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.