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Noble Audio Kaiser 10

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Pros: Detailed sound, smooth sound, great bass, excellent bass and treble extension, build quality, design options

Cons: None (so long as you can find the dough)

Overview

 

Noble hardcaseIn the world of personal audio, the ultimate sound experience generally comes from custom molded in-ear monitors (CIEMs). In recent times, top of the line (TOTL) CIEMs have gone from 3-6 balanced armatures per side to 10 and even 12 BAs per side. The Kaiser 10 is an example of a 10 driver CIEM and has 10 individual drivers in each ear-piece – a pretty awesome piece of spatial design, but also a challenge of epic proportions when it comes to ensuring that all of those drivers are delivering their frequencies in time with and in support of the other drivers in each ear piece.

 

One of the largest challenges of any multi-driver setup (including speakers) is to have each driver deliver its optimum frequencies without interfering with the frequencies coming from the other drivers. A speaker manufacturer faces challenges with 2-3 drivers so imagine what happens when you get 10!! Add to that the challenge of placing the drivers at slightly different distances from the sound outlets and the possible timing / phase challenges this presents and getting everything right to the level expected of a flagship CIEM becomes a daunting prospect.

 

Specifications

 

Not much is published about the Kaiser 10’s specs, but what we do know is that they have / are:

 

  • 10 drivers per side
  • 4-way design (e.g. bass, mid, lower treble, higher treble) – the exact arrangement isn’t specified by Noble, but this example is a guess based on the Noble website info
  • Approx. 35 ohm impedance
  • 4-wire braided cable (silver plated copper) with 3.5mm plug and industry standard 2-pin earpiece connectors

 

The Kaiser 10 is named after a mysterious team member at Noble known as Kaiser Soze. The design has apparently been in the works (or maybe even on the shelf / back-burner) for a number of years, but was recently brought to life by Dr John Moulton, Kaiser Soze and the team at Noble.

 

At $1599 USD, it’s a serious investment into an audio device so it needs to perform at a level suitable for the pinnacle of this hobby – they’re big shoes to fill…

 

The Custom Process

 

I won’t spend much time describing this process because there’s a lot of info out there about what’s involved in the process of buying custom in-ears (including this video), but I would like to briefly highlight the process and where Noble might differ slightly.

 

  1. Decide on the brand and model you want to buy – sometimes without even hearing them
  2. Get instructions from the manufacturer about how to get your ear impressions taken (different brands like the impressions done differently)
  3. Go to a good audiologist, one who does impressions regularly, and get them to fill your ears with goo (temporarily)
  4. Send your impressions to the manufacturer
  5. Wait
  6. Wait some more
  7. Try to forget you ordered customs
  8. Wait some more
  9. Receive your customs and hopefully enjoy a perfect fit first time around (if you read my Miracle review you’ll see that this doesn’t always happen)

 

So, you see, ordering a set of customs is as much an exercise in delayed gratification and the taking of calculated risks as it is an exercise in purchasing audio excellence. It’s 100% worth the effort though if you choose right, and that’s a function of knowing what you like and don’t like before you pull the trigger. For example, I knew as I purchased the K10s that I wanted a CIEM that was resolving and detailed, but not analyitcal – I wanted musicality and realism first and foremost. I wanted to feel like I was sitting at a live performance or recording every time I put these in my ears.

 

How Noble Differs

 

Most CIEM companies allow some degree of customisation in terms of colour choice and artwork for your CIEM shell and faceplates. Noble offer this with even more options than most brands, but they also offer a whole different level known as Wizard designs.

 

Noble K10 Wizard signatureDr John Moulton has earned the moniker, The Wizard, because of his amazing aesthetic designs on CIEMs. To see some examples of these, take a look at Noble’s Instagram feed. When you order a Noble CIEM you have the choice to pay $200 extra and have a “Wizard re-print” which is a recreation of a past design, or you can $400 and have a unique design crafted for you by The Wizard . You can offer some preferences (e.g. blingy, conservative, lots of blue, something quirky, etc.) or you can just kick back and let The Wizard work his magic. Personally I went somewhere in between because I discovered that Dr Moulton could work with some stones so I hunted down a stone / crystal with significance to me and asked for it to be incorporated in a design of his choosing, but something not too flashy. The results, as you’ll see, are astounding and beautiful!

 

The level of customisation at no extra charge for a set of K10s is industry-leading in my experience and the option to go to the “Wizard design” level is great for those who love something unique and amazing. There is even a Prestige range which is essentially a K10 set inside a shell made using high-tech machining that allows the use of solid pieces of wood or other materials and can even result in some wood / acrylic hybrids that look spectacular. You pay a mighty premium, but the result is visually jaw-dropping.

 

Delivery, Packaging & Accessories

 

So far we’ve been on a high note so I’m a little sad to say that there is at least one fly in the ointment…

 

Receiving your K10s could be an underwhelming experience to some. I was blown away by how fast they arrived after being dispatched from the factory in China, but upon opening the cardboard box, things were a little less impressive.

 

Noble K10 accessoriesOther than foam packaging, inside the cardboard box was a pelican-style hard case inside a Noble-branded cardboard sleeve. After removing the plastic sleeve, the hard case displayed a Noble badge and my name branded into the plastic of the case. It’s utilitarian and basic which can be a bit of a let down when buying a premium product. Putting our consumer needs aside for a moment though, Noble gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. When it comes to customs, you don’t really need the sexy packaging to keep for resale because they’re not generally not worth reselling. I think Noble’s packaging approach is perfectly fine, but it might not meet your default expectations so please go in with your eyes open – you won’t be getting a sexy, silk-lined box with crystal paper weight and metal owners card. You will however be getting some seriously sexy CIEMs though so there’s that…

 

Accessories

 

Noble cable and bandUpon opening the Noble hard case you’ll be greeted by your new CIEMs, a high quality, lightweight braided cable (the black one in the pics) with angled 3.5mm jack, two black Noble elastic bands, a plastic ownership card, and a standard CIEM cleaning brush. Nothing special, but once again everything you need and nothing you don’t.

The cable is similar to the Westone Epic cable, but offers 4 independent strands braided together into a tight, but flexible braid. The rubber bands are your standard type band for strapping together a portable audio brick, and the cleaning tool is the same one as I’ve seen everywhere else.

 

As you can see in the picture above, the top of the lid gets a few indentations from the CIEMs when you store them because the case is just big enough for the CIEM shells, but I don’t ever get the feeling that there’s pressure placed on the CIEMs when closing (although I am also always very careful and gentle).

 

Build Quality & Fit

 

I had lots of troubles when I bought my first customs, the UM Miracles, but I learned from that experience and was very careful to keep my head super still during the ear impression process. Even with the perfect impressions (second time around), my Miracles were never quite perfect and used to break the seal when I made certain movements so I expected a similar experience with the K10s and was OK with that idea so long as the seal breakages were no worse than the Miracles.

 

Noble K10 logoAs it turns out, my expectations from a custom fit were set way too low coming from the Miracles. The K10s fit like a glove and fill my ears perfectly in all areas – both inside the canals, but also where they sit in the outer section of the ear. Until trying the K10s, I didn’t know what a quality custom fit was really all about. I can eat, walk, tilt my head, yawn, and all sorts of other things without disrupting the seal created by the K10s – they’re perfect!

 

In addition to the perfect seal and comfort from the K10s, they are impeccably finished and beautifully polished. The thin layer of crystal placed in each faceplate is enclosed in a flawless bubble of clear acrylic which is polished to a glass-like sheen and creates a depth that you can just gaze into – the pictures don’t do it justice.

 

The shell of my CIEMs is a translucent, deep purple which is equally well crafted and polished. You can’t see much through the shell due to the dark colour, but what you can see is neat and well-arranged in terms of both drivers and wiring.

 

The Noble crown logo is printed onto each shell (in a turquoise colour in my case) and The Wizard’s signature is printed onto the faceplate of just one CIEM.

 

Sockets

 

Noble uses the industry standard 2-pin connector which is flush mounted (not recessed like my UM Miracles were). At first I was disappointed to read that Noble used flush mounts (I hadn’t seen it), but seeing how well the socket is built into the shell of the K10s makes me realise the reason for the decision. With a recessed socket, the acrylic “walls” where the cord / plug inserts are a weak point and can look a bit shabby, but with the flush sockets, it all looks sturdy, solid and beautifully finished.

 

Sound

 

As with any audio gear, this is the part that really matters. We’ve already established the immense challenge of getting 10 drivers, or 20 if you count both sides, to truly sing as one and the expectations from a $1600 earphone are understandably high so I think I was holding my breath a little when I first inserted the K10s in my ears and pressed play on my FiiO X5…

 

…the result was underwhelming…

 

Yes, I was honestly not impressed. “Sure, they’re good” I thought, “but they’re not $1600 good”. In my mind I was comparing them to my recently acquired Shure SE846 and could honestly have been quite happy with just the SE846 and $1600 back in my pocket.

 

If you’ve read other reviews of the K10, you might be asking yourself right now “What’s wrong with this guy’s ears?” Everyone else raves about these earphones so what was I hearing (or not hearing)?

I had this sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t hearing the best of the K10s. Something told me that they had a lot more to give so I started playing with different sources and discovered the true cause of my disappointment – not the K10s, but the source I was feeding them with.

 

Quality of Source

 

Noble K10 with Shozy Alien and FiiO E12DIYWhat I have come to love (very quickly) about the K10s is that they sound good from any source I’ve tried – they’re not at all fussy about the source and won’t berate you with sibilance or shoddy frequency responses even if you plug them into a sub-par smartphone. However, you don’t buy the K10 to have them sound good, you buy the K10 to have them knock your socks off, and for that you need a quality source.

