In all the comparisons below, I used stock cables and foam tips. Also, I used LPGT as my transparent reference source, and volume matched every pair for consistency. As you can see, the focus was mainly on comparison within 64 Audio “family” of IEMs, though I added a few other IEMs toward the end.
Noir vs 64 Audio Fourte – The soundstage presentation is a little different in this comparison. While Fourte has a wide staging and more out of your head depth, Noir widens it a little more and brings you closer to the stage, with an oval shape soundstage that gives you a little more intimacy. Bass of Noir has more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch. I find both of them to have great bass extension and the bass quality of a typical analog dynamic driver, but the quantity of Noir bass goes up while still remaining well controlled. Another noticeable difference is in lower mids. While Fourte is leaner, Noir adds more body to the lower mids which now have a more linear transition from the bass. As a result, mids sound more natural and fuller. Also, while Fourte mids/vocals feel a bit more distant, with more out of your head presentation, I hear Noir mids/vocals to be a little closer to the listener, with more body and more natural warmth, still with great level of clarity and resolution. Lower and mid treble in Noir have a perception of better controlled peaks, taming down 6k to smooth out the treble, though treble extension and airiness are similar. Overall, Fourte has a more distinct separation of DD bass from BA mids/treble and a brighter, crisper tonality of upper mids/treble. In comparison, Noir tuning has a fuller body with a more organic tonality, deeper bass impact, and the treble with a little less sparkle.
Noir vs 64 Audio U18t – Starting with a soundstage, both have a similar width. U18t staging extends further out of your head, making U18t soundstage more holographic while Noir is more oval with a little more intimacy, especially mids/vocals which are less distant, bringing you closer to the center of the stage. Despite being all BA, U18t has a decent sub-bass extension, but the rumble and the texture doesn’t come close to Noir’s DD driver which just pushes more air to give bass a deeper fuller body rumble and more mid-bass impact. Noir also has a fuller body lower mids in comparison to a leaner U18t. You definitely hear a more analog quality and quantity bass impact in Noir, while in comparison U18t bass is leaner and more attenuated. As a result, U18t mids have a more forward (in quantity) presentation, while Noir is more balanced with bass and treble. U18t mids are a little brighter and more transparent, while Noir has more body and slightly more warmth, giving it a more organic tonality. With treble, I hear Noir to sound a little crisper, but not harsh, with a slightly better definition. The big difference here is definitely in the bass quality and quantity. I’m intimately familiar with U18t and it has been my go-to IEM but now switching to it after Noir makes its bass feel a bit anemic in comparison. And the body of mids and their presentation is another big difference.
Noir vs 64 Audio Trio – In this comparison I find soundstage depth to be very similar, while Noir is wider in staging width. With bass, both have a similar mid-bass impact, but Noir sub-bass rumble goes a little deeper, something you don’t just hear but can also feel. Lower mids are leaner in Trio which gives its bass more separation from upper mids, while Noir has a fuller body lower mids. Trio’s upper mids/vocals are brighter in comparison to a smoother and little warmer mids of Noir. With treble, it’s reversed, where Trio is a little smoother and more controlled, while Noir is brighter and crisper. It’s an interesting comparison because I enjoy Trio as a smoother version of Fourte, especially if you prefer a more natural treble tonality, but Trio is more v-shaped in comparison to W-shaped Noir with deeper bass, more natural fuller body mids, and more resolving treble.
Noir vs 64 Audio U12t – In this comparison I find soundstage depth to be very similar, while Noir is wider in staging width. With U12t being kind of a scaled down version of U18t, I find U12t similarly to have a more balanced closer to neutral bass which has a good quality but lacks in quantity to make a bigger impact. In comparison, Noir hits harder and goes deeper and sounds more analog. It’s very clear when listening to U12t that you are hearing BA bass, while Noir has DD bass with a distinct analog quality. Lower mids are leaner in U12t, while Noir has a fuller warmer body. Upper mids/vocals are more transparent brighter in U12t while Noir is more organic and warmer. Also, Noir has more a little more energy in treble while U12t is smoother and more controlled in comparison. Overall, U12t has a more transparent balanced sound while Noir is more natural and with more analog bass impact and crisper treble extension.
Noir vs 64 Audio N8 – Starting with a soundstage, both have a very similar expanded width, but N8 also has more out of your head depth, which makes its soundstage more holographic. Noir soundstage is more oval shaped, bringing you a little closer to the stage. Bass is nearly the same between these two iems, with a very similar deep sub-bass rumble and strong mid-bass impact. Going into lower mids, while I wouldn’t call N8 being lean, Noir still got a touch more body, giving the sound more warmth. Mids/vocals of Noir have more body, while N8 has more transparency and slightly more clarity. With treble, these flip-flop again. N8 has a higher 6k peak which can show up in some poorly recorded tracks as a bit sibilant, while Noir is smoother in that region. But in mid treble, Noir is better defined, while N8 rolls off with more smoothness and control. I can’t help but to think of Noir as a crossover between Fourte and N8.
