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AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Closed-back over-ear headphones

17 Reviews | 2 questions - 4 answers

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Item # 703NHTOWLC

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Was: $699.99

Price break: -$300.00

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Our take on the AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Closed-back version of AudioQuest's flagship 'phones

Audioquest's NightOwl Carbon headphones look and feel as luxurious as their open-back siblings, the Nighthawk Carbon headphones. But this closed-back version offers a bit more bass and better sound isolation. The earcups are made of liquefied wood and plant fibers, molded and solidified into the best shape for comfort and sound quality. This special "liquid wood" material glistens nicely in the light, and shares the same lively acoustic properties as real wood.

Product Highlights:

  • over-the-ear headphones made of sustainable materials
  • closed-back design for better noise isolation and strong bass
  • hidden airflow port helps lower resonance
  • 50mm high-excursion drivers built to emulate the sound of free-standing loudspeakers
    • bio-cellulose diaphragm is extra-light and strong
    • driver's split-gap motor helps produce tightly-controlled, natural sound
  • we recommend using a headphone amp/DAC like the AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 or DragonFly Red v1.0 for optimum performance
  • unique suspension system evenly distributes the headphones weight on your head for effortless fit
    • quickly and automatically adjusts to your head
  • oversized protein-leather earpads feel soft and comfortable
    • made from biodegradable protein powder
    • replacement cloth-covered earpads included
  • durable "liquid wood" earcups sculpted into acoustically optimized shape
  • 3D printed open-mesh grilles control airflow for purest sound
  • high-performance, durable detachable cable with 45-degree 3.5mm miniplug
    • length: 51 inches
    • high-purity Copper conductors allow for optimal signal transfer with minimal distortion
  • 1/4" adapter with thick Direct-Silver plating
  • foam-padded carrying case
  • cleaning cloth
  • sensitivity: 99 dB
  • impedance: 25 ohms
  • weight: 12.2 ounces
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

What's in the Box:

  • Over-ear headphones
  • Pair of Protein Leather earpads (installed)
  • Pair of Ultra Suede earpads
  • 51" Audio cable with 1-button remote (angled 3.5mm plug)
  • Screw-on 3.5mm-to-1/4" Plug adapter (installed)
  • Cloth storage pouch
  • Padded storage case
  • Silver polishing cloth
  • Black polishing cloth
  • Headphones Pre-Flight Guide
  • Manual
  • Limited Warranty Statement

These headphones are awesome, they sound great. Would highly recommend them.

Michael, Yankton, SD


AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon Reviews

Average Customer Review(s):

(17 Reviews)

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Crutchfield customer from Charlotte, NC on 1/14/2019

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Nice headphone the sound is neutral and balance love it very comfortable IWould highly recommended them fantastic product



Awesome sound and comfort

David from Richmond, TX on 1/8/2019

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

These headphones are great. I find them to be very neutral. Bass is there but not overpowering. I have used them with several music genres, and they sound great with everything so far. To me they sounded great out of the box. If they get better after the break in period; then that is a big plus for me!! Comfort is fantastic,; I can listen for long periods without getting tired or uncomfortable.

Pros: Clarity, musicality, comfort, and design

Cons: Short cable.

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Michael from Yankton, SD on 12/29/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

These headphones are awesome, they sound great. Would highly recommend them.



Great Closed Headphones

Brian from Sacramento, CA on 9/30/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Very comfortable-sound incredible. I wanted closed headphones so I could listen to music and not disturb my wife-I was not expecting the quality of the listening experience.

Pros: Quality of the sound and comfort

Cons: Short cord

Great musicality and detail!

Robert from Cleveland, OH on 9/19/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

These are great sounding phones, and they're nowhere near the 150 hour recommended break-in period! Great detail and musicality, this from Tidal on both a desktop and an Android phone, both used with a Dragonfly Red.

Pros: Sound is amazing even from lower powered sources. Price! Very comfortable, too.

Cons: They're certainly not for portable use, but it's not really a con as they're not designed for that.

