Review: Noble Audio Kaiser Encore – K10’s successor

Sound

From the first day onward the Kaiser 10 has been my favorite in ear. Since it has made its way to me it has been the most used audio product of all in my collection. It instantly replaced my Andromeda and has been sitting in the throne even when Vega came around. It only got some shortage on ear time when Sage arrived, but when I received the UPS package from Noble containing the 10’s successor it had to move aside. After a short listen it was clear that it has gotten a very serious contender for the spot in the sunlight.

The first thing that sprung right at me was the three dimensional stretching and big sound stage. It reaches way out of your head on all axis. Y and Z axis are similarly big in terms of depth and width, height is a little smaller but still reaches out of your head. The second thing that caught my attention was the slightly softer bass. It still had the typical Noble control over it, so low end notes only show their thunderous face when they are called and always stay in their territory, never blurring into midrange. Bass is tight and heavenly textured with great layering, punch and impact.

Midrange is full bodied, lush and soft. The Encores are amazingly coherent and they, like all Noble products I have tried so far, have perfect transition of frequencies. Just like Sage, the Kaiser offers superior imaging with precisest instrumental separation. Each and every instrument is accurately placed in the formed room and is easy to pinpoint on position. This one thing is stellar in particular about imaging: no matter at what coordinates the tone is playing Encore will play it 100% correct and precise. The Encore features an unrivaled organic and natural presentation with live concert character, cymbals have amazingly real decay and sound in no way artificial. The level of cleanness is outstanding and reminded me of a sound system used at a special festival in Germany. The system I am speaking of is called Funktion One and is known for its incredible clarity which can be heard for miles. Encore’s sound has made me go back to that very week. Voices have great body and a holographic feel to them.

Treble is focused, bright and soft. There is absolutely no sibilance to be detected. Every harsh note is silk covered and tamed. There is one track that is unlistenable on almost every speaker, headphone or in ear I own, that is Aphex Twin’s Ventolin. It starts out with a high pitched tone that makes its way through the entire song. It is piercing, sharp and uncomfortable. Yet the Encore takes it down and puts it in a place within the entire track to complete it in a weirdly satisfying way. I even replayed the track on purpose several times because the song finally made sense to me. Thank you Encore! The detail retrieval is outstanding and goes very well together with the class leading imaging and separation. Encore’s sound is balanced, fast, refined and dynamic with a fine musical touch for a fun signature. I am amazed by the incredible clarity the Encore keeps. The softer treble guarantees for an hour-long unfatigued listen.

The Chateau Flight remix of Peace Orchestra’s “Who am I” is a very engaging track with a big sound stage. Notes fly through the room back and forth expanding deep. The Encore rebuilds the track in great manner and stays clean throughout. Every single note, every clap and base drum hit is precisely set. The instruments are very well positioned and separated from each other with care and the correct amount of air between them.

Massive Attack’s signature track “Teardrop” is one of the most beautiful I know. The vocals are almost holographic, the piano has great weight and body to it. Bass is insanely controlled, dynamic and punchy giving the track the certain it-factor it is famous for.

“Family” by Björk is a very thrilling piece. Bass hits hard and goes deep. The entire reproduction is clean as a mountain river. This particular song has given me goosebumps with the Encore. I could almost feel the bass in my neck. The sound stage excels far, deep and wide forming a huge room for the instruments to walk around in. Björk’s wonderful voice is soft, full bodied and sometimes overwhelming – ready to take you over.
Faster tracks like
Aphex Twin’s “Syro u473t8+e (Piezoluminescence Mix)” don’t even get the Encore to sweat, it effortlessly stays in control of the entire spectrum and recreates every note with ultimate precision, putting them on their assigned places in the room. It tickles out all included details and sports the dynamics James has assigned this track. It is amazing how involving this monitor can get.

Encore catches Frank Zappa’s voice on “Muffin Man” with the smokey tone and full body Zappa is known for. Again instruments are 100% accurately positioned in the stage. Everything is laser cut separated from each other. Each note sounds realistic and organic. A very engaging number. Drums have the right hit to them, cymbals crash and have a lifelike decay.

