AudioQuest NightHawk headphones review (TONEAudio)


Put on a pair of AudioQuest’s NightHawk in-store, at a Head-fi meet or at an audio show and you’ll swear they are the single most comfortable headphones you’ve ever worn (bar none). What’s less apparent at first blush is the their civilised, deferential sonic demeanour.

See – these headphones are Jeeves to your Bertie Wooster and like P.G. Wodehouse’s fictional butler, it takes time for one to properly appreciate all that they can (and will) do for you.

Next to Sennheiser’s HD650 – many a headphone connoisseur’s gold standard in the ~US$500 open-back space – you’ll find the NightHawk come on as the less immediately tantalising of the two. The Germans will be the first to excite but also the first to exhaust the listener. In it for long-game appreciation, the Californian doesn’t play that way.

Like many others, I had my first taste of NightHawk at their CES 2015 debut.

Part-time Audiophile’s Scot Hull and Stereophile’s Herb Reichert getting in on the NightHawk action at CES 2015.

Head-Fi/CanJam orchestrator Warren Chi [middle] snaps a CES 2015 party pic.
A second serving arrived at the Munich High-End Show in May and then, two weeks later, a third dose at T.H.E. Newport Show. Across the road from the Hotel Irvine at AudioQuest HQ, that’s where I picked up ay review pair.

Many, many hours of listening to the NightHawk at home in Sydney went into my commentary for TONEAudio. More hours than usual because it took so darn long for me to see/hear the obvious: these headphones possess seemingly zero personality of their own. It’s as if they exist in your life to solely to serve you music and to do so without imposing their own opinion (read: flavour) on proceeding. Just like Jeeves! They enunciate vocals to a tee – the Queen’s English of course – and there’s just the right amount of macro-dynamic action to keep Sir sated. Just like Jeeves!

On transparency, such as one can guess at its levels, come not with the cold-hearted honesty of the Beyerdynamic T1. Less eloquent fellows might refer to the NightHawk as warm. ‘Clement’ is more suitable descriptor; not as airy as the T1 but more articulate with lower notes.

Skylar Gray [left] poses with Woo Audio’s Michael Liang [right] at CES 2015.
How did NightHawk designer Skylar Gray achieve such strong aesthetic and audible points of difference straight out of the gate?

This is AudioQuest’s debut headphone model but it isn’t Gray’s first rodeo. Before signing on with the Californian-headquarterd cable technology company Gray spent several years designing for Westone.

Upon commencing what would become the NightHawk project, Gray was reportedly given carte blanche and a blank cheque. This led to the deployment of a bio-cellulose driver which looks like this:


…and the already widely-discussed liquid wood ear-cup, a material that starts life in pellet form before being heated and injection moulded:


These headphones’ ease of drive is also what separates ’em from many similarly-priced high-end offerings. A pair of NightHawks can be driven direct from an iPhone or iPod Touch without any signs of audible strain. Of course, better amplifiers will yield better results but during my own listening tests I noted that the delta between say the Astell&Kern AK Jr. and the AURALiC Taurus wasn’t as wide as with other ‘phones.

You can read the full review over at TONEAudio here because you, Sir, are a Gentleman and the AudioQuest NightHawk are Gentlemen’s headphones. How ironic too that it has taken an American company to make what one might describe as being a oh very British-sounding headphone.

Further information: AudioQuest










Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. Nice review. Do these leak sound a little less than full opens? I don’t listen to loud music but I do work in an open office and don’t want to annoy

  2. Thanks for the review of the AudioQuest Nighthawks, mine arrived just two days ago, but I can already tell that they’re the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever used. I think their sound may turn off some that only give them a quick audition…that’s a shame. All the detail is there, just not tipped up like some other audiophile headphones. The Nighthawks are dynamic and spacious sounding, especially when driven by a good amp. I think those speaker-like 50mm drivers like being feed a healthy amount of juice to truly shine. You can get more than enough “volume” from your phone yet they sound better when controlled by a better amp.