Great Comfort Awsome Sound

William from Ocala, FL on 9/13/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Great sounding. Super comfort. I'm not a nitpick so I don't know if I will notice a big difference after the 150 hour break in. Comfort is important, if they hurt it does not matter how great they sound. These have great sound and fantastic comfort. Buy them !!

Pros: COMFORT, soft earpads abd suspension system. I can listen for hours vs minutes on Another brand with the ear nubs (sent them back)...sound. They lookfantastic.

Cons: Cord is to short and stiff. But they sell longer ones.

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Bruce from Kahului, HI on 8/31/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Great sound right out of the box, enjoying the sound while putting in the break in hours.



Night Owl

Crutchfield customer from Dunedin, FL on 8/20/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

As advertised. I look forward to it being even better after 100 or so hours of use as mentioned by Crutchfield staff and in written reviews.



AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Eric Quiroz from Happy Valley, OR on 7/8/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Punch above their weight class. More comfortable than you would guess- even after reading other reviews. Highly recommend

Pros: Details, very low distortion

Cons: Cable doesn't pair well with lightning cable adapter for phone

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Crutchfield customer from Veazie, ME on 6/24/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Great sounding headphone for the money, at the discounted price they are a steal. Will play on almost anything but improve with a separate amp. Very comfortable to wear. I love them.



AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Jonathan from St Louis, MO on 6/15/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Full disclosure: I bought these without trying any other brands. The runner up I liked was Focal Listens. I picked AQ because I have tons of their cables and I love there stuff, and the price was right. I could not be happier. They sounded great they day I got them, but after break in, they are absolutely fantastic. While not noise-cancelling, on long flights, even with no music playing, I use them for more comfort and relief from ambient noise. I have a big(ger) head size, these are super comfortable. No regrets whatsoever.

Pros: -Fit great -Continue to improve with break in -First-rate packaging and build quality

Cons: Cord is stiff

NightOwl Carbon Closed-Back Bliss.

Gerald from Deerfield Bch, FL on 6/3/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Exceptional phones. Most comfortable phones I've owned in decades.....that good! DO allow for long break-in time and you will be rewarded.....I plugged them into a Kloss FM radio stereo output and let play for a straight week. Excellent in bass, mid-range and treble.....not too bright like many. Quite smooth and musical. Cable is too short and slightly stiff.....need an Audioquest 10' mini male to female, which is ordered. Worth stressing the comfort simply don't know they're on!

Pros: Extreme Comfort, Quality, Musicality. Voiced correctly. Excellent base, mids, highs.....not too bright.

Cons: Slightly short, stiff cable.

AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Adam from Sperry, OK on 5/21/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

The first time I unboxed these and listened, I have to admit, I was disappointed. There seemed to be a lot of space but the bass and treble authority was very lacking. I was coming from Audio Technica M50x headphones and I was expected a fairly significant upgrade. However, after about 20 hours of run in, these headphones have really opened up. The bass is definitive and the treble is clear and smooth. The biggest observation about these headphones is how large the soundstage seems to be. It's a pretty big accomplishment for a closed back set of headphones. I would highly recommend these.



AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon

Dana from Flint, MI on 5/19/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Simply put...incredible. whether metal, jazz or old world classical.....clean, crisp and well detailed. Oh, and did I mention comfortable? Super comfortable. At the super price point, pick them up.



Fantastic Cans!

Claude from Centreville, VA on 4/26/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I've been looking for a closed back audiophile headphone for awhile now but didn't want to spend over $400. I initially thought about buying Audeze EL8 at their close out price direct from Audeze, but they were sold out. After reading many reviews I was about to pull the trigger on Monoprice Monolith 1060C when I saw these Audioquest Nightowls go on sale. These phones are well built. Very comfortable. They sound great. An excellent, clear, all around balanced sound. No problem with an iPhone 7. Excellent with a Bluesound Node 2. They should sound even better after 150 hours of use. The one negative is they only come with a short four cable which makes it impossible to sit on the couch and plug into your system. I ended up buying a 10 foot Audioquest mini to mini extension cable. The Tower cable which Crutchfield did not carry. It works great, but I wish they would include a longer cable as standard. Glad I bought these. Highly recommended.

