Review: Noble Audio Khan – King of Kings

Noble Audio Khan
Double Helix Cables – Clone Fusion

The Clone Fusion is an excellent cable if you want to bring out higher resolution and give the bass more thunder and body. That’s exactly what it does to the Khan. While bass gets held with a tighter grip, it also gained in presence. Khan extends deeper and wider, and has an overall higher resolution from top to bottom.

Treble is a notch clearer, with more energy and sparkle. It however lost some of the richness in favor of a dryer and faster sound. Detailing is done with good precision and care. Instruments have more air around them and stand out from a darker background.

PW Audio – 1960s (2w)

The 1960s in two-wire configuration is your choice if you want to color the Khan to a warmer sound. It breathes more warmth into the lower midrange and gives mid-bass more body. The PW Audio is known for its great resolution and detailing, and it’s no surprise these find their way into the Khan.

Treble does get tamed slightly, but it still maintains its richness. It’s less energetic and crisp, but more rounded and easier on the ear. Sound stage stretches wider and deeper, with better layering and instrumental separation.

All of the above cables do elevate the Khan’s performance, but they also come at a price. There are other great choices for aftermarket cables out there too. Some that come to my mind would be Effect Audio’s Ares II, Null Audio’s Tiburon or Linum’s SuperBaX. All of which I have tried, but they didn’t make it into this section to keep it short.

Noble Audio Khan

Noble Audio Khan

Sources:

When it comes to hybrids, I usually find them to be better off with high powered gear, and best driven by sources in a bigger form factor. Khan of course has no problem with portable sources, but to me it scales up nicely with different gear.

Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch

The PAW Gold Touch is a highly neutral sounding DAP and a reviewer’s delight when it comes to evaluating in ears and headphones. It is also the one audio player which I consider to handle hybrids and dynamic driver IEMs the best.

You’ll get a well controlled and tight bass, with excellent impact and authority. The Touch has very high resolution and accuracy. It’s spacious and detailed with superb sound stage. Midrange has high resolution and wonderful texture. There is sufficient air around the instruments to give the stage an open feeling.

Treble is clean and a touch dry, but still rich and energetic with good sparkle. It’s crisp and well extended with good air. I never had an issue with the Khan becoming too dry or sibilant with the Touch.

Cowon – Plenue L

The Plenue L is Cowon’s latest flagship DAP, and it’s one of the sexiest designs I have seen in a portable product. The Cowon has a more romantic and slightly warmer sound. It has an emphasis on mid and upper bass, but not to a very high degree.

Mids, especially vocals are smooth and nicely emotional. They’re fuller than on the Lotoo or the SP1000, but the Plenue doesn’t sport the space of the other two. The sound stage though is still great in all dimensions. The Plenue doesn’t focus as much on details as the AK or PAW Gold Touch, but rather puts a higher priority on an organic sound with perfect body.

Treble on the Khan is a bit more laid back with the Plenue L, and the overall sound is of warmer tonality.

Noble Audio Khan

Noble Audio Khan

Astell&Kern – SP1000

The SP1000 still is one of the very best DAPs on the market, even after two years of existence. Many new models have been released since then, but the AK still stands proud. However, I find the A&ultima performs best with full BA setups. Hybrids are not its strong suit.

You get a well controlled and handled low end, with excellent impact and pump, where there is a noticeable bump in the mid-bass section. It’s bass that goes low with a visceral sound, but it seems not as fast as with other pairings.

The resolution of the SP1000 however is something very hard to match. The sound is clean and spacious, with impressive imaging and layering. One thing I love about the SP1000 is its wonderfully tuned treble. It’s rich and clear as a whistle.

Details are brought out with ease in this pairing, where you will find yourself catching loads of fine nuances in the sound. The sound stage goes wide and deep with impressive dimensions with a holographic appearance. The left/right stereo image is as good as it gets from a portable product.

Noble Audio Khan

Noble Audio Khan

Chord Electronics – Hugo2

The Hugo2 is my favorite single DAC/Amp unit to date, but ever since I changed jobs it doesn’t get as much play time as it used to. For reviews and for personal listening time with my full sized headphones I do bring it out.

