AudioQuest, best known for its high-performance audio cables, has entered the high-end headphone marketplace with its new NightHawk headphone (£499, or $599). At first glance the NightHawk seems like a conventional design; it is a premium quality, mid-priced, dynamic driver-equipped, semi-open-back, over-the-ear headphone. But a closer look reveals distinctive design touches, some in unexpected places.
The first of these would be the NightHawk’s ear cups, which are made of ‘Liquid Wood’, an eco-friendly sustainable material in which, “actual wood that has been combined with reclaimed plant fibre, heated, liquefied, and processed in such a way that it can be injection moulded.” Importantly, liquid wood can be moulded into shapes that would be difficult to render through conventional woodworking techniques, while offering acoustic properties superior to those of conventional synthetic or plastic materials—a best-of-two-worlds solution.
The NightHawk ear cup housings are shaped somewhat like human ears for greater comfort and are constructed much like loudspeaker enclosures in miniature. Thus, the ear cups incorporate moulded-in support beams that increase rigidity and minimise unwanted vibrations, while interior surfaces are coated with a vibration-reducing elastomeric material. Further, the ear cups are loaded with a blend of wool and polyester damping material said to foster “extraordinarily smooth, natural frequency response.”
The NightHawk also features a rear-facing port fitted with an elaborate turbulence and resonance-reducing grille. AQ describes the grille’s complicated geometric latticework as a ‘biomimetic’ design patterned after, “the underlying structure of butterfly wings.” Because the grille’s structure would have been impossible to machine or mould, AQ instead produces the part via a 3D-printing process.
The NightHawk’s elegant frame consists of a flexible, arch-shaped rod with semi-circular ear cup support yokes attached at the ends. Instead of swivelling or gimbal-type ear cup supports, the NightHawk uses a patent-pending system of elastic bands to suspend the ear cups from the yokes (much like the isolation systems used to suspend delicate studio microphones from their frames). Then, an elastically suspended headband strap helps distribute the headphone’s weight, while also stretching to accommodate varying sizes and shapes of heads.