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In-Ear item created by Hisoundfi, Dec 28, 2016
Pros - Music to die for. Sturdy made. Not tooooooo big.
Cons - Kinda big, though. Kinda heavy. Competitive, yet still insane price.
~::I originally published this review on The Headphone List. Now I wish to share it with my Head-Fi fellows::~
The Kaiser Encore was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review, for good or ill.
The Kaiser Encore sells for $1,850.00
For many in this hobby, Noble Audio has stood as a pinnacle of sorts. We’ve all looked at them, at one time or another, and lusted for their products. When you start out with your first audiophile IEM, you can’t imagine spending $1,850 on something so small and innocuous. But you can dream. Hell yes, you can dream! Noble’s original Kaiser 10 made an appearance in many a fantasy, let me assure you. It still holds the most 5-star ratings of any in-ear monitor on Head-Fi.org.
Fate being the shrew that she is, I never did get an opportunity to try the K10. I came very close to buying it once, but went with a newer product turning a lot of heads at the time, the Rhapsodio Solar BA10. That is a direct competitor according to the forums, one which led a few K10 owners to stray. I am still a big fan of Solar. It will remain in my rotation for a long time to come. That and the 64Audio U12 shall not leave my side anytime soon. Everything I test competes against them. It is a menacing hurdle for newcomers to clear.
When I contacted Noble Audio, I kinda spammed them. I hit up the main support address listed on their website, and sent Privet Messages on Head-Fi to both John Moulton and Brannan Mason. The rejuvenated Kaiser had my blood hot, and I simply had to try it out. I missed the K10, and I could not miss the launch of the Encore. I would not!
Brannan got in touch with me good and quick, and a review sample of the Kaiser Encore was sent out immediately after. 2 Day Air mail. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they wanted to impress me. It worked.
He asked me if I would review their updated packaging and accessories if they sent it out later, after everything was finalized. I laughed, explaining how I didn’t give a **** about that stuff. Still, I said I would, even though it really wasn’t my thing. I’d do it for him, because I loved him. There must have been something I said to make Brannan nervous, because he decided against it.
Oh well. Probably for the best.
A few days ago I put on my journalist pants and asked John (the Wizard) if there was anything he wanted to share about his vision for Encore. The insights contained within his reply are most intriguing:
Indeed it is, good Wizard. Indeed it is.
I asked John what he meant by “more ‘awesome sauce’,” but he could not explain. It is too nebulous to nail down with words. He merely knows it when he hears it.
My Encore arrived in the traditional Pelican case, with a bunch of tips that don’t work for me (I use JVC Spiral Dots) and some stickers and a cleaning tool and… stuff. Good presentation. The Pelican case went into immediate use, while the stock cable went into immediate disuse… as is my way.
The ergonomics are quite good, while unusual. It is comfortable, but due to its unique shape, some cables struggle to work well with the Encore. I have the ALO Reference 8, which has angled 2-pin connectors. These hit my lobes, making it impossible to get Encore good and deep inside my ear. They are constantly falling out. The plusSound X6 T-Metal works better, but honestly, the cable which delivers the most comfort and best fit is the one I built: 4-strand 26AWG OCC SPC Litz terminated for balanced. It’s light and easy, and the ear loops are large enough not to interfere with Encore’s seating.
Being forged of metal, you can expect some weight. Next to my U12, they are huge, and very heavy. And yet, I say again, still comfortable, for all that. Not U12 comfortable, but not far off, either.
The Noble Kaiser Encore is a creature of clarity and detail. Every note on this massive soundstage is defined with frightful precision. There is vitality in the presentation which outruns my other IEMs. It is energetic and angry. I’ve never heard this kind of attack or crunch from an electric guitar. This is not a laid-back earphone. Encore is neutral with just a touch of warmth. There is too much liveliness and musicality to call these analytical, yet the resolution is such that you could certainly use these to analyze a recording with serious accuracy.
There is a special mix of smoothness and detail which allows all music to sound its best. The smoothness is enough to forgive disastrous mastering techniques, and the detail reveals everything, good or bad. Together is a marriage that flat-out works. Imperfections are heard, but you’re so in love with the tonality you gladly overlook them. Encore is a thing of masterful balance. It does it all, but never takes its pursuits so far as to alienate your average audiophile. It’s a philosophy most will appreciate.
Treble on Encore is bright and shimmering. It’s just shy of harsh to my ears. Since I favor warmer equipment you can assume my tolerance for bleeding highs is pretty low. I think most people will find it safe for their tastes. It is a natural treble, clean and free of sibilance. It’s just very, very present. Cymbals clash realistically and you can hear their reverberations articulated. It’s quite impressive.
The vocals are vivid, sharp, and splendidly detailed. They come off transparent and natural. Note weight is good and thick, but the mids are absolutely NOT lush. Nor or they thin. They have tremendous gravitas, uncolored, and honest. Whether male or female, the vocals render true and visceral. A singer’s texture and quirks are highlighted, making their unique style all the more evident.
Encore’s bass is sort of an enigma. It has the ability to hide when it’s not called for, but somehow manages to always maintain that balance of warmth and musicality. Without that, these IEMs would be prone to sounding cold and bright, due to that extreme treble. Instead, the low end keeps things cozy and organic. When a track brings in the bass, Encore fills out superbly well. Its sub frequencies are fast and textured with decent extension. You don’t get deep rumbles felt in the marrow of your bones, and you are never in doubt these are Balanced Armatures, as opposed to the more natural-sounding Dynamic Driver. I am accustomed to a heftier sound down below, and at first I feared Encore lacked the charms I desire. Yet after weeks of using these as my main set, I can say the new Kaiser delivers rather satisfying bass, however different it may be to my preconception.
Having an intimate familiarity with the U12, I am not easy to impress when it comes to soundstage. That said, Encore is a spacious sonofabitch. I’m not ready to say it’s as big as the U12, particularly when using the right module, but it gives you a grand soundscape to immerse yourself in. Add to that top-tier imaging and separation, and you have one of the finest executers on the market. There is so much air and space between the instruments, you feel like you can walk between them and study each player’s technique… aided, of course, by the best resolution I’ve heard in an IEM. It just feels real.
64Audio’s U12 is a very different IEM. This has been my favorite for a while now. It’s the warmest transducer I own, and I’m including full-size cans in that. Only the Sennheiser HD650 comes close. Somehow, the U12 combines great warmth, and enormous soundstage. It sounds a bit bigger than Encore. The bass is fuller, rumbling in deeper regions, and blooming in a more natural way. The U12’s low end quality is the closest thing you can get to a Dynamic Driver in the BA arena. Encore is tighter and more controlled, but the U12 is more organic and smooth. There is no question the U12 has more bass, and not by a small amount. It packs a monster low end. It’s too much for many folk. For Pinky, it’s perfect, using the ADEL B1 or APEX M15 modules. And quite frankly, I must give the U12 the win in this match. I’m just shy of a basshead, and what the U12 does down there fulfills me with abnormal finality.
Vocals are another matter. The U12 gives you the quintessential “lush” effect, due to its strong mid-bass and otherworldly smoothness. Lush is super enjoyable. But Encore renders those mids with extreme clarity, and a greater sense of detail. I experience a more transparent audio, with sharper definition. The U12 has a thicker sound, and while I do not call Encore thin, it comes off cleaner and more airy. Noble’s IEM creates a stark contrast between elements, making that space more evident. Whereas U12 likes to fill the whole stage with a flood of sounds. I love what the U12 does, but I think I prefer the transparency, clarity, and resolution of Encore.
