Disclaimer: I purchased the Noble Audio K10 for the purposes of this review through Noble Audio’s website. Noble Audio gave me a significant discount.
Separating the adjective gorgeous from Noble Audio’s work is impossible. Just check out Noble Audio’s Twitter account. Left and right, they kick out designs like this, this, and this. While admiring their artistic vision, I stand firmly with Kurt Vonnegut Jr:
I had no respect whatsoever for the creative works of either the painter or the novelist. I thought Karabekian with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid.
Not that Wizard drew two rectangles for 50.000- $. Not that he is anything less than a visionary in the bland world of earphones. But right now, Nathan Wright of Ω image, and Headfonia, and formerly of TouchMyapps, Holsybrunn Bibel Skola, York University, and Bad Attitude’s R US, struggles with the idea of flash for flash’s sake. Naturally, he opted for black, for prosaic. Its dark glint mimics his heart.
But at 1599$, there’s no real way to cut the Noble Audio K10 if not as a jewel.
Noble Audio’s very first earphones made an impact. Metal, wood, and discriminating craftsmanship set them apart. Now the Noble team are up to clocks, precious metals, jewels, not to mention psychedelic colors and tie-dyes. It’s geekery-cum-artisanship you ain’t never seen before.
It’s a safe bet that Noble can purvey almost any vision. That said, Nathan’s vision is like three rungs lower than the next geek’s. I’m a one-trick pony. As a photographer, I’m a keen worshiper of contrasts. Ergo, I set out to create a simple designed that popped. The red and white of the ohm logo literally pop out of my K10’s faceplates. You no likey? That’s alright.
The logos themselves are tiny, and the print is well-defined. The differences in print quality between the K10 and the LEAR BD4,2 are stark. The differences in storage box quality, however, are just as stark, and favor LEAR.
Noble Audio opted for some reason for appears to be a knock-off Otter Box- that or a very cheap Otter box. Shut up, Nathan, it’s just a box! you might say. I hear you. I do. It’s just that for the asking price of 1.600- $, the use of a knock-off is unsavoury.
And very like LEAR, Noble employ the traditional dual-pronged Westone, UE-style cable. That means twisted strands, good strength-to-weight ratio, and flex protection. It also means memory wire. Dear god…
Both clamp the y-split with heat shrink, though the Noble’s appears to be sturdier. And Noble also affix their cable with a more robust tapered L-plug. Right and left channels (not to mention polarity) are well labelled. But the cable is fatter, though, and less compatible with certain smartphone/amp/player cases.
I didn’t use it much. It’s my glasses you see. They don’t like memory wire. Nuforce’s Primo 8 cable is far worse to use. Still, for the entirety of this review, I made use of Linum’s excellent BAX and voice cables, which I find infinitely more comfortable.
Stuffing in ten speakers per side precludes the K10 from being slim. Still, it sits comfortably in the ear. Rather than posturing beefy shoulders (like certain FitEar earphones) the bulk of the K10’s weight occupies centre mass. This allows the K10 to sit pretty, and very comfortably in the ear.
Noble Audio earphones tend to be very clean. No bubbles, no cracks, no unintended hollows. I’ve yet to see fingerprints on drivers, or dust bunnies. Cable routing is neat and easy to trace. On a scale of 0 – FitEar, they are a solid 9.
That said, my right unit suffers a shallow cleft above the Noble Audio crown. It doesn’t affect fit. It doesn’t affect sound. It does, however, remain a blemish, however small.
Each of the K10’s three sound tubes is bored into naked acrylic. Each is solid, tooled well, and sat in a minutely recessed bowl. This small recess helps to obstruct the ingress of ear wax. If wax does clog up a bore, maintenance is, at least for the larger of the two bores, trivial. There are three bores on my unit, two large, and one small. The wax loop will not fit the smallest bore. A needle will.
But the Lord knows I’m off them needles.
Being a larger-sized custom earphone, the K10 won’t fit comfortably under motorcycle helmets. Ditto if you’ve got an overly cushy pillow pushing on your ears.
Assuming you are using the K10 according to specification, and assuming that you got a good fit, whoopee! you are in for a nice treat. The K10 goes in far, and Noble’s wonderful workmanship ensures it stays in nice. If you’re like me and blessed by a limn of natural lubrication, insertion and removal is lickety split.
As with all custom earphones, you absolutely must submit proper ear impressions. Good-sounding custom earphones can only be created by proper impressions. Don’t take the cheapest route. Don’t go in for an inexperienced audiologist. If you want the best, hire the best.
I’m learning that one even as we speak.
Sound impressions continue on the next page.
Wow, Nathan, you’re on a roll – Lear, this Noble, and the MH335DW to come. You should do a shoot-out when all 3 are together.
