Audioquest Nighthawk – These or the HD650s?

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Video review

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INTRODUCTION

Nighthawk was definitely on my “must review” list for a while now because of how much praise it received from other reviewers. However I was a little skeptical on how a company that has never created a headphone, not alone a single iem or earbud can suddenly come up with such brilliance. I was finally able to get my hands on the nighthawks this time around and not to spoil anything in particular, but they surely did not meet my expectations. However, do not get the impression that these are not good headphones, in fact these would be great headphones if they not choose to compete in this particular price range, where a lot of great headphones already has its place in the market.

ABOUT Audioquest

I would normally post what the manufacturers put on their website because I believe they best represent who they are but I will make an exception to this one as all audioquests’ website talks about is how Bill (creator of audioquest) started building amplifiers in his college years and suddenly started making expensive cables that make sound better. In my opinion, Audioquest is a good brand name and has to potential to represent may of our dreams. I mean our quest for audio is really no more than a game that we keep for that euphoric ending. However, they decided to taint the name of audioquest by putting cables as their main point of interest rather than headphones or speakers that actually matter more in one’s quest for better audio. And better yet when they contradict themselves directly by saying ” Bill hooked-up a twenty-five foot pair of his “original recipe” cable, everyone was very impressed with the much better sound.” in their “about me” section and “Cable design is all about damage control. No Cable can make your system sound or look better, they can only cause damage to the original signal. AudioQuest’s perspective has always been to design cable that DO NO HARM!” in their education section… you loose some respect right off the bat.

Am I being harsh or brutally honest? who knows, but I am very glad that they made some dacs like the dragonfly and such, and that they started making headphones. Now I think it is time they dive into the deeper game of things to earn my respect as well as the consumers’ respect. When they claim to know so much about audio through cables and come up with a headphone like the nighthawks, there is disappointment that follows. I do not mean to bash on audioquest, I mean no harm, I just hope that they take this review to the heart and make the improvements needed. Hopefully my future reviews of them will be more respectable.

 

DISCLAIMER

This review unit was lent to me by audio excellence, for a review. Nevertheless, my review will contain no bias

SPECS

Impedance: 25 ohms
Sensitivity: 99dBSPL / mW
Power Handling: 1.5W
Weight: 346g (12.2 oz.)
Driver: 50mm Dynamic – Biocellulose Diaphragm – 1.2T Split-Gap Motor

THE BUILD QUALITY

The headphone band self adjusts like the meze headphones but tends to slide up time to time nevertheless, the comfort is outstanding.

The Pads are also comfortable. Not the best but definitely one the better stock pads. cables are pretty descent with 45 degree termination.

The 3D printed carbon mesh looks amazing and screams quality. It would be interesting to see more added based off this mesh design

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The case that comes with the headphone is high in quality and very practical

The housing is made of something new called the “liquid wood” which I found to be similar to plastic in quality, subject to easy chipping or other physical damages. It may look nice but the sonic improvement due to so called “liquid wood” seems to be no more than their cable story until proven further.

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Lower Frequencies: Nighthawks shine the most in this frequency with quite a bit of extension into the sub bass. Not as much as the planar headphones or meze headphones but definitely somewhere in between and more than the HD650s. However the control and tightness of the bass seems to lack. In a simple sentence, there is more in quantity but less in quality bass.
Mid Frequencies: This is where I found the problems to be most prominent as there is some weird reverb going on that brings on a bout some kind of ringing sound signature. Some may enjoy this but as a reviewer, I have to keep with the norm and point out things that sound, for the lack of better words, “off.” Also any string instrument sound quite remarkable until you hear violin. Violin has this weird sibilant/shouting on this headphone. Also while the vocals presence is euphoric like the HD650s, it sounds rather drier. Overall unnatural feelings crosses over this frequency in particular
High Frequencies: being a rather darker/warmer headphone like the HD650s, while trebles are present there is not much of extension or presence. What surprised me was that there is a spike around 5 to 8khz area (vocal sibilance) where S sound more sibilant than other headphones in this price range, which can be quite bothersome.
Sound stage and imaging: while imaging is quite good on the nighthawks, the sound stage is somewhat similar to that of the modern closed back design. With closed backs being able to produce more sound stage than before, it certainly does not go in favor of the semi-open back (leaking) nighthawks.
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Overall Thoughts

I think that Nighthawks is a good start for the company to really bring out their passion for audio however, really needs to listen to their headphones more and engineer the small details required in making greater headphones. Nighthawks also seems to have picked the wrong price category to compete with as HD650s and 600s surely exists and to compete with it, it either needs to be different or just simply be better. In this case, it does neither. It rather seems similar to the HD650s with annoyance factor added.

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