It’s the treble that spoils the U12 for many enthusiasts. It extends well, but is recessed in the tuning. When you have loads of bass, thick, warm mids, and slightly hushed treble, it can make you feel there’s a veil over the music. My brain required a couple of days to adjust before that “veil” disappeared. Even then, the U12 does not dazzle you with its mastery of those high frequencies. It’s subdued and relaxed. They do their job, but nothing more. Encore KILLS THE U12 WITH TREBLE. Good treble, at that. Proper glitter. An excellent sense of light. Nothing cruel or grueling. Just a bright upper region that reveals all the wonders below.
Both IEMs have class-leading soundstage and imaging. They are grandiose, with depth and layering beyond reason. The U12 might be bigger, but only barely. Everything on their two stages is precise and identifiable. Encore has finer contrast and separation, which deepens the holographic effect of its rendering. Really, though, you can’t go wrong with either. They make other IEMs sound tiny.
Such as the Rhapsodio Solar. Sorry Solar. Ya know I love ya, but your soundstage is not very wide.
Solar’s frequency profile is decidedly U-Shaped. Not V-Shaped, but a gentle dip in the mids does exist. The vocals stand back a step or two on the stage, allowing a lovely swell of music to cushion them on either side. In this way, it’s very reminiscent of a live rock show, only you can actually hear the vocals. Ho ho. Solar builds the mids nice and thick, with real weight. They’re strong and clear. More so than the U12, yet still a far cry from Encore. Warmth and richness imbue the mids, and a surprising level of detail. Encore does all this as well, while also being even more meticulous and revealing, and without the vocals being recessed. Encore simply conveys a more vivid image.
Treble on Solar is oddly thick. There is sparkle, but not much air or brightness. It extends nicely and does so without ever approaching harsh. Next to something like Encore, however, Solar’s highs sound held back and frustrated. Encore is bold as brass, and gleams as if that brass has just been professionally polished.
Once again, bass wins out on my hand-picked IEMs. Solar uses two large Balanced Armatures for its subs, and it pays off. Compared to Encore, Solar’s lows have power, depth, and superior tonality. Solar also gives us great speed and texture. The lows just bloom so spectacularly, filling out the arrangement with delicious warmth. The only BA IEMs that beat Solar’s bass is, oddly enough, the U12. What can I say? I favor gear that takes the sub frequencies serious. Encore could learn a thing or two from these masters.
Something Solar does better than the others is stage depth. Perhaps a virtue of its U-Shape? The vocals pull me forward. I find I can almost wade through the music, feeling it swirl around me. It’s wholly engrossing. Imaging is just as good as Encore and U12, except on a smaller scope. These three are indeed top performers anyone can feel proud to own.
Because the Noble Encore is a bit on the warm side, with slightly elevated bass, it pairs well with just about any device you can imagine. If it were warmer, like the U12, you’d want a brighter DAP. If it were too bright, you’d want a warmer DAP. Just to keep things nice and balanced. But Encore is like the Meze 99 Classics, in that it is so dynamic, with a healthy low-end, and lustrous highs, it marries effortless with every player I own.
King of that pile is the Opus#2. This is a neutral-warm DAP, with strong yet smooth rendering. Highly refined, and insanely detailed, and the widest soundstage I’ve yet to hear. The Opus#2 plays to all of Encore’s strengths, even giving it some nice kick in the sub region. You will be hard-pressed to find a more natural, realistic DAP. It handles all its **** better than any other. As far as portable solutions go, this pairing is one of the smartest things you can do with your money.
Unless we’re talking about REAL smarts, and you want to save as much as possible, getting the most bang for your buck. Then I must recommend the Opus#1. I bought this AFTER I owned the Opus#2, because it is the finest sounding player in the sub-$800 range, according to my ears. It might possess even MORE dynamism than #2. It’s a little less smooth, with less body to the notes, though still very, very clear, clean and articulate. The soundstage is quite big, just not AS BIG as #2. But damn! Such glorious bass slam and treble sparkle. And those transparent mids! It really is a splendid DAP for Encore. It’s a splendid DAP for every IEM. Period.
You can’t go wrong with the Cayin i5, either. If you want to add a little color to Encore, the i5’s deep, warm sound will steal your heart. This DAP has powerful sonics and the most body and bass presence of the bunch. The treble is less free and open than the Opus set, so if you’re at all concerned about Encore’s high-end aggression, this is the wisest choice. The soundstage is more than adequate, and I love the full, rich timbre. The Cayin i5>Encore is to die for.
Only just recently, my principle music player was the AK120II. Opus#2 now holds that position, yet a piece of my heart will always belong to Astell&Kern. The 120II’s audio is like the finest silk flowing over the contours of a beautiful woman. There’s something so perfect and luxurious about it. The dynamics aren’t as high as the other players, but Encore is always willing to handle that for you. Together, the AK120II>Encore is one of the widest, clearest, and smoothest systems you can achieve with human funds.
On any one of these players I detected very little hiss. I don’t want to say there was none, because I think there was some low-level noise. With the exception of the AK120II, whose background is pitch black. But on the others, it was so low-level I had a hard time hearing it, even without music playing. I was under the impression the K10 is highly susceptible to hiss. Does that mean Encore is a little less efficient? I don’t know. Or maybe my ears are going? I heard a metric ****-ton of hiss off the balanced output of the older Cayin N5, using my then-top-set of IEMs, the JHAudio Angie. So I feel I am sensitive to it. Or I was at that time. Whatever the truth, on these DAPs Encore sounds amazing, in balanced, or single-ended. I invite you to buy them all. Not from me. Just buy them.
Well there you have it. Another review. Ya’all were betting I wouldn’t make it, weren’t you? Don’t lie. I can taste your contempt. In fact, this review was more or less easy to write. Encore made it easy. One has only to listen to them, be filled with desire, and put pen to paper. Or greasy fingers to keyboard. Don’t be afraid of your vices; they define you.
Noble Audio’s Kaiser Encore forced its way right alongside my previous favorite earphone. Its performance matches the U12 with ease, and in some ways, bests it. Which one do I prefer more? **** if I know. They are so different. I suspect my answer shall change with my mood. One things for damn sure, I can’t recommend the 64Audio U12 to just anybody. I have to know they are up for a hellish banquet of bass and recessed treble. Many folk can’t deal with those savage realities. Encore, on the other hand, I can freely suggest to almost every person and expect them to fall in love. It won’t be the absolute perfect IEM for everyone, but it will come awfully close. It is balanced for pure bliss, regardless of your bent. You’d have to be broken not to love it, at least a little.
Pros - Vast soundstage with natural placement—doesn’t sound like an IEM, natural body, perfect timbre, speedy, micro-details-a-poppin
Cons - Hiss on many sources; pinholes on the small side; potential side effects of purchase: living with one kidney, spousal wrath, incredulous friends
Thanks @BangkokKid, otherwise known as Brannon Mason, for sending this review unit to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Thanks @FullCircle, otherwise known as Dr. John Moulton or the Wizard, for making this piece of art and all the other magic you do.
This review was originally posted here.
List price: $1850 (£1699)
Introduction I’ve been watching Noble for years, mostly from the sideline, silently admiring the many creations of the Wizard in the Wizard Returns thread on HeadFi. I haven’t read every single page, but I’ve read a lot. The Noble crew mix it up nicely in the thread with a blend of honesty, courtesy, some California cool, and swagger. The many miscreants and mobile audio enthusiasts mixing it up there tell jokes and generally create a fun environment. It is one of the most interesting corners on HeadFi and part of what attracted me to the brand before I ever heard their gear.
