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AudioQuest - Nighthawk Headphones

Rating:
4.11905/5,
  1. ChookJones1987
    Audioquest Nighthawk - Snake Oil or the real deal?
    Written by ChookJones1987
    Published Feb 8, 2016
    2.5/5,
    Pros - Nice bass extension, fairly good control, nice bass texture for a dynamic, good treble articulation, sexy build, comfortable
    Cons - Upper mids are recessed, sound is a bit too sultry with cup reverb, isn't very cohesive, lack of definition, treble roughness, some poor design choice
    I'm going to cut out all the BS like packing, there's plenty of unboxings on youtube and it will just mirror what others have wrote, this is about sound...
     
    and some build quality comments
     
     
    What I used
     
    Chord Mojo
    Project Ember 2
    Schiit Vali 2
    Eddie Current Black widow
    Bimby, modi2,
    Various Fiio players 
     
    Many more that I don't own but have demo'd 
     
     
    Build
     
    The build is mainly pretty decent, I'm mostly concerned with the rubber that holds the cups which have been known to snap on a few people. The main cable has also failed on a lot of people. I'm also not a fan of the silly headband wire and extender. I much prefer a nice thick headband like the LCD-2. Apart from that, I love the liquid wood and the actual design of the cups. Having had many years experience with 100's of headphones I wouldn't personally be very confident in the long term durability, time will tell.
     
     
     
    Sound 
     
     
    Now the Nighthawk is very controversial. After weighing everything up it seems a lot of the experience ears of the hobby are very critical of the Nighthawk while many not none experience people with lower tier gear seem to enjoy it. Now I'm not using that as a weapon or anything like that, just a pattern I've seen and there's exceptions on both sides.
    I've personally heard it both ways. I think the Nighthawk really benefits from a resolving dac more than other headphones I own. The Nighthawk is a very wild sounding headphone in terms of it's balance. it has a deep but elevated bass which dips when it enters the mid range then returning to provide a fairly balanced but rough treble section and if the DAC is poor like the Dragonfly, it won't sound as good as it potentially can at all. 
     
    I've seen some people in the Nighthawk thread claim these are accurate...I'm sorry but that is ridiculous, some of the people in the thread also claim they can't hear the treble roughness which is concerning as this is showing that their ears are not good enough to pick out the difference which is scary considering people will go on their to get advice about an expensive headphone. 
     
    So are these good?
     
    Yes and no, like I said the bass is fairly textured, it's elevated but the biggest issue is vocals. Voices don't sound like they have enough depth, they don't show the emotion of the human voice and also the texture. The HD650 for example which has a fairly flat, natural mid range does a much better job and so does the LCD-2. Voices sound smoother, more natural with better distinction. The 650 has the best micro detail out of the three but the Nighthawk isn't terrible here, it actually does plankton fairly well. Running some tone sweeps also showed recession in the upper mids and a slight elevation in the treble which is quite choppy. The elevated mid bass does help to mask some of the faults but they are still obvious to someone with a good ear.
     
    My biggest hate is headphones that boost a certain frequency for the perception of detail. The 650 doesn't do any of this, the LCD-2 has a small bump just over 10k which gives them some air and good imaging but it doesn't sound out of place like a T1 or TH900 which have exaggerations in it's response. The Nighthawk has recessions, boosted bass, some treble peaks so it's not as pure as Skylar was saying but of course, every headphone company is trying to give you what the artist intended BS on a plate.
     
    The biggest problem for me was it's lack of definition and coherency, for example; The HD650 and LCD-2 sound defined, like everything is a whole, the Nighthawks sound like their centre image is lacking while the width and depth isn't defined. It's pretty weird and I hate this. They remind of the the Denon D600 in that regard. 
     
    The imagining is ok,about on par with the older Fostex range, much better than the TH900(Terrible headphone) I find it can sound a bit difficult due to the reverb and the definition is lacking. I found using the velour pads helped things out a tad. I found the NH to sound great for late night listening, very relaxing, slow decay helps lower the tempo a bit!
    yes it can male them sound a bit boring but as a second headphone, I find they work really well here. I really enjoyed them with aggressive bass tracks because they don't really hurt your ears even with the treble roughness which just comes across as tizz, rather then piercing hot. 
     
    I read a couple of comments trying to justify the recessed mids, the bass, the fact is the mids ARE recessed, it's confirmed with graphs, it's confirmed with the majority of the hearing test. I still think this is down to lack of experience but not knowing what they are hearing, for those that are experience, maybe you overate your resolving capabilities of your ears? not having a go at anyone or mocking it's just an observation as human psychology a big hobby of mine, I could be full of crap, but I honestly feel that the way I go in this exceeds the other reviews which are very basic, feel like they hold back, stiffness in there expression, just something I pick up I guess. 
     
     
    I think in terms of pricing the Nighthawks are somewhere around the DT880 in terms of sound quality but they have a better tuning, less artificial when it comes to upper ranges. I think the HD650 is far superior but this is difficult because it scales with better gear. The Nighthawk for example sounds crap from a phone but still better than the 650 out of a device of that calibre. 
     
    Reading back this review I sound like a stuck up prick who is trying to put down things but you need to read it with an open mind, I'm describing what I see and hear. I feel this headphone needs work and I also feel that more experienced people like Tyll, Purrin(wrote a review + measurements) who can find out what is really going on with a headphone so  potential buyers can get a better idea. 
     
     
    Now, I expect a lot of Nighthawk owners to appear in the comments complaining about certain aspects but remember, I'm a NH owner too.
     
    The Nighthawk for me is incomplete, but a very good start! 
      Swann36, Swiftfalcon and Hawaiibadboy like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ChookJones1987
      The TH900 has a massive hole in its mids, messed up treble stupid bass elevation it's absolutely awful for the price, the NH is a better headphone than the TH900 and it's not even close. That's even off the black window and bimby.
      ChookJones1987, Feb 9, 2016
    3. ChookJones1987
      I actually am a fan of the old D5000, D7000 my problem isn't with the Bio drivers it's with the tuning. The TH900 is tuned too unnatural, wonky it's bright just for the sake trying to extract detail. It performs poorly here.

      Honestly it makes me wonder if people on here actually play intruments in real life because the Fotex TH900 doesn't play them back naturally, it's too bright, forced and too much bass. The bass for being elevated is quite tight though. Vocals sound too distant, even more so than the Nighthawk.

      You say the Nighthawk has good imaging but you need to listen to headphones like the LCD-2, Hifiman HE-1000, HD650(on a good rig) to see what good imaging is. The Nighthawks really struggle with definition compared to high end phones.
      ChookJones1987, Feb 9, 2016
    4. DanDorn
      Alas, as a Nighthawk owner, I've come to realize its advantages and "its" disadvantage. I use the singular here because I believe the recessed or distant quality of the vocals is the biggest problem. In my experience, equalization or amplification source does little to change this inherent quality of the Nighthawks. I began as a lover of the Nighthawks, and while I still enjoy them quite a bit, my adoration has waned over time.
      DanDorn, Jun 21, 2016
  2. Army-Firedawg
    Absolutely gorgeous headphone who's imaging will transport you.
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Dec 7, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Aesthetically beautiful, Best sub $1k imagining, easily driven by mobile
    Cons - Drastic drop in lower treble/upper mid intersection, may be to bass heavy for some, needs to be handled with care.
                                                                               20151204_151450.jpg
     
     
        I absolutely have to give a huge shoutout and thank you to Todd at TTVJ audio for allowing me a chance to demo and review these. For these being so new even if I’ve the chance to go to a meet being able to see these is quite unlikely, so again I thank you. 
                                                                  
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    The Opening Experience
     
        One of the few products I’m away of that do not come with a cardboard artbox (retail box). These ship very simply with the real leather case and an art wrap around it. It’s simple, straight forward and effective, I’m ok with it.
        However, the smell & texture of the leather is striking, the name “NIGHTHAWK” engraved and the weight of the box shows confidence and is thus far presenting me with a very competent and well represented hand awaiting to be shaken. Then it’s time to open the chest that is in from of me, the sound a zipper makes as I’m unzipping is something that gives me chills every time for it builds up to the treasure that lies underneath.
        And a treasure I have received, presented in front of me in silhouetted cutout, that itself is laced in a very soft material, lies the Nighthawk’s. This is the first time I’ve seen these in person and let me tell you my friends pictures don’t do them justice, for these are stunning, though they are MUCH darker in person than the pictures show. The wooden backs are a nice dark color which is a very nice and very welcomed contrast from the dominant all black color. Before these the Monster Diamond Tears were to me the most striking headphones I’ve ever seen but these are now by far the most aesthetically pleasing cans I’ve ever seen.
        In the flap lies two extremely well crafted cables, the longer one being the main AudioQuest cable and a second extra cable that’s still nicely built. 2 silk clothes to keep the wood spotless and an artistically decorated instruction and warranty book with the signature NightHawk taking flight.
        I must say I’ve often been disappointed by the representation of a product that I’ve been so looking forward to finally seeing with my own eyes, rather by own hype or general representation but I have to say I was delivered a very nice and firm handshake with the NightHawk and couldn’t plug them into my setup quick enough.
     
     
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    20151204_152736.jpg           20151204_152304.jpg
     
    Construction
     
        Top notch if properly taken care of. The NightHawk’s feel extremely sturdy in my hands and it’s constructions even shows that. Every piece of it is supported by a flexible object rather it be string or rubber, which on that note I will add that if one is careless with flexing them, I can see one of the hinge pieces breaking but that would mostly fall into user error. The headband is on an elastic strap so finding one's exact fit shouldn’t be any problem but, as anyone who’s familiar with elastic knows, it loses its tautness over time.
        All in all the Nighthawks initially are built very well and I have complete confidence in the craftsmanship behind it. However I also must add that I feel that in order for one to continue to have these for many years to come one need to be mindful of how they handle the headphones.
        Lastly there’s the cable. There’s honestly not a whole lot to it other than it being extremely well built and other than it being very taught and prone to kinks I’ve no complaints about it whatsoever.
     
