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Noble 4

Posted

Pros: Neutral. Beautifully smooth, delicately articulate. Control. Separation.

Cons: Not 'fun' to listen to. Initial listening extremely underwhelming.

Here are my very brief impressions after listening to this earphone for approximately 12 hours without burn in. Very early stages, I know.

Sampling artists I used include John Mayer, Katharine McPhee, Brooke Fraser, Kina Grannis.

Currently owned in-ears: Shure SE215 (3 years), Sennheiser IE8 (2 years), Logitech UE600 (2 years)

 

I purchased these in-ears as I had an increasing need for a neutral sounding set of ears which I can pair with a monitoring pack while positioning microphones for live gigs.

 

 

This in-earphone will definitely not wow at first listen.

But they will provide endless insight into the music.

 

 

Comfort:
My ears are extremely picky with silicone tips and I couldn't get anything other than the foam tips to sit comfortably.

 

Sound stage:

The strength of this earphone in this area is definitely contributed by the lack of any emphasis in area. You'll notice that this is generally what I'm going to say in every frequency region.
There's nothing in the sound that adds to the dynamics of a song and brings those instruments in and makes them more audibly present. This helps with both separation and space.
Layers of instruments aren't blended together even with similar frequency signatures. Orchestral sections are so well separated and placed that it makes conducting seem like an easy task to do blindfolded.

 

Lows: (Sub-bass to 200Hz)

Deep and extensive. Not immersive.

John Mayer's 'Belief' and 'Slow Dancing In A Burning Room' 
There is no 60-80Hz punch like the Shures, or mid bass hump that veils the mids (IE8).

Kick drums and bass guitars have space and distance, something I find the Sennheiser IE8s didn't do very well and the 215's place right inside your skull.

Orchestras are not warm and lush as with the IE8s which seem to place classical genres in a medium sized, musty, ornate concert hall with lots of velvet and wood.

 

 

Mids:
Nowhere near as warm or upfront as the Shures.
The snare in John Mayer's 'Belief' doesn't crack explosively with a 4KHz peak. Which is a good thing for me.
The snare is just sits about 8 meters away on a carpet in a bright room. It doesn't lack thickness, resonance or clarity but is relaxed and controlled.

 

Highs:

The articulation of highs is incredible.
Sibilance is there when it is present in recordings. It's easily noticeable, but rarely ever harsh.
There is no shimmery high 12KHz peak.

 

 

Genres recommended:
Female Vocalists

Acoustic

Classical Piano

Blues (The trumpet-playing cigar room type)

 

Genres not recommended with the Noble 4:

EDM
Full Band Rock

Funk

 

 

These are my impressions after my first extended listen.

 

 

Dug up and dusted off my PA2v2 portable amp which is well known for it's dynamic-adding definitely-not-flat properties.
It might be just batteries running low but the amount of noise from the amp is quite horrendous.
It gives driving, heavy genres more 'life' and punch, but loses the wonderful neutral composure.
If I had to rate the pairing, I'd give the pair a 70% match score.

Posted

Pros: Flat, transparent signature

Cons: Not enough bass for severe bassheads

Foreword:

 

I'm a production manager, but focus mostly on sound engineering. I install and tune a lot of P.A equipment, and also mix live acts in :

- live venues,
- concert halls,
- bars, and
- nightclubs.

I've taken a huge liking to headphones, and IEM's in particular. I like the idea of having my own personal PA system, that I can take with me anywhere. Especially with Rockbox being in such advanced stages, and such great low-impedance portable amps coming out, you can really seem to get any sound signature you wish out of a portable rig.

 

 

 

 


Enter, the Noble 4.

 

Build quality:
This is from Nobles “Classic” line, and as such, is not one of their signature “WIZARD” designs. It's still incredibly well built and sturdy. The quad-braid cable has a low (but still mildly audible) microphonic noise when tapped or rubbed.

 

Besides that, the black cable still looks great, is terminated with an angled plastic plug (which, interestingly, is a 45 degree angle plug).


Feel/comfort:
The supplied tips fit me perfectly. As this is D_Marc0s personal unit, it was supplied with medium tips. I used some of equal size, which fit fine for me.

They have no apparent issues with isolation, and the comfort was fine for me for the duration of my listening period (a few hours).
 

Specs:

4 balanced-armature drivers

  • 2 precision tuned low frequency drive

  • 1 precision tuned mid frequency driver

  • 1 precision tuned high frequency driver

  • 3-Way design

  • Impedance > 30

  • Detachable cable w/ industry standard two pin configuration

  • Slate pentalobe screws


Sound:

 

Bass:

Despite not being a basshead IEM, I've definitely heard leaner. The only IEM I have on hand to compare with is the Unique Melody Merlin (surprise surprise). The Dual BA bass of the Noble feels more detailed, yet less punchy or impactful.

