Pros: Beautiful design, amazing clarity, 3D sound, plenty of bass when you need it, and not a hint of sibilance. I can listen to these forever.
Cons: With a Wizard design and the cost of impressions, you're looking at over $2000. Expensive, but worth every penny.
The Kaiser 10, or K10, is a 10-balanced armature driver CIEM from Noble Audio. The K10 is an evolution of an earlier 8-driver design, this time focused on a more natural sound signature rather than focusing on bass. To this point, the K10 succeeds it its goal. No one portion of the sound spectrum is overly emphasized or unnaturally enhanced. Each part of the spectrum is present and doesn't interfere with the other portions. The bass does not bleed into the mids, and the mids don't bleed into the highs. The result is a very natural and highly addicting sound signature that keeps you coming back for more.
The K10s came in a smallish brown cardboard box. The box itself was completely sealed with "Noble" clear plastic tape and very clear instructions to refuse delivery if the seal was broken. Luckily, my seal was not broken. Inside was about 1 inch of foam surrounding a black plastic hard case, which was wrapped in a purple-blue "Wizard" cardboard sleeve. Inside the hard case were the K10s, two rubber bands, a cleaning tool, Magnus cable (already attached to the K10s), and ownership information card. The hard case has my name engraved on it and a "Noble" metallic label.
For my K10, I went with a Wizard design. The design is impeccably executed. The shells are blue with what looks like the cosmetic grade silver glitter. The signature faceplates look to be a mixture of red, purple, and blue acrylic in a nebulous swirl design, with a light-colored wood inlay thrown in for good measure. The tips of the canals are clear, which looks very nice with the rest of the design. I can only see two bubbles in the entire shell: one in each canal where the acrylic transitions from clear to blue. I suspect that this comes with the clear tips, and they aren't noticeable unless you're looking for them; they in no way detract from the K10s. Overall, I am exceptionally happy with how everything turned out, and I'm loving my truly unique Wizard design.
As we've come to expect with the Wizard, the finish is exceptional. I cannot find a single rough spot; everything is sanded smooth and ridiculously well polished. These things are a fingerprint magnet! Fortunately, all it takes is a quick rub-down with a soft cloth to bring them back to pristine condition. I am very impressed with how seamlessly the faceplates blend into the main body of the shell. I also really like the fact that the ends of the canals have a concave shape so that the sound tube bores don't so easily get clogged with earwax. The shape also makes them easier to clean. Also, you can tell that extreme care has been taken to ensure that the three sound tube bores are exactly in the center of each canal. This is a definite improvement from my Heir 8.A, which has an almost flat, slightly convex end on each canal, and the sound tubes are not centered, and almost haphazardly placed. It may seem like a little thing, but it really highlights Noble's attention to detail. If they care so much about getting such a little piece of the overall design correct, it speaks volumes for the rest of the experience.
My K10s fit absolutely perfectly the first time. Whew! It's always a valid concern that after waiting weeks (or months) for your CIEM, it won't fit properly when it finally arrives. I am glad to say that my K10 fits like a glove. A strange, weirdly shaped, blue, ear glove. Noble was also very accommodating with another special request that I made for my K10s. After more than 6 months of owning my 8.A, one thing that I really wished for was slightly longer canals (both to improve isolation and improve comfort; it's a personal preference, but in my experience I definitely enjoy my canals to be as long as possible). When getting ear impressions, I specifically requested that the canals were taken as long as possible. My audiologist was able to produce impressions with those long canals, and to my great happiness Noble was able to give me extra long canals on my K10s. Awesome! My K10 canals are about 5-6 mm longer than my 8.A canals and I couldn't be happier with the extra length. One final point on the fit: the K10s with their 10 drivers per ear are not going to sit flush in your ear (unless your ears are absolutely cavernous!). The K10 sticks out of my ears about 1.5 - 2 mm more than my 8.A, so fair warning if you're looking for a flush-fitting CIEM; you likely won't find it in the K10.
