance: 25 Ohms, 100dbSPL/mW
    The Audioquest Nighthawks when paired with the Aune X1s or the Fiio K1, they had a significant improvement in terms of sound quality as compared to a direct source (cleaner sound, wider soundstage, and a tighter mid-bass hump). It is good to take note that the Nighthawks respond positively to amp/dac combos with low impedance output to achieve a proper damping factor. 
    The Audioquest Nighthawks are easily driven out of portable devices and sound pretty damn good all things considered. I would, however, encourage the usage of an amplifier for optimal performance. 

    Amidst the head-fi commotion, I have to say that the Nighthawks are truly a strange beast to behold. Dare I say, an oddity. With tracks such as "Stay Awhile" and "Honey and Smoke", females vocals are velvety smooth, with a sweet mid-range. The saccharine vocals are presented intimately in a closed 3D sphere (and that's not a bad thing). Imaging is superb and the sparkly yet un-peaky treble is something to behold. It captures enough audible information to reproduce an accurate sound. 
    The Airport by The Twilight Sad is presented with intimacy, with the echo of the plucked strings reverberating against a black background. The distant vocals add a touch of realism to the size and intimacy of the small soundstage. 
    Fast and transient tracks like "Banquet" are quick, speedy and again, smoothened out to create a   somewhat bloated indie rock track, with jangly guitars sounding smoother than ever.
    The Jam's a Town called Malice sounded incredibly fluid and dynamic, breathing new life into the already old track. 
    The Audioquest Nighthawks can be described as sweet, mid-centered and almost "speaker like", with a intimate soundstage and an articulate treble that can is almost impossible to describe. Sure, the sound signature is considerably dark and warm compared to other headphones in the same price bracket such as the HD700 and other Planar Magnetic options, but the enigmatic and hazy sound signature is aurally, a more enjoyable listen to my ears. I am madly in love with the nighthawks.

    Sound Comparisons:
    Vs Sony MDR Z7: The z7 is touted to be a treble free, with extended highs, solid imaging, and a bombastic low end. Unlike the z7, the Nighthawks are more laidback, its imaging on par with the z7. However, the sweet and articulate mid-range while recessed presented music with vinyl-like tone. I'm glad I sold the MDR z7 for the Audioquest Nighthawks.
    Vs ZMF Vibro Mkii: These are tough the compare. The Vibros Mkii are a cult favorite, with a dedicated fanbase proud of Zach's creations. The Vibros, being Planar Magnetics, are characterized with speedy bass with quick attack, a realistic mid-tone and sparkly highs unlike dynamic drivers. The Audioquest Nighthawks are miles away in the sound department, with its dark and liquid-like mid-range. The Nighthawks are a safer bet for easy listening. For more oomph and vibrancy, the Vibros are a better pick. Make no mistake, both headphones are great at what they do. 

