Review: Noble Audio Kaiser Encore – K10’s successor

Source matching

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.

Astell&Kern – AK380

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.

Astell&Kern – AK70

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.

Chord Electronics – Mojo

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.

Cozoy – REI

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.

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Amplification

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.

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Aftermarket cabling

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

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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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