I’ve received a loaner Noble 4 universal from a friend and have some instant first impression, as well as comparisons with the ER-4S this morning. My initial reaction is that this is the best Wiz designed universal to date. I’ve previously heard the Heir 4.ai, 3.ai, Tzar90 and Tzar350 and I think the Noble 4 is superior to all those previous offerings in both sound quality as well as looks. The Noble universals, in all black with crown logo, look much better than the dark wood of the Heir universals. Plus the stock cable is very nice too- supple, flexible but with a little bit of heft compared to the standard epic style removable cable; although I do not like the 45 degree connector- give me straight or give me a right angle; don’t give me a wishy, washy 45’er! And of course don't get me started on the Ety cable...
The first question from the Ety crowd, I’m sure, is, “is it neutral?” Well sort of. I suppose it is neutralish in the sense of the DBA02 being neutralish. For the most part I find the bass and midrange fairly neutral but the treble is definitely boosted, and I find the Noble 4 a good bit brighter than the ER-4S (in both green and red filtered versions). The treble has a peak, using test tones, between 6k and 6.5k that gives it this brightness and it also slightly accentuates sibilance (but nothing unmanageable) and negatively affects treble timbre IMO. The ER-4S comes across as much smoother and even polite in treble with better treble timbre in comparison.
The midrange of the Noble 4 is the best part- it’s clear, articulate and neither harsh nor lush, or sweet or any other descriptor of colored mids. In this regard it shares some similarity with the ER-4S with red filters (with green I find the ER-4S just a tad hot in the 2k-4k range).
For the most part the Noble 4 bass is pretty neutral but it sounds a little more rounded, rather than flat, across the bass frequencies compared the ER-4S. I don’t mean that it has a mid bass hump, but I do find it ever so slightly rounded where mid/upper bass is a little louder in volume than the deeper bass, whereas the ER-4S sounds completely flat across the bass spectrum to me. Both seem to roll off in sub bass at a similar point with test tones but due to the slight rounding in the Noble 4, it gives the perception of rolling off sooner than the ER-4S when music is playing. The flatness of the ER-4S bass, IMO, is the secret to its great bass texture, which is better in the Ety than in the Noble.
The Noble 4 sounds taller in headstage to me than the ER-S4 but I really think width is similar; it’s just that the Noble comes across as more upfront and closer to me than the Ety. The Ety has better imaging and coherency, creating more space around the images, whereas the Noble’s images sound more compressed in contrast. This may be impacted by the treble peak in the Noble 4, as the ER-4S sounds deeper to me b/c treble cues aren’t placed so forward in the headstage. Your perception may vary.
Overall I find the ER-4S more accurate, more neutral and overall smoother than the Noble 4, which I find brighter, peakier, punchier and bolder sounding (the Noble 4 has harder edged notes). This is of course how I hear the two and I can completely understand if someone finds the Noble 4 more enjoyable or more musical, while still maintaining a neutralish presentation.