I got a chance to demo the Audioquest Nighthawk at my local Audio Advice, but my overall consensus isn’t an overwhelming positive one. I don’t think the headphones are bad per se, but they definitely don’t measure up to their NightOwl sibling.
Let’s get into the specifics.
On a positive note, the build quality here is just as good as the NightOwl, and continues in the same vein. We’ve got plush protein leather padding, a hammock style headband that is just fabulous, and that same liquid wood material that feels durable in the hand. I would feel pretty comfortable dropping these, and could see them lasting a long time with proper care.
Comfort here is phenomenal. I didn’t have to adjust or take them off once, and the Hawk is the type of headphone that you could theoretically wear all day and all night with minimal adjustment. A numbah one!
The sound is where they fall short of the Owl. With the Owl, the bass knew it’s place, had thump, but wasn’t muddy or overblown at any point in time. The Hawk’s bass is heavier, but it has less clarity and more pure slam. This sounds good in theory, but it just doesn’t measure up.
There’s something odd going on in the mid-bass for sure, as it’s kind of muddy and gets in the way of the mid-range. If you’ll recall this graph from Tyll over at Innerfidelity, you can kind of see a couple of odd humps between 100 and 200 Hz. It’s very subtle, but after awhile listening, you can kind of pick up on the unnatural character the mid bass gives off.
What’s odd is that the NightOwl’s actually have a similar signature and mid-bass bump, but to me they don’t sound too needle like or punchy. They sound more natural and articulate. Go figure.
The mid-range on the Hawk also seems kind of subdued, and dare I say strained. Ty’lls graph also reveals that, as it takes an almost nose dive below flat. Bleh.
To sum up, the NightHawk is plenty warm and pretty clean, but in a very unnatural way. Something about it’s signature just doesn’t feel right, and it fails to strike any of right chords with me. I would classify the sound as a bit brittle, with lots of boom but little clarity. Oh well.
Extremely comfortable. Keeps in the vein of the NightOwl.
Durable and good construction. I would be okay dropping these.
Hammock headband. Extremely convenient.
Mid-bass. The bass kind of jabs at you at times, and doesn’t feel articulate or natural.
They aren’t going to need an amp, but do benefit from one as the sound reaches another level by providing greater clarity. I was using a NAIM V-1 DAC coupled with an Oppo Receiver, playing Chon’s “Homey.” I also used Spotify, and Youtube, with a variety of genres including Rock, Rap/Hip-Hop, Indie, Pop, etc.
Who these headphones benefit?
They will work with most genres. As mentioned above:
Pop. They do sound good with pop, but can get a little “essy” at times at high volumes.
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
The chord is very long, but a bit thin for my tastes. It’s made of a fabric, and I could see it fraying over time. Not exactly ideal in my opinion.
The chord terminates in two 2.5mm plugs. I thought the construction of these was very solid. The tag end that plugs into your phone or other device terminates in the standard 3.5mm jack and comes with a 1/4″ adapter.
Unnatural sound, with some odd things going on with the mid-bass. Mid-range feels very much recessed, and overall they lack the clarity that the Owl’s provide in spades. Comfort and build are both excellent.
I would take a gander at the NightOwl. It’s just a better headphone in all aspects, and still provides you that phenomenal comfort and build. Interested in learning more?
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.