Noble Audio Kaiser 10

Stranger Than Fiction

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Class-leading sound, comfortable, durable
Cons: Bass could do with a touch more "impact"
A review of the Noble Audio Kaiser K10

Purchased from Addicted to Audio’s Melbourne store in January 2018.

It feels a touch strange reviewing a product that has now been succeeded by Noble Audio Encore, however with a few units still kicking about and my inbuilt desire to write about things, ultimately I figured I would love to share the experience.

Before I launch into the review I would like to introduce myself. I am if nothing else a walking cliché, for you see I am legally blind (though with some usable vision and an ability to see the full spectrum of colour) and I love to indulge my other fully functioning senses. I write about craft beer for something of a living, having recently completed the Certified Cicerone exam (awaiting results), indulging my sense of taste along the way.

I also enjoy high end audio. It is often said that blind and vision impaired people have a heightened sense of hearing. While I don’t wish to disprove this entirely, I would like to state it is certainly true a blind person’s sense of hearing is more adept than most people’s. You might be thinking I would have no trouble discerning or deciphering your voice - shouting or not - in a loud nightclub. The opposite is in fact the case. I abjectly struggle with it. Meanwhile, sat outside the family home, I my ears are tuned into every sound: the birds in the folks’ various aviaries and beyond in the surrounding gum trees; the dogs barking in surrounding kennel properties, plus our own as well; light aircraft incessantly flying overhead… Yup, it can be as overwhelming as it sounds. Yet I will still pluck out any detail where it needs to be heard or not, no matter how minor.

More importantly, as you’ll find out later on in this comprehensive review, I am also quite sensitive to a specific end of the spectrum, while being quite fond of its polar opposite.

In terms of assessing high-audio equipment, I’ll be the first to admit that such sensitivities and perhaps even sensibilities may be as much a blessing as a curse. On one hand I can pick out nuances, micro-details, faults and defining features in sound perhaps better than most. On the other, there are many headphones I would like to sample besides those I already own, however my ears being quite sensitive to treble, they mightn’t suit me quite as well as others. This is not to say I would not review them objectively.

Okay, now you’ve indulged me, it’s time to get on with the business of reviewing Noble Audio’s Kaiser K10 universal IEM.

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A short introduction about Noble Audio and the Kaiser K10.
Noble Audio, as you might already be aware, is a boutique, “artisanal” (their words not mine) manufacturer founded in 2013 and based out of Northern California. The company was co-founded by one Dr. John Moulton AU.D, formerly of Heir Audio. The sharp-eyed among you will notice the AU.D. suffix, which alludes to Dr. Moulton’s specialisation in the field of audiology. Clearly he has quite the pedigree, for not only does he know intimately the inner-workings of the human ear, he is also an audio enthusiast with an unparalleled reputation for producing unpeered precision engineered IEMs from the ground up. But to you and me, us audiophiles, he goes by the unassuming pseudonym “The Wizard.”

Working alongside The Wizard is Noble’s other co-founder Brannan Mason, also known as “The Glove” or as “FullCircle” on Head.fi’s forums. He is the voice of Noble Audio if you will.

The two have appeared from seemingly nowhere, bringing with them a stellar line-up of headphones that cover all tastes and budgets. Those with elaborate and expensive taste can opt for acrylic customised enclosures to exotic wood. I presume this is common knowledge by now, and more information can be found on Noble’s website.

As I have already pointed out, the Noble Audio Kaiser K10 was the former sole flagship model offered by Noble Audio. At the helm today is a co-flagship pairing: the Encore, and the Katana.

Reading between the lines it is easy for one to deduce that the Encore is the elaboration on the Kaiser, an evolution rather than a stand-alone new entity. The Katana, meanwhile, was designed with the clear intent to forge their own frontier.

Though I would have happily purchased the Encore, the Kaiser ended up choosing me. Sort of. Fate had a hand in it. Addicted To Audio’s Melbourne store wished to part with its remaining Kaiser stock before introducing the Encore for demoing. I read somewhere the Kaiser’s bass was a little more pronounced, hence i opted for those ahead of the Encore. There was also the small matter of the timing of an advance payment available to blind DSP recipients (such as myself) twice-yearly which allows me to purchase such things as high end headphones. But we won’t get into too much detail about that.

What’s in the box?
Well, for start-offs there’s another smaller black box within the larger black box, that which is replete with Noble Audio’s astute livery. The smaller black box is a petite Pelican case to be exact, which is the perfect canvas for any one of the many stickers that have doubtless accumulated in your backpack. (Sadly the pictured Melbourne Hot Sauce sticker was the last of them). Otherwise purists will dig its shiny jet black and plush rubber lined interior.

Indeed a Pelican case can withstand just about anything you care to throw at it. Perhaps even surviving an aeroplane crash. Don’t quote me on that. Nor would I wish this upon anyone. Anyhoo, it is no small thing to receive high end accessories with a high end product.

Somewhere in there (I should have taken notes while unboxing) is the Noble Kaiser K10 IEM unit, itself made of aircraft-grade aluminium (more on the build quality later). It is worth noting the cable came literally bundled together, which damn near overwhelmed. But with the oldskool breaks tune that goes “if it don’t fit don’t force it” ringing in my ears I proceeded with caution, patience and perseverance. It wasn’t long before I had my breakthrough. I could then admire the glorious bit of kit before me.

Noble Audio has thrown in a range of tips to suit a broad spectrum of ear shapes and sizes here. There are foams, silicones and bi-flanges amongst them, but I personally have found best results using third party XL silicone tips from JVC’s Spiral Dots. These maintain their seal better than the similarly proportioned silicones as supplied by Noble. I would suggest bundling all your spares into the drawstring pouch provided.

And talk of stickers, you’ll also find a couple of Noble Audio stickers in there too - but good luck getting them off their backing!

In amongst it all is a shiny warranty card, which is of course well worth holding on to.

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Design and build quality
Though there are limited release models (a black and rose gold option is still available at Addicted to Audio) I was lucky enough to purchase the last remaining pair of alluring red Kaisers on sale at A2A’s Melbourne (Australia) store.

In spite of me occasionally wondering if the Kaiser draws attention from fellow commuters who are confused as to whether or not Beats By Dre have released an IEM, I absolutely love the anodised maraschino cherry red and metallic white colours. The textural detailing is something you have probably read about before, but when you have the headphone in your hand it has a nice feel to the touch. The two part shell has a real weight to it too. Most importantly it strongly suggests that it will stand up to the rigours of day to day use.

If like me you use an iPhone 7 Plus and you have to take a call it may come as a shock when your earphone strikes the back of your phone. Both being made of aluminium neither device should sustain any damage (which is perhaps more than can be said for Apple’s earlier and latest glass bodied devices), but the resonant clunk as they connect is quite something.

True to form Noble Audio has included a stock cable that is no slouch in delivering the juice these bad boys need. You won’t find MMCX connectors here either. Instead you’ll find a two-pin connector is the order of the day. Indeed the cable is replaceable. If you are looking at your first ever pair of IEMs it is worth noting third party cables are a (few million) dimes a dozen. Copper litz tends to add more weight to the bottom end, while silver adds more to the top. Many are copper plated silver. Have a look around and see what takes your fancy, but I suggest allowing your newly purchased unit to burn in first. For now, the supplied cable does the job nicely. It is relatively thin as well (worth noting if you are coming from something like a HeadphoneLounge cable - the thinness can take a bit of getting used to). Like many high-end cables it is braided, which reduces (but doesn’t quite eliminate entirely) tangling. The male headphone jack is straight. Admittedly I’d much prefer an elbow but it’s no big thing.

Some people also like to cut off the memory wire. May I suggest that you don’t. I’ve not attempted to do so (or rather have my brother do it) on the grounds I feel it provides a bit of necessary resistance to each earphone’s heft.

Comfort is a big plus with the Kaiser K10 Universal. They do not cause any irritation or aching while inserted for any length of time, and their ergonomic design means the sensation of having something protruding in my ears is minimal. The Spiral Dot tips keep the comfort level and seal optimised even while on a brisk walk.

Much like the Shure SE846 the seal, for me at least, is not bad but it’s not great either. Then again I do have rather large ear canals.

Look beyond the tips and you’ll notice three porting holes. Inside the enclosures you will uncover (rhetorically speaking) a jaw dropping 10 drivers (also known as balanced armatures) per earphone, hence the Kaiser “K10” name. Two large drivers put out the bass, two mid-woofers roll in with midrange, the next two take charge of mid-highs, the next two tweeters blaze the highs, and the final tweeters fire it up with the top end of the frequency spectrum.

Perhaps the best part in all of this is how easy the K10s are to drive. They sound absolutely fine, great even, when powered with my iPhone or un-amped MacBook Pro. Though I am yet to acquire a superior source there is one thing that can be said of the iPhone and MacBook: they’re crystal clear, neutral, free of hiss (and that’s gotta be worth something!) in their output. If only Apple would bolster the power of its devices to support more headphones with greater impedance. For now I happily use the Onkyo HF Player app whose EQ settings work a treat (more on that later).

But I digress, the low impedance of the Kaiser (approximately 30 ohms) makes it a good fit for those whose setup consists of the most rudimentary of sources.

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Sound
First, a little background: I came to the Noble Audio Kaiser K10 from the Shure SE846, an IEM I have owned and adored for nigh on four years. I loved their massive bass impact, particularly where electronic music (think progressive trance, techno and UK bass) is concerned. I am unashamedly a basshead. Once a basshead, always a basshead.

But I yearned for something more from my music. I recently found myself pining for what the Shure SE846 couldn’t deliver.

With no small amount of research and auditioning I arrived at the Noble Audio Kaiser K10.

I knew right from the off the Kaiser is a “neutral” IEM that leans slightly towards the warmer side of things. They are not considered a basshead’s IEM per se, but they certainly have more than enough to satisfy.

Most reviews start from the ground (sometimes going down as low as Hampstead tube depths where the Shure SE846 and Campfire Audio Vega are concerned). But I’m going to turn that on its head, just because.

Treble
Indeed, as much as my ears and mind favour strong bass response, equally they are incredibly treble sensitive. Treble is therefore perhaps the most difficult aspect of an IEM’s sound for me to assess. Nevertheless, I yearned for greater treble (amongst other things) and overall the Kaisers do not disappoint.

The Noble Audio Kaiser delivers what I would term silky smooth high end which really starts at the lower-treble region (bordering on upper mids). Listening to the haunting flute of “Mumbai Theme Tune” by A.R. Rahman, followed by the track’s cinematic strings (particularly the violins) and I can hear clarity, a palpable sense of realism, nuance. The Kaiser left me in doubt I was hearing air passing through the flute as well.

This same phenomenal piece of music reveals a lot about the Kaisers’ prowess at the top end of the spectrum. As the piece moves into its final passages and the notes get higher, the Kaiser handles them with aplomb. There is no sibilance, even at higher volumes from this inferior source, and the instruments are reproduced as note perfect as the recording and source will allow.

In terms of treble in music’s percussion department, snares snap with authority; their attack, sustain, decay and release add a real sense of depth to the musicality within the listening experience. Where reverberation is called for it’s there. Cymbals ring out with the same quickness and maintenance. Some say they want more sparkle but when you’re listening to high octane garage rock a la Dead City Ruins it’s the way it clatters that matters. Meanwhile the carefully mastered “It’s What We Do” by Pink Floyd yields much the same impression: cymbals are full of texture and fullness.

Even when the full spectrum is engaged in a track the Kaisers don’t fall apart at the seams like many before them do. No, so long as the mastering is equal to the music, these mighty IEMs chomp the veil into little pieces and gore the matador (hurrah!) instead of cowering beneath it. Just have a listen to Kieran Apter & Leon Power’s haunting “Drifting Spring” or Amorphis’ “The Skull” and you’ll see (or hear) exactly what I’m talking about.

Midrange
The Kaiser does exceedingly well in the midrange department. As Stereophile magazine founder and pioneer of audio equipment evaluation J. Gordon Holt once said: “If the midrange isn’t right, nothing else matters.”

Perhaps such a statement is a little surplus to requirement when before us is among the best of the best in IEM technology, but perhaps not. It can’t sell itself by default. A beer critic certainly wouldn’t overlook the malt character of a stout with a hefty grist and simply evaluate it as “good, malty and roasty toasty”, even if it is known to be particularly special.

If there is one aspect that really stands out with the Kaiser’s performance - over and above all else - it would have to be its prowess in delivering vocals. Female vocals in particular at times sound astonishingly and palpably “real.” When listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” (24 bitdepth FLAC vinyl rip) I found myself having to pick my jaw up from off the floor. Clare Torry’s non-lexical singing takes you deep into the emotional power and holds you there, its grip relentless until the very last tonally perfect note. And did I hear gargling in her throat!?

Similarly powerful, male vocals in heavy metal are reproduced with enough gravel to equal that of every accident sustained while riding a bicycle when I was little. A real sense of the singer’s hot breath exchanging from mouth to microphone only serves to enhance the conveyed sense of rage.

Cue Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” (remember when they wrote music that didn’t make you suspect they’ve become an industry band?) and once again the Kaiser delivers in conveying Chris Martin’s every note and every last bit of emotion. There are piano notes that ring out truer than I’ve ever heard before, the piano being reproduced exceedingly well by the Kaiser on the whole too. Interestingly the mastering of the album is caught with the bathroom door open (more on that later), but this is no bad thing. It only adds to the richness of the experience.

This same song reveals so much about the Kaiser’s strengths in the midrange department. Small wonder the guys at Addicted To Audio use this powerhouse IEM as a reference monitor. Midrange is presented so cohesively, with such brilliant harmony. Imagine the cycle of water as it goes from land or sea to the clouds, only to fall again as rainfall. The air between, that which resides in the middle this cycle, is to music’s midrange. At a moment’s notice the Kaiser is happy to provide a refreshing drizzle, let it rain or show off a thunderstorm. It really depends on what the music calls for.

Above all else, musicality is maintained. Never before have I heard an IEM that compares to the musicality of the Kaiser. I found myself locked in a rhythm induced trance while listening to Cass & Slide’s “Glad I Ate Her.” It’s worth noting the soaring vocals sound particularly epic as well.

