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Universal Fit item created by twister6, Mar 16, 2016
Pros - Beautiful sound on all frequencies, especially the bass, beautiful design
Cons - The bass might be a bit overwhelming to those who aren't used to its quantity, size of the shell might make the fit protrude a bit depending on ears
Reposted from the Noble Audio Thread.
Noble Kaiser K10 Full Impression
Standing Ovation for the overlord King of In-Ears, ye all who listened his sound!
Before I start, I just want to say a big thank you to Jaben Malaysia for allowing me to spend as much time as I can to the entire Noble Audio line up once again and this is all just a full impression of what I gathered from a good 2 hours listen total.
As always, my impressions are done with silicone tips from my friend's Dita Answer, L size. And the source I use is my own Fiio X1 + E12A Amplifier under Low Gain and Bass Boost turned on.
Design/Build Quality (Yes I've said this before on the Trident but this deserve a special mention)
The design of the Noble K10U deserve a special mention not just because of how striking the color choice is (it makes them look like a pair of very clean large onions), but also how beautifully made they are in flesh. Pictures alone don't do them justice in the "solid" feel they gave once they're in your hands. It's one of those design shapes of an in-ears that made people wonder just what you're wearing on your ears with such a striking shape, color and of course, the Noble crown logo that seem to be out-of-this-world to those who are oblivious to the higher grade of audio stuffs.
Forget about the bus, wearing these alone made some customers in the shop alone wonder what I just put in my ears and many are giving me weird looks. Needless to say, the K10U stands out easily even from a pure aesthetic stand point, and if you can easily catch a person's attention by just wearing these and relax in public, you know you've done something right to tickle their interest in knowledge of an existence of such an earphone and such a company.
Granted personally I am more of a slightly sharp-edged fan of the amazing blocky shape of the BA-driver series on the ALO Campfire Audio line up such as the Orion, Nova and the famous Andromeda, but these round onions are very much a statement of a more elegant-looking fashion sense, even if they're not known to the casual listeners, they will certainly make anyone want to put them on and see what's so special about this unit. Just touching them and you know these are not made out of cheap plastic, they're strong aluminium, much like the Campfire BA-line up's choice of material even though I think both have a bit of difference in what type of aluminium they use.
It's like seeing a red and white-themed Lamborghini Veneno in a parking lot filled to the brim with Proton Personas, Perdana V6s and Inspiras. You just couldn't get your eyes off them and you have all sorts of opinions from looking at them alone!
The most important thing of a flagship unit is to give a lasting impression even from just looking at the product alone, in my opinion. And the K10 not just looked like a strong flagship, it feels like one and it's weight is convincing enough worthy of such a hefty cost.
The K10U has did a spectacular job in making a lasting impression to my eyes from its design appearance alone. Job well done.
10/10 for the K10U here with the design and build quality.
The fit on the K10U is a rather tricky one to my ears as coming from the Empire Ears' Apollo and Zeus R, which I adore a lot, unfortunately the shell protrudes a bit from my ears due to how large the housing was holding that many BA drivers. And this is understandable since it's not easy to cram 10 to 14 drivers in a tiny shell. But unless you have really conveniently large ears for these type of large earphones, chances are, you probably wouldn't want to sleep with these. I know I wouldn't seeing how I can't even lean on the table without fearing them dropping off my ears due to how protruding they are. (They never fell off though thankfully)
With the right selection of tips however the K10U will snuggle in your ears just fine because frankly they're not as heavy as the Empire Zeus and Apollo which I find to be slightly bulky. For the K10U they still protrude from my ears slightly but nothing as noticeable as the Zeus R.
I will say this though, the bore bit can be challenging for those with smaller ears because it's surprisingly large. And putting my silicone tips through the K10U is actually...kinda hard because of how wide and thick the bore is. But once you got them in a steady position they aren't getting anywhere, that's for certain.
The fit of the K10U is near excellent to my ears. Good job.
Initial sound Impression
The moment I put these in through my E12A amplifier and fired up some Of Monsters and Men, I was easily swept off my ground not because of how much WOW factor their sounds have, but because of how everything seem to be in full-spectrum. The harmony I felt from the Django suddenly sprang to full-force with the K10 and the initial thing I noticed is how full-bodied the bass was. It's so full and impact-filled that I feel like the getting punched by Mike Tyson's speedy jabs.
The mids were brought to a very forward presentation where I feel almost personal with the singers, which I'll get to in full detail soon.
The treble has so much smoothness to it that this must be what it feels like to have smoothness that's even silkier than the Savant. And with the near sibilance-free experience that graced my sensitive eardrums, I told to myself...
"Yep...these things aren't gonna leave my ears until I had my fill with their sounds."
Needless to say, my ears are completely spoiled thanks to the K10U.
Let the scoring began. This shouldn't be too hard.
I am going to be honest.
The detail retrieval here has reminded me once again what it's like to experience sound, not music. Yes...
It's so detailed that I actually went on ahead and see how sounds are meant to be produced to your ears through audio equipment, except here it's in pocket size rather than full-blown speakers and power amps.
So much micro-details were presented to me that it felt a bit overwhelming to take in, but as I let my brain settle in slowly and surely I finally came to understand why the K10 is so good and loved by many. Because while it's extremely musical in its personality with plenty of color, the Kaiser never forget that it's a pair of capable in-ears that is able to produce plenty of micro-details when a song is presented to it.
To test just how stupendously clear the K10 is, I've decided to fire up the DSD file of MJ's Billie Jean and borrowed the Calyx M from Jaben to try this one song along specifically. And I can hardly believe what I am hearing.
Absolutely everything from the recording was presented in spades here.
MJ's breathing, the finger snapping, the drums, the bass, and the guitar solo's finger plucking on the strings were all shown beautifully here. I can easily catch on to everything with almost no effort required. This is absolutely stunning and I don't think it's possible to experience this again since Empire Zeus R was the only IEMs I tried that can make me this immersed to grab details whenever I like yet I can get lost so easily in the musical presentation. And it does it all without a single note sounding ever muddy or veiled in my ears. Clarity is absolutely well-shown here and it's an effortless marvel to me.
I am actually glad the K10 is not a flat-analytical sounding IEM like the Layla because this made me able to enjoy the K10 for what it is supposed to be. An IEM flagship that is both immensely capable of showing your music the layers that it actually have and reproduce the notes in a musical way. It's a capable King of an IEM that commands the music and never forget to have a great time with the notes it commands.
