Twenty-four-karat gold. The world’s rarest wood. Something called “space zebra.”
The materials from which your piddly iPhone earbuds were made these are not.
But they are the tools of Noble Audio, crafters of ridiculously customizable in-ear monitors that hermetically immerse you in a perfect sound cocoon — and they do it using some of the world’s most exotic materials.
The California-based company crafts what they call “bespoke in-ear monitors made-to-order.” Originally targeting audiophiles and performers, the company’s begun to seek out more common music fans with some ingenious new designs, almost unimaginable customization options and those aforementioned exotic materials.
We tested them out.
It was, unsurprisingly, an adventure.
For Noble’s custom pieces, you’ll need to start with a visit to an audiologist. We went to Julie Glick, Doctor of Audiology at Musicians Hearing Solutions in NYC. The process, in and out the door, took about 30 minutes … and involved fascinating conversations about bone conduction, drooling and ear wax.
“To do this, we need to do a mold of your ear canal,” Glick explained. “We have to aim the internal speakers in the right direction. Each ear canal has a unique bend.”
After the ear canal impressions (which go quite deep), they’re sent to the wizards at Noble for design. Or, more precisely, the Wizard, aka Dr. John Moulton, Au.D., CCC-A and co-owner of the company.
For a custom product, Moulton will ask you a multitude of questions: Are you more into bass or balanced sound (aka Beats vs. Bose)? Do you have any hobbies? Favorite sports teams? Favorite colors? All help guide the final design.
They’ll also want to know what materials you want in your custom earpiece. Some possibilities: snakewood (one of the rarest woods in the world), giraffe bone and a “matrix” material repurposed from the aerospace industry. “As long as it’s not metal or a rock, we can use it,” says Noble co-owner Brannan Mason. “That said, we were the first people to make a custom earpiece out of a solid material.”
Once crafted, the monitors are finished with a hypoallergenic FDA-approved lacquer and sent out in a portable, “crush-proof” carrying case. All finalized, the handcrafted product takes about 3-5 weeks for delivery, though rush orders are available if you need something sooner.
For my order, I went for acrylic Noble Audio K10s with an InsideHook logo. From here, I let the Wizard go about finalizing the design.
They did take some getting used to: At first, I had issues getting the monitors into my ears. “We initially weren’t targeting a general consumer, so we didn’t have to include instructions,” Mason admits. “We’ll have to start doing that.”
To the company’s credit, they did send a follow-up how-to photo that helped immensely. And once I shifted the K10s correctly into my ear canals, the outside world disappeared. Completely.
The music from my iPhone wasn’t “loud,” per se, simply warm and 100% immersive.
Which made my subway ride about 1,000% more tolerable.
Nota bene: Noble also offers some universal earpieces if you want good sound delivered quickly. And they’re always experimenting: they now offer a 3D-printed custom line, monitors made from precision-machined aluminum, and a rose-gold plated K10 (limited to 100 items, and, unfortunately, sold out within a day).