I first heard a Noble IEM at Canjam London 2015. Brannan was manning the stand single-mannedly, as he often does. He was courteous, but had a silent confidence that made him seem a bit beyond me. So I didn’t try to make conversation—I was intimidated. I just asked to listen to the Noble 6 and the Noble Savant. The 6 didn’t do it for me—too much bass. That Savant was a black shell-o-goodness (RIP, Savant; long live the Sage). It was balanced, musical, and lovely, and this was before the new cases that make the Noble line look even more premium and poised to disown you of your coffers.
A couple months post Canjam, I started my reviewing journey, over the past year and ½ I’ve averaged 2 reviews a month while working full time and having a family life. Never think that hobbyist reviewers like myself aren’t working hard. I hoped that reviewing would give me the opportunity to hear exotic pieces of gear I’d otherwise not have the chance to hear outside of meets—a pretty limited place to audition due to time constraints and noise levels. I put in the work, joining tours, contacting manufacturers, making friends, writing reviews.
A year after my first Canjam I returned to Canjam London 2016 with business cards and tried to project confidence and, I dare say, some of that Noble thread swagger. I didn’t have it when I was at the Noble stand. Brannan is still intimidating in person. He helped me with auditions of the Kaiser 10 and the Katana. I told him that a cross between the two would be just about perfect—something less lush than the Kaiser 10 and less razor sharp than the Katana (very fittingly named). I gave him a business card, followed up, and after some patient waiting, the Noble Kaiser Encore arrived at my door over here in old blighty. Brannan never told me what he would send me to review, but I knew that something new was coming in the beginning of September. It was a very pleasant surprise to see the newly anointed King.
I’m so excited to review a headphone that I think was designed specifically with my tastes in mind (though not specifically for me, of course), a magical crossbreeding of two majestic beasts, the Kaiser 10 and the Katana. The pedigree is plenty apparent. It’s more magical than a Liger and more badass than a Pegasus. Roar and soar.
Napoleon Dynamite Pegasus don’t give a…
Or for a reality based imaging…
Noble Kaiser 10 Aluminum UniversalNoble Katana
I think it is valuable for readers to know as much about their reviewers as possible, so in the interest of full disclosure check out my about me (in the linkie).
Form & Function The Noble Kaiser Encore comes inside two boxes, a sturdy outer box with the Noble emblem on top and a lovely inner box with black fine textured paper. Before I opened the box, I thought I was reviewing the Sage. I had a good feeling when I saw the intriguing centrally textured black grey swirls with deep glossy black embossed Noble logo and text.
The Noble Kaiser Encore is a beautifully sculpted IEM. It is formed through the joining of two precisely CNC machined, anodized aluminum halves. The former edition had a rocket red half and a bright silver half. The Encore is more muted, dappled in blue-grey and a softer silver tone than the previous generation Kaiser 10.
The sharp contoured edges decisively sweep from the fascia toward the nozzle. Those lines meet in the imprinted logo in the centre of the fascia giving a muted starburst effect. The headphones look absolutely lovely.
The headphones come with a ton of accessories crammed into the Pelican 1010 case. There are four varieties of ear tips in three sizes and I found them all to work very well. I preferred the ‘blue’ tips sonically, but found that I had the most firm and consistent fit was with the foam tips. The foam tips are the best foam tips I’ve encountered. They grip extremely well in the warmth of your ear and the smooth outer shell seems easier to keep from getting grubby. There was little difference sonically between the different tips, but I’m sure that without going to outside tips, you’ll find a tip that you like in the package. I tried my Spinfits—normally my go to tip—and went back to the Noble ‘blue’ silicones tips.
Functionally, there are a couple ‘rough edges’ to note. The anodized surface is not as hard as the edges of the design. The edges are strong, so you’ll want to keep the earpieces from rubbing against each-other or other metal. These headphones require more careful handling than a pair of custom Encores would need. The rewards for this quirk of the aluminum shell and anodized finish is the ability to try the headphones, buy and walk out in the same day; and the ability to share them. I can tell you, it is an absolute joy to watch people’s eyes light up when they hear their music in a whole new way. It is one of the greatest joys of the hobby. It is the reason why local meets with your friends like the upcoming UK HeadFi Meet in Milton Keynes are so much fun. I hope to be sharing the Kaiser Encores for a long time into the future.
I also found that the pinholes on the IEMs are on the tighter side. Noble recommends avoiding switching cables, as this can result in stretching of the sockets. There are a lot of 2-pin manufacturers, and there is a lot of variance in tolerance control. It isn’t likely that any one headphone will have a perfectly snug fit with all cables, so this problem is far from unique to Noble. I recommend being careful and not trying to force a cable to fit that is resistant to insertion. Be gentle when attaching the cable to the shell, don’t force something that doesn’t fit right as you may loosen the pinholes. Unless you can test out a bunch of cables on a shop unit, resist the temptation to partner your Noble IEMs with a room laden with exotic cables.
The Encore is special. They are absolute speed and detail monsters. They aren't as warm as the K10UA as some have observed and from memory they don't have the massive soundstage of the Katana (don't have either on hand, so memory may be biased). Vibro Labs coined a phrase to describe their new MAYA flagship: ideal neutral. I think that is actually what is happening here. These have a nice natural timbre with a superbly layered and lifelike presentation. They have a little extra body in the mids and a bit extra treble energy and shimmer. The extra mid body gives these soul. The treble shimmers and sparkles but doesn’t spike. There is great focus and air, but no harshness. Treble notes linger exactly as they should. Light percussion strikes are light, sustained notes sustain, everything sounds startlingly realistic. Bass is full and lustrous. On 9Bach – Llywnog and Led Zeppelin – D’yer Ma’ker the bass guitar licks are satisfyingly groovy with perfect attack and decay—never dry, never woolly. I just love the tight little hits. Perfect attack and decay on that bass note. I loved them so much I had to rip a friend away from his book to share. He didn’t mind one bit. I had never used D’yer Ma’ker as a test track, but when the Encore ripped out such good bass guitar licks I had to add it to my playlist immediately. Oh, that space around the drum hit. Yes. On Why – Strawberries, the bass drops deep while still nailing the xylophone percussion elements and the high synth, piano and chimes. The complex arrangement of this track is flawlessly portrayed. Listening to Camera Obscura was just achingly good, Lloyd, I'm not ready to be heartbroken—I hope these get to stay around for a bit.
There are other in-ears with bigger soundstage from oBravo, but these are no slouch at all in that element, cost less, have a more customizable sound (aftermarket cables, non-comply tips), and aren't Halloween costume garish hangin' out of your ears. The in-ears from oBravo are nice, but why must I be made to look like Frankenstein’s monster?
One really impressive thing for me about the soundstage was that it has an arc to it. It's like being in the front row, with the concert speakers hanging with just a little bit of curvature to their sound plane. It's a live kind of experience. Many IEMs put you in the center of the stage, I feel more like I'm just at the edge of it. Soon I'll be leaping off and surfing back. Catch me. I need my head for listening to the Encore's some more.
Listening to the Animals as Leaders album, Joy of Motion on these is bliss. Not a single transient smeared, not a single detail missed. Micro micro micro detailed. They are also revealing of the reduced dynamic range of the track, as instruments don’t have a ton of depth in the stage. The depth in the sound is clearly artificial in its creation, much in the way that electronic music creates stage depth when there is no stage. This does not take away from the accomplishment of the Kaiser Encore, as even within this limited stage on the track there are a ton of elements, and the Encore misses none of them and portrays them all with absolute clarity.
