In-ear monitors, both universal and custom, are something of a head-fi darling lately. A relatively new audiophile market, in-ear has been growing rather rapidly, especially lately and I think that’s interesting. As for what’s driving the sudden richness in this space, well, that’s harder to parse. Perhaps there are more and more folks getting tired of the bulk of high-end headphones? Or having their hair mussed? Dunno. But with all those folks hitting the market, it’s also interesting when a brand known for flash and style decides to kick it up a notch. Or three.
Noble Audio is as well known for great sound as they are for great looks. Head designer John Moulton, aka, The Wizard, has produced some of the most alluring bits of audio art that I’ve seen — and RMAF got to see his latest thinking. They call it Prestige.
Prestige is not new. Not exactly. It’s still built off the truly excellent Kaiser K-10 platform, with their signature 10 drivers per monitor. What’s new is the materials — in the case of Prestige, we’re talking hand-carved blends of natural materials and gorgeous acrylic, and the result looks like nothing else you can buy in audio’s high-end. Check out the photos for some ideas of where you can go — there’s a lot more on the site.
There’s a premium for this, obviously, as each piece is hand-crafted by the wizard himself, and that premium can add an additional $1,000+ to the Kaiser K-10 price tag of $1,599. Lead times are a couple of months from order.
Brannan Mason, Noble Audio’s front man, was on hand collecting impressions and giving demos — and yes, I got my ear canals stuffed with pink goo. I’m going to be getting a pair of their mid-level 5C ($950/set) customs, featuring 5 balanced armature drivers. Walking the lineup, the 5C are what really stood out for me as a blend of high-resolution and high-fun, and I’m really psyched.
The demos Brannan was running featured a Chord Hugo DAC ($2,400).