Detail and Clarity gets a near 9.8/10 from me because while it's wonderful, I do think the K10 is very source-dependent to really show its colors. The Calyx M is awesome a player, but with even better DAC/AMP paired together the K10U is going to be a marvelous gem. The only thing holding the K10U back from a perfect score is the slightly more source-demanding nature it has.
In a word - wide. In two words, very wide.
The K10 has a very wide soundstage that is both expansive yet it doesn't come off as fake or artificial at all. The presentation of the instruments positioning doesn't feel offensive to my ears at all and it all felt like its in excellent spot where I can grab everything I like to hear at anytime I want. Listening to complex orchestral pieces with this type of soundstage is nothing short of awesome and immersive.
It doesn't matter if I am listening to Adele singing live or listening to one of Carmina Buranna's performance, all of them feel nothing short of lively and full of power.
The soundstage is an effortless 9.4/10 from me.
The bass on the K10U is absolutely packed to the brim with punch, impact and decays very fast.They sounded so dynamic and natural it almost feel like what I would hear out of a full-range dynamic driver rather than a balanced armature. Like Mike Tyson, they just punched relentlessly and keep on coming till his opponent falls or fade. And when a song is not calling them, they took a back seat well enough, until you play something that calls for a lot of bass, they always come at you at full-force and these things don't hold back from letting you "feel" the bass.
Producing bass is one thing, but to be able to feel that punch and the satisfaction of letting it ring in your ears without ever sounding bloated or boomy is an entirely different ball game.
I've heard a lot of in-ears that have bloated bass, to some others that have much more controlled lows, but very little can really reach to the close ideal spot of what I want, punchy, powerful and dynamic with a very organic decay. It mustn't linger when it's no longer needed in a song, when a bass part is passed in a part of a track, it should just fade until the song calls for it and hit back in full force, like a bullet train on a loop at full speed, it's silent when it's off somewhere else but the second it came to your station stop it's powerful and full of impact.
That's exactly the bass I like to hear.
And the K10U doesn't disappoint. It delivers what I like in full spectrum.
Listening to Metallica, Slipknot and Linkin Park along with The Rasmus, it's nothing but full-blown dynamic fun with the drums and bass kicking in.
The mid-bass here is so full of life that it lit up even some of the slower metal and rock songs I frequent. The bass is full-bodied to the brim that it even surpass the CKR10 in my opinion, and it took a lot to top the bass on that IEM since it's dual push-pull dynamic drivers really worked its magic on the bass bit with its titanium housing no less.
Metallica's For Whom The Bell Tolls never felt more haunting as the bell rang from the beginning. The AAW 500AHMorph can't even make the bass this impactful and punchy. It's slightly muddier in my ears but that could be due to me not having a decent fit as the demo universal unit wasn't exactly friendly to my ears so there's some factor to keep that in doing this comparison but it's definitely a powerful-bassy IEM. The K10U just feels more effortless and organic and certainly much more controlled thanks to both the tuning of the drivers as well as me having a near excellent fit.
Listening to Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni this feels haunting to the core of my heart. The lingering electronic bass background with Eiko Shimamiya's chanting was nothing short of eerie. All in all a very hauntingly beautiful presentation that this song was supposed to be portrayed the way the artist desired based on the novel and the anime.
Finally on to Slipknot's 9.0 Live recording on the drum solo. Everything was spot on. Powerful and impactful with super-fast punch. No notes were missed from as far as my ears could catch. Everything was caught on perfectly and the double-bass rapid fire from Jay Weinberg.
Joey Jordinson's drumming would be perfect due to his sense of power on the notes, but Jay's razor sharp accuracy makes this a perfect track for me to see how amazing the K10U can really reproduce the super fast drumming notes.
Loorena's The Mystic's Dream is nothing short of terrifyingly eerie and beautiful with the K10U's bass. The atmosphere with the super-low and slow notes immediately sucks me in to the mystical fantasy world that Loorena McKennit had in mind. The sense of escapism to a different world is immediately captured and projected into my head effortlessly due to how full-bodied the bass presented was. Another effortless performance by the Kaiser.
I think I've made it clear enough. The bass on the K10 is simply spectacular.
The bass gets a 10/10 from me. This is easily the best bass I've heard to date. The only other pair of IEM that I gave a perfect score was the Empire Zeus R.
Everything is just presented in full spectrum once again. So lively, so full of energy and so lush that it's put my ears to near Audio Nirvana zone because of how immersive the mids are on the K10U.
Male vocals, female vocals, group vocals, orchestral vocals, any form of vocals in any form of language, you name it.
There's not one song I played where the vocals feel veiled or lacking something.
Adele, Lenka, Enya, Loorena McKennit, Duffy, Kylie Minogue, Sarah Mclachlan, Amy Grant, Nanna Bryndís? All of them are effortlessly shown in full spectrum of both emotion and raw vocal power. Whether it's on the loudness or the airiness, the K10U did it all without breaking a sweat or any misplaced awkward notes and tone.
Then something magical happened to the male vocal of my choice, Andrea Bocelli.
His voice is just outright spine-chilling with the way K10 made him sang. Every note felt real and organic and the emotion conveyed was nothing short of mesmerizing and exquisite. Male vocals truly sounded magical with the Kaiser through my ears which is such a rare feat as many IEMs I tried tend to lean on the female vocals more. The last thing this happened to my impression was again -- on the Empire Zeus R. Both the Zeus R and the K10U is absolutely magical sounding on male vocals while still being astoundingly beautiful on the female vocals.
That, and coupled with the stunning reproduction of acoustic instruments, especially the Spanish guitars made the K10 an awesome instrument for any acoustic songs enjoyment.
I've said enough on this.
Mids of the K10 is a very near perfect 9.9/10 from my book. Absolutely wonderful, wonderful work, Noble.
To those who want to compare from my opinion, both the Zeus R and K10U are equally "magical" in the mids. It's all down to personal preference from here on.
Mine? I like the fit of the K10U better as it agrees with my ear-shape better so it's the K10U.
Savant's smoothness on the treble reminded me of how a luxuriously expensive quality silk from royal castles feel like through the skin.
The K10U easily reminded me once more how that feeling was like and it was truly a pleasant experience to my treble-sensitive ears. There was no harshness at all in the treble of the K10U.
