The K10 was considered a relatively sensitive in ear, at the beginning of its tale maybe even the most sensitive one on the market. Encore is even more sensitive so it might be a little prone to hissing with your gear. Luckily none of the sources I own had shown any sign of hissing. The Astell&Kern audio players have a pitch black background as well as my Mojo or REI. All of them have a very low noise floor and definitely were made with sensitive gear in mind.
The black AK380 is my reference unit and serves me as my daily source of choice. Where ever I go it is with me. It has the biggest stage I have encountered in any portable audio product so far. It stretches wide, deep and high. Clarity par excellence and micro details to get dizzy are two outstanding characteristics of both AK and Noble. This combination is very energetic and organic. Bass is very well defined. Mids clear, rich and full with a lot of details. Highs are crisp and articulate. The AK380 is a perfectionist, the Encore shows exactly that. Nothing sounds wrong, nothing disturbing – the pure opposite is the case. Both are idealists and after the very best, they have found it in each other.
The younger and smaller AK is not as resolving or stretching as the AK380, but it is also very clean and precise. It is slightly warmer with a bit more musicality in it. Sound still is spacious, wide and deep. Bass and mids have great body and are a bit north of neutral. The AK70 is more relaxed sounding than the 380 in terms of speed. Treble is soft and smooth and in absolutely no way sharp or harsh. The Encore paired with the entry level Astell&Kern makes a nicely laid back and musical pairing with a fun signature.
Mojo is a very resolving and astonishingly detail rich DAC/Amp, it misses out on blood and emotion though. It is powerful and dynamic and will never sound like your foot has just fallen asleep. It sounds a little lighter and thinner compared to the Astell&Kern’s. Its imaging and separation is en par with them easily though. The very low output impedance of only 75mOhms will make sure the bass is tightly bound and under control. Encores elevated thunderous low ends and full bodied mids blend into the hyper detailed and clear sound of Mojo, giving it something back in its veins. Both together are undoubtedly amazing.
The REI is one of the products that has surprised me personally the most. For its tiny size it features a very big sound. It is one of the most organic and fun sources I know. Designed to be used with even the most sensitive and hiss loving in ears it features a dark, deep black background. The stage is well formed, details aren’t as obvious as with Mojo but it sports a more lively signature. REI is a one trick pony, but this one it does extraordinary well. Encore and REI are a great match and have wonderful synergy. No hissing, of course. Deep structured bass, full airy mids and silky soft mids are the result of their affair.
Not many in ears are power demanding and require the additional juice to sound their best. Encore sounds splendid right out of your source. Shooting more power into it only results in sound shaping, but you will not gain additional clarity or details. So why do it anyway? Because you can alter the sound signature a bit.
I’m a sucker for tube sound, I love the full bodied lush mids and the relaxed laid back sound of them. The soft highs and the deep full bass. That is why there are many tubes sitting in my two channel system and also why I have two portable tube amplifiers for my head- and earphones. Both portable amps are made by ALO Audio, a company also known to be run by tube enthusiasts. The Continental Dual Mono is my absolute favorite amp, with the correct tubes installed and ran fully balanced it even outshines some desktop gear. The level of hissing on CDM with Encore is very acceptable and fades away when the music starts, making room for the pleasure known as audiophile sonic reproduction. The AK380 connected to the Dual Mono and Encore is a real high end system and rivals a lot of much pricier full sized setups I have heard.
When using the Kaiser Encore with the Continental v5 hissing is much more noticeable, even on quiet passages of the music. Cv5’s volume attenuation is a lot more precise and finer than CDM’s. Yet with the hissing being more prominently placed it can become distracting. Cv5 also sounds thinner compared to its dual mono cousin. Yet with the AK70 as sparring partner you gain a super portable and powerful system with full bodied sound.
As noted earlier Noble has recently made some impactful changes to the cable by removing the memory wire from it. This resulted in a more flexible and more comfortable cable. Other than that no more changes were made to the cable. It still is the same silver plated four conductor cable. It still sounds the same (to me). I do not have many other cables lying around, but I can always come to my trusted Leonidas and pair it with any 2-pin IEM that I want.
The Encore sounds so convincing that I actually can’t see myself craving for a change to be made. Nevertheless I have hooked up Leonidas to it to see how it performs and what changes I could gain. Effect Audio’s Leonidas is a four wire silver/gold hybrid cable and like Encore is an all rounder when it comes to sonic performance. The sound of Noble’s flagship did see some small changes, no night and day differences but subtle alterations. Some additional air was placed between the instruments. Bass did get a touch softer yet still retaining its unbelievable control. High notes were still pronounced with the exact precision as before.
When I plugged the Leonidas/Encore combo into the 2.5mm balanced output of my AK380 bass did lose a bit of its weight but was a tick tighter. The overall sound got more spacious. I think the change from single ended to balanced output had more impact on the sound as the cable swapping to be honest.
Personally I prefer using the Noble supplied cable for the comfort it offers even considering the superior sonics of Leonidas. I don’t think an aftermarket cable is needed for Encore as it sounds sublime already with the standard cable Noble offers, unless you want to use a different termination.
Read about Comparisons and Conclusion on the last page