By Gabby Bloch
I’ll be honest with you, boys. I’d never heard of Noble Audio before this snazzy IEM landed on my desk. Turns out I’m the most poorly-informed audiophile who ever lived. Because I have a life. But all you have to do it look at the price tag to realize that these guys aren’t frequen’ around. So, I decided to start with one of their two priciest models to get a sense of what Noble Audio is capable of. Let’s find out how these little ladies perform in this Noble Audio Katana In-Ear Headphones Review.
IN the BOX
10 various sizes/types of silicone tips
2 sizes of foam tips
Pelican 1010 Micro Case
Screw top jar for your earbuds, hair gel or weed
Black velvet carrying pouch
2 rubber bands for your DAC or wrist
Silver card to write your name and serial number
The Katana are light and super easy to pop in your ear. The over-ear memory wire is less cumbersome and more elastic than other brands, which makes it faster to put on the buds. Sound isolation is great. Now, I’m about to say this after wearing them for for more than five hours straight: they began to hurt the upper contours of my ears a bit. But for those of you with jobs and families, you probably won’t run into that problem. (My ears might be smallish too. But as Gaga, says, God makes no mistakes.)
We’ve got 9 balanced armature drivers, aluminum housing, and 2 pin connectors. These IEM’s are sensitive enough to be driven by your phone. But I decided to use my little DAC to do it full justice. I’m always amazed by how some companies can fit 9 drivers in such a small shell. Noble pulls it off nicely. I’d talk about specs, but Noble Audio has kept it off their site, probably because many people judge headphones based on this info, which can be misleading. So, I applaud their bravery.
Clean, precise and balanced with unparalleled separation.
Yes. The lows are very evenly balanced in the mix. Even sticklers will say it’s perfectly accurate. It’s also extremely clean and well separated. These buds are damn fast too. However, unlike some other well-balanced IEM models out there, the lows don’t lend themselves well to every genre; despite the Katana’s impressive speed, the bass wasn’t forward enough to make Bruno Mars’ tracks, for example, snap to their full potential. Not a bad thing, just not ideally suited for pop. But few millennials will able to afford these anyway.
Listening to the present mids, the level of clean, crisp precision is unquestionably superb. And it’s also decently balanced in this range. But hearing big rock choruses, I was missing the lower mids just a bit. The upper mids were not so favored that I felt any harshness, but the fullness was a tad lacking. Maybe I’m just a sucker for that warmth, and that’s why I was left feeling less than fully satiated. But, let’s move on to folk music. The tidy separation and neutrality of the Katana works beautifully for acoustic guitars, and it becomes clear that this is the perfect headphone for mixing or critical listening. But does it have enough expression to make the music as emotive as it could possibly be for this price? Hmm. But I’ll say it again. If you’re a sound professional, a fan of zen, or just a Cinderfella who spends hours cleaning every speck of dust in your house, you’re going to love the orderly perfectionism of this sound.
The high notes are just as clearly chiseled. And I have to say, it was a pleasure listening to jazz with complicated arrangements because of that perfectly delineated sound. The highest registers weren’t piercing either. Screeching soprano trumpet notes, for example, sounded transparent while being relatively easy to listen to. Moving onto classical music, I found the same level of satisfaction. High string notes were smooth while retaining clarity and accuracy. But again, it was so neutral, that the expressive articulations you’d get from something slightly more colored or interprative was lacking. So, Rachmaninoff didn’t bring me to tears this time. But ask me again in the middle of the month.
The accuracy and depth was definitely impressive. There wasn’t enough height to feel like I was floating in a constellation of sound, but I’ve only experienced that level of soundstage in the priciest IEM’s.
These buds won’t lie to you. Well balanced and extremely clean, their precision and even-handedness will blow some away while boring others. I guess I’m comparing the Katana to the some of the undeniably brilliant 64 Audio models out there. And for those of you who crave that sound profile but don’t want to pay the astronomical price, the Katana is the perfect solution. If you’re a musician or mixer looking for earphones you can trust, look no further. If you’re a purist, you’ll probably love these too.