 

It's a clean bassline, registered neatly, with a slight mid-bass bump, but overall I would consider the bass to be considered “flat” or “neutral”. It's not enough to muddy up the mids, but it's enough to be able to cleanly register basslines. Of course, it's not quite enough to satisfy my bass needs, but I am a self admitted basshead.

 

 

Mids:

Definitely “forward”. A fantastic amount of detail, clarity, and depth. Vocals (especially female) are incredibly accurate in their representation. The mids don't feel overly coloured, rather (once again) a neutral presentation, with slight volume increases at 4k and 6k, with a smaller increase again at 8k.

 

Fantastic for acoustic and classical pieces, where “realism” is an important factor.

 

High:

After reviewing an enslaught of sibilant IEMs lately (which I am personally sensitive to) these are a real treat. They are just crisp enough to retrieve details that dynamic drivers often struggle with, but not so bright that it becomes painful. IEM manufactures: Listen up. This is how highs need to be done.

 

Of course, at higher volumes, the brightness does come out and sing, especially with certain female vocal pieces. But overall, the highs were detailed, but not offensive.

 

Value:

For $450 US (website pricing) I would say these are pretty much spot on for what I would expect. Having a quick look on-line at included accessories, I'd would personally say that Noble have nailed this pricing.


Overall conclusion:

Wouldn't entirely recommend for electronic music, but I personally find these to be highly transparent, enjoyable IEMs, with great amounts of detail, very little sibilance, and not a truckload of bass. In a word: Neutral.


 

Great job Noble.

A huge thanks to d_Marc0 for the demo unit – my apologies for a short review.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: Uncolored, natural presentation, soundstage realism, dynamic integrity, clarity, no real weaknesses at all.

Cons: Might not be well-suited for use with headwear, sticks out slightly from your ear, no included shirt clip.

IEMs I own and have used extensively before: Vsonic GR07 (single dynamic), Vsonic VC1000 (dual BA), Etymotic HF5 (single BA) (all around or slightly above $100).

 

 

Fit and Comfort

The housings were smaller than I was expecting, very light-weight. The cable closest to the housing has a metal wire that you can bend to your desired shape around your ear. The IEMs are not ventilated, so can create a vaccuum feel in your ears with some tips. I am sensitive to this though and it did not bother me with these IEMs. Depth of insertion can be quite shallow if desired, no need to shove them in deep to get a good sound.

Wearing a hat over them might put uncomfortable pressure on the housing into your ear. I tend to use mine only at home, and my GR07 are my on-the-move IEM, with smaller housing, and an angled plug for mobile use.

 

Included Cable

Very good feeling cable. Feels very strong (supposedly is very strong), virtually no memory at all, won't tangle easily, terminates in straight metal-covered 3.5mm jack. No shirt clip included, I was able to get the wire over an old Soundmagic shirt clip (wire is 4 smaller wires braided, with some careful manouvering you can get 2 or more wires over even smaller shirt clips). Shirt cinch exists, a transparent plastic tube that can be slid up and down.

 

 

Overall Frequency Response

Very very neutral. You can make some slightly adjustments depending on tip choice. Lowest bass is represented, but slightly rolled off in terms of volume. From mid-bass up they are very neutral sounding across the range. Nothing pokes out, nothing dips down. Very well balanced, I would not hesitate to do critical listening with these.

 

Bass

Quality is great, very textured and fast decay as per usual with BA drivers. Midbass is capable of rough "hard" texture and rumble with good attack when called for. Bass rarely takes centre stage in terms of volume, is mostly fills in underneath the mids and treble in a quite airy, layered way, surprisingly spacious and "stereo" at times. For most acoustic and orchestral stuff I feel the bass amount of pretty much spot on for creating a realistic presentation without overly emphasising the bass. For most orchestral stuff again, bass perfectly fills out the lower midrange and can provide a great sense of body and depth to sounds, but it's always in moderation and with a sense of slight shyness.

 

Mids

Very very good. The decay and clarity in the midrange is one of the highlights of the Noble 4 Universal. Quite present midrange, with superb dynamic integrity and transparency. Moments in soundtracks in films where the orchestra calls for sudden stabs of brass or strings really do jump out with body and weight.

 

Treble

Very detailed and transparent aswell, very natural extension from the mids. They can provide a slight textured bite in lower and high treble when called for, however are also capable of very realistic, natural, presentation. Despite the neutral frequency response, they render distorted guitars with very good crisp texture when called for. Can be aggressive or smooth on the surface depending on material. Very versatile.

 

Dynamics

Excellent dynamics with a very clear, fast feel across the range. Compared to the Vsonic GR07 the Noble 4U has much superior texturing, speed and layering in the mids and lower mids and bass, and the precision and capability both in soft, distant sounds and snappy, loud close-proximity sounds is very lifelike and impressive and adds to the effortless depth. I did notice when first using the Noble 4U that the treble texture and overall slightly dry and scratchy "feel" on metal music really reminded me of the GR07, but without the uneven frequency emphasis of the GR07.