They are definitely a step up from my UERR, the big question is always whether the step up is worth it to you? The resolution is higher on the Encore, more defined edges, more precise location. I've also found that I like them more with the Effect Audio Ares II+. There can be some treble fatigue for me with the stock cable, but the big copper cable from Effect Audio smooths the peaks a little. No detail lost, just eliminating some fatigue. The only problem with the Effect Audio Ares II+ is its sheer mass, it feels heavy on the ear and my sensitive ear skin gets irritated after a while wearing it.
I only had a brief comparison between the Katana and the old Noble K10UA and I thought the Katana was more airy and more precise, but a bit sharp--like it's name. The Noble K10UA was full and lovely, with robust body. I preferred it. The Encore to me has a bit of both, kind of a perfect in between sandwich of awesome. The Encore is the muffaleta of headphones, full and delicious with lots of tasty detail and complexity, but without the gut-busting heaviness. Pass the olive and carrot salad. Yum.
Matchability The Noble Encore has low impedance in its curve. I don’t know what impedance the bass is at, but I know that when I play it out of the RHA DACAMP L1 balanced output with an adapter, the sound gets messed up and wrong. It lacks soul and dynamism. It is bloody wrong. The Encore also hisses on many sources. It hisses on the DX50, the LH Labs GO2A, the HiFiMAN SuperMini, the HiFiMAN MegaMini, the Echobox Explorer, and my phone. It doesn’t hiss on the Aune M1S either in balanced or single-ended; the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label, and the Cayin i5 passed with flying colours too. I am more sensitive to hiss than some others, so you may not have the experience that I have had. Or you could just get a player known to not cause hiss with very sensitive IEMs like the Noble Encore.
Crap, Damien Rice just came on. Grown-ass man tears a flowin’.
Headphone Comparisons Because I compare a lot of intersections of gear, I’ve decided that it is about time I keep a volume matching database. As the Aune M1S is still my best sounding player, I have used it for comparisons. First, a little bit about methodology:
I’ve got an SPL meter, I’ve got a DIY coupler,
I’ve got a white noise track from Ayre Acoustics, when I combine these I get volume matching,
I press the IEM onto my coupler firmly,
I generally use foam for measurement and silicone for listening (foam seals better on the coupler),
For the UERR I find that they sound louder than universals if I use matched volume, so I’ve dropped the volume 2dB on the UERR—it seems to work.
I don’t use pure tones for volume matching because that doesn’t make any sense.
We already know from frequency charts that headphones don’t have the same response at different frequency values, using noise eliminates potential biased matching due to frequency response mismatches between headphones. I use white noise because it is has equal intensity at all frequencies. Listening to white noise will also tell you if your headphone isn’t neutral, the noise definitely sounds different with a very coloured headphone like the RHA CL1 than it does with a neutral IEM like the UERR or mostly neutral IEM like the Noble Encore. For the base comparison I used only stock cables.
UERRStock 2.5mm BalancedBalancedMiddle6676.4
Noble EncoreEffect Audio Ares II+, with SE adaptorSELow7578.2
Noble EncoreEffect Audio Ares II+BalancedLow5978.2
Unique Melody MiracleStockSELow8178
Unique Melody MiracleStockSEMiddle6678.2
In my UERR review, I did some comparisons against the CL1 and the Noble Encore. For this review, the CL1 has been omitted as it just wasn’t competitive, and new tracks used for comparing the headphones. For this comparison, I’ve picked out Why – Strawberries for bass and treble presentation and extension, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performing Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra Allegro for loads of percussive complexity, Clark Terry – Silly Samba for the sweet binaural Jazz stage and good variety of instruments, and Led Zeppelin – D’yer Ma’ker—you know why. Picking out more tracks for quick comparison is just too time consuming.
UERR The bass on Dy’er Ma’ker is taut and well-defined on the UERR and the Encore with a little bit more decay on the Encore giving a bit more natural presentation. The treble is more satisfying on the Encore with nicer sounding cymbals and hi-hat. Instrument separation is a bit better and the sound just has a more whole feel to it. The overall sound is a bit more natural on the Encore, but both of these do a fantastic job with D'yer Ma'ker.
The mids on the Encore are airier than the UERR, which I found really helped on Silly Samba’s horns. Both the UERR and the Encore do an excellent job with the piano and chimes in the treble of Strawberries. There treble is a bit faster and more delicate on the Encore. Both have fantastic layering. Piano has a little more body on the UERR.
The depth of stage on the UERR is a little greater, but the Encore has a more natural feel to the instrumentation. I think I prefer both the Miracle and the Encore on presentation of the percussion orchestra. Both keep up with the speed of the percussive elements and maintain excellent imaging. The UERR has a little bit larger image, but the Encore has a bit more lifelike image. I tested increasing the volume on the UERR a little bit, and it still had the a bit deeper presentation. The Encore dealt with a greater concentration of instruments slightly better with more focused sound.
Verdict: Noble Kaiser Encore. More airy mids, more pleasing bass decay, and the delicacy of the treble really do it for me. It is worth noting that the UERR cost about 40% less than the Encore. An individual’s willingness to pay for the marginal, but imminently noticeable differences in performance will vary by the individual.
Unique Melody Miracle A funny and surprising thing happened when I was testing the Unique Melody Miracle V2. I tried it on low gain on the Aune M1S and found that overall the Miracle V2 came across as laconic with a biit of a veiled effect. In comparison to the Encore it was diffuse in the bass (though still extending well), smooth and soft in the treble while retaining some good sparkle on Strawberries and Silly Samba, with smooth mids. The sound never challenged me, it was relaxing, but in need of some energy. On D'yer Ma'ker the bass edges, the defining characteristic of the song were soft and vocals sounded tame.
On the percussion orchestra piece, the race was tighter between the two IEMs. Both did an excellent job of depicting many simultaneous instruments in space with excellent separation and definition on the percussion orchestra and Silly Samba. Neither lose the mix of instruments and placements at all. You can definitely track every instrument. The Encore had a more focused attack and decay in the bass, which I preferred.
The Encore was airy with excellent extension in both the bass and treble. Bass body was full, not thick, with appropriate weight in the deep bass notes of Strawberries. D'yer Ma'ker’s bass guitar sounded real and lifelike. The soft edges of the Miracle gave way to firm well rounded bass with perfectly defined attack and decay on the Encore. D'yer Ma'ker sounds better on the Encore than anything else I’ve tried.
Now something special happened when I upped the gain on the M1S for the Unique Melody Miracle, it filled out and lost some of the softness that I observed, there was more energy, but it remained a smooth and easy-going signature. The Miracle V2 is great for long fatigueless listening sessions. The Miracle v2 isn’t as focused as the Encore, and doesn’t have as much stage depth, but it is a very satisfying listen. When adequately amped, the Miracle v2 is outputting firm bass with a bit more quantity than the Encore, but it isn’t outputting with the same quality. Bass texture, attack and decay are all more accurate to my ears. The Encore wins on depth and height, and has a slight edge (could be expectation bias) on width. The depth and height advantages are definite.