Kaiser easily renders even some of the brightest songs in my collection a joy to listen to over and over again, including Adele's Cold Shoulder and OMAM's Little Talks.
It's really hard to tame the treble and sibilance when there are no pop-filters on the mic for the singers, but somehow the K10U managed to tame them to a level that's far more than just acceptable to my ears and that's a feat that needs to be praised.
Granted, some might consider the treble on the K10U to be slightly rolled off because of this but it doesn't feel that way at all to my ears because if I want to say there's some treble-roll-off, I could say it's more apparent on the ATH-CKR10 where the treble is a bit too smooth and thus feels rolled off and doesn't seem to have quite the sparkle I want on some songs that have them.
I like my treble smooth, but I could use a bit more sparkle and the K10U provided that effortlessly.
RIKKI's Suteki Da Ne feels both enchanting and beautiful on the sparkly bits that really made it feel mystifying without ever coming off as offensive to my sensitive ears. So juicy points for that effort.
I could go on and on about K10U's treble smoothness but I think I've spend enough time on this.
The treble of K10U is an excellent 9.5/10.
I think it goes without saying that the K10U is one of my most cherished flagship model next to the Zeus R from Empire Ears that I have the pleasure of trying. It was so effortless on all frequencies that it's mind-boggling just how much hype was put to the Noble K10U and yet it managed to live up the hype from my perspective. I can definitely see why so many adore them and I certainly know I have, with my heart and mind marked by its addictive musical sound and let me know once more what it's like to truly enjoy my music and hearing my beloved artists' work the way its meant to be heard by them when they can't perform live to me in person.
So as I say --
Long live the Kaiser.
Pros - High Resolution Sound, Build Quality, Great for All Genres, Superb Bass, High Quality Accessories
Cons - Price
I’m a 30 year old bank examiner and an audio enthusiast. My other hobbies are cars, fitness and occasional clubbing. I’ve been an “audiophile” since I got my first stereo system in 2010 (Yamaha amp and Monitor Audio speakers). I still enjoy speakers a lot, listen to Dali speakers these days, but I like headphones as well, especially when I’m doing stuff on computer or I’m outside somewhere.
I prefer full, balanced sound with elevated bass. I dislike harsh treble and treble peaks, I also dislike pronounced upper midrange. I enjoy slight upper midrange dips for fatigue-free listening experience. I listen to most genres, but I prefer electronic music, dance music, alternative and other modern genres but I also enjoy classical a lot, especially when it’s a live performance. Extended and powerful bass response is important to me.
Noble K10U A Specs:
10 balanced-armature drivers per side
Updated Noble universal form factor and geometry featuring precision machined aluminum housings
Sensitive enough for use with smartphones as well as portable amps and DAPs
Hand-assembled and matched
Detachable cable with industry standard 2-pin configuration (0.78 mm diameter)
Lots of tips, cleaning tool, hard case, pouch.
Design and Fit:
Noble K10UAs surely have a striking design. It’s made from two pieces of aluminium, one part is silver whereas the other part is red. In my opinion, pictures don’t do justice to how lovely these IEMs look. Before getting these in my hands, my impressions of the design weren’t very favourable. I thought they looked like packed chocolate. However, in person, ı can tell you they look so cute and lovely. I’m not saying cool because they don’t have that industrialist design with sharp, manly corners like Campfire Audio Andromeda, for instance. These have a more unisex vibe and I think a more fashionable design. Women as well as men can wear these and look fashionable. I care about style a lot and I think K10UAs are very stylish and can turn heads easily in public. Their design and colourful look will make sure of that. In addition to the silver-red style, Noble also sold a limited run with black-gold look. I think combinations of several colours would be very nice for people who care about looking good while wearing these in public. I'm sure Wizard has some plans for that.
I have small ears so I cannot wear many big IEMs in the market. Noble K10UAs have 10*2 drivers inside but due to the masterful design, they are rather small and fit very nicely. They protrude outside a bit, but not even that much. These are more comfortable than my previous IEMs Earsonics Velvet which had 3*2 drivers. The tips that came with K10UA, however, didn’t fit well in my small ear canals except for the medium foam tips. I’m using JVC Spiral tips with K10UAs now and the fit is excellent. Most people will do fine with stock tips though.
I used to despise IEMs. I could never get one they fit and sounded well to me. That changed when I got into the world of multi balanced armature IEMs. They sounded clear, precise and more musical. My first BA IEM was Earsonics SM64 which sounded great but was very hard to drive (96 ohms). The 2nd BA IEM I had was Earsonics Velvet. Velvet had much higher resolution and was easier to drive compared to SM64 but not overly so. I sold it because I was not happy with its build quality but I believe it might be the best IEM in its price category, especially if you’re a basshead.
My impressions below are of K10UA + Chord Mojo combo. Recordings were from Apple Music for the most part, and some flac files. I should say though, K10UA is very easy to drive and sounds excellent just with iPhone 6s as well.
My 3rd BA IEM is Noble K10U Aluminium. Noble K10UA has higher resolution and more balanced sound compared to U-shaped Velvet frequency response. I don’t do measurements and I couldn’t find any measurements for K10UA online (or regular K10U for that matter) but by ear I can tell you these: The sound signature is rather balanced in a musical way, K10UA has a very tasteful and masterful tuning. I hear that the bass is slightly elevated between 20 Hz-200 Hz. Low-mids are also slightly elevated compared to flat which results in a full, warm sound. Mid-mids are flat whereas upper mids are slightly lower than flat which results in a sibilance-free, shout-free, non-fatiguing sound. Starting with lower treble the FR climbs back to flat. Treble is extended, smooth and clear. You can hear every detail clearly and precisely. It’s not a subdued treble at all. That said, it’s also very non-fatiguing, there’s no hint of harshness. No extreme peaks whatsoever. There’s no veil either. The treble excites you with detail, provides excellent clarity and airiness. K10UA just does it in a musical, non-analytical way. It can be sharp and precise when it needs to be but it does that in a smooth way so you never need to turn volume down. I will say these impressions of the frequency response is totally by ear and I’m not a trained musician so measurements may show otherwise. However, this is what I’ve heard.