Pros: Quality build. Great sound. Comfortable.

Cons: Need a longer cable or extension.

Exceptional value

James from Dublin, OH on 4/22/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I found myself looking for a pair of new headphones - was eyeing the NightOwls based on a ton of great reviews. Was prepared to buy them at retail, but then AQ lowered the price. For the original price they would have been good value, but since the price drop, they're EXCEPTIONAL value. Burn in time took about a week, but made a significant difference. They're very comfortable to wear during a dedicated listening session - I can't imagine going out in public with them; not what I'd call "portable". As many note, the cable is pretty thick. I don't care for it much and will most likely upgrade it (AQ has replacements if you email their CS). My pair was missing the 1/4" adapter, but I've contacted AQ and they'll be sending out a replacement.

Pros: Sounds great Comfortable High Value Nice carrying case Multiple ear pads

Cons: Cable is heavy, stiff, and doesn't "lay" very well. Burn-in time Was missing the 1/4" adapter...

AudioQuest Nightowl carbon

Guest from Katy, Texas on 5/21/2017

Wow. I thought Beats by Dre were nice. They dont compare to the Nightowls.




Hands-on research

Features and Specs

Earcup Type Closed
Earcup Width x Height 3.521" x 4.298"
Noise-canceling No
Bluetooth No
Mic For Taking Calls No
iPhone Control No
Lightning Connector No
Android Control No
Frequency Response N/A
Sensitivity 99 dB
Impedance 25 Ohms
Weight 12.2 ounces
Cord Length 51"
1/4-inch Adapter Included Yes
Volume Control No
Parts Warranty 1 Year (2 Yrs w/reg)
Labor Warranty 1 Year (2 Yrs w/reg)

Product Research


Overview: Like the Nighthawk, the AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon state-of-the-art over-ear headphones are designed with technology found in many of today's loudspeakers. These technologies have been applied to headphone listening, resulting in an immersive and emotional listening experience. NightOwl Carbon headphones come with two pairs of ear pads, a 51" straight cable, a 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter, two cleaning cloths, and a luxuriously-padded zippered storage case.

Ear Cups: The ear cups are shaped to follow the general contour of the human ear--rounder at the rear, wide at the top, narrowing toward the bottom. This design provides greater comfort and less stress on the listener's head and ears. It also helps isolate external sounds. The headband self-adjusts when you put them on, providing ultimate comfort for long listening sessions.

Ear Pads: Two sets of ear pads are included in the box. One pair of ear pads is made of Protein Leather, a bio-derived synthetic fabric that is durable, pliable, and soft. Protein Leather ear pads seal tighter for better isolation and improved treble clarity. The other set features an Ultra Suede covering which breathes freer for greater comfort and enhanced bass impact.

Liquid Wood Enclosures: The NightOwl Carbon's ear cup enclosures are made from all-natural Liquid Wood. Liquid Wood is made of 100% renewable raw materials, including lignin, natural fibers, resins, and waxes, combined and treated so that it can be injection-molded. The enclosures have support beams that give them structural integrity, much like the internal bracing in a loudspeaker cabinet. Liquid Wood has far superior acoustic properties than plastic or other materials used in headphones, which gives the NightOwl Carbon a distinctive clear and warm sound.

Drive Units: The NightOwl Carbon utilizes 50mm dynamic drivers that resemble the high quality drive units found in the most sophisticated loudspeakers. The diaphragms are constructed of rigid bio-cellulose with a urethane rubber surround, which results in well-controlled bass, rich midrange, and natural highs, with low distortion.

Closed Design: The NightOwl Carbon is a true closed-back headphone to give you maximum isolation from the outside world. The earcups feature a vent that runs along the perimeter of each dome and exits through a hidden airflow-resistive port to relieve the buildup of air pressure and let the drivers breathe freely.

