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post #3511 of 7476

I am still not happy.

post #3512 of 7476

Hey Head-Fiers!

 

I had the opportunity to listen to one of Noble Audio's newest products just recently at the So-Cal Meet and was incredibly impressed. Afterwards, Brannan reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested in a more extended listening session. Thought I'd share my impressions in this thread, so here's the review in full.

 

Noble Audio FR - Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

Introduction

Despite humans having only a single pair of ears, many an audio enthusiast reading this review likely has more than one pair of headphones or IEMs. I myself am guilty of this. If pressed by family and friends as to my reasoning behind the madness, I point to a human fault I possess: whimsiness. 

 

Sometimes I'm in a mood for a more analytical sound and want to strain to hear all of the little nuances in a well-recorded song – when this is the case, I reach for my modded HD 800s. Other times, I just want to bob my head and rock my body to a fun song - here, I generally take my Senn 598s / Fostex TH-600s off the racks. For music listening outside my residence, I take a pair of CIEMs on the go. 

 

The desire for versatility is the cause of substantial time and costs that I’ve sunk into the hobby trying out a variety of fun and reference sound signatures. My story has a happy ending, as I eventually worked out my own personal preferences and now only keep a smattering of gear that closely suit my tastes. Unfortunately, this particular road might not be a viable option for everyone – with all of the headgear already out there and the recent explosive growth of new companies and products, it can be a daunting and expensive task for those newer to the hobby that lack easy access to a large brick and mortar store and/or well-established audio community. 

 

Enter the Noble Audio FR, with an innovative approach to the problem. The Noble Audio FR offers two different sound signatures in a single product:


F(ull Range) – A U-shaped fun presentation for those people that enjoy a splash of liveliness and colour in their music
R(eference) – Clear and detailed, this sound signature is for those who like to hear the music reproduced as-is

 

Product Details
The FR comes packed in a standard IEM case with 4 sets of eartips, 3 styles in sizes S, M and L. The product itself is slightly glossy and looks modest and understated in a jet black color. The Noble Audio logo can be seen etched onto the IEMs and looks incredibly sleek. The cable is the standard Noble Audio cable, which is excellent in terms of flexibility and does not tangle. You also get 2 Noble bands to strap your equipment with, and a Noble Ownership card where you can write your information down should you ever lose the IEMs with the case. 

 

 

 

 

 

Technical Information about the Noble FR 
The first question I had after listening to the FR is, “How does it work?” So I reached out to Noble Audio and received some interesting information to share.


Toggling the switch produces a drastically different sound without any time delay. I played around with the switches incessantly during the review process. A simple flick of my thumb or index finger is enough to change between the configurations; whether I decide to change halfway through a song or between albums, it’s an easily accessible toggle and rapidly becomes a second nature motion. I’ve been informed that the switch comes from the hearing aid world, repurposed for use in an IEM. The switch feels durable and is just the right length – too much longer and I’d worry about the possibility of the piece snapping off, too much shorter and it might have resulted in a clumsy fumbling of fingers between settings. 


The switch itself is an A/B switch that, when toggled, acts as a relay between two independent clusters of components (crossover network + corresponding drivers). The FR is technically a 3 driver BA IEM; however, two of the drivers are used exclusively by the F configuration, whereas the other driver is used only by the R configuration. 


I’m told that the hardest part of the creation of the FR was the soldering involved, which I can certainly believe after seeing and hearing the IEM firsthand!


On the F, the R and the Sound
I’ve owned and demoed a good amount of TOTL IEMs out there but struggled to find one without nagging downsides significant enough to prevent me from having a blissful listening experience. When I first heard the FR from Noble at the recent SoCal Head-Fi meet, both configurations made a positive impression on me but I hesitated to pass judgment before spending more time with them.


Now that I’ve had the chance to listen to them in both real world and ideal settings with my own music, I have to say Noble did a smashingly good job.

 

Sources and Conditions

I paired the FR with the AK240, the iPhone 5, and through my Macbook Pro through an Audioquest Dragonfly. I used the FR while at home in quiet settings, at work, outside in noisy conditions, and while flying.