K10UAs are a jack of all trades. I could not find a single genre that doesn’t sound great with K10UAs. This is the one IEM that can satisfy all your musical needs, you don’t need anything else. I mainly listen to EDM and pop and there’s this misconception among people that mids don’t matter for EDM. That is not entirely true. Maybe upper mids are not very important but low mids are crucial for a club-like sound. For instance, I think Fostex TH900 fails in that area. It sounds very dry due to reduced whole mid frequency spectrum. Many people say it’s great for EDM but I don’t think so. It sounds more like a concert hall than a club. It’s fine for hiphop but not great for EDM. Many EDM tracks also contain vocals that add emotion to the tracks. One example is This One’s For You by David Guetta feat. Zara Larsson. Lovely Zara’s lovely voice adds lots of emotion to this great track, but you need good mids to feel these emotions. TH900 sounds distant and lifeless in comparison. I know some see headphones and IEMs like apples and oranges, but I’m simply comparing them in terms of sound signature and just trying to say why I think K10UA is better for EDM compared to TH900. High-end club systems sound more like K10UA, not TH900. High-end club systems make you hear vocals clearly as well as make sure you feel the sub-bass in your body.
K10UA as I said, is a jack of all trades. In additon to EDM. I sometimes listen to hiphop/grime, alternative, indie, classical and other genres. One of my recent favourites, Konnichiwa album by British grime artist Skepta sounds absolutely amazing. The bass hits hard while keeping control and being tight and Skepta’s vocals are crystal clear (if you can understand British Street slang). I then change to some recordings of Wiener Philharmoniker (which I had the chance to hear live in a concert recently) and even though nothing can beat that feeling of hearing classical music live, K10UAs can give a very respectable performance. Classical music sounds great with these IEMs as well. It’s a very full, realistic sound.
Regarding soundstage, I would say the depth is superb. It’s also wide enough to sound great with classical music where soundstage matters but I wouldn’t say it’s very wide like Earsonics Velvet. It is wide enough however. I’ll say it’s just wide enough. Imaging, instrument placement and separation are all excellent.
Even though the price of K10UA might be too high for many people, I will say this: It’s worth every cent. I had many purchases which I regretted. After a couple of weeks with K10UA, I can say this has been a purchase I’m very happy with. I listen to K10UA outside, while traveling, at home and it never ceases to amaze me with its musical and technical capabilities. I find something new to admire every single day and it encourages me to explore my favourite music again. Instead of going through lots of mid-priced IEMs, you can just buy K10UAs, sit back and enjoy your music. I will surely enjoy it for many years to come.
Pros - comfortable despite 10 driver size, sounds "royally" good, coherent, best sounding MultiBA in-ear, impeccable build quality
Cons - Pricey, hard to put down, a bit large
Noble Audio K10U - The Emperor (Kaiser) of in-ears!
Noble was founded by John Moulton (aka Wizard) and Brannan Mason (aka The Glove) with the goal of producing the finest universal and custom in-ear monitors available today. With John’s background as an AU.D. CCC-A and Brannan’s business credentials, they were set to quite an impressive start. One of the things, besides their supposedly market leading sound quality, Noble is known for is their creative design of their CIEMs, that can be seen on their website. They treat the CIEMs like little sculptures, pieces of art, both in material and design. Noble has quite a stellar reputation between audiophiles and I am VERY excited to be able to review the current flagship universal fit IEM from Noble Audio, the K10U. K10U is short for Kaiser 10 Universal, referring to an employee nicknamed “Kaiser Soze” who works at Noble Audio and creates some of the custom in-ears artistic designs, while the 10 stands for the 10 Balanced Armature drivers in each ear piece and finally the U is for universal. So, let’s see if we find a massive plot twist like in the Usual Suspects in this review and if the K10U is worthy of it’s royal name (Kaiser is German for “Emperor”) ….
I have received the K10U from Noble Audio as a Demo piece for the local Headphone Meetup, they are not mine to keep and have to be returned.
Manufacture’s Specifications (Noble is a bit quiet on this):
Type: in-ear stereo headphones
Drivers Size: various Balanced Armature Drivers
Drivers Type: 10 Balanced Armature drivers per side
Frequency Response: n/a
Sensitivity: “Sensitive enough for use with smartphones as well as portable amps and DACs”
Microphone sensitivity: no mic cable provided
Maximum Input: -
Replaceable cable: yes, detachable, 2-pin (0.78mm diameter)
Weight with cable: -
MSRP: US $ 1,650.-
The full aluminum housing looks pretty impressive. Actually it looks a bit scary - "how one earth will these fit my ears" you might think on first sight, but they are smartly designed and fit very well. More about that later. They are constructed from two pieces of precision milled aluminum. The “ridge” where the two red and silver housing parts are coming together is smooth and can only be felt when sliding your fingernail on them. When worn over the ears the Noble logo should stand pretty upright as shown in one of the photos. Thanks to their color they stand out a bit if that is a good or bad thing depends on your taste.
When I first saw them online and when I unboxed the K10U, I was pretty skeptical if I would ever be able to comfortably put them in my ears. The nozzle seemed to be too short and overall they looked so large. But the design is very clever and to my surprise they just sit nice and firm in my ears. Thanks also to the very nice braided cable with memory wire on the top of the ears that gives them a secure fit. Due to their weight, it might be a challenge to use them with non-memory wire cables, on my desk though, my Linum BAX worked ok with the provided ear tips and even more so with the foamies. However I can see issues for outdoor activity with cables that have no memory wire support. The provided cable though is of great quality and I felt no need to use any other cable with them. Wearing them for hours while working on my desk was comfortable, so no complaints here. However, unlike the Westone or RHA designs that disappear in your ear these won’t be used under helmets or while lying in bed on your side, they stick out too much.
They come in a nice box. Inside you will find, beside the K10U with the silver plated copper cable, a Pelican case size micro 1010 with a metal plate holding the collection of ear tips, your silver ownership card, a cleaning tool, a carabiner hook to use with the case and two rubber bands for stacking devices. Also included is a small felt/velvet carry much with the Noble logo on it, plus two Noble logo stickers.
Do you need an amp or dedicated DAP for these?
