Audioquest Nighthawk Review – “Welcome to The Cinema” (english review)

Writer : Mikku
Price : 599$
Specification :
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

I guess it’s the first time I write a review for a headphone… and the main reason is actually my head is already too accustomed to iems that almost every headphones that I tried feels like a heavy hat around my head, sometimes feels itchy and hot too, even for small on ear headphones such as beyerdynamic dtx 501p and wearing m50 now feels like hell even though I loved em once, don’t get me wrong I still love how headphone sounds but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable when wearing them….

until I meet this gorgeous headphone, the audioquest nighthawk (that’s also a really a cool name donchatink?), I tip my hat for the designer…. The ergonomic… is heavenly. I listened to them for a short period of time and fell In love with them immediately and this review will tell you why
Box and Accessories

You’ll get a big box with a zipper that you could also use as a hardcase for them, neat right? Inside the box you’ll find 2 different size cables, guidebook, cleaning cloth, and the headphone itself nothing much, but to get a semi hardcase as a box is exactly what I’d expect when I buy a fullsize headphone, just like when I get a hardcase for iem or earbud that’s exactly what I want so I don’t need to spend extra money for buying a case.

The outer part of the case is covered in synthetic leather and the inside part is made from smooth fabric material that has 3 different textures and feels premium to the touch. It is a cool packaging indeed

Build & Fit

they are semi open headphone, the earcup Is build from what they called “liquid wood” that gave it a rather unique look but beautiful indeed, the headband is thin and covered in fabric material, they really looks like an arched rope, but feels sturdy and powerful thanks to the metal material inside it,

I guess I already give you a hint In the opening. Yes this is without a doubt one of the best ergonomic in the headphone world, it has self adjusting headband and the earcups is also self adjusting, the best way of adjusting them is simply by wearing them in your head.

They are light and have a small clamping force, you can wear them for hours without discomfort, I have tried many kind of full size headphone and personally for me they are among the bests in terms of comfort, for comfort only, my best choices are nighthawk, Sennheiser hd 600/650/800, and akg k700 series

For the connectors they use 2,5 mono plug, you’ll get 2 cables inside, both are 2,5 mono to 3,5 TRS, but the difference lies in their size, 1 is definitely thinner but much more flexible, it is my daily choice, and the other one is thicker but feels more high quality but in terms of sound, I couldn’t really say the difference. I just hope that they include some kind of clip mechanism so that the connectors won’t become loose over time.

Sound


i use my xduoo x10 as my primary source even though nighthawk is big in size but they are really easy to drive, and even from a source such as xduoo x10 you could really hear their potential, and I hear many kinds of music, starting from jpop, kpop, mainstream western pop, rock, instrumental, orchestra, jazz, vocal, but I gotta say my favorite is the orchestra

What comes first to your mind when you hear the name? “nighthawk” I imagine a kind of ferocious predator bird that hunts at night, a terror for the prey, judging by the name alone I thought they sounds piercing and detailed just like a nighthawk pinpointing its target, but oh, it is truly a huge mistake if you really think like I do…….

Bass : they are simply big and majestic wow, could be too slow for some though, when I play movie or game soundstracks, like assasin’s creed ost, kungfu panda ost, and pirates of carribean ost, you’ll get almost the same of sensation that you get in the theatre a big bass with great rumble that excites you right at the moment, if you’re an action movie ost junkies you gotta try these headphone, very great for opera, classical, and orchestra, but unfortunately it can’t really follow rock music fast paced tight bass, I tried some pop music like jpop and Korean pop, even psy and I love the bass, also suitable for pop music, but other than rock genre, it is a majestic bass

Mid : beautiful mid… romantic and sweet although it is a bit recessed in positioning putting the vocalist in the middle of the band, it is warm with smoothness texture, yet really able to deliver emotion from songs especially male vocal, take example from Josh Groban’s Noel album, also Il divo’s ancora album, their voice are indeed intense but nighthawk could deliver them in a smooth way yet maintain an edge that make em powerful but not sibilance, through my other setups, none could deliver these sound as good as nighthawk even my inear SD4. But in some really bad tracks like some of my jpop and k pop songs they could become peaky and unnatural to hear, album from Taeyeon and BTS are definitely bright but song from 2ne1 and SNSD sounds beautiful, I guess it comes down to the recording itself. There’s no need to worry for good recording jazz vocal tracks such as Diana Krall or Olivia Ong, they simply sounds beautiful, smooth and addicting, imagine yourself hearing Christmas music in the middle of your living room at a cold December night, just a right amount of warmth to complete your melancholic night.