    20151204_152528.jpg
     
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    Comfort
     
        Absolutely amazing. These are either the most comfortable of tied for most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. They sit so perfectly on my head with such exact clamping force I’ve happily worn these 4+ hours at a time. The elastic headband conforms to the exact size of my head with minimal effort. The earcups felt extremely soft yet didn’t give way more than what was needed while at the same time being breathable. Very well done one the comfort side of things.
     
    20151204_152425.jpg
     
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    Sound
     
        A couple people suggested I try the AudioQuest Nighthawk’s for they believe I’d greatly enjoy them for my tastes in music and sound signature preference. In fact I was asked to specifically compare them with that of the legendary Sennheiser HD650’s saying they were very similar. So after giving them a good amount of time and listen what’s my personal verdict on them? Let’s find out
        Firstly I have to make note of some of the best transparency and imaging I’ve ever heard. Not just in the price category it’s in either, but overall. The Nighthawks do an amazing job and bestowing the realism of the musical piece so amazingly well that I’ve came to choose these when listening to movies over any other product I own because of this. For gaming. or in music in general, the positional cues are extremely accurate and the layering in the soundstage though being one that’s very intimate, is still spot on and very enveloping.
    An intimate soundstage, breathtaking imaging and wonderful transparency aside, how are the individual aspects of the AudioQuest Nighthawks and do they live up to the hype? Or are they purely aesthetics?
     
    Treble
     
        The treble was accurate but yet still quite recessed. I didn’t get the energy transfer from my music that I like but I still felt what I was receiving was true. I really enjoy listening to “Tank” by The Seatbelt (from the Cowboy Bebop anime) and though I could very easily discern each trumpet apart from the next as well as locate them, I didn’t get chills even once. There just wasn’t any spark to the high notes which is very unfortunate.
     
    Mids
     
        My personal preference to an audio piece. The mids to me represent the body and soul of music so if a piece of equipment can’t show great competence in this area I’m left feeling hollow . So does the AudioQuest Nighthawk live up to people recommendations for being something I’d like?
        For the most part I find the mids rather enjoyable. The “mid-mid” is quite clean and I feel quite accurate to the vocals. They feel focused and forward and give nice distinction from the rest of the musical ensemble. The lower-mids shows just a touch more coloration to the darker side (my guess is due to the bass bias) but not enough to deter me from enjoying it thoroughly or honestly even noticing it unless I’m strictly critiquing it. However, I’ve a definite issue with the upper-mid lower treble range for I notice a very distinct and very sharp dip that only lasts for a few hz but to me it’s very noticeable and sounds quite distorted. The best way I’ve found to reproduce the distortion I’m referring to is for those who use an audio app (in my case PowerAmp Pro.), if you turn on and increase the “Stereo-X” knob it makes a very similar sound. This is by no means a deal breaker but something to certainly be addressed.
     
    Bass
     
        Most certainly and quite definitely the focal point of the Nighthawk. These have some thump to them but not in the bad way. Now make no mistake, I’m no basshead for I often find overly bassy products unpleasant and irritating to listen to but daggum, I really enjoyed the hit of the NightHawk’s. These really shines with hard rock such as Five Finger Death Punch, Skillet,
    Rise Against, etc… The bass was very controlled and very impactful and the already incredible imagine of these really got my heart pumping. Want a freakishly good pre/workout song? Check out “Jekyll & Hyde” from FFDP. It’s already a great song but the Nighthawk’s brought it to life.
     
                                                                                            20151204_152000.jpg
     
     
    Conclusion
     
        By far one of the most if not the most aesthetically pleasing headphones I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The comfort is unparalleled as well as the mouth watering imagine & transparency. The Nighthawk’s are definitely geared towards the bass lovers and really shine with hard rock style music and action movies. If properly taken care of I’ve no doubt that these will last for years to come and will certainly draw attention when seen.
        Lastly before I depart, I was asked by one of my followers/subscribers to compare these to my Sennheiser HD650’s. Though I’ll save the full A/B for the video; I’ll summarize by saying that they both have their strengths and crowds. If you like a more lifelike experience and really like the bass hit or you want headphones for media use over music I’d most certainly recommend the NightHawk’s. However if you like a more enveloping and fulfilling sound with a more broadened cache of music then I think you’d enjoy the HD650’s more.
     
    Till next time my friends, till then check out my Unboxing, Review @ vs. HD650 videos!
     
     

     

     
      Swann36 likes this.
    1. thomoz
      I listened to a pair of Nighthawks at the Atlanta HiFi Buys on Saturday, and my new Hifiman HE-400S' came today (Monday) in the mail - I would not be surprised to play them side by side and discover that the sound a bit similar. The Nighthawks are lighter and almost certainly play louder, but the tonal balance and level of detail is more similar than different.
       
      I think the 400S has a little more detail though, the more I listen.
      thomoz, Dec 7, 2015
    2. kman1211
      Great review. I also had the Nighthawks and the HD 650, I did a review of the two with the DT 150 thrown in. The Nighthawks were to my favor, due to preferences and system synergy. I definitely agree about the imaging and transparency, it's pretty much unrivaled in those aspects for it's price. Transparency is my number one priority when it comes to sound and is what I often consider to be the main measure of fidelity, it's just what I instinctively focus on. Definitely agree about media usage, they are absolute amazing in movies and games. 
       
      I do understand the spine-tingling effect, I only really got it on brighter headphones such as AKGs and Beyers. Though with the Nighthawks I get that almost sweet addicting effect that you can almost actually taste from their euphoria. I found it only occurs in headphones I consider euphoric on certain systems, it's especially notable on tubes.
      kman1211, Dec 7, 2015
    3. Army-Firedawg
      @thomoz that's interesting, I never thought about the AQ being similar to the Hifiman. Though disclaimer I've never heard a HM product and can only go from hear say. But man both are awesome looking cans
       
      @kman1211 I know what you mean. Though they were a bit too bassy for my personal tastes I can absolutely see the addiction in their sound and man, I'm longing for that imaging again. 
      Army-Firedawg, Dec 11, 2015
  3. slowdown5646
    You like music. I like music. The Nighthawk plays some pretty fine music.
    Written by slowdown5646
    Published Nov 11, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Musical, detailed, beautiful, comfortable, unique but natural sound signature
    Cons - Sometimes boxy sounding, very slightly grainy
    Let me start off by saying that if you’re well experienced in the world of hifi, this review might not be helpful for you. I’m young, and though I’ve been dabbling in it for 6-7 years, my experience is limited. The Nighthawks are in a price range close to the best I’ve experienced (most I ever spent on anything hifi is $1000, including my current Westone ES5s). For quite some time now, I have exclusively been using custom IEMs, but the Nighthawk might just real me back towards the light of headphones. Special thanks to Todd (the vinyl junkie) for loaning me these headphones for a week, I may not have heard them otherwise.
     
    Build Quality/Aethetics
     
    If you’ve been reading other reviews and looking at pictures, the verdict is pretty unanimous: the Nighthawks are beautiful and comfortable. I have no disagreements - given the fact I’ve not been using headphones for 5-6 years, these were surprisingly comfortable on me. Not too tight or heavy on the head, which I’m particularly sensitive to and which led me to CIEMs in the first place. On the very first day, I wore them for 7-8 hours with few intermissions. While looks might not be important to most of us, I thought they were incredibly stylish and, through my research, probably the best looking headphones in their price range. Lastly, the cable is nice and seems durable, and I have no reason to doubt it's quality. There's also a thinner cable for better mobility which is pretty neat.
     
    Sound
     
    Right, the important part! To be honest, I didn’t have any specific plan for evaluating these headphones, but perhaps that’s the richest part. From the moment I received them, I was having so much fun listening to them that I didn’t want to bog down my experience with carefully picked song choices and over-analysis. Some might call this laziness, but hey, what do we buy headphones for? To listen to music. And that’s precisely what I did.
     
    Equipment used:
    - Macbook Pro with iTunes/Audirvana and 16 bit lossless music.
    - Peachtree Shift DAC/Amp
    Simple as that. The Shift is mostly neutral but slightly bright to me, I haven’t had it for long enough to really grasp the sound signature but I think it was a neutral and powerful enough source to fairly evaluate the Nighthawks.
     
    The first thing I listened to was Joanna Newsom’s “Have One on Me”. They honestly sounded great, immediately warm and ostensibly non-fatiguing. Her voice sounded very natural to me, the accompaniment was very sweet and there was great instrument separation. It felt a little boxy at times, but if I focused on her voice or a specific instrument it seemed pretty well articulated.
     
    Covering my bases (I’m not that lazy!), I threw on Volcano Suns’ “The Bright Orange Years”. I was slightly worried they’d sound too laid back to be fun, but I was wrong. It’s a noisier, rockier album and the headphones really give it a lot of weight and growl. Punchy, deep bass, lot’s of expected warmth, and crisp but not over-accentuated treble. Fairly dark sounding background, and I think it works perfectly for this type of music.
     
    On Bjork’s “Medulla”, I found that these headphones really aren’t always as dark sounding as they seem. The album is largely acapella with brighter arrangements, and I don’t think the Nighthawks unfavorably colored them. I appreciated the soundstage that was big enough to sound spacious but close enough to feel intimate. For an album that should sound pretty smooth, it in fact sounded very smooth, with perhaps only a slight bit of grain.
     
    Other music I listened to included a range of pop, hip-hop, rock, acoustic, jazz stuff. Surprisingly, I think I loved these headphones the most with livelier music, to which they gave non-fatiguing yet exciting quality to. With that said though, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” as much as I did with the Nighthawks. It’s such a pretty, sullen record with low-key arrangements, and the Nighthawks sound signature just made perfect sense for it.
     
    A lot has been said about the quality of the treble, but honestly even right away I felt it to be well represented. I suppose those used to brighter headphones might think the Nighthawks sound murky in comparison, but in my experience it sounded completely natural. In fact, other than some forwardness in the midbass range and nearby, they seemed surprisingly neutral to me. Not cold or analytically, but in a sense where I didn’t feel like anything stood out too much among the rest. For me, I’ve always liked my equipment to be a tad rich and less analytical without straying far from neutrality, and the Nighthawks really do that well.
     
