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Noble Audio Kaiser 10

  1. EllisU
    So good, you'll want to cuddle afterwards.
    Written by EllisU
    Published Oct 6, 2014
    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.

      Axesd, melkenshawn, d marc0 and 8 others like this.
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    2. 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...
      AudiophileKing, Dec 14, 2016
    3. EasyEnemy
      Very nice read and writting style. too bad, I'm a nudist to no extra cash, lol
      EasyEnemy, Jan 20, 2017
    4. 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...
      Intensecure, Feb 26, 2017
  2. mscott58
    "Oh, so good!" - Noble Audio Kaiser 10 CIEM Review
    Written by mscott58
    Published Mar 3, 2015
    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. 
      knopi, xxxfbsxxx, ken6217 and 5 others like this.
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    2. kuhchuk
      God, those things look beautiful.  I'd love to have a pair just to look at.
      kuhchuk, Mar 12, 2015
    3. Saraguie
      You put the sound experience between the 2 exactly as I hear it also.
      Saraguie, May 18, 2015
    4. ken6217
      Great review. I like your review style.
      ken6217, Jan 3, 2016
  3. cvbcbcmv
    Noble K10: A Monitor Fit for a "Kaiser"
    Written by cvbcbcmv
    Published Jun 8, 2016
    Pros - Balanced and pleasant tuning, tight fit, great isolation, versatile, fun
    Cons - A constant internal debate on whether I'd rather stare at my monitors, or listen to them

    Since it’s release in October 2013, the Noble Kaiser 10 has built up a strong reputation as one of the best in ear monitors money can buy. After all, the monitor is named after the German word for emperor, so it must be competitive in the top of the line as one of the rulers of the market.
    Many new competitors have popped up since its release, so how has the K10 held up to the test of time? Does it still reign “Kaiser?”

    NOTE: I am solely referencing the K10 in its custom variety. I have only spent a few minutes with the new aluminum K10u, and while my experience with it was very positive, I did not spend enough time closely examining it to make any credible comments on that product.

    A little info on Noble:

    In the world of custom in ear monitors, the majority of companies are tailored to performers who are using IEM’s as their stage monitoring solution. These products need to sound good and perform reliably under heavy stress, making them a favorite for audiophiles as well as performers. Noble is one of the few companies that is making products primarily tailored toward audiophiles, and I would argue they are the most established company with this business model and so far have the most refined experience tailored to that market. They set themselves apart from the competition with their exquisite Wizard and Prestige designs, and the process is personal from start to finish.

    A little info on the K10:

    The K10 is Noble’s flagship monitor and is a major contender in the top of the line market. It is not the most expensive CIEM at $1650, though with some strongly recommended aesthetic add-ons like a Wizard design, that price can quickly round $2,000. The monitor packs 10 balanced armature drivers placed neatly in an acrylic shell.

    10 drivers is a high driver count for any monitor, though as of today, there are a handful of competitors pushing the driver counts on their monitors, some even going past 10. In my discussion with Brannan from Noble, he expressed that he feels more drivers is not necessarily better, and that the 10 driver setup in the K10 is the sweet spot. This mindset is expressed with Noble’s new classic line, where they have gone away from any reference to driver count in the monitor names.

    Noble is trying to express that different driver counts/setups lead to different sound signatures that appeal to different people, and customers should not get caught up in something being better because it has more drivers. I would agree with this, as I’ve heard plenty of monitors with lower driver counts that sounded better than higher driver counterparts. At the end of the day, implementation and tuning is the most important factor.

    Order Process:

    As far as impressions go, the customer is responsible for seeing a local audiologist, having ear impressions made, and sending them off to Noble’s offices in California. Noble does have an online monitor designer where the customer can pick from the standard options: faceplate colors, designs, specialty materials, etc. However, Noble has 2 special design options: A Wizard design, and a Prestige design. Personally, my monitor represents a Wizard design.

    As far as Wizard designs go, the customer can choose either a reprint of a Wizard design they already like for a lower cost, or they can have an original design created for them. If a Wizard design is selected, the customer is asked some basic questions about what they might be looking for, but for the most part, creative control is handed over to “The Wizard” and there is endless anticipation until the email from Noble providing professional pictures of the final product comes. A Prestige model is similar to a Wizard design, but the monitor is crafted out of some specialty material instead of the standard acrylic. Personally, my monitors took just over 8 weeks to build from the time my impressions were received.


    My K10’s came well packaged, and everything was presented in a very visually appealing box. Inside I found my monitors, a small felt carrying case, a much tougher Pelican-like case, an extra cable, a cleaning tool, stickers, and some bands similar to rubber bracelets, though I assume in this case they are intended for stacking source gear/amps.


