When I learned that I’m gonna be reviewing this beautiful headphone, I resisted reading online reviews about it as I wanted to come up with impressions based on my own listening sessions.
If I would describe the headphone’s sound signature in two words, it’s warm and dark. Obviously there’s more to it than that which we will discuss more in a bit, but the headphone is really on the dark and warm side of things. Like overly so.
The overall tilt of the frequency response is leaning towards the bass particularly the mid and upper bass which very bleeds into the midrange. It’s not accentuated but what made it dark-sounding is it’s high in level relative to the upper mids and treble making it veiled-sounding even more so than the HD600/650. This also causes it to be a little dull-sounding in this regard as bass bleeds into mids which is easily noticeable on modern tracks. I wish the bass is a little tight and fast but I wouldn’t call the bass loose or thumpy. The wide shelf in the bass just makes it plodding in my opinion
While the treble is recessed, there is definitely some sparkle and shimmer that come up due to the slight peak in 3k and 9k. The treble spark makes the headphone sound interesting and fun with its U-shaped response. Comparing it to other open-back headphones such as Beyerdynamic DT880, Sennheiser HD600 would reveal the treble being a little too artificially sparkly but not harsh.
For a semi-open headphone, I thought the soundstage was pretty good having more width than height. Imaging isn’t great as the tonality is just too dark to pick instruments apart from each other, and the recessed midrange is more apparent with acoustic and modern alternative music.
The NightHawk produces just enough volume on portable devices or desktop/laptop outs but still benefits from additional power. I used the Aune T1 SE tube DAC and amp, as well as the Schiit Magni, and both improved the fluidity of the sound. I did find that it did sound a bit ‘sucked-out’ or lacking in juice when I plugged the headphone straight into my crappy laptop out.
I do hope that my subjective findings on its sound signature and quality have you making up your mind if this headphone is for you or not.
In the end, it all depends on where you’re coming from. If you’ve been an enthusiast and owned lots of headphones, the Nighthawk will surely give you a unique take on music that you might have never experienced before (and it’s beautiful too). If you’re a budding audiophile and maybe someone coming from an Audio-Technica M50 or similar to that, the NightHawk is not for you. You’re not gonna find that extra transparency, resolution, and air that you may be craving for in upgrading your headphone.
Other headphones that we can recommend within the same price range or less are the Sennheiser HD600/650, Hifiman HE-400s/400i, or even the Beyerdynamic DT880s if you’re looking for a neutral colder sound.
We would like to thank Audioquest Philippines for loaning us this headphone for this review. Make sure to check them out.