Most of my time with AudioQuest’s NightOwl is spent paired with the Opus#2 portable music player. While many might not consider NO a portable headphone, I very much do. It’s light, comfortable, and easily driven, and sounds stupendous out of the Opus. This DAP is just warm of neutral and renders high levels of detail. It gives a natural, analogue tone, with one of the biggest soundstages around. NightOwl is at home on this player. Prone to a relaxed demeanor, NO is fed a wealth of dynamics from Opus. The highs are prominent and well extended, the bass big, deep, and controlled. This pairing brings out the best in both pieces.
Moving on to another Sabre DAC, the NFB-28 by Audio-GD, the step up in quality is but a small one. Don’t take that as a diss to the 28, but rather praise for the brilliance of the Opus#2. My NFB-28 is utterly neutral, full, and immaculate of rendering. Most everything I wrote about Opus holds true here, only a little bigger, a little finer, and a little clearer. Very little.
When I plugged these headphones into the iFi iDSD Black Label, I did not like what I heard. It was much darker, smaller, and heavily veiled. Then I flipped 3D on, and f**king wow! With 3D On, iMatch Off, Bass Boost Off, this paring is airy, spacious, and marvelously holographic. There’s great richness and intricate detailing. The NightOwls practically scream dynamism. It’s a bloody fun listen.
That about does it, yes? How many more ways can I say it? I love these headphones. From every DAP and DAC Pinky has on-hand, the AudioQuest NightOwl sings triumphant. It’s the best closed-back headphone I’ve yet to hear and a genuine upgrade to my old favorite in the mobile range, the Meze 99 Classics. Plug NightOwl into something like the Opus#2, and it’s like taking an acoustically warm concert hall everywhere you go. The degree of refinement and truth I hear is simply stunning. I’ve found something fiendishly special in these cans, and I’m not letting go anytime soon.