    The Nighthawks are , a polarizing pair of headphones. I, however, view it as a raving success. An auditory experiment, Skylar Grey has engineered a pair of headphones unlike any other. Suited for anyone and everyone, the Nighthawks are a revolutionary pair of headphones that has gotten people talking. I dare say, that these are my end-game headphones until the Nightowl Carbons drop in price. 
    For the naysayers that tend to dislike headphones that are characterized as "dark" or "veiled", I suggest you give them a listen. You have to hear them to believe.
      hqssui, sledgeharvy and trellus like this.
    1. Sonic Defender
      Nice effort put into sharing your thoughts on this as you say polarizing headphone. I may grab one used one day soon as they are very reasonable used. Cheers.
      Sonic Defender, Mar 26, 2017
    2. ecapsretliab
      Headphones often sound like an analysing tool to me, the Nighthawks sound more like a pleasurable listening room attached to my head.  
      I call them direct-brain-input-speaker-emulators, not headphones.  I'm a convert.
      ecapsretliab, Mar 28, 2017
      Dreddguy and Vero Golf Champ like this.
    3. misteral201103
      Great and fair review, very enjoyable read! Nice one :xf_eek:)
      misteral201103, Mar 29, 2017
  4. GirgleMirt
    Not very good for the price...
    Written by GirgleMirt
    Published Mar 25, 2017
    Pros - Comfortable
    Cons - Dark sound, uncompetitive at price point
    Heard these with Chord Hugo and boy oh boy was I unimpressed...  These are not worth anywhere their price point where their sound is concerned.  Decently comfortable though.  
    The sound signature is just not pleasant, it's not very detailed or musical, just too dark and there was definitely something weird going on with the bass; rather overwhelming and kinda unnatural sounding, couldn't get passed it, anyway, it's way too expensive for its performance IMHO...  Even at half the price it would have serious competition, at full price there's no reason not to pickup a better sounding headphone...   I just really didn't dig these audioquest headphones...
    I guess YMMV, as per comments below and other reviews, many seem to enjoy them...  Personally,  Hifiman 400i imho easily takes the cake at ~300$ less (650 vs 350 cdn$).  Even AKG Q701 have much better tonal balance, I think they may even just plainly be just a better headphone...   My advice would be definitely audition and compare them to other headphones, definitely not ordering blind...
    1. View previous replies...
    2. h1f1add1cted
      Sorry but even this is not really a "review" this guy is right, this head phones are bad, especially for the price, it's a bad joke - that's my opinion. No different source or longer time using these will change anything, if the sound signature does not fit with your taste - there is no way to change anything. If you like dark, muffle, wrong sounding head phones than this is the right choice.
      h1f1add1cted, Mar 25, 2017
    3. misteral201103
      I've been really happy with my Nighthawks but recently heard them via an ifi Micro iDSD amp and my lord that took them to another level, especially with regard to high frequency clarity and definition. To see them dismissed so abruptly here I find quite sad - I would also 100% agree with @FastAndClean : with so little insight demonstrated in this 'review', a complete lack of definition of what was unsatisfactory about the sound, I wonder why the review was even submitted.
      misteral201103, Mar 26, 2017
    4. GirgleMirt
      Yeah sorry might not have be worthy of a review...  Tell you the truth I was shocked at their price/performance, and when I saw that 7 out out of 10 scored it 4 or 5, I was equally shocked and just felt compelled to lower the score...  I'm still shocked/wondering how these can be so expensive and sound so off...  For the price, I just couldn't find any redeeming factor to their sound...  Name it, soundstage, imaging, bass, treble, mids, just not good at this price point...  I'll just have to agree with h1f1add1cted in saying that, for me, they just sound bad...  Ok maybe not that bad, just not good, for the price...  :\
      GirgleMirt, Apr 8, 2017
  5. snapacap
    Thick sound, Resolving, Comfortable, and just plain Unique.
    Written by snapacap
    Published Feb 25, 2017
    Pros - Comfort. unique sound, interesting engineering, resolving
    Cons - Inconsistent treble, often feel closed, could be a bit lighter. That smell.......
    Design & Comfort:
    Why can't you all do this? AudioQuest makes their first headphone and immediately gets so many things right that other companies seem to completely ignore. They even had the guts to experiment heavily with materials design, and even sound.
    Wow. This factor is seriously real. Let’s start with the Headband. A single overhead support is not orthodox, but it works fantastically. The band is covered in woven material which gives it a nice touch. The headband itself also is backed with leather and is padded enough for my tastes. It could be a bit wider for more contact area, but is fantastic as a start. I do have a slight concern over how long the elastic will last in the headband, but for now it is doing well.
    The headband is attached to the earcups by a ring with 4 rubber connections which work well, and allow for automatic adjustability. Good. The earcups themselves are made of liquid-wood. The liquid-wood has a distinct odor which had my eyes burning for the first couple of days, but later backed off significantly. I also think the earcups could be lighter, as this is where most of weight appears to come from. The best part about the earcups is the amazing shape. They are shaped like ears! Fantastic! Audioquest leap-frogged many other companies in the design department simply based on this factor. The pads are similarly shaped like ears, and are very soft and very comfortable. The pads are removable with flexible pegged frames to hold them in place, and in shape. This is fantastic, and hardly anybody else uses this design. I often grab the Nighthawks over other options I have simply out of comfort. 
    The Grills on the back of the earcups are also quite interesting. They are designed to defuse sound the same way a butterfly wing diffuses light. I honestly can’t tell how well this in particular works, but the Nighthawks sound more closed than any other open, or semi-open headphone I have heard. I usually prefer more open headphones, especially when summer gets hot and I need to not sweat all over my headphones. I hope I can still use these in August without discomfort.
    Another wonderful feature of the NightHawks is the detachable cable system. The cable easily pulls away by dual 1/8th mono connectors. This has saved the thin cable a few times already, as I am known to get snagged by everything. The cable also stays in place, and won't fall out unless they are pulled on. So many companies could benefit from having pull-away cables like these. (I won't say all because some professional applications will benefit from having more firmly attached cables.)
    Overall they are more comfortable than almost everything I have tried. They could clamp a little less, but I think most people will have very little problem with this aspect.
    BTW: As someone who has heard very slight differences among different cables before, I find nothing sonically different on NightHawks when swapping different cables at all.
    These are some seriously unique headphones in the sound department. The initial impression is thick and meaty, yet somehow very resolving. It is as if someone took the cheapest muddy bassy headphones they could find and ran them through the refinery several dozen times, and made them open-back as the cherry on top. There is not overshadowing mid-bass, nor are there high levels of sub-bass, but the feel is still thick and smooth. These in fact have some of the smoothest bass I have ever heard. I like to think of them as taking the HD650 sound and flipping it horizontally. Instead of smooth highs and upper-mids, they have smooth bass and lower-mids. Sometimes I found the treble to become a bit harsh. This could just be my brain reacting to extended use of other headphones, and not being used to the same set of imperfections as others.
    I describe the sound as not full, but very thick. If that makes sense….
    I think a lot of people will find the NightHawks to be bloated and lacking articulation. Maybe they are even a touch Gariny, but this could just be me comparing to Sennheiser and their uber-smooth mentality. I think this is true to an extent, but the low distortion seems to counter this pretty well, leaving quite a bit of detail without the feeling of having it etched into your ears. I find that the smooth texture of the NightHawk carries its own laurels. I sometimes get details I haven’t even heard on HD600s, HD700s, or the SR202, but other times they are clearly leaving out other details. The details it does catch are usually related to texture, and/or requiring a bit more bass than most open backs.
    I was told that the best way to listen to them was to relax and let the Nighthawk paint a picture for me. I had trouble doing this as the treble is somewhat inconsistent, and I am spoiled by HD700 soundstage. When I could get to that point the Nighthawks really showed their chops. Certain songs just get a real speaker-like feel to them. Either way, I find them inexplicably addicting.
    The Nighthawks have completed a sort of trifecta for me. I go around the loop of HD600 – NightHawk – HD700. Each complement each other nicely, and keeps me from getting bored.
    Where they can fall behind is some female vocals, while others gain a lot musically from having more body. Particularly Michael Jackson sounded great on the NightHawks.
    This is the only pair of headphones I have ever heard to be so dark and bassy, and yet be so refined and detailed. I give the sound a great big YES.
    Song recommendation: Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
    Comparisons go here:
    Note: I took a lot of time getting myself to do any comparisons at all. I just didn’t want to take off the NightHawks. They tend to have that effect. It’s like getting out of bed when you wake up early.
    NightHawk vs HD700
    These are currently my two favorites. In many ways these are opposites. Just take a look at their graphs. The HD700 has a holographic effect where sound surrounds your head like a bubble, while the NightHawk is closer to painting a mural on a large wall. I don’t get nearly the same spacious effect from the Nighthawk as the HD700. The Nighthawk has far more body to the sound for sure, and often feels much more closed. The HD700 is cleaner and a little more resolving. It is also smoother in many places. The NightHawk doesn’t have the same treble spike as the HD700, so this is a plus for the NightHawk. For gaming: multiplayer: I would choose the HD700 every time, the spacial ques are in another league. Single player: you often don’t need nearly as much precision spatially, so no preference here. The body of the NightHawk might help with explosions though. Racing games: HD700 all the way.
    NightHawk vs HD600
    I was actually surprised to find that I don’t find these two to be too contradictory. I believe this to be due to the low distortion of the NightHawk, and the Neutrality/Natural nature of the HD600. Their soundstage is also very similar sounding to my ears. Comparatively the HD600 sounds harsh against the NightHawk. 0.o this threw me back a bit, as the HD600 is one of the lesser offensive headphones I have heard. I find the NightHawk to be more comfortable simply based on clamp force. I hate clamp. The NightHawks are far from what I would call studio headphones with their thick sound while the HD600 is the definition of a studio headphone.
    Song recommendation: Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
    So many things are so right about the Nighthawks, and so many more could be improved or experimented more with. The sound is unique and fantastic. I just wish it had more HD700-ish soundstage, and were more open. I highly suggest these for people who love thick, bassy sound but also want that audiophile refinement and detail. The design is miles ahead of some other well respected companies. Try a pair if you ever get the chance. I can’t take these off my head. I give the Audioquest Nighthawk a big thumbs up!
    Comments, questions, and song recommendations are highly appreciated!
      trellus likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. snapacap
      I have the Monoprice 8323, and I use angled brainwavz pleathers on them. They sound great, but I cant stand the comfort. They clamp too much, (I am particularly sensitive to clamp) and they get hot after a bit. I have run them with everything from an Iphone 4 to my Project Polaris amp. They are remarkable, especially for the price. Funny, I haven't actually reviewed those yet, and I've had them for a year now....
      Looks like I will have to get some alcantara pads!
