Review: Noble Audio Kaiser Encore – K10’s successor

Comparisons

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 Encore

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

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!

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Conclusion

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.

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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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