Full Range
The Full Range is extremely pleasant to listen to, and is a fun signature done right. The right areas are accentuated without being overdone. The lower end receives a bump that makes head-bopping a given but doesn’t muddy the sound signature, the treble has a touch of added shimmer that adds brightness without causing fatigue. However, what makes the Full Range captivating is the vocals, which come across as amazingly lush. The intimacy and sweetness make the Full Range an intoxicating listen. Most importantly, nothing comes across as overly offensive or unbearable, whether in the form of excessive bass or shrieky treble. I could, and have, listened to these IEMs for hours without needing a break. Noble really tried to appeal to the whole range of listeners out there with their tuning, and I certainly commend them on their successful efforts.


But this wouldn’t be a review without discussing some of the weaknesses as well. The Full Range is a very intimate listen, but this comes at the expense of soundstage and imagery. I can compare it to being in the first row of a concert –you hear the big picture loud and clear and it’s a lot of fun, but you lose out on the placement of individual instruments due to the noise. Also, when I say I can listen to the Full Range tuning for hours on end, those hours are generally spent on albums where vocals are the star, accompanied only by acoustic guitars or other simple instruments. For complex albums with a lot going on, I feel the Full Range is a bit too rich for my tastes. 


Reference 
The Reference sound signature is true to its name. The R configuration comes across as very natural; lows, mids and highs, the right dosage of each make it easy on the ears. Vocals don’t lose the sweetness the Full-Range setting offers, and guitars and other instruments present in the midrange sound very lifelike. There are no significant peaks in the bass or treble that I hear, and the overall presentation sounds very involving and is an engaging listen. The neutral sound the Reference offers is by no means a boring one. 


And now here’s where the FR has a leg-up on the other offerings out there – the Reference configuration complements the Full Range nicely as it is strong in the areas of weaknesses I just mentioned. I had fully expected myself to prefer and to use the Full Range setting for the vast majority of my songs, and this was certainly the case for the first few days. After comparisons with my CIEM on songs I’m intimately familiar with, I found that where the universal IEM was lacking in soundstage depth and lower end slam (as expected in head-to-head against a custom), it made up for in the details, the imagery, and the clarity it possesses.


Details – The Reference does a great job of revealing the finer points in a song – Focusing on specific instruments strike me as audible and clear, even during passages of complex songs.     


Imagery – I use this to describe the perceived placement of the listener. The Reference performs very well, as the whole range of instruments comes across sounding centered and distance-appropriate. 


Clarity – Separation of instruments and vocals is excellent, particularly decay in the mid-bass. This allows complex passages of music to come across without sounding smeared or fuzzy. This strength of the Reference configuration is among the best I’ve heard in my experiences to-date as compared to both headphone and IEM products. 


I’d actually go so far as to say that out of all of the IEMs I’ve heard, the Reference configuration on the FR is the one that best suits my tastes. It plays well with every genre I threw at it, and I’ve yet to find a significant nitpick that would contribute to a less-than-blissful listening experience. 

 

Conclusion
The FR offers a high degree of versatility and fully checks off on all of the boxes I’d expect a TOTL IEM to. I find myself using the Reference configuration on the majority of the albums I listen to, especially when my surroundings are relatively quiet. For vocal-centric songs, when I’m out and about and need a bass bump, or even when I just feel in the mood that day for a fun twist, the Full Range setting delivers. It’s amazing to think that all it takes to meet my whimsy needs is the simple flick of a switch. Both configurations are a welcome addition to my IEM collection, and the fact that they came bundled in one convenient price and product is just the icing on top of the cake. Bon Appétit!


Edited by HideousPride - 4/16/14 at 4:31pm
Reply
post #3513 of 7476

no such luck... I just know three of the set-ups being used at Axpona... the forth we are in discussion about, well debating over the pro's & cons.

post #3514 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by HideousPride View Post

Hey Head-Fiers!

I had the opportunity to listen to one of Noble Audio's newest products just recently at the So-Cal Meet and was incredibly impressed. Afterwards, Brannan reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested in a more extended listening session. Thought I'd share my impressions in this thread, so here's the review in full.

Noble Audio FR - Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!