      I got the Nighthawks used, so burn-in is quite long. I have used them well over 100 hours now myself. Sources are anything I could plug them into with all types of digital formats. A few sources are on my profile page. I particularly like the PC -> FiiO E10 line out -> Project Polaris amp with the NightHawks.
      I have not gotten a chance to try out other Audioquest pads. It sounds like a blast, and microfiber pads might help the summer sweat factor in a few months.
      snapacap, Feb 27, 2017
    3. sabloke
      Very nice review!
      I got the Nightowls last week and can't stop listening. The sound is very addictive indeed, thick, heavy bass. Drum kicks never sounded more natural, rock sounds like live to me. Comfort wise are the best headphones I have ever put on
      sabloke, Feb 27, 2017
    4. Hibuckhobby
      Nice write up!  I find that the Nighthawks are more revealing than I originally thought.
      They are a bit sensitive to amp type and I found them best with something like a Burson
      or an ifi SE. The bass isn't as taut as my HD700 or 800, but the easy-going, laid back
      sound works well on acoustic music.
      Hibuckhobby, Mar 1, 2017
  6. Hi-Fi EDU
    Soaring with Natural Clarity
    Written by Hi-Fi EDU
    Published Nov 5, 2016
    Pros - Excellent bass control, depth & weight; Clear mids; Ideal treble presentation; Technically Impressive; Exquisite listening/wearing comfort; Value, etc
    Cons - Original thick "NightHawk" cable can be prone to durability issues (Great cable otherwise)
    Hey! So I've luckily owned the AudioQuest (AQ) NightHawk (NH) for a good while. Much of what I state below is identical to more informal posts I've left in the NightHawk thread since owning these. I honestly find that I almost can't stop myself from wanting to rave about my audio experience through these headphones, so I concluded I'd copy my thoughts into a more formal review format...for posterity and for my sanity, I guess. I still enjoy them that much. From this enjoyment, I've learned that headphone "endgame" to me is achieved when you're fortunate enough to find a pair of headphones that you'd literally change nothing about. That sums up the NightHawk for me. Lucky me and all others that feel the same way.
    My desktop chain is PC (MusicBee) --> Grace Design x Massdrop m9XX DAC/Amp --> NH.
    Cables & Usage Experience
    To start, I chose to use the thinner stock cable for the first week or so of ownership and then reluctantly switched to the thicker stock "NightHawk cable" thereafter, to try it out. I use the word reluctant because the sound through the NH with the thin cable captivated me from the start and continued in the same fashion through those early days (aside from maybe a subtle tizziness in the treble that became unnoticeable after the first few hours). Upon hooking up the thick cable for the first time...well...to me it didn't sound worse per se. Did it sound exactly the same as the thin cable? No. I wouldn't say it did, not to my ears at least. The first and most noticeable difference upon initial use of the thick cable was at the edge of soundstage. Compared to the thin cable, the stage's farthest reaches somehow didn't sound as defined, and the imaging didn't seem to have the same level of accuracy. The attack of low-end notes also felt slightly more rounded. Overall, it seemed a bit more congested. Again, on first listen I surely wouldn't say that the NH sounded poor off the thick cable, but it wasn't fully captivating me quite like on the thin cable. Hopefully these slight differences weren't all in my head. Despite that, I decided to trudge on with the thick cable.
    Fast forward almost two weeks of burn-in on the thick cable and that captivation returned with a little more in tow, believe it or not. Using the thick cable I fully experienced what I was hearing with the thin cable, plus more smoothness in presentation (blind A/B anyone?). Full disclosure, I even started noticing changes from my initial impressions on day 3 of thick cable use, after I had left the NH + thick cable plugged in for ~12 hours through days 1 & 2. I thought I was going crazy, may still be so [​IMG], but to my ears the presentation seemed to already be opening up nicely by day 3. Take all that as you may. In summary, the two cables are very good IMO, but in time and to my ears the edge went to the thicker "NightHawk cable" as the purer & better performer. 
    In terms of build, both cables appeared sturdy enough...until issues developed with the thick cable 3-months into ownership. Note: I'm mostly a stationary, desktop listener so I'm generally very careful with my cables. I narrowed the issue down to audio dropouts that were caused by a faulty 3.5mm plug-1/4 in adapter end. Fortunately my warranty was active and served its purpose well. The entire RMA process took about 12 days total (including shipping time). Quite painless. Good job there AQ. Hopefully the issue doesn't recur. Side Note: the newer generation AQ headphones, the NightOwl Carbon & NightHawk Carbon, have supposedly rectified this potential fault with a single, more robust cable (***links/info below***).
    Although I like the forgettable lightness of the thin cable's construction, it definitely suffers from microphonic tendencies, more than the thick cable. In addition, since the thinner cable was supposedly also included to serve in portable scenarios (as well as back-up), I would have preferred if it was shorter in length. Side Note: the newer generation cable is also shorter. +1.
    To me, the Nighthawks seem to be a polarizing gem for a variety of reasons. These reasons, fair or not, have been chronicled at some point or another in the main thread. For example: A) Potentially insufficient driver break-in or cable burn-in, B) NH's distortion-minimized sound signature that veers off a trend of mids/treble over-emphasis, C) Excessive "frequency response watching" and "echo-chambering" in place of actual listening, D) Individual biases against AQ, E) People with ulterior motives, etc. And of course, some might simply not like the tuning. I'll honestly admit to subscribing to one or two of these myself at some point. It is what it is but since coming into ownership of a NH:
    Natural clarity. That's how I would personally sum up the NightHawk sound. Natural - Clarity - all in a very balanced and cohesive package/presentation. For reference, I've previously owned the TH-X00, the HE-400i and before them, the K7XX and the MSR7, to name a few. I've also briefly heard some "TOTL" in a meet setting (HD 800, HE1000, etc). I respectfully disagree with those that conclusively label the Nighthawk as recessed or bloated. I don't hear it like that at all (even despite my initial impressions with its thick cable). To my ears, no area of the sound calls particular attention to itself but everything is there, cleanly presented with the appropriate control that the recording/audio seems to demand. IMO, there's an impressive sense of space, stage proportionality and imaging. So easy on the head, the ears and the music...like drinking a nice glass of water...an effortless consumption. What remains is me and my sheer musical pleasure and delight, for as long as I want. And I enjoy all musical genres minus metal, to which I don't listen. Not to mention that I've found these to be absolute champs at gaming and movies. Aesthetically, the NH is quite regal and understated. I didn't even mind the scent of the liquid wood (I still smell that vanilla)! "Do No Harm" indeed. Not forgetting to mention the sustainable focus that underpinned the creation of these headphones, nor the great carrying case that's included. You can see I'm drawing blanks on much of anything to complain about with regards to the NH. I honestly don't believe I could be happier with another pair of headphones, like I am with the NH off the m9XX. Since acquiring the NH, I've smiled more with these on than I remember doing with any pair before. I confidently expect that to continue. As is, the NightHawks are simply excellent IMHO. Overall, job extremely well done Skylar Gray! You have my genuine appreciation for the NH. I'll be closely monitoring future projects that have you at the helm and I very much look forward to them (more specifically: I await these in IEM form so we can party down anywhere)! Please, please, please maintain this same scrutinously logical approach and transparency with all of your products, from inception to MSRP.
    Comparisons to Fostex/Massdrop X00 (Mahogany) & HIFIMAN HE-400i (v2)
    I sold my X00 and 400i right before I picked up the NH, so this will all be based off memory. Since we know how fickle that can be in comparisons of this sort, take it and my resulting opinions with some NaCl. All were driven with the m9XX. If anything, the NH's low-end is more reminiscent of that of my 400i. However the NH has a more "natural" control over the bass notes to me. In other words, I prefer the attack and decay qualities of the NH's driver. When necessary, there's real weight to bass notes. As for the X00, I truly liked its thicker-toned bass presentation and would never say "no" to it, but quantity-wise it was a touch overboard in some scenarios (think: dubstep or trap music sessions). But again, it would be difficult for me to ever deny my enjoyment of the X00's low-end [​IMG]. Without ever feeling like it goes overboard, the NH's bass extension and quantity are also solid while being more satisfying than that of the 400i. What's very nice to me about the NH is that I can turn the volume up louder than usual and get as much bass as I want, with virtually no distortion/harshness from the total presentation. Easy Cla-ri-ty; at any volume. No faint ringing in my ears after listening sessions. That is such an enjoyable trait and one that I no longer take for granted. For the 400i and X00, they both had a certain stridency or sibilance in their midrange & treble regions. In this regard, the 400i was a greater offender than the X00. This mostly became noticeable to me only after I received the NuForce HEM6 IEMs and acclimated to its sound signature (this was prior to getting the NHs). Once that happened though, I did not feel like I could go back to the 400i nor even the X00 and I don't miss either today. Maybe that says something about how tolerant our ears and brains can become of over-emphasis in the mids and/or treble regions [​IMG]. Versus my memory of both the 400i and X00, the NH overall offer an improved sense of clarity, cohesion, space, balance, imaging and long-term listening + wearing comfort. All-round versatility to me. The NH basically possess my ideal sound signature (through my m9XX).
    I also recommend the NuForce HEM6, if anyone is looking for a pair of universal IEMs that somewhat "approximate" the tuning of the NH. To my ears the HEM6 are actually "darker" and thus mellower-sounding in comparison to the NHs, but the HEM6 have more bass punch (when volume matched by ear). If interested, my HEM6 review is HERE. Fair comparison or not, sound-wise the HEM6 do fall short of the NH's overall sense of enveloping space and texture. As such, the NH makes up for the few shortcomings I personally have with the HEM6 tuning. That said, I'm no less impressed with the HEM6. I feel Lucky to have first owned the HEM6 because it was what unexpectedly spawned my interest in the NH. As a result, I only feel Luckier today to have had the opportunity to form an opinion of the NH for myself. To each his or her own however, as it should be.
    ***As of writing, there are plans for the NightHawk wood (this first version with brown cups) to be discontinued. More info on that HERE. The NightHawk wood are to be replaced by the NightHawk Carbon. There also now exists a closed-back version named the NightOwl Carbon. More info on those HERE.***
    Thanks for reading. Above all, please enjoy your music [​IMG]! ~Catharsis complete...[​IMG]~
      jaco61, trellus, necip494 and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Hi-Fi EDU
      @captblaze Thanks. One day, I want to try these on a good balanced set-up to hear if there's a worthwhile difference. I'm glad the NHs are easy to drive and not too amp picky. What'll you be hooking yours up to?
      Hi-Fi EDU, Nov 6, 2016
    3. captblaze
      My sit down rig is a windows 10 pc > iFi micro iUSB3.0 > Gungnir MB > Ragnarok
      portable  is an AK300/Hugo stack
      I also have a Burson Conductor Air and a Korg DS-DAC-100m​ for my Surface tablet.
      I do believe one of those combos (if not all) should push the Nighthawks handily
      captblaze, Nov 6, 2016
    4. Hi-Fi EDU
      Oh boy...care to invite me over for some tea & biscuits? Haha. Sweet combos. For what it's worth, the guy behind the Chord products says he quite enjoys these. Stands to reason that the portable should more than hold its own. Then that Schiit stack should be something, just barely :wink: . Do let us know your thoughts once you've had some extended time with the NH.
      Hi-Fi EDU, Nov 6, 2016
  7. thatonenoob
    [PMR Reviews] AudioQuest NightHawk
    Written by thatonenoob
    Published Sep 8, 2016
    Pros - Great Build, Innovative Design, Unique Sound
    Cons - Sound Sig, Soundstage, Slight Fragile Suspension
    AudioQuest NightHawk

