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AudioQuest NightHawk Impressions and Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by ghostchili, Jan 7, 2015.
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  1. ghostchili
    I'm looking forward to hearing some Impressions on the NightHawks. The only person I know that's had time with them is Jude. Hopefully they show up at CES and we can get some initial thoughts/comparisons. I have some on order and will post my findings as soon as I can.
  2. chowmein83
    Ok guys, I have yet another set of impressions from CES, this time for the Nighthawk. I've also posted this in the other (larger) thread for the Nighthawk.
    I listened to the Nighthawk connected to an Oppo HA-1 amp/DAC combo, as well as to an HTC One smartphone.
    I'm just going to say this right off the bat - I don't particularly care for the Nighthawk. It's not that it's bad, but to me it does not stand out among the competition at the price point it will be in (I believe $700).
    Bass is only good, but not great. There's lots of it, but I don't feel it is particularly well-controlled, and to me it doesn't extend very deep (at least not as deep as some of the planars I have heard, including the Hifiman HE-400i and up or even my modded Fostex T50RP). The bass does not bleed into the mids.
    Mids are good, but nothing home to write about. They're clear, and they are present, but I'm not sure if I could write anything else about them. Highs are also clear (very much so), but once again to me unremarkable (especially compared to something like the Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI, which is extremely detailed and realistic without being harsh). Highs are not harsh however, being relatively smooth. The Nighthawk can keep up in fast-paced and complicated music, but it's not the best I have heard in this department. The Nighthawk is relatively airy, but you won't mistake it for a open headphone. To me, the mids and highs are clear but seem a bit sterile, and just seem to lack that realism factor that I find with other great headphones (I don't know if it is because the mids and highs seem to lack a bit of weight, or what, but I just don't feel like I'm there in the performance as much as with other headphones).
    There also seems to be some kind of subtle weird colorations going on in the mids and highs - for example, some brass instruments would occasionally sounded a bit off to me when I listened to the Nighthawk.
    Soundstage is ok. I can definitely say that you won't get a holographic presentation with the Nighthawk - it's very clear that you're still listening to a headphone. The Nighthawk's soundstage is not particularly wide - maybe a bit bigger than the HD650, but still falls a bit short of my modded T50RP, and is definitely smaller than my HE-400i's. Imaging is decent, as there doesn't seem to be any "holes" in its soundstage, but to me it's not as precise as say, the Sennheiser HD650 and HD598. Very disappointing to me though was the lack of depth in the Nighthawk's soundstage. It pretty much has no depth at all. (I know that semi-open headphones can at least have some depth to their soundstage, like I have discovered with my modded T50RP).
    I feel that overall, the Nighthawk has a slightly V-shaped sound signature. You have a lot of bass and you have those clear highs, but mids aren't particularly recessed. Maybe I'm just not a fan of this sound signature.
    Comfort is good on this headphone. The suspension headband does its job well in distributing weight across your head. It's not particularly heavy overall among all headphones, but it's definitely not as much as a featherweight as Sennheisers are.
    Overall, while the Nighthawk isn't bad in any area, I don't feel that it particularly stands out either. With other great headphones, I can name some particular aspect(s) that really captured my attention, but I can't do so with the Nighthawk. For example, using the headphones that I heard at CES, the Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI at $700 does particularly well with presenting an extremely detailed, clear, and realistic (especially with brass instruments) treble. The Sony MDR-Z7 at MSRP $700 (street price lower than that) sounds particularly airy for a closed headphone (I actually think somewhat airier than the Nighthawk, which seems to be semi-open), and strikes a nice balance between being detailed enough and being (somewhat) warm, alluring, and relaxing (non-fatiguing) in its sound signature. My Hifiman HE-400i at $500 has extremely good quality bass that digs deep and is well-controlled, and has some of the best mids that I have heard. But I can't find a single aspect of the Nighthawk that is particularly noteworthy to me.
    gelocks, nicolo, Thenewguy007 and 2 others like this.
  3. ghostchili
    Thanks for the review. I really hope these can compete with the Audeze EL-8. The Nighthawks look great! Do you think a different amp would help?
    b3wannabe likes this.
  4. kbuzz
    Having always sort of not been able to take audioquest cables seriously a their price point because of their huge advertising budget.....im curious about these
  5. coletrain104
    I haven't heard these, but I'm wondering if they went too far for mass appeal to audiophiles without hitting any specific place in the market. Semi-open means they won't make a good portable, so if they're for desktop use, why not make them fully open? They hit a mid-range price with what others are reporting as an inoffensive but not standout sound signature. I'm still waiting to see what other headphones they release (they mention online that the nighthawk is meant to be the first in a line of audioquest headphones, no mention as to whether future releases are higher end or lower end).
  6. lextek Contributor
    Any news on these?
  7. Joeybgood
    I am new to the wide, wonderful world of HeadFi and thus do not have a great deal of exposure to hifi level cans as of yet. I DID , however, attend Music Matters event this past week  in which a Rep from AudioQuest was on hand to allow folks to audition the Nighthawks. I read a review on here that described the headphones as "no one aspect of the headphones stood out to me". I would agree with that but not in a negative way.  no ONE aspect did , necessarily, stand out because I felt all aspects were consistently good and equal. I thought they sounded extremely balanced , warm with a very rich and detailed sound reproduction. I didn't want to take them off my head. They were very light on the noggin and SO comfortable. One could easily wear these for a very long listening session without any discomfort. Again , I am not experienced in the arena of Hifi cans, but I DO know when something sounds good and pleasing and these definitely DID. On a production note, the Rep(I forget his name) stated that the generally anticipated release date of late March/early April is unlikely. The manufacturer of the ear cups is wanting to do 10+ step procedure of lacquer/polish that he states is WAY too time consuming and would necessitate a considerable price increase so that is a big snag for them. The other is something to do with the cable/cord not being sturdy enough. This issue IS close to being remedied apparently. So that's what I know. Take it for what its worth from a very nube headfi member!! Hope it is at least somewhat helpful. Regards, Joe
  8. SkylarGray
    Thanks for sharing your NightHawk experience. This is high praise for us since what you describe is perfectly in line with our goals for NightHawk. Instead of just doing one thing really well, we designed NightHawk to do everything really well: sound signature balance, technical performance, ergonomics, aesthetic appeal, and emotional engagement — all while representing outstanding value.

