While NightHawk’s many innovative design elements — including the use of “Liquid Wood” material (effectively ARBOFORM, from German firm Tecnaro) on earcups, biomimetic sound-diffusing grilles, powerful 50mm dynamic driver, and high-performance solid-conductor cable — have impressed listeners worldwide, many have expressed interest in different paint finishes, more versatile cables, and closed-back designs. Naturally, AudioQuest decided to respond with two new around-the-ear models: NightHawk Carbon and NightOwl Carbon.
The closed-back NightOwl Carbon replaces NightHawk’s sound-diffusing grille with an intelligently designed aperiodic damping system for excellent isolation of external noise, ensuring privacy for the listener and those nearby. Hidden beneath the central circular portion of NightOwl’s earcups, a vent runs along the perimeter of each dome and exits through a hidden airflow-resistive port. Thus, unlike other headphones that use a sealed enclosure, NightOwl is designed to effectively relieve the buildup of pressure, allowing the drivers to breathe freely, ensuring that any impulses quickly return to an innocuous resting state—with no ringing, oscillation, or resonance.
Further, AudioQuest implemented several closely related acoustic, ergonomic, and cosmetic refinements, delivering improved performance while elevating the overall user experience. The company modified internal parts in order to allow tighter tolerances to reduce air leakage for improved airflow and lower distortion and the NightOwl is combined with two sets of earpads. Protein Leather Pads seal tighter for better isolation and slightly enhanced treble clarity, while the Ultrasuede Pads breathe freer for greater comfort and slightly reduced bass impact. The new closed-backed model also uses improved plugs, made with high-purity Tellurium Copper (TeCu) base metal for smoother surface, higher plating quality, better mating contact, and, consequently, less noise.
The headpad was also improved using genuine leather with stitched detailing for enhanced comfort, and a more luxurious look and feel. The cable is now shorter in length (4.25ft) for easier use at the desktop or with mobile devices and it is more flexible, using a non-braided jacket to increase durability and minimize microphonics. AudioQuest also says this cable design makes it even more robust, while allowing for discrete microphone and smartphone controls to control phone calls and playback functions (Play, Pause, Skip) without compromising sound quality. The new cable can even be terminated with balanced connections or customized to various specifications.
Finally, the NightOwl features a Carbon Grey Metallic high-gloss automotive paint finishing, meticulously applied via a multistage process, and it ships with microfiber pouches for headphones and accessories for safer, simpler travel.
Meanwhile, the NightHawk Carbon semi-open model is a more sophisticated, more mature version of the original AudioQuest NightHawk. It boasts the same exciting refinements found in NightOwl — improved performance, greater comfort, two pairs of earpads, a far more durable cable with discrete mic and smartphone controls, enhanced look and feel — all while retaining its predecessor’s remarkably low distortion and fatigue-free sound.
Of course, all of the advanced design elements that made the original NightHawk such a success are carried over into the improved models. The NightHawk Carbon and NightOwl Carbon share their predecessor’s pistonic drivers with biocellulose diaphragms, compliant rubber surrounds, and voice-coil formers. The patented split-gap motor maintains its ability to reduce intermodulation distortion. The earcups are fabricated from the same revolutionary Liquid Wood material, affording acoustically optimized support beams and carefully applied damping. The patent-pending suspension system allows the earcups to move freely, accommodating heads of almost any shape or size, while effectively decoupling the earcups to counteract resonances.
With the new semi-open NightHawk Carbon and closed-back NightOwl Carbon headphones, AudioQuest hopes users will be able to listen longer, enjoying even deeper immersion. The new NightHawk Carbon and the NightOwl Carbon both sell for $699 US (MSRP) and they will shipping in November 2016. Additionally, Carbon-model earpads and cables will soon be available separately, so that owners of the original NightHawk can customize their headphones.