Treble : I have a mixed feelings about the treble, at first listen you’ll notice immediately that they are indeed quite dark with rolled off high frequncies, but try to play some violin songs that need high frequencies to shine, they do shine, I mean the timbre is great and instruments sounds like how they should sound, every tracks from the piano guys album sounds I never find myself craving for more extension like what I feel when I use my westone um3x, even one of my favorite song to play in nighthawk is the piano guys – carol of the bells, every cello and strings sounds fierce and powerful, never sibilance (seriously try this song). I tried to see the freq graph from innerfidelity and founds that nighthawk has a gradual rolloff from 500 hz to around 7500 hz being the lowest point and after that you’ll find gradual rise and peak around 10khz and more rolloff after that, that is why the overall sound in the midrange is definitely warm with upper midrange dip, but could maintain a good treble presence

nighthawk FR.JPG

Audioquest Freq response from innerfidelity.com

Soundstage, Imaging, Layering : one of the best aspect from these cans is the soundstage…. Simply Huge and 3 dimensional, followed by a good imaging and layering makes these cans really shines when you want to hear orchestra or opera songs. Try Yoshida Brothers – Frontier, you’ll hear a breathtaking soundstage, fantastic imaging, great layering and spot on timbre, bass and percussion are dancing right and left, strings are playing smoothly alongside the main instrument, the koto itself is centered and kind of echoing with every notes it touches, i never thought that this song could be so hypnotizing… through other cans this song doesn’t really shine, but through nighthawk… it feels like a totally different song. nighthawk has its own mojo which give a little “echo” to every song which could be a bad or good thing, for live recording and orchestra it is simply gorgeous

Comparison :

Vs Oppo PM2 : when it comes to tonal balance, OPPO is just seems better in paper in all area, OPPO PM2(especially with alt leather pad) sounds more controlled and balanced through every spectrum, tighter bass, more forward and balanced mid, better timbre, yet i found nighthawk have a unique “echoing” effect that could make this a kind of “room” sensation, so you’ll get a much better imaging and ambient of a concert or theater, meanwhile OPPO has much smaller soundstage, also even though OPPO feels more balanced, yet nighthawk could deliver emotion in a better way, i love em both, they are really really different kind of headphone

Conclusion

Pros:
– Great soundstage
– Fantastic Imaging
– Majestic bass
– Made for Movie and Soundtracks

Cons:
– Slow, bloomy bass
– Recessed mids
– “echo”ey sound

Reccomended Genres
– orchestra, game/movie soundtracks, live recordings

Score

Build : 8/10
fit : 9/10
Bass : 8/10
mid : 8/10
treble : 8/10
soundstage : 9/10
imaging : 9/10
value : 8/10

Rank : A

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2 thoughts on “Audioquest Nighthawk Review – “Welcome to The Cinema” (english review)

  1. reviewnya bagus gan. sjk nighthawk keluar aku sngt tertarik dgn headphone ini, dr segi desain kelihatannya sgt nyaman sekali utk dipakai dlm waktu lama. stlh baca review2 di head-fi/web audio byk sekali yg pro&kontra mengenai nighthawk ini, ada yg blg bagus&ada juga yg bilang jelek.
    klo dibandingkan dgn aeon flow/stax (aku pernah audisi sebentar&bagiku kedua headphone tsb sangat nyaman dipakai), karakternya apakah hampir mirip?
    nighthawk jika dipasangkan dgn ampli tabung, apakah akan menjadi terlalu warm?
    sekian pertanyaan saya gan, mksih sebelumnya.

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    1. thanks bro, kalo soal design sendiri, sya juga pernah coba stax L300, L500, SR007, SR009, kalo aeon flow juga pernah coba, dari smuanya di kepala saya paling nyaman L300 sma Nighthawk, tapi suaranya beda sendiri si nighthawk, karena AEON flow brasa lbh bright n lbh detail, tp soundstage ga se open nighthawk karena aeon closed, kalo dibanding STAX yang mengedepankan treble extension n speed brasa bumi dan langit, STAX lbh bright, cepet n layeringny lbh dapet, tapi kalo emosi vokal n bass saya lbh dapet di nighthawk walau vokal rada mundur

      Like

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