The Miracle V2 has a bit better isolation due to it’s pseudo-custom shell shape. I found that this shape also helped me with fit. The bores on the Kaiser Encore are protected with a thin plastic around the edges. This should help keep the headphones operating at peak form for longer with lower maintenance. The Miracle v2 has two large offset bores that are difficult to keep clean. I would prefer that these have a sonically transparent screen over them. Over time the Noble tips get slippery and the insertion depth can make them slide a little bit, affecting the bass quantity. My advice is to clean the tips using alcohol wipes. When I did this the tips regained their nice firm grip. The plastic shell of the V2 is more pocketable as they won’t scratch themselves or other items. I find I like to put my IEMs in my blazer or jacket pocket when I’m getting on or off transit or when someone wants to talk to me, so pocketability is a good feature.
Verdict: Noble Kaiser Encore, due to better technical capabilities in space, and more refined bass. If sound is your main thing, then you can’t do much better than the Kaiser Encore. On aesthetics, the Kaiser Encore wins easily. On ergonomics, the Miracle v2 is a bit better. The Miracle v2 will be a better value for many.
The Spoils To the victor go the spoils. In this little armatures race, the Noble Encore takes top place, but those looking for a better ‘value’ at the top end may wish to consider either of the competitors in this mini-shootout. In the end, the victor here is me, as I’ve gotten to spend so much quality time with these wonderful headphones.
Cable Musings The Noble cable is a good one, but whilst reviewing the ENCORE I won an Effect Audio Ares II+ IEM cable. If the Noble has one weakness it is that the treble can become fatiguing on some tracks. In my experience, the Ares II+ helped with this. The Effect Audio Ares II+ is also a balanced cable, and while the Encore doesn’t need extra power, I find that the Aune M1S balanced out has better technical performance than the single-ended output. The Kaiser Encore is fully capable of showing this subtle difference between the two outputs.
My daily driver set-up is as follows:
Aune M1S (balanced) — Effect Audio Ares II+ — Noble Kaiser Encore
Specifications All Noble IEMs on official Noble Audio sites provide little information about the measured characteristics about their IEMs. I can tell from listening that the Kaiser Encore is very sensitive, and it does hiss on lesser pieces of gear. I would also guess that the impedance is very low. I’ve been told under 30, but I’d guess well under 30 for the Encore. I’ll not hazard my guess and I haven’t measured.
I’m lucky to have a superior DAP in the Aune M1S that doesn’t hiss one bit. I have noted that audible distortion occurs on a 4.4Ω but not at 2.2Ω. The rule of eight (your output impedance should be 1/8[sup]th[/sup] your headphones impedance) likely gives us some clues as to what the impedance is on the Kaiser Encore, but we don’t have a specific value. All I can advise is you want your output impedance below 1Ω, as I’ve had hiss on 1Ω output impedances.
Drivers10 BA, configuration unknown
ShellAnodized CNC-machined aluminum
AccessoriesCleaning tool, Noble Wizard sticker, Pelican 1010, Noble branded gear bands, ‘Blue’ silicone tips (S/M/L), ‘Red’ silicone tips (S/M/L), coreless foam tips (S/M/L), biflange silicone tips (S/M/L), stainless steel tip holder, Noble warranty card, velvet pouch
Conclusions The Noble Kaiser Encore is simply the best in-ear headphone I have had the privilege of listening to. It has excellent extension in the bass and treble with natural bass decay and fast and realistic treble. The soundstage is big with beautiful instrument placement. The mids are airy, but not arid. The whole sound is natural and evocative of live music, not recorded music. I love these headphones and I think you will too.
The Noble Kaiser Encore Universal IEMs are not without limitations. The metal edges can be a hazard. This can be solved by getting one of the Wizard’s brilliantly beautiful custom designs, but you won’t be able to share the sound with your incredulous non-audiophie buddies. You could also get a Wizard Encore, which you could share. Treble can cause fatigue during long listening sessions with the stock cable if you are sensitive to this, which I am. The Kaiser Encore hisses with many sources. Whilst it can most certainly sound excellent out of an iPhone, you’ll want a really clean source to avoid hiss. The biggest negative for many will be price.
For many, $1850 (£1699) will be out of their reach or considered exhorbitant, and there are options that give you 80 to 90% of the Noble Kaiser Encore’s performance for around $1000, but I think you will know the difference once you’ve compared. I think they are worth it. It is up to each individual buyer to decide what they are willing to pay for the ever diminishing returns at the top of the price scale. There are certainly more expensive headphones than the Kaiser Encore, and if you are hunting for an IEM in this range, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t try the Kaiser Encore before buying something in this price range and above.
Pros - Balance, sound stage, build quality, perks, case, fit, customer service... Just incredible.
Cons - I'd like a thicker cable?
I had the privilege of giving a listen to these beauties through work, and let me tell you, I'm thankful for it. I'll go through the gamut on this and tell you about packaging, comfort, sound, and overall thoughts, but before we get there, just know, I rated it 5 stars for good reason! :-D
At this level of earphone, you expect the best, and they deliver in packaging and overall build. In the box you receive 2 stickers, 2 wristbands, a carabiner, 11 tips, a pelican case, a metal owner card, and the earphones themselves. Everything is gorgeous and compact. No space is wasted and honestly, it's everything you'd hope to receive and more with a set of earphones at this level.
Amazing. First off, they provide 11 tips, try them all out and find the best set for your ears. I went to my normal go-to (the soft squishy set) and used them for the first few days, they were great, but... for this review, I wanted to make sure and try them all. Surprisingly, a pair of the silicone tips worked even better for me and my ears. When they offer so many options, definitely dig in and see what works best for you.
Don't get me wrong, the cable is great, but personally, I would have liked a little thicker of a beast. This could be a personal thing, but it just feels like over time it could weaken or break. Maybe I'm just being a worrier. Then again, it is detachable and if you feel the same, change'er out.
With 10 drivers per ear, you want to know how the sound is, right? This is why we're all hear (intended dad pun).
These are by far the most natural sounding earphone I've ever heard. It's not bass heavy, it's not pitchy, it doesn't show love to highs or mids or lows it's just... perfect. As far as a soundstage is concerned, these are the first in-ears that I've listened to that truly make me feel like the band is in the same room as I am. You can hear each instrument separated from the next. No matter how busy the music is, you can still differentiate. I was listening to one piece that had a tambourine and honestly felt like I could hear the shimmer of each individual tiny cymbal. Just an overall enjoyable experience with any style of music.
As the title suggests, these are the engagement ring of music appreciation. If you're ready to truly make your relationship official for all of your friends and family to know. Get these earphones. Figure it out. Make it happen. They're worth it.
*If you have any questions, feel free to shoot'em my way! <3
Pros - Musical, refined, dynamic sound
Cons - Not the most technical sounding of earphones if that's what you're looking for
Disclaimer: The Noble Kaiser Encore sample was provided to me by Noble for the purposes of this review.
The Noble K10 was my first Multi-BA earphone. While it might not be the as good as the best of earphones on the market these days, the K10 was wonderfully tuned. That, to me, has always been the greatest strength of Noble. They might not have the most technical earphones, but they sure know what sounds real. Before going on to evaluate the technicalities of an earphone, I usually focus on the tonality of a product more than anything. It is only after that that I go on to consider the technicalities of an earphone. The K10 has since been retired, and replaced by the Kaiser Encore. I won’t spoil it just yet, but I think the Kaiser Encore is a worthy successor no doubt. I understand that many people in the market for an earphone from Noble are considering between the Katana and the Encore. In my review, I will be making lots of references to the K10 and the Katana, to help to answer these queries, and also for those thinking of upgrading from a K10.
