Look further if:
• You want an amp that offers purity, clarity, and accuracy, but that also digs way down deep into the inner voices of instruments to produce a believable, three-dimensional sound (the Nighthawk does well here, but has competitors that can do even better).
• You were hoping for a hybrid tube/solid-state design (in which case, you may want to wait for the Cary-branded version of the amp to come out).
• You need multiple inputs and/or switch selectable master gain settings (features that several competing amps in this class can provide).
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced headphone amps):
• Tonal Balance: 9
• Clarity: 9
• Dynamics: 8
• Flexibility: 5 (at this price point, it’s becoming commonplace to see headphone amps with multiple inputs and switch selectable master gain settings—neither of which the Nighthawk provides).
• Value: 7.5
I regard the Nighthawk as a fine first effort from Cary’s new Audio Electronics division. It’s a product with many laudable strong points, though one that does face significant competition at or near its price point. Fans of clarity, purity, and neutrality will love this amp, while those seeking the elusive qualities of inner detail and three-dimensionality may find they want something more.
The good people at Cary Audio have told me that in the future there may well be a Cary-branded version of the Nighthawk, featuring hybrid tube/solid-state circuitry. Based on what I’ve heard of the Nighthawk thus far, I can’t wait to hear the Cary version.
Audio Electronics by Cary Audio Nighthawk Headphone Amp
Frequency Response: 5Hz – 35kHz (-1dB)
Analog Inputs: One stereo analog input (via gold-plated RCA jacks)
Analog Outputs: One ¼-inch headphone jack, one stereo analog pass-through output (via gold-plated RCA jacks)
Input Impedance: 50k Ohms
Output Impedance: 5 Ohms
Output Power: 400mW/300 Ohms, 600mW/30 Ohms
Recommended Headphone Loads: Designed to drive headphones with impedances ranging between 20 and 600 Ohms.
Dimensions (H x W x D): 4” x 8.5” x 14.5”
Weight: 10 lbs.
Audio Electronics by Cary Audio