AudioQuest NightHawk Impressions and Discussion Thread
Aug 28, 2015 at 1:28 AM Post #166 of 9,948

Luckbad

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  Okay... so I have never ready so many varying impressions/reviews on one headphone before.  Especially none that I would use to describe the pair I have listened to.  Could it be that there's a good deal of variation between each NightHawk or is its sound just that rig-dependent?!  

 
Nah, I hear everything everyone is saying. It's a unique signature, and people who consider the bright, detailed headphones like the HD800 to be their ideal for clarity are not going to like the Nighthawk. It's a much smoother, more reserved headphone. It reveals detail in a different way from other cans I've used and can feel dull with some songs or genres.
 
I've tried them through 4 different amps and 4 different dacs, and the Nighthawks are always in the same ballpark.
 
What I like about them is that they cause absolutely no fatigue while still allowing you to focus on the different elements of a song if you choose to. They also provide a more enjoyable listening experience to me for certain genres (like jazz) than other headphones, while being less engaging for other genres (electronic) than some of my headphones.
 
People are always going to love or hate the Nighthawk, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I can't stand bright headphones because I'm treble-sensitive, nor can I listen to headphones without meaty bass. That means I loathe some flagships, but I can enjoy the Nighthawk.
 
Aug 28, 2015 at 1:39 AM Post #167 of 9,948

mrscotchguy

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Nah, I hear everything everyone is saying. It's a unique signature, and people who consider the bright, detailed headphones like the HD800 to be their ideal for clarity are not going to like the Nighthawk. It's a much smoother, more reserved headphone. It reveals detail in a different way from other cans I've used and can feel dull with some songs or genres.
 
I've tried them through 4 different amps and 4 different dacs, and the Nighthawks are always in the same ballpark.
 
What I like about them is that they cause absolutely no fatigue while still allowing you to focus on the different elements of a song if you choose to. They also provide a more enjoyable listening experience to me for certain genres (like jazz) than other headphones, while being less engaging for other genres (electronic) than some of my headphones.
 
People are always going to love or hate the Nighthawk, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I can't stand bright headphones because I'm treble-sensitive, nor can I listen to headphones without meaty bass. That means I loathe some flagships, but I can enjoy the Nighthawk.

Fair enough.  I will be honest.  I like the sound the most driven directly from my Note 3, running spotify.  I haven't heard such a comfortable setup that wow'd me that much without needing a bulky rig.  It was fun running them balance from my AGD 10.33
 
Aug 28, 2015 at 1:51 AM Post #168 of 9,948

bracko

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Audioquest woodoo 
smily_headphones1.gif

 
Aug 28, 2015 at 3:38 AM Post #169 of 9,948

Solrighal

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Yep, they even sell interconnects that require a battery which keeps a signal running through the wires at all times so the cable is always burned in...

 
 
You know, I actually went to their site to see if this was true or not
wink_face.gif

 
After their notorious claims (not to mention pricing) regarding digital cables I could believe anything.
 
Aug 28, 2015 at 8:31 AM Post #170 of 9,948

JMCIII

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  Anybody interested in the Nighthawks should read John Crossett's review of them.  I think he nailed their unique character.  I don't have a link for the review handy, but maybe John can post it here if he sees this.  The Nighthawks are very musical headphones that go about things in a very different way from most cans.  It may very well be a love or hate thing.  I also think you'd need to stick with them for awhile in order to "learn" them.

 
 
You can find it under the "Head Gear" heading above. Just go to over ear headphones, pick to list alphabetically, and on page 10 is the NightHawks. My review is there.
 
And thanks greggf, appreciate your kind words.
 
Aug 30, 2015 at 9:47 AM Post #171 of 9,948

JMCIII

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Here is a something for all the anti cable burn-in folks out there..... I had to replace the cable to my NightHawks recently and the replacement cable came the other day. I took the old, well burned-in cable out and replaced it with the brand new, completely unprepared replacement cable. And you know what? The sound I'd fallen in love with simply disappeared. Gone. Suddenly everything was bland, squashed together, with no depth or soundstage and little detail. The bass was woolly and indistinct. But I'm willing to bet that after 150 to 200 hours of burn-in, my NightHawks will return to sounding just as good as they ever did. So, having experienced it now first hand, I can say with certainty that both the headphones AND the cables need full burn-in to sound like the reference class headphones the NightHawks are.
 