 

Let me clarify, the K10s will sound good with everything, but their performance will be restricted by a lesser source more than any other headphone / earphone I have ever experienced. When I said earlier that the K10 left me wanting more, what I meant was that they left me wanting more from my sources so I could really hear just what these little gems were capable of, and boy did they reward me!

 

The FiiO X5 is a very good source and worth every penny. With every other IEM / headphone I own, I felt like I was listening to a world-class setup (when combined with my E12DIY amp), but somehow, the K10s were whispering in my ear when I was using the X5 stack – they were saying, “We could do more, you know.” I’m so glad I listened to that “whisper” and switched over to the Shozy Alien as my source as well as changing op amps in the E12DIY amp to maximise the sound for the K10s. Changing sources unleashed the magic of the K10s, namely their incredible ability to create a spacious, accurate soundstage with the greatest coherency of sound I have heard from anything short of perhaps Audeze LCD-2s or Sennheiser HD800s, but I’ll return to that comparison a little later.

 

The reason I have spent a bit of time discussing sources here is that I have read a number of discussions comparing the SE846 and Noble Kaiser 10 with people saying that the K10 isn’t really much better. My experiences have me thinking that people with this experience perhaps haven’t had the benefit of a top quality source. After a great universal earphone like the SE846 stops improving with different sources, a world class CIEM like the K10 still has more to give. (For the record, I still love the SE846)

 

Bass

 

The bass from the K10 is perfect – yes, perfect.

 

Noble Kaiser 10 left ear pieceI raved about the bass from the SE846’s in my review of those, but the K10 takes it one step further, in my opinion. The K10s offer a shade less quantity of bass overall, but provide even better quality, clarity and texture in the bass than the SE846. The K10s actually dig a little bit deeper, but aren’t quite as full in the mid-bass region.

The bass from the K10s is deep and thunderous when the recording calls for it, but the bass is perfectly balanced with the rest of the sound spectrum. I would describe the K10s as having neutral bass from a ‘perception point-of view’. In other words, while a frequency response chart of the K10s might show a lift in the bass region, my perception of the bass from the K10s matches very closely with what a live recording sounds like. In that respect, the K10s and SE846s are very similar with the SE846 having just a touch more overall bass energy, particularly in the mid-bass.

 

Apart from slightly lifted bass to create that realistic, live sound, the K10s have the purest bass I’ve heard from an earphone and easily rival full-size headphones with their bass performance. As is my normal practice, I fired up my favourites playlist to listen to while I wrote this review and on Michael McDonald’s song, I Want You, the bass guitar sounded extraordinary. It was clear, present and audibly defined within the overall performance, but still a completely coherent part of the performance.

 

The bass from the K10s sounds effortless, the same way it sounds coming straight from the instrument playing it live. Noble use two huge bass drivers in the design of the K10 and you can hear the ease with which these jumbo balanced armatures handle the challenge of creating subtle, textured, and sustained bass notes. The bass is endlessly clear, clean and textured no matter what you throw at it. Rumbling bass sends quivers into your eardrums while tight, punchy bass notes snap and crack with energy and impact – no matter where a recording sits on the continuum of speed, power, and grace, the K10’s bass drivers take it all in their stride and create a completely believable experience.

 

Mid-Range

 

Noble Kaiser 10 right ear pieceThe mid-range from the K10 is a little drier than something like the SE846, but it’s still weighty and realistic. Despite an overall warmth in the sound of the K10s, the mid-range never comes across lush or creamy, but it also never strays into cold, analytical sterility. No, the K10 walks a very fine line to create an accurate, reference quality mid-range that is also immensely enjoyable for long, long sessions of listening.

 

Both male and female vocals have plenty of realism, texture and clarity. The mids aren’t placed in a spotlight like the SE846 or FitEar TG!334, but they’re definitely good enough to attract your attention without needing to be highlighted in the tuning of the earphones.

 

Every instrument you hear through the K10s sounds real – they just sound right. Whether it’s a violin, a guitar, a cello, or a drum, the K10 provides just the right balance of attack and decay to sound real and lifelike – as if the instrument is hovering somewhere inside (or just outside) your head. It’s quite uncanny how lifelike the sounds coming out these little acrylic shells are. In fact, I regularly hear something from the K10s that I think has to be a real sound from the outside world, but then I remember how extremely good the isolation of outside noise is with the K10s and realise that it was a sound in the recording.

 

I’m listening to It’s a Hard World by Supertramp right now and the vocals, trumpet, cymbal strikes and guitars are beguiling – more please!

 

Treble

 

Descriptions of the K10’s treble still elude me – even after many weeks. Listening to music with the K10s (I haven’t tried a frequency sweep) has me often thinking that the treble is a little rolled off, but then I hear air and details in the music that can only be conveyed with excellent treble extension. I can only make 2 conclusions about the treble from the K10s without getting into objective measures which aren’t necessarily indicative of the subjective enjoyment so here go my subjective conclusions:

 

  1. The treble is a touch lower in intensity than the mids and bass, but it is fully extended
  2. The treble is perfect

 

Yes, I said the “P” word again, but you’ll have to get used to that when discussing the K10s I expect.

 

The treble from the K10s is smooth, but don’t mistake that for smoothed-over because it certainly isn’t. What’s amazing about the K10s is the way they convey all of the details, but never get edgy, even on shabby recordings. You’ll hear that it’s a shabby recording, but your ears won’t be bleeding from knife-like treble spikes. This was the most impressive thing to me when I reviewed the Noble PRs and it seems that Dr Moulton has treble tuning down to a fine art based on this repeat performance with the K10s.

 

By now a new track was on from my playlist – My Man’s Gone Now by Miles Davis and Gil Evans – and it showcased nicely how beautifully balanced and refined the K10s’ treble is. I could hear each brush on the drums, right down to the individual textural differences of each stroke, and I could hear when the recording levels of the brass section got a bit hot and distorted at the edges, but the whole thing still sounded wonderful. It’s like the K10s are the zen masters of earphones – they don’t judge anything in the music, they just accept it as it is. The K10s won’t chastise your ears for listening to a poor recording, they’ll just honestly let you know that there’s an issue here and an issue there, but without any drama or judgement. Just like a zen master, the sound from the K10s “just is”.

 

EDIT: I’ve come back to address the topic of treble a second time around because I think it’s difficult to capture the K10’s treble qualities in verbal descriptions. After thinking on this review overnight I felt like I needed to better clarify and describe the treble with some more concrete comparisons. I returned to the SE846 with both the blue and white filters and I also compared the K10’s treble to the HD800. The results are a clearer picture of why the K10s sound so wonderful. Where the SE846 (blue filter) rolls off a little too soon for those who want air and space in the sound, the K10’s treble continues to extend up into the higher registers where the subtlest of cues reside. Unlike the SE846 (white filter) though, this treble doesn’t seem like it includes any spikes – it is smooth and so can sound rolled-off at first, but if you compare it to a rolled off ‘phone you will hear a distinct difference and realise that the K10 has all the information, just without any spikes.

 

Comparing next to the HD800s, the HD800s initially sound a bit brighter and more detailed in the treble, but further listening shows that they have a slight emphasis in the mid treble (around 6 kHz according to various graphs), but not any significant extension beyond what the K10s offer. In other words, the K10s have all the information in the full treble spectrum, but none of it is emphasised so coming from a ‘phone with any treble lift (HD800, T1, FIDUE A83, etc.) you might find the K10 to sound a bit too smooth, but it’s all there – I promise – and it’s the lack of emphasis that allows the K10s to be so marvelously revealing and transparent, and yet completely non-fatiguing.

 

Imaging and Staging

 

Noble Kaiser 10I might never have declared this outright before, but staging and imaging are my top priority in audio gear because that’s where the magic happens. If you get everything else right, but the image is flat and/or narrow then you’ve achieved nothing more than reproducing a recording. Create a lifelike sense of space and image though and you’re now recreating music that sounds realistic with an atmosphere / ambiance that is magical – that’s a miracle!

 

You’ve probably guessed from my lyrical opening to this section that the K10s are just as adept at imaging and staging as they are at everything else. Well, that’s almost true…

 

I should have held back before on the use of the “P” word because if the bass, mids and treble from the K10s are perfect then I’m not sure how to describe the imaging qualities they create because the overall result is even better! The imaging from the K10s is spectacular – better than anything else I have heard, including the masters of imaging themselves, the HD800s. The K10s don’t quite match the HD800s for size of stage, but in terms of clarity of image and general sense of space around instruments they could be twins. In some ways I actually find the placement and precision of the K10s to be slightly better than the HD800s, possibly due to the fact that the K10s deliver the sound straight to the ear canal without any chance of unwanted resonance and reflections around the outer ear and side of the head.

 

With the K10s, every instrument in the auditory landscape is perfectly placed and perfectly connected within the overall auditory picture. The coherence achieved from these two sets of ten drivers is simply breath-taking. It’s very easy to forget that you’re listening to a recording via a set of earphones when you’re using the K10s – it’s more like a tiny band has found its way to a live performance inside your frontal lobe.

 

Size-wise, the stage projected by the K10s extends beyond each ear by about 1cm or so and projects forward into the forehead to create an oval-shaped space with no real gaps or holes. The stage isn’t huge from the K10s, but it is incredibly spacious – like a tardis. Every instrument is clearly separate and distinct from every other instrument, but not in a disembodied way – it’s hard to describe. The overall sonic picture is 100% coherent – everything fits together seamlessly – and yet, at the same time, you can clearly hear each instrument on it’s own. This is what I love most about the K10s. They don’t try to sound extraordinary by highlighting anything. Instead, they just present everything with precision and honesty and let you hear what you want to hear – it’s all there for you to take in as a whole or to focus on piece-by-piece – it’s up to you.

