Pros: Stunning detail, superb clarity AND thunderous bass
Cons: Less forgiving of poor recordings than the Kaiser 10
Kaiser Encore: Early impressions
Please note: This review is posted only so I could share my (very) early impressions, as I know many are eager to hear about the latest Noble (co-) flagship. I've had these beauties for less than a week.
As detailed as the Katana, but with a warmer touch. A bit kinder with poor recordings than the Katana, but not as forgiving as the K10. The price you pay for super realism is that you get… the truth, no sugarcoating going on here. Trash in = Trash out. Well, almost. The bass gets a solid boost, but it’s never overpowering. The mids and highs are still there with impressive detail levels, but the bass...Oh boy do you get some bass. It’s quick, it goes looooooww and it will hit you HARD. Don’t mistake these for EDM monsters tho. With the Encore I suddenly started enjoying Macy Gray’s “Stripped” album a lot more. Binaural jazz is probably not what most of you will be buying the Encore for, but give it a shot anyway. It’s extremely well recorded and mastered so you truly get the sense of “being there”. The Katana handles this album very well, but only the Encore can make that biiiig bad bass sound as imposing as they do up close when you hear them IRL. On the recording you have the guitar way out left and a bit to the front, Macy Gray dead center and that bass is just to your right. Both the Katana and the Encore lets you pick out any part of the recording and focus on just that bit, but the Encore wins this round in my book, simply because it has the lower register muscle needed to reproduce the bass realistically. The original K10 does that as well, but you lose a bit of detail and the soundstage is slightly narrower. The warmer K10 sound works wonders with Macy’s vocals though…
Perfect Darkness by Fink is a long-time favorite of mine. I love it with the K10 because those drums go so damn looow and I love it with the Katana because it renders the guitars so crisp. K10 does acoustic guitars very nicely too, the Katana just does it a bit better. The Katana can go low for the drums as well, but not with as much authority as the K10. With the Encore, I get the best of both worlds, absolutely phenomenal.
I know I’ve mentioned Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for “The Dark Knight” rises before, but it’s just so damn good. My favorite track from it is probably “Imagine The Fire” - strings, wood & brass winds and kettle drums. Ooooh those kettle drums! If you love classical music, big ol’ symphonies with lots of strings, the Katana is your best bet. If you love vintage recordings of classical, go for the K10. If you (like me) love action packed symphonic soundtracks… Encore is what you need. You get the resolution, the speed, the soundstage - and the low-end grunt. This is the IEM version of having your cake and eating it too.
If you’re into electro and the Encore is within your budget, you can stop reading now and just buy them. Well… if the recordings are up to snuff, more on that in a bit. Not strictly electro, just a Brit with a piano and a computer, James Blake’s version of Limit To Your love is just a downright hoot with the Encore. I don’t have much truck with FR graphs, but I sure would like to see one that compares the K10 and the Encore. I swear, the Encore goes lower than the K10 or maybe the bass has just been given an extra dusting of Wizard magic. Whatever the case, I love it.
Next up on my playlist was London Grammar’s version of Nightcall. For this particular track, the K10 mops the floor with the competition. I absolutely adore their cover version of this song, but the recording and/or mastering leaves a bit to be desired and the K10 elegantly smooths over the flaws while keeping the details intact whereas both Katana & Encore reveal everything. Same goes for Muse’s awesome live album from Rome: The Wonder Twins Katana & Encore serve up every riff, every slap on the tambourine and every hit on the drums just like the K10 does, but also politely point out that the mastering is pretty damn flat. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that bad recordings are unlistenable on the new units, the K10 is just a bit kinder to those less-than-optimal albums. Anyway, K10, Katana or Encore, listening to Resistance on any one of them still makes me want to ride out and fight bravely for… something. IDK, better mastering maybe?
The Encore has turned out to be exactly what I hoped for: The resolving power of the Katana plus the low-end grunt of the K10. If you want one endgame CIEM to do everything, look no further. Unless you value hyper-realism higher than bass, then the Katana is you