Not at all. During our latest meet-up around 20-30 people tried the K10U on their own setups, some just on their phones and probably 80% where wowed of how easy these are to drive ( I wish I had taken photos of their initial facial impressions). Nobody thought a 10 driver combo (20 drivers in total) can be so easily driven from a smartphone. I drove them out of a Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon (most of the time), Astell & Kern AK380, Hifiman HM-901(bal), AK100Mk2, AP100, DX50, iPhone 6, RSA The Predator, CEntrance Hifi-Skÿn and these just delivered - consistently - marvelous sound. They are really super easy to drive. Maybe sometimes even too easy. The ifi iDSD nano has literally no play in the volume dial - they are so efficient….and you get a little bit of hiss. Overall I recommend using a proper DAP or a dedicated amp with this in-ear - it makes sure nothing is under driven and all frequencies are present the best way possible. While chatting with John, he mentioned he uses an Onkyo DP-X1 himself at the moment - hint hint
The first listen fresh out of the box was pretty amazing. Noble calls the K10 coherent and I must say I felt pretty wowed. Lovely full and “round” sounding bottom end, beautiful mids and sparkly treble - bordering on harsh though. But that was fresh out of the box…more in the detailed sections. The nozzle of the K10 has 3 openings so a 3 way crossover can be assumed, however elsewhere I read it’s a 3, 3, 2, 2 config with a 4-way crossover. Overall I can say: the most engaging and indeed “coherent” sound I have ever heard from in-ears, especially multi driver ones. You don’t hear a crossover. It’s magic. The one tiny downside I can find is that really badly encoded music (like my very old 128kbps mp3) will sounds bad - you will hear the compression artifacts, it’s not very forgiving. But who would send that low quality in such a headphone in any case. You will hear EVERY detail in the music.
Powerful, dynamic, doesn’t sound like the typical BA bass to me. It’s not a bass-head in-ear but the bass has the right amount to fill out the music and give it the perfect amount of body. It’s not cutting or bleeding into any other frequency spectrum. I have to say, I think this is, for me, the perfect bass for a reference top of the line IEM. There is just enough rumble, sub-bass that shows the layers properly and overall well controlled.
I believe this is what created the biggest WOW effect when hearing them first. The mids are just glorious. Like liquid gold poured in my ears (in a good way). Spot on. The tonality in general is fresh and sparkly - I don’t find it cold, rather natural and pleasing. After the initial borderline harshness went - the mids are beautiful - music really shows its soul though these….
Clarity and detail are top notch. However, fresh out of the box I found the treble borderline harsh and a close to sibilant. Sibilance is for me a showstopper. While it wasn’t a showstopper - it was irritating me. So I decided to leave them playing over night. And voila, be it brain burnin or actual burn-in, I don’t care. The harshness/sibilance somewhere between 5kHz-7kHz was tamed and the close to piercing sound around 10kHz turned into definition and air. I love the treble definition now. For my taste it could be a tiny tad less prominent but I can thoroughly appreciate the balance Noble struck here.
Sound Stage and instruments separations
The K10U doesn’t have an exaggerated soundstage. I found the width, depth and height of soundstage to be adequate - you can place instruments quite well away from each other and have an idea of their position in the three dimensions, I wouldn't say you can throw a dart at each instrument but you can point in the correct direction. Music wonderfully envelopes you, just the “right” amount of soundstage without artificial enlargement or too closed in feeling. The separation between instruments is good and absolutely convincing. Again - Noble chose to create just the perfect balance of everything to be not tiring or fatiguing but entertaining, emotional and musical.
Pros & Cons
most coherent (there I said it) and best sound from an Multi-BA IEM I heard ever
the true “Kaiser” of universal in-ears
comfortable despite its size
standard 2 pin cable connection
looks like it can survive everything, build quality is top notch
you can’t stop listening to music with these
super easy to drive
needed around 20hrs of play time to sound its best (only treble area changed slightly but for the better either in my brain or in the drivers)
too large to sleep with (and believe me - yo don’t want to take them off ever)
The Pelican 1010 case that is included could at least be customized with the Noble logo
you can’t stop listening to music with these
Sound Quality 10/10
Value for Money 7/10
They are amazing - absolutely amazing. I can’t stop listening to them - they do everything a bit better than the top picks I had so far. In every category these edge out a slight (sometimes huge) advantage. They are super easy to drive. Only the slightest hint of hiss on some players but nothing you would notice when listening to music. The provided ear tips were a perfect fit for me and made them super comfortable despite their size. In the end, you get what you pay for. It is a high premium price but these live up to their price tag and deliver in spades. There is no major plot twist here: veni, vidi, vici.
Biggest downside is that these have a price tag that is hard to swallow - but thankfully you are getting value for money. They certainly will outlast many many other in-ears and maybe you can even pass these on to your grand children. Build quality is impeccable.
The K10U is detailed, musical, revealing, but also fun, dynamic and engaging. It’s a no-compromise in-ear that gets out of the way to let the music shine. Be ready for some really emotional moments with your favorite tracks. The Wizard really did something magical here. So, yes, it’s worthy of being called a Kaiser. If you can afford them - go and get them and call off your search for the best IEMs, you have found them!
Thanks to Noble Audio for ruining my headphone collection - as I now have to start selling a lot to be able to afford these.
Pros - high resolution sound, distinct universal design, excellent isolation, great set of accessories, quality SPC removable cable.
Cons - special edition price, might be a bit bright for some, sub-bass can benefit from 2 additional low drivers.
I would like to Thank Noble Audio for providing me with a review sample of K10UA in exchange for my honest opinion.
Manufacturer website: http://nobleaudio.com/en/shop/universal/
* click on images to expand.
I would like to start this K10UA review with a quote from my Noble Savant write up posted a few months ago: “I’m pretty sure I’m gonna eat my words if I get a chance to test/review K10, but it takes a lot of confidence as well as knowledge and experience to prove to the world that you don’t need to have half a dozen to a dozen of drivers to make IEM sound good”. Three months later I’m still sticking to my quote because I really enjoy listening to Savant, but now I’m also "eating" my words while listening to Noble universal K10UA. Without a doubt it’s not about the number of drivers but how they’re actually tuned, and with extra building blocks The Wizard was able to shape K10UA sound signature into a perfection of a true 10-driver flagship.
