Noble is really late to the EST hype train, but better late than never I guess. Though in my case, I’d rather never given my hatred for the Sonion ESTs… but I digress.
The Sultan: Noble’s $2,900 hat into the tribrid ring. A good $500 more than their previous flagship (the Khan), Noble edges ever-closer to the dreaded 3K mark but stops short… for now. I haven’t heard much buzz around the Sultan and I’ve gotten a grand total of one request to review it, which is a surprise considering that this is a flagship from what is (or was) one of the biggest boutique IEM companies out there.
4 months after its announcement, I finally got my ears on a pair. Is the Sultan worthy to wear the crown of Noble’s lineup?
Product page: https://www.nobleaudio.com/universalfit/sultan
Driver configuration: 2EST + 4BA + 1DD hybrid
Oh man, it’s been a while since I did this kind of (justifiably) scathing articles. I’m honestly a bit out of practice so bear with me.
Ahem. So… $2,900. Not even going to give Noble the satisfaction of that pricing strategy and just going to call it a 3-grand IEM from here on out. Keep that price in mind, swirl around in your head, just let that sink in as I say the words that will make every Noble fanboy seethe in absolute rage:
The Sultan is average.
No, not “average for $3,000” because that implies that it performs on the level of other established kilobucks but just doesn’t do anything that differentiates itself from the cream of the crop. No no, there’s no cream here; the Sultan is average relative to the entire IEM market. That’s right, the Sultan plays with $30 IEMs, not $3,000.
As per usual when reviewing these kinds of “average” products, that’s not to say the Sultan is a horrible sounding IEM, but simply that it’s neither bad nor good. Right down the middle, a beeline straight into the pit of mediocrity. An unmemorable IEM in nearly every sense of the word, from its tuning, its technical capabilities, its driver configuration, all the way to even its pricing. These days I’m not even batting an eyelid at $4K IEMs anymore, much less one at sub-3.
First, let’s look at its tuning. Yep, it’s a pretty standard V-shaped response, though even the descriptor “standard” would be putting it nicely considering that the supposed “emphasised treble” peaks briefly and then dies for majority of the air frequencies. Yes, despite the fact that Noble have been one of the last few companies to finally come out with an EST hybrid IEM, they still tune it the “old school” way; that is, basically no upper treble response with zero upward extension.
If you’re thinking that maybe the Sultan might be carried by its bass or midrange, think again. Again, it’s a very standard “V” that doesn’t sound wrong but nowhere near natural either. Just kind of middling where I have zero desire to keep listening to the Sultan since it just keeps giving me that “Yup, it’s an earphone” vibe. The kind of tuning that evokes complete indifference, you know?
Moving onto the technical aspects of sound reproduction doesn’t do the Sultan any favours either. Let’s just take a detour and look at Noble’s previous flagship: for all the tonal quirks and oddities that it had, the Khan was at the very least technically capable. It was at the very least excelling at… something. Or at the very least, capable enough to justify some level of its still-insane $2,400 price tag.
The Sultan has no such “at-the-very-least” redeeming qualities. Notes are blunted and have extremely limited definition, resolution is middle-of-the-road with no real detailing beyond the surface-level, bass texture is good but nothing I’d clamour for (especially considering that sub-$50 chifi dynamics have about the same level of bass performance), and of course the imaging is just… you know the word I’m going to use here.
The Sultan. An average IEM for a not-so-average price. Get an Elysium or something.
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