Tee hee. Maybe. The MH335DW is delayed on my side (gathering the funds still).
And you have now also reviewed the Earsonics and Vision Ears since. How about a “short” comment on this titanic battle of the top end CIEMs? Thanks.
How would the K10 compare to the Roxanne in your opinion? Thanks.
They are quite different in a number of areas. Firstly, I should point out that I only heard the universal version of the Roxanne. Both have absolutely lovely headroom. Nothing every goes whack (assuming you have good source/amp).
But the differences are:
1. the nature of the midrange. The Roxanne paints a more figurative, wide image; the K10 paints a picture that you want to come close into to enjoy all the details. Both are excellent.
2. the nature of Bass: the Roxanne has less sub-bass presence, and less low detail.
3. the nature of highs: overall, I would say that the balance in both is excellent, but the K10 is every so slightly more natural in its transition from frequency band to frequency band.
Again, I heard only the universal version of the Roxanne.
I’m down to either this or the Roxanne with my to-be-purchased AK240 and it seems to me like the K10 is more superior in some ways(even though the Roxanne is only universal.). Would you say the K10 will have issues if I pair it with a AK240?
I think you will find that the AK240 is a good player. It isn’t quite able to supply all the needs (current, low Ω) that the K10 needs, but its abilities aren’t far from what the K10 absolutely demands.
I think you will enjoy the set.
Great review Nathan, its good to see that there are reviewers out there who listen to Trance, and IDM/EDM music. This makes a good reference point since there are people like me and you who enjoy this kind of music with a Hi-Fi system. I feel that this genre of music is one of the hardest to reproduce since many of the notes sound vastly different if you scale up. Could you mention you favourite Trance and IDM/EDM artists and what albums/tracks do you love the most.
I own the Heir IEM 8.0 and despite their dispute with Noble believe these two IEMS are cut from the same cloth
Recently I’ve been following radio shows most often, then discovering new/upcoming artists. But Aly & Fila’s Future Sound of Egypt has been my favourite show since about 2009. I download a LOT of trance podcasts. Some are horribly recorded, which is a loss when using such wonderful earphones.
Modern classics like Vibrasphere, early In Search of Sunrise albums, Seven Ways, Man with No Name, Darude, and more are favourites. I’m beginning to dig some of the new vocal trance too, starting with Armin Van Buuren’s Imagine album from a few years ago.
In the IDM and space world, I’m in love with Bexametric, Brian Eno, Autechre, The Orb, Arovane, some of Harold Budd’s stuff, The Boards of Canada, and a lot more.
Oh, I have read that you like Armin, my all time favourite is Dash Berlin. I suggest you hear Andrew Rayel’s Find Your Harmony album. It is very impressive. He is Armin’s prodigy. Cosmic Gate has also been on a roll lately.
I see that you use an after market cable, any recommendations on what kind of cable suits Noble’s sound? Currently I am looking into Norne Audio’s cables
Yes, Dash has really churned things up lately. Thanks for the other suggestions.
I just cables like this: if the stock cable is highly resistive, an aftermarket cable that has similar resistance should be used. Why? The earphones likely were tuned with that sort of cabe in mind. The converse is also true.
That said, when I’m not 100% worried, I use the most comfortable cable possible. I’ve found no cable as comfortable as Linum’s cables. I wear glasses- that is the biggest deciding factor.
You are welcome, the Andrew Rayel’s whole album is just splendid. Although I have many favourites you should give Goodbye a listen with the K10, when I listened to the track with Heir’s IEM 8.0 the track just went to a whole new level of audio bliss.
I was quite taken by surprise that the Noble K10’s are not shipped with a cable equivalent to Heir’s Magnus 1. The cable shipped with IEM 8.0 are very comfortable to use and their memory wire has small paper clip kind of metal which makes bending it easy. The sound itself is miles better than the Westone cable.
John Thomas Moulton
Hi there, I am Dr.John, AKA “Wizard” chief founder of Noble, and designer of Noble products.
(Also the chief founder of Heir Audio, and formerly the designer of Heir Audio products as well)
Regarding your statement about the Magnus Cable. The standard cable used with all Noble products is essentially the same as the Magnus 1.
The difference is that the Noble cable is machined terminated, rather than terminated by hand. The extrusion material (jacket) is the same, the braid is the same, the wire is the same, the Kevlar is the same, the supplier is the same. I have had a long relationship with the supplier which pre-dates the formation of Heir Audio.
There is also another difference….. The retail price of the Noble cable and the Magnus One differ by around $100.
Hi Dr John,
Thanks for the explanation, it really clear things up. May I ask another question?