    In a word, my monitors are absolutely gorgeous. As stated earlier, mine are a Wizard design, and to give a little explanation on how things go from start to finish, I’ll discuss what I told Noble I would like. I gave some examples of previous designs I liked, some of my favorite colors, mentioned I liked the inclusion of silver/gold nugget, and said that I definitely wanted watch parts. (For the fellow watch enthusiasts here, the Seagull ST6 movement was used)

    On the topic of watch parts, this is something I find very cool about Noble: Their ability to incorporate other hobbies into the design. For me, it was watch parts, but I’ve also seen them include things like a bullet in the center of the faceplate. The possibilities are endless.

    Before we move any further, let's take a look:

    The result of my design was absolutely astounding. I remember my excitement when I got the email including pictures of my monitors. Before I even had them, I found an excuse to show them to just about everyone I know. One thing I love about my monitors is that the details of the design are quite hard to see without closely looking at them in person. With most of the watch part designs, it leaves pretty limited space to do much else with the faceplate, and I didn’t quite pick up on what Noble did with the surrounding area until I received them. The rest of it has a very cool textured look to it, my best description is that it is almost like a red granite, or some other kind of rock. Coming around to the front, there are the deep blue, almost indigo or violet shells with silver nugget embedded inside of them. There are no if ands or buts about it, this monitor is a unique work of art, and it gives me a similar feeling just from looking at it as my watches do. The only downside is that as much as I love looking at them, I love listening to them more, and I cannot do both at the same time.

    I want to make a special note on the design here, because I truly believe it sets Noble apart from anyone else. At this point, I am quite confident that I have handled or owned most all of Noble’s direct competitors in this market, and nobody else crafts a monitor like Noble. Not only does it feel different in the hand, but everything Noble does with the exceptional Wizard and Prestige designs adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment to the product.

    As I said earlier, they are one of the few CIEM companies tailored specifically to the audiophile, and it shows in their design. I understand that by far the most important thing when buying a monitor is how good it sounds, but everything Noble does with the presentation of the monitor makes owning and using it that much more enjoyable.

    The feeling of pulling my monitors out of the bag, looking at them, and just smiling, is a feeling I have not received from any other IEM. I have used beautiful headphones like the Audeze LCD-3 that gave me a similar feeling, but not an IEM. Truthfully, I think this feeling needs to be considered as part of the K10’s strengths, and a reason to purchase them.

    A good comparison I can think of as far as design is between my K10’s and my JH Layla custom. The design of the Layla is very different than the K10’s. JH primarily makes monitors for the stage, and while my Layla’s look great, they’re built to be like a tank. On the other hand, my K10’s are built to be a work of art. Both of these approaches carry pros and cons. When wearing my Layla’s, despite their price tag, I feel pretty comfortable no matter the situation, like they can take a beating. When wearing the K10’s, I feel like I need to be careful. To be clear, they do not feel cheap or flimsy in any way; the opposite is true. I’m not really saying Noble could have or should have done anything differently, but the design is so exquisite and beautiful that it simply forces careful thoughts into my brain.

    One last thing I want to say is that I feel a Wizard design is completely worth it. If the price of a full Wizard design is too much to swallow, at least a reprint. To me, these designs are a huge part of what makes the K10's different and better than the competition, and I think it will increase overall enjoyment of the monitor for years to come.


    I will split this up into sort of 2 sub-sections. Comfort based on Noble’s actual crafting from the ear impressions, and comfort because of the monitor in general.

    As far as Noble’s construction and shaping from my ear impressions, I would say this is the tightest fitting CIEM I’ve ever worn, and I mean that in a good way. It fits like a glove, and it really feels like Noble fit this exactly to my ear. Once everything gets settled into place, this monitor is really nestled in, and it’s not going anywhere. Because there is so much space filled by the K10, isolation is fantastic. Once the monitor is in, the rest of the world is gone. Isolation on the K10 is as good as it gets without ANR.

    As far as overall comfort, Noble’s exceptional fitting to my ears helps a lot, but I think no matter how well these monitors are fit, prolonged use after a few hours may be slightly uncomfortable for some. This is simply the nature of a 10 driver monitor—there’s a lot of K10 to fit in the ear. The first thing I noticed when I picked up my monitors was how much volume they had.

    I don’t think there is anything Noble could do to make the fit better, all of that weight and size in your ears just gets tiresome after a few hours. I find that my K10’s fatigue me in terms of comfort similar to a hefty pair of full size cans. In fact, the K10’s can be compared to a full size headphone in many ways.

    A brief note on the cable: it’s overall light and unobtrusive, and the memory while holds well without being uncomfortable. The connectors feel sturdy and secure as well.


    Sources Used:

    I used a variety of sources with the K10’s. These sources included the iPhone 6s Plus, Fiio X3ii, Chord Mojo, Questyle QP1R, and Astell n Kern AK100ii

    As expected, the K10’s sounded wonderful out of all of the high-end sources, and my favorite was probably the QP1R, though the Mojo and AK100ii were excellent pairings as well.

