Noble Audio Katana

  1. Layman1
    You left me in pieces - Noble Audio Katana review
    Written by Layman1
    Published Mar 14, 2018
    Pros - Excellent all rounder; musicality, detail, ergonomics, craftsmanship
    Cons - Hard to find one! Soundstage could be a bit bigger? Price? It's all relative!
    A review of the Noble Audio Katana In-Ear Monitor (IEM).

    The Noble Audio Katana is a TOTL IEM and was released in 2016.

    NB: for anyone reading who might not be familiar with the ‘lingo’, TOTL = Top Of The Line; a flagship model, usually with a correspondingly high price tag attached.

    I would like to begin by thanking John at Noble Audio, who provided me with a wizard version of the Noble Katana in response to me asking him whether he’d considered if it could be done.

    The thread for discussion of this (and other Noble Audio IEM’s) may be found here:

    The official Noble Audio webpage for the universal version of the Katana may be found here:

    Specs from website:

    Noble Audio do not release detailed specifications as a rule, but here is their description:

    • 9 proprietary balanced armature drivers per side
    • Updated Noble universal form factor and geometry featuring creative precision machined aluminium 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)

    Pricing at the time of writing was £1’699 when buying from the UK. A wizard model (with custom built faceplates) will add an additional £250.


    It's been a fair while since these have been released, and I imagine every picture under the sun has long since been posted, so here is the briefest set of images, for anyone who may have just emerged from under some prehistoric rock :)

    Katana main pic.JPG Katana unboxing.JPG Katana Wizard 1 of 1.JPG

    A lovely touch was the "Wizard 1 of 1" that he etched into the side of the IEM body.
    It certainly gives an exclusive feeling!

    The Sound:

    As ever, my preferred method of testing is to try out the product(s) in question with a selection of songs from various genres and to let that process draw out the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each product.

    I have a few tracks which I’ve only found available on MP3; the rest are FLAC or WAV in 16/44 or 24/192.
    As a way to test and benchmark, I have A/B tested the Katana with the iBasso IT03 on all these tracks (and many others), since it’s the best other IEM that I currently own (and an outstanding IEM in its own right). If anyone wishes to send me more TOTL IEM’s to expand my review with, I would not attempt to dissuade you from this course of action :p

    Also, for the purposes of this review, I have used two DAP’s to play the music on for testing; the iBasso DX200 (with AMP1 – balanced mode and AMP3) and the Shozy Alien+ (single ended, but using a 2.5mm balanced to 3.5mm SE Eidolic adapter).

    I would add that this review has been done over the course of many months. I do property management/investment in London on a self-employed basis, and anyone reading who has their own business will know how it has a marvellous tendency to intrude upon one’s intended activities!

    Since I wrote the bulk of this review, iBasso have released AMP units 4 and 5.

    I haven’t yet heard 4 (and greatly wish to do so!), but I own AMP5, and I would say that the sound signature of the DX200 with AMP5 is comparable to the strengths of the Shozy Alien+ DAP used in this review. So, if you are a DX200 owner and you are salivating at my descriptions of the Alien+ sound on certain songs, AMP5 is going to give you a similar experience I believe! :)

    Finally, in order to be able to compare apples with apples as best as possible, I have substituted the standard cable of the Katana with a balanced silver-plated copper cable. I haven’t noticed any significant change in the sound signature of the Katana as a result (it’s not a TOTL cable or anything) and I have also listened to the Katana extensively with the standard included cable, so I am as confident as I can be that I’m presenting accurate impressions of the sound of the Katana.

    As mentioned above, please note that all impressions below are in comparison to the IT03 as well as ‘stand-alone’. It’s hard to quantify something without a benchmark against which to compare it!

    With all this box-ticking preamble out of the way, shall we proceed?

    I think we shall :)

    The Darkness - Black Shuck, Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman, Givin' Up:

    Now then. I’m autistic (but fortunately was blessed with extreme attractiveness to compensate), and this seems to come with a sensitivity to certain sounds and frequencies.

    I love rock, and I love these songs, but I’ve mostly found them difficult to listen to, due to the dense and noisy nature of the song, the joyful bashing of cymbals, occasionally piercing falsetto and so on.

    Also, these tracks really benefit from a powerful low end (doesn’t need to be one that is not balanced with the rest of the sound signature, just not an anaemic or lacking one!).

    Here’s what I found:

    DX200 (AMP3):

    This presented well, with a smooth and cohesive sound and no fatigue, matches well with rock.

    At last!

    DX200 (AMP1):

    Even better! More open soundstage than with the Alien+ with an increase in separation. This is a good combination, but I feel the Alien+ wins out here with its musicality and weighty low-end.

    Alien+: Based on notes from my critical listening to ‘Walks With Me’ (another song in this review), I had a sudden hunch that this DAP/IEM combo might be just the thing for these songs by The Darkness.

    I was proved right!

    As the robot Kryten remarked in the British sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf:

    “Ah, smug mode” :)

    A bit less separation and sparkle, and a slight decrease in soundstage compared with the DX200 (AMP1). However, this is more than compensated for by the terrific meatiness and depth to the guitar riffs, the organic and rich low end and the taming of the hi-hat/cymbals (and occasionally shrieking vocals!).

    These songs really shine when there’s significant low-end presence and where the treble is tamed slightly. I have to (yet again) give huge credit to the Alien+ here for its musicality.

    I’ve never enjoyed these songs so much in my life; I feel they’ve found the perfect match in this combination! For any rock music where the bass isn’t overemphasised and where there’s dense guitar riffs, I believe this combination is going to be an absolute blast of joy :)

    Warning: This pairing rocks hard. Very hard. Those with weak constitutions or delicate sensitivities may not be able to handle the high-voltage riffs and head-moshing tendencies that this combination engenders. As the music seller in the movie Human Traffic exclaimed:

    “This could turn Hari Krishna into a badboy!” :D

    Ray Lamontagne - A Falling Through:

    This track features a gorgeous drum beat in the background, a delightful deep thump with significant bass weight and presence, that still doesn’t dominate the song but increases its emotion. Along with this, the strumming of the acoustic guitar is a great test for an IEM’s faithful representation of timbre.

    DX200 (AMP3):

    The drum is comparatively somewhat subdued within the mix with the Katana (whereas they were an integral part of the beauty of the song with the IT03).
    Guitar however is enchantingly beautiful with engaging timbre, realism and musicality.

    DX200 (AMP1):

    The tactile sound of the guitar strumming is strongly presented here, the sound is quite balanced but still capturing the intimacy of the track. Nicely musical and detailed, good clarity. The cymbals in the chorus are present and clearly discernible, without being a distraction or making it noisy.


    Again, a more closed-in and intimate presentation. The whole sound here seems slightly muted and softened; not in a bad way where detail is sacrificed though. If you’ve ever heard the remarkable and quite unique mastering and production on Bob Dylan’s 1990’s album ‘Time Out Of Mind’, it’s akin to that.

    The cymbals here are quite magical; each tap discrete and distinct, yet very subtle, like an ephemeral mist of noise floating above the guitar and vocals.

    Club 8 - Love Dies (from the excellent 2015 album ‘Pleasure’):

    My goodness, this song is astonishing. The first time I heard it, my jaw dropped.

    It’s extremely crystalline, clear, beautiful. It takes a good combo of equipment to display this to perfection without letting the highs become piercing or strident in occasional places.

    The track starts slowly, and from about 50s in to 1:07, you can hear a progression of sounds being introduced at the edge of the soundstage, giving the impression of the soundstage opening out like a blossoming flower.

    DX200 (AMP3):

    The Katana’s musicality presents the song in a way that is engaging and distinctive.

    It’s not the best pairing, but more than holds its own.

    DX200 (AMP1):

    Using this amp unit, the Katana brings out more of the great qualities of the song.

    The soundstage opens up very nicely, the pristine, crystalline sound of the song is enabled to shine and there is never any hint of treble heat or sharpness.


    This is a song where a huge soundstage has a magical impact. Unfortunately, that’s an aspect of the Katana that is suppressed somewhat in this combination, and hence its presentation of this song is diminished as a result. Again, it’s still excellent and would put many other combinations to shame, but it lacks the synergy of the very best combinations I’ve found between the four items here.

    RDF (Radical Dance Faction) – Borderline:

    This is a somewhat cold and melancholic song, but with a hell of bass line.

    It features a wonderful moment in the beginning where the percussion being employed changes 3 times in succession, giving one’s equipment a wonderful opportunity to show of faithful representation of timbre.

    DX200 (AMP3):

    The percussion is reproduced outstandingly here, with the timbre and musicality of each change of percussion bringing its own delightful character.
    The bass line goes deep and with a fuller sound compared to the IT03 which seems slightly leaner.

    DX200 (AMP1):

    Slightly clearer and more detailed presentation than with the AMP3, but with less musicality and overall, slightly less engaging. A solid performance, but not a magical combination.


    Immediately noticeable is the enjoyable thickness and musicality of the notes.

    Similarly, the percussion and its changes are presented outstandingly well, the bassline is very engaging. Detail levels are vivid and the whole presentation sucks you in like some huge sucky thing (insert political or corporate dig of choice here) :)

    Hobotalk – Walks With Me (from Beauty in Madness, 16/44 FLAC):

    This song, by a relatively obscure Scottish band, is one of my all-time favourite songs. A piece of pure bliss; warm and wistful, slightly melancholic without being cold or depressing, beautiful and peaceful in equal measure.

    DX200 (AMP3):

    On this song specifically, the soundstage seemed more oval (a vertical oval to be precise) with less width, and this, combined with the comparatively warmer, more organic sound of the Katana made it feel a little closed-in and the instrumentation had a slight blandness comparatively.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is in comparison to an IEM that seemed perfectly matched to this song; the Katana makes pretty much everything sound wonderful. We’re talking small degrees here.

    DX200 (AMP1): The Katana seems to have more weight and thickness to the notes.

    The soundstage opens wide, again oval shaped, but this time horizontally. There’s a greater warmth and presence to the low-end here.

    Alien+: Smaller soundstage, more intimate and closed-in sound.

    Very thick notes and low-end presence, but somewhat lacking airiness and separation; however, it’s worth noting that this is in direct and immediate comparison to an IEM with huge soundstage and airiness. Given time to get used to the sound signature in its own right, this could be a very enjoyable combination, especially for those people (or those songs) that benefit from a more warm and intimate feel to the music.

    Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing:

    One of my go-to test tracks for testing (and just listening), and I know several other reviewers on here share this point of view!

    A terrific song, with lots of things to get analytical over; percussion, timbre, guitar fretboard wizardry etc.

    DX200 (AMP3):

    In fairness, it would be hard to make this song sound bad, but this combo certainly doesn’t disappoint! Rhythm, texture, timbre, musicality; the sound of all the boxes being ticked :)

    DX200 (AMP1):

    The vocals seem a touch more forward and this combination captures the gravel and texture in his voice that really does it justice.

    Good grief, this sounds good.. I’ll be back in a while… :D

    The way it brings out all the background sounds, whilst still bringing forward the vocals and lead guitar is something magical. This is a superb combination for this song.


    As is often the case with this combination, there’s a small, but immediately noticeable decrease in soundstage and separation when switching from the others.

    When it gets to the final guitar solo at the end that generally has me clenching my fists and so forth in musical ecstasy, the background music (acoustic guitar strumming etc) is still present and can be drawn forth by focusing on it, but not as balanced as with the combination involving the DX200 (AMP1). However, here there is a beautiful musicality to the guitar solo; it really reaches deep into the soul and sounds absolutely magnificent.

    Anberlin – The Art Of War:

    This is a staggering track. There’s so much going on in it and so many things to zone in on when listening. There’s powerful percussion and bass, a driving rhythm, synths and sound effects and over all this, great vocals, searing lyrics and simply majestic rock!

    In terms of analysis of detail retrieval, on this track, around 9 seconds in, there’s a sudden sense of space opening up in the upper-central zone of the soundstage, along with a faint, almost imperceptible hum.

    I don’t know much about music production, but I’m guessing this is the ‘channel’ being switched on that the bass guitar is linked up to (as indeed the bass comes in at the same spatial location a second or two later).

    DX200 (AMP3):

    This sounds wonderfully open and not congested at all (a hazard with this song).

    The bassline is not quite as strong and physical as that presented with the IT03, but it is a significant step up from the AMP1 below. Overall, this combination has a great musical and detailed sound, with a welcome dose of sparkle in the treble that lifts the whole presentation.

    DX200 (AMP1):

    Soundstage more spacious in comparison with Alien+, separation a bit better too.

    Overall, my perception was that this combination presented a more balanced sound to the song; through maintaining soundstage and separation, each aspect of the song was presented clearly without being drowned under any other part.
    However, there was a slight lack of weight and feel to the bass, which in a song like this (that centres around a driving bass and rhythm section) left me slightly less satisfied than with other pairings.

    Alien+: Soundstage a little bit closed in; in terms of soundstage alone this combination is not the ideal match for this song as a good soundstage and separation really opens up the dense guitars and rhythm section. This feeling was quite noticeable the first time I switched from the DX200 with AMP1; however, it became less noticeable upon further listening. The small detail of the channel opening up for the bass at 9 seconds in is captured more noticeably and adds to the atmosphere of the song.

    Finally, with this combination, there’s a delightful thickness and weight to the driving bass and rhythm; unfortunately, this is slightly (but not badly) achieved at the expense of some of the other aspects of the song, where the harmonies and background music gets slightly overwhelmed.

    Also, the bass weight and thickness in this particular song seems to engender a slight muddiness where the bass seems to bleed slightly into the mids. However, I haven’t experienced this on any other songs, so I’ll chalk it up to being one of those rare occurrences.


    Astonishingly small and light in Wizard form; eminently comfortable and wearable for extended periods. For me, memory foam or Monster Foam Supertips provide the best fit, but the Symbio tips I use are not far off in terms of fit and seal and also seem to help open up the soundstage even further and increase airiness.

    The Katana for me distinguishes itself by offering TOTL reference sound quality but with what I hear as a sound signature that offers a fairly neutral sound with a gorgeous tinge of naturalness and musicality. There’s a slightly warm and organic quality there, but not at the expense of detail or clarity, which it has in spades.

    I should note that I first heard it at CanJam London 2016, and there’s been a marked increase in the number of TOTL IEM offerings since then (including Noble’s own excellent Encore). I’ve heard many of them too.

    I’m not a fanboy of any brand (although there’s plenty of brands that I admire for various reasons – Noble Audio included); in all honesty there are certainly IEM’s out there today that can do specific things as well as (or better than) the Katana, especially 18 months later, which can be a long time in the wonderful world of audio!

    When it comes to TOTL products, even more so than with other price ranges, you’re obviously going to want to listen in person if at all possible to a range of products and find what fits YOU. If my descriptions of the Katana are ticking your boxes and tantalising your audio taste buds, then I’d unreservedly encourage you to give it a listen and see what you think :)

    For me, the Katana doesn’t dazzle in a specific area (unlike some TOTL offerings, which however, may also exhibit comparative weaknesses in other areas of course too); however, it dazzles me as a complete package.