One of the main reasons I purchased Heir Audio was that they are based in Chengdu, China. Sometime in the future I may decide to turn my IEM 8.0 to customs or I might just purchase another CIEM. The biggest pro for me is that Heir Audio are based in China and I live here, therefore it is easy for me to send my ear impressions and would not have to face customs and all the trouble that most Head-fiers face when purchasing a CIEM. My main question is, are you also based in China? Cause I know from Noble’s website that they send their impressions to USA.
I think for people who lives in China, this can be a deciding factor when purchasing a new CIEM (wink)
John Thomas Moulton
That is interesting, as Heir Audio is regestered as a “made for export only” company in China. What this means is, if they sell and ship a CIEM/IEM within China a tax should be applied. If they do not apply the tax, then Heir Audio may be paying the tax themselves (around 17%).
As far as where we are located, we are regestered in the USA, we work with suppliers and manufactures around the world, from Denmark, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Hong Kong etc etc.
I think there are few retailers who sells the products in taobao (China’s Amazon) so, I don’t think there should be a problem.
I understand that you are registered in the USA but, like I mentioned earlier if you could provide where you are located. I have read a few discussions on several forum boards that you, yourself are in China. Is that true? My curiosity lies in where the Noble products are made, since if Noble makes their products in China it would be easier for people who live here to order from Noble
John Thomas Moulton
We have dealers in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam & Thailand. The business model that Noble uses, one can not contact the manufactureing facilities directly and purchase products etc etc, no matter where the products are built/assembled/designed.
Much like if you wanted an I-phone you wouldn’t contact Foxconn International Holdings.
If there is an idividual in China that would like to purchase a Noble product, they are welcome to do so through a dealer within their area.
Could you point out the dealer in China. Who knows I might contact them sometime in the future.
Thank you for entertaining my inquiries “Wizard”. Your insights provided me more knowledge about the Audio industry. Your work of “art” is been inspiring
John Thomas Moulton
Oh I thought when you said China you meant Mainland China. Thanks for your effort anyway.
John Thomas Moulton
Cut from the same cloth…..
Yes, both ciems share Drivers made by Knowles, and both were designed by me. but that is about were the similarities end. There are a total of 5 drivers in the 8.A design. (Two Ci bass drivers, and three TWFK drivers) in the 8.a design, the twfk model numbers are all the same, in other words the three twfk are identical.
In the k10, there are 4 twfk, two of which are do not share the same model numbers. So there is a cluster of two twfk with on particular model number, and a second cluster with a different model number. What this means is, the drivers are not the same, thus the sound is not the same. Further more the x over design is different from the k10 and the 8.a
Long story short, the 8.a and the K10 may have some similarities (both designed by me, both are ciems) but ultimately they are very different monitors.
Thanks for the explanation again,
I know that Heir Audio has been a taboo topic in head-fi and information about the differences of both company are insufficient.
Well the only thing I can say is that, you Sir are a great engineer. The universal version of the 8.0a are amazing, and from what I can see about the reviews regarding the K10 you have created another masterpiece. I will keep in mind the explanation you just provided, when purchasing my first CIEM.
If you could just provide some clarity regarding your location (asked bellow) that would be splendid
Thanks for the great review, Nathan! I just received my K10’s, and have just a couple of hours on them (they are the one’s in your first twitter picture). Little pieces of art. I agree thus far with all your assessments; lows and mids are excellent and highs so natural. I’m actually using the original CLASS and Pure II with it, and haven’t noticed any hiss (although my old ears just might not be hearing it any more!). Pure II is a great match with them. And yes, the case leaves much to be desired. In fact, I’ve been fearful that the K10’s almost don’t fit in it. Got a 1020 Pelican on order.
You won’t notice hiss with the PURE II unless your ears are VERY sensitive. PURE II has an amazingly low noise floor, but all devices make noise. You just need stupid sensitive ears and earphones to hear it.
That’s to say that I love the PURE II and K10.
But a Pelican: yes, that needs to happen. Honestly, 1599$ and a fake Otter box.
The case may not be an original Otterbox, but it performs like one so it does serve its purpose. You can literally run over the case with a 6,000 pound truck.
Video coming soon.
It seems strong. I’d happily toss it around. It’s just that you’re a better brand. I would expect you NOT to use knock-off boxes.
Does that change any other opinion? No way. Honestly, the K10 blew me away and likely will blow me away till kingdom come.
John Thomas Moulton
It isn’t a “knock off” it is a “storm box” which means it belongs in a category of tough/strong boxes, Pelican, Otter Box are some popular brands within the category of storm boxes. But that doesn’t mean another company can’t come along and build their own version of what they believe a storm box is.
The bottom line is I can driver my truck over the top of the box used by Noble, and it doesn’t break. We wanted a box that offered protection, durability and can be used in a practical manner.
It may not be a popular branded box, but it definitley is tough, and I even question if boxes provided by other CIEM companies are as durable as the one we provide.