    A Solid First Entry By AudioQuest  


    A Very Different Kind Of Blue
    Different. It’s the AudioQuest NightHawk, in a word. A combination of rather unique design elements and aesthetics, this entry byAudioQuest is indeed an unconventional looking and sounding headphone. When I first auditioned the NightHawk, I was left with a positive impression and a piqued interest. I did feel that there was more to be had though – and hence I reached out to Stephen at AudioQuest, seeking to conduct a review and a longer-term examination of the headphones through equipment I was more familiar with. A couple of weeks and one IFA later, and I finally got around to completing the final draft of the review.

    Let’s start first with some short observations regarding AudioQuest's history. Known for its high-end audio cables, the company has, as of late, been expanding its product range. It has entered the portable DAC/Amp market with the well-regarded Dragonfly series, and as of last year has become actively involved in headphone development as well. I think that this is indeed reflective of the incredible growth in the personal audio industry. However, this wasn’t some poorly conceived, opportunistic expedition into the wilds of Roanoke. Instead, the NightHawk presents itself as a look at headphone design from a ground-up perspective, one that seeks to incorporate several new technologies coherently into a meaningful package. I will summarize and explain these aspects in greater depth in a later section of the review.

    To me, the Nighthawks were a very interesting pair of headphones to review. There’s been a lot of polarized community discussion on these –and it did indeed take me some time formulate a solid perspective on these headphones. After quite a bit of consideration, I do believe that these headphones are good, but have a unique sound signature and steep appreciation curve that will make it hard for some to get into.    You'll also notice that this is indeed my first video review.  Yes, it was hard being on camera and there were definitely things to work on.  However, I hope y'all find it at least reasonably entertaining and I do think it makes for a great complement to the writing.


    The AudioQuest NightHawk was provided by AudioQuest through Unicorn Sound & Vision for the purposes of this review. I’ve now had it on loan for about 3 weeks (perhaps more, I can’t quite recall). I’d like to thank AudioQuest for this unique opportunity. You can also find the review here on my blog.  In addition, I do reserve the rights to the media used in the review, so do contact me if you wish to reproduce any part of the writing, video or photography seen here. Apart from that, I hope y’all have as much fun reading this as I did have writing the review.


    The AudioQuest NightHawk comes in a nice soft carry pleather case with a cardboard sleeve bearing a glossy graphic of a nighthawk (which mind you, is an actual animal, unlike the seahawk). The headphones were designed by AudioQuest in California, and have been assembled in China with components from China, Japan, USA, France and Germany. On the back is a quick pictorial summary of the unique technologies employed by AudioQuest in the construction of the NightHawk. Opening up the Nighthawk, one encounters the headphones and associated accessories:

    1. Headphone Carrying Case
    2. One AudioQuest Cable
    3. One Unmarked Cable
    4. 3.5 to 1/4th Adaptor

    I like that everything is incredibly functional.  The headphone box is a carrying case with good padding, and is something that can actually be used meaningfully.  A bit about the cables.   There are two cables included by AudioQuest. The beefier one features AudioQuest's proprietary technologies –high-purity Solid Perfect-Surface Copper+ in a Double Star-Quad formation. This cable passed AudioQuest's bend testing 2,000 times. The other, apparently less sophisticated cable, is more durable, and survived over 12,000 + times.  I'm not a huge fan of the way the AudioQuest cable kinks, but I'm sure it's probably to do with the cable tech inside.


    The NightHawk is a product of ambition and passion. There’s a strong sense of direction for this headphone, and this is well reflected in the various facets of its sound and design. Naturally, this section will be concerned with the latter. In introducing the headphones, a bit of design philosophy is in order –it’s rather revealing, and there certainly is lots of it. It is great that AudioQuest has taken the time to explain what it has done with the headphones, but some sections are indeed quite abstract.  From a general perspective, the NightHawk was designed primarily with the goal of minimizing distortion, and delivering what I would summarize as a musical sound. AudioQuest has further described the NightHawk as an attempt to “liberate headphone design from decades of misinformation and neglect”. A bold claim, and one that I don’t think is representative of the higher-end headphone scene.​

    Starting with the driver, the NightHawk has employed the use of a 50mm biocellulose driver with a rubber surround. This driver is designed for low distortion and high excursion, and achieves “true pistonic motion” through its rigid properties. We’ve seen biocellulose applications before in the form of the Fostex “Biodyna” diaphragm and in the legendary Sony R10. Generally speaking, biocellulose drivers are capable of achieving high acoustic velocities, high rigidity and a fairly wide frequency band. I will mention that going into the NightHawk, I did have some expectations for how it would sound, since I was coming off the Fostex TH-900. Additionally, the NightHawk’s driver features a patented Split-Gap Motor system that provides greater control as through the extremes of the driver’s excursion. It’s good to see that this is an actual patented technology and not a “patent-pending” gimmick. Detailed thought has also gone into other aspects of the headphone, including the voice coil and vents.
    Moving on to the readily observable. One of the most striking features of the NightHawk is the liquid wood enclosure. For those unfamiliar with liquid wood, it is a bioplastic that was developed by German scientists Helmut Nägele and Jürgen Pfitzer in the 90s. Currently, it is being produced by Tecnaro (which unsurprisingly, was started by the aforementioned two) under the name of Arboform. It is this very material that is employed in the NightHawk for its acoustic properties. To further minimize resonances and vibrations, the enclosures feature internal support beams and an elastomeric coating. Damping is achieved through a combination of wool and polyester. On the semi-open part of the enclosure is the Diamond Cubic Lattice grill. In short, a 3D printed grill inspired by butterfly wings that is supposedly much more effective at diffusing sound waves than a regular grill.

    Overall, the design and build of the NightHawk is very impressive. In certainly felt luxurious in the hand. The pleather earpads make for a fairly comfortable fit, and the self-adjusting headband is one of the better implemented systems I’ve seen. Pressure is average, and it’s definitely not as weightless as the T1 or TH-900. For longer periods of time, I did find the narrow headband to be a little less comfortable on the head. The elastic suspension system is very nice, and allows the earcups to be rotated rather freely. I’m not sure how much abuse the suspension system can take, so I’d be careful around these. Sound isolation, for those wondering, isn’t great. The NightHawks are considered a semi-open headphone.  I might also mention that out of the box these have a strong lacquer smell.


    At A Glance

    The NightHawk isn’t quite like anything I’ve heard before. I’ll cut to the chase. Is it good –yes. Is it something that everyone will like –no. Now that I’ve more or less shot myself in the foot here, I’d better start explaining. The NightHawk is one of those products that I feel has a steep appreciation curve, one that will vary rather significantly based on your personal tastes and daily use headphones. AudioQuest  believes that most headphones today are in fact plagued by an “upward tilt”, i.e. emphasized upper midrange and high frequencies. They explain this through their own interpretation of free-field and diffuse-field measurements, and the drawbacks of the current weighting system.  Pairing wise - stick to cleaner DAC/amp.


    The resultant product of the tuning and design philosophies is a headphone that features a warm and rich sound signature with a fairly prominent bass section. The bass focuses itself primarily with midbass. It’s not the vulgar and intrusive kind of midbass found on lesser headphones. Instead, it establishes its presence with weighty notes and a very slight reverb (reminds me of some pieces of Final Audio gear). The subbass on the NightHawk does extend fairly nicely, and at times can provide a visceral backing to the midbass. There are other times though when the midbass does more or less overshadow the subbass. This becomes all the more apparent when stacked directly against the TH-900, which I feel does have a generally deeper and more consistent bass section.