Either if you are a serious audiophile or just an aspiring audio enthusiast, you really have to be living under a rock not to be familiar with Noble Audio and the dynamic duo of Dr John Moulton (known as “The Wizard” who creates all their masterpieces) and Brannan Mason (the business manager behind the driving wheel of the company). I already talked about Noble Audio and their impressive product line up in my Savant review (HERE), but want to mention again that Noble is one of the few companies that doesn't just see the beauty in the sound but also pays a very close attention to the beauty of the design, making some of the best looking Custom IEMs that belong on a display in the museum rather than inside of earwax filled earcanals
I strongly recommend visiting their Lookbook page and Prestige product page to see the level of craftsmanship applied to various exotic materials shaped into K10 and Savant monitors. And even so Prestige beauty has a premium price tag, you can still enjoy the sound of K10 and Savant at a fraction of the price when you go with either Acrylic or SLA (3D printed) custom models, or with universal fit K10UA recently introduced in all new aluminum shell design. Plus, around holiday season Noble offers additional discounts to sweeten the deal, and if you compare it to other monitors, the pricing is actually very competitive. Now without further ado let’s move on the actual review and what I found after spending two weeks testing K10UA.
I usually move pass cardboard packaging and on to the actual product box, but it was hard to dismiss one interesting design detail behind the cardboard shell. Sure, it’s a nice box with a Noble signature crown stamped on the top, but on the bottom you will find two cut out flaps you push up to assist in removal of the actual product box. Maybe a small detail for some, but I did appreciate the thought behind it because the product box was jammed tight and it almost required ripping the cardboard apart in order to remove it otherwise.
The actual product box is the same as recently introduced with Savant. We are talking about a gift box package where you can get a sense of premium quality just by feeling the texture of the box surface with a swirling pattern and a glossy black "NOBLE" print with a signature crown symbol. The box also has a Wizard signature stamped on the sides which adds a custom “autograph” touch to the packaging. There is no spec, only an acknowledgement of “ten balanced armature configuration” and a proud description of this being “Wizard’s greatest hits” – a very bold and self-confident statement. And just like with Savant, under the box cover you will find a genuine Pelican 1010 case with the product and all the included accessories inside.
I also mentioned this in my Savant review that it’s very rare to see Pelican case with Universal IEMs because this case is more common with CIEMs. I just assume that to simplify the logistics of packaging, Noble Audio keeps it similar between all of their custom and universal models. It's definitely a nice bonus with a bulletproof protection when packing your UIEM/CIEM along with other accessories. For everyday use Noble also included a velvet draw-string pouch with a company name on it. Other accessories include a carabiner clip for Pelican case, a cleaning tool for the shell, 2 rubber bands for securing external amp to your DAP, a pair of "crown" stickers with Wizard signature, ownership info card, and lots of eartips. Accessories package is nearly identical to Savant, but to distinguish it with a more premium touch – eartips were stored inside of aluminum perforated organizer card.
A cleaning tool is another accessory associated with CIEMs, and here it actually comes handy for CIEM-like 3-bore nozzle design of universal K10UA, though you do have to realize that silicone eartips will keep the nozzle away from digging into your earwax. Similar to Savant, you will also find 4 complete sets of premium eartips. There is a hybrid red stem S/M/L set with a more springy cap (my favorite for the best isolation), another hybrid blue stem S/M/L set with a softer cap and a narrow bar across the bore opening (like in Senns eartips), a set of S/M/L dual flange silicone eartips, and finally a set of M/L soft memory foam eartips (not Comply). A proper selection of eartips is crucial for K10UA performance to ensure a better seal which improves a low frequency response and provides earplug-like isolation. Despite a deeper and heavier metal shell, paired up with large size eartips I found K10UA to provide excellent passive noise isolation.
Overall, this is a decent selection of accessories for a premium set of monitors. I did mention already in my Savant review to make rubber bands bigger since they would be too tight for any modern DAP/amp combo and perhaps to think about using genuine Comply tips since those have a silicone core less prone to ripping. But one more thought did cross my mind. Noble design is so creative that I would have loved to see what The Wizard can come up with to make a custom case. Perhaps a cool leather case with a stamped Wizard crown logo?
I typically consider the cable to be a part of the design unless if it's a detachable one. If you can replace it, then I count it as an accessory. Personally, I'm a cable believer and have a collection of various silver-plated, pure silver, pure copper, and gold plated silver cables I like to try with different IEMs/CIEMs. But in order to appreciate the replacement, I always start with a stock cable to get used to the original sound signature intended by the manufacturer, especially since Noble didn’t just use a generic cheap OFC cable but actually went with a more premium silver plated copper (SPC) wires.
I was definitely pleased with a cable Noble included with K10UA. The cable itself is made out of 4 separate conductors, each one is thin and soft with a tight rubbery jacket, twisted in pairs going to L/R sides and then twisted again after y-splitter going down to a very slim gold-plated 3.5mm jack. Y-splitter is just a clear heat-shrink piece of silicone tube and a chin-slider is another loose piece of the same tubing that slides up/down. It was a wise decision to keep all 4 wires separated and isolated all the way down to the headphone connector, thus preventing a noise coupling of a shared ground below y-splitter. My only negative comment here is a rather slippery housing of the headphone connector, where I wish they would use something more textured to enhance the grip, besides just a narrow flat side of the cylindrical connector housing.
Also, I was pleased with a short piece of memory wire, only 40mm in length. I absolute hate long memory wires going around your ear which you have to constantly re-shape when you take your IEMs out of the storage case. Here it’s short and does the job well. Going to earpieces, cable terminates with an industry standard 2pin connectors with red/blue dot mark to signify right/left sides. Keep in mind, connectors are very tight the first time you try to remove them if you want to replace the cable. I strongly recommend never pulling on the wire; only grab the connector housing part with a pinching motion and a little bit of wiggle.
One might ask, why would you even consider replacing the cable? I have a lot of warm and smooth IEMs in my collection and typically go straight for either Whiplash or Linum cables to try to brighten up the sound and to improve the retrieval of details which is one of the common artifacts of silver or silver-plated wires. But you have to keep in mind, K10UA sound is already bright and crisp with a stock SPC cable. Also keep in mind that we all have a slightly different perception of the sound and tolerance to upper frequencies.
Going to pure silver TWag or gold plated silver TWau cables pushed the brightness a bit toward the harshness level, close to the threshold of my tolerance. I really enjoyed Linum BaX cable which in theory has SPC litz wires, though it added more refinement in comparison to stock SPC cable. But the advantage of thin BaX conductors became also its disadvantage due to heft of universal K10UA and no “memory wire” to support it. BaX would be fantastic with lightweight flush inserted custom K10, but in my opinion not very practical with universal aluminum version of K10UA.
Next, I tried going back to regular OFC stock cables from my other IEMs/CIEMs, and the sound became a little warmer and smoother, but lost some of the refinement. This left me with pure copper cables, and I took the opportunity to test the latest TWcu v3 OM (over-mold 2pin connector) with 8 conductors. I always found pure Copper to offer low end improvement without making top end harsher (TWcu is by far my favorite cable to use with ES60 as well).