I VERY much like the K10. Too much, perhaps. Thank you for the explanation and for chiming in here. It is very helpful.
HAH! I knew there was a reason I told you to go listen to this bad boy at the festival! Id love one of my own. I would also say not to bother with the MH335DW if you have the K10 though…Great review overall though man
And yet again, Chase is right… Damn. Yeah, so I bit.
shure se846 vs k10 ?
also did you find any ciem sound like lcd 3 ?
I’ve not spent enough time with the LCD 3 to give a good answer here. I’m sorry.
Have a pair of my own K10s on my way, can’t wait to stuff them in my ears. What I’d like to know is how well they would pair with an Apex Glacier, planning to stack one with my iPhone for a super portable do-it-all setup. Anyone? (:
Nguyễn Công Bằng
I have the combo and I would say that it cold like your ex-gf on her days. I suggest you try something warmer for the K10
I’ve not tried the combo, but the Glacier is a colder sounding DAC. The K10 is mildly warm, however, so the combo couldn’t be awful, but it depends on your needs.
David Mayhew (musicdiddy)
Could I please ask how the K10’s compare to full sized headphones like the Fostex TH600 or Oppo PM2? I like my TH600’s but find them to be a bit awkward when listening in bed. I know the K10’s are a lot of money but if the sound quality is comparable to some of the higher end headphones I would prefer the smaller form factor.
Be careful of comparing full-size open headphones to earphones. It’s like comparing headphones to speakers. The experience, not to mention the places on your body where sound waves impact, is vastly different.
As for SQ as it pertains to just the signal, the K10 is absolutely tip top. It is heavily weighted toward an expansive mid section with semi-powerful bass and well-resolved, and non sibilant highs.
Hi guys,can i ask how is the k10 with the ibasso dx90? decent pairing? Also is the k10 more on the forgiving side or analytical? as i listen to hard rock albums which are usually not best mastered,so dont want it to sound horrible ha
The DX90 does a perfect job with the K10. Perfect. The DX90 is quite analytical and the K10 mid-heavy. It isn’t overly analytical, so the pairing is, at least from a subjective perspective, very good.
Calvin Xin Ci
Hi Nathan, very nice review as always. You seemed to recommend Linum cable quite a few times in your reviews. I’ve take some time to read a little bit more about them, Oh lord, they are as thin as it can get. Just one thing that I’m asking, does it sound great? Like pretty great? If compared to those custom cables, they are priced sky rocket high and this is a steal for the price. If it’s durable and great sounding, I’m getting it for sure, don’t want to end up like some fiio cables.
Calvin, I’m sorry as ever for being late. Got to fix my mailbox.
Linum: as good as it gets. The only gotchas fall into place when using Linum calbes with crazy heavy earphones. Linum cables are so light, that earphones not in the ear will fall all over the place.
Apart from that, I’ve never used better cables.
Very great review here, I want to ask about Noble Audio 3, I’m in the market for sub $400 IEMs, I’m thinking about Shure 425, UE 900s, and Noble 3, I can’t find any review about Noble 3 Classics, so maybe you guys over here can give me a description of Noble 3 sound signature, compared to those IEM that I mentioned earlier. I’ve previously owned UE700 before it’s right channel went bust, and need an upgrade from UE700.
Hello Andrisa, I’m sorry, but I’ve not heard the Noble Audio 3 Classics. I hope someone can help you.
Hi guys, can anyone compare the k10 with the heir 10A for me please? I am interested in both of them. And what happened on headfi anyway? Why was heir banned from the forum? :/
Do you think Chord Hugo would be a good match too?
I’ve not used the Chord Hugo long enough to know much at all about it.
Nathan. Your last sentence you said that there might not be a better earphone and I know you love your 335. Is the K10 to your ears, better than the 335?
I’m sorry this is late. You know what, I prefer the K10 to the 335 for a number of things. The 335 has a bit more contrast between lows and highs, which can be more fun. But the K10 has me discovering things in my music I don’t when hooked up to the 335.
How would you compare it to Shure SE846?
The two aren’t really compatible. As you know, the K10C is a custom and the SE845 is a universal. I no longer have the SE846. That was a three-week loan. But the Shure is drier with more emphasis on bass while the K10C is more mid-centric with more focus on intra-instrument space.
Nathan, great review as always. Will the K10 sound much better on an AK380 vs the 240? I definitely want a set of K10 customs but much prefer the smaller footprint of the 240. Thanks
I’m glad I didn’t miss your comment. I think you’ll find very little difference in the AK380 and AK240 with the K10. Both are very good. I hope you find what you’re looking for and that you’ll be happy with what you find.
I was about to separate from my MS-AK100 and / or my MS-AK120 …
I think I have to review my decision, since I just got my k10u 🙂