Noble is a custom and universal fit IEM company that is relatively new on the scene. Co-owners John Moulton and Brannan Mason gave me a few minutes of their time in an interview you can find [here]. Their custom in-ear monitor product line spans several iterations with varying numbers of balanced armature drivers that come in both acrylic and (the somewhat more rare) silicon mold materials. The flagship option of this silicone-style CIEM tops out at 5 drivers per ear due to structural restrictions (Noble’s acrylic options allow up to 10 drivers per side). The Noble 5S ($1,299) offers up acoustic pleasures in the form of 1 bass, 2 mid and 2 high frequency tuned drivers per side.
A word on silicon. It’s squishier, way more flexible and isolates noise just a little bit better than acrylic. First and foremost, the overall fit of a custom IEM is mission critical to getting the best comfort and sound out of your personal audio listening experience. But if you have sensitive ear canals or you are just looking for a little more give to the material you cram in your ears, silicone might be the right option for you. The dual-bore 5S proved to be very bendable around the protruding stem of the earpiece and was much more forgiving than the other acrylic IEMs I had on hand, which felt like little pieces of hard ice by comparison. Not that the material is an instant vote for guaranteed comfort, from my experience that can be achieved though both options, a good mold and fit is a far more influential factor. The in-ear modules slink in with just a bit more friction than their acrylic counterparts. The more malleable material proved to be a bigger lint magnet, but overall the durability and structure appears to be quite formidable. In your ears the monitors may feel a bit more pillow or marshmallow-like than hard acrylic, long term listening sessions were not accompanied by an extraneous fatigue or soreness. The 5s includes a standard 2 prong cable attachment that is fairly common for custom IEMs and the cable that comes with the package is almost identical to the cables that are included with a majority of the top CIEM brands.
Sonically the 5s feels pretty rich and detailed. The overall response does feel slightly V-shaped, with a substantial boost in the bass and a bit of extra sparkle in the highs. The soundstage is well distributed across the stereo field. There is a very natural feel to whole presentation that is very hard to achieve with this type of headphone. Feeding these little pieces of ear candy from both the ALO International and the new Leckerton Audio UHA760 showcased excellent transparency through the system. Ratcheting up the cost ladder (to perhaps a bit of overkill), I also fed the amplifiers an analog feed from the Auralic VEGA Digital Processor. Listening to Norah Jones Don’t Know Why on DSD64 really squeezed out every ounce of information from the digital files. The Noble IEMs kept up with the pace, demonstrating very satisfying dynamics. Norah’s voice really leapt from the playing field with realism and a crispness that separates the 5S from lower price points. Instrument separation between the acoustic sources was delightfully easy to discern.
The right amount of bass is vastly a matter of preference. The 5S has plenty to go around, figuring out if that is the right amount requires a little bit of self-exploration on the listeners part. The range of the 5S bass does seem to grab a bit more of the spectrum than even the JH16s, where emphasis lies a little more on the lower side. The bass range here seems to follow the bass guitar tone even as it travels further up the scale. Even with this boost, the mids on the 5S never appear crowded or congested. Low-end lovers will be right at home with the response to dance, R&B and pop. The bass thumps and still manages to ward off any dilution or muddy aftertaste. The Lana Del Rey pop hit remix Summertime Sadness features a full array of dance beats and synth sounds laid over the original track. The main bass thrust bursts in around the one minute mark. The 5S had no problem rendering the rough-texture bass synth sound within context of the massive bass drum slam. The drivers even left enough room to make out a very faint percussive clap during the passage that decorates the background like a wallflower. While the single Young and Beautiful off of the Great Gatsby soundtrack is perhaps a more lyrically enlightened track (minus the awkward bridge), the 5S really brought out some great low-end fill from the subtle bass resonances that ring throughout the song.
When it comes to IEMs there is no shortage of options. Universal fit, custom molds, custom molds for universal fits. Single, dual and triple boar designs. There are even dynamic, balanced armature and hybrid combinations along with counts of 1-10 drivers per ear. These BA driver selections seem to be limited by only physical space, perhaps one day we will see larger extensions that project out from the ear to accompanying an even wider array of drivers, who knows! The Noble line has more of these bases covered than most of their immediate competition, so they make it easy to settle into the place you want to be. Silicone offers yet another spin on portable audio’s favorite tiny ear speaker. The flagship 5S has a lot to offer; transparency, expansive sound staging, and an entertaining low end make for unique experience in ocean of options. Its overall organic feel only further complements its acute responsiveness and timing. If you are in the market for a custom IEM the 5S definitely something that you should check out. If you are market for a silicone IEM, the 5S should be at the very top of a very short list. Noble’s past experience in the market really shows its maturity with this product. Even though it it’s one of the companies launch day IEMs, the 5S sounds like a skilled veteran in your ear.