Since Noble has introduced the Encore and Katana as co-flagships, many other companies have brought out new models. In the past two years we have seen hybrids getting more and more popular. It seems companies are now trying to get the best out of every world fit into one shell. The last months though, we have also seen new triple hybrid designs, mostly using electrostatic tweeters.
First let’s look at the former Noble flagships, then we’ll compare it against other hybrids on the market right now. All mentioned prices are for their universal models. Katana and Encore are available at a higher price as CIEM. Comparisons have been done with the respective stock cables.
Noble Audio – Kaiser Encore (10BA – 1,850$)
The Kaiser Encore is the offspring of the wildly popular K10, which has been a landmark in the audio scene. I don’t know many people in this hobby who haven’t at least heard it.
The Encore has been reigning Noble’s line-up with Katana as co-flagships before Khan was brought out to rule over all. Both are different animals, but there definitely are similarities as well.
Khan has a more visceral and pumping low end, whereas Encore does also reach deep it does so with lesser body. It produces a bass that has higher resolution and more sub-bass rumble. Encore is softer down low and has a lighter midrange presentation as well.
Mids are fuller on Khan, with more body. When it comes to emotions both succeed in their way. Encore as well as Khan have a natural sounding midrange, but the Khan definitely sports a denser vocal presentation.
Both Noble’s are excellent performers in technical abilities. They stretch a wide sound stage, where I hear Encore to go even a bit wider and maybe deeper. Khan has better layering with finer rendered tones. Imaging is achieved superbly on both the Khan and Encore, but I give the nod to the Encore for a cleaner signal, where tones are easy to pin point no matter the coordinates.
Noble Audio – Katana (9BA – 1,850$)
Katana, one of my most-used items I have. It tells me very truthfully what the source or cable does to it. The 9BA Noble is certainly more neutral than Khan, but it is also dryer, whereas Khan is richer and fuller.
Khan goes down with more body and physical impact than Katana, whereas Katana is smoother and softer in bass. Khan has a more solid sub-bass foundation with higher resolution. Katana’s body is lighter and its bass sits tighter than Khan’s.
Mids are smooth and organic on Katana, where they have higher resolution on Khan. Noble gave their new flagship even finer precision than Katana. Instruments are separated very well and imaging is absolutely spot on with both models, but Khan might have the edge on the latter.
Katana has a nice and rich treble section, which actually is one of my favorites, but Khan is faster and more energetic, with more air in its upper segment. Katana and Khan are both very detailed and it’s hard to miss a beep with either of them.
Empire Ears – Legend X (2DD/5BA – 2,399$)
The Legend X is considerably more difficult to drive right than Khan. The Empire Ears hybrid doesn’t sound the best out of any source, but really demands something powerful and even desktop sized gear to get to its peak.
Khan on the other hand isn’t in need of big amps, but sounds incredibly good already with DAPs and transportable DAC/Amps. The Legend X has more emphasis on mid and upper bass and also puts sub-bass more up front than Khan. The Noble has a more delicate low end section, which seems more under control.
There is higher resolution in the Khan’s bass, but the EE’s is more dynamic and airy. Legend’s mids are denser and warmer than Khan’s, but the one found in the Noble are more emotional and more open. Khan is a little lighter than the Legend X, but it edges it out on resolution and imaging. Both have impressive layering and staging, where the Legend might go a bit wider, the Khan goes deeper and higher.
Treble is similar on both, they ooze of richness and energy, but the Legend glows a touch more in lower treble. Both have no issues with sibilance and are fatigue free in their upper notes.
64 Audio – Tia Trió (1DD/2BA – 2,299$)
The Tia Trió is another hybrid with an unconventional design. The 64 Audio uses zero tubes or dampers, but rather places the drivers in purpose designed acoustic chambers which transport the audio to your ears.
Trió has a more prominent mid-bass and upper bass presentation, which gives the lower midrange more body and warmth. The Khan on the other hand has a more authoritative low end, with more physical impact and thunder. The Noble also has more resolution and better texture, while the 64 is softer and smoother down low.
Khan has a lighter midrange with less warmth, the Trió has a denser vocal presentation with more body in the instruments and singers. The Tia seems to have more blood in its veins.
Both models have immaculate imaging, with absolute spot on positioning of the instruments. The Trió creates a bigger and wider sound stage, which keeps the musicians more in front of you, while Khan keeps them closer. Resolution and layering are top quality on both and are head to head in my opinion.
Treble wise the Khan is richer, while the Trió is dryer and more direct, but also faster and airier. Overall I think the Khan’s high notes might be the one that find more followers though, as the Tia treble is not for everyone.
It has been getting quiet around the Wizard and his creations in the last year. Now we’ve found out that Noble has secretly been working on their next big hit.
Noble launched their first hybrid with the Khan, and they had the guts to make it their flagship. I don’t know many brands that start with that, but it has proven to be a fantastic choice. Khan convinces me with an excellent sonic presentation with body in the right places and air where it’s needed. It doesn’t produce an in your face signature, but takes you on to a journey of discovering your favorite tunes in a new and thrilling way.
Khan is one of those monitors that make me really excited to future listening sessions. As a CIEM addict, I must say, if these would come as a custom, I’d be all over it. Until then the universal Khan has to serve my needs.
Well done Noble, it’s awesome to see you back in the game with such a product.