 

Quick Comparison

 

Shure SE846Coming from the outstanding SE846, I was keen to really compare these two as some of the best offerings on the market. Keep in mind that I am using a universal SE846 (not available as a custom, but there are silicon sleeves available which essentially turn the SE846 into a custom). For both earphones I am using high quality, copper litz cables and an identical source so the following comments are based solely on the performance and characteristics of the earphones themselves without the influence of different cables or sources.

 

The SE846s really hold their own in this comparison, especially when you consider that you can pick them up for around half the price of the K10s. The bass from both earphones is imposing and powerful, but I was surprised to hear that the K10s actually created an even deeper, stronger sense of rumble and texture on one of my test tracks – A Thousand Years by Sting. Of course, tip choice with a universal earphone can change the quantity of bass so it’s possible that they could be equals on quantity, but the textural quality won’t really change with tips and that gives an edge to the K10s.

 

The overall tuning of the bass is slightly different between the SE846 and K10 with the SE846 having more mid-bass impact and power than the K10s. As to which is better, that’s up to your personal tastes, but I prefer the more open sound created by the K10s with their slightly lifted sub-bass and closer-to-neutral mid-bass.

The mid-range and treble set these 2 apart a little more than the bass. The SE846 offers the more beguiling and seductive mid-range presentation and are truly world class in that regard. The K10 is no slouch in this department either, but is less liquid and lush than the SE846. Once again, this will be a case of preference and it’s important to recognise that you can’t affect one part of the frequency response without it significantly altering the overall presentation – for instance, in isolation I prefer the mid-range from the SE846, but if those same mids were added to the K10 it would completely destroy the magical balance struck by the K10’s tuning. If you want lush mids, you have to sacrifice in other areas.

 

Noble Kaiser 10The treble is really where the greatest differentiation lies in my opinion. The SE846 has an edge to the treble that holds it back from being truly perfect. As I said in my review of the SE846, it is so close to perfection that it doesn’t really matter, but if I’m doing a comparison of two awesome earphones it’s always going to come down to the little things and the SE846 just can’t match the K10’s proficiency and refinement in the treble. The SE846 does have the ability to be tuned using its filters, but the treble is never as good as the K10 and always has a slight edge to it that can flare up on some recordings. While the K10s don’t sound quite as airy as the SE846 in its most “trebley” setup, there is never any sense of darkness or thickness to the sound and its effortless refinement is just so enjoyable. To my ears, the treble from the K10s sits somewhere between the blue and white filters on the SE846.

 

The K10 also has a delicacy and refinement to its sound that the SE846 just can’t quite match and this brings with it the coherency and realism I spoke about earlier in the staging and imaging section.

 

Comparison Summary

 

To summarise my experiences I’d say that the SE846 and K10 are both amazing and deserving of flagship / TOTL status as universals and customs respectively. If money, resale value and the ability to share the sound with others is no object then the K10 is a clear winner on the grounds of better texture in the sound, sharper imaging, and more refined treble, but it’s not a smack-down. This is a hard-fought win; a score of 18-21 in a game of pick-up (first to 21 wins). If you have limited funds for an earphone purchase or you highly value the benefits of a universal then the SE846 might be a better option.

 

To my ears, the Kaiser 10 is hands-down the better earphone, but the SE846 is a proud runner-up.

 

Note: The K10 is available as a universal, but I can’t comment directly on the sound of it and would be amazed if it can match the amazing comfort of the SE846.

 

Overall Summary

 

Noble Kaiser 10 CIEMThere’s a reason everyone is raving about the Noble Kaiser 10 – it really is that good!

 

This is an earphone that is so perfectly balanced in it’s sound and design / build that it truly disappears and leaves you with nothing but the music and a smile. Not lacking in anything and not showcasing anything, the K10 really is the zen master of CIEMs and “just is” as it honestly and accurately conveys every sound, every nuance, and every emotion of the music without judgement and without opinion. While other earphones might strip away the bass to show you more details, or emphasise the mids to create more emotions, the K10 lets each track speak for itself and it has the full range of frequencies covered so skillfully that it convey whatever message the artist was trying to convey. Thunderous power through to fragile delicacy, the K10s have it covered, but not altered.

 

The Kaiser 10 is quite unique in that it’s completely happy with a basic source, but has endless potential to deliver when given the right setup. There’s no punishment for using your phone, but there are endless rewards for treating it to a great DAP or DAC and amp.

 

If you have the funds and want the best, I have no hesitation in recommending the Noble Kaiser 10, and having heard the Noble PR and now the Noble K10 I would highly recommend any potential CIEM buyers to head straight over to www.nobleaudio.com to see what they have to offer. Even if the K10 isn’t for you, the quality, attention to detail and masterful tuning I’ve seen so far from Noble tells me they’re easily a manufacturer of choice in the current CIEM market.

Note: Thanks to @zilch0md for tweaking this image of mine to it's peak potential

Posted

Pros: Perfectly cohesive sound.

Cons: Customization process could be a bit more customer involved.

At long last, I have finally gotten around to writing a review for my Kaiser 10 IEMs. I am sure you all have been slouched with glassy eyes at your keyboard, ear molds in hand, waiting for my comments before choosing your next musical ear plugs. My love for humanity hopes you haven’t. And my apologies in advance for the lengthy read. I wrote this in Starbucks with too much coffee in one hand and too much time in the other!

 

First of all, you should know that I do not consider myself an audiophile. Heck, I don’t even really know what that means or what paperwork I need to fill out for such certification. That said I have always found myself on the same never-ending quest for sonic bliss, a quest (curse) I believe most of you share. Like many of us, I started with entry-level products and quickly moved my way up. I burned through Sennheiser’s, Klipsch’s, Shure’s and a pair of R0s from Hifiman.

 

At each step, I found new things to like but was never fully satisfied. In audio terms, the highs of what was good about a product were always overpowered by the lows of what was not. While I know it was probably wholly psychological, it’s like the flaws in each product got louder the more I listened; At some point, shortcomings were all I could here.

 

Then, like skipping ahead in a movie to the part you know is coming, I decided to just go ahead and buy what I knew I would eventually buy anyway; a pair of high-end customs. So, like all of you have done at some point, I spent a pathological and lifestyle-cramping amount of time on head-fi researching my options and settled on what was then JH Audio’s top-tier product, the JH16s.

 

Oh holy Christmas nuts, the sound was amazing. I had finally found what I was looking for.  My quest was at once over. While the rest of you scrambled for the end of the rainbow, I had the (waxy) gold already in my ears.  So, with the exception of some brief research on amps and other peripherals, I logged off of head-fi and, well, joyfully forgot about you guys for a few years.

 

Then, the inevitable happened…One of my JH monitors disconnected from its cable, slipped between the seats in my jeep, and fell through a drain hole onto the asphalt below. Don’t you just hate when that happens?

 

So, I logged back on to head-fi to find the latest and greatest ear drug. My first stop was with JH, as I had been happy with my 16s.  Unfortunately, due to some issues I don’t feel the need to discuss on here, I decided to look elsewhere. About that time, I received a PM from Brannan introducing me to Noble Audio. Before I knew it, and with all the contemplative effort that goes into buying a box of tic-tacs at the check out counter, I was all in. What can I say…Brannan could sell underwear to a nudist.

 

So, I sent my impressions to Noble and waited with all the patience of teenage boy on a promising prom night. I emailed Brannan relentlessly. I am not going to lie, the wait time, while falling within the build time stated by Noble, was excruciating. Luckily, Brannan was always quick to respond and never seemed irritated, though I am quite sure he was. Hell, I was irritating me.

 

Then, at long last, my wife called me to say my “ear thingies” had arrived at the house. So, I walked out on a client, raced home, declined hugs from my children, hushed my wife with a finger over my lips (the couch ain’t so bad with great headphones), and retreated to a locked room with my shiny new K10s.

 

I plugged the phones into my Ray Samuels P-51 mustang on a line out from my ipod and just listened. I had prepped myself to go in with no expectations, good or bad. In other words, I didn’t want to find the music – I wanted the music to find me. I think many of us are guilty, at times, of knowing what we will hear before we actually do. We read reviews about house signatures, look at response curves, and mistake the subjective comments of reviewers as objective truths. In the end, I think we can influence the sound we hear more than the balanced armatures that produce it.

 

Back to the K10s….

 

So, I tried as best I could to not search for anything specific in the sound of the K10s. Simply put, I didn’t WANT to hear anything when I pressed play for the first time. And guess what? I didn’t. Nothing about the K10 sound jumped out at me. Nothing. Nothing was in abundance. Nothing was lacking. Everything was there, just as it should be. Like a completed puzzle, the pieces were no longer individual, but were perfectly blended together into a single greater image.

 

It found it so refreshing to NOT hear the (fill in the blank frequency range) everybody else said would be so amazing, as I had in all the other products I sampled along the way. I mean think about it, if product X has amazing highs, doesn’t that mean the other frequencies fall short? Or, at the very least, it means the quality of one range is noticeably different that the quality of the others, though they may all be superb.

 

There wasn’t too much bass, there wasn’t too little. The highs were there in spades, but in no way distinguished themselves from the lush frequencies beneath them. Simply put, the sound was seamless. I actually had trouble singling out specific frequency ranges because they blended so smoothly into the ranges around them.  The sound is all there exactly as it should be. And it is magnificent.

