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AudioQuest NightOwl - A closed-back NightHawk

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by xero1, Aug 14, 2016.
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  1. FireLion
    Why does it seem to detailed is it all mods and upper mods I hear? It's enjoyable to me but the Frequency Police were kicking and hissing at me lol.

    Anyone know the hybrid pads affect the FR?
  2. PinkyPowers
    It sounds detailed because the high frequencies are still there, just tuned down in the mix to achieve a smoother, warmer sound.
    FireLion likes this.
  3. Darksoul
    I'm really liking the Nightowls, I got them to complement my T1.1 and they are doing exactly that, warmer sound signature with enough detail. I read everything about the Nightowl on their webpage, and I must say, everything Audioquest said they would do, they delivered. Expansive sound? Check, details with no treble exaggeration? Check, extended and controlled low end? Check! I'm no believer of burn in however, when I got them; fresh out of the box, I ran them through my usual battery of songs. To me there are two songs that either sell me or break the headphones, Luminol by Steven Wilson and Caves of Altamira. And at first, the Nightowls nailed Luminol but failed on Caves of Altamira, they were just too freaking hot, that song tends to run hot on the Hi-hat (which seems to be at odds with my initial comment about the lack of treble exageration), the headphones I keep are the ones who can pull of Bernard Purdie Hi-hat without murdering me with treble.

    On the first day I couldn't stand Caves of Altamira with the Nightowl, a week later, the treble wasn't killing me anymore. Mind you, the Nightowl still runs a bit hot on that particular song, I'm hoping it becomes better.

    These are really source dependent, my main drivers for over a year were the T1.1 with Auteur pads. All my chain was specifically chosen to "deal" with the Beyerdynamic house sound. So my DAC and AMP, tend to be dark. I have a Chord Hugo and a Violectric V200, that combo does wonders for my T1.1, it aces Caves of Altamira, proper treble there but I found the bass too timid at times, still excellent bass but I just wanted it more extended. And the Nightowls are doing the bass extension I was looking for, however a pair of already dark headphones on a "dark" chain, makes them almost nebulous, after certain sound volume the haze goes away, maybe more power serves them better?.

    The NO on my WM1A single ended; I'm yet to buy a balanced cable for them, doesn't sound as dark as on my desktop and I found the sound on the WM1A less...aggressive, but still very pleasing. Running it from a cellphone, it's all right, but my cellphone is not my music station.

    Overall, I'm liking the Nightowls so far. They really are the yin to my yang. But it's probably the darkest headphone I'm willing to own, darker than this is just a no-go for me. For quite a while I ogled the Fostex TH-900, but a change in my finances forced me to aim less higher, that's where also the Nightowls came into play. Anyone who has auditioned the TH-900 and Nightowls care to elaborate in their experience? I heard the Campfire Vega have a "similar" signature to TH-900 and my Vega compared with the Nightowl, I tend to prefer the Vega signature more, commanding bass but less hazy. If the TH-900 are indeed that similar to the Vega, when I'm able I would find my Nightowl a new home and go for the TH-900. But it's going to a while before that happens.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
  4. phthora
    To me the NO is a gentle \-shaped sound. Bass is warm and extended with good impact. Mids are a bit recessed from there, but lush and well-detailed. Treble drops off even more, giving cymbals a solid fundamental tone, but less shimmer and air. Surprisingly, they have great soundstage. I'm being brief here, because you own them.

    By contrast, the 900 has huge impact and presence in the bass, but it's also controlled and textured (though not to the level of a good planar). It's addictive, thrilling, and visceral. To me, it's the absolute pinnacle of dynamic driver bass, and the NO simply doesn't compete in this regard. The mid-bass, surprisingly, doesn't bleed into the mids very much at all, certainly less than the NO. Mids are clean and clear, with detail and realism. In my opinion, they don't live up to the price-tag, but they are still quite good. They are, of course, a bit recessed given the hard V-shape of the sound signature, but they are present. If that were all there was to sound, the 900 would be an easy recommendation over the NO. The problem is that the treble of the 900 has a peak in it that is absolutely searing. Where cymbals tend to sound like a cowbell on the NO, they sound like water being thrown into a hot skillet on the 900. Certain frequencies border on being unbearable. It needs some kind of tuning pad to go along with it. Unfortunately, measurements do not do justice in revealing this treble issue. Even if you can handle that treble, the result is still a wildly unbalanced sound signature. It has its charms to be sure, but it is certainly not an all-rounder as it tends to make all music sound like EDM.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
    THGM, Hi-Fi EDU, trellus and 3 others like this.
  5. Darksoul
    Thank you for that amazing reply. Hmmm, guess the TH-900 is going to stay on my "Must listen, but not own" list.
  6. phthora
    You're welcome. Personally, I've never heard a Fostex I didn't want to own. Just some I didn't want to pay for. :sweat_smile:

    At $800, I would buy a TH900 and be thrilled. But, at $1500, there are just too many other options that are way better to my ears.

    If you have a chance to, you should audition a pair. That bass is otherworldly. But a blind buy is risky.
  7. emeline
    Could you say where you saw the hybrid pads available? I'd love to get them for my pair. If anyone else has bought them recently in Europe or the US please let me know where, it would make the search easier :) Thank you!
  8. CaptainFantastic
    They are in fact gone forever.
  9. 486930
    Hi guys,

    Just bought a used pair of Nightowls. Is there any consensus on which amp to use with them at around 500$? I’m thinking about about either a Lyr 3, Jotunheim or Asgard. Or maybe a Cavalli CTH?

    I will use the Owls in my vinyl rig. Any advice is most welcome
  10. PinkyPowers
    Considering how smooth and warm NO is, I would recommend going for the most clear and dynamic sounding amp, to get the best out of them. I would be weary of pairing NO with an amp that shares its tonal characteristics. You don't want them to sound veiled.

    Sadly, I can't give you first hand experience from either of those you mentioned. But I just reviewed the XDuoo TA-20, and while it has some warmth and smoothness, it's transparent enough that NO works beautifully with it. Also, unlike the Cavalli, it's a true balanced.

    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
    trellus and SteveOliver like this.
  11. elira
    I use the Gilmore Lite mk2 with mine and it pairs really well.
  12. 486930
    Thank you. I’ll start investigating. Right now I’m leaning towards the Asgard 3 with multi bit
  13. PinkyPowers
    I thought you said you were looking for an amp for your vinyl collection. In which case, a DAC is a complete waste of your money.
  14. 486930
    Oh sure, the amp will mostly allow me to listen to records when my wife binges Netflix. But the integrated DAC is too convenient to pass up
  15. PinkyPowers
    I understand. If you're actually going to use the DAC portion, then of course it's not a waste. It's just that is an important factor you left out of your request for recommendations.
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