The isolation on my K10 is simply amazing. They're definitely best-isolating acrylic CIEM that I own or have heard (this is probably in part due to the requested longer canals). Without any music playing, I can't hear my fiancée talking next to me unless she yells at much louder than an indoor voice. It's actually a bit surreal; I really couldn't tell that she was talking at all and I had to have her confirm that she was actually talking (I didn't believe her at first and thought she was messing with me!). With music playing, I could probably sit with my back to train tracks as a freight train passed by and not notice, except for the vibrations in my glass of water. Yes, it's that good. The isolation is as good as my silicone CIEMs and custom silicone sleeves, and with music playing may be just a tad bit better.
This is the part that most of you were probably waiting for. The sound is, simply, amazing. The bass is impactful with plenty of quality in the sub-bass region, the mids are right there where they should be front and center, and the treble extends up to the sky and beyond. I would say that no one particular area is emphasized or out of place. It's unbelievable how coherent the sound is from 10 drivers in each ear. Everything is in its place and there, without any area stepping on or trampling the other areas. If I wasn't hearing this for myself, I honestly wouldn't believe how good everything sounds and just perfectly comes together. I'm sitting here listening to Rilo Kiley and just have a ridiculous, stupid grin plastered on my face. I think I'm in love.
The K10 has a fairly wide soundstage for an IEM; it doesn't match a good set of open headphones, but it matches and slightly exceeds the width of some of the closed headphones I've tried. I would say that, in my opinion, the soundstage is about 10% wider than the 8.A's. I would say that there's some height to the soundstage, but it's definitely not the star of the show; it's tall enough to not detract from the rest of the sound, but it's not really anything to write home about. Where the K10 is really shining for me is in depth and layering. I am finding myself getting lost in the music, shifting my focus at ease between each layer. It's a really holographic effect, with the different layers of music in each recording weaving effortlessly together to create something that's truly magical. There is definitely separation between different instruments, but it's very organic and not at all artificial. Everything is where it should be, and while you can pick out exactly where each instrument or voice is coming from if you want to, you can also just sit back and let everything come together. It feels like you're sitting in the middle of the band as they play, rather than sitting in a mixing studio trying to produce a coherent sound after the fact from several individual instrument recordings.
I briefly tried the K10 directly out of my Galaxy Note 3 and directly out of my MacBook Pro. The K10s sounded pretty good out of these sources, but to truly do them justice you'll want to invest in a good quality source. When I plugged them into my Leckerton Audio UHA-6S.mkii, they truly came alive. I've been listening to 24/96 FLAC files from HD Tracks (including the Eagles box set), and the K10s are singing. If you're going to drop the money on the K10 or any other top-tier IEM, I cannot stress how important it is that your source is able to properly drive them!
Comparisons to the 8.A:
Although the 8.A and K10 share 8 drivers in common, there are some definite differences in the tuning between these two CIEMs. In terms of bass quantity combined with bass quality, you cannot beat the 8.A. The K10 has very good quality of bass and it can hit hard when the bass is in the music and it's called for, but in terms of quantity there's a bit less of it there. That's not necessarily a bad thing, really, and it leads to an overall more balanced sound. However, if you prefer listening to genres where there's a heavy bass component, or you just like your bass to be a bit more present and emphasized, you're probably better off going with the 8.A or the similarly-tuned (but slightly tweaked) 8C. The other area I'd like to address is sibilance. With my 8.A, there are several tracks that I simply can't listen to due to sibilance. I'm very sensitive to it, and nothing makes me stop listening to my headphones faster than harsh sibilance. It's really not the 8.A's fault; the recordings are known for being poorly mastered, and the 8.A is simply highlighting an imperfection that's already. One of the first songs I listened to on my K10s was Norah Jones - Don't Know Why. On my 8.A, this track is unlistenable due to the harshness of her voice in the recording. On the K10, I can listen to the track at high volume without the faintest sign of sibilance. I listened to a few other tracks that were unlistenable on the 8.A (coincidentally, mostly songs with edgy female vocals). No matter what I throw at the K10, I don't detect any sibilance. To me, this music to my ears.
I've very, very impressed with the K10. I am glad that I went with the Wizard design option. If you're on the fence at all, I recommend that you place an order right now. They're really that good. I guess now I'm going to have to get an 8C and see if it's an improvement on the 8.A.