Noir vs Empire Ears Legend X – Starting with soundstage, Noir has a little more width while LX extends more out of your head with more depth. With LX being a true basshead IEM, you can expect its quantity to be elevated and higher than Noir. They both have a great sub-bass extension and strong mid-bass punch, but the quantity of LX is shifted up. Both have a natural detailed mids, actually a lot of similarities here, perhaps with Noir having just a touch more body in lower mids. But with treble, Noir w/foam tips is smoother and more natural when it comes to lower treble in comparison to LX which has more sparkle and overall a crisper treble tonality.
Noir vs Campfire Audio Solaris – Both have a very similar soundstage width, while Solaris has more out of your head depth, making soundstage more 3D holographic. With bass, both have a deep sub-bass rumble and healthy mid-bass punch, but Noir has more bass quantity and a little more analog texture. Solaris mids are a little more forward in presentation and leaner in tonality, while Noir mids pulled slightly back in a relative presentation while also having a fuller body with a smoother tonality. Also, with treble Noir sounds more natural and more controlled in comparison to a brighter and more energetic sparkle of Solaris treble. Both have a great bass, but with fuller body lower mids, Noir bass is fuller, a little slower, and more analog.
Noir vs Westone W80 – Either one soundstage expansion is not too far off, but I do hear Noir to have a little more width while W80 has a little more depth, expanding slightly more out of your head. With a bass, both have a similar mid-bass impact, but Noir sub-bass extends deeper and has more rumble. W80 bass is faster, while Noir bass is a little slower and more analog. Both have a fuller body mids, but Noir has more clarity and resolution, while in comparison W80 mids feel a little more congested. Also, both have a very similar well controlled crisp treble, though W80 has a little brighter lower treble. The biggest difference in this comparison is in more sub-bass rumble (Noir) and different presentation of mids where Noir has more clarity and better resolution.
In each pair up example, I was using 3.5mm HO port and a stock cable. Noir was used with its stock cable, foam eartips, and short 3.5mm adapter.
iBasso DX220 w/amp9 – fast punchy bass, smooth full body naturally-resolving mids, smoother treble. Very wide soundstage with more depth (more holographic).
Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT – slightly relaxed smoother bass, fuller body natural tonality mids with a little more transparency, well defined and controlled treble with a little extra sparkle. Very wide soundstage with a little more intimate depth.
Cowon Plenue L – a little faster bass with a deeper sub-bass rumble, fuller body natural detailed mids, well controlled detailed treble (not too bright). Very wide soundstage with a little more intimate depth.
Cayin N6ii – fast punchy bass, smooth full body resolving natural mids, crisp non-fatigue treble. Very wide soundstage with a little more out of your head depth.
Sony WM1Z – tight powerful bass with a deep extended rumble and stronger punch, smoother natural full bodied mids, crisp detailed treble. Wide soundstage with a little more out of your head depth.
A&K SP1000 SS – a little faster bass with a deeper sub-bass rumble, natural detailed mids with fuller body and more transparency, very smooth natural treble. Wide soundstage with a more intimate depth.
Hiby R6 Pro – fast punchy bass, deeper sub-bass rumble, smooth full body resolving natural mids, smooth non-fatigue treble. Wide soundstage with a little more out of your head depth. There is some noticeable hissing, so iEMatch is strongly recommended.
Over the last 3+ years I reviewed nine IEMs from 64 Audio. So, I’m quite familiar with evolution of their product line and find the introduction of retuned Fourte as a new Noir flagship to be a very bold move, considering marketing hype of other companies relying on the latest exotic drivers. Here, Noir feels like a special finetuned edition of Fourte, rather than a replacement of it. Many agree on how much they like Fourte’s bass, but when it comes to mids and treble the opinion could be split if you are sensitive to brighter sound. Noir is tuned specifically for those people, who want more analog bass impact, more organic mids/vocals, smoother perception of treble, and a more coherent tuning.
I wouldn’t consider Noir to be a replacement of Fourte, and I think there will be people who gonna appreciate either one, depending on their sound preference. For me personally, I felt like I rediscovered Fourte all over again because I always used it with silicone eartips which made lower treble harsher to my ears. The eartip selection when using either Fourte or Noir is very critical. Though I’m not a big fan of foam eartips because Comply irritates my ears, the included 64 Audio marshmallow foamies are comfortable and do a great job of taming down the lower treble peaks while keeping the rest of the sound relatively transparent.
It’s probably going to be a tough decision for those who already invested into the original Fourte, trying to figure out if they should upgrade or not. And considering that we hear things differently, for some the changes in mids/treble could be more subtle, though there is no denial that bass hits with more authority now. But if you have listened to Fourte before at various CanJam shows and wasn’t sure if you can handle the revealing nature of upper frequencies, give Noir a listen because you could be pleasantly surprised by the changes!