Brannan Mason is the co-owner of Noble Audio, and in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival he was able to spend some time talking with Part-Time Audiophile about Nobel’s current lineup, company philosophy, manufacturing details, aural design, and what’s in the pipeline for the company.
“What do I know about diamonds? I’m a boxing promoter. I was a happy boxing promoter until a week ago, and then: What do I know about diamonds?” – Turkish, from the film Snatch.
Snatch is one of my favorite films of all time, and to me, the film’s protagonist – Turkish (“my parents were on the same plane when it crashed. That’s how they met. They named me after the plane. Not many people are named after a plane crash”) – and his opening dialog perfectly sum up how I feel when writing about headphones, because headphones, and IEMs are completely different beasts from each other, and almost not even the same sport when in discussion amongst audiophile circles… I mean, I’m a hi-fi reviewer, I’m a happy hi-fi reviewer: What do I know about headphones?
So it was with a bit of trepidation (but mostly genuine curiosity) that (while I was there interviewing him) I took the opportunity to listen to his, and his partner Dr. John’s, in-ear monitors for the first time and since I’d like to think that I’m slowly becoming familiar with what makes for a great headphone (over-ear in particular), I decided to give one of his flagship universal fit IEMs a spin.
I’m very, very glad I did.
The Katana ($1,850/set) left me deeply impressed with the size of its sound stage, the huge air/space around instruments, and voices, and most noteworthy for me personally, their tone, timbre, and linearity (all this through an Apple iPod Touch!). It’s firmly situated alongside Noble’s other flagship universal-fit IEM, the Kaiser K10. I’ve got three highly-rated, over-ear cans at home currently to go with a big review series I’m working on, and if I had to choose the ‘phones that the Katana reminded me of most I’d have to say it’s the Sennheiser HD-800. The fact that you can get this much impact, detail, and sheer musicality from something so small amazes me, and I love Noble’s tagline for their universal-fit IEMs:
“Generic fit in-ear monitors for immediate gratification with little commitment.”
The Katana features:
- 9 proprietary balanced-armature drivers per side
- Updated Noble universal form factor and geometry featuring creative precision machined aluminum housings
- Sensitive enough for use with smartphones as well as portable amps and DAPs
- Hand-assembled and matched
- Detachable cable with industry standard 2-pin configuration (0.78 mm diameter)
I usually never get a chance to wander around the headphone area or CanJam as it’s known to the headphone peeps (I guess means me, now, too), so I decided to use my time wisely following my chat with Mason to take in all the sights and sounds of the large, covered tent area that was serving as the mother ship for all the headphone companies at Rocky Mountain. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of manufacturers involved in headphone, IEM production, but also the amount of vendors showing ancillary wares such as headphone amps, DACs, DAPs, cables, portable rigs and accessories. If you’ve never had a chance to check out the headphone area at a large audio show, I highly recommend it. These are great people, who have outstanding products that more traditional two-channel audiophiles should be aware of, and taking advantage of having access to demo… because honestly, once you try a killer pair of cans, it’s hard to imagine going back to life without them. But then again, “what do I know about headphones?”
Thanks for highlighting. Noble as UIEMs are a product I’m interested in.
The Katana is outstanding and like the Sennheiser HD 800 – does that mean it sounds thin/a bit bright and lacks bass??
Not thin/bright. Flat. Similar to the Savant, or the UERR, but “more rich”. The HD800 is a bit thin/lacking in bass — but that’s due in large part to the amp. I’ve had a lot of luck “filling out” the HD800 with different amps, but YMMV.
My mini-review (forthcoming) will, essentially, say that the Katana is more “audiophile” (aspires to a “perfect” response curve) while the Kaiser is more musical. FWIW, the Django is even more so — and reminds me quite a bit of the UE18Pro.
Hope that helps.