Bass
There is a lot to love about the Noble Kaiser K10’s bass. There is a tiny little bit to lament too.

I’ll start by stating that the Kaiser K10s’ bass is overall a thing of beauty. There is a richness in its texture the much lauded (by fellow bassheads) Shure SE846 simply cannot match. If I ever wanted to play the bass guitar learning by ear these are the headphones I’d be looking for. Just throw on BB King’s “Why I Sing the Blues” to get a sense of what i mean.

The bass guitar is an instrument with which these IEMs seem to have a saucy love affair. You get a real sense of the strings of David Gilmour’s bass thrumming beneath his fingers and up the fretboard throughout The Endless River, with each palpable note delivered with punchy accuracy. Moreover the sound of the bass (both Gilmour’s instrument and the reproduction of the low end as a whole) is so organic you could start a permaculture farm on top of it.

As one might expect from IEMs of this calibre there is absolutely no bass bleed whatsoever. Admittedly the Shure SE846s bass didn’t so much bleed either, however at times it did overwhelm. Other IEMs such as the IE800s deliver bass that has a certain degree of wow factor, however ultimately they are left behind at the station by the Kaiser when it comes to organic texture and dynamics.

But somehow bass falls short of perfection when electronic music is thrown into the mix, as least in terms of what I’m expecting. Without a doubt sub-bass is there, and kick drums pound with authority and resonance. The drums are of course surrounded by a luscious organic low-end texture, but the only thing the Kaiser is short on is a bit of visceral sustained impact where the bassline meets the beat. Yet it’s nothing a little bit of EQing can’t solve.

Bass (with EQ)
In the Kaiser’s case EQing to boost the bass works a treat in my humble opinion. Nevertheless there is a small amount of lament here. I really wish I didn’t have to EQ the Kaiser K10 when playing bass heavy tracks (particularly when sub-bass is concerned), even if the trade-off across the rest of the spectrum is minimal.

Indeed many of the tracks I listen to on a daily basis require a degree of rotund punch (kick drums), slam, impact and sub-bass presence. Where progressive trance is concerned the texture of the low end simply isn’t enough, the beat behind any track being as central to the listening experience as the melodies soaring above it. Where tracks have a restrained melody or there is a passage in any given mix where there is no melody at all (think any number of extended mixes / sets from the likes of John 00 Fleming), the beat is everything.

Furthermore, there are genres of electronic music such as techno, proper dubstep (a la DMZ, Mala, Coki, etc.) and drum & bass that require still even greater bass extension. Thankfully, and I reiterate, nudging up the lower frequencies does enhance the bass experience; sometimes even catapulting it to awe inspiring heights. Amazingly nothing at all is compromised (no bass bleed!), with the wonderfully organic texture remaining in tact with nary a suggestion of colouration. Moreover one simply cannot enhance sub-bass if it were never there in the first place.

If you are going to audition the Kaisers with a bit of EQ enhancement I would recommend throwing on Dubstep Allstars vol. 08: Mixed by Distance, though any FWD>> pre-Skrillex era dubstep will do. The tracks throughout this mix provide some serious bottom-end heavy action. In addition to the wonderfully textured low-end response, a serious degree of heft is added with EQing. The two dedicated, larger bass drivers in each earphone are clearly being made to work overtime - hopefully while not breaking a sweat.

What impresses me the most here is that at no point does the bass sound bloated. I had originally purchased the Shure SE846 as successor to my Sennheiser IE8s, which at that time boasted good bass but no sub-bass presence. The Shures certainly do go down limbo-low but often sound uncontrolled, bordering on boomy. Moreover, when matched to the recently auditioned Campfire Audio Vega, the Kaiser’s bass when EQed is more than equal.

Moving on to Calibre’s piano-tinged drum & bass and the EQ needs to be dropped a tad. After all, this is jazz-inflected liquid drum & bass that is more than your typical dark, moody atmospheres associated with most of today’s D&B).

EQ enhancement really does take the Kaiser’s bass to the next level. Suffice it to say it’s rarely needed when playing other genres of music. But for those of you out there who, like me, listen to electronic music regularly, this is need to know stuff.

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Soundstage, imaging, space.
The agility and flexibility of the Kaisers continues in the area of soundstage, space and imaging. Never before have I heard an IEM that can so easily and readily contract and expand - almost like a pair of lungs - to suit the music it is reproducing.

The Kaiser takes live recordings and makes them its thing. They leave little doubt in the mind as to the size of the venue in which the song or performance was recorded, while also placing you right up front - up close and personal.

Moreover, you know you may well have reached IEM endgame when you can feel a palpable sense of what the temperature was like at the time of recording. Take a listen to Iron Maiden’s En Vivo! live album, recorded at Santiago, Chile’s gigantic outdoor stadium. Not only can you hear Bruce Dickinson’s vocals soaring and echoing away over the heads of the audience and into the thin cold air, you can even hear how the cold air affects the music. And when Dickinson’s voice isn’t loud enough to echo into the distance it becomes abundantly clear you’re standing very close to the front. The sound has that great a dynamic about it.

Equally impressive is the live recording of Paul Oakenfold’s set at the NEC, Birmingham in 2001. Turn it up and suddenly you are again somewhere not too far from the front (within the first third of the NEC arena at least). Close your eyes and you’re suddenly a part of the experience. It sounds cliché but I really do mean it!

Smaller clubs, like Godskitchen in Birmingham, are equally well represented by the Kaiser’s soundstage. I’m reminded of big room trance nights held at Perth’s 2,000 capacity Metro City nightclub so perhaps the layout of the venue and its scale could be similar. No other IEM I have encountered has ever had me evaluating soundstage on this level.

Trance and techno are of course stratified in their nature, with each layer stacked upon one another, existing generally within a fairly narrow periphery. The Kaiser doesn’t just mash the lot up, it ensures there is structural integrity from the bassline to the percussion to the synths, maintaining fluidity and enough space between each. Even in this infamously congested genre of music the Kaisers provide enough room to breathe.

Breath as well as periphery are essential elements of reproducing orchestral music - something most IEMs fall short of accomplishing at any level, leave alone soundstage and imaging. The Kaiser has risen to the challenge yet again. While listening to the orchestral version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the music’s periphery contracts and expands according to the music, with violins and other strings projected out to an impressive point well beyond the ears. When the Ciello makes its presence known it too is off out to the periphery, and wow is the bass on it something else… Like most recordings the Kaisers place you directly in front of the stage, and you have the entire concert hall to yourself.

It is impossible discussing space and imaging without making another example out of The Orchestral Tubular Bells. I could quite easily illustrate where each musician is positioned if only I could draw. (There are violin players directly in front of me too). Unfortunately my limited musical education doesn’t stretch as far as to the layout of a typical orchestra, however I would like to think the Kaiser has placed every single musician with deadly accuracy. Moreover, Mike Oldfield being the perfectionist he is would have overseen the recording of this rendition of Tubular Bells. You can therefore assume he has gone the extra mile in ensuring an optimal recording. One thing I do know about classical music is it is incredibly difficult transposing it to digital means.

The space afforded by the Kaiser can be further exemplified by either album within theTubular Bells trilogy. Take your pick. And if you have never heard them, forgive my bluntness but you go now! And don’t come back until you do. Even if non-lexical music that defies all genres isn’t your bag. It is music that needs to be heard to be believed.

Once upon a time I believed I knew Tubular Bells II. In Oldfield’s eyes I might be going a step too far in saying that this is how he would imagine his music to be heard. At the very least it’s surely not far off. Each instrument is captured with vivid energy, and the Kaiser gives each one its own designated space to scintillate. The soundstage goes wide when called for and towers to the heavens above too with the thunder of an orchestral bass drum.

And then like the aforementioned air between the water cycle, it’s all tied together once more to become the greater sum of its parts again.

The details
From every pluck of a string to every mistake and from every tinkle of a xylophone (no other headphone has managed to reproduce that found in Dire Straits’ “Love Over Gold” with such coherence!) to the micro-details of an orchestra, nothing is left behind to the ether. The hallowed air beneath the guitar strings and the release of a piano note are all there to be discovered.

Let it be known that, as per the reference to the mastering of A Rush of Blood to the Head, the Kaiser takes no prisoners when it comes to lousy mastering. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, although you may find yourself reaching for your favourite albums a little less if the recording is sub-par. You cannot expect them to add much to pop music whose spectral dynamics are constrained either.

Comparisons
Shure SE846

Throughout this review I have drawn many a comparison to the Shure SE846, a headphone I knew and loved for nigh on four years. I have been forced to defend the Shure SE846s on numerous occasions and here I will defend them again, in spite of the concession that the Kaiser is a cut above. The Shure SE846 are a headphone that does exceedingly well at what it set out to do: Deliver a bass experience that is unlike any other. Truly it is unlike any other with its subwoofer like heft! And sometimes I miss it.

The Shures excel at all live recordings in their own special way. Those who are lucky enough to possess both the Shures and Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes [limited edition version], cue up the live recording of “Davidian” and let your ears and mind melt. The distortion is so vividly hot (in a good way), and the intimate soundstage (remember I said “defend?”) of these IEMs reproduces a palpably real experience of being front row centre in what seemed to be a very small room indeed. It sounds great even if it’s not an entirely accurate representation of the environment in which the song was recorded. The Kaiser still keeps you front row centre, but the size of the venue is revealed to be much larger while crowd noises are slightly more present.

That being said, the Kaiser’s treble leaves the SE846s for dead. Even when introducing the white filters or no filters at all, which greatly increase treble, the Shures become too hot to handle - especially for my treble sensitive ears. Moreover, the midrange I once considered as being plush now seems stultified by comparison.

If you are on a similar trajectory to me and you are looking for a step up from the Shure SE846, look no further.

Noble Audio: Katana
When auditioning the Kaisers K10 I also spent some limited time with the Noble Audio Katana, the company’s co-flagship.

It is worth noting that the Katana came after the Kaiser, arriving more or less alongside the Encore. It also came with the same custom-built drivers. Noble built and tuned each of the Katana’s drivers (nine in each earphone) themselves, and they did so with the intent of appealing to a crowd with a taste for the high life.

This is not to say the Katana lacks bass. Far from it. They do go down low when called for. However, the overall presentation errs on the scintillating, almost analytical side where the presentation of the Kaiser is one of warmth. From what I remember of the testing I found UK bass from the likes of Pinch to have an altogether different complexion, while “Sultans of Swing” shone as I’ve never heard it shine before. Ultimately though I was blinded by the light. I yearned for that pillowy warmth offered by the Kaiser.

Noble admits that perfection is a moving target. Your taste will ultimately decide which is the superior IEM between the Kaiser and the Katana. A very nifty thing indeed it is to have two flagships: equal, yet equally opposed.

Noble Audio: Encore
I am hopeful I can do a truly in-depth comparison between the Kaisers and their illustrious successor before too long. My understanding is the Encores feature an evolved midrange and added upper end sparkle, which one might expect from drivers custom made and tuned by Noble themselves. Watch this space. I am also curious as all get out as to how I would enjoy and interpret the Encore’s bass, which is said to be somewht more “controlled.”

Conclusion.
With their breathable sense of space; palpably real, organic, textured bass; visceral mids; superbly well rounded treble; and a neutral-to-slightly warm presentation; the damn near faultless Kaiser K10 stands tall among an ever growing forest of TOTL IEMs. Once more it bears mentioning there are still a few units up for grabs about the place both brand new and second hand. I can’t recommend giving them a try highly enough. You won’t just be hearing music, you’ll be experiencing it as it should be experienced.

Most tracks tested are in mp3 320 kbps mp3/aac - unfortunately most electronic music is not available at anything higher - or ALAC unless otherwise stated. Finally, it goes without saying your mileage may vary when using other sources, amplifiers and materials.
Koolpep
Koolpep
@noper I agree for the most part, hybrids are the way to go for really moving air. However, there are a few exceptions that perform quite well that are fully BA. In the end the bass with BAs is different, nothing beats the visceral bass from a dynamic driver in my mind - so am totally with you there.
Stranger Than Fiction
Stranger Than Fiction
The CA Vega nearly blew my head clean off my shoulders. They’re absolutely insane, with truly visceral bass. But with a bit of tweaking I’m getting all the bass quantity and impact I need from the K10.

(I will fix the above mentioned error now too now I’m done with an article for which I was near deadline).
ehjie
ehjie
i Read Basshead, I ilke... (Kidding aside) i've been contemplating for a pair for ages. Why? for clarity, image scale, soundstage. should the Bass be light (coming from a W50), a cable upgrade & Tip tweaking should Do the job...

prismstorm

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Superb cohesion between 10 drivers, works with every genre, beautiful CIEM craftsmanship, detailed separation between instruments in all frequencies
Cons: Sometimes I would like a slightly more aggressive bass,
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Noble Audio’s K10 is the IEM to get. A legendary classic in audiophile circles, this 10-driver IEM has a musical sound that works for all genres and if you want, can be made to custom fit your ears with your own choice of colours and materials.

Having been the owner of several excellent universal in-ear monitors, it was inevitable that the lust to own custom in-ear monitors (CIEMs) eventually got to me. Those with more than a passing interest in CIEMs will know that Noble Audio is synonymous with the best in this area. One of the reasons why I went with Noble was that their designs were simply peerless among other CIEM companies. I constantly saw highly original and striking Wizard (founder John Moulton) designs on Noble’s lookbook and on social media. Pairing the fascinating looks with the fact that the flagship model at the time – the Kaiser 10 (K10) was also the top-rated CIEM on Head-Fi at the time with well over 20 five-star reviews, and it seemed unlikely I would choose anything else.

But I wanted something more. At this summit level of CIEMs I also craved for a customized and personal experience, where I could be involved in the process. Some discerning audiophiles care about such things and are willing to pay a premium on owning products that embody both art and function on the highest level. Noble understands this better than anyone and hence offers the Prestige line, where the aesthetics aspect is taken to very lofty standards by CNC milling a solid block of exotic wood (or other glamorous materials) to the exact contours of the owner’s ear instead of using traditional acrylic materials. It went without saying that I initially opted for a pair of Prestige K10s.