With TWcu v3, I definitely hear the difference in low end where sub-bass level came up with a little more quantity and mid-bass speed became a touch slower with a slightly longer decay - making the bass sound more analog, closer to dynamic driver performance. Also, mids got slightly lifted and I hear a noticeable improvement in treble airiness, making the sound more balanced. I actually took a few measurements and found a slight boost around 60Hz and also a scaled up lift around 500Hz-2kHz region, while upper mids/treble remained unchanged. In addition to sound improvement, I also found copper cables to match the tone of Rose Gold K10UA finish, though 8-conductor thick cable was nowhere near as flexible as the stock cable.
2.5mm TRRS terminated with 3.5mm TRS extension adapter:
When it comes to Noble K10 flagship, you have two fundamental choices of going either with Custom or Universal design where each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Custom IEM requires a preparation of going to audiologist to get a mold of your inner ear, waiting for manufacturing of your earpieces, and then dealing with a fact that it won’t be easy to upgrade it in the future, though Noble offers a unique ownership transfer service to remold the shell for a reasonable fee. But at the end you will end up with a perfect fit and isolation and the unique customization artwork to make your CIEM stand out from the crowd.
Universal fit requires less preparation work and no commitment in case if you want to sell it later, but in the past the only level of Noble personalization used to be in a form of different color screws with the same black acrylic body. With Savant, Noble introduced a Wizard design with different beautiful faceplates, making it feel like a custom universal version. With K10, Noble took a different approach introducing an aluminum universal version referred to as K10UA. They used to have a universal black acrylic version of K10U, but now K10UA replaced it completely when Noble introduced a silver/red aluminum shell. For my review purpose, I received their limited edition Rose Gold version of K10UA where the inner part of the shell is black and outer part of the shell is gold plated using a genuine rose gold. As I was putting finishing touches on this review, Noble just announced a complete revamp of their universal IEMs – all featuring specific names and aluminum outer shells in different colors.
The design itself is very unique, and I definitely consider it to be another example of Noble “custom” universal fit version. The shell is made of two pieces, joint together in bi-color design, with a very fine ridges aligned between both halves. The ridges itself are smooth and add to the texture of the finish. The inner part of the shell shapes into a nozzle with a lip at the tip to assist in keeping eartips from sliding off due to a shallow fit. There are 3 bores at the tip, aligned with a 3-way cross-over partitioning 2 lows, 4 mids, and 4 highs with sound tubes going to the nozzle. The outer part of the shell is a bit deep and will stick out of your ear. Don’t expect flush mount or being able to put your head down on the pillow, but considering 10-driver design the overall depth of the shell is average and on par with other universal multi-driver IEMs and CIEMs. The faceplate of the shell has Noble Audio crown logo surrounded by a fine diamond cut pattern – a design which can easily be turned into a cool ring!
I did notice that my right earpiece had a seamless joint of both shell pieces all the way around, while left earpiece had it seamless around the top edge but not as much around the bottom edge. There are no sharp edges and besides a color contrast you can’t even see the joint, but you can feel it when you brush your finger across. I can only imagine the challenge in assembling of these aluminum shells seamlessly, but perhaps Noble can look further into QC improvement. But overall, to my surprise I found K10UA to fit very comfortably and to provide an excellent sound isolation. These earpieces are not feather light, weighting 8g each, but with a memory wire hook and with large eartips for a more secure fit (I actually switched to old UE900 tips), I hardly felt any weight once they were in my ears. Plus, color shade of the rose gold was close to a skin tone, so from a distance they are not as noticeable sticking out of your ears.
All my sound testing was done using stock SPC cable and PAW Gold as a source. I know I shouldn’t expect any changes with BA drivers after burn in, but I still went ahead to make sure cross-over components and all the solder joints are properly conditioned before I start evaluating the sound. I found the sound signature of K10UA to be balanced with slightly v-shaped characteristics where I felt the impact of mid-bass punch and the lift of upper mids with a few treble peaks pushing the leaner lower mids a little bit back. The tonality is definitely skewed toward the brighter revealing side with a high level of detail retrieval. With most of my test tracks, the sound never crossed the sibilance threshold or became harsh despite its bright characteristic. My ears are sensitive to upper frequency peaks, especially around 6k which I often perceive harsh, but in case of K10UA where you actually do have 6kHz peak – I had no issues listening for extended period of time.
Bass is very eartip depended where the quality will not change as much but the quantity can vary from being hidden behind the mids to coming at you with a very impressive slam depending on the level of ear-canal seal and sound isolation. I found sub-bass to have a good extension with a nice textured rumble, but it wasn’t overpowering, slightly rolled off, and nicely balanced and layered under the mid-bass. Mid-bass has a fast attack and shorter decay, typical of BA driver performance. Overall, I found the bass to be tight and well controlled without spilling into mids. K10UA bass is not exactly always in your face, but when called upon - expect a very articulate performance with a nice slam and a polite sub-bass quantity.
Mids are definitely the stars of K10UA sound. Noble found a perfect tuning balance where lower mids are not too thick or too thin, though a bit more on a leaner side, and add just a perfect amount of body to the sound which makes instruments and vocals sound relatively natural. And the same with upper mids, they have a lot of clarity and reach micro-detail level without sounding harsh or grainy. One thing to keep in mind, even so I hear mids sounding natural and accurate, they are still on a colder analytical side where those who prefer a more organic warmer non-fatigue tones might perceive it as a bit harsh for their taste. I constantly flip-flop between warm-organic and cold-analytical signatures, and usually find it hard to find the later one to my liking because I'm not too crazy about harsh revealing sound. Here, I feel like Noble hit the sweet spot with a natural bright tonality which is tolerable for extended listening.
Treble is bright, crisp, with a good extension and a nice definition, and a moderate level of airiness. Here with treble I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. The sparkle, especially around 6k peak, can get a bit too sharp as you raise the volume, and as a result I preferred listening to K10UA without pushing volume too high. Of course, this is a purely subjective opinion, but I found that I was able to enjoy K10UA for a much longer listening period when I dropped the volume a few dBs below my usual listening level. To my very pleasant surprise that slight volume reduction linearly scaled low end and mids while also got treble sparkle under control. Going to foam tips can also help keeping treble under control without a need to reduce the volume.
