Home Open Back Headphone Reviews AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon Review – The Owl’s Evil Twin?

AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon Review – The Owl’s Evil Twin?

I liked the NightOwl but didn't like the NightHawk. Let's find out why.

by Stuart Charles Black

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Stock Image: The Absolute Sound | Design: HomeStudioBasics

Originally published 10/10/17.


  • 5/19/22. Article revisit.

Greetings friend and Welcome aboard!!

Before we get into the Audioquest NightHawk Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this review

  1. Specs/Pricing
  2. Introduction
  3. Build & Comfort
  4. Sound
  5. Pros & Cons
  6. Video Review
  7. Amp/DAC requirements
  8. Thoughts from Stu’s Notepad
  9. Consensus/Conclusion
  10. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!

AudioQuest NightHawk



I got a chance to demo the AudioQuest Nighthawk at my local Audio Advice, but my overall consensus isn’t an overwhelmingly positive one.

Let’s get into the specifics.

Build Quality

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 simply fabulous, and that same liquid wood material that feels durable in your hands.

The liquid wood I’m referring to has been combined with renewable materials such as plant fiber, lignin, various resins, and waxes that have been heated, liquefied, and injection molded.

When you put these in your hands, you’ll definitely feel the difference over those cheaply made dog-food headphones they sell in drug stores.

Heck, even the majority of mid-fi headphones aren’t made this well.

The padding is plush, the headband isn’t intrusive, and the Hawk also isn’t overly bulky even despite the fact that it is larger than most headphones.

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, as the Hawk is the type of headphone that you could theoretically wear all day and all night with minimal adjustment.

Clamping force is perfect as well, as both the Hawk and Owl were some of the most memorable headphones I’ve ever worn in terms of comfort.

In fact, the Owl still holds a place in my most comfortable headphones of all-time list, and for good reason.

It’s a bit redundant to have both on there as they’re essentially the same, but it should be noted that they really do stand out from 99% of other products.


The sound is where they fall short of the Owl in my opinion.


With the Owl, the bass thumped but didn’t seem muddy or overblown to me.

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 – which kind of drops off a cliff if we’re being honest.

It’s very subtle, but after a while of listening, you can kind of pick up on the unnatural character the mid-bass gives off as there are some strange bumps and dips that I can’t quite reconcile.

What’s odd is that the NightOwl’s actually have a similar bass shelf but to me, they didn’t sound too needle-like or unnaturally punchy. They sounded more natural and articulate. Go figure.

I really have no idea why this is, but it was my own personal experience so take it with a grain of salt.

I suppose I didn’t feel as though the Hawk was tuned nearly as well? I don’t know.


The mid-range on the Hawk also seems kind of subdued, and dare I say strained. It definitely drops off quite considerably, and at times feels lost in the mix.

A lot of this has to do with the bass shelf which tends to get in the way of what the mids are trying to do.

Not much more to say here. Vocals and instruments lack presence, but there’s also a weird spike at 5kHz that sounds off as well.


As with the Owl, the treble here is pretty good and I never felt as if it got out of line or Sibilant.

Do keep in mind it’s somewhat more relaxed, and you’ll very rarely if ever get any bite or sizzle. I think this is mostly a good thing, but as Metal said, it’s kind of grainy and way too smoothed over.

In other words, there’s poor extension and very little sparkle.

To sum up, the NightHawk is plenty warm and pretty clean, but in a very unnatural way.

Something about its signature just doesn’t feel right, and it fails to strike any of the right chords with me.

I would classify the sound as 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.
  • Mid-range is lost and sounds weird.


  • Treble. I thought the treble was neither good nor bad. It kind of just is what it is. Not enough detail though for sure.

Video Review

Shoutout to my boy @Metal571! You can see my comment on the vid 🙂

Amp/DAC requirements

At 25 Ohms Impedance and 99dB Sensitivity, these aren’t going to need an amp but can benefit from one I suppose.

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.

In all honesty though, I wouldn’t advise spending too much money on an Amp for these.

I think the most I’d ever purchase is something like a FiiO E10K, K3, or BTR3k/5 if you need something portable.

Anything more than that and you’re wasting money in my opinion.

FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5

Who benefits?

They will work with most genres. As mentioned above:

  • Indie
  • Classic Rock
  • Pop
  • Hip-Hop
  • Rock

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

  • The chord is very long, but a bit thin for my tastes. It’s made of 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.


Comfort and build are both excellent, but the Hawk dons an unnatural sound, with some odd things going on in the mid-bass.

The mid-range feels very much recessed, and overall they lack the clarity that the Owl provides in spades. I don’t think this headphone was tuned very well.

Final Word

Now again, you may be wondering, “The NightOwl is essentially the same headphone. Why do you like it more?”

I think the main reasoning behind my preference is this: I had a good experience with the Owl and a bad one with the Hawk.

That is to say that I believe the Hawk was one of the worst headphones I’ve ever heard, and the bad experience will always stand out in my mind.

The one thing I’ll say is that even despite both having that crazy long bass shelf, the Hawk felt like someone was stabbing my ears with pins and needles with regard to the bass while the Owl’s bass didn’t.

It sounded completely different to me and I actually really enjoyed it because I thought it came across as more natural and less in your face.

Again, I could be totally wrong about this and both headphones are trash, but my impressions were what they were.

As of now, both have been discontinued so if you’re looking for headphones with phenomenal low-end impact, clarity, and texture, definitely take a look at my article on the best headphones for hip-hop.

It goes into lots of great solutions and I think you’ll really find it helpful.



Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audioquest NightHawk review.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

What do you think about these? Are they worth the investment? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Audioquest NightHawk









  • Built well
  • Very comfortable


  • Mid-Bass issue
  • Mid-range issue
  • Overall sound is wonky and needly
  • Too pricey

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