Audio Cable: The NightOwl Carbon comes with a 51" high-quality audio cable. Using technologies found in AudioQuest's loudspeaker cables, the larger 51" high-end NightOwl cable uses high-purity copper conductors with very little oxygen content. The cable's plugs feature Direct-Silver plating over a base metal of Tellurium Copper (TeCu). TeCu is known for it's purity and machinability, which results in better plating quality and contact mating for improved signal transmission. The cable has a 1-button remote on the yoke with controls for music playback and phone calls. The supplied, screw-on 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter features thick Direct-Silver plating over high-purity copper.

Break-in Period: Like other mechanical devices such as loudspeakers and phono cartridges, the NightOwl Carbon headphones require a "break-in" period in order to reach optimum performance. A suggested break-in period is approximately 150 hours listening to music at safe volumes. A similar "burn-in" period for the NightOwl cable is also recommended. This can be accomplished by leaving your components powered on, and the headphones plugged in, even when there is no music playing. This allows the molecules in the dielectric to gradually be arranged from a random order into a more uniform order. This process can take approximately 2 weeks.

Warranty: The AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon carries a 1-year warranty. An additional year warranty will be added when you register the headphones with the manufacturer.


  • Maximum Power Handling: 1.5 W
  • Impedance: 25Ω
  • Sensitivity: 99dB SPL/mW
  • Dimensions: Ear Cups: Width 3.592", Height 4.251", Depth 2.375"
  • Weight: 12.9 ounces

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Q & A

Customer Q&A

Crutchfield asked  
Why did you buy this?

Reviews were great. All said they are extremely comfortable. [ JOHN D  Dec 03, 2018 ]
Reviews/value/wanted high end closed back headphones [ BRIAN  Sep 16, 2018 ]
Great reviews and at a great discount! [ Mark  Aug 12, 2018 ]
Research all reviews were good plus you can't beat the price [ William  Jul 03, 2018 ]
sound quality : price ratio [ Eric  Jun 24, 2018 ]
Good quality headphone with good reviews. Great sale price put me over the edge. [ Claude  Apr 13, 2018 ]
web research [ Stuart  Jan 20, 2018 ]
I need a comfortable, isolating, headphone for extended listening in an office environment. According to the reviews, these meet all of my requirements. I look forward to lots of listening pleasure with these headphones. [ Michael  Jan 20, 2018 ]
Great review from the Audiophiliac blog [ Jason  Mar 30, 2017 ]

2 questions already asked

I own Nightowl, not nighthawk. Based on Audioquest website, the former is closed back and the later a open-back design. So it comes down to whether or not you want to keep sound entirely to yourself. The Nightowl is decisively the best and the most comfortable headphone that I have ever owned despite its size. I bought mine for $400. But I have seen it is sold for $300 on Crutchfield website recently. If you are thinking about getting one and not in a hurry, I suggest that you bookmark the Nightowl page and monitor the price. After all, $100 can buy you other pleasures. By the way, Crutchfield is by far one of the best dealers in my experience. Another thing to consider is that when an audio piece is sold for a substantial discount (the list price is $700), it is usually a signal that the product is on the way out, most likely making room for a new model. [ WU-HUANG  Nov 13, 2018 ]
I have both and although both are the best sounding headphones I have and I own many high end ones they are both different The nighthawk are more like sitting at a concert a bit more open I do prefer the tight sound of the night owl the separation of the bass mid and treble is amazing Go for the night owl you won't be disappointed!! Plus you have the amazing trial period offered by the best CUTCHFIELD ! [ Brian  Nov 13, 2018 ]
Hi. I am sorry but I cannot answer your question, as I haven't had a chance to try the nighthawks. What I can say about the nightowl is that I really like them. The sound is great and they are very comfortable. [ Richard A. Pére  Nov 13, 2018 ]
No i don't think so, because they are too big and the case they come in is like a mini brief case. Nice headphones and actually thought about ?. I just the the Mrspeakers Aeon Flow closed, which sound better and are lighter and come with a nice little protective case. I just bought them the other day, so far so good. [ JORDAN B  Mar 12, 2018 ]