Audioquest Nighthawk – Part 3
There is a lot of chatter, as always with new gear (or old for that matter), on the audio forums regarding the performance of the Nighthawk. The opinions of its qualities are as numerous as those posting them, and the testing may involve many different combinations of upstream components. Extended listening is the only way to answer your own questions about a bit of gear, but educating yourself ahead of any acquisition is wise.
Measurements allow you to compare a headphones documented design against similar products. Formal reviews (there are several well written professional reviews of the Nighthawk available now) provide performance comparisons with similar products in real world systems – all written by experienced writers who are skilled at describing the subjective differences. Still, it can be difficult to come away from internet wanderings with an idea of whether any one piece of gear is for you or not.
In the end, we must forget all this and simply listen. Only then can we develop our own idea of what great sound is, and whether or not the component delivers it. This is in my opinion the most important things for us – audio citizens – to do when building our systems.
I suppose what I’m saying is that I am not concerned with being right. I only want to be a happy listener.
For me, the ecstatic listening experience is the goal. A balance of dynamics, tone, texture, energy and momentum are the primary qualities that for me lend to this kind of experience. The frequency extension and micro details are critical in presenting a more natural, musical sound, but I am not concerned with an ultra resolute, forensic analysis of a song.
Update on the Nighthawks break in
The low end performance has continued to improve over the last few days. In my first impressions post, I did find excess bloom in the low mids and upper bass on some recordings. This has changed since, and the low freqs are now more defined. Today, I am also finding more clarity in general throughout the frequency spectrum.
Maelstrom – Chasing Storms:
Percussion sounds incredibly natural – timbre and tone are beautiful. The kick drum is huge and I’m getting both the attack of the beater, and the volume of the body – I can hear the front head tension. So, there’s air and detail, but it’s not a distraction. This recording is excellent, and the NH are nailing it.
Low – Ones and Sixes:
Lowest freqs are defined, tight. Guitars are gritty and warm. Vocals are grainy and affected – common vocal production for Low, I think, and it can grate at times. Bass drums slam when needed. The mids are not blown out relative to the rest.
The Tallis Scholars:
When the sopranos hit certain notes, the glare would be distracting with the Q701s. This frequency boost is not there with the NH. The singers are presented in a half circle around my head, their positions are stable, and the space between is there though again not artificially lit or enlarged.
Nothing: Guilty of Everything:
This is a raw, fuzzed out, heavy shoegaze tune – dreamy vocal, noisy guitar textures over pounding rhythms. Production is rough, but I love the energy here.
Also, it’s a good example of the NHs clarity in the upper mid and treble range. In the outro part, the drummer is hitting. Hard. Through all the guitars, affected vocals and cymbals splashing, I can hear his steady crushing of the ride cymbal – that interruption of the cymbal bow opening after the stick hits it. That kind of scoop sound you get when you’re smacking the crap out of a larger cymbal at mid-tempo. The Nighthawk has remarkable control of upper frequencies. This also speaks to both the Bottlehead amp and Gungnir multibits considerable talents, but this track is painful through the Q701s.
The Nighthawk presents what I would describe as a more natural and balanced sound, in comparison to the AKG Q701.
The NH gives me the isolation I want in a ‘phone. My AKG provide a huge stage but lack the tone, texture and bass performance of the NH. Also, the higher freqs tend to set my teeth on edge with brighter recordings. The NH do not change this – edgy recordings remain that way – but the performance has matched Audioquests claim of a more linear response, and, extension at both extremes while reducing distortion.
I would like to compare the NH to a newer closed back design – I think this would be interesting. It is certainly closed in stage and feel when compared to the AKG, but I would argue that the stage is not shortened or dimly lit. Of course, with other amps in different systems the NH would likely sound different.
For those with relatively linear sounding systems who want a balanced, natural tone, the Nighthawk are an excellent choice.