At the Noble/Chord table, I only tried Noble's 4C. The rep. presented (as representatives do) the 4C as "neutral" but I thought it was so treble-focused as to be unbearable. And it wasn't just all the energy up top (or lack of energy down low) but the strong sibilance. I actually unplugged and replugged the phones thinking the connection must be wrong. I was done with listening to anything Noble had to offer that day (assuming that extreme brightness and hollowness might be their house sound), and it seems I may have made a mistake, based on others' experiences with the higher end models.
I still needed to test the Chord Hugo separately (well, and test to see if it wasn't the Hugo the was the problem). I had my Phonak PFE 122s on hand (a phone usually noted as "cool," especially with the gray filters as I always equip mine) and found all the music was back, from top to bottom, with all the sibilance gone as well. I also tried out my Audio-Technica W1000Xs and heard nothing but bliss. I was head-over-heels impressed with the quality of sound (as well as beauty and I/O functionality) of the Hugo - at this point I could definitely say the Chord was not to blame for the earlier sound with the 4Cs - and even thought it compared well to a very good desktop rig that would have you chained to your outlets in the wall. "Reference portable" for sure, just as surely as it's out of my price range.
I was glad to try out Brian's table for The Audio Head, with either the Vega DSD DAC playing into a KingSound (3? not 2?) electrostatic amp and cans, or a WA7 Fireflies DAC and amp powering LCD-XCs.
The KingSound headphones sounded better with the bass boost off, I doubt many people would object - though it would be a tremendous benefit to have that switch to flip any time you did want a fun, dance-y bass to undergird your jams. The WA7/LCD-XC pairing seemed the better pairing overall. I guess the quality of the Vega DAC only got the KingSound rig so far, although it did seem a little unrealistic to pair the Vega only to the KingSound amp and phones (but not unrealistic to attach the KingSounds to a more complicated rig that had other amps/headphones, or a full stereo attached). The WA7 and LCD-XC was more evenly extended, better extended, and more dimensional. A satisfying desktop rig for sure.