    I think the Katana’s strength for me is that it’s a terrific all-rounder and it has proved a challenge to find any songs that it *doesn’t* sound wonderful with.

    Most of us on here are on a never-ending quest to find the equipment that allows the music we love to shine as brightly as we know it can. Simply put, the Noble Katana makes me almost embarrassingly happy when I listen to my music on it.

    And that’s ultimately what it’s all about. Time for some more. “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” :)

    I leave you with this brief clip (hopefully it will actually work!).

    Noble Audio – because sometimes, only a Katana will do :wink:

    Katana 1.gif
      slugman likes this.
  2. ryanjsoo
    Noble Audio Katana Review – Flagship Remix
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Jan 11, 2018
    Pros - - Meticulous Build
    - Terrific Treble Extension & Resolution
    - Spacious Stage
    - Super Tight Bass
    Cons - - Not Especially Linear Up Top
    Introduction –

    Though perhaps no longer popular opinion, Noble’s original K10 redefined the flagship for the vast majority of audio enthusiasts. Noble’s flagship wasn’t the first to sport a two-digit driver count, but its 10-driver setup and $1599 asking price were still very much oddities at the time of release, and it was the first to achieve mass recognition. Since then, Noble have released the Kaiser Encore, a retuned successor with a reworked design. However, though a pioneer of the current market trend with concurrent price and performance inflation, Noble reason that choosing an earphone is an exercise in subjectivity; there is no endgame, the flagship doesn’t exist and best is opinion at best in the ever-churning machine that is the audio hobby. This is everything that stands behind Noble’s new Katana.

    The Katana represents more than just flashy marketing or some supreme achievement in sonic performance. Rather, it stands for choice; the ability for buyers to select the best signature for them over what is the most objectively proficient or preferred by the majority. That’s not to say that the Katana isn’t capable, with a whopping 9 custom manufactured armature drivers per side, it’s quite the over-achiever. As such, the Katana does not occupy a different tier of performance to the Encore, it is simply a more analytical flavour of flagship. And yet, the Katana is not nearly as discussed as its more sculpted sibling when I would argue that many disappointed Encore buyers would’ve been far happier with Noble’s remixed flagship. Let’s see why!

    Product Page: here

    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Brannan from Noble Audio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Katana for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

    Accessories –


    The Katana employs a similarly lavish unboxing to Noble’s other premium in-ears. Punchy renders adorn the outer faces alongside basic specifications.


    Underneath is a textured hard box that well protects its innards during transit. Upon opening the box, buyers are greeted by a compact threaded case in addition to a larger pelican 1010 case. The case contains the Katana’s, an etched user card, 2 stacking bands and a cleaning tool.


    In addition, Noble include a very comprehensive array of ear tips comprising of 3 pairs of soft silicones, 3 pairs of firmer silicones, 3 pairs of dual flange tips and 3 pairs of foams.

    Design –

    From their rippled exterior with bold inset logo, to their knurled perimeter that mimics the wrap on a traditional Japanese sword, Noble’s new flagship is a gorgeously designed in-ear that makes an instant statement. In line with the Kaiser Encore, the Katana employs an all-aluminium build that feels unrelenting and perfectly machined. Noble’s choice of a gold/black colour scheme crafts a premium aesthetic while remaining understated for portable use; and the Katana draws the eye using contrast achieved through flawless machining rather than flashy colours.


    With smooth, sweeping lines and rounded inner faces, the Katana slots ergonomically into the ear. Their shorter nozzles don’t quite lock-in like deeper fitting rivals, but the Katana is more comfortable and produces less wearing pressure as a result. Moreover, save for their new EDC, the Katana is actually Noble’s most compact in-ear. At just over half the size of the Django, despite having a significantly higher driver count, the Katana’s were not affected by the same fit stability issues that I experienced with Noble’s other in-ears; this is easily Noble’s most streamlined and ergonomic model yet.


    Additionally, their fully-sealed design and dense metal housings provide high levels of passive noise isolation that will even suffice for air travel, especially with Comply foams. They still don’t isolate quite as much as deeper fitting models from Campfire for instance, but they will attenuate adequately for almost any use case scenario.


    Up top, the Katana employs a typical 0.78mm 2-pin removable cable enabling users to swap in a variety of aftermarket units should they want to slightly alter the sound or simply replace a broken stock unit. The stock cable is fairly standard; it has a nice braid and a soft, supple feel. The cable well-resists tangles and isn’t microphonic, it also routes easily through jumpers due to its smooth texture. Of note, Noble employ really well-shaped pre-moulded ear guides that I found considering more ergonomic than memory wire. They also offer a 2.5mm balanced cable at an additional cost of $50 USD.

    Sound –

    Tonality –

    I don’t like to throw around neutral or reference in my reviews. Often, these concepts are more subjective than most would be inclined to believe. However, without a doubt, the Katana does represent Noble’s most neutral proposition yet; even if it is an earphone that isn’t perfectly balanced. Because the Katana retains deliberate tuning choices that craft a more engaging experience; with relative peaks occupying 7KHz and 12KHz. As a result, though still very transparent and balanced in the grand scheme of things, the Katana never sounds flat including all the positive and negative connotations that come along with that descriptor.

    In many regards, the Katana is pretty darn neutral, with the only notable emphasis lying around lower and middle treble. Of course, this does colour other aspects of the sound, but the individual qualities of each frequency range combined with great technicality throughout do produce a very coherent and refined presentation. As such, the Katana can be characterized as a slightly brighter earphone creating a more analytical presentation. They may sound a little anaemic coming from a dynamic driver in-ear but, in the grand scheme of things, they provide an exceptionally revealing listen while retaining a relatively realistic timbre.

    Tip Choice –


    The Katana is also a reasonably tip sensitive earphone. I usually default to JVC Spiral Dots on larger bore earphones but found the most agreeable experience with Final Audio E tips. The larger bore Spiral Dots provided a very clear sound but also one that was slightly bright and thin. On the flipside, the Final tips added a little body and realism in addition to a slightly deeper fit. In particular, they were notably more natural sounding due to increased bass depth and slight attenuation of the upper midrange and treble, crafting a more balanced listen overall. All comments below will be using the Final tips.

    Bass –

    The Katana delivers a bass presentation that is clearly not enhanced but one that lies on the musical side of neutral. This is mainly due to their light sub-bass emphasis and natural decay; bass notes don’t lumber but they do sustain for just the right amount of time, injecting body and fullness into the Katana’s sound without resorting to mid-bass emphasis. As a result, the Katana remains tight, agile and neutral in tone, maintaining unrelenting pace during fast and complex tracks. In addition, sub-bass itself is very well extended with solid impact to bass drums and electronic beats while remaining considerably less coloured than the vast majority of dynamic/hybrid in-ears. Resultantly, the Katana produces a notably physical quality to string instruments, something that I’ve only heard from a minute handful of BA earphones.

    This combination of extension, control and a more neutral tone create accurate texturing and excellent separation between bass notes. This also heightens definition; each note is defined and easily delineated while maintaining sharp focus and impact. Though not bass heavy in any way, the Katana’s dynamics, balance and technical proficiency create a very enjoyable experience with almost all genres. Their excellent extension and control also make them very eQ responsive and, though I personally enjoy listening to my IEMs unflavoured, the Katana does successfully deliver the more reference signature Noble have promised. Moreover, they do so with a considerably more realistic timbre than most in-ears pursuing a similar style of sound; this is a well-integrated, extended and especially well-controlled performer.

    Mids –

    The Katana’s midrange is incredibly revealing through a combination of exceptional resolution and a slightly brighter signature that enhances clarity. And unlike some earphones that gun for reference, the Katana has plenty of bass depth and balance so it never comes off as mid-forward or overly thin. In fact, this is one of the most refined earphones I’ve heard despite its revealing tuning.

    Lower-mids hold pleasing presence in the sound. They are slightly thinner than neutral due to treble colouration and their slightly more reserved mid-bass but the Katana’s midrange itself is quite linear. As such, male vocals are delivered with outstanding clarity while avoiding peakiness. Lower mids aren’t perfectly realistic due to their thinner, clearer voicing, but they do have notably enhanced separation as a result. Accordingly, instruments such as guitar and piano, though slightly thin in body, sound defined and layered yet each note remains focused. The Katana is also very transparent; with non-existent bass spill and excellent resolution granting lower-mids with great malleability between genres and mastering styles.


    Upper mids are similarly defined but sit slightly more forward in the mix. Female vocals are smooth and extended with pleasing body and timbre. The Katana also impresses with its detail retrieval; due to its high-resolution, defined layering and spacious stage, background detail retrieval is fantastic and minute nuances are easily discerned. In addition, through slight brightness progressing to a small peak within the lower treble, the Katana has a more aggressive foreground detail presentation that is just slightly crisper than neutral rather than thin or tizzy. The progressive nature of emphasis in the Katana’s sound avoids excessive midrange colouration, leaving vocals natural and instruments detailed and bodied. Sibilance never creeps into the mix unless overly present within the song itself and female vocals are smooth and layered.

    Highs –

    Open, airy and extended; the Katana’s treble response is such a delightful combination of outstanding technicality and tasteful tuning. Slight lower-treble emphasis imbues their sound with more aggressive detailing and greater attack. As a result, instruments such as cymbals and guitars are delivered with great clarity and nuance without sounding thin or splashy. Middle treble has larger emphasis though it remains a modest deviation in the grand scheme of things. This is topped with a more neutral upper treble response that perfectly extends into the highest frequencies. Resultantly, treble is incredibly separated and remains composed even during complex passages. Cymbals and strings possess great texture and nuance while avoiding stridence, and background details are very well resolved. Air is standout, contributing to the Katana’s immense stage and separation.

    As a result of the Katana’s excellent extension, resolution is fantastic, some of the highest I’ve ever heard. Detail retrieval is also enormous which extends to the rendering of finer micro-details. Furthermore, the slightly more aggressive manner in which they are presented accentuates the Katana’s revealing nature. And though not especially linear, the Katana’s gradual emphasis translates to a treble response that isn’t just crisp; each note is wholly resolved with realistic decay and texture. This technical foundation contributes greatly to the earphone’s control, enabling them to deliver large amounts of nuance without losing coherence. These qualities culminate to produce a very articulate, spacious presentation that grants live recordings with great atmosphere, and faster genres such as rock and metal with clearly defined layers and separation.

    Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

    The Katana’s trump card is its soundstage; they are expansive and separated yet incredibly coherent. Due to their excellent treble extension and brighter tuning, space is enormous. Of course, they are certainly no open-back over-ears, but the Katana has no difficulty stretching beyond the periphery of the head in either width or depth. The Katana’s agile and revealing sound also creates superb imaging, with pinpoint precise instrument placement and razor-sharp directional cues. That said, they aren’t quite multi-dimensional due to their questionable high-frequency linearity altering background detail placement, but their style of presentation works hand in hand with their excellent separation. As such, each foreground element is defined with its own air and space. However, what is most impressive is the Katana’s coherence; they never sound diffuse and instrument placement never suffers from their space. The Katana is an immersive and vivid earphone.

    Driveability –

    Noble doesn’t provide specifications on their website, but the Katana isn’t overly difficult to drive considering its driver count. That said, it definitely benefits from a dedicated source. The X7 II provided one of my favourite pairings with the Chord Mojo delivering a slightly more bodied presentation. They still sounded great from my HTC U11 but their signature did noticeably change. Of note, the Katana had a warmer sound with less clarity and air. Running the Katana from my laptop delivered similar results; the Katana becomes bassier with sources of higher output impedance. However, compared to the X7 II, compression was very evident, they lost a lot of bass depth and treble wasn’t as linear into the highest frequencies. As such, though amplification isn’t required to reach high listening volumes, the Katana thrives from a transparent, resolving source of low output impedance.

    Cables –


    The Katana is quite a sensitive earphone and I would postulate that it has a relatively low impedance too though I can’t exactly confirm either specification. As a result, it does respond nicely to cable rolling and benefits can be found over the stock unit. The Effect Audio EROS II provided a more engaging sound, for instance, bringing increased bass extension and impact, slightly greater midrange clarity and a more aggressive high-end. Experimenting with synergy can definitely yield some great results to further tailor the experience to the listener.

    Comparisons –


    Campfire Audio Jupiter ($800): The Campfire IEMs are some of the best in the biz regarding build quality. The Jupiter is no exception, matching the Katana on finish and aesthetic design. The Campfire is sharper but also locks more firmly into the ear, it isolates more as a result. The Jupiter is more u-shaped with a warmer, more laid-back midrange. The Jupiter delivers slightly more sub-bass extension with greater slam and rumble. However, it lacks the tightness of the Katana, delivering less concise impact. Mid-bass is slightly fuller on the Jupiter but not nearly to the extent of the Django, Hyla or ie800. As a result, lower-mids are just slightly warmer with fuller body. However, this is counteracted by the Jupiter’s excellent resolution and they do sound very resolving as a result. Still, the Katana has greater clarity and better separation if lacking some body by comparison. Upper mids tell a similar story, the Jupiter is liquid smooth and clear with strong resolution and layering.

    However, the Katana is once again clearer if slightly less natural. The Jupiter has an incredibly detailed lower-treble response, perhaps even a hair more so than the Katana. That said, the Katana has greater air and a little more resolution up top, where the Jupiter sounds slightly thinner. It does sound more forward, where the Jupiter sounds a little cleaner, but the Katana remains composed on account of its excellent control. Both have flawless extension and craft large stages. The Katana is slightly larger while the Jupiter has more multi-dimensional imaging due to its liquidity. The Katana separates slightly better, most notably with regards to bass. The Katana does flaunt its technical advantages and its technical upgrades, but there’s no denying the charm of the smooth and immersive presentation of the Jupiter.

    Hyla CE-5 ($940):
    The Hyla is entirely acrylic but employs titanium internals and a deeper fitting design. Its vivid V-shaped sound contrasts heavily to the very balanced Katana; and though this sculpted tuning does have its caveats, they are far more engaging as a result. Being a hybrid, the Hyla has greater bass extension with a slightly looser but also considerably more impactful sub-bass response. It also has a much warmer, fuller mid-bass presentation that offers greater engagement and physicality but also colours its bass and lower-midrange; lower mids, though still clear, are slightly behind in the mix and more full-bodied than the Katana. As a result of their colouration, the Hyla doesn’t sound quite as natural and linear as the Katana within its lower-midrange nor is it as defined. Upper mids also differ, the Hyla is much smoother and a little more laid-back while the Katana is brighter and more revealing. That said, the Hyla maintains excellent resolution and vocals are more natural than the thinner, more clarity enhanced Katana if missing the same level of background detail and layering.