    As it turns out, the production information that you received from our rep is not accurate, so I would like to clarify.

    During the 2+ years of development on NightHawk, we have iterated the design and specifications of every part dozens — and in some cases hundreds — of times in order to arrive at a final product that is durable, acoustically optimal, beautiful, environmentally sustainable, and of high technical excellence. Both the earcup clear-coat process and cable have been subjected to the same scrutiny, thought, and care.

    Our earcup coating has turned out to be quite special. We have been working with our USA-based supplier to develop a durable, custom coating that has near-zero emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Compared to traditional lacquers, varnishes, and poly finishes, our coating is environmentally sustainable and, just as importantly, not a health hazard for the technicians who apply it. We have never considered manufacturing NightHawk with a 10+ step lacquer/polish procedure. Furthermore, our costs have not been a driving factor in NightHawk development. This has been a liberating experience for me, since I have been able to research materials, designs, and processes where cost is no barrier. Our final earcup coating is actually quite expensive (approaching printer ink), but this has no impact on the retail pricing.

    Similarly, the NightHawk cable is in the process of refinement and preparation for mass production. This is something that all of our cables (and other products for that matter) undergo. The nature of manufacturing at high scale means that new processes must be invented that differ from those used to build prototypes and samples. In other words, the challenges of making 100 of something increase exponentially as production is scaled up to tens or hundreds of thousands. This is our current development stage: refining our processes so that we can build NightHawk at high scale. Ultimately, we won't ship until everything meets our elevated standards—even if that means delays.
    Jimmy Gazelle likes this.
  9. Joeybgood
    You're very welcome Skylar. It was certainly my pleasure to audition them. They are a truly special pair of cans.  So does this mean I get the "thanks for your kind words" discount when they become available? :wink: Thank you for the production update. I'm very anxiously awaiting their release. Best regards, Joe
  10. paulchiu
    What class of cables will NightHawk use?  Carbon, Green, Diamond, ...?
  11. SkylarGray
    Perhaps classes of Forest (green), Carbon, or Diamond are not entirely appropriate for NightHawk's cable since these are names we reserve for digital cable.
    The closest comparison is Castle Rock from our Flat Rock speaker cable lineup. If you are familiar with our product lines, you will know that this is a serious cable!
    Solid PSC+ conductors, double star-quad geometry, and a noise-dissipation system are all commonalities between Castle Rock and NightHawk's cable. It is essentially a miniature loudspeaker cable; after all, NightHawk is designed in many ways like two miniature loudspeakers.
    JMCIII, paulchiu, Mediahound and 2 others like this.
  12. GCTD
    Would you be able to adopt the eco-friendly and sustainable production of Nighthawk Headphone to a Planar Magnetic technology headphone should you choose to do so? 
  13. Sound Eq
    i look forward to reading more impressions
  14. SkylarGray
    There is no reason that the materials and design philosophy behind NightHawk couldn't also be applied to a planar.
    At this point, however, I have no plans to do a planar since I think there are inherent disadvantages compared to dynamic drivers. For instance, to achieve bass extension, the diaphragm must be very large, necessitating larger/more magnets as well. So there is a weight and size advantage to dynamic headphones in that these can almost always be less. Also, planar diaphragm movement is quite limited, so dynamic range impact will be inferior, in my opinion, to moving coil drivers which can have high excursion. Further, the motion of the super-thin planar membrane can never be pistonic and will inherently exhibit modal break-ups and irregular behavior as it constantly flexes. And because the diaphragm must be tensioned, there will be an unavoidable resonance coloration based on this tension. Then we have the problem of magnets obstructing the wavefront, which regardless of how these elements are shaped or contoured will present another type of coloration. There are also pressure issues with the front cavity which can be fatiguing over time and require more audio quality compromises to overcome. The list goes on. There are many problems with planars that either don't exist with dynamics or can be fairly easily avoided without making serious concessions from a design and audio quality perspective.
    Plus, there is a lot of ground that can be broken with regards to dynamic drivers in headphones via new materials and designs. Right now at AQ, we are researching and developing all kinds of cool stuff that will show up within the next 5 years and, I think, push the state of headphone design even further.
  15. GCTD
    This gets me even more excited about the Nighthawk.
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