    Conclusion
     
    If this was hard to follow, here’s some bullet point summary notes:
    - Look beautiful, feel comfortable
    - Warm and dark without sounding unnatural or overexaggerated
    - Soundstage not particularly close or far
    - Slightly midbassy, doesn’t overwhelm treble
    - Great with vocals, particularly female
    - Sounds boxy sometimes, maybe slightly grainy but overall smooth
     
    There really is an undeniable build and sound here with the Nighthawks that makes them so compelling. Despite my few qualms, I think the Nighthawks do an excellent job at a fair but enjoyable representation of music, and are definitely among if not the best sounding headphones I’ve heard. I really hope to be buying these soon, and again thank Todd for his loaner program that allowed me to try these without the fear of buyer’s remorse. This is the first review I’ve done on a pair of headphones, so if anything is unclear please leave a comment and I’ll try to bring clarity. Thank you for reading!
      areek and stalepie like this.
    1. WhatToChoose
      Wow....these are some gorgeous looking headphones
      WhatToChoose, Nov 12, 2015
  4. Defiant00
    Nighthawk - Well-Built Warm Sounding Headphones
    Written by Defiant00
    Published Oct 18, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Build Quality, Comfort, Bass and Mids
    Cons - Weight, Treble, Sound Signature is Divisive

    Introduction

    I got to try the Nighthawk headphones as part of TTVJ's preview tour, thanks Todd! While I haven't been actively looking for new cans for a while, I like to (fairly casually) try to keep up with any new and interesting cans, on the off chance that someone finally bests the HD600s for a reasonable price.
     

    Build Quality

    Build quality of the headphones is very nice. They are quite solid, with hinges and such appearing to be metal, and the liquid wood appears to be quite nice and solid as well. I also like the suspension and swivel system, which makes it quite easy to find a good fit. The earpads also easily snap on and off, which will be nice if they offer other options in the future.
     
    I also want to mention the carrying case, which is quite nice.
     

    Comfort

    The drawback to the build quality is that these seem surprisingly heavy for a set of non-planar cans. I didn't have any real comfort concerns (as someone who finds the LCD-2s reasonably comfortable as well), but they are on the heavy side.
     
    The suspension and swivel system made it quite easy to find a good fit as well. My only actual comfort concern is that, due to the pads and effectively closed nature of these cans, I found my ears heating up much faster than with most of my other cans.
     

    Cables

    Unfortunately, on the pair I got to demo, the main cable was defective (depending on how I wiggled the connector I could get one or the other side of the headphones to work, but never both at once). I also thought that aesthetically the main cable was pretty bad, as it looks like it's permanently twisted.
     
    Fortunately, the Nighthawks also come with a portable cable, so at least I still got to try them out. The bad news is, the portable cable is fairly microphonic, so it wasn't an ideal situation.
     

    Sound

    As a preface, my normal cans are HD600s, and while I recognize that they aren't perfectly neutral, I feel that their overall tonal balance is quite close to what I'd consider neutral.
     
    So with that as my baseline, to me the Nighthawks have quite a shelved treble and significant bass to mid emphasis. They also sound quite closed in general; I'm not sure if they are marketed as semi-open, but they definitely sound closed in to me, and the bass emphasis seems to further emphasize this.
     
    The bass and mids sound pretty good and clean to me, just a bit louder than the treble. The treble sounds okay in isolation, but when switching between the HD600s you quickly realize how much more subdued most percussion and other treble details sound on the Nighthawk. The positive is that I had no listening fatigue even after hours of listening to the Nighthawk, and sibilance is greatly reduced. Unfortunately, that also means you lose out on a lot of nice percussion detail and general air and sense of space. I also did a quick comparison with the MA900, which I also find has a bit of mid emphasis, but found that even the MA900 sounds much more balanced than the Nighthawk.
     
    With that said, I do think the Nighthawk are pretty fun as a different sound signature, but feel that they're much more of a specialized tool than a great all-rounder.
     

    Value

    And that's where my greatest issue with the Nighthawk lies. To me, it falls in the same general group as something like the Oppo PM1, a very nicely built and pleasant sounding can that strays a bit too far into "polite" territory, and thus ends up being something that I wouldn't recommend as a good general-purpose or first expensive set of cans. I also feel that, while the build quality is quite nice, they still feel quite overpriced to me based off of sound quality. As a personal valuation, with sound quality being my primary interest, I feel like these should be about $300.
      MWSVette and taffy2207 like this.
  5. Loquah
    Audioquest Nighthawk: Let them re-educate you
    Written by Loquah
    Published Sep 30, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Super comfortable, great sound, unique design, eco friendly
    I got into music at a young age and my love of all types of audio gadgets stemmed from the joyous experience of hearing great music reproduced to its maximum potential. Along the way I have gotten lost at times and fallen into the trap of pursuing the technicalities over the musicalities. As Head-Fiers, the term 'musical' can sometimes be seen as a negative - a polite way of saying "Technically these aren't very good, but they make my music sound fun" but I want to pose a question to you: what do you think headphones are meant to do? Recognising that the answer to that question is different for all of us, you need to answer that question for yourself before you read on because it will completely change the relevance of the following information for you.
     
    The Nighthawks came to me on loan courtesy of Australian distributor, Ambertech. I had heard them briefly at Noisy Motel here in Melbourne and while not blown away, was keen to hear a bit more before making up my mind. A mate of mine who works at Ambertech was kind enough to arrange the loan and I am exceedingly grateful for the opportunity.
     
    I've written a technical review of the Nighthawks on my blog so rather than repeating the same content in two places, let me share the story of my Nighthawk experience with you here.
     

    First Introductions

    I'd read about the Nighthawks here on Head-Fi and they seemed really interesting, so I jumped at the first chance I had to try them.
     
    That first audition was using an iPhone connected to the Cozoy Aegis DAC - a very capable DAC - and my very first thoughts were that the 'hawks sounded nice, but they didn't blow me away. They reminded me of HD650s which is a high compliment, but at nearly $1000 here in Australia, my early enthusiasm was somewhat dulled. There was no denying how insanely comfortable and beautifully built they were, but coming from HD800s, T1s and LCD 2s, I didn't feel like the Nighthawks stacked up.
     
    Nonetheless, I was keen to spend longer with them and accepted the offer from my friend at Ambertech to spend a couple of weeks with the 'hawks.
     

    A Proper Listen

    AQNighthawk-2793.jpg After receiving the loan pair I proceeded to put them through their paces with all my gear - portables, my phone, and various solid state and tube desktop amps. Each time, the sound was great, but also clearly showed the characteristics of each amp. For example, my Bottlehead S.E.X. amp was modified with capacitors specifically designed to create a rich, resolving mid-range. With the 'hawks, the S.E.X. sounded just as rich and magical as it does with my Audeze LCD-2s. Moving across to the much more neutral Bottlehead Mainline amp showed completely different characteristics with a much more balanced sound and a stronger sense of balance between the mids and treble. Immediately it was clear that the Nighthawks are truly transparent (i.e. they reveal the characteristics of the track and source chain rather than dominating it with their own influence). And yet, something troubled me...
     

    That Bass!

    The most striking element of the Nighthawk's sound was the bass. The bass seemed to be enhanced or maybe a little boomy on some tracks, but then it would disappear on others. There was no doubt in my mind that these headphones had the chops for some serious foot-tapping listening sessions, but I couldn't yet tell if the bass reproduction was accurate or a slight enhancement.
     
    Well, further listening proved to me that the Nighthawks are very accurate in their bass reproduction, but they sound like they have slightly emphasised bass because they lack emphasis in the mids and treble. I'm so used to headphones like the Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD800 and even the later model Audeze LCD-2s that actually carry some degree of emphasis in the upper frequencies and therefore diminish the relative presence of the bass. The Nighthawks don't do that and by omission of emphasis they instead produce a faithful representation of each recording in a way that I've rarely heard. If you're coming from an "audiophile" headphone you'll think there's too much bass, but extended time with the 'hawks has proven to me that they are much more true to source and the other headphones I've mentioned are actually colouring the sound. Whether that colour / emphasis is for better or worse isn't for me to say, but there's no doubt it's there when you have such a great reference point as the frequency response as the Nighthawks.
     

    Other Elements of Performance

    AQNighthawk-2801.jpg Other than their amazing accuracy of bass quantity, there are a few other notable elements of the Nighthawks' sound performance. Firstly, in keeping with the topic of bass, their bass control is excellent and the extension too. They don't decay as rapidly as something like the HD800s so they won't tighten up a recording with "loose" bass, but they will reproduce everything from that loosely played bass through to a super tight kick drum and they can provide as much thump and boom as needed, right down to the lowest audible frequencies.
     
    Similar to the bass, the 'hawks' treble is just right with plenty of extension and clarity, but no emphasis. Once again, next to HD800s and their kin, the 'hawks may initially seem a bit warm and rolled off, but careful listening to some more treble-oriented tracks soon proved that not only was all the treble information being faithfully reproduced, but it was clean, smooth and grain free. The result is a highly enjoyable and highly accurate treble presentation that never becomes fatiguing or harsh, but manages to also fully convey the quality (or lack of) in the recording.
     
    I left the mids to last because they're worthy of an encore. The magnificently balanced frequency response from the Nighthawks allows the mids to have a beguiling mid-range presentation that is both liquid and lifelike while also being detailed and accurate. Because there is no significant enhancement in the frequency range, the Nighthawks don't ever create artificial tones in the mids - no extra texture or breathiness in vocals, no sense of the sound coming through a small enclosure and sounding boxed in - just a natural and accurate representation of the recording with a sense of reality and clarity that's a pleasure to listen to.
     
    All of this sound is presented in a relatively intimate soundstage, but intimate doesn't mean congested. The imaging from the Nighthawks, thanks to their transparent sound and ridiculously low distortion, is precise and accurate with a clear sense of space and a dark, velvety-black background from which each individual sound can spring to life with all of its inherent texture, resonance and timbre. The Nighthawks won't compete with headphones like the HD800 or T1 for their expansive soundstages, but it will easily compete for accuracy and space in the soundstage despite the alternate style of presentation.
     

    So, Who Got it Right?

    AQNighthawk-2803.jpg I've mentioned a few of the standard reference headphones in this review - HD800s, T1s (not considered quite so "reference" these days), and LCD 2s - and no doubt some people will immediately think I'm "off my tree" for mentioning the Nighthawks in the same sentence, but hear me out here.
     