    The midrange is easily the most divisive aspect of this headphone. If one is listening to the NightHawk as a primary can, it is indeed conceivable that he or she may feel that the midrange is just fine. However, coming off other headphones like the T1 and R70X, it was apparent to me that certain aspects of the midrange needed improvement. Let’s start with the positives, To me, the lower mids are where most of the NightHawk’s magic occurs. It’s a wonderfully impactful sound with a rather thick and lush presentation. On some tracks, this lower midrange comes together with the bass to produce an enveloping listening experience. However, the NightHawk starts teetering once you leave that lower midrange segment. In the upper mids, things start sounding distant and even a bit thin.  This distance can make it difficult to enjoy higher-energy music, and is easily the most troublesome aspect about the NightHawk's sound signature.

    The highs are nice and complement the rest of sound signature appropriately. It’s got a bit of texture, and a slight bite that stops short of being sparkly. It’s also fairly articulate and generally pleasant to listen to. It is by no means liquid highs, but overall it does offer an enjoyable contrast to the bass. However, they do not begin to rival the lower frequencies in terms of quantity.
    Soundstage And Imaging
    The soundstage on the NightHawk is average. It’s got far more depth than width, and an average height. On some complex compositions things do tend to get a little squished together. It’s not that separation is poor (it is in fact decent), but that there simply isn’t enough space for everything. Imaging is average as well. Overall, a more intimate presentation of sound, and one that is appropriate for the sound that AudioQuest has tried to achieve in these headphones.  Too bad this also means restrictions on multigenre capability.



    The NightHawk is a great first entry from AudioQuest.  It's a very unqiue headphone that's the product of a ground-up design, and it certainly looks and feels great.  Build quality is premium and very impressive.  The sound is rather unique, and not one that's for everyone.  However, if you enjoy a smooth listening experience with good bass and an intimate sonic presentation, I'd definitely give the NightHawk a shot.  It is a very musical and fun headphone to listen to.

    1. View previous replies...
    2. voxie
      First off all thank you for sharing your views and impressions, secondly congrats on making your first video. Both achieved extremely well and articulated.  
      voxie, Sep 8, 2016
    3. thatonenoob
      Hi Voxie! Thanks and glad that the video came over well.
      thatonenoob, Sep 8, 2016
    4. earfonia
      Great review with very cool pictures! Thanks!
      earfonia, Sep 8, 2016
  8. Jackpot77
    The Cheshire Cat of the audio world - these smooth beauties leave nothing behind on the listening landscape but a great big smile
    Written by Jackpot77
    Published Apr 24, 2016
    Pros - Natural presentation, exceptional clarity, realism, comfort, immersive sound signature, lack of fatigure
    Cons - May not be suited to those who like extreme treble sharpness
    Audioquest Nighthawk – initial impressions

    I picked up my pair of Audioquest Nighthawk headphones at the start of April from the Head-Fi “for sale” forums as what was intended to be my second pair of serious over-ear cans after briefly owning the Philips Fidelio L2. As a long time music fan but a late starter to the audiophile scene I am on a mission at the moment to listen to (and review) as many different types of headphones as I can, to work out what suits me best and what my own personal endgame audio will sound like. The intention, therefore, was to listen to the Nighthawks for a few weeks then trade them on for something different. Unfortunately for me, the good people of Audioquest have gone and ruined my cunning plan by making something so outrageously good that my journey may just have stopped before it has started. My opinions on this marvellous piece of audio tech follow below – I will try my best to avoid hyperbole, but feel it fair to warn anyone reading this that I think these are potentially the perfect sound signature for me, so the review will pretty much be outlining why in fairly glowing terms. To be clear, I have no affiliation to Audioquest and purchased these headphones myself, so the views expressed are 100% my own.

    About me: newly minted audiophile, late 30s, long time music fan and aspiring to be a reasonably inept drummer. Listen to at least 2 hours of music a day on my commute to work – prefer IEMs for out and about, and a large pair of headphones when I have the house to myself and a glass in my hand. Recently started converting my library to FLAC and 320kbps MP3, and do most of my other listening through Spotify or Tidal HiFi. I am a fan of rock, acoustic (apart from folk) and sarcasm. Oh yeah, and a small amount of electronica. Not a basshead, but I do love a sound with some body to it. Please take all views expressed below with a pinch of salt – all my reviews are a work in progress based on my own perceptions and personal preferences, and your own ears may tell you a different story.

    Tech specs (from the Audioquest website)

    Impedance: 25ohms

    Sensitivity: 100dBSPL/mW

    Power handling: 1.5W

    Driver: 50mm Dynamic / Biocellulose Diapraghm / 1.2T Split-Gap Motor




    The Nighthawks ship in a rectangular black leather zipper case with the Nighthawk logo embossed on the front, with poly-foam padding inside and space to store the headphone cables and a pocket in the front of the “door” to hold things like the instruction manual and other audio necessities. The design brief from Audioquest to their team when making the Nighthawks was to build something sustainable, high quality, innovative and high performance while minimising waste. The case is a perfect example – apart from the cardboard wrapper that comes with the case outlining the specs of the headphones and the usual marketing shots, everything else is directly related to the headphone itself. The case offers somewhere to store the headphones when not in use, protection when transporting them due to the rigid design and heavy foam padding, and even offers a carry handle on the top. If these were IEMs, this would be the equivalent of the headphones coming in the ubiquitous pelican case all high end customs seem to ship with, with everything you need fitted neatly inside and no additional packaging whatsoever apart from a small manual which no one reads (genuinely, if you are willing to spend £499 on a pair of headphones, you are likely to either be richer than Kanye West wants to be so will have an employee to do that for you, or have done enough research to render a glossy manual utterly redundant – just my 2 cents).

    20160413_171636_HDR.jpg 20160413_171703_HDR.jpg


    Build quality and ergonomics

    The Nighthawks are quite possibly one of the most striking headphone designs I have seen yet. From the embossed leather headband and single stranded arch over the crown of the head, through the glossy wood-effect cups and the styling of the earcup suspenders, these headphones ooze quality. They have been designed from the ground up, with each element considered in terms of function, form and fit to produce something that looks genuinely eye-catching while still serving a specific purpose. The earcups are made from a glossy dark brown “liquid wood”, which is a mix of resins, natural fibres and waxes which can be injection moulded into whatever shape is desirable. They look fantastic, and the injection moulding and some clever mathematics regarding the internal supporting structures have allowed Audioquest to tune the enclosures to dampen unwanted resonances quite dramatically as an added bonus. There are plenty of other clever touches in the design and modelling of these ‘phones, with the cups themselves suspended from a circular mount by four rubber ties, very reminiscent of a studio microphone. The ear shapes are also unusual, being modelled to follow the curve of the ear so the enclosure is asymmetric, and even the pad thickness varies from the front to the back of the cups. All this high-concept design wouldn’t amount to much if the headphones were a beast to wear, but unfortunately for the competition, these wear as impressively as they look. The headband system and light clamping force work in tandem with the suspension on the earcups to leave the Nighthawks feel and look like they are floating on your head rather than stuck to it like some form of Japanese torture device (Blue Mo-Fi, I’m looking at you here). They sit snugly, without any telltale pressure “hotspots”, and can be worn for hours on end without the slightest discomfort. If I had to be uber-picky, the support arch above the strap can make it look like the wearer has a carry-handle on the top of their head and the protein leather pads can get a little hot and sweaty after hours of use, but that really does feel like the princess finding the pea in terms of how little that matters compared to the sumptuous feeling of comfort and luxury that comes whenever you slip these on to your head. Simply outstanding.