But that's just me. Please feel free to disagree. All I know is, I HEARD IT FOR MYSELF!
 
Aug 30, 2015 at 12:17 PM Post #172 of 9,948

Jackson9696

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Here is a something for all the anti cable burn-in folks out there..... I had to replace the cable to my NightHawks recently and the replacement cable came the other day. I took the old, well burned-in cable out and replaced it with the brand new, completely unprepared replacement cable. And you know what? The sound I'd fallen in love with simply disappeared. Gone. Suddenly everything was bland, squashed together, with no depth or soundstage and little detail. The bass was woolly and indistinct. But I'm willing to bet that after 150 to 200 hours of burn-in, my NightHawks will return to sounding just as good as they ever did. So, having experienced it now first hand, I can say with certainty that both the headphones AND the cables need full burn-in to sound like the reference class headphones the NightHawks are.

But that's just me. Please feel free to disagree. All I know is, I HEARD IT FOR MYSELF!


I believe you because I recently tried the thicker cable for the first time with the silver conductors and it sounded just like you just discribed, mushy and undefined. Then I switched back to the thinner cable which probably has about 60hrs of burn in and it sounds absolutely amazing now! Never believed that cables really made a difference until now.
 
Aug 30, 2015 at 12:28 PM Post #173 of 9,948

JMCIII

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While we've both heard the differences, I'm sure those who don't believe will counter with unsubstantiated viewpoints, measurements and/or graphs to show how it can't be possible. Ah well, to each their own. All I know is what my ears tell me, and that is that the cables that come with the NightHawks need fully the same burn-in as the headphones if you want them to
Sound their best.
 
Aug 30, 2015 at 3:17 PM Post #174 of 9,948

Solrighal

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  Here is a something for all the anti cable burn-in folks out there..... I had to replace the cable to my NightHawks recently and the replacement cable came the other day. I took the old, well burned-in cable out and replaced it with the brand new, completely unprepared replacement cable. And you know what? The sound I'd fallen in love with simply disappeared. Gone. Suddenly everything was bland, squashed together, with no depth or soundstage and little detail. The bass was woolly and indistinct. But I'm willing to bet that after 150 to 200 hours of burn-in, my NightHawks will return to sounding just as good as they ever did. So, having experienced it now first hand, I can say with certainty that both the headphones AND the cables need full burn-in to sound like the reference class headphones the NightHawks are.
 
But that's just me. Please feel free to disagree. All I know is, I HEARD IT FOR MYSELF!

 
What do you propose is happening over those 150 to 200 hours then?
 
Aug 30, 2015 at 6:38 PM Post #176 of 9,948
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What do you propose is happening over those 150 to 200 hours then?

Though we use the term "burn-in" when speaking of cable, it's not technically correct. Nevertheless, we use this term for lack of a more concise, relatable description.
 
What we are really dealing with is temporary dielectric forming or conditioning if you like.
 
In a perfect world, the insulators used in our cables would all have a relative permittivity (used to be called "dielectric constant") of 1. Materials with higher relative permittivities (signified by the symbol "
εr
") generally perform worse as insulators. Example
ε
values for common materials: PE = 2.25, rubber = 7, water ~80 (very temperature dependent). Air is very nearly 1.0 and is theoretically considered the best insulator/dielectric for cables; however, it is practically impossible to implement a 100% air insulator in a cable, but we can get close.
 
What this all means is that even great insulators in cables such as PE or Teflon have dielectric properties, absorbing energy from adjacent conductors and releasing the energy back into the conductor over time. This has been described as having a "smearing" effect on the signal as the amount of energy varies with frequency, and the time delay of absorption and release varies with frequency. Typically, dielectrics with higher 
ε
values will introduce more signal distortion. 
 