    I still own and love HD800s, but will be buying a pair of Nighthawks as soon as I can raise the funds for the simple reason that both are amazing at what they do. So, "who got it right?" They all did, but in different ways. The HD800s are still the ultimate microscope on the music, but they do what they do by enhancing the upper mids and treble so in reality, they aren't a truly neutral / transparent headphone. The newer LCD 2s  take a similar approach to the sound which is a little more subtle than the HD800s, but is still emphasising some frequencies in the name of clarity and perceived resolution. As I write this I am selling my LCD 2s because they are closer in sound to the HD800s (not the same as) than they are to something like the Nighthawks and I want to have both a "clarity-enhanced" headphone and a musical and natural headphone in my collection so something had to go and, in my opinion, the HD800s are the ultimate microscope while the Nighthawks are the ultimate representation of the music in it's full, lifelike glory.
     
    The Nighthawks are a headphone for people who love music and want to enjoy their music. As I said at the beginning, that's not a polite put-down, but the highest praise I can offer as a music lover and enthusiast. The Nighthawks are an incredible example of engineering and innovation, but rather than resulting in a scalpel-sharp reference tool, they're a pair of headphones designed to connect you with the heart and the soul of your music in all the best possible ways. That makes it hard to describe them in concrete terms because technicalities are far easier to put to paper - soul, heart and perfection are harder to pen.
     
    As an industry, the headphone and earphone world seems to be obsessed with clarity and resolution so a headphone like the Nighthawks that don't "artificially" enhance clarity might seem less proficient in today's market, but if you love the emotional experience of being carried away by the ebbs and flows of your favourite music, do yourself a favour and try a pair of Nighthawks.
     
    Apologies for not getting into the technicalities of the Nighthawk's design and specifications here, but I know there are other great reviews out there that will provide all that information for you and I wanted to share the story of these headphones with you in the same way that they share the stories of the music with us - not focussed on technicalities, just sharing the emotions, experiences and enjoyment of great music.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Synthax
      Well, I cannot agree with thei ECO FRIENDLY thesis, as these headphones got lots of plastic parts... On printed 3D mesh which suppose not to be biodegradable :)
      Synthax, Dec 2, 2015
    3. waynes world
      Awesome review!
      waynes world, Feb 4, 2016
    4. supabayes
      Nice review. As someone who owns the Sennheiser HD800S and Beyerdynamic T5P, I recently picked up a Nighthawk. It's day and night for me when I switch between these headphones. The NH is a shocker to say the least but I like it very much. It's a fun can for relaxed and casual listening like watching Netflix on my iPad.
      supabayes, Jun 25, 2016
  6. e28m30a
    After a 40 year break, I am listening to headphones again
    Written by e28m30a
    Published Sep 16, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Most comfortable and open sounding gateway to music I have heard on my head.
    Cons - Price too low to be taken as seriously as they should be.
    The following “review” depicts my discovery of the capability of NightHawk.  Right up front, I will tell you I am an AudioQuest dealer.  If, for any reason, this fact makes you suspicious of my objectivity, I will also tell you that I agree with you.  I make no attempt to be remotely objective in this writing. As it turns out, it was only my long-standing relationship with AudioQuest, and my universal affection for the performance of their products, and the musical experiences they have brought into my life, that made me stay with NightHawk until I got it.  This, to be sure, is subjectivity at its finest!  If this makes you want to disregard what I have to say, or not even read it, I completely understand. 
     
    Also, because I wrote this piece as a communication to my customers to encourage them to buy NightHawks from me, and what they look for from me is what I experience when I listen to audio equipment, there are no boilerplate paragraphs describing physical properties of or the technology behind NightHawk.  By now, there are plenty of other sources of that information, and, if you have read this far, you probably know it already.
     
    Despite all of the above, what follows is a true story, to the best of my ability to tell it.
     
    AudioQuest NightHawk
     
    An educated person: One who knows enough to understand just how much he or she does not know.
     
    I have to admit I was initially not convinced.  That’s not quite accurate.  I was disappointed.  After all the in-house hype for NightHawk headphones, we received our initial order and they sounded like a dud.  That comes hard from me, so a little background to this tale is in order.
     
    Since the day my industry friend Richard Colburn hand carried the first pair of Diamond interconnects from California to Illinois and into my life in the late ‘80’s, I have been a huge fan of virtually everything that has sprung from the mind of Bill Low and his band of merry pranksters at AudioQuest.  I well remember after dinner Richard handing me the cables to listen to that night as long as I returned them prior to his leaving the next day.  I got home around 10:30 and immediately replaced the cables connecting my CD player to my preamp with the Diamonds, well aware that this pair of cables, for crying out loud, cost nearly twice what my player did.
     
    We already carried the largest selling brand of audio cables in the marketplace, and my feelings about the one brand of silver cables we also carried were not good, but here comes a cable that promises to fulfill the promise of silver absent the downside.  That night, which ended by sheer obligation to sleep at least a little before work the next day, lasted until near 4:00 AM, and was my watershed observation that everything in an audio system matters, often wildly out of proportion to what preconception and bias might suggest, and cables were not mere accessories or afterthoughts.
     
    Imagine me, nearly thirty years on and all this time ensconced happily in the AudioQuest family, encountering a letdown for the first time.  I have to say it shook me.  We had let the NightHawks break in, both on and off our heads, for the better part of a month.  Surely that must be enough time?  But they didn’t seem to be coming around.
     
    We would put them on and listen to music we knew well, and it just seemed to lie there, uninspired and uninspiring.  We would compare them to other ‘phones, well known and respected, and, while they were all in their ways disappointing, they at least each, for the most part, did what I had expected headphones to do- provide me that closer than real life perspective on the recording so that I could hear things I can’t hear even on my best home speaker system, so that the new knowledge could in turn inform my speaker-based listening.
     
    I told some of my friends at AudioQuest that, aside from phenomenal build quality, state of the art comfort, beautiful profile, and spot on pricing, we were, to a person, not loving the NightHawks.  As we are all one big, heretofore happy, family we were concerned.  Hands were wrung, supporting documentation was provided, advice was given and a summit phone conversation was suggested.
     
    And then something happened.  I’m not sure what, exactly, but, though a small part of it may have had to do with an even longer break-in period than we initially thought, I think mostly I changed.  You see, I’m not a headphone guy.  I use a nice pair of in-ear ‘phones for casual listening on my iPod Classic and my Pono (I will not listen to MP3s by choice ever and I own none), but that is pretty much just yard work and airplane travel mode in my world.  Those batteries probably discharge more often from non-use than while playing music.  The last time I used full-on headphones for any significant listening, they were Koss Pro 4AAs and they were a new idea, not a retro fad.
     
    I decided to approach the NightHawks again from a fresh perspective- as though they were a speaker system that happened to be attached to my head.  I went in with the same expectations of enjoying music I have when I listen to speaker-based systems; in other words, I left evaluation mode behind.  True that I had read the AudioQuest treatise on all the technology involved, how the design brief departs from all that has come before, and how the measurements support NightHawks as a breakthrough.  And true also that the ‘phones had more play time on them than last time I donned them, but, again, I think the big change was in my thinking about what a headphone is.
     
    Suddenly, I was lingering long on my favorite tracks with the NightHawks playing, and yearning to go back to them while trying esteemed competitors.  I’ve been evaluating vintage vacuum tubes to sell to customers with Peachtree gear, and my playlist for that “task” served double duty listening to headphones.
     
    David Bromberg’s “Dehlia” live from a million years ago has a moment when (the great) Will Scarlet enters from WAY off stage left with his harmonica.  On a great speaker system this is a transcendent moment.  Seemingly starting in some other world, the harp moves slowly closer to the microphone until it’s finally as close as it’s going to get.  The growing drama of this moment, which never rises above the subtle, relies on a combination of spatial coherence, true detail retrieval and tonal gravitas that headphones just don’t seem to have.  Until NightHawk.
     
    NightHawk presents all of this information, granted from inside my head, not coming to me as a concert performance does, but there is actual three-dimensionality, both to individual instruments (plucked acoustic guitar, voice and harmonica) as well as to the space they share.  This means I can locate everything in a 3D sound field in my head and that the instruments are fleshed out, pumped full of shape and color.  It makes it very easy to experience the emotional impact of this performance, with which it drips, although subtly.
     
    All the esteemed competitors, which include two open back designs and one closed, and range in price from a little more than the NightHawks to more than twice as much, fall apart on this track.  Some do an okay job of getting the tonal balance (the closed pair coming closest), but still do not approach NightHawk.  More important, though, none gets the totality of the performance, and they all grossly miss the spine tingling entrance of Will Scarlet.  NightHawk nails it, and having done so, establishes a benchmark that has me taking off each of the others as this point comes and ending my note taking.
     
    On the final movement of the Sibelius Fifth Symphony, Neemi Jarvi conducting the Gothenburg SO on Bis, again only the NightHawk really even lets me enjoy the piece.  As I said, I’m not a headphone guy so I still miss hearing this wonderful performance and recording presented to my seat in the concert hall of my main system, but it does tell me some things about the performance I don’t get from that seat and without the accompanying aggravation the competitors burn or bore my ears with.
     
    NightHawk makes wonderfully visible sections of the orchestra, including sweet strings, wherein I can hear both ensemble and individual playing simultaneously, and it does so through the hard work of coherent resolution and a neutral tonal balance rather than resorting to the typical headphone trick of an upwardly tilted tonal balance and just enough high frequency distortion to make you think you are hearing detail.  French horns soar darkly above the rest of the orchestra, no mean feat because they have so little higher harmonic content, which is usually the way height is faked, but the ‘Hawks do it because they are actually reproducing the delicate phase information that places everything properly in the spatial environment of the recording.  So they preserve the horns’ tonal darkness and locate them properly.  And the tympani rolls!  Loaded with body and muscle, but staying rooted, properly somewhat vaguely outlined, in space no matter how played.
     
    NightHawk revealed dynamics and rubato with an easy precision that made me, again, not want to take them off, especially to hear what the esteemed competitors did with this piece.  The short description is NightHawk soared while the others, to one degree or another, seared.
     
