Hot on the heels of a two new IEM releases, Noble recently pushed another new model into the wild with the help of the personal audio group-buying site Massdrop. The company’s most inexpensive IEM to date, the X will retail for $249 and be a limited run of 2,000 units.
The collaboration with Massdrop features a two-driver-per-ear configuration and Noble’s newest custom BA drivers that started making appearances with the company’s Encore, Katana and Sage models. The setup here encompasses one driver designated for highs and mids, with the other solely for bass. The custom bass driver also features a new, slightly augmented ventilation system for increased extension and reach. We were able to get our hands on an early model before it was made available to the public, and what we heard was impressive.
Like many of the Noble In-Ears we have heard, the sonic priorities of the piece allow for a precise instrument placement in a wide stage around the head. This acoustic illusion of the out-of-head experience is highly valued within the IEM category as other over-ear headphones and loudspeakers suffer fewer hurdles reproducing the same type of staging expansion. While listening to the acoustic version of Eric Clapton’s Layla, it was easy to pick up the main guitar instrument, hung discreetly just to the right forward side of the mix. Likewise, the accompanying piano was mirrored on left, produced here with convincing tonality and satisfying accuracy. While Eric’s main vocals can be easily be attributed front and center, there is also a quiet whisper of a backing singer panned hard right. The X did a great of recreating this location in a high resolution that made the track unique and identifiable enough to hear the subtle runs and harmonies produced away from the mass collection of instruments and sounds that make up the song’s entirety.
The treble response of the X is light and airy without feeling too misty. Its contributions to the staging is most welcome and feels well extended out above the music. On the other side of the scale, the bass is delivered in speedy form, free from soft delivery and murky waters. Depth and punch hit as hard as they should and kick drum sounds enter your ear with plenty of snap. Death Cab For Cutie’s We Looked Like Giants did a great job of showcasing the earphones controlled, yet decorated bass response. The reproduction of which had a shockingly fine texture to the bass guitar which leaves the listener with a greater sense of individual life and identity to the instrument within the mix than the one-note blur of soggy, poorly reconstructed bass.
The earpiece brings down much of the love from the Noble line that has built a solid reputation over the past few years for top notch sound in small packages. The midband of the X provides more of a juicy middle than the audiophile budget attempts of recent months. The retrieval is fairly similar in weight to other popular sub- $500 IEMs, but blends firmly with the treble which finishes nicely with a smooth texture, free of harshness and sonic crisps. The overall curve should be a dutiful complement to any musical genre or taste.
The Noble X ships with a standard 2 prong IEM black cable which terminates in a 3.5mm headphone connection. For those who have taken the dive into the new jackless iPhone 7 environment, a new lighting-based connection is also available for $40 now with the Massdrop deal. After the drop, Noble will sell the cable for $80 to the general public.
Orders can still be made on the Massdrop site, with shipping estimated to start around March 15, 2017.