Custom or universal: Noble Audio K10

Whatever the cause, at least in my view, the outcome is right on. Despite recently warming up to liquidy, drier sounding earphones with tauter across-field definition, are my things. Whereas I almost hesitate to plug the just-warmer-than-neutral K10C in for fast trance tunes, I run straight the K10U straight into trance. Some of that changes with other tips, but again, the new high-density Comply tips are hard to exchange for something less comfy.

The K10U does not fit flat into the ear. It’s a Minority Report tear-drop, and therefore not anatomical, but doesn’t fatigue. And, it doesn’t stay as tight in the ear as a good-fitting custom earphone. So, if you’re active, and you have the dosh, the K10C is the best option.

Noble K10U ISO

It’s funny. I’ve been shooting Noble Audio’s earphones since late 2014, and only just had the chance to listen to a few of them. I’ve got a Savant of my own and a bunch of empty shells. I’ve lived in a world of angles and colours and 1:1 photography rather than trance and David Bowie and John Denver, and squishy ear tips. I know that everyone’s ears are idiosyncratically shaped, and that insertion angles, depth, and canal size play a big role in forming the sound each of us hears. But my appreciating of products depends heavily on the shadows they cast, on their edges, seams, and colours. Let me tell you, the K10U’s tight flutes required a lot of photography elbow grease.

It’s a lot easier to shoot hard-angled objects. Flags can be roughly cut and are easier to position. Reflectors can be smaller, and require less precise angling. I approach each earphone I shoot as a wholly different task with a wholly different studio setup: a custom studio, if you will. But custom set ups have downsides. You can’t suddenly shoot another product. You need to tear down, model, carve, and set up again. The K10C slips right in the ear. It is comfy. And, it should sound the same from ear to ear. I feel that it fits a wide array of music, but it is warmer, softer upper midrange edges make it a better fit for music that’s not trance or EDM.

That same earphone fits sturdier in the ear than the K10U, and pairs perfectly with Linum’s slimline cables. But perhaps by dint of its custom fit, it is tailored for a certain sound, and for a certain ear shape. The K10U exerts a broader range of eccentricities, each less bespoke than the K10C, but not a one pushing against certain genres. Genre-specific pairing is easy as pie.

And that is precisely why I’m turning into a universal guy.

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

6 Comments

  • Reply July 7, 2016

    Lieven

    Noble isn’t a client of mine, and so I will be reviewing one of Noble’s designs very soon… 🙂

  • Reply July 8, 2016

    Barun C

    Great read Nathan. The ergonomics of the Andromeda sound tubes was something, which kept me from buying them in the end. Especially after having a long listening session to the Angie’s, as I found them massive and mostly outside my ear even after carefully placing them for a proper listen. I have never owned anything beyond 3 BAs and so that made me a bit skeptical about the fit when it comes to universal IEMs beyond 3 drivers.

    On the other hand Noble K10 (either version) are visual stunners but I can’t afford one, so I never considered them as a viable option. Isolation is the main factor along with fit, which currently are the most significant factors behind any IEM purchase I make now.

    So I have now considered an CIEM (My first) to put to rest the two issues I mentioned above. Do you think Universals will ever be able to bridge the gap with customs when it comes to both fit and isolation, cause I think its more about luck when it comes to fit with Universals.

    • Reply July 11, 2016

      Lieven

      The universal that comes closest to a custom for, for me, are the German Inear StageDiver series, also reviewed on Headfonia.com

  • Reply July 8, 2016

    Bubbs

    What happened here that made you take down the entire thing? Invalid concerns? Or are you not allowed to say bad stuff about manufacturers?

    • Reply July 8, 2016

      Wilkin

      Noble is like a dystopia government; if their fanboy minions don’t take you out first, they’ll have you offed themselves;)

    • Reply July 10, 2016

      Lieven

      Let’s say there was an issue with Nathan working for Noble and doing a comparison to other gear which made it look like a review.

      All is sorted out now

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