Introduction
Despite humans having only a single pair of ears, many an audio enthusiast reading this review likely has more than one pair of headphones or IEMs. I myself am guilty of this. If pressed by family and friends as to my reasoning behind the madness, I point to a human fault I possess: whimsiness. 

Sometimes I'm in a mood for a more analytical sound and want to strain to hear all of the little nuances in a well-recorded song – when this is the case, I reach for my modded HD 800s. Other times, I just want to bob my head and rock my body to a fun song - here, I generally take my Senn 598s / Fostex TH-600s off the racks. For music listening outside my residence, I take a pair of CIEMs on the go. 

The desire for versatility is the cause of substantial time and costs that I’ve sunk into the hobby trying out a variety of fun and reference sound signatures. My story has a happy ending, as I eventually worked out my own personal preferences and now only keep a smattering of gear that closely suit my tastes. Unfortunately, this particular road might not be a viable option for everyone – with all of the headgear already out there and the recent explosive growth of new companies and products, it can be a daunting and expensive task for those newer to the hobby that lack easy access to a large brick and mortar store and/or well-established audio community. 

Enter the Noble Audio FR, with an innovative approach to the problem. The Noble Audio FR offers two different sound signatures in a single product:

F(ull Range) – A U-shaped fun presentation for those people that enjoy a splash of liveliness and colour in their music
R(eference) – Clear and detailed, this sound signature is for those who like to hear the music reproduced as-is


Product Details

The FR comes packed in a standard IEM case with 4 sets of eartips, 3 styles in sizes S, M and L. The product itself is slightly glossy and looks modest and understated in a jet black color. The Noble Audio logo can be seen etched onto the IEMs and looks incredibly sleek. The cable is the standard Noble Audio cable, which is excellent in terms of flexibility and does not tangle. You also get 2 Noble bands to strap your equipment with, and a Noble Ownership card where you can write your information down should you ever lose the IEMs with the case. 














Technical Information about the Noble FR 

The first question I had after listening to the FR is, “How does it work?” So I reached out to Noble Audio and received some interesting information to share.



Toggling the switch produces a drastically different sound without any time delay. I played around with the switches incessantly during the review process. A simple flick of my thumb or index finger is enough to change between the configurations; whether I decide to change halfway through a song or between albums, it’s an easily accessible toggle and rapidly becomes a second nature motion. I’ve been informed that the switch comes from the hearing aid world, repurposed for use in an IEM. The switch feels durable and is just the right length – too much longer and I’d worry about the possibility of the piece snapping off, too much shorter and it might have resulted in a clumsy fumbling of fingers between settings. 



The switch itself is an A/B switch that, when toggled, acts as a relay between two independent clusters of components (crossover network + corresponding drivers). The FR is technically a 3 driver BA IEM; however, two of the drivers are used exclusively by the F configuration, whereas the other driver is used only by the R configuration. 



I’m told that the hardest part of the creation of the FR was the soldering involved, which I can certainly believe after seeing and hearing the IEM firsthand!


On the F, the R and the Sound

I’ve owned and demoed a good amount of TOTL IEMs out there but struggled to find one without nagging downsides significant enough to prevent me from having a blissful listening experience. When I first heard the FR from Noble at the recent SoCal Head-Fi meet, both configurations made a positive impression on me but I hesitated to pass judgment before spending more time with them.



Now that I’ve had the chance to listen to them in both real world and ideal settings with my own music, I have to say Noble did a smashingly good job.


Sources and Conditions
I paired the FR with the AK240, the iPhone 5, and through my Macbook Pro through an Audioquest Dragonfly. I used the FR while at home in quiet settings, at work, outside in noisy conditions, and while flying.

Full Range

The Full Range is extremely pleasant to listen to, and is a fun signature done right. The right areas are accentuated without being overdone. The lower end receives a bump that makes head-bopping a given but doesn’t muddy the sound signature, the treble has a touch of added shimmer that adds brightness without causing fatigue. However, what makes the Full Range captivating is the vocals, which come across as amazingly lush. The intimacy and sweetness make the Full Range an intoxicating listen. Most importantly, nothing comes across as overly offensive or unbearable, whether in the form of excessive bass or shrieky treble. I could, and have, listened to these IEMs for hours without needing a break. Noble really tried to appeal to the whole range of listeners out there with their tuning, and I certainly commend them on their successful efforts.