 

I have to be honest; I really didn’t expect to enjoy the k10’s more than I did my JH16s, but I do. Of course, I don’t have my JHs anymore for a direct comparison; so pointing out specific improvements over the JH sound would be based entirely on what are certainly distorted recollections. I can say with confidence, however, that my K10s are more listenable than my JHs for extended periods of time. I never have that “time for a break” feeling that I had every once-in-a-while with the JHs. And trust me, as a dissertation-writing Ph.D. candidate, I spend a bunch of time listening to loud music in a quiet library.

 

So, I ran the K10s through their paces, using the same lineup of music I have used for all of my IEMs. My usual round-up includes artists like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, Deadstring Brothers, Johnny Lang, and the Old 97’s. And I swear….please don’t judge me for the coming cliché… it was like I was listening to some of the tracks for the first time. Just saying that makes me throw up in my mouth a little, but it is true. In fact, I hauled off a spent a small fortune on new high-res music just to put the K10s through their paces. Like a driving a 911 Turbo, you are always looking for new turns to see how the equipment handles. The handling of my K10s has not yet disappointed me.

 

To anyone on the fence about the K10s, I offer the wise counsel of one of America’s most distinguished heroes, David Lee Roth: Go Ahead and Jump. You will not be disappointed. The sound is exactly what you want, where you want it. Of course, maybe I’ll lose a K10 in another tragic jeep mishap one day and be proven wrong by the next great thing, but until then, I firmly believe the K10s are as perfect as possible.

 

Oh…and if you happen to be a nudist, I heard Brannan has a new line of underwear for ya.

 

Andy

Posted

Pros: Amazing mids, perfect highs extension, just-right-when-you-need-it bass, Works with any genre, Scales well with any cable and source, Wizard designs

Cons: Not for those seeking crystal-clear clarity, It’s gonna be damn hard to find something to replace it once you have it

Intro:

 

Its no secret that my favorite CIEM in my collection as I write this review is my Noble Audio Kaiser 10. From the moment I saw them to that first time I put them on and played Rage Against The Machine’s Remastered “Take The Power Back” I was hooked. I’ve had my Kaiser 10s for almost a year now and they still remain my favorite. I’ve had plenty of different CIEMs in the past year but the Kaiser 10 is what I always come back to.

Honestly in the beginning I didn’t really think that Noble’s new 10-driver would be anything as I don’t really care much for the “driver war”, but as my friend soullinker20 continuously badgered me to try it, I went ahead and contacted The Wizard over at Noble through head-fi.

 

 

 

Ordering Process:

 

The ordering process for the Kaiser 10s was pretty straightforward, with me messaging Wizard on head-fi and getting referred quickly to Brannan to smooth out the process. I ordered a Rush-order Wizard Design, with the only requests being my logo on the right IEM and to “make it Noble”. I received photos (mildly stifled a squeal at how amazing they looked) and the CIEMs themselves soon after and immediately listened to them with my then go-to DAP, the AK120.

 

 

The Build Quality and Accessories:

 

I’d proudly say that Wizard’s designs are the most beautiful in any CIEM ever. I have two Noble CIEMs (as of the writing of this article), the Kaiser 10 and a Wizard Design Noble 4S and they are both still the most stunning CIEMs in my collection. Build quality is very high, not FitEar-quality but high enough. The case that they come in are a long Noble hardcase containing the IEM, some Noble bands, an earwax cleaning tool and a Noble ownership card. There was also a sticker that came with it with Noble’s logo and webpage (which is now on my car).

 

 

 

The Gear:

 

I will be using mostly the Noble Kaiser 10’s stock cable and throw in some thoughts with it on the Linum Estron and the Null Audio Silver. Listening is mostly done on an AK240 and a Tera Player, though I have used other sources and DACs, like my 15” MacBook Pro and Surface Pro 3 with the Chord Hugo and others. I use different types of files, from PCM to DSD.

 

 

Sound Quality:

 

As someone whose only Wizard experience before the Kaiser 10 was listening to the Heir 5.ai, I didn’t know what to expect when I received my Kaiser 10. I certainly did not expect it to consider it the best IEM I had ever heard (Especially as I had also just received the then-brand new JH Audio Roxanne, and owned some of the considered best CIEMs [MH335DW and Hidition NT6-Pro]) but I was dumbstruck at how great they sounded. Not wanting to pass judgment too quickly I kept listening...

 

...for a year. And I’m still constantly surprised by how much I love the Kaiser 10s. Here’s why:

 

 

Listening to:

 

Vocals are one of the most amazing things to listen to with the Kaiser 10s. Going through tracks like Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s “The Girl Is Mine” and even with Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s “Guilty” you can clearly distinguish the vocals from the instruments, and even feel the natural highs of the vocals being presented, without becoming piercing. Even particularly sibilant tracks like The Cab’s “Endlessly” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Take The Power Back” are listenable because the tuning of the high drivers are just right.

 

Instruments are also very well presented and well distanced from the vocals, nothing sounds “muddy” to my ears even when I listen to very fast metal like “Bullet Dance II” on the Blazblue Chronophantasma soundtrack. Each instrument is rendered in a different layer that is very lush and just a joy to listen to. Even with classical pieces the instruments are rendered in a very satisfying manner.

 

One thing to note with the K10s is how effortless it seems to take any genre. One recent discussion about the Kaiser 10 is its bass-reproduction capability and I can heartily say if you want bass you’ll get bass. I tried the K10 with a few bassy tracks and even some where the bass is not very apparent. On Daft Punk’s “Around the World” you can definitely feel the bass and sub-bass, but it is very controlled and not as thumpy as something like the Rhines Stage 5 or the MH335DW. I don’t really look for bass in my IEMs so I don’t have much to compare to. Switching to a track like “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, the bass guitar is very prominent and delivers the bass in a very satisfying way, in a way that does not cover up the vocals but successfully portrays each part of the music. Listening to the live Jazz recording of Jazz at the Pawnshop’s “Over The Rainbow” is another incredibly excellent example of how the Kaiser 10 shines as the smooth sax is rendered with much emotion, while the people talking in the background can still be heard and it really makes you feel like you’re in the Pawnshop as Arne Domnerus’ group plays.

 

I’d say that the Kaiser 10 is the most “balanced” in terms of how it can manage any genre of music and will greatly be enjoyed by anyone who just wants to relax and listen to their music. I would not recommend it for anyone who’s after clarity, for monitoring, as they are essentially crafted for the simple joy of listening to music. I don’t believe its the most honest out there as the king of clarity for me will always remain the Hidition NT6-Pro. If you’re aiming for clarity go for the NT6.

 

 

In Conclusion:

 

I’d pick the Kaiser 10 as my favorite CIEM any day. I own very many CIEMs of varying tastes and styles but the K10 is my clear favorite when I just want to listen to something on the road, or in the office, or anywhere really. I’ll heartily recommend it to anyone willing to have one of the best all-arounder CIEMs out there. The only difficulty with this is actually trying to listen to something else after you’ve heard the K10s. At least that’s how I see it. I still switch amongst my other IEMs but my K10 is always with me and I don’t see myself getting tired of them anytime soon.

 

May Noble continue to create more amazing IEMs and with those crazy wizard designs I really do think the Wizard is an actual Wizard (that came from the moon).

 

Posted

Pros: Beautiful finish, Balanced yet fun sounding, Good Isolation, Can customize your own or by Wizard.

Cons: Some might find Bass heavy, Not a "Revealing Everything" monitor.

I got this marvelous K10 on last year black friday deal with a 20% off.

At that time there are two options comes in my mind. 

The 12 drivers JHaudio Roxanne, and the 10 drivers Noble Audio Kaiser10.

Since at that time the Roxanne is at pre-order state so K10 is the one that have some reviews to read.

After reading Sorensiim's review and his extraordinary set of K10, I just cant leave my eyes off that design.

 

There are tons of design options of Noble CIEM which is very rare in audio industry. 

Most of the company can design the artwork or the material of the faceplate and part of them can choose the color of the shell. 

At that moment, there is still limited preview of Wizard design (If i buy the K10 this year I would definitely go for an Wizard rebuild or new Wizard design),

I design that on my own. I choose every option I can take and place the order.

After some hours or maybe 1-2 days, an email shown up.

Nancy from Noble just give me some advice for my design. WOW.

That is top notch customer service. The company can just leave the options I take and make the CIEM.

But the Nancy just understand how can make my design better and give advises.

These kind of process just making me feel confident on Noble.

 

And here is my K10.

IMG_2232.JPG

Bad photos but the phone really looks good.

 

And after the artistic things, here comes the sound signature and quality.

The K10 is a versatile monitor. You can get a linear response from this phone which means the presentation of music is true to your source.

K10 can be used on any source and sounds good. But it just sounds better if your source is better.

The bass is full of excitement. On bass heavy genre like metal or hardrock, you can have a head-banging time with K10.

The mid is transparent but adding a touch of warmth which gives the vocal a nice lush feeling. 

The treble is quite a surprise. Since I upgraded the K10 from the Westone 4r. The bright-yet-not-piecing treble really shines.

Non-fatigue treble is quite a hard department on IEM, but Noble just make it right.

The imaging are precise and the micro-details are there.(though not as much as my HE560) 

 

After getting the K10, I have audited some others CIEM in market like the fitears, 1964s, UEs or the JHaudios, most of them are just on-par or hairy ahead of the K10 under several departments.

Vocals on fitears, bass from JHs, or stage performance from VE/Rhines. The K10 just got a balance between all of the things.

I would say this CIEM is for the people who want a "All-in-one" solution.

Posted

Pros: Balanced signature that works with many music genres; bass, midrange and treble are all excellent

Cons: No real cons (this is one of the pros), although people should read the review to see if the sound signature matches their own needs.