    My notes have quotes like, “French horns or car horns?”, “tympani die immediately,” “no bass foundation,” “decent 3D to sections, but little overall depth and NO height,” “generic woodwind section with no ability to tell which ones are playing at any given time,” “can’t tell how bowed strings ‘work’; could be a synthesizer.”  The most expensive pair actually shifted the physical location of the tympani dependent on pitch and dynamics, while also making them appear too distinctly located on stage, thereby ruining the brilliant job of the Bis recording team to present an orchestra as an instrumentally egalitarian whole.  Yes, sometimes the device that “images” better is worse.
     
    The Sibelius, by dint of its complexity and dynamic sweep, was the piece that most separated NightHawk from the pack.  Each competitor had me scribbling notes, hoping to go back to the NightHawk sound as soon as I could.  Each time I did, I listened all the way through, just waiting for the glorious finale.  I was wasting evaluation time, but I couldn’t help it.  I was having too much fun.
     
    Then there is the riot on tape that is Van Morrison’s “Madame George.”  Not the contemplative mesmerizer from Astral Weeks (with my mother’s pal Richard Davis on bass) but the even earlier explosion I discovered not nearly as many years ago on The Bang Masters.  I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m damn glad the recorder was running.  It opens sounding like a kindergarten class thirty seconds after the opening bell has futilely rung, and it doesn’t straighten up a whole lot from there.
     
    Under the influence of the NightHawks, it’s startlingly 3D and I can hear the superimposition of the individual mikes over what seems to be a stereo mike picking up all the classroom shenanigans as the teacher, not in any way Van, tries to corral the room into some semblance of order.  Thankfully, the kids win all the way to the end, but I am now gathering oodles of real information I can infuse into my speaker listening of this beloved track.
     
    All the other headphones are a letdown.  One merits, “no foundation or dimension,” and “painfully high frequency tilted,” while another gets, “no depth, again okay fleshing out of instruments, but nothing like NH,” and “ lateral spread does not extend beyond earcups,” followed with “everything is either in left ear, middle of head, or right ear,” and “cannot sense the room,” and finally, the third is, “feel as though I am in Lilliput,” and “perhaps lowest distortion of non-NH, but brings nothing else to the party,” and “unlivable bass content and character.”
     
    I ended with the wind-down palate cleanser that is “Watkins Ale” played ethereally on the lute by Ronn McFarlane.  Replete with lyrics, it’s clearly an Elizabethan pornographic campfire song which, although sung from the woman’s viewpoint, makes me think the composer, from the large and famous Anonymous family, had to be one of the sons.  Ronn, not a singer nor wishing to offend any Elizabethans still in the room, dispenses with the words and gorgeously plucks the tune out on his lute, making it sound far easier than the actual act.
     
    Only NightHawk does this lovely little ditty justice.  The difference between the meatier, softer, thumbed down plucks on the lower pitched strings is easily differentiated from the much clickier, calloused fingered lifts of the more complex melody string passages.  Lots of dark hall ambience fills its rich and rightful role supporting the tiny gem that is a lute in a large room.  So simple, but so difficult to pull off.
     
    So far behind, the esteemed competitors garner such praise as, “2D! Ambience splays out to sides, never peels back into depth,” “transient envelope gone, as if notes start before strings are plucked,” “tiny, tinny sound,” “had to turn it UP in attempt to find what NH delivers but still couldn’t,” “ambiance falls off digitally, as though a series of discrete events,” and “feels as though I am in a miniature world without any power.”
     
    So what changed?  I’m fairly sure I did.  Even if the price for what I’m hearing is $599 and 45 days of break-in, it’s a screaming bargain.  But now, you’ll have to excuse me.  That Sibelius has come back around on my living room speaker system and I’m going back under the NightHawks.  Maybe I’m a headphone guy after all.
     
    This is the point where I concluded my thoughts on NightHawk a few weeks ago.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to hear NightHawk at the same time as I was able to hear a ‘phone that is exactly three times the price.  I significantly preferred NightHawk, and feel comfortable extrapolating from a comparison earlier this year, before NightHawk existed, that there is only one headphone under $2000 that I am aware of which I now need to compare head to head, no pun intended, with NightHawk before I say that NightHawk is my favorite headphone at $2000 or less.  Beyond that price, I have yet to venture.  Remember, I’m not a headphone guy.  Also, remember, I am an AudioQuest dealer, so please take all of this with a sizable grain of salt, and I appreciate your diligence in making it this far!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Arsenal
      Strange that an audioquest reseller writes a review about audioquest...
      Arsenal, Sep 16, 2015
    3. Ra97oR
      The Nighthawk is certainly a try before you buy product IMO, it simply didn't work for me.

      Only assurance I can say is the absolute comfort of them, it's simply the most comfortable headphone I have wore.
      Ra97oR, Sep 16, 2015
    4. mochill
      I tired today and I'll buy it soon:scream:
      mochill, Jan 6, 2016
  7. JMCIII
    Audioquest's New Reference Level Headphones
    Written by JMCIII
    Published Aug 25, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound that offers full musicality, strong bass, along with all the detail you could want. Super comfortable - so you can listen forever.
    Cons - Amp dependent for sonic signature.
    Audioquest Nighthawk Headphones
     
    I must begin this review with an admission – I’ve always been a speaker man at heart. It’s the way I grew up. I’ve always most enjoyed listening to my stereo via my speakers more so than via headphone. Not that I don’t like headphones because I do, and have a nice collection of both over ear and in ear headphones that I’ve use regularly. But given my druthers I’ll usually choose to listen to my system via loudspeakers most days. Well, at least that was the case until the new Audioquest Nighthawks arrived for an audition. It’s the story of that audition and what it did to my listening habits that makes this review something special, at least to me (and hopefully to you too).
     
    For a far more comprehensive listing of the Nighthawk’s build quality and measurements than I can list here easily, click the link to Audioquest’s web page devoted to the Nighthawks and you can wallow in all the technical detail about these most interesting headphones that your heart desires.
     
    http://personal.audioquest.com/nighthawk#nighthawk-page
     
    Suffice to say, these are the most unusual headphones I’ve ever listened to. Each aspect of the headphones has been thought out and designed from the ground up to be both acoustically enjoyable and long-term sustainable. I will say that the Audioquest Nighthawks are both the best looking headphones I’ve ever seen (I absolutely love that liquid wood look) and far and away the most comfortable. And believe me, the comfort factor is nothing to be sneezed at. I’ve heard some excellent sounding headphones that were so heavy, so uncomfortable to wear, that despite their wonderful sound they simply weren’t conducive for long listening sessions, so the fact that the Nighthawks are easy on the head means that should they turn out to be as good sounding as they are good looking, you may find that the time you spend with them on is far longer than you’d ever anticipated.
     
    One thing to note, DO NOT listen critically to these headphones until they have at least 150 to 200 hours on them. And you need this time on both the included cables – the one they call their mini Castlerock, which is the one I’m betting that most will use the majority of the time, and the smaller cable designed to work well with portable devices. Both come standard with a 1/8’ plug that will fit any portable device (like an iPod, iPhone or other cell phone) and a clip on 1/4’ adaptor for use with any full sized headphone amp.
     
    I began this review by reaching for discs I know well, having used them often for reviewing purposes. But I also love the music on these discs, so I’m listening not only for how they sound, but how the music moves me. I used mostly my Original Electronics Master Headphone amp for the bulk of this review, but the Nighthawks also saw time with the headphone amp in my Parasound Zdac V.2, my Audioquest Dragonfly, and my Headroom Micro Amp w/DAC (playing my iPod music library). But since, as I say, the Original Electronics Master was the main amp used, let me state up front that this headphone amp does tilt a bit towards accentuating the lower frequencies, and I could clearly hear this through the Nighthawks. Not that this was a bad thing to me, as most of the music I listen to both for review purposes and for pleasure (jazz, classical and rock) can use a slight boost in the bass to make it more a part of the music.
     
    However, I began by grabbing the Opus 3 SACD Tiny Island (Opus 3 CD 19824) due to its abundance of acoustic instruments along with its pleasurable musicality that tells me all I need to know about any products midrange capabilities. The Nighthawks passed this test with flying colors. I heard each instrument as a separate entity with a unique tonal sound all their own. I heard plenty of both micro and macro detail. But what really captured my attention was how the Nighthawks keep all of those aspects within the confines of the music. The Nighthawks presented the music as of a piece. Nothing sounded forced or highlighted. Instead, it was as if I were listening to them play live.
     
    One of my favorite discs is the DVD-A of Michael Oldfield’s remake of his classic Tubular Bells 2004 (Warner Music R9 60204.) If I hadn’t known better I would never have been aware that there wasn’t multiple musicians playing, the music was presented as a whole piece of cloth. All of the different instruments Oldfield uses, from acoustic to electric sounded as close to real as I’ve heard. Percussion and bass was deep and powerful, guitars were easily identifiable as acoustic (with their softer, slightly woody sound) or electric (with that sharp, crunchy sound), and oh my lord, when those tubular bells rang I heard both the size of the bells as well as the initial transient strike and how those strikes created sound of varying frequencies that had just the right amount of decay. All of the audio spectrum was presented equally, with none giving the impression of being boosted or sucked out. Another aspect this disc taught me about the Nighthawks was how they created a realistic sense of soundstage. Most headphones keep the sound locked between your ears, but the Nighthawks gave me a sense of instruments coming from all directions and spots in space – exactly as my loudspeakers do – and this was a welcome and wonderful surprise and kept me listening far longer than I’d originally intended.
     
