Things were predictably packed around the Noble table at this year’s annual meeting of the headphone minds, CanJam SoCal in Irvine. With the success of high-end universal fit in-ears securely in the back pocket of the long-running boutique manufacturer, things look to be moving in a new direction according to several sources at the show.
While many companies utilize balanced armature drivers (BA) originally developed for the hearing aid market, some have recently started to branch out to other technologies citing limitation to the compact but efficient design of the transducer. Even more hybrid options incorporating a dynamic driver (either in the low, or occasionally the mid section of the frequency spectrum) can be found peppering the market in recent years. Noble’s own Kaiser (now Kaiser Encore and even Kaiser Encore Brass LE) are fitted with the BA tech, however the most recent flagship Khan ($2,399) makes music via 4 BAs, one dynamic and one “piezo electric driver”.
But hints at something even more remote were afoot at the Los Angeles headphone meet in June. Rumors of a new driver tech emerged from the Noble camp via a communication to dealers a few weeks prior. Outlined in the document is a introduction to a product called “M3” which boasts an all new driver design with a 10mm “Tri-Magnet Technology”.
The transducer checks in with three magnets and a “membrane that is suspended between two permanent coils, which allow unhindered movement between coils.” The document also promises an impedance of less than 35 ohms and a sensitivity low enough for easy use with a smartphone’s internal headphone amplifier.
While electrostatic options have started to emerge in various forms around the market, this dual sided magnet, dual driver design appears to be fresh to the scene, although does bare some visual resemblance for upcoming efforts by IEM-maker Akoustyx unveiled at the show. In any case, the portable audio landscape has room for growth both in overall market size and technological advancements. The tiny real estate of the in-ear has always been its biggest advantage for portability, but represents the biggest challenge for designers. With a smartphone in the hand of nearly everyone in the market for this type of audio playback, new and even more innovative options are surely on the horizon. Along with wireless advancements, the best is still yet to come for the audiophile on the go – not something that can be said as easily for the more rooted, traditional spectrum of two channel audio.
Even though talk of new shiny things and the easily resellable universal IEM category abound, one of the more unique propositions that always has helped Noble stand out is their carnal sense of custom artisanal one-offs, which include colors of every shape, hue and space-oddity design. The Prestige series is a perfect example of this, crafted from a solid piece of material rather in the traditional molding (or 3D printed) process. Exotic woods of all types, 12mm carbon fiber, pinecones, and even a stunning tip of the hat to the Cubism art movement create an expensive, but entirely bespoke corner of the hobby.