    (picture taken from Audioquest website)



    Sound quality

    Test gear:

    LG G Flex 2 (via Neutron Player)

    Sony NWZ-A15

    Sansa Clip+ (Rockboxed)

    Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (straight from the output jack)

    Brainwavz AP001

    Cayin C5

    Main test tracks (mainly 320kbps MP3 or FLAC/Tidal HiFi):

    Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. / Wasting Time

    Blackberry Smoke – The Whipporwill (album)

    Slash – Shadow Life / Bad Rain (my reference tracks for bass impact and attack, guitar “crunch”)

    Slash & Beth Hart – Mother Maria (vocal tone)

    Richie Kotzen – Come On Free (bass tone)

    Otis Redding – various

    Elvis – various

    Leon Bridges – Coming Home (album)

    Foy Vance – various

    Blues Traveler

    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (album)

    Sigma - various

    Rudimental – various

    Rodrigo y Gabriela – various

    Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note




    General impressions on the sound signature

    Reading through the Nighthawk micro-site (which is thoroughly recommended if you have any interest in how headphones work in general, and how these in particular were designed), there is one common theme running through all the decisions they have made when building this headphone: distortion. Or more specifically, finding ways to eliminate it. The aim when building these was to make the sound as pure and true to the music that was actually recorded as physically possible, without adding any of the frequency distortion in the higher bands that Audioquest claim is responsible for the impression of “detail” that most higher-end cans give out. Not being an audio scientist, I can only take what they claim on face value, but one thing is clear – their intention to produce a clear, true sounding headphone has very much succeeded. The attention to detail, from modelling the airflow around the driver enclosures and chamfering the internal parts accordingly to mounting the driver on a rubber surround to reduce standing wave distortion and all the other tricks they have crammed into this piece of engineering brilliance all add together to produce something that is clear, deep, fantastically detailed without being “etched” and as soulful a sound as I have heard on my audio travels to date.


    Given the stated intention of producing something with as little sonic distortion as physically possible, my initial expectations of this headphone were that it would be clear, sharp and packed with detail. In fact, the first thing that hits you when you slip the Nighthawks on is what your brain thinks is lacking: sharpness. Until your brain adjusts (brain burn-in, as it is sometimes referred to), the sound can almost seem veiled and blunt, with none of the laser-etched edge to the high notes your ears are waiting to hear. As it turns out, this is exactly what the Nighthawk team mean by eliminating distortion, as they claim that the signature “clarity” in the higher registers of most high-end headphones is actually caused by artificially emphasised peaks in the treble response, similar to turning the sharpness setting up on your TV screen. They contend that no more actual detail is added, but what is there is distorted and sharpened into little audio peaks that your brain latches on to. The Nighthawks, in contrast, present the higher frequencies of a recording in a gloriously smooth and almost rolled off fashion, with a clarity and depth of note that is quite difficult to describe but very easy to listen to. When you have become used to the sound, the veil evaporates and you realise that all the detail is still present in the audio, and start to appreciate exactly how good the neutral nature of the treble reproduction actually is. Listening to some acoustic guitar tracks from Rodrigo y Gabriela, you can hear the harmonics and sounds of fingers brushing against frets like you were in the room, with a smooth purity of sound and air of “naturalness” that becomes almost mesmerising. You also realise that the treble extends naturally, not losing any detail or clarity no matter how high the track heads. Fortunately, once your brain has snapped the sound signature into focus, it will immediately pick it back up whenever you put the headphones back on (much like those Magic Eye pictures that were all the rage years ago – once you have seen the pirate ship in the middle of the grey and white blur, you can never un-see it again). The sonic presentation is similar in many ways to the Flare Audio R2 series of in-ear monitors (the R2A, R2S and R2Pro) – as they are also designed to eliminate distortion by balancing the pressure on either side of the driver in a similar manner to some of the audio trickery that Audioquest use, the commonalities in sound are perhaps unsurprising. The best analogy I can think of to describe the overall sound of the highs is to compare the Nighthawks to a glass of ice cold water on a boiling hot day, and other famous high-end headphones to a cold glass of BrandedFizzyBeverage™. If all you are used to is fizz and artificial flavour, you will be quite happy reaching for a glass of the bubbly stuff to cool you down, but once you have tasted the purer option, that’s all that will really satisfy your thirst. Listening to some modern classical music by Escala, the violin plucks float delicately above the soundscape, with cymbals crashing in the background and disappearing again just like they would if you were stood in front of them. Fans of a hyper-etched sound may find the Nighthawks lacking that little bit of “fizz” in the higher registers, but for me, the smoothness and subtle detail is nigh-on perfect.  The absence of “grain” in the presentation also lends these headphones to extended listening sessions without any danger of fatigue.


    The mid-range on the Nighthawk shares a similar neutrality of emphasis to the treble, the balanced nature of the presentation (neither forward or recessed) leaving the listener to enjoy the smooth yet detailed sounds without being drawn to any particular part of the frequency range. Like the treble, there is an overwhelming sense of realism that drips through the sound, with vocals and guitar notes taking on a lifelike quality and slowly immersing you in the music. Male and female vocals both sound exceptional through these, with the pure presentation bringing out whatever the engineer mixed into the track without adding anything on the way. Breathing patterns, intonations and inflections all drift through the background noise while never overpowering or drawing attention away from the meat of the music. At this point, it is also worth mentioning the blackness of the background on these headphones. The sound hangs in the air around your ears like it was suspended on a black velvet drape, with the absence of sound between notes almost as absorbing as the music that plays in between the gaps. Listening to Mavis Staples’ glorious vocals swooping up and down the frequency ranges, you are struck by the emotion that is captured in the recordings and how effortlessly it sucks you in. The Nighthawks fare equally as well with driving rock music, “Figure It Out” by Royal Blood showcasing the ability of these cans to drive a down and dirty chugging riff just as well as the smoother sounds it excels in. Like the highs, the detail levels aren’t pushed too far into the spotlight, but can be picked out easily in the soundscape if you listen to them. The whole presentation feels effortless, with detail enough to do the music justice and emotion enough to do the song justice. The balanced nature of the mids also highlight the chameleonic nature of the Nighthawks, as they are equally proficient with the spiky electronica and riffage of a band like Don Broco or the latin silkiness of Rodrigo y Gabriela, dousing everything in a liberal splash of soul but never colouring the music in the process. Transparent is a word I have seen used to describe these headphones, but it doesn’t really do justice to the presentation – it is not so much that you see through the headphones to the music behind, it feels more like the headphones aren’t even there, getting out of the way and just leaving the listener with the music. Skylar and his team do appear to have created the Cheshire Cat of the audio world, an over-ear can you can’t see in the presentation but who leaves a big grin hanging in the air whenever it is around.


    Amongst some of the more learned audio buffs, the bass tuning on these headphones is one of the objections raised about the Nighthawks not sounding like a “true” audiophile can. The lower end is noticeably more present than other competing headphones in the same bracket, which make it appear on first listen that these are tuned with a bass tilt. It never veers into full basshead territory, but does add a warm tinge to the presentation whenever the music calls for it, so this can appear less “lean” than the typical audiophile tuning. The design team at Audioquest actually contend that the reason the bass appears more prominent on their headphones is the lack of artificial boost applied to the mid and high frequency bands - in essence, the bass is not being drowned out by the pumped up highs. Whatever the reason, it makes for a very enjoyable and organic sound, with the low-distortion design providing a clarity and snap to the bass that drives most tracks along very nicely while never feeling loose or overdone. The control of the bass is excellent, and notes decay naturally (or in other words, not as quickly as some other headphones I have heard), but never feel bloated or boomy unless that is the way they were actually recorded. The liquid basslines in “Hello, It’s Me” by Sister Hazel sound as smooth as poured chocolate as they ooze out of the earpieces, but never threaten to overwhelm the rest of the track in the process. Bubbling under the liquid, the rasp of the bass strings vibrating against the guitar provide excellent texture, without sounding forced or unnatural. The extension is excellent, and reminds me of two of my all time favourite in-ear headphones (the ASG 2.5 from Aurisonics and the R2A from Flare Audio) in terms of the reach of the bass, and the overall quality of the presentation. My go to tester track for low-end texture (“Bad Rain” by Slash) sounds absolutely glorious through these, with the bass snarling away down into depths that not even James Cameron would send a film crew, while giving the drum and guitar licks enough low-end crunch around the edges to open a cereal factory. Drums also sound excellent through the Nighthawks, with a very authentic and natural tone. To be clear (like the headphones) – fans of a lean, dry sound signature probably won’t appreciate the warmth and quantity of the bass on offer here. For everyone else, the excellent execution and control of the lower range adds a body to the music that most music fans would find it very hard not to like.