    I’ve read many people who feel the Nighthawks veer more toward the dark side of neutral, placing a bit too much emphasis on the lower frequencies over that of the balance of the audio spectrum. I couldn’t disagree more. To my ears, the Nighthawks were far more neutral. What they did was offer a better look at the amp they are connected to than being themselves dark. As I’ve noted, my Original Electronics Master Headphone amp leans slightly toward the lower end of the frequency spectrum, and that’s what the Nighthawks reveled. But when I used the Dragonfly, the Parasound, or my Headroom Micro, that emphasis was nowhere near as pronounced. I found that the Nighthawks are so free of coloration that they will easily reveal aspects of the headphone amp you partner them with. So if you’re not sold on what you hear when you first listen, ask to try a different headphone amp and see if things change for the better for your ears as they did for mine when I switched amps.
    The Nighthawks showed me they were up to any type of music I threw at them. Steve Davis SACD Quality Of Silence (DMP SACD-04) is based on the silence between notes and how much can be said by both those silences as well as the notes played. Davis is the drummer, and I thoroughly enjoyed how well the Nighthawks reproduced his drum kit. I heard excellent snap to snare drum, good wallop to the kick drum, and oh my goodness, the cymbal work was heavenly. I could not only hear the drumstick striking the brass cymbal, but I could almost see where on the cymbal Davis’ stick struck. Plus the Nighthawks showed how Davis use of space enhanced the music he played. On the other side of the musical speed spectrum was the Doobie Brothers song “Listen To The Music” from the SACD Crank It Up (Audio Fidelity AFZ 178). This song wants, nay demands, to get up and boogie. The Nighthawks placed no barriers in front of the sound. The song rocked right along just as I’ve heard it do a thousand times before.
     
    Classical piano is a very demanding test of any piece of audio gear, and maybe more so with headphones as there is nowhere for mistakes to hide. Pulling out the Esoteric SACD of Clifford Curzon playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto’s #’s 20 & 27 (Esoteric ESSD 90014) backed by Benjamin Britten and the English Chamber Orchestra, Curzon’s piano was a full sized instrument placed just left of center. I could get a real sense of what the Nighthawks did well. What did they do well: They offered the full power and sound of the piano and orchestra, even when at full throttle. They offer great dynamics. But they didn’t skimp on detail in order to produce that powerful sound. I could hear musicians shuffling papers and moving their chairs as well as Curzon’s fingers on the keys if I wanted to listen for them. But to me, the cool point was that this detail was never thrust at me, just a part of the overall sound. It was there if I wanted to hear it, and not if I didn’t. And there was a solid foundation set to these concertos as both the bass and cello were given their proper place in the mix. Now, based on what I’ve heard, what didn’t the Nighthawks do well? Truthfully, to my ears, almost nothing. About the only nit I can pick with these headphones is how revealing they are of both source and headphone amp. If either are off center – that is, if they are adding or subtracting from the sound – you’ll hear it, whether you want to or not. So keep in mind that while the Nighthawks will play fine straight out of the headphone jack of an iPhone (and yes, I tried this too), the better the amp, the better the sound. And the Nighthawks deserve the very best you can give them, as they’ll reward you with better and better sound.
     
    Besides piano, vocals can tell you a lot about how good a set of headphones are. Again, via my Original Electronics Master (with its slight boost to the bass) male voices were very, very realistic. The combo gave them enough chestiness to give a realistic impression of a man singing. But while male voices seemed to benefit, female vocals also got a dollop of that added chestiness which took a bit away from the ethereal quality of, let’s say, Alison Krauss’s angelic voice. Not that she didn’t sound like herself – for she did – but there was an element of sparkle that I’ve heard to her voice that was MIA. Still, I think that how you react to the Nighthawks vocal presentation will be more of a personal choice rather than an indictment of the Nighthawks. For me, it was mostly a non-issue.
    I’ve listened to top end headphones from Audeze, HiFIMan, and Oppo as part of my job as a reviewer for The Audio Beat. And I also own a pair of AKG K701’s that have always been my go-to phones for what headphone listening I did up until the Nighthawks showed up on my doorstep. While I loved the sound of the planar headphones, but then, I’m a planar man at heart, I was never given the feeling that any of these were THE headphones I could live with long term. And lord, all of those headphones were on the heavy, bulky side when I put them on (the Audeze most of all, with the Oppo’s being the lightest), so despite the wonderful sound, I usually found I couldn’t listen for long periods before I just needed to take them off. The Audioquest Nighthawks on the other hand offer sonic goods equally as good and a comfort level that had me listening to entire discs when I’d put them on for one, maybe two songs. I would get so wrapped up in the sound that I just didn’t find myself even contemplating stopping my musical enjoyment at what the Nighthawks were giving me until the disc was over. In comparison to my K701’s, the Nighthawks had a more even frequency presentation from top to bottom with real weight on the bottom end. The AKG’s lacked the fullness in the bass that the Nighthawks reproduced so easily, even with a headphone amp that adds a slight boost to the bottom frequencies. And the Nighthawks offered all the top end sparkle that is the hallmark of the AKG’s as well. When I look back in both my memory and my notes, I find that the Nighthawks had a more even presentation than any of the planar models I’d heard. Those headphones seemed, from what I remember and wrote down, to lack the overall evenness that is a trademark of the Nighthawks. Detail, both macro and micro, were less a part of the music and a tad more emphasized via the planar models than what the Nighthawks offered.
     
    To wrap up, for the $600 asking price of these groundbreaking headphones that Audioquest has created, the Nighthawks should be considered right at the top of the headphone pack, and a definite bargain. Sure, personal choice (and budget) will go a long way in deciding what pair of headphones become your long term companions, but most of the Nighthawks competition will come with a significantly higher cost and comfort level. DO NOT let their modest (by high end headphone standards) cause you to dismiss them as not being among the best available. Not only do the Audioquest Nighthawks offer sound that I found to be among the very best I’ve ever heard, but their comfort level as I wore them made me listen to entire albums when that wasn’t my initial plan – I just couldn’t stop myself. The music reproduced was simply too enjoyable to make me want to stop until the disc ended. And finding a top of the line headphone for the asking price of the Nighthawks, to me anyway, makes them a huge bargain and a must-audition before making any sort of final decision. Skylar Gray (the man behind the design of the Nighthawks) and Audioquest have created, with their first entry into this market, a unique pair of headphones that can compete with any on the market, and have done so in a way that is both totally different and yet eco-friendly. I think my search for my new reference headphones has ended. Suddenly, I’m grabbing my Nighthawks fully as often as I switch to my speakers when it comes to listening to music, so enjoyable are these new headphones from Audioquest. And that, my friends, was something totally unexpected, but a happily welcome outcome of this review. Kudos. 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. JMCIII
      Sergo9, COOL BEANS my friend!!! Glad you went into your audition with such an open mind, AND that you tried another very highly thought of pair of headphones too. Your ears (and head - gotta love how comfortable the NightHawks are as well as how good they sound) told you what worked for you. That's the way all decisions audio should be made. Are the NightHawks the BEST headphones out there? Who knows. They'll not be to everyone's taste, but that's OK. All I know is, to me, they surely rank among the very best.
      JMCIII, Aug 31, 2015
    3. KLJTech
      Very nice review! I see that the NightHawks use a driver that is very similar, though larger (50mm vs 40mm) to that of the B&W P7 (one of my most used cans) and I'm wondering if anyone has compared the two? If they sound better than the P7's I'm in. Obviously, there's more to a headphones sound than its driver. 
      KLJTech, Sep 1, 2015
    4. Francisk
      Francisk, Sep 8, 2015
  8. yage
    Hints of greatness
    Written by yage
    Published Aug 14, 2015
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Lush midrange, innovative earcup suspension system, fantastic build quality
    Cons - Somewhat closed sounding, slight boxiness to vocals on some material
    First off, thanks go to Todd the Vinyl Junkie for setting up the loaner program for the AudioQuest NightHawk headphones. It's a real treat to get to listen to new gear for only the cost of shipping (one-way, to boot).
     
    My first memories of AudioQuest (from here on, AQ) are related to my first, proper hi-fi. I scraped it together after I graduated from college and landed a decent job at the precipice of the tech meltdown with a company that fortunately weathered the storm. Credit must go to one of my classmates who, when asked about prospects with some of the more dodgy startups at a career fair in the spring replied, "I'm looking for something more reliable." That somehow made it past the more reptilian parts of my twenty-one year old brain. Of course it also propelled me on a path to spending inordinate amounts of money that no sane person would part with on stuff to play back music.
     
    In any case, that first hi-fi was wired with AQ Type 4 from a NAD integrated amplifier to a pair of Axiom Audio M3ti's. It was the most reasonable and seemingly cost-effective choice I had at the time. A good start, no doubt, but eventually supplanted by other more capable cabling, though not from the AQ family. In some ways, I feel like the NightHawk is at a similar point in its development as those AQ Type 4's - a harbinger of greater things to come.
     
    Description
     
    The AQ NightHawk is a semi-open, over-ear design. The glossy earcups are injection molded from a substance billed as 'Liquid Wood' that wouldn't look out of place in a modern luxury sedan. This allows the earcups to be shaped more along the contours of the human ear when placed against the head. On the outer surface, a diffusive grille that AQ says mimics the construction of butterfly wings lets air and sound escape without producing "standing waves and resonant colorations". The leather earpads are very comfortable and the miniature rubber cable earcup suspension system attached to hefty metal 'rings' ensures a evenly snug fit for all shapes of faces. The headband is a two-piece affair: a single, heavy gauge wire wrapped in braided nylon provides the clamping force, while a nylon and microfiber covered headband automagically stretches to the length of your noggin. Overall the build quality of the cans themselves are superb, nary a complaint about the look, feel, or weight.
     
    The NightHawk comes with two sets of cabling, both ending in stereo mini-jacks on one end and splitting into color coded mono mini-jacks for attachment to the earcups. A 1/4" silver-plated copper adapter is also included. The first set, according to the literature, is a mini version of their Castle Rock speaker cable made of "Solid Perfect-Surface Copper+ (PSC+) in a Double Star-Quad configuration". The second is a much thinner, generic looking cable for use in situations when the former might be abused. The PSC+ boasts silver plating on the jacks, while the generic one settles for gold plating. One quibble I had with the PSC+ cabling is that the plating on the stereo minijack as well as the 1/4" adapter seemed to look worn. All silver-plated jacks had developed a slight patina and glints of copper can be seen peeking through tiny gaps in the plating. Unfortunately, I can't say whether this is par for the course or if (how) it impacts performance.
     
    A nicely padded carrying case, cleaning cloth, and a one month free trial subscription to TIDAL rounds out the package.
     
