Pros: Very balanced sound, superb workmanship, excellent fit and comfort
Hi all, I guess I'm a Head Fi posting newbie, though I've been soaking up the reviews and forum posts for a couple of years. I've been in the pro audio business working with recording studios, Artists, Producers and Mixers for the past 20 years here in Los Angeles. I spend a lot of time in control rooms and have listened to some truly amazing sounding monitor systems. But my job involves a lot of travel around the world so I started looking for a great sounding in-ear monitor, with good isolation that could come close to the performance of a decent set of studio monitors. I started with the good old UE Triple Fi 10 with comply tips and wore out a couple of pairs of those, but was never really satisfied with the scooped mid freq response of those.
I listened to a lot of IEM's at trade shows and none of them really stood out and provided the sound I was used to in a studio monitor or a decent over ear headphone. I happened to meet Brannan from Noble at one of the shows and took a listen to his demo's. He happened to have a set of Noble 4's and 6's. I talked him into letting me hold on to them for a few days to evaluate. One thing I should mention is I must have pretty unusual ear canals because I really could not get the old Noble tips to seal so well and consequently I wasn't getting quite the low end I hoped for. I put on a pair of large comply tips and got the seal I was looking for. The Noble 4's were immediately an obvious step up from the TF10's - very flat, with a really nice high mid that gave a good presence to vocals, but they did not have quite the bass extension I was looking for. The Noble 6's had that extra low end bump and maybe a half octave more in the bottom end that I was looking for and still had the same presence on top. I was quite pleased with the performance of the 6's, though I wasn't quite getting the ultra high end "air" I heard on near field monitors.
I used them extensively for a couple of weeks and was pretty set on a pair of Noble 6's in the universal fit. Brannan happened to touch base with me and mentioned that he had a set of demo's on the K10 that I should check out when he was next in LA. It literally took 30 seconds of listening to these and I was blown away. They seemed to have much tighter bass than I had previously heard in any IEM and I was finally getting that high end air on the vocal. Wow - these are it and they were also very efficient - the iPhone easily drives these things. One immediate thing for me was that they have a very smooth response, with none of the harshness around 3-5KHz that a lot of IEMs seem to have. But they have a very extended high end so you can really hear that breathy 12kHz that a lot of mixers put on a lead vocal to add that presences and breath. The more I listened the more I liked them.
Not being available in universal fit, Brannan shot my ears and said it would take a few weeks to make the custom K10's. These would be my first Custom IEM;s and I really was not at all prepared for the difference. With the universals, I would constantly be rotating and pushing them in as they gradually became unseated. Did I say I have funky ear canals? Every few months I was ordering another batch of comply's because they only seem to last a few weeks. The first time I put in the custom K10's, I immediately noticed the drop in ambient level - wow these things really do get over 20dB of isolation and a great seal.
The fit was incredibly comfortable. But the biggest surprise was the low end in these things. I have spent years with universals and its been a constant challenge getting a great seal to really experience the low end they are capable of. The K10 customs low end was a night and day difference compared to even the universal version of the K10 demos. You may all know this already, but for any first timers - get the custom fit versions - it is a huge difference.
I won't talk about soundstage because I really don't understand how an IEM in a sealed environment 1/2 an inch from each eardrum can possibly have an effect on imaging :0
All in all - I think if you are looking for coloration then you might want to look elsewhere. I personally want to hear something in an IEM that is as close to pair of near field studio monitors like a Genelec or Adam or JBL LSR. So far these are the closest thing that I've heard. I want to hear it the same way the mixer heard it - no more or less bass, no more or less top end
Anyway, I've had these things for a couple of weeks now and I adore them. I can listen for hours on end without fatigue and they sound amazing with well recorded and mixed material. Some folks have mentioned the low end is tight but not maybe for bassheads. Well I really like a good extended bass and I'm hearing the same woof on a well mic'd kick drum that I hear on a pair of big Augsperger studio monitors, though I might not be getting it in the chest.. The low end is great and I couldn't imagine wanting any more. The high mids are very smooth without that harsh 4kHz bite that keeps you from cranking a lot of IEMs. If I could nail it down, I'd say I'm getting that extended low end and a smooth over 12K high end, that I haven't heard yet on other IEM's. As others have said - they are kind of expensive - but these are the first IEMs that I look forward to putting in my ears and listening.