Ludvig van Beethoven’s ninth symphony is a masterwork. The strings in Molto Vivace are powerful and soft at the same time. Each instrument is set apart by the Encore with great care. Every song has the correct amount of blood, body and emotion. The stage for the orchestra is big and every instruments finds its place in it. Imaging the musicians in front of you could not be easier. The Encore finds every detail and I could even hear someone turning a page in a more quieter passage. I have been lucky enough to see members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform live. I have never heard anything as thrilling as that before. The Encore is the closest I have come to that very experience since, I can picture myself in the room again watching the string quartet perform.

These are just small excerpts from the many artists and albums I have listened to since the Encore has landed on my doorstep. I have not encountered a single genre the Encore would not be suited for. Everything from Industrial to Jazz, EDM, Rock, Classical or Acoustic sounds right. I bet it handles other genres with the same ease aswell.

When I first took Encore with me grocery shopping it kept asking for my attention, I was walking through the aisles and thought about what I needed to get, only to catch myself two meters later asking myself what it was I was getting. That happened about four times in a row. In the end I think I forgot two of the five or six items I was supposed to get. Oops.

The review continues on page four with Source matching, Amplification and Aftermarket cabling

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    31 Comments

    • Reply April 25, 2017

      Yaroslav

      Great review, thanks!

      I wonder what is the most reasonably priced IEM by Wizard that still reminds you of the sound signature and the sound quality of this piece since $2K is still a ton.

      Like, an LCD-2 to LCD-4 or LCD-3. Is that Django? Maybe an IEM from another vendor?

      • Reply April 25, 2017

        Linus

        I only have two other Noble’s, K10 and Sage. Sage is like a mini Kaiser, well balanced, insane imaging and separation. It does not have the bass of the K’s though, but responds very well to EQ’ing. So that might solve that.

        Only listened to LCD-2 and LCD-X myself, no experience with 3 or 4. Sorry.
        I highly recommend giving Sage a listen, it’s outstanding

        • Reply April 25, 2017

          Yaroslav

          I have the X as well! Can you recommend other IEMs just based on the same signature or, you know, “feeling”, especially with the lows.

          In general, do you think BA bass is comparable to planars these days?

          • Reply June 10, 2017

            rob

            Not even close. Drivers give a different presentation of bass altogether. The bass in my Lyra easily outpaces the bass in my Encore; BA just doesn’t rumble like a Driver does. Having listened to the LCD-2, owning ZMF, Meze 99 Classic, and the Noble Kaiser Encore, the bass presentations are very different. The LCDs, in particular, have a very warm sound signature that you won’t find in BA. Try looking for some hybrid BA/Driver combos like Oriolus- I think you will be happier there.

        • Reply March 27, 2019

          Per

          Hi,

          I’m considering DAP player to go with my K10s. Ak SR15 or the SE100. As of now I lean towards the SR15 just because of its small size. Whats your opinion on that?

          • Reply March 28, 2019

            Linus

            Hi Per,
            thanks for your comment.
            The SR15 is very nice, especially for the portability. Sound-wise it might get a little thick with the K10, here the pairing might be better with the SE100, though this one is a lot bigger and has some really sharp edges which you might want to cover with a case. Unfortunately there isn’t one included in the package of the SE100.
            Hope that helps.

    • Reply April 25, 2017

      Berkhan

      Amazing work Linus! Thanks for the review.

      In my opinion the only small dent about K10 was staging. Seems like they solved the only weakness of it with the Encore. Nice work from John right there.

      • Reply April 25, 2017

        Linus

        Thank you so much Berkhan! Highly appreciated.

        Team Noble certainly has solved that. If you get the chance give the Encore a try. It is incredible.

    • Reply April 26, 2017

      Max

      Hey Linus, great review!

      Was wondering what’s your take between the Encore and the Lime Ears Aether. Am really wondering if I should get the Encore on top of my Aethers haha.

      • Reply April 26, 2017

        Linus

        Hi Max,
        thanks for your comment.
        I honestly have no experience with the Aether so I can’t help, sorry.

