With the Sennheiser x Massdrop HD6XX, Massdrop had their biggest hit so far, with the first 5000 units selling out in minutes, the crush of the traffic crippling their online ordering system. Why? Because a classic over-ear headphone (the Sennheiser HD650) was offered in a new color and slightly different packaging--yet every bit the same headphone otherwise--and priced at only $200. What's their next move? Well, that'd be today, when they announce the Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEMs. And with this partnership with Noble Audio, Massdrop seems to me to be doing for in-ears what they did for over-ears with the HD6XX.
The Massdrop x Noble X seems to me like it might be based on the Noble Audio Savant, a popular Noble model that was very recently discontinued, and was priced at $599. When it was released, the Savant was met with strong, positive reviews, many feeling that its more neutral tonal balance (versus, for example, the richer-toned Noble Kaiser 10 model)--combined with excellent resolution--made for a potent value at $599. Noble Audio described the Savant as "perhaps the most subjectively balanced in-ear monitor Dr. John has designed thus far, the Savant is a detail oriented IEM with a solid low-end and clean highs."
Now unlike the HD6XX, which is voiced exactly like the pure Sennheiser counterpart it's based on, Massdrop wanted this Noble-co-developed IEM to have its own signature (which I'll get to in a minute). The Massdrop x Noble X, like the Savant, has two balanced armature drivers per side, with a nominal impedance of 30 ohms. It uses Noble's most recent universal-fit construction style, made in California with anodized aluminum faceplates over plastic shells. (The sockets are made in Virginia.)
While it appears to me to be most like the Savant in terms of construction and driver complement, in voicing the Massdrop x Noble X, Massdrop drew inspiration from not just the Savant, but also the Savanna and Django models. We've only had the Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEMs for a very short time, but here are my first impressions: The X is most like the Savant, but adds a bit more bass extension, presence, and texture--more fun, meant entirely in the positive. Do I think it sounds better than the Savant? For my tastes, yes--it benefits from the added richness and presence down low.
One thing I'll mention is that the Massdrop x Noble X sample we were sent came with a combination of silicone tips (a couple of different single-dome sizes, and one double-flange type) and foam tips (two different sizes). With any of the included silicone tips (which were the first I tried), the sound was bass-light to me. Then I swapped in the foam tips (I tried both sizes), and the sound fell into place, the bass presence snapped into place, as did the coherency and overall balance. This could be something specific to my ears--and I don't know if the ear tips they sent are final spec--but my first impressions of the sound of the Massdrop x Noble X with either of the foam tips was definitely Savant+ to me, and that's a very good thing, to my ears. (I'll try tip-rolling when I can find some time, but am perfectly happy with the sound of the included foamies for now.)
The Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEMs will come with a 50-inch detachable braided cable, terminated in a gold-plated mini plug. The cable has a very nice shrink-wrapped cable guide just aft of the earpiece plugs (instead of a traditional memory wire), which is very trick, very sleek, and something I think a lot will strongly prefer. The aluminum faceplates have a sharply carved basket-weave design, and its color is midnight blue. (Is it a coincidence it's somewhat similar to the HD6XX's colors? I don't think so.)
The price of the Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEMs is expected to be only $249.99 (shipped in the USA). This, then, is essentially like an improved version of an IEM that was selling for $599 just a very short while ago. Like I said earlier, the Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEM is like the in-ear version of what Massdrop did with the HD6XX. You'll be able to find out more and request the drop at the following link...
...and then the drop will officially go live on Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 6 a.m. PST.