Disclaimer: The Noble Audio Khan sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Noble Audio for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Noble Audio products we reviewed on Headfonics click here.
By their standards, Noble Audio has had a fairly quiet 2018. Our last review was the 6-BA Django back at the start of the year and it was not until August 2018 did I get a whiff of what was to come when I ran into John a.k.a ‘The Wizard’ at the Hong Kong AV Show.
Back then it was more “we are working on a new exciting product line-up” rather than any specifics. However, John returned to me with a discussion in more detail last month which led to the big reveal of their new flagship monitor, the Khan, plus a few other things they are working on which we can’t reveal right now.
Khan is not due out to March 2019 and costs a cool $2399 easily making it their biggest product launch in the last few years. It is also perhaps their most complex offering to date. Not by driver count, that race seems dead and gone like the CPU wars of the 90s. Nope, this is a tri-level hybrid monitor as Noble Audio likes to call it.
What is a tri-level hybrid monitor? Well, it is a blend of three different types of drivers. In this case, there are a total of 6 drivers. The first two blends are the ‘familiars’ as I like to call it; a single 10mm dynamic driver and 4 balanced armature drivers.
The third is a piezoelectric driver or in layman’s terms a type of electrostatic driver. I have heard rumblings of this type of driver before and “stats” drivers for IEMs, though not all the same, looks set to be THE hot tech for 2019. I have a few others sitting on my table that arrived just after Khan so this is going to be a very interesting few months.
The Khan comes in the now familiar and slightly bigger packaging that any Noble Audio customer will know instantly. For those that do not, this is a medium-sized monitor black packaged box with a patterned finish and Noble branding on the outside and a foam layered presentation cushion on the inside.
Like any Noble product, you do get a very healthy line-up of accessories that include:
A white ‘Wizard Crown’ sticker
Two black Noble Audio branded stacking rubber bands
One cleaning pick
Small round screw lid carry case (plastic)
Larger Pelicase 1010 style carry case with carabiner lock.
An assortment of tips in foam and silicone
The tip selection has changed a little since the last review we did on the Django. Gone are the dual flange tips and instead we now have two types of foam in black and off-white. Both variations of foam come in small, medium and large. The silicone tips have reduced to a set of super small, small, medium and large single bore black tips. I get a feeling I will be tip rolling with this one.
The cable looks very different to the old plain black Plastics One cable that came on their previous universals. It could well still be the same company with a new image but in any event, it is much more attractive than before with a two-tone black and white PVC jacket and a durable 4-wire SPC tensile braided build.
The cable is terminated with a 2-pin 0.78mm memory wired connector termination and a pretty solid gold plated 3.5mm TRS jack. The y-split barrel is a really nice chrome finished aluminum semi-oval barrel which blends in really nicely with both the driver housings and the two-tone color of the cable itself.
The form factor and build are a departure from the previous metal plate and acrylic body of the existing line-up. It is not quite a “wizard” build but closer to that with a sleeker custom universal contoured SLA housing and a modern M3 composite twist on the traditional Mokume Gane metallurgy process for the faceplate.
Mokume Gane is a Japanese metal-working procedure that results in a mixed-metal laminate with a distinctively layered pattern. In this case, it the M3 composite is a collage or a swirl of black and whites on the Khan and very distinctive looking it is also.
This is not an aggressive custom universal design like the iBasso and Jomo Audio shells but it will feel fairly comfy in the ear. I did notice that the depth is such that they do sit a bit beyond your ear rather than dead flush.
Comfort & Isolation
The nozzle is quite long from top of the plate to the attractive metal nozzle finish so it is a fairly deep insertion. The small bass vent will, however, allow a little bit of leakage but overall they do isolate really well and the comfort is also above average with the foam tips.
Initial Sound Impressions
Our initial testing has been with the stock cable and a mix of the Sony 1Z and Lotoo PAW Gold Touch DAPs using FLAC 16BIT/44.1k tracks.
It is early days but right away I can tell a lot of people are going to love what the Khan delivers. Tonally, this is a very natural accurate timbre with bags of detail. The balance between these drivers seems very good to my ear. Noble have resisted letting the dynamic driver dominate everything but at the same time injected enough body and presence to produce excellent power when called upon.
This is a totally different sound signature to the Django and a step up on the Katana. The Django is fun, musical and bassy and Katana studied and precise. The Khan is refined, detailed but also immense sounding. The dynamic driver has all that texture and detail you come to expect from a good DD but it is not slow at all, quite pacey actually.
Mids and instrumental timbre are more on the neutral side but lightning fast with great instrumental separation and imaging. We tested one of our favorite artists this month, Anette Askvik and her delicate but detailed Diamond Sky from her 2016 Multiverse album. There is a ton of spatial cues in this track and the Khan brought them out in a very clean and precise manner from all directions delivering a very immersive experience.
For those expecting soaring, sparkling clean highs well to a certain extent, yes but bright it is not. I want to emphasize that in a big way because I was worried it might be too odd-harmonic biased and the answer is no. The Khan has a very expressive treble with excellent extension. It is not too forward and actually sounds quite accurate and pleasing to my ear. No sibilance, no grain, and no yucky peaks.
And now we have our first tri-level hybrid universal monitor in the office and the first of many for 2019 I suspect. If the quality on initial impression is this good then it is going to be a very exciting year. Stay tuned for our main review in the coming weeks where I hope I can get some more in-depth analysis on the sound that the Khan delivers with a few different sources, cables and of course some comparisons.
Noble Audio Khan Specifications
3 Types Of Driver Technologies Implemented In Design
4 Balanced Armature
1 10mm Dynamic
1 10mm Piezo Electric
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 (0.78mm Diameter)