Old Trees, Dripping in Gold

However, it turned out that the Prestige option was not possible for me, due to the shape of my ear canals, so I stuck with the conventional acrylic shell and exotic faceplates. ‘Conventional’ in Noble speak means having your faceplates be crafted out of Amboyna Burl and Cocobolo wood, and the acrylic shells dripping with gold and silver nuggets.

After finalising on the design, the excruciatingly long wait beckoned, but the good folks at Noble (Brannan and Sunny) were professionals through and through and took care of my many burning queries, and I was finally rewarded with these:

noblek10_4.jpg


Receiving the K10 was an incredibly stimulating experience, complete with a stormproof Pelican case, a cleaning tool, a ‘license card’ with the owner’s name on it, and a pouch containing the impeccably made CIEM. Just a brief look at them indubitably imparts a luxurious, endearing quality that is akin to fine jewelry or watchmaking.






Working Together

The legendary K10s have the following configuration:

10 balanced-armature drivers per side


2 precision-tuned bass drivers

2 precision-tuned mid-frequency drivers

2 precision-tuned mid-/high-frequency drivers

2 precision-tuned high-frequency drivers

2 precision-tuned super-high-frequency drivers

4-way design
Impedance <35 ohms
I would not blame you for dreading that a design as complex as this would result in disastrous synchronization and cross-over issues, but this is wizardry we are talking about here. The K10 was conceived by Noble founder John Moulton (a.k.a. Wizard) before the company came into being, but only launched 5 years later to spearhead Noble’s first foray into the industry. It was designed ‘by ear first and graph second’ with the goal of creating a balanced-sounding flagship-calibre CIEM that people of diverse musical tastes and backgrounds would equally enjoy listening to. It was important to the Wizard for the K10 to not be a polarising flagship that would end up being only favored by fans of a specific music genre. Thus the emperor of Noble’s lineup was born with the noble purpose of satisfying the eardrums of all types of audiophiles.

noblek10_10.jpg


Living Breathing Disco

As I was new to CIEMs, my shiny new K10s felt awkward, rigid, and intrusive for the first month or so. The situation improved dramatically over the months and now the twisting motion of getting them in feels second nature and the earphones also sit snugly in my ears. The build quality is faultless and they isolate well enough, you’re practically deaf in the subway or when crossing roads.

Firing up the K10s, I felt that there was a holographic imaging that just wasn’t there on the Shure SE846s, the textures were richer and the ‘3D-ness’ was more apparent. Coherency was divine, everything blended together and no frequency range stood out in particular. In short, everything was in perfect balance and solidarity. Among this cohesiveness were impressive details that did not jump out at you or begged to be heard. They lied subtly in the presentation, but when you decided to seek them out, they were always there.

noblek10_9.jpg


The control is rather splendid, bass is north of neutral but at the same time clean and defined. 1980s dance grooves are especially enjoyable, with the classic Billie Jean particularly shining, and Sasha’s What Are You To Me? seriously thumping. From the sub-bass rumble dropping down real low in Jamie xx’s Gosh to the crooning of Joseph Arthur on Devil’s Bloom to the quirky Gronlandic Edit from Of Montreal, the K10 fills each track’s shoes perfectly, sounding perfectly at home from all the eclectic materials I put it through. The K10 goes from a live disco to a tranquil chamber with a single instrument without a stutter or hint of musical xenophobia, no sides are picked, there really is justthe music.

Mesmerized

The longer you let the K10 do its thing, the more it caters to your total immersion, and the more it evokes a ‘bathed in music’ sensation in you. It is tuned with dynamic musical enjoyment in mind, and not draconian, textbook neutrality. If “Hi-Fi” strictly refers to absolute tonal balance and the pure reconstruction of a recording, then this is proudly not “Hi-Fi”. After all, we as humans are not frequency response graph-reading machines, and I would take basking in luscious sound over the platitude of ruler-flat accuracy any day.

noblek10_3.jpg


The K10’s engrossing coherence is at its finest when playing complex passages. On John Mayer’s live rendition of Ray Charles’s I Don’t Need No Doctor, the guitar solos swerve around, perfect-layered as one singular body. This is again heard on Sphongle’s Dorset Perception, a track littered with indian bells along with tremendous amounts of layers and minute details. On this particular track the K10 stays musical while keeping all the bombastic bass impacts and maintaining more or less a balanced profile. It’s not unusual to find your brain smack down middle of a complex track with a maelstrom going off around but still hear the distinctive shimmers of guitar lines sparkling in the background. These phones never lose their cool no matter how chaotic it gets.

Coming of Age (Yes, I know this is the Katana’s marketing tagline)

However, too much goodness can be a less-than-perfect thing, and the K10 is voiced so pleasantly balanced that at times I feel a certain hardness and edginess that the SE846 is capable of bringing is smoothed over just ever so slightly. For example, the impact of each drum hit on The Whitest Boy Alive’s Timebomb lacks the razor sharpness of the SE846. Make no mistake about it, the dual bass drivers of the K10 will and can send your brain into a rattling mess if necessary, but a certain aggression is lost amidst the coherency, and I find myself reaching for the SE846 when I want to brandish anger and bang my head until it falls off. In Marilyn Manson’s Third Day of a Seven Day Binge, screams at the climax have drums so stately hammering in the background and everything in perfect balance that it never spills into the haywire, raw and frenzy territory like the SE846 can. To be fair, this speaks volumes about an IEM’s capabilities when you have to forcibly interpret its strengths into a shortcoming and feebly justify it with the bias of taste. The K10 is like the angsty teenage emo kid all grown up, with the rough edges of his personality blunted for the survival in society. However, it must be stated that this observation stems only from a certain idiosyncratic disposition (for aggressive rock), your mileage may wildly vary. In the end it is more than acceptable that strong character is traded for maximum versatility.

noblek10_5.jpg


But then as I was contemplating all these needless worries, I discovered that 3 hours have passed, and the K10s were still in my ears. This is a testament of how utterly non-fatiguing the sound is, and how well it works for any genre of music. The longer you listen, the more it shows you that it is a maestro of anything you throw at it. Another amazing feat that the K10 pulls off is that you can crank up the volume endlessly, and it will never distort. In fact, the K10 is a real threat to your hearing because they sound so good at any volume and never loses its quality, that you continue to increase the volume after you got used to the previous increase, and it plays well with almost all types of music so it’s not like you have a reason to stop. I regularly find myself listening louder and louder, all the while marvelling at the absolutely chameleonic abilities of the K10. There is no better way to lose your hearing – this is the most heavenly way for your senses to go. The K10 might sound mundane during the warm-up stages but soon all the sweet music it effortlessly renders grows on you and becomes an addiction, to the point where you can’t take the IEMs off. The struggle is real.

However, I should mention that the upper midrange of the K10 does sound a bit hot in comparison after the Vega entered the picture, and the soundstage is also less expansive. It is still a very listenable IEM due to its complete lack of sibilance and jack-of-all-trade adaptability, it’s just not as ‘purpose-built’ as the Vega is in this aspect.

noblek10_8.jpg


Conclusion

I ordered my K10 near the end of its product life, right before its Katana sibling and successor – the Kaiser Encore, stole much of the spotlight from it. Given its years of illustrious history, naturally I have already heard and read so much on the K10 and knew what to expect. What I eventually got exceeded all my high expectations.

The K10 was first launched in October 2013, and the top-of-the-line IEM space has gotten much more saturated with the competition a lot more fierce than before. Although there have since been many characterful and specialised IEMs, to be honest it is hard to imagine an IEM that sounds more balanced and versatile than this even after all these years. The K10 isa perfection unto itself, seamlessly coherent and easy-going; and no future releases, including the Kaiser Encore, are going to tarnish that reputation. Despite its discontinuation, the K10 will always have its place on a special throne in the IEM hall of fame, in its own niche, shining.

Originally posted on Accessible Audio
Posted to give back to the amazing HeadFi Community

ss5972

Head-Fier
Pros: sound quality, build quality, fit, soundstage, separation, asthetics
Cons: size (a bit bulgy), cost
After spending over a week of daily listening to these ciems I can confidently say that I have made an excellent choice with these ciems. There is nothing that i can say that hasn't been already covered by the numerous reviews. The plentiful reviews that praise the k10s for its amazing lows, mids, highs, sound-stage, separation, and not forgetting about the gorgeous art....they're all true. Noble's TOTL offerings are truly end-game gear for those who are in the hobby.
 
Cons? They're a bit bulgy - but i can live with that. Not much you can do with so many drivers in each ear. Oh and they are a bit expensive. If you can look past those two "cons" then the kaisers will become the best earphones you own.

Kaisendon

New Head-Fier
Pros: The IEM has a gorgeous finishing and fit is so perfect. Sound reverberates in your ear so naturally.
Cons: I only have one pair of it
The Noble Audio Kaiser 10 is the most perfect IEM I have ever heard, period.
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RPB65
RPB65
C'mon, stop procrastinating! Get to the point! lol.
Watagump
Watagump
Relax, my review was even shorter.
Overkill Red
Overkill Red
5/7 perfect review

Bossatiger

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: sound quality, fit and comfort, build quality, wizard art
Cons: price, build time, cable
I purchased a second-hand pair on Head-Fi and got them reshelled through the Noble "OWNERSHIP TRANSFER SERVICE (ACRYLIC)." I chose to add Wizard reprint of a beautiful pattern I really liked, and added my own little signature. 
 
As many other reviewers stated, the sound is extremely cohesive. Silky smooth and non-fatiguing, but all the detail is there. Everything sounds so damn good and transparent. And I can listen to it for hours on end. This is my end-game portable, and I enjoy it over my HD800 and LCD-3. Responds excellently to EQing. 
 
The Wizard reprint is beautiful. I really like how it's not a 1:1 reprint but rather a unique re-make of the same overall design. 
 
EDIT: I am currently noticing problems with the fit and seal. The right earpiece breaks seal when my jaw is nearly or completely closed, and only seals properly when my jaw is two finger widths open. The left earpiece seals much better through my entire range of jaw motion, but also seems to be much tighter of a fit than my right earpiece (which seems loose). For reference, during my first audiologist impression, she had me use my index finger as a bite block. I also have TMJ issues, which may exacerbate the problem.
EDIT2: there's also a degree of play between the right earpiece canal and my actual ear canal. The right earpiece can seat in different positions resulting in different fits and sealing, while the left earpiece only fits in one position and consistently seals better.
 
Cable is really microphonic and feels kinda cheap. Might be replacing it in the future with one that's better built, but it works fine for now. 
Noble took two months to build it, as stated on their page. It took a long time, but was worth the wait.
 
Price is definitely in the high range, but I knew what design I wanted and I was okay with purchasing second-hand for a reshell. Probably my best audio purchase yet. 
 
BillyWu4-1.jpg
Bossatiger
Bossatiger
youre right value rating can't be low if its my best purchase hahaha
Kerouac
Kerouac
Some nice (personal) design you've got there!
Reading about the cable (cheap feeling and even worse: microphonic) I think it screams for (and deserves) an upgrade cable :)
Bossatiger
Bossatiger
having issues with the fit, gonna contact Noble audio as well as my audiologist

dubbcd

Head-Fier
Pros: Amazing sound quality even with orginal cable. Steep bass.
Cons: 2 pins style (not really cons)
Very detailed quality sound . I am able to find details which missed before.
Details with layer and staging.
Staging and positioning isn't huge or odd. But I can feel it in my head when listening certain kind of music in a quite environment.
Bass can be pushed very hard and steep. 
 
WIth different quality cable and quality AMP, my K10 does give me surprise.
 
Make sure your ears mod are made with quality or professionally.
 
Content is King. Same old rule.
To enjoy high quality sound, you need high quality source.

Wilderbeast

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Realistic, 3D sound
Cons: Size
I bought my Kaisers through Gisele at Aid2Hearing. I wrote a little about the process here.
 
When I first twisted the K10s into my ears, plugged them into my iPhone and pressed play, the playlist I had ready sounded exactly as I had hoped - a bit dull and lifeless. In my experience the bigger the 'wow' at first listen, the more an earphone is likely to disappoint long term; initial 'thunderous' bass or 'twinkling' treble will often irritate my ears after a time. I have sensitive ears. After a pleasing enough listen with my iPhone, I tried several other players over the following months; you do not drop £1,400 on ear impressions and earphones to listen solely on an iPhone (no disclaimer needed here - I paid full whack for my K10s). 
 
NobleK10stickingout.jpg
 
The K10s are big. They stick out a little way from my ears, particularly at the top. This doesn’t bother me too much at home, but I tend to grab other IEMs for traveling - with the Kaisers I’m aware of these things sticking out of my ears when in public. They fit snugly, burrowing deep into my ear canals. Actually, they go deeper than any of my other earphones, giving the sensation of almost meeting in the middle or tickling my throat. It's an odd feeling, but one that passes after the initial insertion. 
 
The Kaiser 10s have an unusual configuration of their ten drivers: two low, two mid, two treble, two high treble and two ultra high treble. It’s something like that anyway, I can’t remember exactly; Noble removed the specs from their website a while ago. (Less information appears to be a trend at Noble. Their two-driver Savant, for example, was launched without the driver count being disclosed.)
 
The K10 sound is rich and weighty. If JH Audio’s JH13-Pro is a delicate Pinot Noir, Noble’s K10 is a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. Bass and mid-range are at the fore, with treble slightly tucked behind. These monitors were created for listening pleasure rather than listening critically, though there is still plenty of detail.
 
Fed via my AK100 II’s optical output, I often set my Chord Hugo’s cross-feed to its lowest ‘on’ level and plug in my Noble K10s. I have to say this the best audio experience I have had thus far. Utterly immersive, realistic and three-dimensional. With orchestral music my mind paints a holographic picture of the orchestra. Violins over there. Trombones over there. Percussion back and right, solo clarinet centre-near. The timbre of each instrument is spot on. Really, spot on, without a hint of grating or harshness. Violins are scratchy yet still lush, trombones are raspy yet still musical. There is enough bite and edge in the sound to bring instruments to life, while retaining a smooth, open presentation. Just wonderful. Film scores are particularly engaging - I recommend those of John Barry or John Williams if you want to hear what I mean.
 
