At any North American show I’ve been to, Brannon Mason, who serves as essentially the Chief Marketing Officer of Noble Audio, is a fixture on the scene. Brannon has been involved since the beginning but his business partner, affectionately known as The Wizard, is often nowhere to be found. So color me surprised to hear Brannon say, “Hey, The Wizard is here.” Scot had asked me to cover CanJam so I dutifully went over to the newly modernized ballroom to find The Wizard, aka John Moulton, sitting behind the Noble table with his lovely wife and two daughters. As a strategy consultant I was eager to learn more about how Noble got started and what are some of their key ingredients to the great sound quality I have been experiencing with a pair of Katanas.
Noble really began many years ago when John ran into Brannon at a restaurant in Thailand. Brannon got started in sound as a DJ at school events. As John tells it, this restaurant was a bit of a Cheers-like place. From there, a predecessor audio company was started which ultimately led to Noble being launched around 2013 with Brannon serving as a North American sales rep and also helping to source product. As the company grew, John remained in Thailand to grow the Asia-Pacific market and Brannon built up North America as the current headphone market exploded in size.
The great benefit of all this is that Noble is very much a global company with 24/7 support that varies between John and Brannon’s team depending on what time of day you call in. I like this as I believe innovation can occur from ideas that emerge from every market and it probably provides more stability to be in more places as well. Helping out the team are some very experienced beta testers including the former owner of a major audio manufacturing firm.
But none of this interesting history would matter if the products did not sound good. And I gotta tell you, they are spectacular. Right now, Noble has two flagships, the Katanas and the latest version of the Kaisers. The Kaisers to my ears have a little more bass but not exaggeratedly so. The Katanas, however, are a reference class IEM for me. Very neutral and open sounding. They perform well with everything from Sinatra to Yello.
I asked John what made their products sound so good…what was different? John mentioned three things: the tuning of their balanced armature drivers, cable quality, and the fine CNC machining of the casework to provide an inert structure. Let’s start with the last item: the quality of the outer case on a pair of Nobles is like a Rolex. Solid and beautiful. On the Katanas, half the case is gold and half is black. The “fluted” seam where they merge is flawlessly smooth between the two colors. Real Swiss watch precision based on my experience. The Wizard is very unassuming about this. He simply says they found a world-class CNC operation. The cable? They spent five years refining the ribbon “tinsel” they use for the wire. It’s a silver plated copper wrapped in aramid, a derived product of Kevlar capable of 150 pounds of pull strength.
But what’s the big news? The Kaiser Encore, the latest version of the flagship Kaiser which notably offers a better midrange and these features:
- 10 proprietary balanced armature drivers manufactured by Knowles© 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 had a listen and they sounded superb. But I should probably mention one more theme of Noble: they make some of the most gorgeous custom designs I have seen. Just check out the “LookBook” section of nobleaudio.com if you don’t believe me. John shared with me a photo (below) of the manufacturing process on one piece.
CanJam was even more full of energy this year than usual but Noble Audio was a personal highlight for me. It was truly wonderful to meet The Wizard and his beautiful family.