Build and fit
The Encore made of CNC milled aluminium and is of excellent quality. Noble’s universal line up has the same general shape and size. The lower models are made of ABS plastic with a milled aluminium faceplate, while the two flagship models, the Kaiser Encore and the Katana are both fully aluminium. The anodizing job is clean and consistent, and the pattern on the two different pieces of the shell line up extremely well. In short, the Kaiser Encore is very well built, something I would expect of a flagship product.
The Kaiser Encore has a chassis on the slightly larger side. With ten drivers per side (and if the K10 is any indication, those base drivers are huge), it is understandable. If you’ve read my review of the Katana a while back, you would probably know that the Katana actually has a pretty small chassis, much smaller than that of the Kaiser Encore. The Encore, however, while on the slightly large side, is in fact an improvement over the previous K10UA. I don’t have pictures to do a direct pictorial comparison to the K10UA, but the Encore definitely has better fitting contours.
The Encore fits my ear very well. While it is slightly on the larger side, the nozzle is slightly longer than usual, providing a very secure and deep fit. These are not light earphones though, and as such, They really require the good over ear loop to support their weight and keep them securely in place. Once that is all done though, I have found to be supremely comfortable, The shape of the chassis is such that there is almost no pressure at all on any part of the ear. A lot of people have problems with universal earphones, and this is usually caused by pressure points on certain points of the ear. With the Noble earphones, I have never had this problem, and it has made using them a pleasure.
The Encore is not the best of isolators, but it does a decent job. It performs similar to most wide bore, short nozzle earphones. While it won’t completely block out the roaring noise in underground train the way that custom earphones do, they do a pretty decent job.
The Kaiser Encore is quite an evolution from the K10. The K10 is a very thick, rich and lush sounding earphone which aims to create an emotive, musical experience. The Encore, on the other hand, is a much more balanced sounding earphone. There is a boost on the lower frequencies, but not as much as with the K10. The highs are still pretty smooth, but definitely more extended than the K10’s and more natural sounding.
Those of you who have read my older reviews would know by now, that I often find the dynamics in pure BA earphones to be lacking. I’m, not sure if it’s due to the limitations in the volume of air movement, of if there is another reason, but somehow, they just don’t have that dynamic impact and power across the spectrum that dynamic earphones do. The Encore, however comes pretty close. It sounds significantly more dynamic and energetic than most multi BA earphones that I have heard. It’s still not quite the same as how the best dynamics handle it. But it’s not far off. It really achieves a nice, snappy sense of attack in the transients.
One complaint that many people have of the old K10, is what they find to be a lack of resolution. The Kaiser Encore is a definite improvement in this regard. The Encore isn’t a technical monster to my ears. However, it maintains a good degree of transparency and resolution, and without comparison, I have never found them to be lacking in terms of transparency. There is a good sense of the reproduction of space and air. Separation and layering are excellent as well, and the spatial recreation is great. It’s not the largest, most open stage I’ve heard, that title still goes to the Campfire Andromeda, but the Encore definitely has a good, large soundstage. It is well balanced in terms of width, depth and height, and the placement of the different voices and instruments is very well done, nothing too forward or distant. Occasionally, when the track calls for it, it manages to throw some sounds out of the headspace. The stage isn’t the biggest, but it works well.
The Encore has an upper frequency range that I find to be improved from its predecessor. I found the K10UA to have a poorer extension, and to make up for that, it had a little peak slightly lower down in the treble to create that sense of sparkle. While this added to the sense of sparkle, it never was able to portray that air and fine sparkle that well. The Encore does it much better. It’s not the airiest or most open of earphones, but the improved extension at the top really helps with that portrayal. The sparkle at the top end becomes more natural as well. Yet in line with the K10 sound, it takes a slightly less aggressive sound, still smooth enough for easy listening, never once sounding harsh or hard.
The midrange of the Encore is to my ears, improved from the old K10’s midrange. The K10 was famously known for its extremely smooth, syrupy thick midrange. At times, it got a little too thick or me. The Encore has a leaner, more balanced midrange, yet still edges on the side of musicality with some very welcome colouration. The midrange is well separated and transparent, with a good sense of space and separation as well. To my ears, it has just the right mix of musicality, colour and transparency, and is possibly one of the things I love the most about the Encore.
The bass of the encore is elevated, north of neutral. It goes endlessly deep, remains tight and controlled, and resolves textural detail very well. Uncharacteristic of balanced armature earphones, however, the Encore’s bass hits with surprising impact ad body, yet it manages to retain the level of articulation usually only found on the very best of balanced armature earphones. Those of you expecting it to have this close to subwoofer type bass that the K10 has, you might be a little disappointed. It doesn’t mean the bass is light though, because it’s not. It’s just not as heavy or elevated as that of the K10’s, but my ears prefer it this way.
The Encore isn’t for everyone though. Those of you hoping for a syrupy sweet musical experience, with a huge thunderous bass, you would probably be better off with the old K10s. Those of you looking for a more accurate and uncoloured tonal balance, you’re probably better off with the Katana. Where does the Encore play? To my ears, it’s for those of you who prefer a slightly more refined, mature sound, with a little more musicality and liveliness than neutral, yet retaining excellent technical abilities across the spectrum. It’s for those of you who enjoy the clean, well-controlled sound of Bas, but who occasionally miss out on the dynamics and the punchiness of dynamic drivers.
For all you K10 owners out there, a lot of you are probably wondering if you should upgrade. Well it depends. If you’ve found yourself enjoying the sheer musicality and sweetness of the K10, then you might not be so happy with the Encore. However, if you find yourself wanting a slightly more mature, refined, balanced, and transparent sound without sacrificing too much of the essence of the musicality of the Encore, then the Encore should be a serious consideration for you.
Pros - Incredible clarity and separation of sounds, Organic and natural sound reproduction, Command of all frequencies, Great build quality and accessories
Cons - Price (worth it IMHO), Treble is bright-ish at high volumes (but still very natural), Some might not like the housing color
At the time this review was written, the Noble Kaiser Encore was listed for sale on Noble Audio’s website. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
As I become more seasoned in this hobby my preferences continuously evolve. When I first started buying earphones, I was looking for in-ear monitors with a lot of bass and a slight V-signature. That preference has changed over time. I’m no longer looking for an earphone that will blow my brains out with thumping bass (respect to you if that’s your thing). I now look for an earphone that can do everything well at the same time. I want a perceptually even amount of detail, accuracy and tone at each frequency range. This is a feat that is seldom done, and often times difficult to accomplish.
I listen to different earphones quite often and I’ve only scratched the surface of everything that’s out there. Although there are tons of in-ears to choose from, picking between a bunch of possible options becomes another problem in itself. This especially applies to high end monitors. When you are looking to spend a more substantial amount of money on a product, the risk to reward factor is increased exponentially. Picking between several options becomes a daunting task. Simply put, we all want the biggest return on our investment. Taking a stab in the dark on a high end product can turn out to be a tremendous disappointment. This is why we read the reviews and ask questions. We want to know what the best options are before we make a purchase.
I’m not an “expert” at this stuff. I don’t claim to have a golden ear, nor do I consider myself the say all and know all of what a good earphone is. I’ve heard many of the world’s best earphones at each price point. I’ve been blown away by some stuff (regardless of price), while other products I’ve walked away shaking my head wondering what the heck all the fuss was all about. All I can do with a review is give my honest opinion, be fair to both the manufacturer and the reader who is taking time out of their day to read that opinion, and write a review that respects all listening preferences. If I can give you a good sense of what an earphone is like, I’ve done my job.