Synopsis: The Noble Audio Kaiser 10 is at the summit of custom in-ear-monitors representing the flagship of new designs from Dr. John Moulton. The Kaiser 10’s 10 drivers have been brought together seamlessly for superior coherency and a very realistic, natural sound. These drivers give great depth and extension to the Kaiser 10’s balanced tuning. The bass is present and very capable but not boosted or forward, the midrange is clear and very smooth with slight warmth, the vocal range has a gentle lift to bring it to the forefront, and the excellent treble is smoothly bright and non-fatiguing. With no sonic weaknesses, the Kaiser 10 does very well with a wide array of music genres, making it a very good choice for audiophiles looking for the most versatile choice at the top-tier of portable audio.


 

 

Dr. John Moulton and the team at Noble Audio:

Dr. John Moulton, known as The Wizard, needs no introduction but perhaps a little history and background: John is a doctor of audiology and has a long history of working with high-end portable audio. His first company was Full Circle and the seed of his later ciem designs first came to fruition there. Next was Heir Audio, which was quite successful as John continued refining his designs and the artistry for which he quickly became known for. He brought together a team of highly experienced technicians and engineers with finely tuned skills. It is this team which John has brought over to Noble Audio. Noble is set up very wisely: By giving each of his team a share in the company, they can really put their hearts into what they do and everyone will reap the benefits of their hard work and talent. John has assured that Noble is built to last for years to come, just like his earphones.

 

 

The Noble Audio Line at NobleAudio.com :

Noble Audio will carry a full line of custom fit in-ear monitors (ciems) and universal fit in-ear monitors (iems). The high-end iems will be rolling out soon, but for now let’s look at the ciems available:

 

Kaiser 10, this is the all-new 10-driver flagship. You’re reading a review of it right now!

 

8C, this is the re-tuned and updated version of Dr. Moulton’s earlier 8-driver. He says it adds clarity and treble presence to his older tuning.

 

5C, this is John’s 5-driver custom. It’s the same as his earlier 5-driver universal, now in custom form. He describes it as having a bassy signature similar to his older 8-driver. This model will be available in both acrylic and silicone shells. The silicone shells are innovative in that they allow for a custom faceplate!

 

4C, this is the re-tuned and updated version of his earlier 4-driver. The 4C’s new tuning eliminates any dips in the frequency response. It’s a clear, clean sound which is flat with a bit of brightness in the treble. I have it and will write a review later. This is the one you want if you want an analytic sound. It is available in both acrylic and silicone shells. Did I mention the silicone shells are innovative in that they allow for a custom faceplate? I’m going to repeat it for the 3-driver custom, too!

 

3C, this is all-new, totally re-designed 3-driver with some special, new drivers from Knowles (the foremost designer and manufacturer of balanced armature drivers). John says it’s tuned for a v-shaped, fun signature. It’s available in both acrylic and silicone shells. Yes, the silicone shells can have a custom faceplate.

 

 

CIEMs:

One thing I always like to mention is that with any ciem from anywhere, ever, is that this is a product designed to fit your unique ears. Fit is absolutely vital to the sound quality and isolation and comfort. You get that all-important fit by having an audiologist make an impression and this is what the audio company has to work with. Don’t try to go cheap with this! Work with audiologists who have experience making impressions for musicians and audiophiles and not only with hearing aids which require a much less precise fit. Even with the best audiologist, you may not get a perfect fit the first time, that’s the nature of ciems. Again, this is true with any company, anywhere, ever. So, it’s important to consider not only the product, but the customer service when it comes to ciems.

 

 

Customer Service:

Noble Audio may be a new company, but everyone in it has a long experience in high-end portable audio and ciems. They really know how to give excellent customer service. I’ve worked with John for several years now with a few of his earlier ciems and I can say that I’ve had great experiences and I’ve talked to others who have as well. You’ll be in good hands.

Noble will have representatives in the U.S. for American customers and a representative in the U.K. for customers in the E.U. Of course, for folks in S.E. Asia, shipping can come direct from China. Noble Audio is on top of things from the start.

 

 

The Kaiser 10:

 

The Kaiser 10 retails for $1599. An important point is that wood or carbon fiber faceplates, custom colors are INCLUDED in that price. Yes, wood or carbon fiber faceplates are free, that’s huge. To get a faceplate personally designed by the Wizard himself costs a bit extra.

 

Also, shipping is INCLUDED in that price.

 

The key point is that you can get a Kaiser 10 which looks just like the one I've reviewed (minus the Wizard signature) for $1599 flat.

 

 

Here are some professional pictures of my Kaiser 10 by Darin Fong. He did a lot better job than I could have! This is a beautiful design by the Wizard.

LINK=K:\Digital Photos 02\13_09_20 Noble Audio\Retouch For Brannan\More to Retouch\Retouched\NBL0321_3886GCC.jpg

 

 

 

LINK=K:\Digital Photos 02\13_09_20 Noble Audio\Retouch For Brannan\More to Retouch\Retouched\NBL1177_4742GCC.jpg

 

 

LINK=K:\Digital Photos 02\13_09_20 Noble Audio\Retouch For Brannan\More to Retouch\Retouched\NBL1177_4742GCC.jpg


Incredible, right?

 

 

 

Design:

The Kaiser 10 is set up with two giant CI drivers for bass, a dual armature for mids, a dual armature for upper mids, and a dual armature for treble paired with another dual armature for upper treble in a 4-way design. This design uses the same two huge CI drivers as the 8 driver design but several of the other drivers from the 8 have been replaced with different models for the Kaiser and the overall sound is far different than older version of the 8-driver which I am familiar with.

 

 

Isolation and Fit:

This is an acrylic shell custom and has the same isolation as every other acrylic shell ciem (assuming you have a good fit).

One thing to note is that multi-armature ciems that have 8 and more drivers are going to be larger than ones that have 2 or 3 drivers. The drivers and other components take up more room. Now, this is all relative as ciems run pretty small as it is, but for those with small ears, your ciem may stick out a few millimeters more with an 8 or 10 driver ciem. It shouldn’t be an issue for most, but it is something to be aware of.

 

 

Cable: Although the cable on mine is a usual generic custom cable, all Noble Audio orders will go out with the new improved Magnus cable at no extra charge. I'll be receiving a review sample of that cable to try on the Kaiser 10. It should be a great cable.

 

 

Overall Sound:

 

The Kaiser 10 I'll be reviewing is a review sample from Noble Audio. I've taken several weeks to listen to it and get over any "honeymoon" period. I'll be describing it just as I hear it.

 

I tend to run the Kaiser out of my 5.5th gen ipod paired with an Apex Glacier portable amplifier. Another thing to note is that I did extensive listening both at home, but also on commute in the noisy subways of New York City. This is important as you should consider where you will be doing your listening. If you listen on commute, be it plane or train, keep in mind that you may need an earphone that has more bass capability to balance the outside noise. Of course, isolation is important as well.

 

 

The Tuning: The Kaiser has a balanced, natural sounding signature with a very cohesive overall sound. This is a very skillfully tuned earphone! I don’t want to overstate anything as the whole tuning is about gentle lifts here and there to give this natural, balanced effect. Watch me use the word “slight” to describe everything! Usually earphones have some extreme somewhere in their sound, a boosted bass or a piercingly bright treble, the Kaiser just doesn’t. The vocal range is slightly lifted and takes a gracious center stage, as it should being the heart of the music. The bass has great presence. However, to the ear, it’s only very slightly lifted and comes in level with the treble, which is smoothly bright and extended. There’s a nice amount of realistic thickness to the note decay and warmth to the midrange. It avoids a dry sound and gives life to the music. Clarity is very good without distracting your attention from the holistic sound the Kaiser faithfully presents. The soundstage is nice, allowing cues from the recording rather than forcing the sound to be intimate or far away. The 10-drivers could almost be a single driver as far as the ear is concerned. All problems of poor driver coherency such as an artificially separated sound or each driver having its own soundstage are eliminated with the Kaiser.

People who are looking for one part of the sound or sound quality to be emphasized (always at a cost somewhere else) will want to look elsewhere as the Kaiser really gives a complete package.

 

 

Treble: The Kaiser’s treble is extraordinary. It really gives a very nice brightness and air without harshness—a balance that is very hard to find. Violins and cymbals sound great and the timbre of voices and instruments are very good, surpassing the older, darker 8.A in this regard. The treble extension is superior and there’s no fatigue. It’s the best treble I’ve heard from an multi-armature design. People looking for a dark sound or people looking for extra edge and sibilance won’t find that here.

 

Midrange: The beautiful midrange has nice warmth, but far less than Dr. Moulton’s older, thickly warm 8.A. The Kaiser’s mids are clear and the vocal range has a slight lift to bring it just a bit to the forefront. Music comes alive with this tuning and the Kaiser has a way of making drawing you into your music.

 

Bass: This is a very high quality bass. The bass is very well controlled and not boosted beyond what sounds natural. It’s a much less bassy signature than the 8.A. Yet the Kaiser’s bass is powered by those same huge drivers, so there’s exceptional presence in that refined bass signature which remains in align with the treble and just a touch behind the vocal range. The Kaiser has excellent bass extension and can really thump and thunder when the music asks, even as string quartets and jazz also sound excellent.

 

 

The Kaiser’s balanced tuning means that it works very well with just about every genre of music. All kinds of classical and jazz sound phenomenal with the Kaiser. Pop and rock are great and ballads are beautiful. The bass comes alive with rap and hip-hop and there’s bass depth for dubstep (although the bassier Noble 8C and Noble 5C may fit dedicated fans of this genre better).