    The Hyla also provides an energetic treble response with greater attack. It lacks the air of the Katana, instead focussing on a cleaner background and with a larger lower-treble focus. As such, foreground detailing is considerably more aggressive and actual detail retrieval is similarly strong on both within lower-treble. Both extend impeccably though the Katana is more resolving within the very highest registers. As the Katana extends more linearly, it is more detailed overall and has the larger, airier stage. And, its more neutral tone grants it with greater bass and midrange separation. That said, the Hyla remains similarly composed during complex passages due to its darker background. Considering its asking price, the Hyla keeps up very well and though its more sculpted signature isn’t as realistic, it is considerably more vibrant with great bass body without compromising nuance.

    Noble Django ($1000): The Django only employs a metal faceplate with a plastic inner housing. As a result, though still visually captivating, it does lack the premium feel of Noble’s higher offering. Furthermore, it is a considerably larger earphone at around 30% thicker, though fit feels the same in the ear due to identical shaping. The Django is a considerably warmer, more laid-back earphone. It has a warm, mid-bass focussed low-end that lacks the concise sub-bass impact of the Katana but offers up significantly more body in return. As a result, the Django is markedly less defined and separated, but it does fair better in noisier environments. Through this, lower-mids are thicker and fuller. The Django has considerably less definition and clarity to its lower midrange, it is quite a natural over revealing presentation. Upper mids do have greater transparency and clarity through slight midrange brightness.

    The Katana maintains a sizeable lead in resolution and clarity but the Django is smoother and just as linear into the lower-treble frequencies. The Django has a considerably more laid-back treble response. Lower-treble sits in line with the upper-midrange with nice attack and detailing while the Katana is more detailed yet and more aggressive in its presentation. The Django smooths off into the middle and upper-treble where the Katana progressively increases in emphasis. As a result, we have two greatly contrasting sounds; the Katana is more revealing, airy and resolving while the Django is smoother and more musical. This does affect their staging properties, the Django doesn’t image or separate nearly as well as the Katana but both are very spacious earphones, the Katana especially so. The Django’s mellow sound isn’t for everyone, but they do offer nice contrast to the other offerings out there and especially Noble’s more analytical Katana.

    Sennheiser ie800 ($1000): Though no longer quite as price prohibitive, the ie800 is still a very resolving earphone. The Sennheiser’s ceramic construction is unique and compact, crafting greater long-term comfort. That said, its design is considerably less isolating and less ergonomic; prone to instability and microphonics. The ie800 is more v-shaped, more engaging and less realistic as a result. The Senn has notably enhanced sub-bass, it quite isn’t as tight as the Katana but delivers greater slam and rumble. The ie800 also has a relatively neutral mid-bass tone and is well-defined as a result. It is warmer than the Katana and less linear, but also appreciably less coloured than most V-shaped earphones like the Hyla. The ie800 has a brighter midrange that delivers immense clarity throughout. Lower mids have a fuller fundamental due to the ie800’s enhanced bass but lower mids are thinner and brighter above; the Katana is almost as clear but more natural and considerably realistic in timbre. That said, upper mids are exquisite on the ie800, incredibly clear with excellent resolution all the while remaining smooth and refined.

    The Katana is slightly more aggressive and slightly less natural but is more layered in return. Highs are more aggressive on the ie800 both lower and middle-treble. As a result, it is crisper and brings more detail to the fore but it is also thinner and less realistic, masking some finer nuances. The Katana actually retrieves more detail and it is far more linear within the higher frequencies despite not being an especially linear earphone. Both extend into the highest registers but the Katana resolves the highest details slightly better. As a result, the Katana has a little more air and separation. So, though both are incredibly resolving, the Katana does so in a more realistic fashion and with a slight technical advantage. The Senn also possesses quite an infamous stage that is just as large as the Katana’s. It’s also just as separated within the mids and highs though imaging isn’t as precise due to its more sculpted signature. Without a doubt, some may prefer the more engaging Sennheiser, but its ergonomics and thin treble are less universally adored.

    Verdict –

    The Katana offers supreme luxury, tonal finesse and exquisite technicality, as it should. At $1850 USD, value has no place; this isn’t a product for the average listener, this is a statement. In line with this mentality, Noble pamper the buyer with a comprehensive unboxing and a meticulous build that catches jealous glances like few others. The Katana’s neutral to bright signature won’t suit every buyer, but that’s the ingenuity of Noble’s flagship offerings that cover both sides of the analytical/engaging spectrum. These aren’t realistic in-ears, but engaging ones.


