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AudioQuest Nighthawk Carbon

Semi-open over-ear headphones

1 Review

Item # 703NHTHWKC

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Our take on the AudioQuest Nighthawk Carbon

Out of their carrying case, the sleek, smooth AudioQuest Nighthawk Carbon headphones really glisten in the light. Their earcups are made of liquefied wood and plant fibers, molded and solidified into the best shape for comfort and sound quality, then polished. They really are a sight to see. Plus they feel solid and have the same acoustic properties as real wood.

Audioquest Nighthawk carbon

The semi-open back Audioquest Nighthawk Carbon headphones are designed to emulate the sound of loudspeakers.

Strong first impression

Out of their carrying case, the sleek, smooth AudioQuest Nighthawk Carbon headphones really glisten in the light. Their earcups are made of liquefied wood and plant fibers, molded and solidified into the best shape for comfort and sound quality, then polished. They really are a sight to see. Plus they feel solid and have the same acoustic properties as real wood.

Luxurious feel and effortless comfort

These are large heaphones made for serious music listening. The earcups, metal construction, and leather headband give them a sturdy, robust feel.

But on my head, these heavy-duty 'phones felt like featherweights. AudioQuest uses a patent-pending suspension system that evenly distributes their weight and positions the extra-plush leather earpads at just the right place. During long listening sessions, you don't find yourself constantly fussing around and readjusting the headphones. It's one and done. 

Wide-open sound with plenty of detail

These headphones sound nice out of the box, but really reward repeat listens. After they broke-in, they seemed more powerful and precise, with a nice spread of instruments. 

AudioQuest uses large 50mm high-excursion drivers and a split-gap motor design to optimize imaging, emulating the soundstaging of free-standing loudspeakers. They create a surprisingly wide "virtual soundstage" with substantial bass.

Complex grille created by 3D printing

AudioQuest's outward-facing, open mesh grille controls the flow of air for clean, pure sound. Patterned after the structure of butterfly wings, the complex crisscrossing of metal keeps airflow balanced, cutting down on music-killing resonance. Since it would be nearly impossible to manufacture the detailed part through traditional means, AudioQuest produces it through the modern process of 3D printing.

Product Highlights:

  • over-the-ear headphones made of sustainable materials
  • semi-open design combines a wide soundstage with powerful bass response
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4" Plug adapter (installed on cable)
  • Cloth storage pouch
  • Padded storage case
  • Silver polishing cloth
  • Black polishing cloth
  • Headphones Pre-Flight Guide
  • Manual
  • Limited Warranty Statement

AudioQuest Nighthawk Carbon Reviews

Average Customer Review(s):

(1 Review)

Fabulous headphone

Steve from Mesa, AZ on 6/28/2017

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I ran these headphones for six days, 24/7, following Audioquest's instructions for a 150-hour break-in. Very glad I did. The sound opened up a lot from when they were new. Even using them with a cheap Android tablet revealed musical detail I didn't think possible. Plugging them into a Cambridge Audio DAC and a music server was a revelation. I can't imagine a $5,000 headphone being much better.

Pros: Wonderful sound after break-in. Low impedance and high sensitivity allow use directly with a smart phone. Short cord great for smart phone listening.

Cons: Short cord is NOT great for listening to the "big rig". Fixed that with a high quality Pangea headphone extension cord from another company.


Hands-on research

Features and Specs

Earcup Type Semi-open
Earcup Width x Height 3.555" x 4.245"
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 12.5 ounces
Cord Length 51"
1/4-inch Adapter Included Yes
Volume Control No
Parts Warranty 1 Year
Labor Warranty 1 Year

Product Research


Overview: The AudioQuest Nighthawk 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. NightHawk 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 NightHawk 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 NightHawk Carbon a distinctive clear and warm sound.

Drive Units: The NightHawk 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.

Semi-open Design: Unlike the NightOwl Carbon, the NightHawk Carbon has an open back design to give you a three-dimensional soundstage. The open area is covered by a 3D-printed grille that promotes the diffusion of sound, while preventing sound waves from reflecting back toward the driver, creating standing waves and distortion.

Audio Cable: The NightHawk Carbon comes with a 51" high-quality audio cable. Using technologies found in AudioQuest's loudspeaker cables, the larger 51" high-end NightHawk 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 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter that also features thick Direct-Silver plating over high-purity copper.

Break-in Period: Like other mechanical devices such as loudspeakers and phono cartridges, the NightHawk 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 NightHawk Carbon 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 NightHawk 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 3.555", Height 4.245", Depth 2.318"
  • Weight: 12.5 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.

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