When Noble sent me a review sample of the Katana, not only was I honored to have the opportunity. I was really impressed by what Noble did in terms of venturing from their previous flagship tuning, the Noble K10. Although the original flagship (the Noble K10U) was a legend, the new Katana was an improvement over the K10U in terms of extension, soundstage, separation and detail. I pointed out the differences between the two in my review and explained why I would give a slight advantage to the nine driver Katana. Even still, there were things about the K10U that I enjoyed over the Katana. It had a richness and dynamic tone in the lower registers that made them seem less fatiguing and more musical.
Over the course of the review I emailed Noble a few times, asking questions and sharing my impressions. During these conversations Noble’s rep responded, telling me that there were “future projects” in the works. With that being said that my curiosity peaked instantly. When the Encore was announced, I got a shipping notification. The Encore was on its way, and I was about to see what the “secret project” was all about. Here is a statement from Noble about the Encore:
“The Encore retains the musical essence of the K10 and features a retooled midrange that provides additional clarity and more accurate tonal balance while still integrating seamlessly with the rest of the audio spectrum. Improvements in midrange response contribute to a larger soundstage and presentation compared to the K10 with more precise imaging and superior spatial representation.”
There is no such thing as a perfect earphone for everyone because the diversity of people’s preferences prevent that from being a possibility. However, there are some earphones that come close for me. Let’s do a comprehensive review to one of these products, the Noble Kaiser Encore.
I was given a free loaner of the Encore in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Noble Audio, aside from having a few review opportunities. I would like to take this time to personally thank Brannan for the opportunity to experience and review the product.
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me. I want to hear any earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I can share my impressions with enthusiasts and help them find the audio product they’re looking for. My Head-Fi profile has a list of audio products ranked from favorite to least favorite. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and having a variety of different gear to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are solidly built, with ergonomics and sound that is pleasing to my ears. It’s my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based on gear I have owned and used.
If you’ve ever purchased a Noble earphone in the past you will recognize this premium box. There’s magic inside, trust me. Opening the box, owners are greeted with some Noble stickers, a velvet drawstring pouch and a premium black Pelican 1010 case.
Opening the case reveals the earphones, cable, carabiner, two rubber binding rings for portable rigs, owner’s card, a cleaning tool and a very nice selection of tips . The entire package is premium. You get everything you need to use and protect your investment.
Specifications and Accessories
*10 proprietary balanced armature drivers per side
*Updated Noble universal form factor and geometry featuring creative precision machined aluminum housings
*Sensitive enough for use with smartphones as well as portable amps and DAPs
*Hand-assembled and matched
*Detachable cable with industry standard 2-pin configuration (0.78 mm diameter)
Noble doesn’t give much information beyond driver count. I don’t know the earphone’s exact impedance, but I’m guessing it’s fairly low. The sensitivity of the Encore is on par with most other flagship in-ear monitors, and can be driven loudly at low volumes.
1X Pair Encore earphones
1X Braided cable with two pin connectors
1X Pelican Carrying case with carabiner
1X Velvet drawstring pouch
1X Earphones cleaning tool
1X Warranty card
2X Portable rig binding straps
3X Pair red/gray wide bore tips (S,M,L)
3X Pair blue/black narrow bore tips (S,M,L)
2X Pair memory foam tips (S/M,M/L)
1X Metal tips organizer plate
Encore’s housing is a very similar shape to the K10U, but with different colors and patterning in the earphone’s shell.
Encore has a earthy metallic satin teal anodized aluminum finish on the outer portion of the shell. The inner part of the shell is a satin aluminum finish. The pattern imprint on the shell is exquisite. I really like the way the lines of the earphone flows. As with all of the Noble universal lineup, the Noble emblem is stamped in the outside of the shell.
The overall shape is slightly bigger than the average universal monitor. They are pretty much the same size as the K10U, and slightly larger than the Katana.
The Encore nozzle is slightly wider than the average in-ear monitor. Although a little more effort is needed to do some tip rolling with aftermarket tips, I was able to get just about every tip I had (with the exception of Shure olives) to fit.
Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
Encore’s stock cable is identical to the ones used in previous models. A four strand braided black rubber jacketed cable runs from the jack to the Y-split, then branches off into dual strand twisted braids that lead to each channel. The jack and Y-split are jacketed in metal, with a clear plastic tube just above the Ysplit. This operates as a chin/neck slider. The cable connects to each housing via a standard two-pin connection. About one and one half inches of memory wire run out from each two pin jack and helps users secure the earphones in place.
There is no microphone or remote option in the stock package. The fact that the cable is removeable, an aftermarket microphone and remote can be purchased from several places. Here is a link to Noble’s versions of aftermarket cables, including a mic/remote option:
Another clever little gadget I found on the Noble site is the Noble BTS. For all you Iphone 7 owners, I strongly suggest a device like this:
NOTE: If wireless isn’t your thing and you’re an Iphone 7 owner, Noble is on the verge of releasing a lightning jack cable for their in-ear monitors. When this product is release I will update the review and add a link.
Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
Despite being slightly larger than the average in-ear monitor, I got a great fit with the Encore. Just like all other Noble universals I’ve tried, the biggest key is finding the right tip (which plays a key role in both the fit and sound). I enjoyed the fit of and sound with the included black silicone tips best of all of the stock tip options. I did find aftermarket options that worked great as well. Once I found a set of tips that sealed well, it was as easy as popping them in my ears, securing them with the included memory wire, snugging them in place with the included chin/neck slider and enjoying them for extended periods of time with no need to adjust the fit.
Isolation is better than average for a universal in-ear monitor. Although not on the same level as a custom shell, the Encore blocks a large majority of outside noise. With music playing at low volumes, average amounts of surrounding noise are not audible. This is one of the big reasons I really enjoy the Encore as much as I do. The tuning in combination with the level of isolation makes them an earphone I prefer to listen to at more modest volumes. Simply put, I don’t have to crank the volume up to tune the outside world out.
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for smartphone use, and either my Fiio X7 or iBasso DX80 DAP/Bushmaster D14 DAC/Amp for high fidelity portable use. For desktop use, I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192 kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS), and also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
This ten driver design doesn’t come with exact impedance specification, but I’m guessing it’s on par with most earphones with multiple armature driver counts. They are pretty sensitive and can be driven easily with a smartphone. DAPs will work, but more powerful DAPs might reveal some background hiss when music isn’t playing, or you may pick up some occasional EMI and digital background noise. When music is playing this isn’t noticeable.
The Encore flat out rocked with my LG V10 and Iphone 6 Plus. I got great sound from the Cayin i5 and Fiio X7/AM3 combo, but there was a little background noise with both units. Using a powerful desktop unit is overkill, and if anything will yield more negative results than positive for the most part. When used with the iFi micro IDSD in its high sensitivity setting, the Encore sounded incredibly good.
These earphones will sound great with either colored or more linear sources. They are a phenomenally balanced and cohesive pair of earphones that will not discriminate any low powered source out there. Use the Encore with what it was intended for. A low power output portable source on low gain will be the sweet spot for them. Although you will get best results with higher quality recordings and higher bit-rate music files, the Encore won’t butcher your MP3s. I was able to enjoy the Encore with just about any music file I had. The Encore is incredibly true to your recordings.
With this review I’m going to have to fight hard to not be cheesy or go over the top in terms of my appreciation for what these earphones can do. This is a result of me feeling that the Encore has hit a sweet spot in terms of its technical abilities and sound signature. At the time of writing this review, the Encore is one of the closest things I’ve heard to what I would consider perfect for my listening preferences.