In the years (and money) I’ve spent on experimenting with setups I’ve gotten into the annoying and purposeless habit of listening for faults, rather than listening to music. In the Hugo/K10 combo I can honestly say that I cannot hear anything I dislike. Yes, the treble is a little distant but it sounds right. I don’t find myself yearning for a little more of this or that, or a bump in any frequency. I really get into the music once I have equipment I trust, and the K10s pass with full marks.
 
That the highs are a touch behind the mids and lows is remarkable when you consider that six of the ten drivers are allocated to the upper frequencies. I think the treble is done very well indeed. The bass is full and envelopes the whole sound wonderfully at times, though it is never too much. The mid range is stunning, but not in a obvious way. It’s just there, naturally. Think your Shure SE846 nails the mids? It does, but it comes well behind the K10 for pleasing, easy-listening realism.
 
With the K10, I found the AK120 II, iBasso DX90 and Oppo HA-2 a little too harsh (told you I have sensitive ears). I can’t describe why exactly. It’s almost as though too much electricity was rushing through my canals. On the other hand, the original AK120 and Chord Mojo* were unexciting, the sound being too thick and cluttered. Mojo sounds better than the AK120, though still a bit dark for my liking. I should add that the above sources are in comparison with my Hugo, and do not necessarily sound bad.
 
As far as lone DAPs go, the AK100 II hits the K10 sweet spot for me. I might be gushing about its sound had I not heard the Hugo.
 
I happily give five stars for the Kaiser 10. The combination with Hugo has given me an immense amount of pleasure over the past year or so. I like my K10s as much as I dislike the Wizard returns thread, which is a lot. My emotional buttons have been pressed more than a few times listening to my K10s, and that’s about the highest praise I can give.
 
 
*As a side note, I’ve spent a lot of time comparing Hugo with Mojo, reaching the conclusion that Mojo is Hugo minus its soul. Mojo is your mad aunt after she has undergone a course of electric shock treatment; ostensibly the same person but bereft of her vibrancy. This may not be the case with brighter earphones, but most of mine tend towards warm.
The Life
The Life
I 100% cosign the K10 + AK100ii combo. I thought I was the only person who thought his K10s sounded better with the Ak100ii than with amps and DAPs costing much more money. To my ears, that combo sounded even better than the K10 + Hugo combo. 
Wilderbeast
Wilderbeast
Tonally, I find the iPhone 6, AK100ii and Hugo quite similar. They all sound more or less neutral. The AK is the liveliest of the three; it has plenty of energy and zing. A recording of someone playing a triangle would demonstrate this well - the metallic 'ting' would jump out at you. iPhone sounds a bit lifeless in comparison. Hugo doesn't quite have the sparkle of the AK, which is not a bad thing in my opinion, because it absolutely nails the realistic timbre of individual instruments, and presents a convincing 3D sound space.

I do enjoy my AK100ii at the moment (apart from the painfully long boot-up time). The Life: how do you compare it with the AK120ii?
Wilderbeast
Wilderbeast
To answer your question knopi, I think there is a colossal difference between iPhone and AK100ii/Hugo. It's not just a different sound, it's a different experience. I do think the iPhone is quite good though.

cvbcbcmv

100+ Head-Fier
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Narayan23
Narayan23
Fantastic review and man are those K 10 stunning!! Thanks for your impressions.
ard-nac
ard-nac
Pls give me description between andromeda and k10. Tx
Intensecure
Intensecure
Simply.. Out..Standing.

Bighappy

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: They are perfect!
Cons: Nothing!...Absolutely nothing!
This is my first review and it's going to be brief...Never in my life have I been so damn impressed with an audio product (I have a bunch) than I am with my Custom K10's!!! There is not 1 thing that I can think of that hasn't completely surpassed my expectations...I'm a picky son of a gun and these have surprised the hell out of me and I had my bar set extremely high...Do yourself a favor...run don't walk to Nobleaudio.com and get ya some :wink:
Uzuzu
Uzuzu
sounds kind of like an advertisement here. can you go into detail a bit?
Bighappy
Bighappy
I can assure you it's no advertisement

I apologize for not being much of a detail guy...To me, these are very hard to explain or pick apart because they do every single thing so well. If my short review isn't allowed or isn't detailed enough I'll be happy to take it down? :grin:
willyvlyminck
willyvlyminck
At this price point it should be no wonder these are nearly perfect .

stimy

New Head-Fier
Pros: Incredible fit and finish. Extremely well balanced nothing is overemphasized everything is in its right place.
Cons: Large chassis needs to fit all those drivers, I can't lay down flat on my pillow and listen.
OK first let me start out by saying the wait time is brutal! I think I checked my tracking numbers 763 times. My wife kept telling me have patients my young Padawan it will be worth the wait and as always she was right. These monitors are outstanding, as I write this I am listening to the new Pink Floyd endless river and it's amazing! It's interesting a lot of the other reviews have touched on this but it just does everything extremely well. There's no real emphasis on any one frequency, is kind of interesting to hear you just get lost in the music. I never realized when I listen to music with all my different headphones I'm kind of internally thinking about frequencies and how they affect my listening experience. With a K10 you truly get lost in the music. 
 
As far as my sources go I do have a Fiio X3 II the sounds pretty good with it. I found it all Fiio products have a little bit of a cold feeling to them and these will definitely show you that. I recently acquired the Centrance DAC port HD and it has brought the noble audios to a different level of enjoyment that I didn't realize possible. To my ears this is a marriage made in heaven. I believe the Centrance has a warm beautiful sound. I believe having 10 different drivers in each year really makes a difference when you put different sources to it. It can reveal details that only 10 drivers can give you.
 
Brandon and Sunny have been unbelievable through the whole process. Incredible customer service getting back to me from email questions in under a minute. I can't say enough about it the whole experience with Noble its been great. Just prepare yourself to wait it out, 6 to 8 weeks is easy to talk about but hard to wait for. Mine was a little compounded from a mishap in Canadian customs, pretty much added an additional week. Of course not Nobles fault.
 
Highly recommend these badass chunks of beauty!!!!
 
Sterling 

Watagump

Twizzler King
SQ has already been done to death, not much to say. I am just so happy to have gotten the best fitting CIEM's I have ever owned.
Watagump
Watagump
If you guys would just learn speed reading, you might be able to get it done quickly, duh.
Malevolent
Malevolent
Where's your TLDR version?
RPB65
RPB65
pmsl Wata'! always waffling on for ages...........

Saraguie

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Great top to bottom extension, very engaging, wide soundstage, does everything very well, screams quality made and looks great.
Cons: I'm sure there are for some folks......but for me not when the fit is right.
I love Rock and Blues and the K-10s are a perfect match for these genres. I have the Unique Melody Miracle and the K-10 does what the Miracle does but up a couple of levels.

WCDchee

1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Coherent, tonally accurate, expansive, coherent staging
Cons: slight lack of treble sparkle
Disclaimer: I bought this K10 during the Black Friday Deal in December last Friday. This review is written purely out of my desire to share my impressions on the K10. The K10 has fast become one of my favourite earphones. However, due to the price of the K10, as well as the level on which I am expecting it to perform, I am going to be rather harsh on any possible issues the K10 might have. This review is completely subjective though, and do feel free to disagree.
 
Just a little background on how I came into possession of the K10. Up till the point that I decided to purchase the K10s, the Dita answers were my only high end pair of earphones. However, make no mistake about this, I had spent lots of time trying extensively many of the top of the line custom in ear monitors from the leading brands like JH, UM, UE, ACS and Earsonics, among others. Most custom in ear monitors however, left me extremely disappointed. Many of them were technically capable, with a good level of detailing and perhaps wide soundstages. However, I found many of them to have poorly controlled resonances leading to large amounts of colouration. Tonally, many of these multiple BA earphones just didn’t quite cut it for me. I’m sure many people would disagree with me on my assessment of the tonal quality of other CIEMs, but again that’s subjective. When I listen to violins on my earphones I want them to sound like what I hear when I listen to a live orchestra, and I guess that’s what I’m looking for. Different people hear things differently though and I wouldn’t fault anyone for liking something different from myself. For myself, I could never listen to something that doesn’t sound right tonally, no matter how good it might be technically.
 
The K10s were the first multi BA earphone that really did that for me, sure it has its own character and its own take on tonality, but it was close and accurate enough that I could enjoy the tone and move on to appreciate its other qualities.
 
For the purposes of this review, I have chosen to pair the K10s with the Dita Audio truth cable, which I have found to pair excellently with the K10. I will elaborate more on the differences which the truth cable brought about and what you can expect of the K10 on the stock cable. Bear in mind though that the K10 scales up very very well. Pair it with a good cable and you will be very surprised. (I know this isn’t a review of the truth cable, but boy does it sound good. I wasn’t really a believer of cables in the past, but the truth interconnect singlehandedly changed that. Having compared the truth to many of the top cables from PW audio, plussound, whiplash, and DHC, including and not limited to the DHC complement 3 and 4 cables, I think that the truth pulls ahead of the competition, and is one of the best earphone cables at any price)
 
Sound
As noted above, the following impressions are made with the truth cable pairing.
 
The K10s have a definite tilt towards the warmer side of things. They aren’t dead neutral like the UERMs, yet they retain a good amount of accuracy. They are detailed and highly resolving, but aren’t the slightest bit clinical or analytical. I have found them to be very versatile, handling most genres very well. The K10s have a big, authoritative, expansive sound. I listen to a lot of classical and broadway music and I find these traits to be very important. The K10s are able to portray the huge scale of a large orchestra or choir very well, sounding full and impactful with lots of power.
The highs of the K10s are pretty well extended they provide a nice amount of sparkle and are present enough to give a defining edge to the various sounds in your music. The highs are never harsh, always retaining a smooth, gentle touch, and are thus a really good, non-fatiguing listen. They won’t present the finest details straight to your face, but if you really want to find them, they will always be there. They aren’t the most shimmery and sparkly highs, but they definitely have enough that they don’t sound muffled or veiled. If you’re looking for extreme clarity, detail and very sparkly highs, the K10s probably won’t do it for you, but for most people, the K10s would definitely have enough sparkle.
 
The midrange is probably one of the best traits of the K10s. It is rich and lush, with a nice fullness to it. Both male and female vocals sound pretty amazing on the K10s, with a lush and warm feel to them. Instruments also benefit from the quality of the midrange, having a fuller, more well-bodied sound to them. The midrange of the K10 is one of the best that I have heard, it is full and rich without being overly coloured, maintaining a strong sense of accuracy that many of the richer and fuller sounding earphones tend to lose.
 
I have often found the bass of BA earphones to be lacking. Most of them I find to be lacking in extension, and even if they extend well they are rarely ever as natural as well implemented dynamic earphones. The K10s are probably the first BA earphone to change that. The bass extends impressively deep, with a good, strong sub bass rumble that even some of the better dynamic earphones lack. The bass is thunderous and strong when called for, but never bleeds into the midrange and always remains controlled. It has a good amount of slam, not the most powerful, but good enough for me. The decay of the bass is not extremely fast, but it does have very slight and natural bloom to it. It is deep, tight, and impressively extended, with a natural decay and a good slam, and is probably among the best of low ranges that I have heard in a BA earphone.
 
The K10 has a good, expansive soundstage, definitely on the larger side. It is wide, deep and high, and gives a very accurate portrayal of the soundstage. A lot of earphones with a larger soundstage tend to push instruments out in an unnatural manner, having them all sit very far back. With the K10, however, different sounds are placed very well in the soundstage. Sounds that are supposed to be near will be near and those that are supposed to be far out will be far out. This creates a very coherent, well balanced and natural soundstage in all 3 axes. The K10 layers and separates very well too. Different sounds can be heard in distinctly different points in space, and in distinctly different layers. This also contributes to the coherency and the naturalness of the soundstage. What I like about the soundstaging properties is that it never once, for all its technical ability, sounds clinical. A lot of earphones with tip top imaging and separation have a common flaw. Sounds often radiate from a single point, and that really isn’t the most appropriate portrayal of music to me. With the K10, while imaging and separation are precise, each sound occupies its own substantial space and that gives rise to an uncanny sense of realism.
 
How does it sound without the truth cable though? The K10 on the stock cable is warmer, thicker, and smoother. A lot of people like the sound of the K10 on the stock cable, but personally, I found it to be slightly lacking in extension, and a tad loose in the bass. Bear in mind though that this is really only the case because of my personal preferences, as well as the type of sound that I’m used to. I like a really really sparkly sound, and am somewhat more tolerant to sibilance than a lot of people. I’m also more used to a more reference-type sound signature. With the truth cable, I find the K10 to have just the right amount of airniness, but on the stock cable, I find myself looking for a tad more airiness. The soundstage on the stock cable is also not as expansive as it is on the truth cable, but bear in mind that it remains impressive on its own right.
 
Now is the K10 the best earphone that I’ve ever heard? Well I wouldn’t say that. Hearing preferences are all subjective after all, and while the K10 would definitely make a lot of people happy, it definitely has its flaws. Personally, I would like it if the K10 had a better extension on the highs with more sparkle. That’s the one gripe I have with the K10. The truth cable definitely helped a lot with this, but given how much I love my sparkly highs, I could still do with more. That is, however, really a matter of personal preferences, and I wouldn’t really list that as a huge flaw.
 
All in all though, the K10 is really a mightily impressive earphone, among the very best in my opinion. It is not cheap, that is for sure, but should you decide to get it, you are truly in for a treat.
 