As a cable is used constantly over time, the dielectric insulators are polarized on a molecular level by current passing through the conductors. Eventually, the insulator's molecules become organized so that the so-called "smearing" effects are diminished. The absorption and release of energy by the dielectric is now more uniform. This dielectric conditioning can take days or weeks depending upon many factors such as conductor size/material, dielectric size/material, overall geometry, current, temperature, etc. Here is an excerpt from AQ's Dielectric Bias System technical paper:

 
 
Unlike mechanical burn-in of a car engine or a loudspeaker or NightHawk's drivers, the dielectric in a cable can return back to it's original, unorganized state after a few days or weeks of non-use. This is why "burn-in" or "break-in" does not tell the whole story in regards to cable. We recommend an initial two weeks of constant use to ensure the cable's dielectric insulation is at optimal conditioning. Further, a cable should be kept in frequent (not necessarily constant) use to ensure it remains in its optimal performance condition.
 
As a cable company, it is AQ's job to literally obsess over these small details. In our world it is the culmination of myriad small details which makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. We find dielectric performance critical to what we do.
 
That said, the importance of these phenomena are up to the individual listener to decide.
 
Aug 30, 2015 at 8:49 PM Post #178 of 9,948

Oregonian

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  Though we use the term "burn-in" when speaking of cable, it's not technically correct. Nevertheless, we use this term for lack of a more concise, relatable description.
 
What we are really dealing with is temporary dielectric forming or conditioning if you like.
 
In a perfect world, the insulators used in our cables would all have a relative permittivity (used to be called "dielectric constant") of 1. Materials with higher relative permittivities (signified by the symbol "
εr
") generally perform worse as insulators. Example
ε
values for common materials: PE = 2.25, rubber = 7, water ~80 (very temperature dependent). Air is very nearly 1.0 and is theoretically considered the best insulator/dielectric for cables; however, it is practically impossible to implement a 100% air insulator in a cable, but we can get close.
 
What this all means is that even great insulators in cables such as PE or Teflon have dielectric properties, absorbing energy from adjacent conductors and releasing the energy back into the conductor over time. This has been described as having a "smearing" effect on the signal as the amount of energy varies with frequency, and the time delay of absorption and release varies with frequency. Typically, dielectrics with higher 
ε
values will introduce more signal distortion. 
 
As a cable is used constantly over time, the dielectric insulators are polarized on a molecular level by current passing through the conductors. Eventually, the insulator's molecules become organized so that the so-called "smearing" effects are diminished. The absorption and release of energy by the dielectric is now more uniform. This dielectric conditioning can take days or weeks depending upon many factors such as conductor size/material, dielectric size/material, overall geometry, current, temperature, etc. Here is an excerpt from AQ's Dielectric Bias System technical paper:

 
 
Unlike mechanical burn-in of a car engine or a loudspeaker or NightHawk's drivers, the dielectric in a cable can return back to it's original, unorganized state after a few days or weeks of non-use. This is why "burn-in" or "break-in" does not tell the whole story in regards to cable. We recommend an initial two weeks of constant use to ensure the cable's dielectric insulation is at optimal conditioning. Further, a cable should be kept in frequent (not necessarily constant) use to ensure it remains in its optimal performance condition.
 
As a cable company, it is AQ's job to literally obsess over these small details. In our world it is the culmination of myriad small details which makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. We find dielectric performance critical to what we do.
 
That said, the importance of these phenomena are up to the individual listener to decide.


That's the first scientific explanation I've read that seems to makes sense.  Thank you Skylar................
 
Aug 31, 2015 at 4:20 AM Post #179 of 9,948

Solrighal

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That's the first scientific explanation I've read that seems to makes sense.  Thank you Skylar................

 
+1
 
I'd still like to hear this effect for myself.
 
Aug 31, 2015 at 1:22 PM Post #180 of 9,948

inthere

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Uh oh, just put Alpha pads on my Nighthawks and the soundstage improved significantly
 

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