AudioQuest provided me with the NightOwls free of charge in exchange for my honest review, for good or ill.
I’ve been harassing AudioQuest about the NightOwl for some time now. While the Meze 99 Classics nourish my soul better than I ever could have hoped, I felt the righteous project for a reviewer at THL was to investigate what “better” might sound like, in the closed-back, portable-esque category.
Stephen Mejias and Jessa Zapor helped me a great deal. They made sure Pinky got his hands on the NightOwls, and the Perch Headphone Stand, when review samples were ready. They were quick to reply to all emails and thoroughly answered any questions I had. Fine, upstanding paragons of the AudioQuest team. Thanks to them, you and I get to take this journey and explore higher up the ladder of full-size closed-back portable solutions to our audiophile lusts.
Indeed, the NightOwls are portable, though they do push the bounds of that classification. In my opinion, anything that can fit in my bag and is driven well by a mobile device is a portable headphone. Or at least can take on that role.
Unlike the Meze 99 Classics’, the NO’s travel case is not suited for everyday carry. It’s impressive for sure, but just too big for my messenger bag… unless I wish to carry nothing else. Instead, I use the included pouch. There’s even one for my cable, which is adorable.
The Perch Headphone Stand is great, and built like a tank. Since NO stays in my bag most of the time, Perch has been reassigned to the full-time duty of supporting my Audeze LCD-2.2Fazor. It’s a far cry from the cheap plastic stand I used before.
AudioQuest made a superb headphone in the NightOwl. True genius went into its design. I’ll not go into all the details because, quite frankly, that sort of writing bores me. But I encourage you to follow the link at the beginning and read up for yourself. What I do enjoy writing about is my own experience with the headphone. And it’s a positive one, let me assure you.
The pads are thick and extremely soft. The clamp force is a little weak, but ultimately this adds to the ease of use. For the NightOwl is the most comfortable headphone I own, and I own a few whose comfort I’d classify as “excellent”; The Meze 99C and Sennheiser HD6XX can be worn forever without pain.
They are elegant, attractive cans. I’m a big fan of the aesthetics here. Some obsessive bastard polished the liquid-wood cups to a mirror shine. In a couple shots, you may see my Samsung Galaxy S6 reflected in those black pools. What can I say? The f**kers are not easy to photograph without inadvertently making it a self-portrait. Such modesty! But it’s cool. Pinky likes shiny things.
It’s not all positive, of course. The cable AudioQuest provides for NightOwl is an exact replica of Lucifer’s phallus. It’s thick, stiff, and unwieldy… not to mention pure evil.
I had no choice but to make my own, if I were to get any sort of lasting enjoyment out of these headphones. Plus, this gave me the opportunity to go Balanced. Trevor over at Norne Audio must get a hearty call of thanks for supplying me with their Eidolic plugs and guiding me towards this conductor. His DiY shop is great, and he’s always very eager to help however he can.
Pinky-Made 22AWG 7n OCC Copper, 2.5mm TRRS Balanced