NobleK10.jpg
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WCDchee
WCDchee
Soundstaging improves quite a lot in all aspects, imaging becomes more accurate, airiness is quite exquisite, creating an open, and not overly airy presentation. Highs sparkle and extend quite a bit more bass tightens well but goes deeper and hits harder. Midrange has slight leanness to it with the truth but given that i found the k10 to have a slightly thick midrange, this matched up perfectly for me.
Uncle E1
Uncle E1
DITA Truth cables at the moment is still at the experimental stage.  There is only a bunch of them floating around with various CIEMs including the K10 above, MH335 and 1964 V6 :p
earfonia
earfonia
Very good and unique review! Thanks!
I agree on this: "I found many of them to have poorly controlled resonances leading to large amounts of colouration. Tonally, many of these multiple BA earphones just didn’t quite cut it for me." For that reason I often avoid too many drivers configuration. I guess it is just difficult to have too many drivers coherently vibrate in exactly the same phase to avoid phase distortion.

wofsie

Head-Fier
Pros: Beautiful design, excellent sound, solid isolation, comfortable even with small ears in customs.
Cons: Waiting for them to arrive after placing the order.
While I have owned several universal IEMs from various brands, I always felt I was missing something by not having a set of customs made.  I did my homework and started reading tons of reviews of all of the latest and greatest CIEMs on the market.  I kept coming back to Noble and the reviews of the K10 all seemed to say similar and consistent positive things.  So after finally getting impressions done and talking with Brannan, I made my order for a set of CIEM K10s.  Being the impatient person I am I paid the extra to have my set expedited, and even though they were done in lightening speed, the waiting was a killer.  Brannan and Sunny at the lab in China were amazing in answering my emails and both were exceptionally patient with me and never seemed annoyed by my being a pest in asking "Are they done yet?"  Finally I got the photos and they were gorgeous.  I choose a Wizard reprint with a few specifications for color changes and the pictures were amazing, but not even close to how beautiful my K10s are when they finally arrived.  Upon opening up the pelican like case I was in awe of these tiny little works of art.  I'm not sure how long I stared at them before I snapped out of it and plugged them into my AK240 to have a listen.  Well the sound is even more amazing then the K10s are to look at!  Everything I had read about the Noble Kaiser 10 CIEMs is true.  No matter what music genre I threw at them the sound was perfect.  Jazz and classical had instruments with various sounds that I had never heard before.  Vocals were crisp and balanced with the instruments.  I am not someone who has ever done a review with the technical words for IEMs so I will leave that to the professionals.  What I can say is that I have never enjoyed my music nearly as much as I do now that I have my K10s.  Music is just that much more fun to listen to.  I have other IEMs that are more analytic in hearing distinct instruments and vocals and if I am focusing I certainly have clarity with my K10s.  But mostly I just close my eyes and hear all there is to hear in whatever I am listening to and I am enjoying the music.  That is perhaps why I feel my K10 CIEMs are the perfect IEM.  Perhaps the only drawback there is in owning a pair is once you have them there is no going back.  I simply adore listening to music with these and there is no other IEM that I own that even comes close to the perfection of hearing the music.
I did have problems with the fit in both ears but particularly the left.  After sending photos to Brannan and Sunny I had to have another set of impressions made and send those along with my K10s back for a refit on each ear.  That was painful after listening to music with them and I had withdrawal until they were refitted and returned to me.  Yet again the customer service and communication was excellent and the refit was worth the wait.  My K10s now fit like a glove with no break in the seal no matter what I am doing and the sound is even better.  All I can say is if you are going to have one pair of CIEMs and want something that will give you musical ecstasy in addition to being a work of art, the Noble K10 is the perfect CIEM.

mscott58

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Amazing sound, compact package, beautiful artistry, complete coherence, solid customer service, true TOTL CIEM performance all around.
Cons: Pricey (but well worth it), can't share CIEM experience with others (clearly not unique to Noble), pretty long wait (again, well worth it).

 
If you told me that my review of a pair of headphones would somehow combine golf, science-fiction, sorcery and a supersonic jet I’d say you’re crazy. But then again if you told me I would spend $1,599 on a pair of IEM’s and consider them a bargain I’d also say you were off your rocker (and my wife would agree). But that’s where I find myself, so here we go…let’s jump into the seemingly random (and long) walk that is my review of the Noble K10’s.
 
But first, let’s go back in the time machine. In the late 90’s I had the honor of attending the Western Open at Cog Hill Country Club outside of Chicago. I was still in a field sales job and got to go see a major golf tournament and call it work – good times! At this tournament I saw Tiger Woods during his prime when he was winning majors left and right. He just made it look easy – showing true mastery of his skill. Golf is an incredibly difficult sport, and playing at that level and winning consistently is nearly impossible, but somehow Tiger did it, almost effortlessly (well, back then at least he did). The Noble K10’s are like Tiger in this regard, they’re effortless in their ability to do their job nearly perfectly. Taking 10 BA’s per channel and making them work together so coherently and precisely is a nearly impossible task, but somehow Dr. John has done it. You would never be able to guess the number of transducers in these IEM’s, but in the end all that matters is that they combine into one graceful and cohesive world-class package that makes beautiful music. The K10’s exhibit Noble’s true mastery of the craft of IEMs, reflecting the many years their key players have worked in this field. Like Tiger (at least back in the day) Dr. John and team rule their game. Add on top of this the detailed artistry of the “Wizard” and it’s a one-two punch of audio impact, both sonically and visually.
 
And speaking of Wizardry, how many of you remember the small handbag that Hermione Granger carries at times in the Harry Potter series? Through the use of an “undetectable extension charm” (yes I’m a geek, in case you didn’t know that already) her little bag can carry anything, no matter the size or weight. A complete library of books? Check. Dry clothing to change into after getting wet by jumping off a dragon into a lake? Check. Anything fits in there. The same appears to be the same with the K10’s. Besides being able to fit 10 BA drivers into each earpiece, which is a bit of magic itself, listening to the Kaiser’s makes you feel like the whole spectrum of instruments, even the largest ones, have somehow been crammed inside these gems, against all laws of mechanics (maybe quantum tunneling?). Queuing up “Life During Wartime” from the Talking Heads’ amazing album “Stop Making Sense” I was hit out of the blue by the kick-drum that enters suddenly during the keyboard intro. Even though I’ve heard this track hundreds of times, I was still struck by it - the drum as portrayed by the K10’s rocks you both in terms of impact and texture, but somehow doesn’t overpower the great stereo imaging of the keyboard riff. Putting on my LCD-3F’s for comparison I find the ability of the K10’s to convey this passage to be very nearly (but not quite) at par with the Audeze’s. How the heck do they do that? How does Dr. John fit that much musical magic into such a tiny space? Instead of quantum mechanics does he use the same charm Ms. Granger applied to her purse? He is a Wizard as well after all.
 
Anyone who looks at my hard-drive of FLAC files or my list of most-played Tidal tracks (hey, get off my computer!) knows that I listen to a very wide range of music, alternating between Rammstein’s “Sonne” to Miles Davis’ “So What” to Royksopp’s “Skulls”  to Duncan Sheik’s “Whispering” from Spring Awakening to The Chieftains “The Magdalene Laundries”. I love them all, and many, many more. The K10’s play them all well. I don’t find myself reaching for a different HP when I want to listen to a certain type of music. In fact another reviewer of the K10’s talked a lot about their ability to show the “space between” (which I agree with in terms of special sense), but be clear there is no space between the frequency bands. This is one coherent whole, and playing all of these different genres highlights that whatever is in the recording the K10’s will show – good or bad. In fact the times I’ve been disappointed by a sound coming out of the K10’s I’ve gone back and confirmed that the recording or other equipment was at fault (or my body, as one time I was sure I had a problem with my right earpiece, but it turned out to be a piece of ear wax rattling at a certain frequency – gross but it can happen!). The K10’s just show (their version of) the truth. Why the qualifier? They are voiced, so don’t expect “reference” neutrality, but boy-oh-boy are they fun to listen to.
 
Back to the Audeze’s for a moment. Why am I using them as my primary point of comparison? Why not other IEM’s? Well, a few reasons. First the K10’s simply left my trusted old Etymotic ER-4S’s in the dust – no comparison (although at $300 the Ety’s are still a great value). Secondly I know my LCD-3F’s very well. Third, how crazy is it to compare the K10’s with a full-sized (oversized some would say) open HP such as the reference LCD’s? This is no David versus Goliath. This is Goliath versus Goliath’s slightly younger and smaller brother – it’s a fair fight. Although to be clear, the use-case of these two TOTL offerings are completely different. The K10’s are “closed” (they’re deep in your ear canal!) versus the LCD-3F’s “open” structure. Both clearly have their strengths and weaknesses. I can easily travel with my K10’s (in case you didn’t know the LCD-3’s are not really portable – and yes I’ve seen it done) and not bother anyone (well, besides people wondering what those things stuck in my ears are!). But then again at home I’m am completely in my own little universe and cannot hear anything that is going on around me when wearing the K10’s, which can be good and bad. What? The kids were crying? Sorry honey – I had my Noble’s in. With the LCD’s I radiate a lot of sound from the cans, but then again I can still hear a bit of anything that is going on around me, assuming it’s pretty loud or the music is pretty quiet.
 
While on the subject of using the K10’s while traveling, one quick piece of advice: when you’re on a plane and listening to the K10’s be sure to let those sitting next to you know that you’re going to be off on another dimension, oblivious to anything and anyone around you and to poke you if they want to talk to you or warn you of any impending doom. Simply put with the K10’s on you will be off the grid. This is actually a great thing during boarding as it makes the process so much more enjoyable. Put an audio-induced shield up around you to repel the stress radiating from everyone else trying to cram a 150 pound duffle bag into the overhead bin or deal with a screaming 10 month old with an ear infection. Leave me a message, I’m not here - I’m in my “happy place” thanks to my friends from Santa Barbara.
 
Let’s jump once again back to the K10 vs. LCD-3F in terms of SQ comparison and specific tracks. The mids on the Nobles are very good, although they lack that certain fine “magic” and deep emotion of the LCD-3’s that made me pick the -3’s over the –X’s. But hey, I don’t know of any HP for under $5K that matches the LCD-3’s in this area. On the whole I’d say the Kaiser’s are quite close to the LCD-3 experience, around 90% of the SQ on whole. I could easily live with the K10’s if I had to (and I would pick them as my only headphone if I could only have one) but luckily I don’t have to. J Getting this close to Audeze’s  TOTL is an amazing feat given the difference in size and portability. Regarding a few of my reference tracks. On Peter Gabriel’s “OVO”, Track 12 “Make Tomorrow Today” has an intro that builds with keyboards and then the bass kicks in, followed by an acoustic guitar and then some type of whip-like sound comes out of nowhere. This jolted me out of my work, even sitting in a busy and loud Starbucks in Manhattan. Moments like this happen all the time and the K10’s again excels across the audio spectrum. Similarly on Gabriel’s “Growing Up” from “Up” the stings in the intro grab deep into your soul and then the rest of the sounds layer on with great texture and refinement. Great stuff. On Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, there is a slight difference in drums, with the K10’s being just a little less textured than the LCD-3F’s, but still highly engrossing. Again this is saying something given the size difference and also Audeze’s reputation for kickin’ bass (pardon the pun). However, on “Lithium” the K10’s reproduction of the cymbal shows a bit more air and space than the LCD’s. Score one for little brother Goliath. On the bass line in the second half of the song was awesome on the K10’s, but on the LCD-3’s it was exquisite – we’re really splitting hairs here. The LCD’s and the K10’s each have their own type of magic, but only one has a “Wizard”!
 
Also be forewarned and ready to jump back on the equipment merry-go-round once you land a pair of the Kaiser’s. In my progression up the portable chain, I started with the Dragonfly, then boosted that with the addition of the Headstage Arrow 4T. Then I got the Fiio X3 and was happy with that. However, when I plugged the K10’s into the Fiio I was left wanting more. After researching all sorts of portable amps I had the brain-fart that I still had the Arrow 4T in my drawer. Pairing the Arrow with the X3 was much better, and then when I added an ALO SXC22 mini-mini cable things tightened up even more. Most recently I swapped out the Headstage for a Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII and once again the K10’s showed the jump forward in SQ. If you’re not familiar with the Leckerton, look up Nick’s little masterpiece – it’s really amazing (at least as an amp, I don’t utilize the DAC section of the UHA-6S/MKII). Others have said it, and I’ll wholeheartedly agree – the K10’s scale beautifully and will take advantage of whatever you throw at them up the chain. I’m now more eager than ever to get my LH Labs Geek Wave XD128 Ultimate Signature DAP as I’m sure that whatever Larry Ho’s portable wonder ends up being my Nobles will keep up and take full advantage of their Geeky goodness.
 
But wait, you say, you haven’t talked about the super-sonic jet yet! (assuming you were paying attention at first and haven’t given up his death-march of a review yet). So where’s the analogy? Like the SR—71 Blackbird super-jet the K10’s appears to gain power with time, moving faster and faster (or in this case getting slightly louder and louder) when they’re in the zone. This is the first headphone where I find myself turning the volume down slightly versus turning it up while listening. Many headphones sound good when played at a higher volumes (hence the importance in dB matching during comparison tests) but it takes real engineering and finesse to make something sound good at lower levels. And that’s just what the “No-bull” team has done.
 
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t send a shout out to Dr. John, Brannan, Sunny and the rest of the Noble team. They’re not only great at what they do, they’re also good people. All of my experiences with them have been first rate. No rock-and-roll divas here. Just solid people making and selling extraordinary audio gear.
 
And yes, as I’m finishing writing this review I’m wearing my K10’s and my LCD-3F’s are staring at me with a little hint of jealousy, awaiting their turn. Don’t worry kids, daddy has enough love for both of you.
 
Well done Noble, well done. Very highly recommended. 
kuhchuk
kuhchuk
God, those things look beautiful.  I'd love to have a pair just to look at.
Saraguie
Saraguie
You put the sound experience between the 2 exactly as I hear it also.
ken6217
ken6217
Great review. I like your review style.