 

Soundstage/Presentation

The soundstage (or the integrity of low-level details that help create a sense of room, size and space) of the Noble 4U are capable of is impressively natural, layered and very, very convincing. It has none of the slightly cramped or diffuse depth of the GR07, VC1000 or the Etymotic HF5. It can sound very wide, very deep and very convincing if the material calls for it. Compared to the 3 IEMs I just listed, the Noble 4U is the only one where it will genuinely sound like you are in the space the music presents. The cohesion of the stereo field from left to right is superb, and the excellent clarity and speed makes it very, very transparent. By that I mean, when listening to the Noble 4U, if a song is presenting you a big orchestral room, you can clearly "see" all the way to the back of the room, nothing obscuring subtle reflections or nuances in sounds. The GR07, VC1000 or Etymotic HF5 all feel like there's a slightly layer of smoke in the room, and while you can make out what the room looks like when you listen to them, you generally only see clearly the sound that is closer to you.

 

In short, the presentation of the smallest of nuances in ambience, even when the musical passage is blasting brass or other richly textured sound, is very clear, and you feel and hear so many layers into the distance.

Couple this with the dynamics across their range, and they really are great at presenting at immersing you in orchestral and acoustic recordings where the room sounds are featured more prominently. You can close your eyes and just completely be in that space, the neutral FR further helping a very convincing presentation with no unnatural frequency spikes or dips or an overly prominent bass or treble.

There seems to be no  noticable phase issues creating an articial sense of space either. For metal material the sense of cohesion in attack and centre stage is superb, no diffusion really noticeable.

 

 

Summary

 

The Noble 4U is a very neutral IEM, impressively so, no area feels emphasised, they don't sound bassy, bright, or overly midrange-focused.

The entire frequency range has immense clarity and ability to create an open, spacious feeling to the sides, in front and even above you. Dynamics are very natural and orchestral material can sound very lifelike and 3-dimensional, both in how the room extends out, and how the instruments will jump out at you when called for. Surface texture can be aggressive when called for thanks to good attack and decay, making metal and other music satisfyingly aggressive sounding.

Perceived cohesion in sound from bass through treble is very good.

The way they very faithfully reproduce the material played without any real coloring is their absolutely strongest attribute. you can be playing songs where you are enjoying the sound, but you might not be impressed. Then you switch to a song where the recording is focused on reproducing the room it was recorded in, and suddenly you realize/remember the capability of the Noble 4U. This is one IEM where once you play something that shows what they can do, you will start aiming to find material and music that has those aspects for the Noble 4U to reproduce. I find myself playing specific songs over and over just because of how well they are recorded and how utterly convincingly it feels like I have a guy 3 feet to my right playing a steel-stringed guitar in a small-ish room.

 

Overall, I personally consider the Noble 4U to be an extremely satisfying, refined, mature upgrade from the Vsonic GR07, Vsonic VC1000 or the Etymotic HF5. Compared to all these, the Noble 4U is impressively more capable in all areas of their sound, where the others in comparison have very noticeable "deficiencies" in either perceived soundstage, frequency response linearity, or areas of their FR where their drivers are not able to reach nearly the level of clarity or dynamic integrity of the Noble 4U.

 

I fail to find any weaknesses in their sound whatsoever, subjective or objective. These are spectacularly transparent, neutral, natural, impressive-sounding IEMs.

Posted

Pros: Clean sounding, fast, relatively large soundstage for IEM

Cons: Mids too aggressive, no bass

Use with AK240, iPhone 6 plus, Macbook

 

Packaging 9/10

Very minimalistic and functional packaging. Gives off a premium vibe instantly.

 

Build 7/10

Extremely good cable. Body plastic material feels a little bit cheap.

 

Comfort 10/10

Very light, with the right tip you feel nothing when wearing for extended amount of time.

 

Treble 8/10

Sparkling treble, sometimes with somewhat emphasized sibilance.

 

Mid 6/10

Very clear, however very thin sounding. Sometimes too dominant.

 

Bass 3/10

Very lean bass, not punchy. Some genres unlistenable.

 

Soundstage and imaging 6/10

Good soundstage for an IEM because of it's treble presentation. Imaging however is confused.

 

Overall

This is a nice earphone for daily use when you are out and about. I think it's slightly overpriced.

Noble 4
Description:

The Noble 4 is a neutral sounding product that should appeal to those who desire a flatter frequency response. An update from the Wizard’s four-driver design, the Noble 4 lacks the controversial dip in the high frequency region. The smooth, clean, sound makes for an ideal pairing with vocal, acoustic, and classical music.

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