 

 

 

Is the Kaiser right for you:

Have you noticed that the Kaiser really doesn’t have any flaws to talk about? It’s a very well done earphone, no question. However, whether it’s right for you depends on what you want to hear and only you can decide that. The first thing is that you have to know what you really like and not just for 5 minutes or 50 minutes, but what you want to hear for the long term. I have a story to illustrate this:

 

A Story:

Storytime! This actually happened:

 

True Storytime!

I received a message a while back from a guy who had been reading about another ciem that had reviewed very well. The ciem was said to have a mostly flat signature and this person liked more bass in his music. People were really excited about this ciem and said it was so great that the person got caught up this excitement. He knew that the ciem didn’t have the sound signature he like but he thought it’d be so great that he’d just love it anyway. You can see where this is going, right?

 

Guess what? He didn’t like it! The expensive ciem which didn’t have the sound he wanted wasn’t good for him, even if it was good for other people. The moral is you have to know what you want and get something which matches that. Noble Audio has a bunch of ciems and they will all sound different and be right for different people. The Kaiser will be right for a lot of people, but only you know if you are one of them.

 

 

 

Conclusion:

The Kaiser 10 really defines what a flagship should be as an all-around excellent custom fit earphone with a versatile tuning that sounds great with a very wide range of music. A great deal of care went into every aspect of this earphone and it really shows. When it comes to having the total package, not only sound but customer service and appearance that’s a work of art, look no further than new Noble Audio Kaiser 10.

Posted

Pros: Supremely natural sounding, fantastic mids, thunderous but tightly controlled lows, amazing highs

Cons: None. (As long as you can find the money)

Disclaimer: This particular set of Kaiser 10 is a review sample from Noble Audio.

 

It made some serious waves here at Head-Fi when Dr. Moulton, perhaps better known as “The Wizard”, as well as his entire staff parted ways with MDSP, the parent company of Heir Audio. MDSP announced that they would continue building Heir Audio products and selling them under the Heir name. Dr. Moulton and his staff remained quiet about their plans for the future… But nobody really expected them to just stop making (C)IEMs, did they? It turns out that The Wizard had more tricks up his sleeve. Along with his staff from Heir, he has formed Noble Audio. Noble is an American company, with production facilities (full blown lab) in China. Not to cut costs, mind you, but because his impressively skilled artists are there. I call them artists because “workers” doesn’t do them justice.

 

I own the phenomenal Heir Audio 8.A and I love them. When I want something a little (well, a lot) more analytical, I pull the Tzar 350 from my bag. The 8.A is an 8-driver monster and it was the Heir Audio top model. With thunderous bass, sweet mids and a treble that just keeps going, without getting sibilant, I couldn’t imagine anything better. That’s why I was honestly a bit sceptical when Dr. Moulton approached me and asked if I would like to review his latest creation, a 10-driver custom. Yes, ten BA drivers for each side.

 

With the 8.A being so good, and the hyper-detailed dual-driver Tzar 350, surely stuffing ten drivers into a CIEM could only be a marketing stunt, an attempt to cater to those that assume more = better. At first I dismissed the idea, thinking that The Wizard had finally lost it. But then my curiosity got the better of me - If he could make 8 drivers sound so good in the 8.A, what wonders would he be able to cook up with 10 drivers? I scheduled an appointment with my audiologist and shipped my impressions off to Dr. Moulton as soon as they were done.

 

Created with GIMP

 

When the package arrived, I was not prepared for the sight that met my eyes. It turned out that The Wizard had dictated the design to his padawan Kaiser Soze (Who this model is named after): “Amber shells, clear canals and make sure they’re dripping in gold”. Mr. Soze did not disappoint. Most people here on Head-Fi, at least those of us keeping an eye on the CIEM threads have seen some crazy Wizard designs, so while I was expecting something out of the ordinary, I was simply not ready for these. The amber shells seem to shift their color depending on how the light hits them, while showing off the drivers. The clear canals let you see the 3 sound tubes (mids, highs, lows) and the gold. Yeah, that’s 24K gold. Lots and lots of it. I think the gold alone could pay for a second set of IEMs! They really pulled all the stops with this set, I almost expected that I would find them a bit gaudy and over the top. Yet here I am, two months after first unpacking them and I still find myself just turning them around, letting the light hit the gold and acryllic, admiring the honestly insane level of craftsmanship that went into making these works of art. Dr. Moulton, if you read this then make sure Kaiser Soze gets a raise. Alas, the world is a cruel place! These deserve to be on display in a museum, but I’m afraid my ears will have to do. Why? Because honestly, they sound even better than they look.

 

Noble Kaiser 10 (left) with my Heir 8.A (right)

 

It turns out all those drivers aren’t just for show. These sound like nothing I have ever heard - although they do somehow remind me of my brief encounter with the mighty Stax SR009 - so let’s look at how the hardware is put to use. Starting from the bottom, I immediately spotted the two HUGE drivers responsible for the bass. I recognized them from my 8.A (my first 8.A build had a transparent shell) and Dr. Moulton has confirmed that they are indeed the same units as those in the 8.A, but tuned differently. Going by ear, I’d say he’s shifted the dial from “Crazy, but well controlled” to “Pure magic”. While not boosted like the 8.A, bass on the Kaiser 10 is amazing. Put on a track like James Blake’s version of “Limit To Your Love” and the mids and highs will carry you away through a dreamy soundscape, luring you into the illusion… then SLAM, the bass hits you out of nothing. Like running through a meadow, chasing butterflies in the afternoon sun, only to have one of those butterflies suddenly turn into Mike Tyson and punch you in the face. Oh these babies pack a punch, alright! With the 8.A, the bass is the star of the show. It never interferes with the mids, but it’s got a commanding presence and with rock and electro, the 8.A will have you grinning from ear to ear. The Kaiser 10 is tuned to be more neutral, but still capable of throwing those crazy punches - but only when called for. This means that they go as low as the 8.A and can hit you almost as hard as the 8.A, but with the Kaiser 10 you’ll never see it coming. If you consider yourself a basshead and you live and breathe dubstep, the 8.A might be a better choice, but the Kaiser 10 is right up there when it comes to bass.

 

 

The mids, oh the mids! This is where the Kaiser 10 really pulls away from the rest of the pack. There are 4 drivers assigned to this task - 2 of them are the ones responsible for the mids of the 8.A and then there are two more (different) drivers for handling “high mids”. The mids on the 8.A are good, but the Kaiser 10 is on another level completely. These 4 drivers in unison produces mids so beautiful that it actually hurts me that I can’t share the experience with anyone. The mids are forward without ever sounding artificially boosted and rest assured that you will hear every little single detail in the recording, but without the Kaiser 10 becoming as merciless as the Tzar 350. Yes, you can tell when it’s a bad recording, but sibilance doesn’t feel like daggers in your ear as the Tzar 350 sometimes do. Somehow Dr. Moulton struck a balance that sounds like the perfect mix of the 8.A, the Tzar 350 and the 4.Ai. Well-made vocal recordings will be giving you goosebumps. Close your eyes while listening to the acoustic version of “Tracy’s Flaw” and Deborah Skin will be sitting on your lap, singing only for you. Put on Rebecca Pidgeon and you’ll be instantly hooked. Male vocals are equally impressive and the sheer level of detail presented to you will have you enjoying not only the lyrics, but also the texture of the voice, the reverb of the stings and the sound of the room. This results in hands-down the best soundstage I have heard in any IEM, beating the 8.A. My favorite live album of all time, “Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet” by Fink, is an utter joy on the Kaiser 10 as it accurately communicates the size and type of the venue. If you don’t already own that album, go get it. It’s not perfect and that’s what makes it so good and so real - Some venues have better acoustics than others, some days the tech didn’t get the levels perfectly right. You can hear that on the album and that’s what makes it so great. The 8.A is very detailed as well, but it makes you work for it, makes you actively listen for those details. The Kaiser 10 just serves it all on a silver platter for you.

 

 

Treble is slightly brighter on the Kaiser 10 than on the 8.A, but like the 8.A it never gets harsh. Like the mids, the highs on the Kaiser 10 are handled by the same drivers as on the 8.A - plus two more “mystery” drivers for “higher highs”. This might sound like the Kaiser 10 is a shrill treble monster, but what is does is nothing like that at all. They go high, very high, but never shrill. Having two drivers for “lower highs” and another set for the “higher highs” ensures a very detailed performance all over the spectrum. I would have never thought that I would find myself enjoying the sound of a triangle fading away, not to mention being able to pick out that sound… You get that Tzar 350 level of clarity, but without the harshness.

 

 

Here you can see the drivers. In the right monitor you can clearly see the 4x2 regularly sized BA drivers responsible for those sweet mids and highs. On the left, however, you can see those enormous drivers (shared with the 8.A) responsible for that tight, deep impactful bass. No wonder these puppies can kick like a mule! Coming from dynamic driver bass (FS Atrio and UM Merlins) I was worried about if I would feel the bass from BA drivers like that from dynamic drivers… Those concerns were put to shame the first time I heard the 8.A play Take The Power Back and the Kaiser 10 is right up there as well, delivering that same visceral impact, although ever so slightly less of it than the 8.A.