Loquah

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Detailed sound, smooth sound, great bass, excellent bass and treble extension, build quality, design options
Cons: None (so long as you can find the dough)

Overview

 
In the world of personal audio, the ultimate sound experience generally comes from custom molded in-ear monitors (CIEMs). In recent times, top of the line (TOTL) CIEMs have gone from 3-6 balanced armatures per side to 10 and even 12 BAs per side. The Kaiser 10 is an example of a 10 driver CIEM and has 10 individual drivers in each ear-piece – a pretty awesome piece of spatial design, but also a challenge of epic proportions when it comes to ensuring that all of those drivers are delivering their frequencies in time with and in support of the other drivers in each ear piece.
 
One of the largest challenges of any multi-driver setup (including speakers) is to have each driver deliver its optimum frequencies without interfering with the frequencies coming from the other drivers. A speaker manufacturer faces challenges with 2-3 drivers so imagine what happens when you get 10!! Add to that the challenge of placing the drivers at slightly different distances from the sound outlets and the possible timing / phase challenges this presents and getting everything right to the level expected of a flagship CIEM becomes a daunting prospect.
 

Specifications

 
Not much is published about the Kaiser 10’s specs, but what we do know is that they have / are:
 
  1. 10 drivers per side
  2. 4-way design (e.g. bass, mid, lower treble, higher treble) – the exact arrangement isn’t specified by Noble, but this example is a guess based on the Noble website info
  3. Approx. 35 ohm impedance
  4. 4-wire braided cable (silver plated copper) with 3.5mm plug and industry standard 2-pin earpiece connectors
 
The Kaiser 10 is named after a mysterious team member at Noble known as Kaiser Soze. The design has apparently been in the works (or maybe even on the shelf / back-burner) for a number of years, but was recently brought to life by Dr John Moulton, Kaiser Soze and the team at Noble.
 
At $1599 USD, it’s a serious investment into an audio device so it needs to perform at a level suitable for the pinnacle of this hobby – they’re big shoes to fill…
 

The Custom Process

 
I won’t spend much time describing this process because there’s a lot of info out there about what’s involved in the process of buying custom in-ears (including this video), but I would like to briefly highlight the process and where Noble might differ slightly.
 
  • Decide on the brand and model you want to buy – sometimes without even hearing them
  • Get instructions from the manufacturer about how to get your ear impressions taken (different brands like the impressions done differently)
  • Go to a good audiologist, one who does impressions regularly, and get them to fill your ears with goo (temporarily)
  • Send your impressions to the manufacturer
  • Wait
  • Wait some more
  • Try to forget you ordered customs
  • Wait some more
  • Receive your customs and hopefully enjoy a perfect fit first time around (if you read my Miracle review you’ll see that this doesn’t always happen)
 
So, you see, ordering a set of customs is as much an exercise in delayed gratification and the taking of calculated risks as it is an exercise in purchasing audio excellence. It’s 100% worth the effort though if you choose right, and that’s a function of knowing what you like and don’t like before you pull the trigger. For example, I knew as I purchased the K10s that I wanted a CIEM that was resolving and detailed, but not analyitcal – I wanted musicality and realism first and foremost. I wanted to feel like I was sitting at a live performance or recording every time I put these in my ears.
 

How Noble Differs

 
Most CIEM companies allow some degree of customisation in terms of colour choice and artwork for your CIEM shell and faceplates. Noble offer this with even more options than most brands, but they also offer a whole different level known as Wizard designs.
 
Dr John Moulton has earned the moniker, The Wizard, because of his amazing aesthetic designs on CIEMs. To see some examples of these, take a look at Noble’s Instagram feed. When you order a Noble CIEM you have the choice to pay $200 extra and have a “Wizard re-print” which is a recreation of a past design, or you can $400 and have a unique design crafted for you by The Wizard . You can offer some preferences (e.g. blingy, conservative, lots of blue, something quirky, etc.) or you can just kick back and let The Wizard work his magic. Personally I went somewhere in between because I discovered that Dr Moulton could work with some stones so I hunted down a stone / crystal with significance to me and asked for it to be incorporated in a design of his choosing, but something not too flashy. The results, as you’ll see, are astounding and beautiful!
 
The level of customisation at no extra charge for a set of K10s is industry-leading in my experience and the option to go to the “Wizard design” level is great for those who love something unique and amazing. There is even a Prestige range which is essentially a K10 set inside a shell made using high-tech machining that allows the use of solid pieces of wood or other materials and can even result in some wood / acrylic hybrids that look spectacular. You pay a mighty premium, but the result is visually jaw-dropping.
 

Delivery, Packaging & Accessories

 
So far we’ve been on a high note so I’m a little sad to say that there is at least one fly in the ointment…
 
Receiving your K10s could be an underwhelming experience to some. I was blown away by how fast they arrived after being dispatched from the factory in China, but upon opening the cardboard box, things were a little less impressive.
 
Other than foam packaging, inside the cardboard box was a pelican-style hard case inside a Noble-branded cardboard sleeve. After removing the plastic sleeve, the hard case displayed a Noble badge and my name branded into the plastic of the case. It’s utilitarian and basic which can be a bit of a let down when buying a premium product. Putting our consumer needs aside for a moment though, Noble gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. When it comes to customs, you don’t really need the sexy packaging to keep for resale because they’re not generally not worth reselling. I think Noble’s packaging approach is perfectly fine, but it might not meet your default expectations so please go in with your eyes open – you won’t be getting a sexy, silk-lined box with crystal paper weight and metal owners card. You will however be getting some seriously sexy CIEMs though so there’s that…
 

Accessories

 
Upon opening the Noble hard case you’ll be greeted by your new CIEMs, a high quality, lightweight braided cable (the black one in the pics) with angled 3.5mm jack, two black Noble elastic bands, a plastic ownership card, and a standard CIEM cleaning brush. Nothing special, but once again everything you need and nothing you don’t.
The cable is similar to the Westone Epic cable, but offers 4 independent strands braided together into a tight, but flexible braid. The rubber bands are your standard type band for strapping together a portable audio brick, and the cleaning tool is the same one as I’ve seen everywhere else.
 
As you can see in the picture above, the top of the lid gets a few indentations from the CIEMs when you store them because the case is just big enough for the CIEM shells, but I don’t ever get the feeling that there’s pressure placed on the CIEMs when closing (although I am also always very careful and gentle).
 

Build Quality & Fit

 
I had lots of troubles when I bought my first customs, the UM Miracles, but I learned from that experience and was very careful to keep my head super still during the ear impression process. Even with the perfect impressions (second time around), my Miracles were never quite perfect and used to break the seal when I made certain movements so I expected a similar experience with the K10s and was OK with that idea so long as the seal breakages were no worse than the Miracles.
 
As it turns out, my expectations from a custom fit were set way too low coming from the Miracles. The K10s fit like a glove and fill my ears perfectly in all areas – both inside the canals, but also where they sit in the outer section of the ear. Until trying the K10s, I didn’t know what a quality custom fit was really all about. I can eat, walk, tilt my head, yawn, and all sorts of other things without disrupting the seal created by the K10s – they’re perfect!
 
In addition to the perfect seal and comfort from the K10s, they are impeccably finished and beautifully polished. The thin layer of crystal placed in each faceplate is enclosed in a flawless bubble of clear acrylic which is polished to a glass-like sheen and creates a depth that you can just gaze into – the pictures don’t do it justice.
 
The shell of my CIEMs is a translucent, deep purple which is equally well crafted and polished. You can’t see much through the shell due to the dark colour, but what you can see is neat and well-arranged in terms of both drivers and wiring.
 
The Noble crown logo is printed onto each shell (in a turquoise colour in my case) and The Wizard’s signature is printed onto the faceplate of just one CIEM.
 

Sockets

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

Sound

 
As with any audio gear, this is the part that really matters. We’ve already established the immense challenge of getting 10 drivers, or 20 if you count both sides, to truly sing as one and the expectations from a $1600 earphone are understandably high so I think I was holding my breath a little when I first inserted the K10s in my ears and pressed play on my FiiO X5…
 
…the result was underwhelming…
 
Yes, I was honestly not impressed. “Sure, they’re good” I thought, “but they’re not $1600 good”. In my mind I was comparing them to my recently acquired Shure SE846 and could honestly have been quite happy with just the SE846 and $1600 back in my pocket.
 
If you’ve read other reviews of the K10, you might be asking yourself right now “What’s wrong with this guy’s ears?” Everyone else raves about these earphones so what was I hearing (or not hearing)?
I had this sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t hearing the best of the K10s. Something told me that they had a lot more to give so I started playing with different sources and discovered the true cause of my disappointment – not the K10s, but the source I was feeding them with.
 

Quality of Source

 
What I have come to love (very quickly) about the K10s is that they sound good from any source I’ve tried – they’re not at all fussy about the source and won’t berate you with sibilance or shoddy frequency responses even if you plug them into a sub-par smartphone. However, you don’t buy the K10 to have them sound good, you buy the K10 to have them knock your socks off, and for that you need a quality source.
 
Let me clarify, the K10s will sound good with everything, but their performance will be restricted by a lesser source more than any other headphone / earphone I have ever experienced. When I said earlier that the K10 left me wanting more, what I meant was that they left me wanting more from my sources so I could really hear just what these little gems were capable of, and boy did they reward me!
 
The FiiO X5 is a very good source and worth every penny. With every other IEM / headphone I own, I felt like I was listening to a world-class setup (when combined with my E12DIY amp), but somehow, the K10s were whispering in my ear when I was using the X5 stack – they were saying, “We could do more, you know.” I’m so glad I listened to that “whisper” and switched over to the Shozy Alien as my source as well as changing op amps in the E12DIY amp to maximise the sound for the K10s. Changing sources unleashed the magic of the K10s, namely their incredible ability to create a spacious, accurate soundstage with the greatest coherency of sound I have heard from anything short of perhaps Audeze LCD-2s or Sennheiser HD800s, but I’ll return to that comparison a little later.
 
The reason I have spent a bit of time discussing sources here is that I have read a number of discussions comparing the SE846 and Noble Kaiser 10 with people saying that the K10 isn’t really much better. My experiences have me thinking that people with this experience perhaps haven’t had the benefit of a top quality source. After a great universal earphone like the SE846 stops improving with different sources, a world class CIEM like the K10 still has more to give. (For the record, I still love the SE846)
 

Bass

 
The bass from the K10 is perfect – yes, perfect.
 
I raved about the bass from the SE846’s in my review of those, but the K10 takes it one step further, in my opinion. The K10s offer a shade less quantity of bass overall, but provide even better quality, clarity and texture in the bass than the SE846. The K10s actually dig a little bit deeper, but aren’t quite as full in the mid-bass region.
The bass from the K10s is deep and thunderous when the recording calls for it, but the bass is perfectly balanced with the rest of the sound spectrum. I would describe the K10s as having neutral bass from a ‘perception point-of view’. In other words, while a frequency response chart of the K10s might show a lift in the bass region, my perception of the bass from the K10s matches very closely with what a live recording sounds like. In that respect, the K10s and SE846s are very similar with the SE846 having just a touch more overall bass energy, particularly in the mid-bass.
 
Apart from slightly lifted bass to create that realistic, live sound, the K10s have the purest bass I’ve heard from an earphone and easily rival full-size headphones with their bass performance. As is my normal practice, I fired up my favourites playlist to listen to while I wrote this review and on Michael McDonald’s song, I Want You, the bass guitar sounded extraordinary. It was clear, present and audibly defined within the overall performance, but still a completely coherent part of the performance.
 
The bass from the K10s sounds effortless, the same way it sounds coming straight from the instrument playing it live. Noble use two huge bass drivers in the design of the K10 and you can hear the ease with which these jumbo balanced armatures handle the challenge of creating subtle, textured, and sustained bass notes. The bass is endlessly clear, clean and textured no matter what you throw at it. Rumbling bass sends quivers into your eardrums while tight, punchy bass notes snap and crack with energy and impact – no matter where a recording sits on the continuum of speed, power, and grace, the K10’s bass drivers take it all in their stride and create a completely believable experience.
 

Mid-Range

 
The mid-range from the K10 is a little drier than something like the SE846, but it’s still weighty and realistic. Despite an overall warmth in the sound of the K10s, the mid-range never comes across lush or creamy, but it also never strays into cold, analytical sterility. No, the K10 walks a very fine line to create an accurate, reference quality mid-range that is also immensely enjoyable for long, long sessions of listening.
 
Both male and female vocals have plenty of realism, texture and clarity. The mids aren’t placed in a spotlight like the SE846 or FitEar TG!334, but they’re definitely good enough to attract your attention without needing to be highlighted in the tuning of the earphones.
 
Every instrument you hear through the K10s sounds real – they just sound right. Whether it’s a violin, a guitar, a cello, or a drum, the K10 provides just the right balance of attack and decay to sound real and lifelike – as if the instrument is hovering somewhere inside (or just outside) your head. It’s quite uncanny how lifelike the sounds coming out these little acrylic shells are. In fact, I regularly hear something from the K10s that I think has to be a real sound from the outside world, but then I remember how extremely good the isolation of outside noise is with the K10s and realise that it was a sound in the recording.
 
I’m listening to It’s a Hard World by Supertramp right now and the vocals, trumpet, cymbal strikes and guitars are beguiling – more please!
 

Treble

 
Descriptions of the K10’s treble still elude me – even after many weeks. Listening to music with the K10s (I haven’t tried a frequency sweep) has me often thinking that the treble is a little rolled off, but then I hear air and details in the music that can only be conveyed with excellent treble extension. I can only make 2 conclusions about the treble from the K10s without getting into objective measures which aren’t necessarily indicative of the subjective enjoyment so here go my subjective conclusions:
 
  • The treble is a touch lower in intensity than the mids and bass, but it is fully extended
  • The treble is perfect
 
Yes, I said the “P” word again, but you’ll have to get used to that when discussing the K10s I expect.
 
The treble from the K10s is smooth, but don’t mistake that for smoothed-over because it certainly isn’t. What’s amazing about the K10s is the way they convey all of the details, but never get edgy, even on shabby recordings. You’ll hear that it’s a shabby recording, but your ears won’t be bleeding from knife-like treble spikes. This was the most impressive thing to me when I reviewed the Noble PRs and it seems that Dr Moulton has treble tuning down to a fine art based on this repeat performance with the K10s.
 