      • Reply April 26, 2017

        bsasproaudio

        I have some experience with Aethers and if I was on your position I would try that no doubt in my mind! Give it a go!

        • Reply April 26, 2017

          Linus

          sure would love to, but they’re hard to demo where I’m at…

    • Reply April 29, 2017

      Citizen Zombie

      You may ask your colleague Lieven for a loan of his ProPhile 8. They announced a CIEM version for 2k€ at the ProLight/Musikmesse in Frankfurt, making it a direct contender for the Kaiser Encore.
      While I think about buying a top end CIEM for mastering purposes it is difficult to shell out such an amount of money without listening to it before. Noble has no dealers in Germany and I never have seen this company at a fair in Europe.

      • Reply April 29, 2017

        Linus

        Noble is only active at CanJam London. As you say, they have no dealer/distributor in Germany.
        When I get some eartime with the ProPhile I’ll let you know how they compare to the Encore. But from what I’ve heard PP8 is (at least with both switches down) fairly neutral.

        • Reply April 30, 2017

          Citizen Zombie

          Sadly I can’t attend CanJam London 2017, 15/16th of July is already planned.

          The ProPhile is a neutral sounding headphone and I need this by design. Every desktop headphone I use regularly in the studio or on location (Beyerdynamic DT 1990, Sennheiser HD 600, HD 800, Stax SR-007) is measured and equalised, but I never found an equaliser for mobile use capable enough to meet my expectations. Not for smartphone, not in a mobile player. So I use fairly neutral (C)IEMs like Hearsafe HS 15-2, Sennheiser IE8, Stax SR-001 knowing their shortcomings. But an improvement would be welcome. Changing a microphone position and immediately listening to the effect is a major time saver.

    • Reply May 1, 2017

      rob

      I was able to demo these at Can Jam NYC and found myself drifting away, and having to pull myself back to reality. I bought a pair on the spot, and they are almost here! I can’t wait to pair these with my Sony WM1A and grab a 4.4 balanced cable from PlusSound. The Sony balanced adds depth to the bass without losing anything in return, which is what disappointed me with my AK240. The combo of WM1A and Encore should be magic.

    • Reply May 7, 2017

      Audio Fan.

      Oooooh, more juicy freebies for “impartial” reviews…
      How can we trust anything that you say, when you’re so subjective and so biased? Hmmmmm?

    • Reply May 7, 2017

      Linus

      Hi Audio Fan,
      I see where you’re coming from, but I can assure you that I write my reviews as objective as I can.
      I have also reviewed Noble’s Sage, which I bought second hand, and it also wowed me, I also place it above other IEMs I got sent by manufacturers. The Encore deserved every bit of the review as it is a stellar IEM in my opinion, and thus it is currently ranked at the very top spot of all in my collection.

      Wouldn’t it be better for me to rank the models which I bought higher than the one’s I got for review, to justify the costs? (especially the flagship ones)

      I hope you can see where I’m going with this.

    • Reply September 21, 2017

      Kayoed Owner

      I have the K10’s, the sound quality is fabulous however the build quality is poor. 18 mths into ownership and they already need to be rebuilt. Unfortunately Noble did not return my ear impression so I’ve had the inconvenience and cost of having new moulds made, in addition even though the repair us due to their poor quality control, I am being made to foot the cost of shipping to and from Noble (not inconsequential from the UK). My advise is look around for a company who understand customer service at this premium end of the market. There are plenty of alternatives….

      • Reply September 21, 2017

        Linus

        Wow, that is unfortunate. But I also recently had to refit a ciem of mine and for that you need to have new impressions done and ship them to the manufacturer. I think it is not needed when they 3D print your ciem… then they have your impressions scanned and stored as a file, like 64 Audio does, they however also only use scans they have stored for less than 18 months, because your ears change over the course of time.
        Anyhow, did you reach out to Brannan Mason? he handles customer requests at Noble…

        By the way: I never got my impressions back from any manufacturer

      • Reply September 22, 2017

        Brannan Mason

        Brannan here from Noble, I hope you are well.

