Disclaimer: The AudioQuest NightHawk was sent to me for the purpose of this review. It has to be returned to AudioQuest once I’ve finished playing with it and the other AQ units (JitterBug & DragonFly).
AudioQuest is a US based company but the EU headquarters is located in the Netherlands. I had been following AudioQuest’s Instagram account for a while and I decided to contact them there after seeing the JitterBug in one of their posts. AudioQuest is mostly known for their cables since the 1980’s already but they have also released a very popular mini USB DAC/AMP called the DragonFly. The DragonFly has gotten a lot of praise all over the world and it will be reviewed soon on Headfonia as well. I can tell you already it pleasantly surprised me. AudioQuest “recently” also launched their first full sized headphone called the “NightHawk”, which is what we’ll be looking at today. I first received the NightHawk and the JitterBug while the DragonFly 1.2 arrived quite a while later as AQ can’t seem to keep up with production of the units. That’s usually agood thing.
When the NightHawk was launched it got a lot of press and quickly became FOTM (Flavor of the Month) on Head-fi and other sites. Opinions of the NightHawk however have been divergent to say the least but isn’t that always the case? One group of people will love something while the other will hate it or just don’t care.
Design and Comfort
Most people seem to like the NightHawk’s looks but design is and will always be a personal thing. I myself think it’s quite nice, I just can’t seem to get to like the look of the faux wood/liquid wood. I’m the kind of guy though that likes the wooden HE-1000 (next week!) and LCD designs. A part from the shiny fake wood I actually quite like the look of the NightHawk, it’s unique, and I can’t think of any other headphone that looks more or less like it. That being said, we all know looks aren’t the most important thing in a headphone. Comfort on the other hand is and I think AudioQuest got it just right.
The AudioQuest NightHawk simply is very comfortable. The patent-pending suspension system automatically places the earpads, and the whole headphone, ideally on your head. Even with smaller heads like mine. Clamping force is just right: you can feel it but it doesn’t bother you that much and it keeps the NightHawk on your head even when bending over. The soft protein leather earpads follow the contours of your ears and are a pleasure to feel on your skin. While it maybe isn’t as comfortable as the HD800, the 346gr NightHawk does disappear after a while. I experienced that when I was listening to the NightHawk in my office (connected to the JitterBug and DragonFly) and I rolled my chair a bit too far away from the desk. I simply forgot the NightHawk was on my head and that resulted in me snapping off the 3.5mm plug on the output of the DragonFly. Luckily nothing else was damaged but it did leave me with a destroyed cable. That’s where AudioQuest’s excellent customer service came in. They didn’t only send me a new cable but also included a balanced cable, all of that for free. Big thumbs up. The cable, knowing AudioQuest, of course is of really good quality. They feel good, look good and sound good. What’s not to like?
The NightHawk was designed by Skylar Gray and it took two years of development. Mr. Gray wanted it to be a headphone that would please everyone at any time. “The pursuit of unbridled pleasure and the pursuit of unprocessed truth” is how AQ calls it. A headphone designed for low distortion and maximum performance, for music, movies and gaming. One headphone to rule them all and to do that a lot of new technologies have been used. That’s right, this isn’t your typical dynamic driven headphone. Some examples:
The NightHawk uses bio-cellulose driver diaphragms compared to the classic drivers and they also have different voice coils. NightHawk’s driver baskets are also fully ventilated around the perimeter of the diaphragm area for reduced distortion where classic drivers mostly use blocked vent sections. NightHawk’s equitangential corners enable smooth airflow where classic designs mostly use sharp corners, impacting the sound in a different way. NightHawk uses bio-cellulose vs the classic Mylar drivers as well. The list is long and it shows a whole lot of work went into this piece of art. More complete information can be found on AudioQuest’s website here: http://personal.AudioQuest.com/NightHawk-measurements.
Besides all of AudioQuest’s technical achievements I do find it very important to mention that the NightHawk was developed to minimize waste and excess. The NightHawk is an environmentally friendly headphone made from a lot of 100% renewable materials. Even the packaging is as eco-friendly as possible. The NightHawk comes delivered with its two cables, a high quality headphone plug adapter, cleaning cloths and useful literature.
- The NightHawk is a semi open design headphone with angled drivers
- Impedance: 25 ohms
- Sensitivity: 100dBSPL/mW
- Power Handling: 1.5W
- Driver: 50mm Dynamic | Biocellulose Diaphragm | 1.2T Split-Gap Motor
- Frequency Response & Distortion Measurements
- Cable Specifications
- Length: 8’ (2.4m)
- Conductors: Solid Perfect-Surface Copper+ (PSC+)
- Geometry: Symmetric Star-Quad
- Dielectric: Foamed-Polyethylene
- NDS: Noise-Dissipation System
- Terminations: 3.5mm Stereo > Dual 2.5mm Mono | Direct-Silver Plated Copper
“Sound” can be found after the click!