Pros: Incredible lows, lots of detail, actual imaging in a CIEM/IEM, silky smooth, BEAUTIFUL design, QUALITY craftsmanship, close to perfect
Cons: Cost, CIEM's require impressions, can't let friends hear how good they are, resale value (but I would never sell them...)
First of all, full disclosure, I did not pay for these Noble K10's. I traded for work I did for Noble.
Given that, however, I think Brannan and John would want me to post an honest review rather than a biased review just to keep them as a client!
With that out of the way, I have to say, these are the best CIEM/IEMs I have had the opportunity to hear. Am I just saying that for Noble's benefit, no, but you have to decide if you believe me.
I received these Wizard design K10 CIEM's in late 2013. They are obviously black carbon fiber faceplates with dark blue shells and a touch of glitter that seems to show up as different colors depending on the light. They are very clean and simple and I LOVE the way they look. Yes, they do remind me of some other CIEM's that use carbon fiber as their signature material. That's OK, I love the look.
The workmanship is perfect. I can't find any flaws anywhere. No bubbles, finger smudges, etc. Perfect.
I had Brannan do my impressions, so obviously there was no problems with my impressions. The K10's fit me perfectly. They are really easy to pop in and and out, but stay in really well. They seal great too. I don't get any popping or change in the seal even when I open my mouth or chew, etc. But the best thing is that they are super comfortable. I can wear them all day and barely even notice they are there. That's really the whole point with customs. with any IEM or CIEM their performance is all about the seal. although you can get a good seal with universals, with properly fitted customs, there is no struggling with the seal. You just pop them in and you've got a perfect seal. Easy!
I have a lot of different headphones and IEM's and one other CIEM, the Heir 8.A.
First, I can easily say that the Noble K10's are the best CIEM/IEM I have heard. To me they are a big step up from the 8.A. The bass on the K10 is much tighter and controlled, but still plentiful. I am amazed at how good the bass is on these CIEM's. When watching movies, especially, the bass feels like it's shaking my body even though I know that's not possible. But lots of bass is no good if it's not controlled and tight. It's not just bass for the sake of having bass. It's simply perfect. Even compared to my other headphones, the bass is better on the K10's. (OK, so the other headphones i have are not known for having much bass such as Stax, HD800, Etymotic ER4S.)
The mids are equally as good. Lots of detail, not too forward sounding, clean and smooth. Vocals, piano, guitar all sound very natural. Not much more I can say other than it sounds just right to me.
On the high end of the spectrum, the first word that comes to mind is "smooth". No sibilance, but still lots of detail. However, this is one area where I think the Stax definitely come out on top. My tastes lean towards super detailed, airy high end like the Stax or even the Etymotic ER4S or the HD800's to some extent. But with all the high frequency resolution, I can't stand harshness or sibilance or etched sound. To me the Stax sound is perfect in that way. The K10's don't have that super airy-ness, high end extension. They have tons of detail. I can hear the brushes on cymbals, the lips of a singer, the drumsticks hitting the cymbals, etc. with the K10's, but they very top of the frequency range just isn't as present as my other headphones. As a byproduct, the K10's never sound the slightest bit harsh at any listening levels. Dare I say they remind me a little bit of a "tube" sound that just has that luscious, silky, smooth sound, yet still very detailed.
But then when you talk about micro-detail like the ambience of a room or the imaging of a recording, the K10's are still somehow capable of all of that. I don't really hear a lot of imaging per se out of any headphones or in-ears but I am used to listening to virtual speakers using my software to give me WAY more imaging than any headphone could hope to achieve on it's own. So when the image is collapsed down when I disable my software, then the contrast is so great, I find it hard to evaluate imaging in headphones. It's so much less, that I don't hear a lot of difference from one headphone to the next. However, with the K10's, I am not sure, but maybe I am hearing so much detail in the recording that on a well recorded track, I can really hear some imaging. Maybe the drivers are also so "fast" that they can accurately playback all the micro-detail. Regardless, compared to my other in-ears, the K10's do actually image. WIth Out Of Your Head software running, I thought IEM/CIEMs wouldn't work as well as an open set of full size headphones, but when there is a lot of speed and resolution, the "Out Of Your Head" effect works really well.
What else can I say... Whenever I listen to the K10's, they just sound right. They make me smile every time. I can count on them to do everything I ask. Tons of bass and punch when watching movies; tons of detail and speed when listening to music. They are certainly what I take with me on the go. OK, if I could only have one headphone/in-ear, I would have to keep my beloved Stax-009's, but we're talking about a $10,000 system. In any situation where I can't have my Stax, the K10's fit the bill perfectly. I am always "blown away" when I am on a plane with my K10's running Out Of Your Head on my laptop watching a movie. Having such huge 7.1 surround sound and bass impact on a plane makes me feel guilty that the other passengers can't hear what I am hearing!
Thank you Noble!
Gear used for evaluation:
- Stax 009
- Stax 407
- Sennhesier HD800
- Etymotic ER4S
- Heir 8.A
- Out Of Your Head software
- Vostok Sound ES-21 electrostatic amp/dynamic amp/DAC
- HRT MicroStreamer
- Schiit Vali (with 75 ohm adapter for in-ear's)