Khan matches Hugo2‘s signature very well. You get loads of details, a very high resolution sound with superb texture and imaging. Bass that goes low, with a tight grip and excellent drive. The Chord sure knows how to handle a hybrid.

Bass is fast, dynamic and full of energy. The rhythmic is spectacular and it’s very hard to sit still with this combination. Mids are open with impressive tonal accuracy. Vocals are emotional and powerful, with very nice body.

Something I love the Chord for is the stage it creates. It is arena like, but oh so well organized. Musicians are perfectly separated and every note they produce are clean and clear. The details brought out from Hugo2 are just plain fantastic. There’s nothing to be missed here.

Treble is extended and comes in with great energy and definition. It’s rich, clean and clear with very good sparkle. To me the combination is free of fatigue and sibilance. Many people don’t like the treble presentation of the Hugo2 though.

The final chapters on page five!

Review: Noble Audio Khan – King of Kings
4.9 (97.5%) 16 votes

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    13 Comments

    • Reply March 14, 2019

      James

      Nice to see you enjoying the Noble Audio Khan too!

      After trying out most of the latest batch of flagship iems, the Khan stood out. It is almost perfect, except the price ;)..but I still preordered anyways.

      My recent flagship iems ranking:

      1. Noble Khan
      2. Campfire Solaris
      3. QDC Anole VX
      4. Meze Rai Penta
      5. JVC FW10000
      6. Sony z1r
      7. Jomo Trinity

      • Reply March 15, 2019

        Terry

        Khan has a serious problem connecting to a smartphone such as an iPhone.
        This is obviously a device problem.
        So I can’t give Khan a score.
        Noble must resolve this device’s defects quickly.

        Here’s my ranking.
        1. Jomo Trinity
        2. QDC Anole VX
        3. Legend X
        3. JVC FW10000
        4. Campfire Solaris
        5. Sony z1r
        X. Noble Khan

        • Reply March 15, 2019

          Linus

          Hi Terry,
          thanks for your comment.
          I’ve heard about the iPhone problem, unfortunately I don’t have one to confirm. It works well with my OnePlus 5t.
          Cheers

        • Reply March 20, 2019

          Steven Zore

          Hey Terry:

          Looking at your rankings… I listened to the Trinity at NYC Canjam and thought it was an utter disaster… Yet you rank it #1.. LOL, Love this hobby!

      • Reply March 15, 2019

        Linus

        Hi James,
        thanks for your comment.
        Nice list you got there.
        I agree, Khan is very nice. Of course the price is always a big factor, but compared to other flagship prices it’s still more “normal”.
        Have a great weekend.

    • Reply March 14, 2019

      Aureen

      How would you compare Khan to the CA Solaris? From both a pure SQ standpoint as well as a price / value ratio.

      • Reply March 15, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Aureen,
        thanks for your comment.
        I have zero experience with the Solaris, sorry, can’t help you there.
        Have a great weekend!

    • Reply March 16, 2019

      Nitish

      How does Khan compares to Hyla TE5T? Both have tri hybrid topology.
      Thanks

      • Reply March 17, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Nitish,
        thanks for your comment.
        The 5T is considerably brighter up top and has a lighter, less powerful bass. The Khan is fuller and more dynamic. The 5T in my opinion needs a tube amp or warm source to keep that treble away from being too hot. It’s a rich treble, but too forward for my taste.
        A review of the TE-5B and 5T will be out soon. 🙂

        • Reply March 19, 2019

          Nitish

          Thanks Linus
          With LPGT, TE5T was too hot. I am pairing TE5T with sp1000cu & EA horus; excellent synergy imho.The bass improves a lot in quantity with JVC spiral dots for me but spinfits cp155 (M) has the best balance.
          Cheers

          • Reply March 19, 2019

            Linus

            No worries Nitish.
            You’re right, the 5T is source dependent, but for me it’s still on the edge. The only ones that keep it safe for me are pairings with tube amps (Oriolus BA-10 or Woo Audio WA8).

    • Reply March 17, 2019

      Jason Kang

      What’s cable rolling?

      • Reply March 17, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Jason,
        cable rolling is when you exchange the supplied stock cable with an aftermarket cable.
        Hope that helps.
        Cheers

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