 

 

“So, what’s the most impressive thing about the sound of the Kaiser 10? Bass, mids or highs?” Actually, it’s the way they come together. Yes, stuffing 10 drivers into a ciem is quite a feat but making them sound like one is far more impressive to me. I never think about having 10 BA drivers firing away in each of my ears, I just get lost in the music. Everything I throw at them just flows effortlessly into my brain. Rammstein? No problem. I get every single screeching detail from the guitars, every kick from the drum and Till’s vocals let me hear every single drop of spit flying from his lips as he barks the (surprisingly deep!) German lyrics at the poor defenseless microphone. Metallica? You’ll feel the drum hits and you can almost hear how smug Lars Ulrich looks. Andreya Triana? You’ll be drawn into the delicate soundscape while her soulful voice wraps around you, making you lean back in your chair and I’m pretty sure your blood pressure will drop a bit. Trentemøller? Better make sure the fillings in your teeth are properly seated or the bass will knock them loose - while the soundscape unfolds before you. Classical? Oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

 

These are immensely versatile headphones - The shortest description I can give would be “Dr. Moulton’s Greatest Hits”. It’s like he took the best parts of all his other designs and somehow poured them into one headphone. Sadly, this brings us to the only downside to these things: They’ll cost you almost as much as all those other headphones combined, clocking in at a cool $1600. If you want ONE headphone to rule them all, this is the kind of money you’ll end up spending. Buy The Best And Only Cry Once, as they say. Oh and remember to factor in the cost of ear impressions and shipping (not to mention the agonizing wait). And you’ll need a proper setup to feed these - Not that they demand absolute purity like the Tzar 350 or the HD800, but they definitely deserve it.

 

 

Albums I found particularly enjoyable  with the Kaiser 10:

Fink - Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet + KCRW Presents: Fink In Session

Puscifer - Conditions of My Parole

Chesky Records - Open Your Ears

Porcupine Tree - Atlanta

Skunk Anansie - Wonderlustre (Tour Edition)

Soyeusement - Live In Noirlac

Rammstein - Liebe Ist Für Alle Da + Reise, Reise

Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine

Ane Brun - It  All Starts With One

Agnes Obel - Aventine

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Daft Punk - Tron:Legacy R3C0NF1GUR3D

Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert

Hans Zimmer - The Dark Knight Rises O.S.T.

Les Paul And Friends - A Tribute To A Legend

Carina Round - Tigermending

 

Gear used with the Kaiser 10:

Ibasso DX100

Ibasso DX50

Heir Rendition 1

ODAC + O2

 

All files are flac, 16/44.1 to 24/192.

Posted

Pros: Very balanced sound, superb workmanship, excellent fit and comfort

Cons: None

 

Hi all, I guess I'm a Head Fi posting newbie, though I've been soaking up the reviews and forum posts for a couple of years. I've been in the pro audio business working with recording studios, Artists, Producers and Mixers for the past 20 years here in Los Angeles. I spend a lot of time in control rooms and have listened to some truly amazing sounding monitor systems. But my job involves a lot of travel around the world so I started looking for a great sounding in-ear monitor, with good isolation that could come close to the performance of a decent set of studio monitors. I started with the good old UE Triple Fi 10 with comply tips and wore out a couple of pairs of those, but was never really satisfied with the scooped mid freq response of those. 

 

I listened to a lot of IEM's at trade shows and none of them really stood out and provided the sound I was used to in a studio monitor or a decent over ear headphone. I happened to meet Brannan from Noble at one of the shows and took a listen to his demo's. He happened to have a set of Noble 4's and 6's. I talked him into letting me hold on to them for a few days to evaluate. One thing I should mention is I must have pretty unusual ear canals because I really could not get the old Noble tips to seal so well and consequently I wasn't getting quite the low end I hoped for. I put on a pair of large comply tips and got the seal I was looking for. The Noble 4's were immediately an obvious step up from the TF10's - very flat, with a really nice high mid that gave a good presence to vocals, but they did not have quite the bass extension I was looking for. The Noble 6's had that extra low end bump and maybe a half octave more in the bottom end that I was looking for and still had the same presence on top. I was quite pleased with the performance of the 6's, though I wasn't quite getting the ultra high end "air" I heard on near field monitors. 

 

I used them extensively for a couple of weeks and was pretty set on a pair of Noble 6's in the universal fit. Brannan happened to touch base with me and mentioned that he had a set of demo's on the K10 that I should check out when he was next in LA. It literally took 30 seconds of listening to these and I was blown away. They seemed to have much tighter bass than I had previously heard in any IEM and I was finally getting that high end air on the vocal. Wow - these are it and they were also very efficient - the iPhone easily drives these things. One immediate thing for me was that they have a very smooth response, with none of the harshness around 3-5KHz that a lot of IEMs seem to have. But they have a very extended high end so you can really hear that breathy 12kHz that a lot of mixers put on a lead vocal to add that presences and breath. The more I listened the more I liked them. 

 

Not being available in universal fit, Brannan shot my ears and said it would take a few weeks to make the custom K10's.  These would be my first Custom IEM;s and I really was not at all prepared for the difference. With the universals, I would constantly be rotating and pushing them in as they gradually became unseated. Did I say I have funky ear canals? Every few months I was ordering another batch of comply's because they only seem to last a few weeks. The first time I put in the custom K10's, I immediately noticed the drop in ambient level - wow these things really do get over 20dB of isolation and a great seal.

The fit was incredibly comfortable. But the biggest surprise was the low end in these things. I have spent years with universals and its been a constant challenge getting a great seal to really experience the low end they are capable of. The K10 customs low end was a night and day difference compared to even the universal version of the K10 demos. You may all know this already, but for any first timers - get the custom fit versions - it is a huge difference.

 

I won't talk about soundstage because I really don't understand how an IEM in a sealed environment 1/2 an inch from each eardrum can possibly have an effect on imaging :0

All in all - I think if you are looking for coloration then you might want to look elsewhere. I personally want to hear something in an IEM that is as close to pair of near field studio monitors like a Genelec or Adam or JBL LSR. So far these are the closest thing that I've heard. I want to hear it the same way the mixer heard it - no more or less bass, no more or less top end

 

Anyway, I've had these things for a couple of weeks now and I adore them. I can listen for hours on end without fatigue and they sound amazing with well recorded and mixed material. Some folks have mentioned the low end is tight but not maybe for bassheads. Well I really like a good extended bass and I'm hearing the same woof on a well mic'd kick drum that I hear on a pair of big Augsperger studio monitors, though I might not be getting it in the chest.. The low end is great and I couldn't imagine wanting any more. The high mids are very smooth without that harsh 4kHz bite that keeps you from cranking a lot of IEMs. If I could nail it down, I'd say I'm getting that extended low end and a smooth over 12K high end, that I haven't heard yet on other IEM's. As others have said - they are kind of expensive - but these are the first IEMs that I look forward to putting in my ears and listening. 

 

Rich Nevens

Posted

Pros: Drop Dead Gorgeous, Sound to match. Highs like no other, deep bass, everything balanced in between.

Cons: Brain burn-in definitely required.

I am not an expert reviewer by any means, but these CIEMs are something special. The look, fit, and finish are truly extraordinary, these are not headphones but are ear-jewelry. 

 

As for sound, these sound like nothing else I have ever heard. Particularly the highs are very, very good. They are bright and sparkly and revealing, well extended but never, ever harsh or sibilant. The bass is amazing, I swear you can feel it in your chest (for example, even watching movies unamped out of an iPad it has movie theater like bass). Mids are incredible as well, vocals are so well incorporated and where recordings are used with oversampling, doubling, or even where there are just multiple vocalists each layer can be clearly discerned. 

 

I would highly recommend these to anyone with the means to attain them. Truly Summit-fi.

Posted

Pros: Excellent Treble, Mid and Bass. Wide soundstage and good seperation.

Cons: None, Nil, Zilch on sound. More accessories would be nice. Say, amp bands?

The Sovereign King.

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Noble Audio in anyway. This pair of K10s was NOT provided by Noble and was purchased with my own funds. The following reflects my thoughts on the K10s using my own systems. Your own mileage may vary.

 

 

Noble what?

 

For those not familiar with what Noble is, well, they are a boutique company based in Thailand and China that craft exquisite Custom In-Ear Monitors. The brainchild of The Wizard, the K10s is the flagship model of Noble and represents the pinnacle of portable audio beside the JH Audio Roxanne, Fitear 435 and Unique Melody Mentor. In addition to the K10, Noble offers a whole range of different IEMs and CIEMs such as the Noble 4, 8C and 5S.

 

Right. Now that you know a little more of what the Noble is, lets get down to business.

 

Lets get Accessorizing!

 

What do we get out of the box? Well, pretty standard stuff. You get the usual Otterbox case, earwax removal tool, a Noble warranty card and your pair of customs! Oh, and stickers! Coz everyone loves stickers! The cable is by far the most interesting accessory though. More on that later. If I had to be picky, the only fought I could find with this was the apparent lack of -insert lack of “noble” prize joke here-…

 

 

The Voltage Transferring Mechanism Thingy.

 

Hey look! Later wasn’t that much later now was it? Anywayyyy, if this cable seems familiar to you, then well that’s because it is. It’s made of silver plated copper and is exactly the same cable as the Magnus upgrade cable provided by Heir Audio bar the pins and termination jack. In this case, the pins and jack is both molded in plastic, with the jack molded in a 45-degree angle as opposed to the metal barrel pins and Neutrik jack from Heir Audio.

 

While I’m not going to comment on the sonic qualities of the cable coz well, erm, this is not a cable review, I however, will comment on the external qualities of the cable. It’s tough. There. That’s it. Ok, really tough. It has gotten accidentally snagged on a door handle or two, survived a sneak by my cat and being stuffed into my bag as I ran between lectures. Comfort wise, it’s a light and supple cable that barely feels like it’s on your ears. Memory wire could have been a little longer but it’s a stock cable so I wont complain! (Although I am…)

 

Anywho, I hear Noble has a contest going in their Facebook page to guess the strength of their cable! Good luck!

 

Build Quality


One of the best darned finishing on a pair of customs I have ever seen. Lacquer used really gives a nice texture to them. They don’t just feel like hard acrylic but slightly textured. Glitter was evenly applied and as far as I can tell, there are no air bubbles in sight.

