We put Noble Audio’s ten-driver flagship through the paces
Sat Jul. 4, 2015
Nothing like a cold beer on a warm summer day. But let’s say you’re just plain thirsty. Wadya got? Gun to your head, you’re in a desert and I’m giving you a choice of a gallon of water or beer. What do you take?
Say whattttt? You choose the stuff of life? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
There’s no flash in this thing. It quenches your thirst, and it just keeps coming back. You know how this beer can’t go with that food, or that wine doesn’t pair well with that meat? Well, if that floats your boat, you’re not gonna want to take the Kaiser 10 out to sea. I’m sorry, but water goes with everything.
Drink up, and enjoy this quote from the master:
The Kaiser 10 is shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Be water, my friend.
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Form Factor: Acrylic Custom In-Ear Monitor
Damage: $1599 USD
Build Quality: Pretty good, but feels a little light
Fit: Unique. Loose-fitting on the outer ear portion, but very deep in the canals. It basically hangs on via the canals
Accessories: A very big hardcase- biggest I’ve seen so far- a soft pouch, some stickers, and a standard stock cable[/box]
Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: An Interview with Noble Audio
Interviewee: Dr. John Moulton, Owner and Founder
What is your company’s history?
My dad was an audiologist by training, and when he saw Westone got started he wanted to do it too. He didn’t have the chance to but I did. We partnered with Heir Audio to start with, because we had a partner in China who was a personal friend of my family and especially my dad. But when that when south we branched out on our own, keeping our former employees in China as partners.
Can you describe your philosophy for how products should sound, and how you tune or voice them?
I try to go for a range of products. Noble 6, Noble 5… They all sound different. I started getting into audio when I was 8. At that time my family had 12-inch speakers, Fischer speakers. Also had a Toshiba at one point. Growing up, I had different genres of music that I liked, that each played best on different speakers. Country Western for example didn’t do so well on 12-inch speakers, because you get vocals that are a bit muddy. I also liked Guitars, RnB, Hip Hop (does great with 12-15 inch cones), Rap. Each one of these genres sounded different, and worked best in different speakers. So I took this personal experience as a starting point to design my range.
What do you see as different or unique about your flagship?
The K10 was actually first conceived in Thailand- even before the Heir Audio days. It was going to be my 10-driver design, but then when Noble Audio was formed, we did more experimenting, Kaiser came into the picture, and we modified it somewhat from my original design. In terms of how it sounds: I wanted the bass to be tight and quick, and somewhat ‘hidden’- there but not always there. The highs had to be clean, good quality, and the bass shouldn’t interfere with that. What you end up with, with these in mind, is an all-rounder that basically works for all genres. I didn’t want my flagship to be pigeon-holed into a specific genre of music. Ironically, some people ended up being not overwhelmed exactly because of this. But it was important to me that our flagship not be polarising. The 8a, from the Heir Audio days, for example was a bit polarising. The lows were fantastic, but that was pretty much it.
PS, as an aside, I think the Savant’s reached that as well. Some think the K10 is still better, and others think the Savant probably has a bit more high-end extension. I could probably support both those views. Rounding off the top three IEMs in my lineup that I think are really representative, is the Noble 4.
Where do you see the industry headed?
You’ll probably be getting more and more small hearing aid companies entering this market with little to lose. What would be interesting to see is if the big hearing aid companies enter this market as well. At this point, the IEM market is way more competitive than the hearing aid one. For hearing aids, audiologists have to be registered, licensed, trained, certified, etc, and so they can charge high prices. Not the case in the IEM world.
Page 2: Sound (Bass, Midrange, Treble, Spatial, General Qualities)
the same thing about roxanne ,built the wall of sound is not good thing indeed
But why there is no review of Flare r2 pro ,it sound very good and better than my th900 .
Very enjoyable read. Thank you jelt2359
Interesting… I would have expected it to rank higher!
I agree with your assessment (for info I have K10 and SE5, but Reference.) The K10 are solid but I’ve always found they lacked the magical musicality of SE5. (In your terms this magic could be soundstage + imaging + airiness + musical resonance.) The K10 sounds like music comes from a wall and for me this limits my enjoyment.
The vocals are surely top-notch and the most impressive part is the timbre: drums, for example, are spot on. It is not perfect though, because sometimes it sounds like the singers (esp. female) slightly pinch their nose. Treble are super-smooth, but I regret that they lack air and sound a bit plasticky.
However I find bass better than you suggest. It might not the deepest but the air it moves provides a nice compensating feeling. I’d also like to add that the fit is exceptional, much better than my SE5 and UM Merlin.
A few things remarkable on SE5 Ref vs K10, and it might also be the case for SE5 Ultimate: the super dark background; the texture; the density of instruments (I find the sound has much more weight on SE5Ref, esp. the bass kick harder on SE5 Ref than K10); the treble floating around you; the instrument separation.
Looking forward your take on the next one!