Noble Audio has recently added some heavy-hitters to its flagship line. The Ronin and Viking Ragnar are two remarkably skilled IEMs, both selling at remarkably high price points. And both, the Ronin and Viking have received great reviews from our MajorHifi team. But when you’re dropping this much cash on an IEM, you better be damn sure you’re getting the right one. Which model is best suited to your ears and musical tastes? And which is the better performer overall?
Look and Feel
Apart from the obviously contrasting aesthetic, the main difference to note here is the fit. The Ronin feels like its protruding further into the ear, and the wider circumference of the stem can sometimes become obtrusive after long listening sessions. The Viking Ragnar, on the other hand, felt more comfortable and less invasive.
The Ronin boasts 12 drivers, while the Viking Ragnar sports a measly 10. The Ronin’s hybrid setup includes 4 Sonion balanced armatures for the bass and sub-bass, 4 Knowles balanced armatures for the mids and high, and 4 Sonion Electrostatic drivers for the high and super-highs. In contrast, the Viking Ragnar employs 2 dynamic drivers for the bass and sub-bass, and 4 balanced armature drivers spread out for the upper-bass, mid-range, and upper mid-range. In additions, it implements 4 electrostatic drivers for the upper-mids, highs, and freaking-highs. The cables vary as well. While the Ronin uses an Eletech 7 core OCC copper and silver matrix cable, the Viking Ragnar has gone with a 4-core graphene/silver. Both cables have a 4.4mm balanced termination. Finally, both IEMs are equally easy to drive at around 35 Ohms.
The Viking Ragnar seems to present a grander, more “live performance” sounding stage. And it offers more height. But while the space on the Ronin may not feel as big, it does deliver more accurate and nuanced imaging, especially because it has a lot more depth. And also perhaps because it is a richer, more colored sound, the Ronin showed off a more interesting and multidimensional soundscape than the Viking Ragnar overall.
The Ronin presents a heavier and darker bass. And although both IEMs have significant sub-bass presence, the Ronin hits harder and with more substance. Both, the Ronin and Viking are equally fast, well-detailed and textured in this range. They do equal justice to classical instruments, but offer two different profiles. While the Ronin presents warm and majestic cellos, for instance, the Viking delivers a lighter and sometimes more natural timbre to string instruments.
You’re hear a similar balance in the mids, with the upper midrange showing a touch more presence on both models. However, at times, male vocals protrude more powerfully on the Ronin. But this is partly due to the fact that the Ronin presents a more solid, thicker tone overall. In contrast, the Viking Ragnar is lighter, giving female vocals and other instruments in the upper mids more air. Perhaps because of the Ronin’s more fleshy sound, the Viking Ragnar reveals less separation in singular instruments, especially in the low mids. And instruments like acoustic guitars have more sparkle on the Viking Ragnar as well, giving it a more crystalized feel in general.
Listening to violins and vocals in this range, the Ronin conveyed a rich a velvety tone, while the Viking presented an airier and less colored sound. The Viking’s more delicate profile also made the subtleties in timbre and resolve more apparent. Though both models have great extension in this range, it’s unsurprising that the Viking Ragnar gave off more sparkle, while the Ronin delivered a rounder profile.
The Ronin and Viking Ragnar are equally skilled IEMs, with tons of speed, incredible transparency and impressive soundstages. So, at the end of the day, the choice may come down to taste. If you like a meaty low-end, and a rich, solid quality overall, you’ll probably prefer the Ronin. And with respect to imaging, it is a more entertaining listen. However, if you appreciate a lighter, more natural profile with luminous and airy highs, you will most likely gravitate towards the Viking Ragnar.