        Ear impressions typically begin to degrade after a couple of months depending on the impression material used. Therefore, even if we returned your impressions to you, they would not be suitable to rebuild your K10 at this time.

        Furthermore, impressions are cut, sanded, dipped in wax, and more throughout the CIEM crafting process making them only suitable for a single build.

        If you believe your issue is related to build quality, you are welcome to email me directly at brannan@nobleaudio.com and we can it discuss further there.

        Best,

        Brannan

    • Reply February 22, 2018

      Niroc

      Such a fantastic review!
      May I ask, do you think these would ever be worth running off of a phone, especially a good audio phone (LG v30)?
      I own the Noble Savants which I love, but I have always dreamed of one day owning a pair of k10s since hearing about them years ago.
      I have owned high end DAPs, but I sold them as I found them just so annoying to carry around, and would actually end up listening to music less often for the haste.
      Since buying the v30 I find they run the Nobles really well, and it’s become a must in headphones now.

      Anyway, let me know what you think (sorry for the long ass question!)

      • Reply February 22, 2018

        Linus

        Hi there,
        thanks for your comment, much appreciated.

        The Encores are pretty sensitive, so they might pick up some hiss from the LG. I can’t say how the noise floor of the V30 is… but I believe they would sound pretty good from this smartphone.

        If you have the chance you could try them out at a local dealer and see how they pair with the LG V30

        • Reply June 30, 2018

          jared

          I have the G7 with the encore and the combo sounds fantastic, even better than my LCD i4 with my RDI Dac.

    • Reply August 4, 2018

      jared

      Great review! I have the encore and am wondering which tubes you believe work best when using the CDM with the encores. I’ve read that the CDM dual is great but the DAC isn’t the best, what are your thoughts for maximizing the encores?

      Thanks!

      • Reply August 5, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Jared,

        thanks for your comment.

        Yeah, I agree the CDM doesn’t have the best DAC section, but the analogue path is superb, just make sure to run it fully balanced, that’s the best the CDM has to offer.
        When it comes to tubes I, for a long time, had the Sonotones installed that ALO sells themselves, but I also got some Mullard 6021’s that really made the CDM shine. These are only available if you build them yourself or get someone else to do that for you.

        Tube rolling with the CDM is a lot of fun and you might run into some really awesome pairings. Though I have sold my CDM a while ago, simply because it was too good to collect dust. Had to get a new home…

        Do you have an aftermarket cable for the Encore or are you using stock? The vanilla Encore is damn fine, but I found that it pairs exceptionally well with the DHC Clone Fusion or PW Audio 1960s (2wire), that one comes with a hefty price tag though.

        • Reply September 28, 2018

          Jared Crandall

          Hey Linus. I now have a chord hugo2 I am paring with the encores. I am still considering using the Alo for an amp, also looking into the cables you recommended. Thanks

        • Reply September 28, 2018

          Jared Crandall

          Recommended tube setup for the hugo2 -> continental dual -> encores ?

          • Reply September 29, 2018

            Linus

            Hi Jared,

            that setup definitely is sublime, but a little overkill 😉
            However, I really regret selling my CDM. It’s a stellar portable tube amp. I’m sure it has found a better home now though, would still just sit around most of the time.

            Cable wise, give the Clone Fusion a listen, it pairs very well imo. There is one more cable coming in next week, for which I am personally really excited about, but I can’t say anything for now as it hasn’t made its way to my CIEMs yet.

            What is it you want to alter with a cable? Anything specific you feel needs adjustment on the Encore?

    • Reply February 6, 2019

      ILKER ONIER

      Hi Linus,

      Thanks for the review. I’m seriously considering between u12t and kaiser encore and since you reviewed both of them within 2 days you might have a pretty good opinion. You think kaiser is more analytical while a12t is more entertaining. But which one is the endgame? I own Xelento, se846, ie800s, Angie and shozy & Neo bg. Sp1000m and wm1z for source.I’d appreciate your help very much as I will place the order soon.

      Best Regards

      Ilker

    • Reply September 15, 2019

      Bryan

      Hi, Just wondering if this set is still one of the top CIEM’s. Since it wasn’t in your list of best CIEM’s.

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