    Because, the Katana represents a nice step forward for flagships, not just in performance, but also mindset. I’m a huge advocate of personal preference. Not everyone is looking for the most realistic or balanced earphone on the market, often, we’re looking for a little more engagement and sometimes something completely unique. The Katana occupies a space very close to outright neutrality but with heightened clarity and lifelike resolution that dissolve the membrane between the listener and music. It isn’t that perfectly neutral nor balanced earphone, but that’s the beauty of the Katana. It’s more than neutral.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my website for more just like it:
      slankoe, Wyville, Alexdre119 and 2 others like this.
    1. Dobrescu George
      Nice review! <3
      Dobrescu George, Jan 11, 2018
      ryanjsoo likes this.
    2. Redcarmoose
      Your reviews are better and better each time! Review the Encore, just for fun.
      Redcarmoose, Jan 13, 2018
    3. ryanjsoo
      @Redcarmoose Thanks! An Encore review would be something else!
      ryanjsoo, Jan 14, 2018
  3. ejong7
    The Smooth Criminal : Noble Audio Katana
    Written by ejong7
    Published Apr 5, 2017
    Pros - Smooth across the spectrum yet remains highly detailed.
    Cons - Expensive. Treble may be a touch hot for some people.
    This is a duo review written by Eu Jin Ong (@ejong7) and Andre Moore (@shiorisekine). The main body of the review are general comments on the product that are agreed upon by both sides. Personal opinions on the product by each reviewer are stated in separate dialogues, indicated either by EJ (Eu Jin) or AM (Andre Moore). For this review, EJ will be reviewing the IEM in its custom format, while AM will be reviewing the IEM in its universal format.
    EJ:          The Katana unit was provided by Noble Audio free of charge in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Brannan, Sunny and the rest of the Noble Audio team who helped me arrange and deliver the unit from start to finish, including the ear impressions needed. Special thanks to Gisele from Aid2Hearing who made my ear impressions.
    AM:        The Katana unit was provided by Noble Audio free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Brannan who helped arrange the unit for me and had it quickly shipped out.
    Since their introduction in October 2013, Noble Audio, led by Dr.John Moulton (@FullCircle on Head-Fi, also known as the Wizard) and Brannan Mason (@bangkokkid), has made a strong statement on the custom in-ear monitor (CIEM) market, previously dominated by companies of audio legend such as Ultimate Ears and Westone. With each addition to its well respected line-up, one which underwent a complete refresh in March 2016, that excels in both the aesthetics and performance, they continue to make their mark in the industry, and have since etch their name as one of the few names that first come to mind when people speak of IEMs.
    Within their stable of IEMs, the one that is most well-known is perhaps the Kaiser 10 (K10), which has also been recently updated to the new K10 Encore (K10E). Intended to be a highly musical piece paired with unrivalled smoothness, it won over many fans, as proven by its 28 5-star reviews on Head-Fi at the time of submission. However, many fans of the Wizard’s work had called for a piece from Noble that was more reference in tuning, yet able to share if not surpasses the K10’s status as the flagship from Noble. After almost 3 years, the team from Noble finally answered those calls, releasing the Katana.
    With its name inspired by the Japanese katana, famously used by samurais of ancient and feudal Japan, as a way of paying homage to the Japanese IEM market which serves as a major part of Noble’s business, the Katana is Noble’s answer in an industry where every other company is aiming at releasing its own reference piece. So will the Katana come and be the knife at a gun fight? Or will it slash away all of its foes and reign supreme? Read on to find out.
    The Katana represent a first in the Noble line-up, where it’s the first 9 driver model coming from the company, 1 less than the K10. Make no mistake though; there are no pulling punches for the Katana from Noble, as they have decided to up the ante by making it the first piece from their company to use their brand new proprietary balanced armature drivers, supplied by Knowles, and name it as a co-flagship alongside the K10. It uses the updated Noble universal form factor and geometry in the form of aluminium housings that were precisely machined, but is not the same exact housing that are used in the other models. In fact, the universal housing is actually specifically made for Katana to be pillow friendly, an attribute held so important in the design consideration that the driver count was also taken into account, as explained by the Wizard himself (credits to the source of the Youtube video we linked).
    Not much else could be covered here as Noble, as they traditionally do, did not release other specifications revolving the piece, perhaps to protect the intellectual property they own revolving the product itself. Therefore, the official numbers in regards to the Katana’s design specifications, such as its impedance rating, crossover structure and frequency range are not available to the public.
    EJ:          As my Katanas are custom, they would fit differently than the universal one. I personally wouldn’t find my unit to be pillow friendly, but I think it’s due to the shape of my ears as my CIEMs tend to lean towards a larger size. So, your mileage may vary, at least for customs.
    Since the specifications weren’t given, I would comment about them based on my own experience. I found the isolation from the unit to be similar with my Empire Ears Zeus-R and my Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR), so I estimate it to be capable of isolating up to -26db of surrounding noise, give or take. It slots in between the Zeus-R and the UERR in terms of input sensitivity, as I found it easier to drive than my UERR but harder to drive than my Zeus-R. But fret not, as I was capable of driving it to my usual listening levels through my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge easily.
    AM:        The fit on the Universal Katana is above the rest of the universal IEMs that I have tried. This is perhaps due to the smooth edges of its body; hence it doesn't really poke my ear. For my case, I can use them while lying down as long as I am lying on my back. It is however not applicable for me when I am lying down sideways as I find them to protrude a little, just enough for it to be not as comfortable for me because it presses the IEM awkwardly onto my ear on the side I am lying on.
    The isolation, while not to the standard of my custom fit UERR, was still very good especially for a universal. If the UERR had an isolation of -26dbs, I would estimate the isolation I experienced from the Universal Katana to be about -18dbs.  I had no issues driving the Katana, which was much easier to drive than my UERRs, even on my iPhone.
    The Katana, in either universal or custom format, starts at $1850, a price it shares with the co-flagship, the K10E. Do keep in mind that, for a custom format, that would mean a barebones IEM design at its base price. If you wish to pursue a design that is made specifically for you by the Wizard himself, or get one that is similar to his past designs, additional fees will be charged. The Katana, along with the K10E, are only available in acrylic, and not silicone for the usual custom format. It is also available in the Prestige format, which is custom formatted pieces but made with more exotic materials such as speciality woods and even honeycombs, starting at $2850.
    EJ:          The Katana does not come cheap, and probably will be out of reach for many at the price, yet this particular price range seems to be norm for flagship IEMs right now. I had hope that Noble would have kept the SLA option for pieces like the Katana, to drive the price lower for people who were after the performance at the cost of its aesthetics, but that option seems like it has been phased out by Noble. I can’t blame Noble for setting up the price to be that high as there is a need to cover its manufacturing cost, especially since they used their own proprietary drivers that probably drive the cost up, but felt it’s a shame that less people would be able to own a piece because of the price.
    EJ:          The delivery box from Noble that I received, which includes a Pelican 1010 case, sheathed with a sleeve emblazoned with the Noble logo, which houses my IEMs and some other goodies inside.
    AM:        This was the delivery box that I received from Noble. It has the same content as the one sent out with the customs and an additional metal plate that houses an assortment of tips.
    The Katana arrives in medium to large sized box, sealed around with Noble logo emblazoned tape, which was well padded inside to protect your product. Inside, you will find a Pelican 1010 case, sheathed with a Noble sleeve made with cardboard, which houses your IEMs. Within the Pelican case, you can find the IEM pouch that contains your IEMs and a couple of Noble amp bands.
    AM:        For the universal, I received multiple sets of tips inside, including silicone and foam options. Each came in 3 sizes and held on a metal plate, so everyone should have little to no difficulty finding a pair of tips that fit them.
    EJ:          The extra container on the side was packed with a Noble round case, which is not part of the order package and is only available as a separate purchase.
    EJ:          The Pelican case contains a card that has my contact details, some Noble amp bands and the IEM pouch which has my Katana.
    EJ:          As I personally prefer to carry my IEMs around in a smaller case, I asked for Brannan to send me a Noble round case along with my IEMs. The round case came in a padded container strapped to my order box, and is made of plastic. It is pretty small in size, smaller than the ones I found provided by Ultimate Ears or JH Audio, which makes it extremely portable. However, with its smaller size, people with bigger IEMs, especially CIEMs made for large ears might struggle with it a little, as I found myself barely able to fit my own piece. I don’t think you would have any issues if you were to use it with universal units, but do keep in mind that it’ll most probably not fit your IEMs with custom cables. It is sturdy enough to make myself be comfortable with putting it into my backpack, but do not expect it to be void of scratches or continue to be pristine in nature after a couple uses. All and all it is a nice case, but perhaps it should be slightly bigger to allow people to fit their custom cables, while maintaining its portability factor over the Pelican case.
    Within the Pelican case for my custom unit, there is a card that details my name, phone number and email, which is a nice touch and could potentially get your unit back to you if you lost it and it was found by a kind soul. The details, except my name, are removed for obvious reasons.
    The Katana uses the standard 2-pin connector that is used by brands such as Vision Ears and Empire Ears, with the unit coming in the standard Noble cable. The cable is about 50’’ long, and the y-splitter has a Noble logo on it. Generally, custom cables made with the 2-pin connector should fit with your Katana, unless if it was design for use with UE pieces.
    EJ:          I personally would have love for the Katana to come with a nice cable made from a reputable cable company, but I completely understand the choice at helps lower the cost for the consumers. If you believe in cable magic and wish to upgrade the stock cable, you could venture on another odyssey of its own or you could stick with the supplied cable and you would still be able to obtain the sonic experience that Noble intended on.
    As the review units received by the both of us are in different formats, please refer to individual comments about the exact format that you wish to get more info about, or read both. The comments do not reflect the opinion of the other reviewer on the same format, i.e. EJ’s comments about the custom format may not be shared by AM, and vice versa.
    EJ:          The ear impressions that were made by Gisele from Aid2Hearing for my Katana review unit.
    EJ:          Brannan was kind enough to offer me the choice between a universal format and a custom format review unit of the Katana. Upon knowing that my preference was for a custom Katana, he quickly arranged a session for me with Gisele from Aid2Hearing to obtain my ear impressions.
    EJ:          Beautiful photos that were first sent to me before my IEMs were shipped out. The photos were taken (I presume) from the Noble studio.
    EJ:          My own photos to show the finish on the actual IEM piece. To me, it looks even better in real life than in the studio photos.
    EJ:          As mentioned above, my ear impressions were taken and sent to Noble’s office in Santa Barbara, California as inspections for the impressions made are conducted there prior to being sent to their lab facilities in China. Upon receipt of the impressions at their labs, it takes about 30-40 business days, or 6-8 weeks to complete your IEMs. I found the timeline given to be accurate, as I got my piece roughly 2 months after my impressions reached their labs. I have no experience about the rush option from Noble, so I would refrain from commenting about that, but they estimate that it would take approximately 6-8 days upon receipt to complete the piece. This timeline is probably longer than most other companies, as the common build time is around a month, or perhaps shorter than that, which could potentially pose a problem for new Noble customers who would’ve hope for an earlier delivery date. A bit of patience is certainly needed if you were to be interested to have a piece crafted for you by Noble.
    Regardless, I found the end result to be particularly spectacular. First, let’s talk about the fit. The fit, albeit not as seamless as the one I found with my UERR, I found it to be very comfortable. So comfortable, I wore it to sleep with no issues during a ride back to my hometown that took a few hours. Do bear in mind that my impressions were done in the ‘open mouth’ position, accomplished by using a bite block, as per recommended by Noble on their website. Having no idea prior to its completion on how it would look like, I was totally amazed by the finish of the entire piece, with its carbon composite faceplate that changes its tint depending on the lighting of the environment paired beautiful with a bubble-less shell that has a colour that is pretty hard to describe. From the studio photos taken by Noble, it looks like a glossy black finish. However, upon inspection by my own eyes at natural lighting, it has hues or hints of dark purple inside. It is not clear, so I wasn’t able to check out the internals but at certain angles and light intensity the insides could be vaguely visible.
    This brings me to the faceplate and shell options from Noble, where all I could say is that there are endless possibilities. I was given the privilege to have a piece done in the ‘Wizard Design’, in which you could give direction to the Wizard himself who would conjure up his own imagination and interpretation of the story you would like to tell from your IEM finish. You could also opt for the ‘Wizard Reprint’, in which an approximation of finish that was previously done by the Wizard could be obtained, however it would not be reproduced to the exact finish. Do note the products of both options are final, but you could potentially discuss it with the Noble team if the finish does not meet your expectations. You could also opt to design your own look for your IEMs, where you could pick from many options ranging from aluminium to exotic woods as your faceplates, and select from a limited selection of colours for your shell. Don’t forget that there is also the Prestige version of the Katana, which would considerably drive up the price of your IEMs, but would open up more options for your finish.
    For those who would like to know the direction I gave for my unit, I asked for a piece that would have a stealthy look but not over the top. I wanted it to be classy and elegant, but do not want glitter or the colour yellow to be on it. You be the judge if the piece fulfilled my vision. One thing for sure though, it’s not yellow.
    AM:        Photos of the Katana Universal as obtained from the Noble Audio website.
    AM:        My own photos to of the Katana Universal. These photos pales in comparison to the ones taken by Noble, but I can attest that the actual unit looks similar if not even better than the one from the Noble pictures.
    AM:        For the Universal Katana, it was once backlogged for a few weeks due to the initial demand when it was first released, but now should ship out within 24 hours of your order provided that Noble has them in stock.
    As mentioned in a previous section, the Universal Katana is made of specifically machined aluminium, but what differentiates it from the rest of the line is not only its size but also its texture. The Katana has a body that it’s textured similarly to the diamond shaped hand wrap design of the actual Katana blades. However, it does not affect the comfort while wearing the IEMs at all. In fact, I found the fit on the Katana, and even the rest of the Noble line, to be the best in terms of universals, and don’t feel that they cause any ear fatigue on my side. I am usually able to wear my Katana for at least 2 or 3 hours before they start to slightly weigh down on me due to my sensitive left ear canal, but that is already an amazing period of time to begin with.
    Evaluation Process
    EJ:          Continuing the review procedure that I have previously used, the Katana was burned in for about 200 hours before critically listening sessions were made. This will keep it in line with the other pieces that I have previously reviewed. The tracks used for my listening sessions are files that are either FLAC/ALAC from a wide variety of genres except metal. The following is a list of source gear that I used during the review of the Katana:
    1. Chord Mojo
    2. iBasso DX90
    3. Questyle QP1R
    4. Calyx M player
    AM:          I did my listening sessions with FLAC/ALAC as well as Tidal for certain albums.  I listened to a wide variety of genres including the genre that that was skipped by EJ which was metal. The gear involved in the test was:
    1. iPhone 6S Plus
    2. Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon 2.0
    Initial Impressions
    EJ:          I first heard the Katana, in its universal format, at CanJam London 2016. I had previously listened to the K10 at several different occasions, and although I thought it was a nice piece of gear, I always knew that it was not for me. Not that it was has any deficiency in technical capabilities, it was the warm, laid-back nature of the sound that made me conclude that it probably wouldn’t suit my tastes.
    Upon first listen, I could immediately tell that it has succeeded in its aim of producing a more ‘reference’ sound. It was more detailed, more treble heavy than the K10 (to me), but still retain the smoothness that Noble is famous for across its IEMs. Its mids, although not as euphonic as the one I found from my pair of Zeus-R, has enough lushness for me to bring the best of my vocal heavy music. The bass was more controlled than the K10, but felt like it didn’t lose its impact, as it maintains its presence in the face of my bassier tracks, yet disappears when a less bassy track is played.
    I am pleased to find that the performance on my custom piece is at least on par if not better than the universal one I heard previously. The bass impact is tighter than before, which I attributed to better fit. I thought it was as revealing as the universal piece, and its smoothness was making me a fan.
    AM:        My first time hearing the Katana was at the Noble event held in Playa Vista, CA a couple of weeks after its initial launch at the Tokyo headphone show. Going in I was excited to get a chance to hear the new Noble co-flagship, and I was not disappointed.
    I made sure to listen and compare to the Noble K10 when I first got a chance to sit down and listen to the Katana. While I wasn’t too fond with the K10, the Katana proved to be everything that I have ever wanted from the Noble team. The sound is smooth, neutral with a little bump up on the treble but always able to stay musical.
    Sound Signature
    EJ:          The Katana blends in well with the current trend of IEMs achieving for a reference sound signature, in which it is tuned towards neutrality but has a slight bump at the treble. This is probably the first within the Noble family that I consider having more treble in the overall spectrum, something that I do not find even in the Noble Savanna and the now discontinued Noble Savant, two that were touted as the more balanced pieces within the family. To differentiate itself from the rest of the pack, the Katana offers what to me is the smoothest version of the reference sound signature, at least for the IEMs that I have tried. This completely complies with what I feel is the Noble house sound, in which regardless of the tuning in mind for a specific piece, it will always maintain a form of smoothness.
    To my surprise, the bass on the Katana is perhaps the property that is closest to neutral for me within its overall audio spectrum. It is just a slight touch north of neutral, so slight that you’ll miss it if you didn’t focus on it. The sub bass I get from the piece has enough impact to keep my satisfied, but it’ll probably not be enough to please people who prefer a little more weight and punch, especially people who identify themselves as bass heads. The bass itself is full and rich that has this velvety like texture to it, which more evidently presents itself when you listen to tones from classical instruments that reside around this area of the spectrum, such as tubas and French horns. So this allow it to perform better with more acoustic or classical forms of bass, but less so with the electronic sort of bass that is currently popular though it still performs admirably for it. This is not to say that the extension of the lower end on the Katana is subpar as I found it to be very well extended and very detailed.
    Smoothness reigns supreme in the Katana’s mids presentation. However, I wouldn’t say it’s completely flat in this category, as I found the mids to be just a touch laid back than flat, creating an image that the source of the midrange sound took just one step back, away from the microphone. Even with the slightly laid back tuning, I still found the mids to be heavily detailed yet never sibilant, and it does come out sounding pretty lush and natural though not on the level that I would call euphonic. So for tracks focusing heavily on vocals around the midrange area, it performs superbly for the more relaxing genre’s such as jazz, but slightly underperform when it comes to more aggressive genres like mainstream pop. This is not to say that it’s bad with vocal based pop, more of saying that it does those genres well, just that it performs better with old school vocal tracks. It also excels when dealing with musical instruments such as the acoustic guitar and the multitude of saxophones, where it comes out rich and full-bodied, making it very easy on the ear.
    As referenced above, the treble is perhaps the most prominent in quantity, making the sound to be termed off as bright. Like its lower end, the treble on the piece is well extended and comes out very clean and clear. It sounds crisp, proven by the brilliant shimmering sound I get from the cymbals in my music, and with its amazing resolving ability the music from my piece is always highly detailed. Yet, even with the bright nature of the sound smacking you with details left and right, it still maintain its identity as a smooth criminal, effortlessly casting its musical magic. This is perhaps, no, definitely the smoothest treble I’ve experience from a reference type IEM that I have heard long term, and it even rivals my full size cans in that regard, so you can be sure to put terms like cold, analytical and piercing to the back of your mind. So maybe saying that the sound is smacking you with details is an incorrect statement, rather its served to you on a platter for you to receive at your leisure.
    Even with an unusual, if not rare, driver configuration, the Noble team has succeeded in making it sound as a cohesive unit, a fast one in fact. The soundstage, conceivably one of the widest and deepest within the Noble stable, may not create the same sensation that would immediately impress someone, but was sufficient wide and deep enough to create a sense of airiness in the space, just not significantly better than most of its competitors. When I listen to the Katana, I always imagine that I’m listening in one of those old school bars with live music taped using black and white film, albeit a large one. It’s a slightly more constricted space when compared to a place like an open air stadium, but with its fantastic layering and separation qualities, it creates this sort of realism in my music that is not easy to find.
    AM:        The Noble Katana is to me one of the most musically neutral sounding IEMs I have ever had a chance to hear. Like EJ, I felt that it was just a little north of neutral, which tells me that the universals should sound very similar to the customs, so kudos to Noble for getting that part nailed.
    The bass on the Katana universals is simply phenomenal. To me, the bass is very well detailed, punchy enough and extends fairly deep yet doesn't really bleed into the mids. This makes the bass easily the smoothest I have heard on an IEM and something that I feel you can only really get from top of the line headphones. The sub bass on the Katana is probably the best out of everything I own; it even kicks my HE-500’s ass in this department, with a very deep and rich-creamy textured sound.
    As EJ said above, the Katana is the king of smooth mids. However, the mids did not sound laid back at all for me, and I found it to be very present comparatively with the rest of the frequency spectrum. When I was listening to Metal, Rock or more vocal based music like Pop or Hip-Hop, the mids never feel repressed or further away from the rest of the music. Guitars on the Katana are so hypnotizing, even electric guitars sound silky smooth to me, never getting too harsh or distorted. I would also agree with EJ that, much like its low end, the mids are very full bodied and heavily detailed as well.
    When I first listened to the Katana, I thought the highs were immaculate. I thought they were the best that I would ever get out of IEMs. While they remain my favourite IEMs for highs, I have to say although they aren’t perfect; I still love them through their imperfections. The highs on the Katana have a bit of an edge to them, and are probably the most detailed out of any IEM that  I have ever own or heard. However, I did have certain moments while listening to heavy metal felt the highs from the Katana had a bite to it, which I, weirdly enough, love but know that there would be people out there that wouldn’t like that. So while this might not be the smoothest treble I have heard, an honour I reserve for the UERR, the highs on the Katana are still my favourite from just about anything from the headphone world, be it IEMs or full size headphones.
    If I had never been introduced to the UERR, I would have said the Noble Katana has the best details in an IEM I have ever heard. Regardless, the Katana is the most open sounding IEM I know and have some of the most expansive soundstage I have yet heard in personal audio. I do agree with EJ that the Katana provides a soundstage that creates a form of airiness around it, which gives me the same sense of realism I got from the UERR. The Katana also has a strong sense of instrument separation and layering, making the sound just that much more open.
    Comparisons (EJ)
    20170216_162654.jpg [​IMG]
    EJ:          The IEMs I used for the comparison part of this review, clockwise starting from top left: Noble Audio Katana (Custom), Empire Ear Zeus-R (Custom), JH Audio Roxanne Universal (Generation 1) and the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR).
    EJ:          I used my custom Empire Ears Zeus-R, custom UERR as well as my JH Audio Roxanne Universal (Generation 1) for the comparisons.
    Empire Ears Zeus-R
    20170220_155230.jpg [​IMG]
                                  Empire Ears Zeus-R vs. Noble Audio Katana
    EJ:          In terms of their sound signature direction, the Zeus-R and the Katana are both aimed at a similar one in which it approaches the ‘reference’ type of sound, but their approach towards it is individually unique. Whereas the Zeus-R is a reference monitor with an elevated midrange within its own spectrum, Katana conforms to a more common reference monitor sound with its boosted treble, something that the Zeus-R still have but is less pronounced due to its mids. I felt that the Katana has the edge (no pun intended) over the Zeus-R in terms of delivering a smoother sound but Zeus-R is the winner in terms of bringing the details from my music, especially on the treble. On the mids, the Zeus-R, with its more forward yet luscious mids takes the bag for me in terms of a more euphonic presentation. The Katana was just a tad laidback in the mids for my taste but is smoother and more rounded, which makes the vocals be presented in an effortless manner. As for the bass, the Zeus-R will have a little more punch and impact but the Katana has the better extension and detail, probably because it was easier for me to pick them apart with less but sufficient impact, which probably tilted me towards giving the Katana the nod in this department. I feel that it’s very hard to go wrong with either choice, and since the price is rather close (for the units I have), it comes down to music you listen to that you want presented under a reference tuning. I felt that with the Katana, its smoother sound lends a better experience when listening to more classical and instrumental music, while at the same time allow it to be the one that is less fatiguing between the two. With the Zeus-R, I felt that it is perhaps more suited for the current mainstream music with its extra rumble at the bottom end and its euphonic mids, and would be the one I go to if I would like to feel my music a little more. 
    Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered
    20170216_162426.jpg [​IMG]
                   Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR) vs. Noble Audio Katana
    EJ:          When compared to the UERR, in my book a truly neutral monitor, it was made even more apparent to me that the Katana, while ‘reference’ sounding, is not completely neutral, rather it has a comparatively elevated treble presence. However, both share a smoothness that makes the sound easy on the ears, with the Katana at times being the smoother of the two. In both the treble and the bass, the Katana was more detailed and has better extension, with superior bass impact to boot. With the mids, the Katana was more resolving yet felt smoother at the same time. In fact, I felt that the Katana was overall the more resolving one, and has both the wider and deeper soundstage, but the UERR is better when the discussion is limited to purely instrument separation. For me, this fits well with the tuning in mind for both pieces, in which the Katana was tuned towards audiophiles that prefer a slight lift in the upper end while the UERR was tuned to be a mastering unit that is also capable of showing a musical presentation for consumers who are aiming for a sound that is neutral and revealing. However, something very important to consider is the price difference between the two units, with the Katana roughly doubles the price of the UERR, even before the alterations to the aesthetics of either unit is decided, which makes the UERR a major winner in the price to performance ratio bracket. In my opinion, the UERR is a highly worthy competitor, and I would definitely be satisfied to have it as my daily driver. Having said that, if the cost is not an issue, and since I do not work as a mastering or music engineer, I would lean towards getting a Katana to use as my daily driver because of its resolution and tuning that is more appealing towards my current taste.
    JH Audio Roxanne (Generation 1)
    20170330_2027420.jpg [​IMG]
                   JH Audio Roxanne (Generation 1) vs. Noble Audio Katana
    EJ:          For everyone’s reference, the bass port on my Roxanne’s are set to the minimum on both sides, which is my preferred setting for the piece. Both the Katana and the Roxannes are detailed, resolving pieces but the two does not share a similar tuning. The Katana is a more reference sounding piece while the Roxannes was tuned towards a warmer and perhaps more fun sound. With the bass, I found there was about roughly the same quantity, which says a lot about the bass coming from the Roxannes since the Katana I have are customs which would help with bass response. However, the Katana comes through with better detail and extension at the lower. In terms of the mids, both are tuned towards a smooth but resolving sound, with the Katana having the edge on both the smoothness and resolution. In comparison, the Roxannes just sound a tad bit veiled or muffled, which it does not in general. The Katana is also better at the upper end, being more crisp, more detailed and clearer than the one I found on the Roxannes. The Roxannes I found truly shine against the Katana when the soundstage and separation were compared. Even though the one I had was a universal, I found that the soundstage is just as wide and deep if not a step up from the Katana. I also felt that picking out the individual placing of instruments was pretty straightforward and on par with the Katana. For me, the Roxannes excel at presenting live music in a more realistic manner, and did well in genres that I feel pairs well with warmer sounding equipment such as rock. The Katana, being crisper with the treble and smoother on the mids, are more suitable for genres like pop, so choosing between the two really comes down to the music you favour. I shall not compare the pricing and the value of the performance of the two pieces as my Roxannes has since been obsolete and the price value is no longer valid.
    Comparisons (AM)
    AM:        The IEMs I used for my comparisons are my Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR) and my Ultimate Ears 18 Pro (18). One thing that I do have to note is that both my UE IEMs are customs, which allows them to have a better fit on my ears, thus sealing better than the Katana.
    Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered
    AM:        When comparing these two IEMs, the honour of which IEM I leave the house with comes down to preference and my mood. Both IEMs set out to do the same thing, in which it exerts a reference sound; however the UERR is more neutral reference sound while the Katana is more of a fun reference sound. The Katana has a sharper treble while the treble on the UERR is way more laid back.  As stated in a previous review, I would rather use the Katana for most of my listening sessions as I enjoy the treble of the Katana over the treble of the UERR plus the overall presentation of the Katana which pushes the detail through as I enjoy my music. The Katana does fall short to the UERRs when it comes to details and overall neutrality, probably due to the bump I felt in its treble and bass.
    Ultimate Ear 18 Pro
    AM:        To me, the UE18 and the Noble Katana are on two opposite sides of the audio spectrum. The UE18 is warmer in sound, and is not as detailed as the Katana. For my current taste, I felt that the Katana would definitely edge the 18 in terms of being more likely to be grabbed out of the house. As the Katana is cleaner and more detailed sounding than the 18s, this makes it more enjoyable for me.  I do think that bassheads would enjoy the 18s more than the Katana as the 18s have a much stronger low end comparatively.
    EJ:          As more time is spent listening to the Katana, I begin to have a better understanding about the idea behind its name and how it relates to its tuning direction. Although the word ‘Katana’ does not necessarily keep in line with the general naming theme of the Noble IEMs, not like there was a real obvious trend going on in the first place, it definitely earns its name. Like the blade, the Noble Katana is built with impeccable craftsmanship and has the ability to cut through the veils of your music, producing a clean and clear finish. However, it does not ever sound ‘sharp’, where it has this buttery smoothness to its sound signature that is unmatched by the current crop of competitors, especially when compared to the reference sounding pieces. This smoothness, found across its entire sonic spectrum, paired with its amazing resolution ability, made it an IEM that is very easy to listen to but never fails to show case the details available from your music.
    Ironically, like the blade in which it got its namesake, the Katana excels better in close combat, in which I feel that it performs better with music that was recorded or conveyed in a more intimate or enclosed space, but suffers slightly when the music calls for a wider and deeper soundstage, such as recordings from a live concert album played in a large stadium or arena. I would also had hoped that the mids was just brought slightly forward to make it sound a little more balanced, though how it would affect the smooth Noble house sound is beyond me. Lastly, since it’s a flagship product, it has a price tag that would probably be out of the budget for most, which would make it hard for people who appreciate the sound signature but do not have the resources necessary to fund it.
    This is definitely my favourite Noble product so far, but I somehow feel that it is just the start of the new evolution for the company. As they have shown through the Katana, Noble constantly find new ways to up their game, and perhaps with their new proprietary drivers they could even bring their current line further up a notch. They have already started to improve some of their previous units with these drivers, including the K10 that was updated into the K10E and the Savant that was updated into the Sage. I wouldn’t be surprised if Noble had planned to update its entire line with these drivers in the near future. Until then, I shall patiently await the news while slashing away through my music with the Katana.
    AM:        The Noble Katana has become my go to IEM to take out and about with. It isolates well enough that I can use it on the bus and not have any problems with outside noise. It is also a detailed and fun sounding IEM.
    Does it live up to its billing as a co-flagship alongside the K10 when it was first announced? Yes, yes it does. Even before the K10E was officially announced and released, I had guessed that the K10 would be updated just because the Katana felt like it was leagues ahead of its older compatriot. To be honest, I have yet to hear the K10E, nor the Sage, but the Katana alone has made me excited about what is to come in the future from Noble.
    So is the Noble Katana a cut above the rest? Yes, the Katana is in my opinion the best IEM that Noble has in their line-up that I have heard so far, which includes everything except the two products using the new proprietary drivers is mentioned previously. The Katana has a musically neutral sound signature that just makes it the IEM I naturally gravitate to when I leave the house.
    1. Burma Jones
      A big thank you to the both of you for this unique and informative review. Good job guys. I have heard the Empire Ear Zeus R universal extensively. While I admired it's technical abilities, I wasn't too keen on it's presentation. Thanks to both of you I have a new object of lust to look forward to.
      Burma Jones, Apr 5, 2017
  4. cvbcbcmv
    Noble Katana: Sharp, Cutting Edge Precision
    Written by cvbcbcmv
    Published Dec 10, 2016
    Pros - Unmatched shimmering highs, crisp and clear midrange, precise and refined low end, versatility, clarity
    Cons - May not be the best choice for a bass head or someone looking for a warmer sound signature
    Note: I have previously reviewed the K10 from Noble, where I covered much of Noble’s history and order process. For this reason, I will use some of the portions of that review that pertain to Noble as a company, not the Katana specifically, in this review.


