Tonally the Savanna has transitioned from the cooler, flat, and analytical-sounding 4C into a more natural-sounding but no less detail-orientated reference signature.
You won’t find the Savanna as thin sounding in comparison to the 4c, though on its own, it is not a thick-sounding IEM. I can’t classify the tonal presentation as overtly musical, it is still a tool for referencing in many respects.
However, that’s a good thing because it’s not just a touch easier going, but perhaps even a smidgen more forgiving without giving up any of its fabled transparency. Now I can listen to more for a lot longer. The boring is definitely out with the Savanna.
A couple of areas have been tweaked by Noble to get what I would say is a slightly smoother reference sound than before.
The first is a slightly richer and more planted low end. They have not gone overly colored to produce something overtly musical but rather just a tiny bit of elevation to give it some additional weight in its fundamentals and provides additional depth over the 4c.
The Savanna’s weightier low end also adds a touch more to the soundstage, offering more depth which benefits its imaging capability over the 4C.
The second key change is a smoother and much more linear treble response. It is still clean, revealing, and articulate with excellent detail, but unlike the 4C which was a touch more strident and perhaps a little peaky around 6k with some source materials, the Savanna is much more balanced sounding.
It is not as dry sounding either as the 4C. The vocals are still excellent by the way, perhaps even better than the 4C’s cooler take on vocal performance.
The freshly tweaked bass elevation on the Savanna is less sub and more mid-bass from around 80 to 250Hz with a gentle upwards and down and maybe a 2-3dB increase overall in that area.
It is subtler and less brash, so it stays relatively quick-paced and coherent but definitely more solid sounding than the old 4C. Sub-bass performance is better than the 4C but still has an element of roll-off once you go really low.
The PR material has the Savanna as something to use with acoustics so clearly, bass fundamentals and lower octave bass strings are being given a slight but welcome boost. Nothing worse than a cello or double bass coming in with no weight or depth in an acoustical recording.
That additional elevation does give the bass performance some additional texture that makes it a better pairing with rock and EDM than the 4C could muster, it is still not the IEM you are looking for with low-end oomph.
It is accurate, tight, and pacey which is just perfect for complex strings-based work for picking out a double bass G2 plucks down to around an A1. An E1 or even a C1 pluck might be a bit more in the background given they hit below 50Hz but it should be audible.
Mids on the Savanna, much like the 4C are its strong point. Noble has not tweaked the mids too much from the original formula but in keeping with the tweaks, it does have an ever so slightly smoother and more natural-sounding tone whilst still staying very neutral and balanced sounding.
Everything still sounds very clean, detailed, and accurate with very good instrumental separation but the timbre this time just sounds a touch more realistic. Acoustical performances are spot on in that respect with string plucks clear and precise without it ever sounding digital or sterile.
Vocals, as before, are ever so slightly elevated and to the fore but sound a touch more inviting and organic sounding than the cooler 4C vocal performance. It is subtle but when you have been listening to the 4C for the best part of a year or more you tend to notice it.
There is less of an edge on female vocals, particularly those that register higher in the presence region with a slightly softer attack overall.
This is the big change and it is a clever tuning tweak from Noble. Gone is the little presence/lower treble peak that could cause a bit of fatigue and sharpness on some tracks and in comes to a slightly flatter and more linear response curve that retains all the detail but this time drops back the energy ever so slightly.
Decay on the treble also seems to have eased up ever so slightly compared to the 4C treble performance. It is still a relatively quick decay in its own right but that slight softening at the front and longer trail combined with the slightly more controlled curve makes everything on the Savanna top end just sound more coherent and a lot smoother than the 4C.
Percussion work benefits tremendously from this easing off, sounding less splashy, less peaking, and more natural in its presentation. The curve still ascends to around 10k before rolling off so there is plenty of sparkle and air in Savanna’s brilliance region with excellent headroom.
Whilst Noble has opted not to reveal the resistance and sensitivity rating of the Savanna they have though made a point in their specs of highlighting their ability to be driven to satisfactory levels by most portable gear including smartphones.
Testing over a wide range of DAPs and a smartphone the claim is a fairly valid one with few DAPs or even the smartphone (ZTE Axon 7) having any issues in achieving good volume as well as sounding well-driven.
|Savanna (lowest)||Savanna (highest)||4 Classic (lowest)||4 Classic (highest)|
In comparison to the older <30 ohm Noble 4C, I would say Savanna’s sensitivity rating has jumped up a touch though perhaps the ohm rating is within striking distance if not the same as the old unit.
Across 5 different DAPs, noise levels were well within acceptable limits to the point of being non-existent and none required a high gain mode to properly drive the Savannas. Consistently the Savanna came in around 5-10% lower volume than the 4C in low-gain in DAPs from mid-range to high end.
Certainly, almost all DAPs took full advantage of that slightly more powerful lower end of the Savanna making it a more enjoyable listening experience. Dynamics also was a touch more palatable on the Savanna than the 4C comparatively speaking on said same DAPs with perhaps the FiiO X7/AM3 being the politest of the 5 tested.
For detail and precision, the AK240 pairing came out tops, and whilst I enjoyed the more bombastic full-blooded musicality of the Cayin I5 pairing for EDM and rock the top end didn’t feel as smooth and controlled as the AK240 performance.
The AK240, on the other hand, produced a slightly more linear low end than the Cayin i5/Savanna pairing but somehow felt the right choice when it came to acoustical clarity and midrange accuracy.
The X7/AM3 and the Opus#1 came somewhere in between the AK240 and Cayin i5 in terms of tonal pairing. Both have a slightly more controlled and smoother response than the more musical i5 which seems to pair better with Savanna’s natural yet neutral response.
They both lack the sheer musicality that the i5 can throw out but it’s just one of those rare occasions that the i5’s approach didn’t seem to pair as well with the Savanna which tends to excel more with detail-driven DAPs.
Sony offered the biggest staging of the 5 DAPs when paired with the Savanna with an excellent dark to a neutral signature, However, the pairing also had slightly less of a focus on vocal performance and was slightly less intimate sounding overall.
Much like the i5 bass performance was excellent though the Sony ZX2 did rather better with detail and sounded the most refined of the two with the Savanna.
The Savanna will be replacing the 4C in my reviewer’s toolkit, be in no doubt of that. The little peakiness I found with the 4C over time has largely disappeared and the slightly weightier low end gives a bit of depth and space that perhaps the 4C could do with from time to time.
Though still very accurate and neutral it is now more natural sounding than ever and still with an eye for detail and accuracy that the 4C was very good at.
If anything, the Savanna has become the interesting reference point, more exciting and more engaging to listen to, and not just for acoustics even though it clearly excels with its impressive midrange.
Now the fundamentals have a bit more heft, lower stringed instruments carry a bit more authority and genres that didn’t take my fancy before with the 4C such as EDM are more than passable on the Savanna with the right pairing.
For me, there are very few IEMs, perhaps outside of the Etymotic range, that do this kind of reference signature at this price point so well. There is a lot of similar price point IEMs out there but they are going for musicality, hybrid-driven bass signatures, or consumer-type sound.
However, I think the Savanna offers something far more accurate and transparent for the money.
Noble Audio Savanna Technical Specifications
- 4 balanced armature drivers per side
- Updated Noble universal form factor and geometry featuring precision-machined aluminum faceplates
- Sensitive enough for use with smartphones as well as portable amps and DAPs
- Hand-assembled and matched
- Detachable cable with industry-standard two-pin configuration (0.78 mm diameter)