But this wouldn’t be a review without discussing some of the weaknesses as well. The Full Range is a very intimate listen, but this comes at the expense of soundstage and imagery. I can compare it to being in the first row of a concert –you hear the big picture loud and clear and it’s a lot of fun, but you lose out on the placement of individual instruments due to the noise. Also, when I say I can listen to the Full Range tuning for hours on end, those hours are generally spent on albums where vocals are the star, accompanied only by acoustic guitars or other simple instruments. For complex albums with a lot going on, I feel the Full Range is a bit too rich for my tastes. 


Reference 

The Reference sound signature is true to its name. The R configuration comes across as very natural; lows, mids and highs, the right dosage of each make it easy on the ears. Vocals don’t lose the sweetness the Full-Range setting offers, and guitars and other instruments present in the midrange sound very lifelike. There are no significant peaks in the bass or treble that I hear, and the overall presentation sounds very involving and is an engaging listen. The neutral sound the Reference offers is by no means a boring one. 



And now here’s where the FR has a leg-up on the other offerings out there – the Reference configuration complements the Full Range nicely as it is strong in the areas of weaknesses I just mentioned. I had fully expected myself to prefer and to use the Full Range setting for the vast majority of my songs, and this was certainly the case for the first few days. After comparisons with my CIEM on songs I’m intimately familiar with, I found that where the universal IEM was lacking in soundstage depth and lower end slam (as expected in head-to-head against a custom), it made up for in the details, the imagery, and the clarity it possesses.


Details – The Reference does a great job of revealing the finer points in a song – Focusing on specific instruments strike me as audible and clear, even during passages of complex songs.     


Imagery – I use this to describe the perceived placement of the listener. The Reference performs very well, as the whole range of instruments comes across sounding centered and distance-appropriate. 


Clarity – Separation of instruments and vocals is excellent, particularly decay in the mid-bass. This allows complex passages of music to come across without sounding smeared or fuzzy. This strength of the Reference configuration is among the best I’ve heard in my experiences to-date as compared to both headphone and IEM products. 



I’d actually go so far as to say that out of all of the IEMs I’ve heard, the Reference configuration on the FR is the one that best suits my tastes. It plays well with every genre I threw at it, and I’ve yet to find a significant nitpick that would contribute to a less-than-blissful listening experience. 


Conclusion

The FR offers a high degree of versatility and fully checks off on all of the boxes I’d expect a TOTL IEM to. I find myself using the Reference configuration on the majority of the albums I listen to, especially when my surroundings are relatively quiet. For vocal-centric songs, when I’m out and about and need a bass bump, or even when I just feel in the mood that day for a fun twist, the Full Range setting delivers. It’s amazing to think that all it takes to meet my whimsy needs is the simple flick of a switch. Both configurations are a welcome addition to my IEM collection, and the fact that they came bundled in one convenient price and product is just the icing on top of the cake. Bon Appétit!



Thanks for the review, and just to summarize things

Dr. John Moulton

Here at Noble, we craft some of the finest universal and custom in-ear monitors available today. 

Reply
post #3515 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by FullCircle View Post
 

 

Brannan Mason

Here at Noble, we craft some of the finest universal and custom in-ear monitors available today. 

Reply
post #3516 of 7476
Originally Posted by minhminh93 View Post

 

SO my beautiful K-10s have arrived safely at my door and after a full day at work listening I am super impressed. I'm going to keep you all on the edge of your seat for about a week until I can get some time to post a lengthy review with some pretty pictures :D
 
Nice album! I just found out about this band a few days ago after some lurking in the Metal thread, been listening to it non-stop :dt880smile:

 

What band...:confused:

post #3517 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by burtomr View Post

What band...confused.gif
*shels - Plains of the purple Bufffalo biggrin.gif
post #3518 of 7476

 

 

safe trip ibbreezy... take care mate & have a good  one, Blighty misses you (well not yet but soon)... :bigsmile_face:

post #3519 of 7476


Noble Audio - Chord Hugo Tour Dates

 