    The soundstage of the Nighthawks isn’t the most expansive I have ever heard – there is a bit of space to the edges of the sound, but there are certainly other headphones and in-ears who push the sound far further outside of your head. In part, I suspect this is a side-effect of the non-emphasised treble tuning, but never feels any the poorer for that particular choice. The clarity of the sound reproduction does give the Nighthawks an excellent sense of separation, with all the instruments standing out clearly in their own space, and easily identifiable against the jet-black audio background. No matter if it is large scale orchestral music or three-chord punk rock, the headphones imbue everything with a sense of accuracy and precision, allowing your brain to pick out parts of the song at will. The shape of the soundstage is reasonably 3D, with the vocals playing in the centre of your head, the drums rolling across the back of the room behind you and the other instruments feeling laid out in front of you like a live concert.  More often than not, the headphone feels like it is placing you in the middle of the recording session, which helps with the immersive tone no end on more intimate recordings. Listening to “Ten Songs from Carnegie Hall” by Ryan Adams really puts you on stage with the performer, with the applause cues and audience noise rolling in from all sides like you are standing next to the singer.


    The Nighthawk is a semi-open design, with a 3D printed covering standing between the rear of the driver and the outside world. They call their grille design a Diamond Cubic Lattice, and it is designed to diffuse sound passing through it from the driver, to avoid any sonic reflections from the surface back towards the ear which could create distortion in the sound waves heading towards the listener. This clever trick of geometry and 3D printing was actually modelled on the structure of a butterfly’s wing, which diffuses light that hits it in much the same manner. One side effect of this diffusion is the level of isolation it offers from external sounds, which is very high for an ostensibly open backed headphone (aided in part by the excellent seal offered by the headband mechanism and pads). While these will not be isolating enough to block out the noise of a busy commuter train or jet engine, for home use they do block out a decent chunk of the outside world. Unfortunately, more sound leaks out than leaks in, so like most open designs, these aren’t suitable for libraries, churches or anywhere else you don’t want anyone in a 12-foot radius listening to your Justin Bieber medley.





    These are very power-light in terms of amping requirements at a rated impedance of only 25 ohms, with plenty of volume being achievable from even the most puny of sources. They do tighten up a little with a little bit of juice flowing through their veins, but are enjoyable enough out of any jack you care to plug them into to suggest it isn’t mandatory. If you do have access to a decent amping solution, the transparent nature of these headphones will bring out the best of whatever you plug It into – using these with the Cayin C5 on low gain, the soundstage opens up marginally, and the music benefits from the extra power and refinement of the amp to really bring some more dynamic tracks to life. As the headphones are rated to handle up to 1.5W, they never feel overstretched when you crank up the power - I imagine the limiting factor is more likely to be the user’s hearing (and how much damage you want to do to it) rather than the limits of the driver when deciding exactly how close you get to full power on whatever you decide to use.


    As Audioquest are primarily known for their high-end cables, this review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the two cables offered with this package. The thinner of the two is designed for “mobile” use (in as much as a large open-backed headphone can ever be mobile – perhaps they are for those times when you absolutely have to get up and go into the kitchen to make a sandwich in the middle of a marathon listening session?!), with a durability rating of over 12,000 bends before it will run into trouble. This cable is reasonably light and quite thin, but the sound feels a little less open compared to the sound produced by the main cabling. I am not a massive believer in the power of cabling, but to my (possibly biased) ears, there is a small but clear sonic difference between the two cables, with the “main” cable providing a sweeter sonic hit than the portable effort. Kudos to Audioquest for providing a more robust and flexible everyday cable for those who need it – due to the open nature of the headphones, it seems an unusual choice but it is welcome nonetheless. The main cable provided is specially made for these headphones, and is based on the Castle Rock range of aftermarket cables. It is a thick fabric covered affair, with a much more rigid structure made from solid cores of the manufacturer’s Perfect Surface Copper in a Double Star-Quad formation. If you are a cable geek, you may be aware what that means – if not, please refer to the Nighthawk mini-site as they have a whole page explaining it. Suffice to say, the cable, while not the most cooperative piece of audio connection equipment I have ever used, does give an audible bump in quality to the sound and looks sturdy and able to stand up to a lot of heavy listening. The attention to detail evident in the rest of the package even extends to the cable connectors, with Audioquest eschewing the more traditional gold-plated 3.5mm connectors for a silver plated finish copper connector, which it claims improves the overall performance.





    Aurisonics ASG-2.5 – these are my current “at home” listening pair, and while they are IEMs rather than over-ear headphones, they have some similarities in the general sound signature which makes this a worthy comparison. In terms of bass, the 2.5s on a ¼ opening of the bass port have the slight edge in bass quantity, with a more powerful slam than the more liquid Nighthawks. The midrange on the 2.5s are more forward than the Nighthawks but are more coloured and vocal-centric, with the Nighthawks giving a more natural and balanced tone and greater sense of realism. In terms of the highs, the 2.5s have a similar presentation, with a bit more “etching” and feel of airiness from the dual-BA setup on the 2.5 compared to the smoothness and purity of the NH. It terms of soundstage, the 2.5s shade this, but lose out on overall detail retrieval and timbre to the Nighthawks, with the Audioquest cans sounding cleaner across the spectrum.

    Philips Fidelio L2 – another semi-open back design, but the presentation on these two over-ears couldn’t be  more different, with the L2s having a bright, clear bias which imparts an impression of clarity to the sound that runs against the tuning ethos of the Nighthawks. The bass on the L2 is lacking compared to the Nighthawks in both quantity and quality (except in the sub-bass, with the L2 holds its own on). Mids are better on the Nighthawk, with the natural tone and clarity of note having a little more weight than the thinner and brighter presentation of the L2. In terms of treble, the L2 have great extension and a sense of openness and sharpness which the Nighthawks lack, so if you are a fan of treble-centric headphones, then the L2 will have a more familiar signature in that respect. In terms of detail levels, they feel similar, but due to the tuning, the L2 push the details more to the forefront of the listening experience whereas the Nighthawk actually conveys the same or more detail in the track but in a much less pronounced manner. In terms of soundstage, the L2 feels more open than the Nighthawks to my ears.

    Blue Microphones Mo-Fi – this is a closed back dynamic over-ear, so the soundstage is smaller on the Mo-Fi by a fairly decent margin. Separation is similar, with the Mo-Fi holding its own on congested tracks and keeping enough space for the instrumentation. To my ears, the Mo-Fi has a more mid-forward tuning, so pushes more emphasis to the midrange compared to the Nighthawks. Bass is won by the Nighthawks, with better control and quantity/quality, although the Mo-Fi do have a trick up their sleeve with the bass-boost on the active amplifier built in to the headphones. With boost on, the bass is similar to the Nighthawks, but feels less controlled and warms the mid-range considerably. Highs are a draw depending on your preference, with the Mo-Fi having slightly more emphasis on the higher treble frequencies, but the Nighthawks producing a clearer tone. Overall, the Nighthawk wins in terms of overall quality and resolution, with a better soundstage. The Mo-Fi wins on isolation and driveability (with its built in amp), but loses again on comfort as it is a far heavier headphone for extended periods of wear with a very peculiar hinged fitment system that would look right at home in a 1990s Manga comic.

    Oppo PM-3 – I haven’t had much ear time with the PM-3 at the time of writing this, but the overall tonality and tuning does share some similarities with the Nighthawk. The impression it leaves me with is of a more clinical and less musical take on what the Nighthawk is trying to achieve – I will try and update this as I get some ore serious listening in with these.