To my ears, Noble has managed to take the best aspects of their previous flagships (the Katana and K10) and made a lovechild co-flagship. Take elements of the K10 cohesiveness and musicality, now add the soundstage of the Katana. On top of that, improve the transients and organic nature of its sound (primarily mid-range and upper frequencies). Next, make everything entirely cohesive, seamless and natural at all frequencies. Add all of this up and you have the Noble Encore. Yup, to my ears it adds up to an earphone that earns the title as one of Noble’s premier models.
The Encore is a microfraction leaner and brighter than their previous flagships. The trade-off is an earphone that creates an incredibly realistic sound experience to my ears. Although your mileage may vary, I don’t think there will be many people who hear these things and not consider them to be one of the most natural and cohesive earphones on the planet.
Bass has a similar tuning to other Noble monitors, packing a perceptually even amount of punch and rumble. With that being said, the Encore is a ever so slightly leaner than previous flagships. Although it may be just a touch above neutral, it’s close enough for me to say I don’t classify them as a bass forward earphone.
The Encore has a bass response that is NEVER intrusive to other frequencies. It has the ability to be soft and polite, but can also become robust and authoritative when called upon. During Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” bass lines were incredibly fast in terms of attack and decay. The bass is tight, responsive, solid in tone and extends reasonably well. James Blake’s “Limit to Your Love” sounds incredible with Encore. The throbbing bass is authoritative without impacting James’ voice whatsoever.
Encore can bring it when tracks that call for a dynamic and impactful response is warranted. Encore has found that fine line needed to be universally world class. They will appeal to just about any listening preference. I’ve had people who prefer more warm and bassy sound listen to them, and just about all of them agree that for a more neutral tuning the Ecore bass is butt-kicking good. For those who preferred a colder and more linear tuning, most of them found them to be neutral enough to get the thumbs up, but emphasized enough to say they don’t follow the trend of being boring or analytical.
Mid-bass is incredibly responsive and has a maxed out sense of resolution. You get a slight sense of musicality, but with an incredibly fast and articulate delivery. Just like all other frequencies, the Encore takes detail and accuracy to an elite level while still managing to be entertaining.
This is where the Encore is a noticeable improvement over the previous flagships. Noble has taken a step forward from the K10 by adding air between the instruments and improving the separation in the lower to upper mid-range. To my ears the Encore puts on a mid-range clinic. Whatever Noble has done differently with the Encore mid-range, I consider it to be a huge step forward.
Lower mid-range seamlessly transitions from mid-bass tones, with a clean and accurate delivery. Compared to other earphones (like the K10 as well as other flagships), this frequency range is a bit thinner, but the trade off is an unrivaled clarity and airiness that is elite. Some may find the Encore to render some male vocals a bit thin, but I think that may be a product of whatever they are used to listening to. Once my ears acclimate to the Encore sound, it’s hard to go back to warmer and bassier earphones. Simply put, other earphones sound sloppy to my ears after jamming the Encore.
Upper mid-range is in nice balance with neighboring frequencies. Things to get a little emphasized at the far upper mid-range/lower treble range. Because of this some songs from rock and band genres can get a little edgy and aggressive at very loud volumes. Although that is the case, transients and detail are on another level. Listen to them at a moderate (and healthy) volume, this won’t be an issue.
Normally I would say that this will be an earphone that doesn’t appeal to those who are sensitive to treble frequencies, but I think everyone needs to give these a try before saying that. The transients and organic nature of the Encore’s upper frequency tuning is something everyone must experience. To be honest, it’s the closest thing I’ve heard to an HD800 in an in-ear monitor. It may be more forward than some in-ear monitors, but it’s sounds so incredibly real to my ears that it makes listening to most other in-ear monitors.
Cymbal crashes actually crash, with no perceived sense of roll off or unnatural decay. Pronunciation of the letters S and T are there with a reasonable amount of crispness, but again the overall sense is very natural at the same time. Do I think that treble could have been tuned down a few decibels? For some (those who are incredibly treble sensitive or those who listen at really loud volumes), maybe. For me the answer is a resounding NO. There’s so much good stuff going on that lowering it would take away from what I enjoy so much, which is an honest yet still slightly musical presentation.
Soundstage and Imaging
For me, the biggest deal about these things is the amount of air Noble has put between every instrument from top to bottom. The balance, separation and clarity is ahead of many other flagships, leaving me with an elite sense of soundstage and imaging. Listen to the Encore is the closest I’ve heard to and HD800-ish signature in an in-ear monitor. Imagine an HD800 sound with great isolation, ya, it’s that good to my ears. Of course your mileage may vary, but that’s what I’m hearing.
Noble Katana ($1850 USD on many sites)
The Katana is another recent Noble release. They are a nine driver co-flagship that sits somewhere between the older K10 and the Encore. Here is a link to my review:
Comparing the two, the Katana seems to be a slightly warmer and more intimate sound, and closer in tuning to the original K10 than the Encore. The Encore has taken elements of the Katana and K10 and added an improved level of separation and clarity at midrange tones. With that being said, both earphones have their place as Noble co-flagships. For those who want the next step up from the original K10 without losing that same great bass response, Katana is the answer. For those who found the K10 to be a little bit too warm and colored and would like something that sounds more natural and clear with improved soundstage, the Encore is the answer.
Bouncing back and forth between the Encore and Katana, Katana has a little more bass and a little less treble (very minor). Katana’s midrange seems a hair more laid back and with a touch less airiness. The Encore has a slightly more linear approach. The overall sense is a slightly more detailed sound with improved clarity.
Build and accessories is virtually identical, with the most noticeable difference being that Katana’s housing is slightly smaller.
Unique Melody Miracle V2 ($1049 USD on Musicteck’s website)
The Miracle V2 has been a go to reference monitor for a good while. They have a very balanced tuning that is somewhat similar to the Encore. Here is a link to my review:
Comparing the two, both earphones have similar bass response. Mid-range seems slightly warmer and smoother on the Miracle V2. Treble is slightly smoother on the V2 as well. With all that being said, the Encore has a slightly better sense of clarity, separation and detail at almost every frequency. Although I do enjoy the Miracle V2 more with band and band and rock music, I prefer the Encore for every other genre. While the Miracle V2 is no slouch and warrants its asking price, Noble also justifies its more expensive price tag by adding a level of airiness and detail that the Miracle V2 can’t achieve. Both are going to make some great reference monitors.
Build quality and accessories goes to the Noble Encore. Their all metal housing and Pelican case are a slightly better offering than the Miracle V2 acrylic housing and metal cannister.
The Encore is incredible. If I could only give one in-ear monitor a five star review and had to lower every other five star rating to four and a half, the Encore would get the five star exception. At the time of writing this piece, the Encore is the most cohesive, detailed, clear and enjoyable earphone I’ve experienced. I’ve put the Encore up against the other flagships I currently have in my possession, and while others may give them a run for their money in many aspects, the overall experience I get when listening to the Encore makes it the current king of the hill.
The Encore might not be perfect for everyone. They won’t cater to the polar opposites of the listening spectrums (neutral/linear/bright or warm/colored/basshead sound signature preferences). For everyone in between, I’m confident they will be able to appreciate what Noble has done with these. The Encore is one of those earphones that sounds so “real” that many will throw personal preference to the side to say that these are entirely awesome. Upon the conclusion of this review, the Encore gets top honors in my list of favorite in-ear monitors.
Thanks for reading and happy listening!