By now a new track was on from my playlist – My Man’s Gone Now by Miles Davis and Gil Evans – and it showcased nicely how beautifully balanced and refined the K10s’ treble is. I could hear each brush on the drums, right down to the individual textural differences of each stroke, and I could hear when the recording levels of the brass section got a bit hot and distorted at the edges, but the whole thing still sounded wonderful. It’s like the K10s are the zen masters of earphones – they don’t judge anything in the music, they just accept it as it is. The K10s won’t chastise your ears for listening to a poor recording, they’ll just honestly let you know that there’s an issue here and an issue there, but without any drama or judgement. Just like a zen master, the sound from the K10s “just is”.
 
EDIT: I’ve come back to address the topic of treble a second time around because I think it’s difficult to capture the K10’s treble qualities in verbal descriptions. After thinking on this review overnight I felt like I needed to better clarify and describe the treble with some more concrete comparisons. I returned to the SE846 with both the blue and white filters and I also compared the K10’s treble to the HD800. The results are a clearer picture of why the K10s sound so wonderful. Where the SE846 (blue filter) rolls off a little too soon for those who want air and space in the sound, the K10’s treble continues to extend up into the higher registers where the subtlest of cues reside. Unlike the SE846 (white filter) though, this treble doesn’t seem like it includes any spikes – it is smooth and so can sound rolled-off at first, but if you compare it to a rolled off ‘phone you will hear a distinct difference and realise that the K10 has all the information, just without any spikes.
 
Comparing next to the HD800s, the HD800s initially sound a bit brighter and more detailed in the treble, but further listening shows that they have a slight emphasis in the mid treble (around 6 kHz according to various graphs), but not any significant extension beyond what the K10s offer. In other words, the K10s have all the information in the full treble spectrum, but none of it is emphasised so coming from a ‘phone with any treble lift (HD800, T1, FIDUE A83, etc.) you might find the K10 to sound a bit too smooth, but it’s all there – I promise – and it’s the lack of emphasis that allows the K10s to be so marvelously revealing and transparent, and yet completely non-fatiguing.
 

Imaging and Staging

 
I might never have declared this outright before, but staging and imaging are my top priority in audio gear because that’s where the magic happens. If you get everything else right, but the image is flat and/or narrow then you’ve achieved nothing more than reproducing a recording. Create a lifelike sense of space and image though and you’re now recreating music that sounds realistic with an atmosphere / ambiance that is magical – that’s a miracle!
 
You’ve probably guessed from my lyrical opening to this section that the K10s are just as adept at imaging and staging as they are at everything else. Well, that’s almost true…
 
I should have held back before on the use of the “P” word because if the bass, mids and treble from the K10s are perfect then I’m not sure how to describe the imaging qualities they create because the overall result is even better! The imaging from the K10s is spectacular – better than anything else I have heard, including the masters of imaging themselves, the HD800s. The K10s don’t quite match the HD800s for size of stage, but in terms of clarity of image and general sense of space around instruments they could be twins. In some ways I actually find the placement and precision of the K10s to be slightly better than the HD800s, possibly due to the fact that the K10s deliver the sound straight to the ear canal without any chance of unwanted resonance and reflections around the outer ear and side of the head.
 
With the K10s, every instrument in the auditory landscape is perfectly placed and perfectly connected within the overall auditory picture. The coherence achieved from these two sets of ten drivers is simply breath-taking. It’s very easy to forget that you’re listening to a recording via a set of earphones when you’re using the K10s – it’s more like a tiny band has found its way to a live performance inside your frontal lobe.
 
Size-wise, the stage projected by the K10s extends beyond each ear by about 1cm or so and projects forward into the forehead to create an oval-shaped space with no real gaps or holes. The stage isn’t huge from the K10s, but it is incredibly spacious – like a tardis. Every instrument is clearly separate and distinct from every other instrument, but not in a disembodied way – it’s hard to describe. The overall sonic picture is 100% coherent – everything fits together seamlessly – and yet, at the same time, you can clearly hear each instrument on it’s own. This is what I love most about the K10s. They don’t try to sound extraordinary by highlighting anything. Instead, they just present everything with precision and honesty and let you hear what you want to hear – it’s all there for you to take in as a whole or to focus on piece-by-piece – it’s up to you.
 

Quick Comparison

 
Coming from the outstanding SE846, I was keen to really compare these two as some of the best offerings on the market. Keep in mind that I am using a universal SE846 (not available as a custom, but there are silicon sleeves available which essentially turn the SE846 into a custom). For both earphones I am using high quality, copper litz cables and an identical source so the following comments are based solely on the performance and characteristics of the earphones themselves without the influence of different cables or sources.
 
The SE846s really hold their own in this comparison, especially when you consider that you can pick them up for around half the price of the K10s. The bass from both earphones is imposing and powerful, but I was surprised to hear that the K10s actually created an even deeper, stronger sense of rumble and texture on one of my test tracks – A Thousand Years by Sting. Of course, tip choice with a universal earphone can change the quantity of bass so it’s possible that they could be equals on quantity, but the textural quality won’t really change with tips and that gives an edge to the K10s.
 
The overall tuning of the bass is slightly different between the SE846 and K10 with the SE846 having more mid-bass impact and power than the K10s. As to which is better, that’s up to your personal tastes, but I prefer the more open sound created by the K10s with their slightly lifted sub-bass and closer-to-neutral mid-bass.
The mid-range and treble set these 2 apart a little more than the bass. The SE846 offers the more beguiling and seductive mid-range presentation and are truly world class in that regard. The K10 is no slouch in this department either, but is less liquid and lush than the SE846. Once again, this will be a case of preference and it’s important to recognise that you can’t affect one part of the frequency response without it significantly altering the overall presentation – for instance, in isolation I prefer the mid-range from the SE846, but if those same mids were added to the K10 it would completely destroy the magical balance struck by the K10’s tuning. If you want lush mids, you have to sacrifice in other areas.
 
The treble is really where the greatest differentiation lies in my opinion. The SE846 has an edge to the treble that holds it back from being truly perfect. As I said in my review of the SE846, it is so close to perfection that it doesn’t really matter, but if I’m doing a comparison of two awesome earphones it’s always going to come down to the little things and the SE846 just can’t match the K10’s proficiency and refinement in the treble. The SE846 does have the ability to be tuned using its filters, but the treble is never as good as the K10 and always has a slight edge to it that can flare up on some recordings. While the K10s don’t sound quite as airy as the SE846 in its most “trebley” setup, there is never any sense of darkness or thickness to the sound and its effortless refinement is just so enjoyable. To my ears, the treble from the K10s sits somewhere between the blue and white filters on the SE846.
 
The K10 also has a delicacy and refinement to its sound that the SE846 just can’t quite match and this brings with it the coherency and realism I spoke about earlier in the staging and imaging section.
 

Comparison Summary

 
To summarise my experiences I’d say that the SE846 and K10 are both amazing and deserving of flagship / TOTL status as universals and customs respectively. If money, resale value and the ability to share the sound with others is no object then the K10 is a clear winner on the grounds of better texture in the sound, sharper imaging, and more refined treble, but it’s not a smack-down. This is a hard-fought win; a score of 18-21 in a game of pick-up (first to 21 wins). If you have limited funds for an earphone purchase or you highly value the benefits of a universal then the SE846 might be a better option.
 
To my ears, the Kaiser 10 is hands-down the better earphone, but the SE846 is a proud runner-up.
 
Note: The K10 is available as a universal, but I can’t comment directly on the sound of it and would be amazed if it can match the amazing comfort of the SE846.
 

Overall Summary

 
There’s a reason everyone is raving about the Noble Kaiser 10 – it really is that good!
 
This is an earphone that is so perfectly balanced in it’s sound and design / build that it truly disappears and leaves you with nothing but the music and a smile. Not lacking in anything and not showcasing anything, the K10 really is the zen master of CIEMs and “just is” as it honestly and accurately conveys every sound, every nuance, and every emotion of the music without judgement and without opinion. While other earphones might strip away the bass to show you more details, or emphasise the mids to create more emotions, the K10 lets each track speak for itself and it has the full range of frequencies covered so skillfully that it convey whatever message the artist was trying to convey. Thunderous power through to fragile delicacy, the K10s have it covered, but not altered.
 
The Kaiser 10 is quite unique in that it’s completely happy with a basic source, but has endless potential to deliver when given the right setup. There’s no punishment for using your phone, but there are endless rewards for treating it to a great DAP or DAC and amp.
 
If you have the funds and want the best, I have no hesitation in recommending the Noble Kaiser 10, and having heard the Noble PR and now the Noble K10 I would highly recommend any potential CIEM buyers to head straight over to www.nobleaudio.com to see what they have to offer. Even if the K10 isn’t for you, the quality, attention to detail and masterful tuning I’ve seen so far from Noble tells me they’re easily a manufacturer of choice in the current CIEM market.
Note: Thanks to @zilch0md for tweaking this image of mine to it's peak potential
Chefano
Chefano
awesome review!!
what tips do you use in se846?
regards
Jimmy24
Jimmy24
Wow, that's a sick color. When I get mine in the near future, I'll probably get a similar one with pink and yellow in it as well. Great review! 
paulomario77
paulomario77
Thanks for the review, Loquah. Coincidently, we are trailing very similar paths regarding personal audio. I own a SE846, I'm waiting for a Unique Melody CIEM to arrive (the Mentor, not the Miracle), and my ear mold impressions should be delivered to Brannan’s in a few hours (I'm getting the Prestige).
 
Regarding sources, I think that the SE846 is picky about them. In fact, from my experience, the 846 is quite difficult to drive, probably because of its very low 9 Ohm impedance. When driven from my iPod Classic, the bass simply wasn’t there. When I got an ALO Audio The National, bass was present and I thought problems were solved, but not until my Calyx M arrived that I realized the full potential of the SE846. While the bass was boomy, lacked definition, and invaded the rest of the spectrum with the ALO Audio, it was much more contained and detailed with the Calyx M. Yes, the Calyx M is such an amazing device that the SE846 sounded like a completely different phone! Perhaps the overall bass presence actually diminished with the Calyx M: it is as if the bass stays hidden and only appears when the music really asks for it. But I find it much more enjoyable and less fatiguing this way. The bass is not at all overwhelming, as was the case when the 846 is driven by a lesser source.
 
Anyway, thanks again for the review, I’m anxiously waiting for both my (first) CIEMs to arrive: the Mentor and the K10. Meanwhile, I’m still in love with my Shure.

VisceriousZERO

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Amazing mids, perfect highs extension, just-right-when-you-need-it bass, Works with any genre, Scales well with any cable and source, Wizard designs
Cons: Not for those seeking crystal-clear clarity, It’s gonna be damn hard to find something to replace it once you have it
Intro:
 
Its no secret that my favorite CIEM in my collection as I write this review is my Noble Audio Kaiser 10. From the moment I saw them to that first time I put them on and played Rage Against The Machine’s Remastered “Take The Power Back” I was hooked. I’ve had my Kaiser 10s for almost a year now and they still remain my favorite. I’ve had plenty of different CIEMs in the past year but the Kaiser 10 is what I always come back to.
Honestly in the beginning I didn’t really think that Noble’s new 10-driver would be anything as I don’t really care much for the “driver war”, but as my friend soullinker20 continuously badgered me to try it, I went ahead and contacted The Wizard over at Noble through head-fi.
 

 
 
Ordering Process:
 
The ordering process for the Kaiser 10s was pretty straightforward, with me messaging Wizard on head-fi and getting referred quickly to Brannan to smooth out the process. I ordered a Rush-order Wizard Design, with the only requests being my logo on the right IEM and to “make it Noble”. I received photos (mildly stifled a squeal at how amazing they looked) and the CIEMs themselves soon after and immediately listened to them with my then go-to DAP, the AK120.
 
 
The Build Quality and Accessories:
 
I’d proudly say that Wizard’s designs are the most beautiful in any CIEM ever. I have two Noble CIEMs (as of the writing of this article), the Kaiser 10 and a Wizard Design Noble 4S and they are both still the most stunning CIEMs in my collection. Build quality is very high, not FitEar-quality but high enough. The case that they come in are a long Noble hardcase containing the IEM, some Noble bands, an earwax cleaning tool and a Noble ownership card. There was also a sticker that came with it with Noble’s logo and webpage (which is now on my car).
 

 
 
The Gear:
 
I will be using mostly the Noble Kaiser 10’s stock cable and throw in some thoughts with it on the Linum Estron and the Null Audio Silver. Listening is mostly done on an AK240 and a Tera Player, though I have used other sources and DACs, like my 15” MacBook Pro and Surface Pro 3 with the Chord Hugo and others. I use different types of files, from PCM to DSD.
 
 
Sound Quality:
 
As someone whose only Wizard experience before the Kaiser 10 was listening to the Heir 5.ai, I didn’t know what to expect when I received my Kaiser 10. I certainly did not expect it to consider it the best IEM I had ever heard (Especially as I had also just received the then-brand new JH Audio Roxanne, and owned some of the considered best CIEMs [MH335DW and Hidition NT6-Pro]) but I was dumbstruck at how great they sounded. Not wanting to pass judgment too quickly I kept listening...
 
...for a year. And I’m still constantly surprised by how much I love the Kaiser 10s. Here’s why:
 
 
Listening to:
 
Vocals are one of the most amazing things to listen to with the Kaiser 10s. Going through tracks like Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s “The Girl Is Mine” and even with Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s “Guilty” you can clearly distinguish the vocals from the instruments, and even feel the natural highs of the vocals being presented, without becoming piercing. Even particularly sibilant tracks like The Cab’s “Endlessly” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Take The Power Back” are listenable because the tuning of the high drivers are just right.
 
Instruments are also very well presented and well distanced from the vocals, nothing sounds “muddy” to my ears even when I listen to very fast metal like “Bullet Dance II” on the Blazblue Chronophantasma soundtrack. Each instrument is rendered in a different layer that is very lush and just a joy to listen to. Even with classical pieces the instruments are rendered in a very satisfying manner.
 
