Review: Noble Audio Sage – Fantastic

Sound:

I mentioned it earlier, the Noble Sage is the direct offspring of the now discontinued Savant, which was highly regarded and extremely popular amongst audiophiles. Unfortunately I have never heard it. I bought Sage solely out of curiosity and faith in the Noble sound.

Sage incorporates a dual balanced armature design, where one driver displays lows and the other will reproduce highs and mids. Noble‘s configuration and tuning result in a soundsignature that delivers powerful, punchy and tight bass. This is one thing I love about my Kaiser 10, and the way Sage reproduces lows actually reminds me in many ways of my custom K10 (I‘m not saying they are the same though). Kaiser‘s bass is more impactful, more present and a tad bigger, both models though are free of frequency-bleeding, meaning bass will always stay put where it should. Sage‘s lows are nicely textured, have certain weight to them and come across with great body. Mids are lush and energetic with a smooth touch. High notes are very clean, crisp and clear, on no occassion were they piercing or harsh rather than silky soft and relaxing. Soundstage is considerably big in terms of depth, height and width. The Noble Sage is very responsive and fast, has absolutely no problem with any genre and does also not fear more challenging pieces like some works of Frank Zappa or even tracks by Aphex Twin. Sage reproduces them effortlessly and with highest precision. Imaging is one of the parts where this Noble has suprised me the most. Instruments are positioned with very high accuracy in the formed stage, they‘re separated with great care and the right amount of air between them.
When Modeselektor‘s
German Clap starts pumping through the dual BA packed earphones it does so with great punch, a lot of drive-authority, details and depth. Massive Attack‘s Angel is one of my personal favourite tunes. It has very powerful and dynamic bass which Sage captures very well. Voices have an almost spheric feeling to them with big body. The intro of Zappa‘s The Purple Lagoon/Approximate (Live in New York) is one of the more complex constructions with a multitude of different instruments. Sage draws the stage in perfect manner, separates instruments with ease and places them precisely in the room. All wind instruments have great body and a soft note to them. The entire presentation is very detail rich and accurate with many layers.
Björk has the most beautiful female voice in my opinion, and the Noble Sage manages to catch that exact beauty and deliver it with wonderful smoothness, which makes it come across very relaxing and soothing.
What Noble has done extremely well in the K10 tuning is the coherency between all frequencies and they have nailed it with Sage again! Lows, Mids and Highs align perfectly. Overall the sound of the Noble Sage is a wonderfully balanced out tuning that shows no signs of fatigue.
As you can probably tell from the last few passages my faith has been paid off for.

Source matching:

The Noble Sage is one of those in ear monitors that can show you very well how good or bad the source of choice can be. For the better part of the review I have used my beloved AK380, which is my daily go to DAP.

Astell&Kern – AK380:

The current AK flagship is a great match for Noble‘s IEM. Together they form an open and detailed sound with excellent layering. It‘s a very fun, clear and energetic signature with no signs of hissing or whatsoever. Soundstage is very big and excels deep. Imaging is incredibly accurate and spot on. All in all a very organic and natural experience. A perfect combination to guarantee countless hours of listening pleasure.

Astell&Kern – AK70:

The smaller package AK delivers a slightly warmer sound with less details than its higher end cousin. Sage‘s balanced tuning mixes very well with the slightly warmer and lush sound of the entry level Astell&Kern. Soundstage is narrower than on the 380. As we‘re used to by all second and third generation AK players there is again no hissing to be detected.

Chord Electronics – Mojo:

The british FPGA loaded battery powered DAC/Amp is known for its superior resolving sound, which for some misses portions of emotion. Mojo also pairs very well with Sage. The Noble‘s way of portaying body blends seamlessly into the picture Mojo paints and gives it the amount of blood needed to deliver a highly enjoyable listen. The uber precise sound Mojo breathes into the Nobke Sage will create an unbelievably accurate stage and imaging with all instruments laser cut separated. Sage‘s lusher midrange and cristal clean highs deliver precise and accurate sound.