    For years, Noble Audio has been considered one of the top producers of in ear monitors, both custom and universal, for the audiophile in all of us. Noble’s breakout success came in October of 2013 when they released the K10. The K10 quickly reached icon status, becoming one of the most successful and well-loved monitors the market has ever seen. The K10 is truly an incredible product, and my review on it can be found here. Noble has only grown since then, and I was very excited this past summer when I heard about their new complementary flagship, the Katana. I thought the K10 was very close to perfection, so I was very excited to get my hands on a Katana and see how they compare. Today, the Katana sits alongside the Kaiser Encore (The K10’s successor) as one of two complementary flagships.

    Some Info on Noble:

    In the world of custom in ear monitors, the majority of companies are tailored to performers who are using IEM’s as their stage monitoring solution. These products need to sound good and perform reliably under heavy stress, making them a favorite for audiophiles as well as performers. Noble is one of the few companies that is making products primarily tailored toward audiophiles, and I would argue they are the most established company with this business model and so far have the most refined experience tailored to that market. They set themselves apart from the competition with their exquisite Wizard and Prestige designs, and the process is personal from start to finish.

    Some Info on Katana:

    The Katana features 9 proprietary Noble drivers. Noble compares the sound of this IEM to the sword it’s named after, known for being “the perfect combination of balance, artistic beauty, and sharpness in its cutting edge.” Noble further describes the Katana as being quick and versatile. Additionally, Noble says the Katana bears an extended and airy top-end, lush midrange, and impactful low-end. This is very high praise for Noble’s new flagship, so it will be very interesting to see how it sounds in practice.

    The Katana costs $1850 in its base, custom variety, and that price can quickly round $2,000 with the inclusion of any Wizard or Prestige design. This puts it in a nice position in the flagship market where it is around the middle of all the price points.

    Order Process:

    As far as impressions go, the customer is responsible for seeing a local audiologist, having ear impressions made, and sending them off to Noble’s offices in California. Noble does have an online monitor designer where the customer can pick from the standard options: faceplate colors, designs, specialty materials, etc. However, Noble has 2 special design options: A Wizard design, and a Prestige design. Personally, my monitor represents a Wizard design.

    As far as Wizard designs go, the customer can choose either a reprint of a Wizard design they already like for a lower cost, or they can have an original design created for them. If a Wizard design is selected, the customer is asked some basic questions about what they might be looking for, but for the most part, creative control is handed over to “The Wizard,” and there is endless anticipation until the email from Noble providing professional pictures of the final product comes. A Prestige model is similar to a Wizard design, but the monitor is crafted out of some specialty material instead of the standard acrylic. Personally, my monitors took just over 8 weeks to build from the time my impressions were received.


    My monitors came packaged very securely in a very luxurious presentation box. Unboxing further, I found a Pelican 1010 case, inside of which were my monitors safely contained in a Noble pouch made out of a very nice, soft material. Also inside the case were the cleaning tool and my ownership information card. In the box, Noble also includes bands for stacking devices and some Noble stickers. It was a very nice touch to have Noble send a Pelican 1010 case, since I find it the perfect size for IEMs, and it is tough, water resistant, and secure.



    Of course, design is an area where Noble sets themselves apart from everyone. I am perfectly comfortable making that statement. Of all of the IEM’s I have handled, I have yet to hold one where the beauty, craftsmanship, quality, and overall feel could either match, or even begin to surpass Noble.

    Let’s start with the cosmetic side of things. Noble’s “Wizard” and “Prestige” designs are arguably their most recognizable and well-known feature, and that is for good reason. Getting a CIEM is a very personal process, and the way these designs are done with Noble is amazing. Simply give some details on what you’re looking for, and let the magic happen. Around 8 weeks later, the email with the final pictures come, and everything you hoped for becomes reality.

    With these monitors, I really wasn’t picky. I said I wanted something with some color, and something where the left and right sides differed. That was about it. Of course, if you’re looking for something specific; by all means, make it known. However, there is a certain magic behind not really having any idea what the result would look like. As expected, I was stunned. The right monitor features a slightly opaque orange, with white swirl in the faceplate. The left features the same but with a sky blue, which especially reminds me of a cloudy sky. Silver/gold nugget is found in the faceplates, and it really completes a bright, fun looking monitor. In pictures they may look a bit simple, but in person, the way the colors shimmer is just perfect. Plus, the way Noble created symmetry while also accomplishing my request of different colors is very impressive.

    Enough talk, let’s see them!

    First, Noble's studio pictures:


    And some of my own:


    I can’t stress enough how much value these designs add to the monitor. I know, people assume that sound is really all that matters. However, the almost hyperbolic degree that Noble takes gorgeous designs truly does make a difference. Sound means a lot, but when people go out to spend this much money on audio, design matters. Sennheiser makes their headphones look like something from a spaceship. Audeze makes headphones that appear to be carved straight from a tree. These things matter, and Noble proves that a product being a small IEM is no excuse to lack beauty. I get more enjoyment out of my Katana than I do out of something that for my tastes sounds better, but isn’t as aesthetically pleasing. Why? Looking at them makes me smile. I suspect many will read this and think that design couldn’t possibly mean as much as I am suggesting, but I sternly argue otherwise. Most can agree that in the TOTL market, the differences that make one product better than another are rather small. For that reason, a product being a work of art along with a powerful audio source can add that level of value.


    I will split this up into 2 sub-sections. Comfort based on Noble’s actual crafting from the ear impressions, and comfort because of the monitor in general.

    Regarding Noble’s construction, their CIEM lab does a superb job. I used the same set of impressions for both my K10 and Katana, and I feel like I got a precise, comparable fit on both. Everything fits into place perfectly. Since I’ve found Noble’s IEM’s take up more ear space than others I have tried, this is very important. When executed properly, I find it leads to a better fit overall. However, the more ear the monitor covers, the more precise the fit must be. Noble’s precision is top notch. I strongly urge people to make sure their audiologist is familiar with CIEM fittings, and make sure it is done correctly. I have forced mine to redo impressions for me several times–it’s worth it. A good audiologist should understand.

    I was very pleased with the comfort of the monitor in general. While my K10 fits very well, I definitely noticed how much heft it had to it. It’s a big monitor, and it takes up a lot of real estate. For this reason, it was inevitable that it could become a bit fatiguing. In my experience, the Katana feels a bit smaller and lighter than the K10. This means that I can wear it a little bit longer, and physical fatigue has never crossed my mind in my auditioning so far. With a good fit, I don’t forsee any problems with someone who plans to keep these in for hours on end.

    Just a quick note on the cable: Noble does a very good job with their cables. It’s aesthetic, unobtrusive, and the memory wire stays well without being uncomfortable or obtrusive. Microphonics are very low, and Noble now includes a nice metal ring over the cable at the Y-split. It’s a little thing, but it feels very high quality and is a nice add.


    Because of how large Noble’s monitors are, and how much of the physical ear they take up, their isolation is the best I have ever heard. When any of Noble’s custom fit monitors go in, the entire world goes away, and no matter how noisy the environment, it’s just music.


    I used a variety of sources with the Katana. My primary sources were the AK100ii, Chord Mojo, and Questyle QP1R. I also did some testing out of my phone and Fiio X3ii to see how it pairs with some more affordable sources. I found the Katana to be pretty source-versatile, and while it certainly sounded best out of my better equipment, listening out of my phone was not a problem at all. One thing I did notice was that because of the clarity in the high end, they are not the most forgiving to a poorly recorded track.

    Introduction to Sound:

    Similar to other Noble monitors I’ve heard, the characteristics of the Katana include fun, versatile, pleasurable, and smooth. They have a sound signature very different from what I’ve become accustomed to. Many companies seem to follow the V, or have a stronger emphasis in the low and mid range. To me, the Katana has more emphasis on the highs. In a way, it almost sounds like the inverse of the K10. I feel the K10’s strength falls in the low and mid range. I find the Katana’s strength falls in the high and mid range. However, I want to stress that the Katana isn’t an extremely bright monitor; it’s actually not far from neutral. I said the K10 was pretty neutral leaning a bit toward the warm side of things, and the Katana follows this description in an inverse pattern. It’s not all that far from neutral, but it does lean a bit on the bright side.

    Despite having such different characteristics than the K10, the Katana maintains one of its best features of being musical and versatile. Rap songs with a lot of bass still sound fun with booming bass just like how they should. Balanced songs sound just right. Songs with a lot in the high end… well, they’re like nothing I’ve ever heard. Regardless of which Noble flagship you look at, you’ll get a monitor that’s versatile and sounds fantastic. However, one monitor specializes in its highs, and the other in its lows. It’s all personal preference.


    Just because the Katana falls on the brighter side of things, that doesn’t mean that the lows are neglected. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and I’m quite baffled at how Noble balanced them in. The lows are a bit more distant than a bass-heavy monitor, as is to be expected, but they still carry a weight with them. They’re not as apparent, but they’re just as powerful.