 

As for fit, the first pair of K10s that came had a slight fitting issue with my right ear. They just wouldn’t get a seal no matter how I twisted it. Left ear was perfect though. So I shipped them off for a refit, which rectified this issue. These now fit like a glove and I only lose the seal when I smile or laugh. So yeah, top notch built quality as far as my pair of K10s goes.

 

Design wise, I’ll let my K10s speak for themselves as well as Nobles designing prowess.

       

 

 

 

The Sound.

 

As much as I would like to start this portion of review off on a high, I’m afraid I can’t. The K10s just did not wow me on first listen and it seemed anticlimactic and underwhelming when I first put them on. One could argue that I had too much an expectation for these and yes, you wouldn’t be wrong. Maybe I’m too used to the 8A that I have, but, these are $1,599 CIEMs and I just expected a huge wow factor from the beginning but all I got was something really bland.

 

With all that said, I hope that didn’t put you off from the K10s. These, after just a few hours of listening, really showed it’s true nature. And boy, was I sorry for even doubting them.

 

Let’s start from the top of the frequency spectrum shall we?

 

Treble is fantastic. Being used to a warmer sound signature, ALA LCD2s, HD650s and my 8A, the K10s was a real step up. While some IEMs make you wish you hard more treble as they roll off fast or the fact that they sound muffled, these simply do not. Not only do they extend very high without sounding harsh, they do so with resounding clarity. Piano’s have a nice extension and decay to them, as do cymbals. Many a time I have heard headphones that do not accurately reproduces how a cymbal sounds. The K10s does it expertly with finesse. Cymbals crash loudly with authority and clarity that never sounds harsh to the point of causing discomfort nor does it sounds muffled. Yes, I am one of those who are sensitive to peaky treble and no, the treble output here does not bother me one bit.

 

Midrange wise, they sound extraordinary. These are mid centric CIEMs and they do not disappoint. They sound north of neutral but far less than that of the syrupy mids of the 8A. Coupled with a good amount of detail to them, every pluck of a guitar string sounds loud and clear and every crackle in a vocalist’s voice easily picked up without sounding thin and dry. Female vocals really excel here, sounding clean and spacious, with a good amount of air in them. In short, you really get enveloped in a swirl of mid rangy goodness.

 

Part of why I wasn’t wowed in the beginning might be due to the K10s bass response. Tuned differently than its siblings, the bass here is a little shy and only rears it’s very beautiful head when needed. When it is needed however, there is nothing shy about its bass. It’s excellently controlled and very precise. When compared to the 8A, which uses the same number and type of drivers, one will start to appreciate its precision. Not only does it almost match the 8A’s output it does so without even bleeding into the midrange nor does it start to sound loose, something that I found the 8A suffered from. Impactful, thunderous and accurate, three words I find myself repeating all too often. I love the K10’s bass response.

 

Soundstage on these is really wide. They really give the sense that you are enthralled in the middle of a concert. You will NEVER feel congested with the K10s. Imagining you are in a concert; you can feel the music in front of you and as it extends toward your sides, with the bass exploding right behind you.

 

Separation of each frequency range is excellent and never does one frequency intrude on another. Instruments as well do not sound congested and can be easily picked apart from the music distinctively. It is this separation that causes the K10s to sound less coherent than other CIEMs such as the Westone ES5. Nonetheless, they still sound fantastic and you probably won’t even care about them not sounding coherent! I know I didn’t.

 

It’s all these points that really make the K10 very enjoyable to listen. They aren’t what you would attribute a fun sounding CIEM as they lean towards being slightly neutral. Most likely, this is why I wasn’t wowed at the very start. However, after using the K10s for close to 5 months, you really start to appreciate the way these sound. Switching away from these to say, an 8A, a pair of UM3X+3 or, the Tzar 350s, there would always be something missing from my music that makes me yearn for the K10, be it its controlled bass or its ever so spacious midrange.

 

 

Truly, one only starts to appreciate and miss something when it’s gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test was done using an DX50, AK100 and AK240. All 3 were tested with an SR71B and E12. Single ended output from all DAPs including the AK240. I've only just received my balanced AK240 cables and have not have the time for a proper sit down listening session.

 

MORE PHOTOS INCOMING TOMORROW. My camera is outta juice and phone's do not do these justice.

Posted

Pros: Incredible lows, lots of detail, actual imaging in a CIEM/IEM, silky smooth, BEAUTIFUL design, QUALITY craftsmanship, close to perfect

Cons: Cost, CIEM's require impressions, can't let friends hear how good they are, resale value (but I would never sell them...)

First of all, full disclosure, I did not pay for these Noble K10's. I traded for work I did for Noble. 

 

Given that, however, I think Brannan and John would want me to post an honest review rather than a biased review just to keep them as a client!

 

With that out of the way, I have to say, these are the best CIEM/IEMs I have had the opportunity to hear. Am I just saying that for Noble's benefit, no, but you have to decide if you believe me.

 

Appearance:

I received these Wizard design K10 CIEM's in late 2013. They are obviously black carbon fiber faceplates with dark blue shells and a touch of glitter that seems to show up as different colors depending on the light. They are very clean and simple and I LOVE the way they look. Yes, they do remind me of some other CIEM's that use carbon fiber as their signature material. That's OK, I love the look. 

 

The workmanship is perfect. I can't find any flaws anywhere. No bubbles, finger smudges, etc. Perfect.

 

Fit:

I had Brannan do my impressions, so obviously there was no problems with my impressions. The K10's fit me perfectly. They are really easy to pop in and and out, but stay in really well. They seal great too. I don't get any popping or change in the seal even when I open my mouth or chew, etc. But the best thing is that they are super comfortable. I can wear them all day and barely even notice they are there. That's really the whole point with customs. with any IEM or CIEM their performance is all about the seal. although you can get a good seal with universals, with properly fitted customs, there is no struggling with the seal. You just pop them in and you've got a perfect seal. Easy!

 

Sound:

I have a lot of different headphones and IEM's and one other CIEM, the Heir 8.A.

 

First, I can easily say that the Noble K10's are the best CIEM/IEM I have heard. To me they are a big step up from the 8.A. The bass on the K10 is much tighter and controlled, but still plentiful. I am amazed at how good the bass is on these CIEM's. When watching movies, especially, the bass feels like it's shaking my body even though I know that's not possible. But lots of bass is no good if it's not controlled and tight. It's not just bass for the sake of having bass. It's simply perfect. Even compared to my other headphones, the bass is better on the K10's. (OK, so the other headphones i have are not known for having much bass such as Stax, HD800, Etymotic ER4S.)

 

The mids are equally as good. Lots of detail, not too forward sounding, clean and smooth. Vocals, piano, guitar all sound very natural. Not much more I can say other than it sounds just right to me.

 

On the high end of the spectrum, the first word that comes to mind is "smooth". No sibilance, but still lots of detail. However, this is one area where I think the Stax definitely come out on top. My tastes lean towards super detailed, airy high end like the Stax or even the Etymotic ER4S or the HD800's to some extent. But with all the high frequency resolution, I can't stand harshness or sibilance or etched sound. To me the Stax sound is perfect in that way. The K10's don't have that super airy-ness, high end extension. They have tons of detail. I can hear the brushes on cymbals, the lips of a singer, the drumsticks hitting the cymbals, etc. with the K10's, but they very top of the frequency range just isn't as present as my other headphones. As a byproduct, the K10's never sound the slightest bit harsh at any listening levels. Dare I say they remind me a little bit of a "tube" sound that just has that luscious, silky, smooth sound, yet still very detailed.

 

But then when you talk about micro-detail like the ambience of a room or the imaging of a recording, the K10's are still somehow capable of all of that.  I don't really hear a lot of imaging per se out of any headphones or in-ears but I am used to listening to virtual speakers using my software to give me WAY more imaging than any headphone could hope to achieve on it's own. So when the image is collapsed down when I disable my software, then the contrast is so great, I find it hard to evaluate imaging in headphones. It's so much less, that I don't hear a lot of difference from one headphone to the next. However, with the K10's, I am not sure, but maybe I am hearing so much detail in the recording that on a well recorded track, I can really hear some imaging. Maybe the drivers are also so "fast" that they can accurately playback all the micro-detail. Regardless, compared to my other in-ears, the K10's do actually image. WIth Out Of Your Head software running, I thought IEM/CIEMs wouldn't work as well as an open set of full size headphones, but when there is a lot of speed and resolution, the "Out Of Your Head" effect works really well. 

 

What else can I say... Whenever I listen to the K10's, they just sound right. They make me smile every time. I can count on them to do everything I ask. Tons of bass and punch when watching movies; tons of detail and speed when listening to music. They are certainly what I take with me on the go. OK, if I could only have one headphone/in-ear, I would have to keep my beloved Stax-009's, but we're talking about a $10,000 system. In any situation where I can't have my Stax, the K10's fit the bill perfectly. I am always "blown away" when I am on a plane with my K10's running Out Of Your Head on my laptop watching a movie. Having such huge 7.1 surround sound and bass impact on a plane makes me feel guilty that the other passengers can't hear what I am hearing!

 

Thank you Noble!

 

Gear used for evaluation:

 

  • Stax 009
  • Stax 407
  • Sennhesier HD800
  • Etymotic ER4S
  • Heir 8.A
  • Out Of Your Head software
  • Vostok Sound ES-21 electrostatic amp/dynamic amp/DAC
  • AK120
  • HRT MicroStreamer
  • Schiit Vali (with 75 ohm adapter for in-ear's)
Noble Audio Kaiser 10
Description:

This top-of-the-line 10-driver custom in-ear monitor is the flagship of Noble Audio and marks The Wizard's return to custom audio.

Details:
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