One thing to note with the K10s is how effortless it seems to take any genre. One recent discussion about the Kaiser 10 is its bass-reproduction capability and I can heartily say if you want bass you’ll get bass. I tried the K10 with a few bassy tracks and even some where the bass is not very apparent. On Daft Punk’s “Around the World” you can definitely feel the bass and sub-bass, but it is very controlled and not as thumpy as something like the Rhines Stage 5 or the MH335DW. I don’t really look for bass in my IEMs so I don’t have much to compare to. Switching to a track like “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, the bass guitar is very prominent and delivers the bass in a very satisfying way, in a way that does not cover up the vocals but successfully portrays each part of the music. Listening to the live Jazz recording of Jazz at the Pawnshop’s “Over The Rainbow” is another incredibly excellent example of how the Kaiser 10 shines as the smooth sax is rendered with much emotion, while the people talking in the background can still be heard and it really makes you feel like you’re in the Pawnshop as Arne Domnerus’ group plays.
 
I’d say that the Kaiser 10 is the most “balanced” in terms of how it can manage any genre of music and will greatly be enjoyed by anyone who just wants to relax and listen to their music. I would not recommend it for anyone who’s after clarity, for monitoring, as they are essentially crafted for the simple joy of listening to music. I don’t believe its the most honest out there as the king of clarity for me will always remain the Hidition NT6-Pro. If you’re aiming for clarity go for the NT6.
 
 
In Conclusion:
 
I’d pick the Kaiser 10 as my favorite CIEM any day. I own very many CIEMs of varying tastes and styles but the K10 is my clear favorite when I just want to listen to something on the road, or in the office, or anywhere really. I’ll heartily recommend it to anyone willing to have one of the best all-arounder CIEMs out there. The only difficulty with this is actually trying to listen to something else after you’ve heard the K10s. At least that’s how I see it. I still switch amongst my other IEMs but my K10 is always with me and I don’t see myself getting tired of them anytime soon.
 
May Noble continue to create more amazing IEMs and with those crazy wizard designs I really do think the Wizard is an actual Wizard (that came from the moon).
 

budx3385
budx3385
+1 for Westone ES-5
"Even with classical pieces the instruments are rendered in a very satisfying manner."
They sound great for a capella Renaissance vocals, but clarity is absolutely needed to distinguish different wind instruments, e.g., in Schubert's 8th symphony. 
A2029
A2029
How would you say these compare to the JH13 FreqPhase ??
fairyclean
fairyclean
Were you able to use a universal version?  I am planning on getting the universal to maintain some resale value just in case it would not suit me.

EllisU

New Head-Fier
Pros: Perfectly cohesive sound.
Cons: Customization process could be a bit more customer involved.
At long last, I have finally gotten around to writing a review for my Kaiser 10 IEMs. I am sure you all have been slouched with glassy eyes at your keyboard, ear molds in hand, waiting for my comments before choosing your next musical ear plugs. My love for humanity hopes you haven’t. And my apologies in advance for the lengthy read. I wrote this in Starbucks with too much coffee in one hand and too much time in the other!
 
First of all, you should know that I do not consider myself an audiophile. Heck, I don’t even really know what that means or what paperwork I need to fill out for such certification. That said I have always found myself on the same never-ending quest for sonic bliss, a quest (curse) I believe most of you share. Like many of us, I started with entry-level products and quickly moved my way up. I burned through Sennheiser’s, Klipsch’s, Shure’s and a pair of R0s from Hifiman.
 
At each step, I found new things to like but was never fully satisfied. In audio terms, the highs of what was good about a product were always overpowered by the lows of what was not. While I know it was probably wholly psychological, it’s like the flaws in each product got louder the more I listened; At some point, shortcomings were all I could here.
 
Then, like skipping ahead in a movie to the part you know is coming, I decided to just go ahead and buy what I knew I would eventually buy anyway; a pair of high-end customs. So, like all of you have done at some point, I spent a pathological and lifestyle-cramping amount of time on head-fi researching my options and settled on what was then JH Audio’s top-tier product, the JH16s.
 
Oh holy Christmas nuts, the sound was amazing. I had finally found what I was looking for.  My quest was at once over. While the rest of you scrambled for the end of the rainbow, I had the (waxy) gold already in my ears.  So, with the exception of some brief research on amps and other peripherals, I logged off of head-fi and, well, joyfully forgot about you guys for a few years.
 
Then, the inevitable happened…One of my JH monitors disconnected from its cable, slipped between the seats in my jeep, and fell through a drain hole onto the asphalt below. Don’t you just hate when that happens?
 
So, I logged back on to head-fi to find the latest and greatest ear drug. My first stop was with JH, as I had been happy with my 16s.  Unfortunately, due to some issues I don’t feel the need to discuss on here, I decided to look elsewhere. About that time, I received a PM from Brannan introducing me to Noble Audio. Before I knew it, and with all the contemplative effort that goes into buying a box of tic-tacs at the check out counter, I was all in. What can I say…Brannan could sell underwear to a nudist.
 
So, I sent my impressions to Noble and waited with all the patience of teenage boy on a promising prom night. I emailed Brannan relentlessly. I am not going to lie, the wait time, while falling within the build time stated by Noble, was excruciating. Luckily, Brannan was always quick to respond and never seemed irritated, though I am quite sure he was. Hell, I was irritating me.
 
Then, at long last, my wife called me to say my “ear thingies” had arrived at the house. So, I walked out on a client, raced home, declined hugs from my children, hushed my wife with a finger over my lips (the couch ain’t so bad with great headphones), and retreated to a locked room with my shiny new K10s.
 
I plugged the phones into my Ray Samuels P-51 mustang on a line out from my ipod and just listened. I had prepped myself to go in with no expectations, good or bad. In other words, I didn’t want to find the music – I wanted the music to find me. I think many of us are guilty, at times, of knowing what we will hear before we actually do. We read reviews about house signatures, look at response curves, and mistake the subjective comments of reviewers as objective truths. In the end, I think we can influence the sound we hear more than the balanced armatures that produce it.
 
Back to the K10s….
 
So, I tried as best I could to not search for anything specific in the sound of the K10s. Simply put, I didn’t WANT to hear anything when I pressed play for the first time. And guess what? I didn’t. Nothing about the K10 sound jumped out at me. Nothing. Nothing was in abundance. Nothing was lacking. Everything was there, just as it should be. Like a completed puzzle, the pieces were no longer individual, but were perfectly blended together into a single greater image.
 
It found it so refreshing to NOT hear the (fill in the blank frequency range) everybody else said would be so amazing, as I had in all the other products I sampled along the way. I mean think about it, if product X has amazing highs, doesn’t that mean the other frequencies fall short? Or, at the very least, it means the quality of one range is noticeably different that the quality of the others, though they may all be superb.
 
There wasn’t too much bass, there wasn’t too little. The highs were there in spades, but in no way distinguished themselves from the lush frequencies beneath them. Simply put, the sound was seamless. I actually had trouble singling out specific frequency ranges because they blended so smoothly into the ranges around them.  The sound is all there exactly as it should be. And it is magnificent.
 
I have to be honest; I really didn’t expect to enjoy the k10’s more than I did my JH16s, but I do. Of course, I don’t have my JHs anymore for a direct comparison; so pointing out specific improvements over the JH sound would be based entirely on what are certainly distorted recollections. I can say with confidence, however, that my K10s are more listenable than my JHs for extended periods of time. I never have that “time for a break” feeling that I had every once-in-a-while with the JHs. And trust me, as a dissertation-writing Ph.D. candidate, I spend a bunch of time listening to loud music in a quiet library.
 
So, I ran the K10s through their paces, using the same lineup of music I have used for all of my IEMs. My usual round-up includes artists like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, Deadstring Brothers, Johnny Lang, and the Old 97’s. And I swear….please don’t judge me for the coming cliché… it was like I was listening to some of the tracks for the first time. Just saying that makes me throw up in my mouth a little, but it is true. In fact, I hauled off a spent a small fortune on new high-res music just to put the K10s through their paces. Like a driving a 911 Turbo, you are always looking for new turns to see how the equipment handles. The handling of my K10s has not yet disappointed me.
 
To anyone on the fence about the K10s, I offer the wise counsel of one of America’s most distinguished heroes, David Lee Roth: Go Ahead and Jump. You will not be disappointed. The sound is exactly what you want, where you want it. Of course, maybe I’ll lose a K10 in another tragic jeep mishap one day and be proven wrong by the next great thing, but until then, I firmly believe the K10s are as perfect as possible.
 
Oh…and if you happen to be a nudist, I heard Brannan has a new line of underwear for ya.
 
Andy

AudiophileKing
AudiophileKing
I am a nudist and I find your comment very offensive.... It's like you are trying to steal my ideology/identity by suggesting me to wear an underwear ?
P.S. If you knew the girls in my community, you might become a nudist yourself in no time...
EasyEnemy
EasyEnemy
Very nice read and writting style. too bad, I'm a nudist to no extra cash, lol
Intensecure
Intensecure
Nudists need underwear, otherwise they are severely limited in places to stash their IEMs.
These sound wonderful from your description, I have amazing IEMs, so it is imperative that I never get to listen to a pair of these lest I have to remove my last functioning kidney...

tin427

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Beautiful finish, Balanced yet fun sounding, Good Isolation, Can customize your own or by Wizard.
Cons: Some might find Bass heavy, Not a "Revealing Everything" monitor.
I got this marvelous K10 on last year black friday deal with a 20% off.
At that time there are two options comes in my mind. 
The 12 drivers JHaudio Roxanne, and the 10 drivers Noble Audio Kaiser10.
Since at that time the Roxanne is at pre-order state so K10 is the one that have some reviews to read.
After reading Sorensiim's review and his extraordinary set of K10, I just cant leave my eyes off that design.
 
There are tons of design options of Noble CIEM which is very rare in audio industry. 
Most of the company can design the artwork or the material of the faceplate and part of them can choose the color of the shell. 
At that moment, there is still limited preview of Wizard design (If i buy the K10 this year I would definitely go for an Wizard rebuild or new Wizard design),
I design that on my own. I choose every option I can take and place the order.
After some hours or maybe 1-2 days, an email shown up.
Nancy from Noble just give me some advice for my design. WOW.
That is top notch customer service. The company can just leave the options I take and make the CIEM.
But the Nancy just understand how can make my design better and give advises.
These kind of process just making me feel confident on Noble.
 
And here is my K10.
View attachment
Bad photos but the phone really looks good.
 
And after the artistic things, here comes the sound signature and quality.
The K10 is a versatile monitor. You can get a linear response from this phone which means the presentation of music is true to your source.
K10 can be used on any source and sounds good. But it just sounds better if your source is better.
The bass is full of excitement. On bass heavy genre like metal or hardrock, you can have a head-banging time with K10.
The mid is transparent but adding a touch of warmth which gives the vocal a nice lush feeling. 
The treble is quite a surprise. Since I upgraded the K10 from the Westone 4r. The bright-yet-not-piecing treble really shines.
Non-fatigue treble is quite a hard department on IEM, but Noble just make it right.
The imaging are precise and the micro-details are there.(though not as much as my HE560) 
 
After getting the K10, I have audited some others CIEM in market like the fitears, 1964s, UEs or the JHaudios, most of them are just on-par or hairy ahead of the K10 under several departments.
Vocals on fitears, bass from JHs, or stage performance from VE/Rhines. The K10 just got a balance between all of the things.
I would say this CIEM is for the people who want a "All-in-one" solution.
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Headiest

Head-Fier
Pros: Lows, Mids, Highs, and Everything in Between.
Cons: Price
Customer Service:
 
Let me start by mentioning what great customer service Noble has.  Everyone I talked to was very timely and helpful whenever I had questions or concerns before, during, and after my K10 purchase.  This has easily been one of the best purchase experiences I've ever had.  Noble, keep it up!  
 
My Experience:
 
I am not an audiophile.  My earphone experience is as follows:  Klipsch S4 -> Westone W4 -> Noble Kaiser 10.  I have always listened to 320 mbps + files out of my iPhone 5, so I have no experience with high end DAP's or amps, although these CIEM's have me saving for an AK240.  
 
NOTE: Be careful! It's a slippery slope into the world of high end audio.
 
View attachment
 
 
Sound: 
 
For a CIEM with 10 drivers, the K10 provides a spacious and cohesive presentation.  Clarity is astounding.  I am still amazed at how well this CIEM accurately reproduces recordings.  Coming directly from the Westone W4, the K10 sound is on the thicker side and may take some getting used to, but once you do, you will never want to go back.
 
Lows:
     
The K10 can hit like a champ, but only if the recording asks for it.  Mid and sub base are spot on.  I couldn't imagine any more, and I wouldn't enjoy (as much) any less.  The base does not audibly bleed into any other frequency range.
 
Mids: 
 
The mids are "lush" (I didn't know what this meant until I had a listen).  Everything comes through crystal clear and slightly thick.
 
Highs: 
 
The highs on this CIEM are incredible.  They are sparkly, shimmery, and beautiful.  Where other headphones struggle or are sibilant, the K10's reproduce high frequencies with no perceived effort at all.
 
Summary:
 
These CIEM's cost 1600 USD!  I was initially hesitant to buy them, but in the end they are completely worth it.  If you are new to high end audio, as I was, the K10's will introduce you to a whole new way of your enjoying music.  I've had the K10's since February, and my enthusiasm is still as strong as the day they arrived at my door.  
 
I look forward to seeing how well these gems scale with a high quality source and will update this review accordingly.
MarcadoStalker7
MarcadoStalker7
At least there are audio meets in Canada sometimes!
Here in Paraguay (possibly you don't even know that country hahaha) you need to become a ******* Odinist Level 100 to see and try a ******* Grado, even on the best commercial place of the country. Imagine a Kaiser 10, my god.
MarcadoStalker7
MarcadoStalker7
Cool review, tho.
Headiest
Headiest
I know your pain.  I do live in the US, but have a hard time getting my hands on gear to test due to lack of distribution networks.  I took a leap of faith when purchasing the K10's (due to all the positive reviews here on headfi) , and am glad I did.
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