I found the soundstage to expand in all 3 directions, slightly above the average, but not exactly on holographic level. I wouldn't say K10UA sounds intimate, just not super expanded. But despite that, I still think the imaging of K10UA is very good with a great placement of instruments and vocals. Perhaps not on a 3D level, but it was accurate and convincing to my ears. Furthermore, layering and separation of the instruments and vocals was really good, which I expected from this level of detailed sound tuning, and overall the sound is very dynamic and has a great level of transparency.
Comparison to other IEMs/CIEMs.
I’m sure a lot of the people will be curious how K10UA compares to its little brother Savant.
K10UA vs Savant - K10U soundstage is a little wider, while depth/height are the same, K10U sub-bass is a little deeper and mid-bass has more impact, lower mids are nearly the same being lean with a moderate amount of body. Savant upper mids are a little warmer and smoother in comparison to K10U, though both are very detailed. K10U treble is brighter, sharper, better defined, and with more airiness.
Overall, there are a lot of similarities between Savant and K10U, but at the same time Savant is smoother, less transparent and not as layered, while K10U sound is faster, with a better layering and separation, more analytical with a better retrieval of details, and sharper treble definition. But surprisingly when I was listening and comparing between these two, I never felt like I was choosing which one is better, but rather deciding which one will pair up better with my different sources or will be suited better for a specific music genre.
K10UA vs U12 - U12 has wider/deeper/taller soundstage, deeper and warmer sub-bass, slower mid-bass, lower mids have noticeably more body, while K10U lover mids a bit scooped up, thinner, and brighter. U12 upper mids are warmer and sound more organic, while K10U upper mids are brighter, more upfront, more detailed, and a little colder. U12 treble is also more rolled off with less definition, smoother, and warmer, while K10U treble is brighter, crispier, and with a little more airiness. The main difference here is that U12 sounds more analog, smoother, warmer, more organic and with more body, while K10U has a brighter, sharper, thinner, colder, more detailed faster sound typical of BA performance. These definitely don't compete but rather complement each other with a different signature and different tonality.
K10U vs ES60 - ES60 has slightly wider/deeper/taller soundstage, ES sub-bass has a little more rumble, and mid-bass has slightly more punch though the speed is the same. ES60 lower mids are nearly the same while upper mids are a little smoother, still bright but less analytical. K10U has sharper and crispier treble with better definition and extension, while ES60 treble is smoother with less harsh peaks, and also both have the same level of airiness. In general, ES60 sounds more balanced and a little smoother while K10U is slightly more v-shaped, brighter, more analytical, and a little sharper in comparison.
K10U vs UM Maestro - K10U soundstage is wider, with a similar depth/height, sub-bass and mid-bass are very similar, actually nearly identical. UM lower mids are a little thicker and have more body, while upper mids are a little warmer and smoother and not as detailed. Treble is very similar in terms of brightness, crispiness, and definition, but Maestro sounds a bit harsher in comparison. These two IEMs actually have a lot in common, though K10U sounds a little leaner, a little more transparent, and more detailed.
Pair up with different sources.
Lotoo PAW Gold - black background, wide soundstage, clear detailed highly resolving sound, deep punchy bass, lean micro-detailed mids, and bright crisp non-sibilant treble.
FiiO X7 w/AM2 - black background, wide soundstage, lean detailed sound, a little more analytical and thinner, accurate bass with great quality but not as deep, lean micro-detailed mids, bright non-sibilant treble with a better control of peaks.
L&P L5 Pro - a little bit of hissing, wide soundstage, clear detailed sound, deep punchy bass with a great sub-bass extension, mids with a little more body, still micro-detailed, treble is smoother, non-sibilant and with a great definition.
A&K AK120ii - nearly black background, soundstage is wide but not as much as with other daps, punchy warm bass but not as articulate, more body in mids and a little smoother warmer tonality but still detailed, clear detailed treble with better control of peaks.
iBasso DX80 - a little hissing when playback starts, wide soundstage, very deep and punch bass with great sub-bass extension, smooth full body detailed mids, clear detailed non-harsh treble.
Cayin N5 - a little hissing when playback starts, wide soundstage, deep punchy bass, lean micro-detailed mids, bright crisp treble pushing closer to harshness borderline.
FiiO X5ii - black background, wide soundstage, deep punchy bass though sub-bass is a little lower in quantity, lean detailed mids, bright crisp non-sibilant treble, very good pair up.
FiiO X3ii - some hissing, wide soundstage, nice punchy bass though not as much of sub-bass extension (quality but not as much quantity), smooth detailed mids, well controlled detailed treble.
Prior to receiving K10UA, I had numerous requests to test and to compare Noble flagship to the latest batch of multi-driver IEMs I recently covered in my other reviews. Without a doubt, Noble flagship K10/K10U is highly regarded and at the top of many audiophiles wish list. But I still feel like many are trying to compare and to narrow it down to the ONE and ONLY set of flagship monitors that going to rule them all and to cover every basis. I have tested and compared a number of IEMs, and can tell you from my own personal experience that such monitor probably doesn’t exist simply because there are still two fundamental sound signature camps, one leaning toward warm smooth sound and the other leaning toward bright analytical sound. In my opinion these two coexist in parallel, one is not better than the other, and if you want to find the best – you have to search for one in each of these categories.
When it comes to bright revealing highly resolving balanced sound with an impressive low end and top end extension, accurate tonality, excellent layering and separation, expanded soundstage, and non-fatigue extended listening experience – to my ears K10UA is IT!!! Even though in the last year my listening preference has been more toward the warmer smoother sound, I still love to spoil my senses with a jolt of revealing micro-detail signature but can never find the monitors I can use for extended listening session until I came across K10UA. The only thing that can make them better is The Wizard’s magic touch to add 2 more low end drivers to step up to K12UA with more sub-bass rumble. But for now, in my book, K10UA holds the Golden Crown of bright revealing sound while right next to it I have U12 with ADEL Crown of warm organic sound – two of my absolutely favorite universals at the current moment!
... just wanted to add to my review, since I received a lot of questions with people wanting to clarify what do I mean by "bright". We all have a different definition of sound tonality, what we refer to as warm, neutral, bright and variation of each. I found K10UA to have a brighter revealing tonality, but it wasn't overly bright analytical type associated with harsh or grainy or sibilant sound.