    Listening
     
    When donning cans, I usually opt for open-back dynamic headphones, in my case a pair of Alessandro MS-1's that I've had for a decade and a half. I've had some experience with closed-back designs (cheap Sony's during my formative years and my wife's Sennheiser Momentum over-ears) and minimal time with planars / electrostats - mainly confined to Head-Fi meets or local audio shows. For critical listening, I have a pair of Etymotic ER-4S, but they bit the proverbial dust during a recent business trip. Mostly, I listen to my speaker setup (details below), so keep all those points in mind as I make the following comments. One other point is that being semi-open means that sound does leak out and it might not be apropos for all office settings.
     
    First, I cued up "What Kind of Man" from Florence + the Machine's latest album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (CD, Republic, B0023122-02). The track was eminently listenable, with Florence Welch's performance rendered with a fulsomeness that reminded me somewhat of a tube-like sonic signature. Yet I also detected a subtle touch of boxiness that colored her vocals, especially noticeable when she sang the word 'this'. I also felt that the sound was a little more closed off than I expected, with a slight bias towards the midrange that prevented the airiness from developing around performers and instruments. That being said, the kick drum after the opening refrain had real heft and authority with a tactile quality on the ear.
     
    The next selection was "Demons" from the album Trouble Will Find Me by The National (CD, 4AD, CAD3315CD). Here, frontman Matt Berninger's throaty baritone, as rendered by the NightHawk, had a velvety smoothness to it - a bit more 'chocolatey' than I'm used to. Drums had nice punch and slam. Once again, though, the sound lacked some openness, though the treble didn't seem to be soft. The NightHawk won't offer a large degree of low-level resolution that some listeners really crave, though it does imbue a warmish hue to the sound that can be equally addictive.
     
    Modern recordings can make it difficult to really explore the strengths and weaknesses of a system or a piece of kit. In that vein, I popped in Blue Train (CD, Blue Note, 53428) and navigated to the wonderful ballad "I'm Old Fashioned". Besides being a great tune, almost all of the artists get their turn in the spotlight, making it a good track for examining the performance of brass instruments and piano. The NightHawk acquitted itself decently, though not with quite the success on the previous material. Coltrane's sax, Fuller's trombone, and Morgan's trumpet were rendered with a lushness that, unfortunately, obscured the brassiness and microdynamics of each instrument. Chambers' bass, though satisfyingly weighty, also lost some body - the lower octaves now sounding a touch too ripe. The lack of fine detail muted the expressiveness of Kenny Drew's keyboard work by blunting the impact of the felt hammers on the strings. Perhaps a little bit of warmth goes a long way in this case.
     
    Finally, I swapped out jazz for classical with the finale of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 as performed by Earl Wild and the London Royal Philharmonic as conducted by Jascha Horenstein (CD, Chesky, CD2 A). The orchestra sounded big and bold with the NightHawks doing a convincing job of relaying the scale and depth of the work. Earl Wild's virtuosity is matched by the lushness of the midrange, though once again the bloom tended to remove any sense of airiness. The strings ended up a touch too rosiny, but the NightHawks served up macrodynamics in spades. Overall a generally pleasing presentation that did justice to the electric performance of Wild and the Royal Philharmonic.
     
    Conclusions
     
    At first blush, the NightHawk's sonic signature didn't exactly mesh with my initial expectations. But over time, it won me over with its lush midrange and non-fatiguing sound. These qualities were particularly welcome on modern recordings but became an Achilles' heel on other material. If your setup simply sounds too sterile and cold for your liking, the AQ NightHawk might just be the cure. At its price, though, one should expect reference-level sound quality which is where I feel the NightHawk falls short of the mark. It's a really fun headphone, but not necessarily one I'd like to get serious with. I think, though, that this is only one step forward of many. If true, I eagerly await the next version to make its landing.
     
     
    Associated Equipment
     
    Sources - Ayre C-5xeMP
    Amplification - CI Audio VHP-1 / VAC-1, Ayre AX-5 Twenty
    Loudspeakers - Vandersteen 3A Signature
    Interconnects - Analysis Plus Pro Oval Studio XLR, Blue Jeans LC-1
    Speaker cable - Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8
    Power - Bryston BIT-15
    1. View previous replies...
    2. leomitch
      @yage
       
      One month later I disagree even more. I think they have a reference grade (What exactly does that mean?) set of headphones already! I assume, silly me, that a reference grade headphone reproduces sound accurately, musically like live music in front of you...that is what I feel I have with the Nighthawks. I am not a recording engineering like my former pupil John Hill who does some fine engineering for Naxos from time to time and teaches sound engineering in Tennessee...I must ask him one day to listen to these headphones and see if he considers them worthy of the name 'reference grade'. Right now I believe he uses a couple of different Grados.
      I appreciate your opinions and views so many thanks for your fine efforts. I especially like 'chocolatey' as a descriptor. A new one for my vocab along with eye googles that I also picked up from another reviewer.
       
      Cheers mate
      Leo
       
      P.S. Howdo you like the Vandersteen 3A speakers. I have a friend with a pair and they are fine speakers indeed.
      leomitch, Sep 15, 2015
    3. yage
      @leomitch,
       
      What I consider to be 'reference grade' is that the headphone can be (reasonably) said to have uncolored sound. To me, small degrees of warmth or additional bass are fine. However, I don't feel that the tonal balance of the NightHawks captures the human voice accurately. There's an artificial 'chestiness' or 'boxiness' to vocals that's distracting and takes me out of the performance. I do think the NightHawks work great as a second pair of headphones - they have a fun sonic signature.
       
      I'd be interested in Mr. Hill's opinion. I too am partial to Grados, but do keep an open mind about other headphones. Even though it may not come across in the review, I was really excited to listen to the NightHawks and believe I gave them a fair shake. I tried my hardest to get them to sound their best on my kit, but unfortunately I just wasn't impressed with them in the end.
       
      p.s. Thanks for asking about the Vandy's! I like them a lot though they aren't much to look at.
      yage, Sep 15, 2015
    4. yage
      @KLJTech,
       
      The pair I received were part of the loaner program from TTVJ Audio so I can only assume they were already broken-in. (I believe I was fourth in line.) My ears / brain did get accustomed to their sound and I can see how some folks would really like them. As I wrote in my comments to @leomitch, I think the primary weakness of the NightHawks is in the reproduction of vocals. To my ears, they fell short in accurately portraying the human voice. This parameter, in my opinion, is absolutely critical for excellent performance, whether it's a headphone or loudspeaker regardless of price.
      yage, Sep 15, 2015
  9. Hisoundfi
    A warm and slightly dark first offering. The Audioquest Nighthawk semi-open Headphones
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Aug 4, 2015
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Spectacular build and design, Extremely comfortable, Easy to drive, Nice stock cable
    Cons - Dark sound signature, Needs EQ to control midbass response
    At the time of the review, the Audioquest Nighthawk headphone was on sale at TTJV Audio’s website. Here is a link to Todd’s listing of the product:
    20150803_205238.jpg
     
    http://www.ttvjaudio.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=nighthawk
     
    When Todd at TTVJ made an announcement that he would be touring the nighthawk, I jumped at the chance. This is a release I had been anticipating for a long time. One look at their sexy build combined with a company putting their name on it that is known for quality products like Audioquest, I knew I had to try them.
    20150803_222007.jpg
     
    The Audioquest package came in a black leather zipper case that housed the Nighthawk. In the package you get the Headphones, two cables, and a ¼ inch headphone plug adapter.  
    20150803_222454.jpg
     

    Features and Specs

    General
    Fit Style
    Over-the-ear
     
    Earcup Type
    Semi-open
     
    Noise-canceling
    No
     
    Bluetooth
    No
     
    Frequency Response
    Not Given
     
    Sensitivity
    100 dB
     
    Impedance
    25 Ohms
     
    Weight
    Not Given
     
    Cord Length
    96"
     
    Airline Adapter Included
    No
     
    iPod Control
    No
     
    Volume Control
    No
     
    Built-in Microphone
    No
     
    Parts Warranty
    1 year
     
    Labor Warranty
    1 year
     



     
    The Nighthawk features technology with terms like “split back motor” and “biocellulose diaphragm” as well as a bunch of other technological jargon that if I were to explain, I would be copying and pasting from their thread. So better yet, here is a link to the site so you can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:
     
    http://personal.audioquest.com/
     
    The Nighthawk looks awesome, even more awesome than I was expecting. Holding them in my hand for the first time, I spent a good ten minutes looking at all the high quality and very cool design features. Some things that stood out were the replaceable headband suspension system and the elastic bands that held the cups in place. Everything just flows, and the liquid wood cups are even sharper in person than in the pictures. It honestly reminds me of the wooden steering wheels used in top of the line luxury cars. The earpads are high quality memory foam and almost identical to my pair of Brainwavs HM5 replacement pads. The Nighthawk is lightweight and not bulky (think somewhere along the lines of the same bulk and weight of the Sennheiser HD600).
     
    Cable and Accessories
     
    The Nighthawk has two cables that are both about 8-9 feet in length. One is a lighter and thinner Kevlar wrapped cable that appears to be made of copper internals. The other cable is a much thicker and bulkier Kevlar wrapped and silver coated copper cable. Bouncing back and forth between cables I got a noticeable difference in sound quality, with the thinner cable being slightly warmer and less detailed.
    20150803_222739.jpg
     
    The cables on the nighthawk are Y-split to each channel with the connection at the housing consisting of 2.5 mm jacks on each side. With this design picking up a balanced cable shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  
     
    Cups and Headband
    20150803_222841.jpg
     
    The design and build of the Nighthawk is downright spectacular. Starting with the Liquid Wood cups, the design looks like it was made out of a dark lacquered burls. It is lightweight and has a polished finish. The cups appear to be a leather/protein pad with memory foam inside. The pads seal is excellent. On the outside of each cup there is a 3-D printed grill attached that gives Nighthawk it’s semi-open design. Attached to these grills are four rubber suspension attachments that attach the cups to the band.
     
    The headband of the Nighthawk has two components. One is a kevlar coated metal wire that basically holds the headphones into their shape. Inside of this is another leather band with what I assume is spandex on the inside. This allows the Headphone to suspend comfortably on my head and it is VERY comfortable.
    20150803_222925.jpg
     
    All in all the design is epic. They are pretty light and I can wear them for hours with no problem. If there is anything I might do with them if I owned a pair is I would probably purchase some HM-5 velour pads from Brainwavz to make them even more comfortable and cooler on my ears.
    20150803_223334_HDR.jpg
     
    Sound Review & Materials
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to asses and break down the gear’s response.
     
