I have always thought the Nighthawk phono stage offered a lot of performance for the money, but felt it did have a set of limitations. When the new turntable made it into the system, I decided to seriously listen to this phono stage again. I recently sold off my Hagerman Coronet 2, so I have been trying to decide what I wanted to do for a long term solution in regards to analog playback.
One thing I have noticed is that the different gain points on the Nighthawk modify the tonal balance and presentation of space in subtle but meaningful ways. I have to say I am picky about what I am looking for in terms of analog playback, and pretty good is just not good enough.
What I have found in my system is that the top two gain positions offer a higher degree of transparency and impropved presentation of space. However it also makes slight changes to the tonal balance of the system. As gain increases the Nighthawk loses warmth and a roundness to the sound. To some extent this can be compensated for with the cartridge loading values, which is not one would normally consider doing when setting up a phono stage. But it works. For my Accuphase AC1 I find that the 5th gain position and 500 phms works best for jazz and symphonic work. If I need a more forward and vibrant sound, I use the 6th position and 1K loading.
Experimenting with these settings allows me to coax a final degree of sonic improvement out of this good phono stage. I am really enjoying my time with the Nighthawk.