AudioQuest ran into the Audiophile Pit while wearing a cowboy hat, guns blazing and firing at anything that moved like the mad men they are. I’ve got to admit, I really like their view on how headphones should sound and it is incredibly refreshing to have a product in house that appeals to the musicality chasers like me. This one is a keeper, ladies and gents.
A Rant about Audiophilia
Before starting, I’ve got to thank Stephen at AudioQuest for being such an awesome guy. He supplied me with some cables for the NightHawk and I couldn’t be happier or more thankful for them. Having everything I need for a full and detailed review right at the starting line makes things slick and smooth from beginning to end. Thanks so much AudioQuest, you guys rock!
Stephen sent me a random email about the NightHawk a while back, knowing full well beforehand that I would enjoy the hell out of this headphone and that he was eager to read my impressions. Of course, I’d been skeptical when I read it. Sadly, the audio community over the past few years has been stuck in a reference tone and clinical mine field of product releases and I really hate it on a subjective level. I am not in this audio hobby to sit in my nice Eames chair and say “Yep, this is so true to the track!” as my ears bleed, wince at every high hat strike and feel dizzy over the constant poor rendering of treble being reiterated through my “accurate” headphones. I am here for one reason: to enjoy my tunes. Music comes first, gear second.
To some of the audio community, musicality means nothing and true to track qualities are all that is important. That rock out mentality really died down over the past ten years or so and I’ve never understood neutral tone, reference or clinical appeal. Objectively, I’ve always regarded those types of products as excellent in quality if they were as such, but I’ve also always drawn lines between my personal preferences and what I consider to be great, despite not enjoying the product at all. I’ve done that because there are a lot of users like me in this hobby that want a fun and very musical experience. On a personal level, we just want to enjoy the music, not the gear. If you are that type of listener who likes to listen for fun, pay attention! You’ll love this NightHawk.
The Nighthawk Build and Fit
AudioQuest uses “Liquid Wood” for the cup housings of their new NightHawk, which is a process that involves a mold injection and pressing of renewable raw materials that include lignin, natural fibers, waxes and resigns. Their finish is composed of a UV coating that makes the headphone look lustrous and almost candy-like, all while being environmentally friendly. Despite not being true woodies that are carved from such, they put out that textural-woody vibe that most of us would find appealing. We spend hundreds on Lawton modified woodies and I find it humorous that my Lawton Fostex TH-series wooden cups (just the wooden cups) cost the same price as this NightHawk headphone.
The NightHawk uses dual entry silver mono 2.5mm plugs and they’ve custom made me a balanced 4 pin XLR to be used with my Schiit Mjolnir setup. AudioQuest took the headband suspension route, which is something I am generally not at all fond of, but this time I’ve found that the suspension tactility actually makes sense and doesn’t feel loose fitting in the slightest. In fact, it is the most form fitting and firm suspension style headband that I’ve ever used.
My Stax 007 and Enigma Dharma also have this type of a design, but both of them either feel overly stiff or floppy and wrong on my head, probably due to their lack of clamp and the abundant clamp of the NightHawk. With clamp in mind, it isn’t at all severe, but it is well into the world of firm. Thankfully, the leather pads really help out with their plushness that offers a ton of depth between your ear and the driver behind the fabric covering below. This is a very comfy headphone.
Moreover, the earcup swivel range and flexibility is excellent, which allows for a nice fit even for mutant X-men shaped heads out there.Oddly, the frame over the leather headband is also fabric laced and you don’t see that too often, so that is a nice little extra. Normally, they are rubber or plastic tubes with a metal wiring inside and nothing more, so the attention to detail there is appreciated. The headband doesn’t have much in the way of padding, but it isn’t needed and it would probably ruin the nice comfort the NightHawk already offers. The headphone is already plenty light and more padding really isn’t at all needed. The headphone also comes with a great leather zip up case.