Cozoy – REI:

REI takes all incoming digits and sends them off to Sage with a very natural tone. Rich, detailed and lush sound will be the result of this pairing. A huge and three dimensional stage will be created and together with Sage‘s imaging precision will become a sound that is very lifelike. A fun and nearly electrifying tone combined with high levels of details will get your feet moving!

Apple – iPhone 5:

Nathan is a big supporter of the iPhone SE‘s sound, so I hoped that my iPhone 5 would also deliver. Early on I noted that the Noble Sage will level the source which it feeds. So far it resulted in good sound and ejoyable combinations. But with Apple‘s iPhone 5 sound was dull and boring, lifeless and nowhere near any of the more audiophile solutions above. Thankfully Cozoy‘s micro DAC comes with a Lightning to micro USB cable that connects the iPhone straight to it, to bypass the Apple‘s internal digital to analogue conversion.
To be fair though, my iPhone is about to die and shows many software quirks already, so take that above with a grain of salt.

Amplification:

Only a small number of earphones benefit from additional amplification as most of them are very easy to drive to their full potential. The Noble Sage is one of the IEMs that does not benefit from additional power. So why do it anyway then? Because you can alter the sound a bit. I am known around the office for my Continental Dual Mono amplifier. It looks stunning yet weird if you don‘t know what it is. It has earned me many sceptical and almost fear induced looks when I used it on the train, especially when lights are rare and the red/orange LED of the tubes shine through the glass on top. Of course that is not why I use this device so much, sound is what really matters and stacking the perfectionist AK380 via its balanced line out port to said tube amplifier makes absolute high end sound come through my Sages. A real desktop class system in a portable package. Bigger body, lusher mids and an even more relaxed laid back sound is the endresult. This is what can really take you into the music, what makes you fall into it and can get you lose track of time. The hours on the train fly by like they were not even here. This is why I love this hobby.

Continue on the next page for Aftermarket Cabling, Comparisons and Conclusion

4.7/5 - (115 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.

12 Comments

  • Reply March 21, 2017

    Berkhan

    Very nice review Linus. Great job. Very enjoyable to read.

    • Reply March 21, 2017

      Linus

      Thanks Berkhan! Very nice of you

  • Reply April 4, 2017

    john doe

    do they do well with EDM songs?

    • Reply April 6, 2017

      Linus

      very well actually, bass is very well controlled but not as prominently displayed as with other models. it’s not meant to be a bass heavy iem…

  • Reply April 6, 2017

    B

    I am debating between these and Earsonics Velvet and ES3. I’m not sure if you had a chance to listen to either of those. I mainly listen to pop, hip hop, rock, and broadway songs. I am stepping foot into the audiophile world and would love help deciding. Thank you!

    • Reply April 6, 2017

      Linus

      Sorry, I haven’t heard the ES3. But Sage should work fine with those genres. I listen to Hip Hop and Rock myself… Sage is sure to bring a lot of fun listening.

  • Reply April 7, 2017

    Svetoslav Agafonkin

    Have you heard the Noble Savanna (the successor of Noble 4)? Could you compare them briefly?

    • Reply April 9, 2017

      Linus

      Sorry, can’t compare them, haven’t heard the Savanna…

  • Reply April 14, 2017

    noobandroid

    I also have the Sage, since then the MA750i got left in drawer eating dust lol

  • Reply May 29, 2017

    Ryan

    Thanks for this review, which was great! I am wondering though, what type of sound signature does the sage have? I’m not exactly sure how much bass, mids, and treble it has.

    • Reply May 29, 2017

      Linus

      Hi Ryan,
      thanks for your comment, very much appreciated.

      Sage sports a fairly neutral tuning with a bit easier going bass, but it responds very well to EQ’ing.

  • Reply September 10, 2017

    Mateo

    How compared with Oriveti New Primacy??

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