    Because the lows are toned back, they don’t unnecessarily come out of nowhere and overpower the music, but when that bass is appropriate and called for, it is there with the utmost presence. I have been very pleased with Noble’s bass-heavy monitors and how much the bass felt like a true subwoofer moving air. Katana feels the same way. It’s still an unbelievably strong bass machine that delivers precise, accurate sound–it’s just turned down a bit.

    The refined lows of the Katana are something I haven’t heard quite like this in an IEM, and it’s a really nice change. I like my bass, so I would never complain about a bass-heavy monitor, but hearing a different signature really lets me appreciate music in a different way than I have been.

    For a few specifics, I always love listening to some of my favorite rap songs to determine how a monitor reacts to bass when it's appropriate. Drake’s music is some one of my favorite to test this since he certainly incorporates a lot of bass. His song “Know Yourself” had all of the bass hits that I expected. They were present and hit hard enough, just not at the level a true basshead might be looking for. The Life of Pablo by Kanye followed in a similar fashion, and songs like “Waves” and “Famous” didn’t leave me asking for more.


    Though the Katana’s signature pulls back on the low end a bit, I don’t find that it really pulls back on the midrange. The midrange is my favorite part of music, so I’m very sensitive when it leaves me with less than what I like. The K10 was one of my favorite monitors I have ever heard in the midrange due to its presence and clarity, and the Katana maintains this characteristic. Vocals are as crisp as can be, and they are detailed to the extent that if a vocalist's throat vibrated a bit more than normal on one note, you’ll be the first to know.

    The midrange is clear, precise, loud, and present. It doesn’t overpower anything else, but the vocals are front and center, and I have always thought that’s how it should be. Naturally, an emphasis on highs will be a bit less aggressive than an emphasis on lows, leaving more room for the midrange. Because of this, the mids really have an opportunity to open up and show what those proprietary balanced armature drivers can do.

    I’m happy to report that they are capable of reproducing vocals as if the artist is right there. I love listening to SACD’s of Bob Dylan and Alison Krauss to really test the mids on monitors. It really is incredible how realistic their voices sounded. In fact, it was so realistic that when I listened to a song that has an emotional connection to me personally, the Katana served as a perfect device to elicit that emotion in me. This is a very important quality to me when listening to music, and I’m very pleased the Katana accomplished it. There is absolutely no level of mud detracting from the clarity of the mids, something I hear on many monitors and get frustrated with. I type this as I listen to an acoustic song on the Katana, and I must say–they are just perfect.


    Well, we’ve arrived at the star of the show–the highs! They really are a marvel to behold here. The last time I heard a monitor that I felt truly emphasized the high end was with my Shure SE846 with white filters. I was very excited to listen to another monitor that had high-end emphasis.

    In my initial listening, I realized that I had forgotten how much I loved good highs. Usually I do my testing for treble with audiophile test tracks since it’s easier for me to isolate those instruments. However, well before specifically analyzing the highs was on my mind, I was blown away. They were too good for me not to notice. The first song I listened to out of the Katana was “Ophelia” by The Lumineers. That song isn’t too instrumentally crowded, with mainly just vocals, a piano, and some percussion. I was struck when I heard what I think is a tambourine or some sort of cymbal, because it was absolutely unbelievable. The clarity was beyond belief, and the extension lasted all the way until the last vibration. It was very easy for me to focus on that sound, and hear every detail. Frequently, highs tend to just roll off and blend into the sound. That’s not always a bad thing, since extended highs can become harsh, but Noble did something magical with the Katana’s highs.

    The highs are in no way shrill, harsh, or off putting. They’re as soft and luscious as if they were carefully rolled off, but based on the clarity and extension of them, I wouldn’t call them rolled off at all. They’re extensive, shimmery, beautiful, and clear. The Katana has the best treble of any monitor I have ever heard. Noble really accomplished treble like nothing I have ever heard, and it was executed flawlessly.

    Sound Signature:

    To conclude everything I said above, the Katana is a relatively balanced monitor that leans toward being bright. It doesn’t lean extensively, and for that reason, I don’t think many people would be left disappointed with the toned down bass. Simply put, everything is done very well, but the treble is done best. That said, Noble has been very careful to not let the outstanding treble lead to suffering mids or lows. All too often I hear a monitor with one incredible feature, and the rest of the sound just seems like it was neglected. That is not the case with the Katana. The entire sound signature is a perfectly sharpened Katana sword, but the treble is the perfect, sharp point at the tip.


    Clarity is probably the Katana’s strongest feature, and I would say it has better clarity than the K10. This is probably because of the crisp, detailed highs, but it really is a result of the entire sound signature. What impressed me most about the lows was how clear and defined they were despite being toned down a bit. As I said earlier, I live for the mids, so I’m very sensitive to a lack of clarity there. The Katana didn’t disappoint me at all. Generally, I cannot criticize the Katana in any sense for its clarity.


    My personal judge of when an IEM has a good soundstage is when it transcends its category in openness and airiness to sound more like a full size open back headphone. A lower quality IEM sounds like an IEM, and the sound stays narrow and just in the ear canal. An exceptional IEM fills your entire head with music, immersing you in the sound, and if you close your eyes you feel like you’re right there. The Katana fully accomplishes this. It seems even a bit more open and airy to me than the K10, and the extended treble really helps with that. If I put on a good track, close my eyes, and just listen–I get fully lost. The soundstage is wide open and full, and it is lovely.


    Noble K10: This is probably the big comparison everyone is interested in. Overall, both of these monitors are fantastic, and they are quite similar in their performance, with differences in their sound signature. As I’ve said earlier, the idea that they are inverses of each other is a very good description for me. However, I’ll go into a bit more detail with this comparison.

    Highs: It was quite obvious to me after switching to the K10 from the Katana that the highs were much more heavily blended into the background and smoothed out. They still sounded clear and wonderful, but it isn’t the intense shimmering presence the Katana had.

    Mids: The midsection was sort of an interesting comparison. In overall presence in the soundstage, I actually found the Katana had more presence in the mid range than the K10. However, I find the mids were a bit more deep and luscious in the K10. This is likely due to the fact that there is more in the low end overall, which allows those deep rumbles of male voice especially to come through. The midrange is very strong on both, but I think the Katana would be better for lighter, female voices, and the K10 would do best for deeper, male voices.

    Lows: The lows are certainly more present and boomy in the K10. I am quite fond of the bass on both models, but it is presented very differently. Listening to “6 Foot 7 Foot” which has very strong bass, the K10 really lets the bass riffs control the song and be the star of the show. The Katana takes things much more carefully, and while the bass is powerful, it sounds tied with the midrange.

    Overall, I really like both monitors. In overall performance and clarity, I think they are on very similar levels. However, they do have some key differences, and which one is the better choice is very subjective. Personally, it really depends on the genre of music. For me, rap will be best out of K10, but acoustic really shines with Katana.

    Noble Kaiser Encore: I have yet to hear the Kaiser Encore, though I should have one in the near future, and I will update this thread with comparisons when I do.

    JH Layla: The Layla is an absolutely incredible monitor, and to this day I consider the best I have ever heard due to the fact that it is truly incredible throughout the entire soundstage, and the signature is adjustable. For my comparison I tried the bass at several different levels to really just test performance.

    The bass on the Layla is incredible and strong, and it can be made very loud or very faint depending on what the user wants, so the factor of how strong it is doesn't really apply. Toning the bass down to around where it is on the Katana lead me to hear quite similar bass performance. The Layla seems to carry a bit more weight and rumble with its bass even while turned down, while the Katana really keeps it controlled.

    In the mids, I sense pretty similar characteristics overall, but to my ears, the Layla has midrange characteristics similar to the K10 where they are very full and luscious due to all the low-end potential, and they are not quite as strong with female voices. My preference really floats between the two depending on the artist and how high or low their voice is, so this is a toss up. I tend to think the Layla can generally pull away by the width of a hair in clarity and performance, but that really comes down to the tiniest details.

    For the high end, both Layla and Katana have crystal clear, extended detail, and I think their performance is just about equal. However, Layla lacks that intense presence of the high end on the Katana that is impossible to miss. This presence on the Katana really helps it stand out as something special. On the Layla, they are a bit more hidden in the background, while maintaining that same clarity. Overall, this really comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for fun coming from the low end, the Layla is going to win that battle, but if your fun comes from the highs, the Katana wins with its overall presentation.

    CustomArt Harmony 8.2: When I reviewed it, my favorite feature of the Harmony 8.2 was its midrange. The mids seem a bit more distant on the 8.2 than they are on Katana, and I find another scenario where the Katana outperforms 8.2 in the upper midrange, and the 8.2 has a slightly more favorable presentation for me in the lower mids. However, I would generally give this to the Katana for overall presentation and clarity. In the lows, I actually find they have pretty similar signatures, though I sense more power and precision from Katana. For the highs, both perform quite well with deep extension, but Katana just sounds clearer and fuller to me. In price, the Katana is a somewhat small step above the 8.2, and I think this is reflected in their sound. They both perform exceptionally, but the Katana just sounds more musical and well-rounded for my tastes. In strict objective performance and clarity, I think Katana has an edge as well.

    Ultimate Ears UE18 Pro: The UE18 has much more presence in the low end than the Katana, and they have very different sound signatures. Generally speaking, the emphasis on the UE18 falls in the bass, and it has pretty gentle highs. The low end is very strong on the UE18, and more present than the Katana, but it lacks that precise sharpness that the Katana has. The midrange of both is quite similar, but I find Katana a bit more detailed and clear. The high end isn’t much of a comparison, and Katana takes an easy win in presence, clarity, extension, and detail.

    Wrapping Things Up:

    Obviously, I’ve had a lot of praise for the Katana. It is versatile, beautiful, and sounds amazing. It is marked by the most shimmery highs I have ever heard, luscious mids full of detail, and precise, refined bass that doesn’t overpower anything. Its name suits it perfectly. It is a sharp, powerful weapon in anyone’s audio arsenal, and it is so precisely designed, that it cuts as smooth as butter. The Katana is one of the best monitors I have ever heard, and for anyone searching for a monitor with an emphasis on the high end while maintaining versatility and clarity throughout the entire soundstage, I can’t think of any monitor to recommend more. It is a top-notch competitor in the TOTL market, and a perfect complement to the Kaiser series.

    I really cannot think of a place where I can strictly fault the Katana. It has no apologies or secrets about what it is trying to be, and it does exactly what it claims to. The Katana isn’t right for everyone, and that’s okay. However, for its sound signature, it nears perfection. On paper, I wouldn’t think Katana’s characteristics are too representative of my tastes, but it does what it does in such a way that anyone can appreciate it no matter their taste. In fact, the Katana is so good that it convinced me to change my own.

    Noble has craftsmanship, presentation, and accessories nailed–it is their identity. Combine that with such an incredible, unique, versatile sound, and the result is a 5 star, flagship product.
      Sorensiim likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. doofalb
      Great review, thanks! Isn't the H8.2 around $1200? I would think that you considering it marginally "worse" quite a compliment, considering the price difference.
      doofalb, Dec 10, 2016
    3. emptymt
      good review, I'm one of those person that doesn't like the K10, too warmist for me, this one looks interesting though.
      I hope there will be an Australian tour on this, haha
      emptymt, Dec 10, 2016
    4. cvbcbcmv
      Thanks so much for the kind words everybody! It really means a lot!

      @Docterror When I went to post it, I was only given one option for the Katana. If this is in the wrong place and a mod would like to help me put it in the correct place, I'd really appreciate it!

      @Doofalb I feel very complimentary toward the 8.2; it's a fantastic CIEM! The Katana definitely beats it, though, as it should due to the difference in price. In my opinion, their difference in performance lines up well with their difference in price.
      cvbcbcmv, Dec 11, 2016
  5. Hisoundfi
    Audio excellence, and possibly/probably the next step for K10 owners. The Noble Audio Katana co-flagship in-ear monitor
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Oct 18, 2016
    Pros - Incredible combination of detail and musicality, Extension and transients, Meticulous design, Excellent co-flagship option along with Noble K10
    Cons - TOTL asking price (worth it if you can swing it), Unforgiving with poor recordings/sources, Not for those looking for warm and smooth sound
    At the time this review was written, the Noble Katana Universal was listed for sale on Noble Audio’s website. Here is a link to their listing of the product:

    The greatest thing about this hobby is that the art of manufacturing great sounding earphones continues to evolve. From the top of the line multi-driver manufacturers down to the "bang for your buck" budget builders, the quality you can get at each price improves as time and technology advances.
    Many of us start out in this hobby by dipping our toes in the waters of budget audio gear. Hearing some great sounding earphones at cheap prices raises the curiosity factor when it comes to the elite in-ear monitor brands. I remember thinking to myself “If these sound really awesome for one hundred dollars, I can only imagine what the earphones over a thousand must be like!” They say curiosity kills the cat, but when spending money on audio gear it can kill your wallet before you can ever afford to buy the cat in the first place!
    In my time in this hobby, I’ve broken audio enthusiasts down into two types:
    #1. There are those who have an established price limit to spend on gear, then spent the rest of their time in this hobby wishing for or wondering if it would be worth it to spend the extra cash on a pair of top of the line earphones.
    #2. There are those who have the resources and patience to dabble in high end gear.  Most who fall into this group will keep their funds reserved, and go to audio shows or partake in review and demo tours to sample the best gear money can buy. They will try sampling several items, ready to pull the trigger and go balls out when they feel they’ve found the earphone they must own.
    To be honest, I understand both philosophies. Being a huge fan and reviewer, my journey started out trying to find the best budget gear money can buy, thinking that If I buy the most popular earphones that are discussed in the budget threads I will find my “end game” earphone at a great price. I had a ton of fun doing this, and I made a lot of friends along the way. I found my preferred sound signature, and even started writing reviews during this time. However, "end game" earphones weren't discovered.
    I also learned some things during the process of being a budget shopper. First off, budget brands can sound downright awesome for their price. Secondly, following the budget threads can be just as, if not more expensive than previously mentioned category #2. Third, the term “end game” is a myth. You can chase the dragon and you may get really close, but if you continue to read up on new products and go to shows you will see new products are released regularly and also getting better over time. This prevents seasoned veterans in audio gear (whether it be budget or top of the line) from saying that there is a general consensus for the world's best anything that is audio related. Stuff we thought was amazing a couple years ago has often time been eclipsed several times by new products at the same price range. At the same time, there are some products that stay relevant for years.
    As my time reviewing has evolved, my main objective has always been to treat each review opportunity like I’m telling my friends about whatever earphone I’m covering. This approach has progressively opened the door to cover more and more premium products. Between the reviews and going to shows I’ve heard the top of the line earphones that used to spark my curiosity, pulling back the curtain of high end audio. Although I wasn't whisked away to another dimension of sound, the quality and presentation of much of this expensive gear is fabulous.
    I now understand the law of diminishing returns, and the fact that in this hobby we pay a lot for minor upgrades in sound quality. With top of the line gear, a two thousand dollar earphone isn’t necessarily twenty times better than a hundred dollar pair. However, some of the products at the highest price points offer a level of refinement and quality that might not catch the proverbial “end game” dragon, but it will get you close enough to pet it for a while!
    For the last two years since I first heard them at the 2014 Axpona audio show in Chicago, I have had aspirations to one day own the Noble K10U. Simply put, it’s to this day arguably the greatest sounding earphones on the planet. My wishlist was reconsidered earlier this year when Noble announced the release of their co-flagship named “Katana.”
    Just like most high end earphone announcements, I was instantly curious to hear it and find out what these were all about. I reached out to Noble to see if they would be willing to offer a loaner for review. Today I have the honor and pleasure of sharing the good news of the Katana, and also compare it to it’s flagship companion the K10U which was borrowed by a fellow Head-Fier.
    Here’s a statement from Noble about the Katana:
    “Considered by many to have the perfect combination of balance, artistic beauty, and sharpness in its cutting edge, the Katana sword is by all accounts a precision instrument. As a tribute to the exclusivity and craftsmanship of the finest examples, Wizard’s latest design bears the name Katana.

