In-Ear Fidelity

[Cliffnotes] Noble Sultan: Aggressively Average


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:

MSRP: $2,900

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.

Overall Grade: C+

Tone Grade: C, Technical grade: C+

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM Ranking List.

Support me on Patreon to get access to tentative ranks, the exclusive “Clubhouse” Discord server and/or access to the Premium Graph Comparison Tool! With current efforts to measure more headphones, those in the exclusive Patreon Discord server get to see those measurements first before anybody else.

My usual thanks to all my current supporters and shoutouts to my big money boys:

Man Ho

8 thoughts on “[Cliffnotes] Noble Sultan: Aggressively Average”

  1. I like when you find something genuinely good and with a justified price. I think the community as a whole has something to gain. But sometimes I miss you reviewing this kind of mediocrity/joke hahaha

    – The Dick

  2. I had a 30min listening session with the Sultan with its stock cable. Since Noble announced that it could be driven by any source (smartphones, portable DAPs,…) I plugged it into my Onkyo DPX1A. The initial impression was I was barely impressed. too thick and muddy and no air whatsoever. As a Noble fanboy, I was really disappointed.

  3. Noble’s stock has fallen from its heyday as one of the pioneers of the TOTL IEM market.

    I didn’t like the Sultan myself when I tried it. It was thick sounding, had too much bass and lacked proper resolution.

    The K10 was good, the Encore was great, the Katana, pretty good, the Khan, meh, and the Sultan, ugh. Looks like John is struggling to capture the magic of the original Kaiser earphones from 4+ years ago.

    Back to the drawing board!

  4. Finding it superficial to talk about prices in this crazy audiophile world (especially in the ear world) I find Sultan excellent in ear perfectly comparable to the totl of the moment. Best bass heard to date and excellent with all musical genres. I absolutely recommend listening to fully enjoy music on all genres.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Graph Database Updates

Graph Database Update (22/09/20)

Tentative ranks are available for my patrons. “Cliffnotes” titles are also available, so if you’re someone who can’t wait just drop

Read More »