Country of Origin


Nobilis Sonum 98

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Gaia; Avatar CDP; Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature; Power amps: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room so no wall behind the listening chairs
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport; DAC/pre: Denafrips Terminator; Preamplifier: icOn 4Pro Model 3 SE;
Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan];  Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Phones: Final D8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R or Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One
2-channel video system: 
Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: LinnenberG Liszt; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €19'888/pr

Noblesse oblige. What do the Noble & Noble Nobilis Sonum 98, Heavenly Soundworks Five17, Lyravox Karlotta, SWSpeakers Swöxx and Meadowlark Audio Kite have in common? Dutch nCore DSP and multi-channel class D. Hello actives with all the familiar benefits of direct drive and digital filters this breed exploits. Noblesse oblige.

Of course sticking a few drivers into a 98x18x20cm 22.8kg rear-ported box with OEM electronics isn't yet the height of sophistication. That's true even if the designer must still program the off-the-shelf DSP to the desired target response relative to the chosen drivers' native behavior.

So Noble & Noble add a number of mechanical tricks to their box. Those aren't apparent to the eye. Take a look at the next graphics. There's what looks like but isn't an isobaric¹ mid/woofer behind the first. These two drivers couple to each other via damped metal pipe with rubber ends. The cabinet behind the inner driver is open in the back for mechanical decompression and no time-delayed reflections from inside the box back out through the cones.

If the drivers wired in phase, we'd get dipole dispersion to expect some useful out-of-phase nulls on either side of the box. But the rod coupling would cause mechanical reinforcement not cancellation. The latter relies on equal but opposing forces to null. So our drivers must wire in opposite phase for bipole radiation and mechanical resonance attenuation aka force cancellation. More on that later.

Also clear is that a deep wave guide—hello Amphion and Buchardt—controls directivity to better match radiation between tweeter and mid/woofer. The acoustic impedance of our room's air which the tweeter sees now equals that of the bigger driver due to the outer diameter of the wave guide. What it means for our ears is that the dispersion pattern of where the mid/woofer ends and the tweeter takes over is far more similar so the transition more continuous.

¹ Championed by Linn, Neat and Wilson Benesch, isobaric drive doubles output which amounts to halving enclosure size for a given SPL. "The isobaric speaker was first introduced by Harry F. Olson in the early 1950s. It refers to systems in which two or more identical woofers operate simultaneously within a common body of enclosed air adjoining one side of each diaphragm. In practical applications they're most often used to improve low-end response without increasing cabinet size." The isobaric principle doesn't apply to the 98 but makes a useful example for looking like one thing whilst being another.

The thick green areas in the right drawing show the inset outer baffle. A thick bolt on the rear's top secures the outer baffle's seating against the inner baffle.

The wave-guided Satori tweeter loaded into a triangular rear chamber with absorptive fill decouples from the main enclosure by mounting on an isolation ring with a rubber seal. That's bolted to a separate baffle which fronts the actual enclosure behind it. Noble & Noble refer to this as their 7th moon or seventh speaker side [here is an actual 7-sided speaker]. These mechanical addresses promise a truly quiet enclosure.

The Neoprene-type dampers right next to the mid/woofer show how the outer baffle decouples from the inner baffle.

DSP filtered premium drivers from SB Acoustics transform that silence into high resolution. Active drive minimizes dynamic compression and locks in ideal impedance/power interfaces between chosen transducers and their direct-coupled electronics.