    20160413_171728_HDR.jpg 20160413_171721_HDR.jpg


    Overall conclusion

    As I mentioned at the start, the Nighthawks are close to being the perfect sound signature for my preferences, so it is hard to write an impartial conclusion. The mix of design, audio engineering and very definitive tuning decisions come together to create something that is just a little bit special. Not content with producing another carbon copy of what everyone else considers audiophile headphones should sound like, the team have gone away and reinvented what they think high end sound should be, which is something clear, distortion free and true to the original recording. These are headphones that let you lose yourself in the moment, and have already provided me with hours of listening pleasure, with many hundreds more to come. For fans of a pure, transparent signature with bags of texture and detail, a warm and bassy lower end and a living, breathing “soul”, this is the perfect tuning for you. Give yourself a chance to unlearn whatever you expect to hear from something in this price bracket and embrace these and you may just grow to love the sound like nothing else. People looking for super-emphasised highs may never appreciate what this headphone can do, but for everyone else, this is a truly supreme piece of engineering that will bring a smile to your face and bliss to your ears. To paraphrase the end of one of my earlier paragraphs: simply outstanding.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DanDorn
      Excellent review of the NHs. As a lover of these wonderful cans, I could relate to your "journey" from initial perception of weak treble to appreciation of their uniquely balanced and undistorted sound presentation. 
      DanDorn, Apr 29, 2016
      Pooh in japan likes this.
    3. Criss969
      Please keep reviewing! Thanks!
      Criss969, Apr 30, 2016
    4. Necron99
      I was thinking of writing a review, but after reading yours, why bother? You said what I was thinking and took it home. Well written and expressed. These cans, like you,hooked me from the first listen and I haven't looked back! Bravo sir!
      Necron99, May 8, 2018
  9. betula
    Gentle and unique sounding headphones
    Written by betula
    Published Mar 24, 2016
    Pros - Comfort, bass, innovation, quality materials, natural, lifelike sound
    Cons - Takes time to adapt to its sound signature
     In this write-up I will concentrate on my personal experience with Audioquest Nighthawk, and I won’t talk about all the wonderful and innovative ideas that made it possible for the Nighthawk to exist. All these technical details, history and marketing are widely available online.
    The Nighthawk is indeed a spectacular example of headphone engineering in the 21st century. These are a controversial pair of headphones, and my aim is to clear up some of the clouds of this contradiction.

     First of all I think, many reviewers did not give the 150 hrs recommended burn in time to the Nighthawks, and I also think, they did not give enough time to their brain to adjust to Nighthawks’s unique sound signature. Most of the contradiction comes from superficial reviews.

     Nighthawk can’t be treated as regular headphones. Skyler Gray’s approach to how a headphone should sound is quite unique, some would say revolutionary, but definitely challenging to all other companies as well as to the audiophile community. Skyler says the Nighthawk does right what all other headphones do wrong. They do not have the artificially elevated treble, which is present in most other headphones to give the listener a false impression of extra resolution and details.
     For this reason Nighthawk will sound strange at first. It will sound dark, warm, cloudy, initially many people feel something is missing.
     They require more time and patience than many other headphones, but they generously pay off all your patience, if you really want to know them.
     In the last 4-5 months I was enjoying my Fostex TH-X00s with their exceptional bass. Treble however started to really hurt my sensitive ears after a while. I found myself not having other choice than looking for other daily driver headphones.

     I am very happy I gave Nighthawks a second chance. The recommended burn in time is indeed necessary. The initially cloudy and mid-bass emphasised sound clears out, sub-bass becomes more present, treble and upper-mids clear out as you get used to the natural sound instead of the artificial sparkles. 

     Nighthawk benefits quite significantly from better DACs, amps. Chord Mojo with its uniquely liquid, realistic and clear sound seems to be a great pairing for the warm and also very natural sounding Nighthawk.

    My main reason for selling X00s is the listening fatigue it caused me during long term listening sessions.

    X00s vs Nighthawks in a nutshell:

    X00s have a punchier, more exciting bass, and it also extends deeper. Everything else however is much better on the Nighthawks in my opinion. Nighthawk sounds much more open, very close to a real opened back headphone. Nighthawk’s bass however is better than almost any opened back headphone’s bass, which means between spaciousness and bass currently the Nighthawk is the best compromise.
    I will miss a little bit that deep and energetic bass of X00s, but Nighthawks have 9 other reasons to love for while X00s have only this one.

    Nighthawks are extremely realistic, real, natural sounding. X00s mids sound pale and recessed in comparison, treble artificial empty and harsh.
    Nighthawk’s sound is real, organic, alive and natural. It is almost like a living organism, while many other headphones sound unnatural and artificial in comparison.

     Audioquest also emphasises the speaker-like sound approach they used in creating the Nighthawks. Listening to Nighthawks is not the same as you were listening to real speakers in a room, but it does have a very speaker-like sound. In your mind you find yourself in a good sized club where high quality speakers are responsible for the powerful and realistic presentation of live music.

    It is indeed a unique path, and along with the long burn-in time you also need to give time to your brain to adjust to this new way of sound presentation.
    In my opinion Nighthawk can’t easily be A/B tested with other headphones, due to the adjustment time our brain needs.
    For a truly honest review extended time need to be spent with the Nighthawks.

     One of Audioquest’s  slogan is that they want to draw you into music. One very important step in achieving this pleasant illusion is to create exceptional comfort. We can read everywhere, how comfortable the Nighthawks are. And yes, they are extremely comfy. What the reviews do not necessarily mention is that with this exceptional comfort they really make you forget you have headphones on your head, and only music exists.

     If you prefer a warmer sound signature with good bass, extreme reality and naturalism, with a gentle, liquid and never-fatiguing sound, than give Nighthawks a try.

    I bought Nighthawks as a remedy for my treble sensitivity and listening fatigue that the Fostex gave me.
    I found much more than I have been looking for. Not just the sound is not harsh anymore, it is also much more natural and enjoyable. A real, unique experience.
    I do not feel I have lost anything with X00s bass, because I have gained much more with the Nighthawks.

    Nighthawks are special, like caviar or oysters. Some do not like it, but if you do like it you will fall in love.  
    1. sledgeharvy
      I 100% agree that the NH give you that "local venue, live sound". It makes for an intimate listening experience. They are as I like to say, the equivalent of "Blue Light Shift" but for your ears than your eyes.
      sledgeharvy, Mar 5, 2018
  10. FastAndClean
    2 in 1 comparison between sound with leather pads and Fischer Audio HE-002 velour pads
    Written by FastAndClean
    Published Feb 19, 2016
    Pros - 2 in 1
    Cons - i don't know
    Sorry in advance, english is not my native language.

    There is a big difference in tonality and overall presentation of this headphones when you change the stock pads.
    Everyone has their own taste in sound signature, some people like it bright, other like it warm and smooth, and some people like it neutral.
    I will try my best to describe differences to the sound.
    stock pads and with HM5 velours pads

    leather pads

    sound signature - warm, smooth and sweet

    bass - the bass is big (not too big), it can go low when the song call for it, mid and upper bass is more than the sub bass in quantity, the bass have good texture and layering, decay is moderate in speed, not the fastest out there but fast enough to sound natural.

    mids - mids are thick, lower midrange is fat and smooth, you can try some songs of Barry White and you will notice extra power to his voice, middle part of the midrange is neutral, upper mids take one step back, mids are very special, they are not recessed, but the tonality is different than AKG open backs for example.

    highs - highs are extended, clean and detailed, they are smooth and inoffensive, you will not find nasty peaks in the lower treble like A LOT of other headphones, sometimes i want more quantity.

    imaging - imaging is top notch, instrument separation is very precise , every instrument is well defined inside the soundstage

    soundstage - soundstage is good but not great, nothing special here, is better than typical closed back headphones but not close to fully open back cans.

    velour pads

    sound signature - neutral and detailed (but not cold or bass light)

    bass - the bass is flatter, there is no huge mid bass hump, the thickness in the mid and upper bass is very reduced, with velours the bass is airy, the driver breathe, now the sub bass is in line with mid bass, is clean, texture and just beautiful, the rumble on the lower bass is a lot cleaner, is like a high quality musical subwoofer kind of bass, airy and clean.

    mids - no thickness in the lower mids anymore, midrange now is more clear and detailed, there is more upper mid range, mids are smooth and beautiful, female voices sound more present and clear, amazing mids.

    highs - more highs (the perception for more treble is from the shifted balance between the bass and treble), but interesting thing is that only the very upper treble feel like more, after 10 khz, that makes the sound more airy overall, i love the treble

    soundstage - bigger, better, close to fully open back headphone, the soundstage now is big, not as big like my K601 but big.

    imaging - the same precise imaging but with bigger soundstage now you can enjoy it more.


    It was a hard one, warm and organic smooth sound vs clearer more spacious and detailed sound, today i made i lot of tests and i was enjoying the velour pads more, if you already have NH, try this.

    Thank you.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. lerthedc
      lerthedc, Mar 17, 2016
    3. FastAndClean
      FastAndClean, Mar 25, 2016
    4. Not In Love
      Do you know if Audioquest or any other reseller sells the plastic mounting piece? I'm worried about ripping the original pads everytime I switch them out.
      Not In Love, Dec 15, 2016