    Sound Signature
    This is going to be a love or hate sound signature for just about everyone. The first time I fired them up I was thoroughly disappointed in their sonic presentation. They sounded very dark and warm. At first listen I thought the treble was very shelved. The bass seemed to be very centered around midbass frequencies. I will admit though, once my ears adjusted to them there are some things about them that I enjoyed.
    After tinkering with my equalizer, applying various settings in an effort to optimize the sound quality of them to match my sound preference, I realized that the treble wasn’t shelved at all and there was plenty of low frequency beyond the midbass. At the end of the day the Nighthawk has WAY too much midbass and lower midrange for its own good. The forwardness of this range takes away from the rest of what they have to offer in my opinion. After lowering everything around the 300 Hz range about 5dB, what I heard was a completely different headphone with strong and extended bass response, airy midrange and clear and natural treble. With less midbass it is one of the best headphones I have ever heard, period. I get a grain free sound that is remarkable with this tweak. If you have a chance to try the Nighthawk, make sure to try this adjustment.
     
    Without the equalizer adjustment they are a very colored and what I would consider a darker sounding headphone with a very unique energy and soundstage presence.
     
    Audioquest set out to make a headphone that is virtually distortion free, and they accomplished this. The Nighthawk is a creamy sounding pair of cans with a fatigue free signature. One big positive is that you can really crank these things up and still enjoy them. You don’t ever feel like the treble gets too hot or fatiguing when the nighthawk is playing at louder volumes.
     
    Because most people will listen to these full size headphones in stock configuration, the sound remainder of the sound review will be done in stock form with no audio adjustments.
     
    Source Selection
    They are 25 Ohms so for a full size headphone so they are pretty easy to drive. If you have no other options a cell phone will work (though not ideal). They Nighthawk will sound sweet through a dedicated DAP like a Fiio X5, Ibasso DX90, or A&K AK240. Same for a desktop rig; The better the file and source the better they will sound, and remember you don’t need a ton of power to accomplish this. You can hook your high powered desktop tube amp up to it, you just won’t be turning it up very high I suppose.
     
    Bass
    These cans are midbass forward. There is no “bleed” and from what I hear there isn’t any distortion. The forward midbass just kind of lingers, resonates and shadows over the frequencies around it, making the overall presentation sound very colored. Some people are going to love it and others will probably dislike it for the same reason.
     
    Sub bass is there, but again it is overshadowed by the midbass forwardness. You will hear the sub bass if you listen for it, trust me. During James Blake’s “Limit to your Love” it hit every note with great speed and tone. It has low end extension and speed, but it takes back seat to the 300 Hz range.
     
    Midrange
    Again, the midrange is there and beautiful but the forward midbass kind of dictates the overall sound. Middle frequencies appear very forward in the lower midrange. Upper midrange takes a back seat to things like bass guitars and most male vocals. The tuning keeps things from seeming airy and open, but rather closed in and intimate.
     
    Vocals have plenty of weight, and some will consider it to be over the top. separation and detail are shadowed by colorful sound. They are there, but you have to listen really close to pick them out of the crowd.
     
    Treble
    The forwardness of the midbass and lower midrange make the treble appear to be shelved. Although this isn’t the case, they users will get a sense that they could use more treble to balance out the sound. Truth is it isn’t the treble that’s lacking, but more boosted lower frequencies that prevent a very nice treble response from coming through the way it could/should, depending on how you hear it.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    This is probably the most unique thing about the NIghthawk. While many semi open headphones give and open feel to their sound, I found the nighthawk to have more of a closed back sound. To my ears, everything seemed like it was playing in a small hall or cathedral. It was slightly unnatural but kind of cool with some tracks. Soundstage and imaging was different to say the least. It was like listening to my favorite musicians playing for me in an empty room. If this is something that sounds cool or appeals to you, definitely check them out.
     
    Comparisons
     
    Sennheiser HD600 ($275 to $350 USD on many sites)
    I dont know if you can get much different here. The HD600 is 320 Ohm and requires a powerful source to sound its best. They are a much colder and more open sounding headphone that focuses on detail and naturalness. Going back and forth the Nighthawk seems just the opposite, going for a more colored sound and intimate soundstage.
     
    The Nighthawk might actually be a great option for someone looking for something offsetting and  different from the HD600. I’ll give it to the NIghthawk, their build quality and comfort destroys the Sennheiser offering. Holding the two side by side, if people were forced to pick between the two without hearing them, the Nighthawk would probably get picked ninety nine times out of a hundred.
     
    AKG K7XX ($200 USD on Massdrop)
    The K7XX is a very balanced semi open headphone with a slightly boosted low end. The AKG sounds much faster and more linear than the Nighthawk. The AKG separation and airiness is superior. The Nighthawk opts for a warmer and fatigue free sound.
     
    One thing I will say is that in a matchup between these two, they are both VERY comfortable and I can wear either one all day with no problems.
     
    Conclusion
    The Nighthawk is a sexy looking headphone that is going to appeal to those looking for a warmer and darker sound than most of today’s high end headphone tunings. The build and appearance are spectacular. With an equalizer adjustment I was able to get some amazing sound quality geared for my preferences. Still, at the end of the day the Nighthawk didn’t wow me with their stock sound, probably because this isn’t my ideal tuning.
     
    I enjoyed my time being a part of this tour. Thank you Todd for donating your headphones for the sake of guys like me getting a chance to sample gear I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I look forward to sending these off to others and hear how their impressions line up or differ from mine. These are certainly going to be a controversial headphone that will strike a lot of conversation amongst the audiophile community.

    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      leobigfield, twister6 and Light - Man like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. LordToshiro
      I tried them in San Francisco with the Woo Portable, iFi micro iDSD, and with a Cavalli Liquid Crimson and I'm still not sure how I feel about them. It may have been the lack of hours, but I found them slightly bright. The comfort level was excellent and I could see wearing them for hours. The headband is well designed. I'm going to have to compare them to my HE-400i and the Ethers before deciding if I like them enough to buy a pair. 
      LordToshiro, Aug 4, 2015
    3. PDC3
      Very helpful review and the comparison to the AKG 7xx was a nice bonus.
      PDC3, Aug 4, 2015
    4. Francisk
      Francisk, Sep 8, 2015
  10. Mediahound
    Better than they should be for this price!
    Written by Mediahound
    Published Aug 2, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great comfort & design overall nice sound liquid signature
    Cons - None!
    INTRO
    I purchased these headphones on a whim out of curiosity as the design looked really cool and also I wanted to see what Audioquest might be thinking with their first foray in to headphones because frankly, I often don't know what they are thinking with regards to some of their mega over the top expensive cables like $7,000 power cables and $3,000 ethernet cables. Seriously?

    COMFORT & DESIGN
    The design and comfort of the Nighthawk headphones are surprisingly one of the best I've ever encountered in any headphones. These require no adjusting at all and I feel I could wear them all day and be comfortable as long as I took breaks for my hearing. The self-adusting headband is very similar to what you find on AKG 702 headphones for example. The "liquid wood" earcups are beautiful. The protein leather earpads are very plush and seem to fit over my ear without any discomfort. Each earpad is suspended in its own suspension system which also helps them remain comfortable around your ears and to acoustically de-couple them from the headband structure.

    SOUND
    I purchased these headphones on a whim, given my penchant for smooth laid-back headphones (I dislike any bright headphones as my hearing is quite sensitive to treble). With this regard, these headphones sound great since the treble is quite laid back and yummy. The midrange and bass is what is pronounced with the Nighthawks, with impactful bass but not overly so so as to interfere with the midrange. The mids are quite forward which gives a tube-like sound signature. And, these are soothing to you ears. No listening fatigue at all, really like a breath of fresh air, even after a long listening session. Amazing for treble sensitive folks like me.

    I wish the Nighthawk had a higher Ohm rating (they are 25 Ohm) since they are almost too sensitive to use with some headphone amps although if you are not using these with an amp, I suppose this is a good trait. These still benefit from some amping however sound generally fine directly out of my iPhone.

    INCLUDED CABLES
    2 headphone cables are included in the box, which also doubles as the foam lined/padded case for the headphones. One of these cables seems nice and is solid copper PSC+ conductors in a star quad architecture, like a mini Audioquest Castle Rock speaker cable! This is the one you're really supposed to use; it seems of an appropriate thickness for a headphone cable, but the other included cable seems like a bit of a joke. It's extremely thin and cheapy feeling. I didn't even try listening to it but Audioquest has stated this one is more durable so I suppose that is the one to use if you are using the headphones while out and about.

    BALANCED UPDATE
    I have now had the opportunity to run the Nighthawk's in balanced mode as Audioquest will make you a balanced cable, just contact a dealer. They became less muddy and more open in the soundstage!

    AUDIOQUEST AS A COMPANY
    All this being said, with my engineering background, I just can't get over my differences with the Audioquest company regarding their marketing/selling of cables such as a  $2,700. HDMI cable or a $380 ethernet cable.  Seriously? Anyone with the least bit of knowledge of digital signals will tell you that there is zero measured or perceived difference in signal quality with these super expensive over the top cables.

    I cannot fully trust Audioquest because of this yet I believe they have a winner with the Nighthawks.
      Hawaiibadboy and Light - Man like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Venere 2
      Yes, he had "Made in China" listed in the cons. He removed it once people commented on it… Now he says "Where did I state that?"
      LOL! This guy probably writes everything in pencil, just in case...
      Venere 2, Aug 3, 2015
    3. bracko
      OK. You compared a $600 can to LCD-3 ($3200), and gave the cheaper headphone three stars for having grainy sound (compared to LCD-3?). That doesn't make any sense. If anything this hp deserves a better rating because of their good performance at its own price level (as you stated in the review). This can should be compared to the cans at or below it's price point and be given grade relative to those cans, not a can costing 5 times more. 
      bracko, Aug 3, 2015
    4. Mediahound
      I've now updated my review and rating  to include some further impressions with running these balanced. Definitely improved the sound. 
      Mediahound, Sep 25, 2015