This probably is the part most of the readers will care about, next to sound, how does the Encore fare against other flagship monitors? How does it compare to its predecessor and more important, does it make the K10 obsolete? Everything in order.
My inventory concerning flagships is very humble at the moment, as I lived by the “one in – one out” rule for quite a bit. Campfire Audio is another American brand that builds monitors with great price performance propositions. In my possession can be found their two leading models, Andromeda and Vega.
Campfire Audio – Andromeda (5BA, 1099$)
Andromeda was definitely the earphone with the biggest hype around Campfire Audio before Vega was launched. It has found countless supporters and customers all over the globe. Andromeda is known for its immense sound stage that reaches far out of your head. It has massive detail reproduction and is all about accuracy. Compared to Noble’s Encore though it sounds veiled and thin. The Encore has superior imaging and separation. The clarity of the Kaiser can not be matched by Andromeda. Where these two are similar though is the width of the constructed sound stage. Both reach almost identically far on the Y-axis, it is hard to tell if one is in front of the other. The Noble monitor does reach deeper and a tad higher though. The Encore is also more refined and more musical to my ears. Bass is much better controlled and appears like a very well trained dog. Call it and it is there. Unlike Andromeda’s low ends. They do blend into the mids and cover up some clarity. Overall Andromeda is brighter, more analytical and less meaty. Encore is more engaging, fun and thrilling. Both models push an incredible amount of detail, though Encore wins in displaying them cleaner. Andromeda is also more sensitive than Encore and will be hissing with more sources.
Campfire Audio – Vega (1DD, 1299$)
Vega is the latest of Campfire’s flagships and enjoys the spot in the sun currently all by itself. Many years of research, trial and error have went into the production of this iem. It is a very organic sounding monitor with unique bass. It is heavy weighted, airy and natural. Vega is commonly known to be a very enjoyable and fun little fella that draws you into the music rather than making you focus on it. I admit, Vega is a great in ear, otherwise I wouldn’t have it. But when it comes to comparing it with the Kaiser Encore it falls short on imaging, air, separation, clarity and sound stage. On top of that Vega needs a high powered source to reveal its true potential, while Encore will sound fabulous right out of your smartphone. Of course it also scales up with better sources, but it does not need the additional juice to shine. Aside from all that Vega also appears to be veiled when compared to KE. Kaiser spits out more details and stays better in control of bass. Though Vega’s bass is outstanding, Kaiser’s is far better controlled.
Noble Audio – Kaiser 10 (10BA, was 1650$)
The Kaiser 10 was the most successful in ear of all. 28 consecutive five star reviews by the Head-Fi community is nothing that just happens on the side. This is a serious accomplishment. The K10 has reigned as Noble’s top of the line for a little over three years, longer than most other flagships of their competition. The Kaiser truly was an outstanding and revolutionary design and this might be the most exciting part of the Comparisons section. How does the Encore hold up against the K10? I noted earlier that the K10 was known especially for its thunderous and well controlled bass, its clear sound and immense details. Kaiser Encore is tuned to be a cross between Katana and K10. Katana is said to be impressively clean with a huge sound stage, while more reference tuned with a musical approach.
In direct comparison of the two Kaisers K10 is the thicker one. Its bass is more prominently displayed and more in front than on the Encore. The Encore still has a boost in the bass segment yet displays them a bit more subtle. It still retained the thunder down below and the shocking control of lows. Only when bass is needed it is there. When not called for it plays hide and seek. Mids have been retuned by Noble for Encore, that can be heard very easily. Encore’s sound stage is more spacious where K10’s was more intimate (not small though). KE’s stage reaches wider and deeper, resulting in a more out of head experience. On height both are similar. Encore is the cleaner one of the two, it is amazing how much clearer the picture got actually. I have noted it before, it is remarkable how perfectly exact the Kaiser Encore reproduces notes, no matter what coordinates they are sitting at (e.g. above your right ear slightly behind the back of your head).
K10 has proven to be slightly more forgiving of not so well mastered audio. Encore punishes inaccurately produced tracks faster. Both models feature a fun signature that guarantees for long lasting listening sessions without any signs of fatigue.
Does this make the K10 obsolete? No, I don’t think so. I still sometimes go back to the original Kaiser for the extra omph and rumble. The Encore though is the one that keeps astonishing me on a frequent note with its impressive stage and incredibly clear picture. A truly wonderful in ear!
Many weeks and more than 5200 words into the review later I can honestly say, the Encore is a masterfully crafted in ear monitor with outstanding clarity and detail, superior control and coherence and the most natural iem I know. An earphone that undoubtedly deserves to be positioned at the top of the line. It has replaced K10 as my favorite in ear within one listen and is currently unrivaled at this spot and out shines any other earphone I have heard to this date. The Kaiser Encore is a clear step up from the original Kaiser 10 and deserves to be called its evolution, as it has gained many new abilities while still retaining what made the K10 so special. These little gems are comparable to some very expensive high end floor standing speakers and share similarities with even the finest and most prestigious PAs I know.
Headfonia does not give out awards during the year, though the Encore would have definitely taken it. The Encore represents the ultimate package as it offers excellent build quality, outstanding design and perfect sound.