    Popularized due to its tremendous speed and versatility, Katana features proprietary Noble drivers throughout in a unique 9-driver per side configuration. With an extended top-end that generates airiness and outstanding imaging, Katana’s balance and control are the mark of a master that continues to refine his craft. Combined with a lush mid-range, impactful low-end, and Noble’s signature coherency, Katana is a serious tool in anyone’s arsenal.”

    I was given a free loaner of the Katana in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Noble Audio. I would like to take this time to personally thank Brannan for the opportunity to experience and review their new co-flagship product.
    My Background
    I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me. I want to hear any earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I can share my impressions with  enthusiasts and help them find the audio product they’re looking for. My Head-Fi profile has a list of audio products ranked from favorite to least favorite. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and having a variety of different gear to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
    I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are solidly built, with ergonomics and sound that is pleasing to my ears. It’s my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based on gear I have owned and used.
    Katana comes in the customary premium black box seen in their previous models. The front of the box features the Noble logo printed in a gloss finish.
    The back of the box displays a sticker with the serial number, name of the model and a brief description.
    Opening the box, I’m greeted with a black pelican case, some stickers and a velvet drawstring bag. For those who don’t know, Pelican cases are airtight when snapped shut.
    The Pelican Case opens to reveal the earphones and accessories. There are a lot of goodies stuffed in this case.
    Removing the earphones from the packaging, the immediate impression is that of luxury. The cable and housings are premium. Underneath this bag is a metal plate which holds the Katana tip assortment.
    Specifications and Accessories
    *9 proprietary balanced-armature drivers per side
    *Updated Noble universal form factor and geometry featuring creative 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)
    1X Pair Katana earphones
    1X Braided cable with two pin connectors
    1X Pelican Carrying case with carabiner
    1X Velvet drawstring pouch
    1X Earphones cleaning tool
    1X Warranty card
    2X Portable rig binding straps
    3X Pair red/gray wide bore tips (S,M,L)
    3X Pair blue/black narrow bore tips (S,M,L)
    2X Pair memory foam tips (S/M,M/L)
    1X Metal tips organizer plate
    The first thing I thought when I heard the Katana had nine drivers was that the housings would be on the larger side of average. That isn’t the case at all. I have no idea how Noble got nine drivers in this housing. Although the housing is not small, they aren’t what I would consider bulky, and their ergonomic shape provides a nice fit.
    The housings are made of machined aluminum and have lots of detail and patterns, creating a very nice visual effect. I will be honest, I far prefer the black and organic gold finishes over the colors used with the other variations in the Noble lineup. The look is sleek and sophisticated, and should appeal to those who want a high end appearance.
    The Katana nozzle is in line with the rest of the product line. The nozzle has a fairly standard width and length making tip rolling easy to do. There are three ports at the end of the nozzle, identical to the K10U
    Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
    Katana comes with a fairly rugged black braided cable. A four strand braid leads up to a metal jacketed Y-split, and branches off in to two twisted cables that lead to each channel. A clear plastic chin/neck slider is installed on the cable and works well to secure the Katana fit. Each channel has a two pin connection that plugs into a recessed notch of the housing. The fitting is solid and secure. Each side has a couple inches of memory wire to help secure the over-ear fit. Although I am not normally a fan of memory wire, in this case it works well and is very comfortable and easy to use. The jack is a straight 3.5 mm gold plated jack with a black metal jacketing.  
    The included cable doesn’t have a microphone and remote. To be honest, when spending as much as the asking price for the Katana, I would have hoped for a second cable option with a microphone and remote. Even still, if you are interested in this option an aftermarket cable with mic/remote can be purchased separately. There are a ton of options to pick from in today’s market.
    Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
    Having reviewed Nobles older shelled N6, I was curious how these would fit compared to the old version of shells. From the pictures I saw, I wasn’t sure if Noble has traded in comfort for style. I’m glad to say that’s not the case. The Katana is a great fitting earphone, especially once you find the right tip.
    The all aluminum shell is not overly bulky. For those who are curious, the Katana comes in at a slightly smaller shell than the K10U. I would say it’s average in terms of bulk compared to other earphones.
    Katana has a basic over the ear fit. Getting a great fit is a matter of finding the tip that works best for you, popping them in your ears and securing them in place with the cable’s memory wire. With a good sealing tip, isolation is excellent for a universal in-ear monitor. Microphonics are minimal thanks to the over-ear fit and chin/neck slider.
    NOTE: Tip selection plays a huge part in how the Katana will sound. Experiment not only with the included tips, experimenting with other tips will also change the way these earphones sound. I really enjoyed the way Katana sounded with JVC Spiral Dot tips, but at the end of the day the included blue/black silicone tips rendered the best sound quality. For this reason I will be using them for the sound portion of the review.
    Sound Review
    I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or iBasso DX80 DAP/Bushmaster D14 DAC/Amp for high fidelity portable use. For desktop use, I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192 kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS), and also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
    Source Selection
    Katana falls in line with other in-ear monitors in terms of sensitivity. With more powerful powerful sources you will get a slight audible background hiss. This is no different than just about any high end multiple armature earphone out there. I was able to eliminate the audible background noise with higher output power devices with a device from iFi called the iEMatch. Here is a link if you are interested:

    Katana will work with your Android or Iphone and make your streaming music sound really decent. They have incredible resolution that gives you every detail in your music whether it be good or bad. With this being said, know that these earphones will do low quality sources, poor recordings and low bitrate files no justice. Their incredible detail and extension will butcher low bitrate music through a cheap source. My guess is that anyone who purchases the Katana will most likely have a high quality source, or at least a modern smartphone to use them with. If that is the case you should have no problem getting great performance from the Katana.
    I can’t say whether the Katana works better with warm or cold, colored or neutral sources. I was able to enjoy them with either one. What I can say is they will rock with a low powered source the likes of most A&K players, the Fiio X7, my LG V10 and so on. Use your best music files with your best low powered portable source and you will be blown away by the Katana’s ability to be detailed, extended and musical all at the same time. Of all the gear I have at home, I enjoyed the Katana with my Fiio X7 while listening to FLAC and DSD files.
    Sound Signature
    Katana is a perfect name for this in-ear monitor. To my ears, Noble has taken elements from it’s co-flagship and added a slightly more airy and extended presentation. The Katana takes a razor sharp response and adds enough low end oomph, musicality and sparkle to make your listening experience special. I have a good feeling that as time goes on, conversations about what the best earphones on the planet are, the Katana will be included in these discussions.
    Katana isn’t easy to classify. I can’t say it necessarily falls into a particular group of sound signature. Instead I’ll say they are like a perfectly cooked meal. You aren’t going to dislike the Katana sound because something is missing, because in terms of presentation you get the full palate. If you are going to say the Katana isn’t for you it’s probably going to be a preference thing. To my ears, there’s just the right amount of each frequency to make it a great and complete sounding earphone. The Katana has natural, sophisticated and musical sound all at the same time. I am seldom times able to group all of these three words together when describing an in-ear monitor.
    The Katana bass is north of what I consider neutral, albeit not significantly boosted. Early impressions I read from others stated that they were on the lighter side in terms of bass. That isn’t the case. I hear a dynamic and responsive bass line that packs plenty of impact for armature drivers.
    While listening to Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right,” Katana was able to handle the song’s visceral bass line with ease. Tone was great, and attack and decay were more in lines with that of dynamic driver earphones. Mid-bass tones may be a touch more forward than sub bass tones, but not significant enough to say it was noticeable outside of critical listening. You won’t feel like sub bass is lacking.
    Mid-bass is slightly forward, uber responsive and non-intrusive to the rest of Katana’s sound. You get a very natural and impactful punch from kick drums and bass guitars sound very natural. During James Blake’s “Limit to your love” you can get a greater appreciation for just how responsive and accurate the Katana bass is. Long story short, the Katana bass is entertaining and engaging without crossing into basshead territory.
    Midrange on the Katana is somewhat unique. Considering the slightly forward tuning of the bass, you would assume that there would be a carry over of this into a very rich and lush lower mid-range. That doesn’t seem to be the case. The lower mid-range is very natural, but not as full and textured as the mid-bass tuning. At the same time, the transition from mid-bass to lower midrange doesn’t seem to be skewed to my ears. It’s really unique in this sense, and the perception I get is that the lower midrange is very airy, natural and detailed. While in one sense there could be more weight to some instruments and voices, the trade of is a unique and incredible sense of instrument placement and separation of sounds. I really enjoy this a lot and find myself appreciating this more and more as I listen to them.
    Upper midrange is engaging and slightly forward. Vocals and upper mid-range sounds have a nice bite to them. Although an already goosebump inducing performance, Sia’s piano version of “Chandelier” literally put chills down my spine when listening to it through the Katana. There’s a unique level of airiness and dynamic textural thing going on in the mid-range that makes female vocals sound spectacular. Jam band, acoustic, and rock genres make good use of this element as well.
    Treble is extended and natural to my ears. One thing to note is that Katana gives you the higher frequencies and doesn’t segregate the stuff that some manufacturers remove when tuning their earphones. I consider this to be more of a “true to recording” type of approach.
    While some may try and say that these are bright are harsh, I would be inclined to argue this. With higher quality sources, files and listening to them a listening volume that is healthy, that isn’t the case whatsoever. Even still, at louder volumes the Katana is very true to the recording.
    When measuring them, it doesn’t have a huge dip in tuning from the 5-9 kHz range like many other earphone manufacturers are doing so often these days. To be honest, after experimenting with tips, sources and doing comparisons, the Katana high frequency response is one of the more natural responses I’ve heard in an in-ear monitor. Although sometimes you might get a crisp pronunciation of the letter S or T, the organic nature and elite level of detail and separation makes up for it many times over. During the most complex music passages of Disturbed’s “Ten Thousand Fists” the Katana handled the upper frequencies with a level of clarity and separation I’ve seldom heard in an in-ear monitor. Is the Katana for those who are incredibly sensitive to higher frequencies? The answer is no, but for everyone else they will be great.

    Soundstage and Imaging
    Excellent extension at  both ends of the sound spectrum makes the Katana soundstage elite. Although not the best I’ve heard, Katana’s soundstage is excellent. The superior clarity and separation of sounds allows me to say that imaging is very good. With acoustic music and tracks with echoing, the clarity gives you an incredible sense of space and instrument placement.
    Noble K10U ($1650 USD on Noble’s website)
    The K10U is the now sharing the title of flagship with the Katana. The K10U has been one of the summit tops in the realm of in-ear monitors for quite some time. Now that Katana has come along, I guess you could call them “twin peaks.”
    Comparing the two, the sounds aren’t that far off. Although different, there isn’t a sense that things have been radically redesigned. It’s really hard to break it down into each category of sound, it’s more of an overall feel kind of thing where I can tell a difference between the two.
    If I had to put the difference into words, Katana seems to have taken the K10U and stretched the sound out just a touch. The K10U sounds more musical, a touch thicker in the lower midrange and just a touch less extended at higher frequencies. The Katana sounds a touch leaner and airier at lower midrange frequencies, and a bit more extended at higher frequencies. The K10U is a slightly richer, more dynamic and forgiving sounding version of the Katana, while the Katana is a slightly leaner, more natural, airier and more extended upper frequency tuning version of the K10U.
    If you are a K10 or K10U owner and are looking to upgrade, consider the differences and ask yourself if this would be an improvement. If I had to pick one or the other it would be really tough. I might pick the Katana because of how good they sound with high res sources and files. That, and the fact that they have a slightly smaller housing and nice color scheme. To my ears, the Katana is capable of sounding more natural and impressive with the right source.
    In terms of build quality, they are pretty much identical. The Katana has a slightly smaller and less bulky housing. Accessories is pretty much a draw.
    Campfire Audio Andromeda ($1099 USD on ALO Audio’s website)
    Andromeda broke onto the scene earlier this year and made a huge splash. They are an incredible sounding five driver earphone that has won the ears of just about anyone who has listened to them.
    Comparing the two, the Andromeda seems to be the bassier of the two, and also seems to have a more visceral and aggressive sub-bass rumble that impacts the other frequencies. In terms of midrange, Katana has a cleaner and more detailed presentation, while the Andromeda has a slightly more musical and dynamic presentation. In terms of treble, Andromeda is smoother and less detailed than the crisper and slightly cleaner treble of the Katana. In terms of soundstage, I give it a draw. Some things I notice bouncing back and forth between the two, the Katana sounds cleaner, more detailed and refined, while the Andromeda sounds slightly more musical, bassy fun for modern genres of music.
    Build goes to the Katana. Their shell is better designed and more comfortable to wear. I also prefer the two pin connection of the Katana over the MMCX connection of the Andromeda (although I do prefer the stock cable of Andromeda).
    Both earphones are incredible, but this comes down to what you prefer. If you want a more natural, clinical and “accurate” music presentation, go for the Katana. If you want a slightly bassier and more musical tuning while still maintaining a good amount of clarity detail, go for the Andromeda.
    The Katana is definitely worthy of flagship status. It has an incredible ability to give you a sense of detail, musicality and extension that is rarely done all at the same time. If you want an “everything all at once” kind of sound, these earphone these are something you should definitely consider.
    The Katana will not be for everyone. Their top of the line quality comes with a top of the line asking price. Are they worth the price? If you can afford them, absolutely. If you only have two grand to spend on audio gear and don’t have a high quality source (or at least a modern smartphone) to push them, you might want to hold off until you get that situated. Those who listen to modern genres of music at really loud volumes, these probably aren’t meant for you. For those who want to take maximize the Hi-Res files they have stored on their high quality (and low powered) DAP, these are right up your alley.
    Noble is a company that two years ago I could only imagine how good their best earphones are. Now that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to them, I can say that their flagships are everything I could have hoped for. They bring a level of fidelity that must be heard to understand.
    When rating a product I have to take all criteria into account (including price). The Katana gets an easy five stars for sound, five stars for build, design and fit. If there’s anything I would feel inclined to deduct a half star for, it would either be the price, or the fact that there is not a microphone option to come with the package. Considering this is a luxury product, I’ll leave that up to you to deduct a half star or more from my rating, because I’m giving them a five star review. They are designed and geared for guys like me, and are one of the products that are raising the bar of personal audio products.
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      peter123, howdy, glassmonkey and 10 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. bflat
      Nice review. From your descriptions it appears similar to JH Layla with bass tuners at 11 o'clock.
      bflat, Oct 20, 2016
    3. glassmonkey
      I think you meant 'palate,' and your review fit my tastes perfectly. Thanks!
      glassmonkey, Oct 24, 2016
    4. Hisoundfi
      Hisoundfi, Nov 17, 2016
  6. Sorensiim
    Superbly resolving with amazing clarity AND musicality
    Written by Sorensiim
    Published Sep 21, 2016
    Pros - Unrivaled clarity and resolution, yet still musical and enjoyable
    Cons - The price tag, but you do get what you pay for.

