Audioquest announces NightOwl Carbon and NightHawk Carbon headphones

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Audioquest has recently announced the latest two additions to their headphones line: the NightHawk Carbon and the NightOwl Carbon. While they almost look the same, the first has a semi-open design and the latter has a closed-back design.

Both products take the pledge of bringing improvements over the existing NightHawk headphone design, while simultaneously exploring new ways with different solutions. The NightHawk was a semi-open headphone – a feature the NightHawk Carbon inherits – and one built as the “platform upon which all future AudioQuest headphones will be built.” That indeed proves true.

The main design ideas have been carried over from the NightHawk: earcups made from Liquid Wood material (resin with wood components such as lignin inside), biocellulose diaphragms and a suspension system which allows the earcups to move freely.

Both headphones feature tighter tolerances of internal parts, with the aim of improving airflow and reducing distortion, two different sets of earpads (one protein leather earpad and one “ultrasuede” pad), a headpad made of leather and one cable, which features smartphone controls and a microphone in addition to a more flexible and non-microphonics jacket. The cable can also be terminated with balanced connections, to add more options.

Tech specs are the same for both units: 50 mm dynamic driver diaphragm, 250 Ω impedance, 99 dBSPL/mW sensitivity, 1.5 W power handling, 346 g weight.

AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon

The AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon and NightHawk Carbon share the same appearance, but also show a good degree of difference. The AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon features the same 3D-printed sound-diffusing grille as the older NightHawk.

AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

The main innovation in the NightOwl Carbon is the adoption of a closed-back design. This should allow for a greater isolation both ways, so the listener cannot hear what is around them and viceversa. The NightHawk’s grille is replaced by an aperiodic damping system to achieve “excellent isolation of external noise, ensuring privacy for the listener and those nearby”.

It remains to be seen how they sound and what differences are between them when talking about sound. Both headphones will be available this month at 699$.

You can read the full press release below.

IRVINE, Calif | November 2, 2016 – Offering a unique combination of unsurpassed comfort, state-of-the-art design, and naturally beautiful sound, AudioQuest’s first headphone, NightHawk, has been lovingly featured in the pages of magazines and websites as far-reaching as Stereophile, Rolling Stone, CNET, Wired, Head-Fi, Digital Trends, The Verge, HomeTheaterReview, Sound & Vision, and many more. This is evidence of the intensifying convergence between the high-fidelity and high-technology worlds, and testament to NightHawk’s uncanny ability to captivate and inspire a diverse audience of thinkers, builders, engineers, and, of course, music lovers.

While NightHawk’s many innovative design elements—Liquid Wood earcups, biomimetic sound-diffusing grilles, and high-performance solid-conductor cable, to name just a few—have impressed listeners worldwide, many have expressed interest in different paint finishes, more versatile cables, and closed-back designs.

AudioQuest takes the first of many steps toward satisfying those interests with two new around-the-ear models: NightHawk Carbon and NightOwl Carbon.

The closed-back NightOwl Carbon further advances the state of the headphone art, replacing 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, we’ve implemented several closely related acoustic, ergonomic, and cosmetic refinements, each of which seamlessly complements the whole, delivering improved performance while elevating the overall user experience.

Acoustic Refinements
– Modified internal parts: Tighter tolerances reduce air leakage for improved airflow and lower distortion
– Two sets of earpads: Protein Leather Pads seal tighter for better isolation and slightly enhanced treble clarity; Ultrasuede Pads breathe freer for greater comfort and slightly reduced bass impact
– Improved plugs: High-purity Tellurium Copper (TeCu) base metal for smoother surface, higher plating quality, better mating contact, and, consequently, less noise

Ergonomic Refinements
– Improved headpad: Genuine leather headpad with stitched detailing for enhanced comfort, more luxurious look and feel-
– Improved cable: Shorter (4.25ft) length for easier use at the desktop or with mobile devices; flexible, non-braided jacket increases durability, eliminates kinking, minimizes microphonics; robustly engineered and rigorously tested strain relief further increases durability; discrete microphone and smartphone controls enable phone calls and playback functions (Play, Pause, Skip) without compromising sound quality

Note: Cable can be terminated with balanced connections or customized to various specifications.

Cosmetic Refinements
– Luxurious finish: Carbon Grey Metallic high-gloss automotive paint meticulously applied via multistage process
– Improved inner presentation: Includes microfiber pouches for headphones and accessories for safer, simpler travel

Meanwhile, NightHawk Carbon is a more sophisticated, more mature version of the original. 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 (detailed above)—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: NightHawk Carbon and NightOwl Carbon share their predecessor’s pistonic drivers with biocellulose diaphragms, compliant rubber surrounds, and true voice-coil formers. The patented split-gap motor remains unsurpassed in 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.

Thus, NightHawk’s exceedingly low distortion, unrivaled comfort, and naturally detailed sound have been enhanced in several meaningful ways. With the new semi-open NightHawk Carbon and closed-back NightOwl Carbon headphones, AudioQuest hopes you’ll listen longer, later, and with greater pleasure, enjoying even deeper immersion in your favorite music, movies, videos, and games.

NightHawk Carbon ($699 US MSRP)
– Around-the-ear semi-open design
– 3D-printed biomimetic sound-diffusing grille

NightOwl Carbon ($699 US MSRP)
– Around-the-ear closed-back design
– Aperiodic damping system for excellent isolation of external noise

NightHawk Carbon & NightOwl Carbon Features
– Acoustically superior, sustainably engineered materials
– Patent-pending suspension system with freely articulating earcups counteracts intrusive resonances
– Pistonic driver with biocellulose diaphragm and compliant rubber surround
– Patented split-gap motor dramatically reduces intermodulation distortion
– AudioQuest cable with improved strain relief; non-microphonic, kink-free jacket; discrete mic and smartphone controls
– Carbon Grey Metallic high-gloss automotive finish

NightHawk Carbon & NightOwl Carbon Specifications
– Impedance: 25ohms
– Sensitivity: 99dbSPL/mW
– Power Handling: 1.5W
– Weight: 346g (12.2oz)
– Driver: 50mm Dynamic | Biocellulose Pistonic Diaphragm | 1.2T Split-Gap Motor

NightOwl Carbon & NightHawk Carbon Cable
– Long-Grain Copper conductors
– High-Purity Direct-Silver Plated TeCu plugs (3.5mm TRRS à Dual 2.5mm mono)
– Highly durable, non-microphonic jacket 4.25’ (1.3m)

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon and NightHawk Carbon headphones will begin shipping to dealers 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.

For more info, visit

About Riccardo Robecchi

Living in Glasgow, Scotland but born and raised near Milan, Italy, I got the passion for music listening as a legacy from my father and my grandfather. I have reported on technology for major Italian publications since 2011.

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