Axpona Hi-Fi Show, Chicago – April 25th-27th

 

http://www.axpona.com/

 

Munich Hi-End Show, Munich – May 15th-18th

 

http://www.highendsociety.de/index.php/en_high_end_moc.html#

 

Newport Beach Hi-Fi Show, California – May 30th-June 1st

 

http://www.theshownewport.com/

 

The Official 2014 San Francisco Head-Fi Meet, Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport, Burlingame, California - July 19, 2014

 

The Official 2014 Los Angeles Head-Fi Meet - Marriott Warner Center, Woodland Hills, California - August 9, 2014

 

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (Canjam), Denver, Colorado – October 10th-12th

 

http://audiofest.net/2014/

 

 

more Tour dates will be added shortly... hopefully a bit more global.

post #3520 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by OK-Guy View Post
 

 

 hopefully a bit more global.

 

Dr. John Moulton

Here at Noble, we craft some of the finest universal and custom in-ear monitors available today. 

Reply
post #3521 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by OK-Guy View Post
 

 

 

safe trip ibbreezy... take care mate & have a good  one, Blighty misses you (well not yet but soon)... :bigsmile_face:

Thanks. Time for fun and a bit of fact-finding :P

post #3522 of 7476
I see very few comments on the universals, and more specifically the build quality.

The customs may be better, but for those of you considering the universal nobles-
My 2 cents:

I'm sorry but has anyone else been disappointed in the build quality of the Noble universals?

They feel like they're made of cheap plastic and the plastic molds just look like they're not top notch either. The cord feels "cheap" and doesn't look great. The eartips also seem to be pretty cheap Chinese mass manufactured, and semi usable.

For $350+ headphones....it's kinda disappointing.

I have $100-200 headphones that feel like they're better built than the nobles. Ex: etymotic plastic etc.

The case is nice though. Maybe the drivers ate up all the cost of production smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by starck86 - 4/17/14 at 8:15am
post #3523 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by starck86 View Post

I see very few comments on the universals, and more specifically the build quality.

The customs may be better, but for those of you considering the universal nobles-
My 2 cents:

I'm sorry but has anyone else been disappointed in the build quality of the Noble universals?

They feel like they're made of cheap plastic and the plastic molds just look like they're not top notch either. The cord feels "cheap" and doesn't look great. The eartips also seem to be pretty cheap Chinese mass manufactured, and semi usable.

For $350+ headphones....it's kinda disappointing.

I have $100-200 headphones that feel like they're better built than the nobles. Ex: etymotic plastic etc.

Honestly, the nicest thing about the build quality was the case they are stored in :/
So your saying, the build quality feels cheap? Yet, you give no description of the IEM, and a actual defect, or production flaw. The Cable feels cheap? What does that even mean? You completely left out anything on SQ, why is that? You really should be more specific , in your take of this product, or any for that matter. IMO.
post #3524 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by starck86 View Post

The case is nice though. Maybe the drivers ate up all the cost of production smily_headphones1.gif

 

why 'Junior' I am beside myself with happy emotions that you actually like something, can I ask which IEM you own?

 

I will dissect your post and answer all of your points... hopefully our happy Customers will refrain from commenting on your post in the meantime.

post #3525 of 7476
Quote:
Originally Posted by starck86 View Post

I see very few comments on the universals, and more specifically the build quality.

The customs may be better, but for those of you considering the universal nobles-
My 2 cents:

I'm sorry but has anyone else been disappointed in the build quality of the Noble universals?

They feel like they're made of cheap plastic and the plastic molds just look like they're not top notch either. The cord feels "cheap" and doesn't look great. The eartips also seem to be pretty cheap Chinese mass manufactured, and semi usable.

For $350+ headphones....it's kinda disappointing.

I have $100-200 headphones that feel like they're better built than the nobles. Ex: etymotic plastic etc.

The case is nice though. Maybe the drivers ate up all the cost of production smily_headphones1.gif

I have the K10 and I thought they use the same cable on all IEMs. I think the cable is great. Very flexible and light. And maybe because of this it does get tangled as much as other IEM cables I have had.
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