    (Reposting from The Noble Thread)
    After a some days with the Katana, I’d like to jot down a few words about my experience with them. This is not a full blown review, just me trying to convey some early impressions.
    One of the songs that really impressed me on the Katana is “Grand Canyon” by Puscifer. Fittingly, the third line of that song goes “Grant, Holy Mother, grant me clarity” because oh boy the Katana delivers that in spades. After 3 years with the K10 as my go-to headphone, the Katana is like a breath of fresh air, like an ice cold glass of crystal clear spring water. I’ve lauded the K10 for it’s ability to handle everything you throw at it without breaking a sweat, but the Katana is on a whole new level. Every note is so clear as to be almost tangible, you feel like you could reach out and touch the sound and the Katana does this so effortlessly, never straining, never missing a mark. Opeth is one of my favorite bands and some would probably write them off as angry swedes making a lot of incoherent noise. But listen to their music on a set of Katana or K10 and suddenly the music opens up, the cacophony turns into a symphony (granted, a somewhat aggressive symphony at times) as you can now pick out the guitars, the bass and every hit on the drums and cymbals. Using the K10 you glide comfortably through the music, enjoying the ride, but still able to pick out the individual components of sound as they flow by. With the Katana, you’re in the driver’s seat of the bullet train, every single little thing so clearly in front of you, nothing obstructing your vision and you begin to truly appreciate the sheer level of technical skill that Opeth is showing off.
    Don’t get me wrong, the Katana isn’t some sort of musical scalpel; hyper-detailed monster. It’s still musical and has The Wizard’s trademark coherence across the spectrum, it’s just that the musical image so amazingly crystal clear. Put on an album like Steven Wilson’s “Hand Cannot Erase”, packed cover to cover with complex arrangements full of detailed layers and exceptionally well mastered and the Katana will really shine. The (great) music is still there, but you’ll hear every single pick of the strings, every delicate tap on a cymbal, every stomp on the bass drum pedal. The K10 can do that as well, but with a more laid back presentation so the details are there for you to find whereas the Katana will have them all laid out in front of you, crisp and clear.
    Now, I don’t consider myself a basshead, but if the music has bass, I want to feel it. While the Katana is far from anemic in the lower parts of the spectrum, the K10 has spoiled me. Both go deep, both are fast, but the K10 bass has a good deal more weight behind it when it hits you. For one of my favorite songs, “Monument” (Inevitable End Version) by Röyksopp I clearly prefer the K10 and its hard-hitting beefed up bass - But listening to that song on the Katana made me notice the male backing vocals for the first time, despite having heard that song hundreds of times before. Now that the Katana has pointed them out for me, I can hear them on the K10 as well, I just never noticed them until now.
    Oddly enough, this super clear, ultra-resolving iem works incredibly well for Spotify straight out of my phone. I had been using them strictly with lossless files (16/44.1 to DSD) via the Chord Hugo and Mojo so I was expecting the worst when I plugged them straight into my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and fired up Pineapple Thief’s latest album on Spotify. Much to my surprise it was pretty damn good. I am honestly having a very hard time wrapping my head around this fact as I can’t find any logical explanation to how it’s possible. I most definitely was not expecting them to mimic the K10 in that regard, being able to play nice with almost any source.

    Update: November 12th, 2016 (2 months later...)

    I'm falling more and more in love with the Katana. The effortless performance, the seemingly unlimited resolution and the way they somehow manage to stay musical through it all. I have previously commented on how surprisingly well they behave with lossy files and less than optimal devices (as in Spotify straight from my phone on the bus to work), but feed them quality and ye gods you will be rewarded. I'm a pretty big fan of Rammstein and own all their albums (and some of the singles) on CD. Today I laid my grubby hands on the "XXI" vinyl box set, as a near-flawless 24/192 rip. All their albums had been remastered for the box set and the dynamic range had been literally doubled. I spent a couple of hours rediscovering some of my favorite songs with the Katanas today and found myself cranking up the volume louder than I usually do. When the material has great dynamics and the headphones have superb resolving power as well as "punch" and accuracy, the end result is fantastic. On "Wiener blut" there's quiet, almost silent passages followed by shredding guitars, thunderous drums and Till Lindemann's powerful, almost beastly voice - an absolute thrill on the Katana/Mojo combo!
      EagleWings and xavitorres123 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Ahmad313
      Excellent impressions, 
      How about the soundstage and instruments separatio,,???? 
      Ahmad313, Sep 21, 2016
    3. proedros
      ''unrivaled clarity/resolution''

      just curious, have you tried NT6 ? or is this 'unrivaled clarity' just  typical 'new toy' enthusiasm vibe?

      btw , since both katana reviews here focus on the 'too expensive part' , for those on a budget, nt6 is probably as good as katana , but costs almost half the katana price

      people who are looking for reference yet musical signatures, should definitely check out NT6
      cheers :)
      proedros, Sep 22, 2016
    4. tomscy2000
      @proedros If the NT6 (demo) and Katana (universal) are to be compared, the Katana would be slightly less bright in the upper treble, leading to a little more perceived bass (because of less brightness up top). The two will have similar levels of midrange presence and detail.
      The NT6 is indeed an underrated product, but there's a reason for Noble products being more popular. For starters, most head-fi members are based in the US and/or English-speaking, and it's easier to get consistent customer service from a company like Noble, as opposed to Hidition, which is based in S. Korea and provides limited English-speaking customer service. Noble also provides more aesthetic options, which is appealing to a portion of the customer population. So in terms of value, the NT6 is probably a better value, but it doesn't necessarily mean that more people would or should buy it over the Katana.
      tomscy2000, Oct 16, 2016
  7. WCDchee
    Sharp, decisive, yet musical
    Written by WCDchee
    Published Sep 11, 2016
    Pros - Very well tuned and well balanced, detailed and spacious
    Cons - price can be high for some
    Disclaimer: This unit was sent to me by Brannan of Noble Audio for the purposes of this review.

    My first brush with Noble was with the K10. Prior to the K10, I was a firm believer in dynamic Drivers. For those of you that have read my previous reviews (among which are my reviews of the Savant and the K10), you would know that the K10 was really the first BA IEM that I liked enough to buy.

    My experience with Noble started off slightly rocky. With my K10 order, there was a small bump at the beginning. However, I must commend Brannan for the amazing service he has provided me. He has always been there to do his best to help me to sort out any problems and has been a real pleasure to deal with. To anyone looking to purchase a Noble product, I would like to assure you of a great Noble experience with Brannan.

    Build and fit
    The Katana is extremely well built. It is CNC milled from a solid block of aluminium. I was extremely impressed with the build quality. The anodizing is very consistent, and the two parts of the shell are very precisely milled and matched very well. The surface of the shell actually has this pimpled, durian like surface, and really, that just makes the matching of the two parts of the shell more difficult. Despite that, the two parts of the shell come together almost seamlessly.

    Back when the gang was still at Heir, one thing I was really impressed with was the build of their universal IEMs. Compared to much of the competition (in terms of universal builds of custom IEMs), Heir had the nicest, most compact and most ergonomic shells by far. The first Noble universals were made with injection molded ABS plastic shells, something I did not like so much. I wasn't such a big fan of how they looked.
    Recently, Noble updated their universal line up, both in terms of tuning and in terms of build. Having seen these new shells in real life I think they are much improved from the older ones, and make the universal line up look like much more finished and professionally done products. The new K10UA was also wonderfully built, with a high quality milled aluminium chassis, and definitely felt more premium than the older ABS plastic ones.
    However, my one complaint with the new universal line up would be the size, while they are much better finished, of much higher quality, and fit much better than before, They grew a little in size.
    This is the first thing about the Katana which really impressed me. The Katana maintained the geometry of the K10, and yet, managed to shrink the size down quite significantly. The Katana is actually really quite small, all things considered. In comparision, it is almost the same size as the Campfire Audio Andromeda, yet has almost double the driver count. Add onto that a solid, well anodized aluminium conchae shaped shell which tapers in a perculiar way to form an oval shaped faceplate, and you have a really, really beautiful IEM.
    Similar to the rest of the universal line up, the slightly longer nozzles help to make the fit of the Katana very good. It is very comfortable with the right tips. There are two tips that I have used with the Katana, the JVC spiral dot tips as well as the Blue cored noble tips. With the JVC spiral dots, I’m able to get a very close and low profile fit with the Katana. With the blue cored noble tips (which I did not push all the way in, I’ll try to post up some pics to show what I mean), the Katana would protrude a little more.
    According to Noble, the aim of the Katana was to be a co-flagship to the K10, while the K10 takes on a more coloured and musical sound, the Katana aimed for a more reference-typed sound signature with a greater emphasis on resolution and soundstaging abilities. I think Noble has indeed managed to achieve its goals.
    I am currently using the Katana with the Linum Bax cable and the Blue cored noble tips (which I HIGHLY recommend to be paired with the Katana). As such, my sound impressions of the Katana would be based on this particular combination.
    The Katana has a very balanced and accurate sound to my ears. It is relatively uncoloured, yet it is not a dry analytical sound. If anything, it is a tad more full bodied than what most would consider a neutral sound (the Noble Savannah or the UERM for instance), and has a good sense of musicality. Personally though, I think it actually sounds more accurate tonally than these neutral monitors. It presents a clean leading edge to the sound, as well as a quick, well controlled decay.
    The Katana is a very resolving IEM. Compared to the K10, there is definitely better resolution of the air and the fine textures, which can at times be slightly smoothed over on the K10. I wouldn’t treat the Katanas however as a pair of monitors to surgically dissect and separate the music. I think the Savannah actually fits this role better with the way it is tuned. The Katana, while presenting a clean and relatively uncoloured sound to my ears, still manages to come across as a musical IEM meant more for enjoyment than for musical dissection.
    The Katana also has a good sense of space, and good imaging. Each sound has its own clear space, and does not intrude into the space occupied by another sound. Imaging is sharp and precise. I would not say that the Katana has the largest soundstage of any IEM I have heard, but it definitely does a very nice job and is well proportioned in all three axes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it doesn’t have a nice soundstage. It just doesn’t have a HUGE out of the head headphone like soundstage, but staging is very good indeed. I have never once felt that it was congested. The Katana also has a less forward sound than the K10. The K10 had very forward sounding vocals, which almost made it seem like the singer was right in front of you. The Katana on the other hand manages to push that a little back, as if you were a few rows back.
    The highs of the Katana are very nicely done in my opinion. One of the areas of complaints I had about the K10, if anyone had read my review, was that it was a little too soft at the top end. I’m glad to say that the Katanas have much improved on this. And the high frequency extension is much improved. The highs are more sparkly, yet not overly so. Those of you coming from high quality dynamic drivers might still want a little more sparkliness and energy in the highs, but for most intents and purposes, the highs on the Katanas do very well.
    The midrange of the katana is rather interesting depending on the choice of tips. With the Red cored noble tips of the JVC spiral dots, the upper midrange becomes more prominent and the midrange comes forward, creating a slightly more in your face presentation. With the blue cored noble tips, I find the midrange to be pushed back, creating a more balanced performance. The upper midrange also takes a slight backstage (very slight), but this creates a better tonal balance to the midrange in my opinion. In fact this might just be one of my favourite portrayals of the midrange in an IEM tonally!
    One of the worries I had about the Katana prior to hearing them was the bass. The Katana was described to be a more neutral, more uncoloured sound, and one of the worries that I always have of IEMs described as such is how the lower frequencies would be produced. The Katana is definitely no K10 in bass quantity. The K10 has quite a lot of bass, and it is very noticeably enhanced in the bass region. The Katana, however, has a much more neutral bass presence, albeit possibly very slightly north of neutral. This works very well for me. Sub bass extension is not a problem at all, it extends every bit as deep as the K10. The bass and the sub bass presence is very good too, it is well felt and give a good, solid foundation to the overall sound of the IEM. The bass is very quick ad controlled too, in fact, it might perhaps be quicker and in my opinion slightly better controlled than the K10’s.
    Now the one area I hope could be a little better would be in the way it handles the dynamics. Don’t get me wrong, I find this to be a common trait among Balanced armature IEMs. Dynamic drivers just seem to get the dynamic swings down a little better, with a little more energy across the board and a harder hitting bass. It’s not about the quantity, but rather the character. It’s by no means boring, but coming from a background of dynamic drivers, I do sometimes hope for a little more kick across the spectrum. That said the wonderful tuning and immaculate control across the spectrum more than makes up for this for my personal tastes, and I really do not have much to complain about in the Katana.
    Now if some if you read my review of the Savant, you might notice that one of the issues I had with the older noble universal line up was with how the ABS plastic chassis seemed to contribute to some slight colourations. I will not be able to confirm this as most people do not really seem bothered by it (so I might be alone here), but I did hear a common colouration across the old line up. I am happy to report that this has been much reduced in the new line universal line up, and with the K10 and the Katana specifically, I am confident to say that I do not hear any of this colouration.
    The Katana is really a wonderful sounding IEM, and I am so happy to review it. While Noble considers it as a co-flagship with the K10, I personally find that, for my own preferences, the Katana has taken its place as the new flagship of the Noble line up, and I absolutely love it.
      tomscy2000, Deftone, Turdski and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. WCDchee
      Do feel free to check out my other reviews
      WCDchee, Sep 14, 2016
    3. Watagump
      What I find strange about your review, is the lower score you have for the audio quality bar. You have the K10 all the way over to the right, but you claim the Katana is the new flagship. I would think both being a 5 star review, the AQ score would be matched.
      Watagump, Sep 15, 2016
    4. WCDchee
      Hello wata, yes someone else notes this too. What I will say as I explained to him, is that, many things have changed over the past 1.5 years since I got the K10. There have been new releases, and my ears have gotten more picky, I've learnt to slowly appreciate more subtle differences in technical ability. Thus, the score. Yes I could go back and change the K10's score, but I dont think I can or should be constantly changing all my scores on my reviews as time goes by. What I do recommend is to look at what I've written about the product and use that as a gauge. I think that would paint a better picture! Thanks for pointing it out
      WCDchee, Sep 15, 2016