    I always make sure I use a product, even a flagship CIEM like this, extensively on my lower-end sources like my iPhone, since I think source versatility for an IEM is very important. Frankly, we all know that the K10’s are going to sound great out of a Mojo or a QP1R; these are exceptional players. However, I think a lot can be said for how a monitor of this caliber sounds plugged into a phone. I can pleasantly report that the K10’s sounded great out of about any source I threw at them, including my phone and entry level Fiio X3ii. Of course, not nearly as good as my better sources, but completely listenable, and the K10 can still be appreciated out of them. I did find the bass got a touch heavy out of my iPhone, but through every other source I listened to, the K10’s adapted wonderfully. Source versatility is a major plus here.

    A General Overview:

    The K10’s are simply a joy to listen to. The way they are tuned is incredibly versatile, and no matter what kind of music is thrown at them, it is going to be an immensely pleasurable experience. I find that the K10’s have the perfect balance of everything to make anything sound good, and I really don’t think any other IEM has given me so much joy to listen to.

    I certainly would consider myself a bit of an “audio freak,” and the thing that makes me tick with audio equipment is when music is so accurately and clearly reproduced that it evokes emotion upon the listener. This is one of the things that pushed me deep into this hobby, as I love listening to a song, connecting with it, and experiencing all of the emotions and memories I pair with the song. No IEM I’ve ever listened to has done it like the K10’s. The K10’s just have some kind of magic about them. It’s not something that can be described or that relates back to specific performance, they just have something about them that makes everything sound better in the way that sends goosebumps down your spine.

    Again, I think one of the K10’s strongest traits is that it is versatile. I enjoy a wide variety of music ranging pretty much every genre. When I listen to rap, the K10’s are right there with the intense bass and hard hitting beats that are required of the genre, but when I listen to something a bit lighter and acoustic, it’s like they immediately put on their tuxedo and shimmer with utmost class, not daring to boom when it is out of place, but placing plenty of extension in the treble and richness in the mids.

    Enough fluff, let’s get down to the specifics:


    The lows of the K10 hit hard in my opinion, especially in music when it is justified. In rap music where the bass is very present, the K10’s keep up just enough to make it fun. It’s not like absurd amounts of bass come out of nowhere, but if they did, that would mean far too much bass would be present in other scenarios. In more balanced music, the lows are well refined and present in just the amounts they should be.

    A beat of a drum doesn’t create this overpowering boom over the other sounds, it stays in the background right where it belongs, but somehow it still carries that little bit of power, similar to a full-sized subwoofer. In fact, it shocks me how much the bass feels like a subwoofer. Those low bass hits are less of an audible sound, and more of a physical feeling as if air is really being moved, and it’s a very pleasurable experience. My best comparison would probably be to a planar magnetic headphone in terms of how the bass feels.

    My standard for testing the low end of a monitor is first listening to some Drake, especially his song “Energy” as I find it has some strong low-end emphasis, to see if a monitor can have some fun when it needs to. As I touched on earlier, the K10 was plenty of fun with these songs. On the flip side, to see if a monitor is too bass heavy, I basically just listen to my whole library of music, and I pay attention to see if I ever hear something out of place. With the K10, I never did, not even once.

    Truthfully, I wouldn’t change a single thing about the lows of the K10, I think they are tuned just perfectly to suit anyone. If you are someone who hates when music is too bassy, I don’t think the K10’s are going to upset with too much down low, but if you like to play some Drizzy and really feel the beat, there’s plenty to have a good time.


    The midrange is probably my favorite portion of the audio spectrum, and very frequently I find myself disappointed by monitors that didn’t give that rich lusciousness I love to get out of the midrange. I find myself listening to vocals that are far off in the distance and far overshadowed by various instruments. The K10 gave me all the mids I have ever wanted, down to every rich, luscious detail.

    The K10’s are not plagued by too heavy of a V-shaped sound signature that results in muddy mids hidden in the distance, the mids are right up front with everything else, and clarity is crystal clear. The upper mids are a bit stronger than the lower mids, so female vocals ever so slightly outshine their male counterparts, but I really do not have any complaints about any section of the midrange.

    Mids shine most in acoustic music when vocals are the star of the show. Vance Joy is one of my favorite artists to exemplify this, and his album Dream Your Life Away in 24 bit sounds absolutely wonderful through the K10. His voice completely fills the inside of my head, and I can point out every little detail as if he were right next to me. Similarly, Alison Krauss’s music shines like I have never heard it before through the K10. My only word of caution with the K10’s is that the midrange is so strong that if your favorite artists are not the most talented vocalists, the K10’s will unearth their weaknesses!


    The highs of the K10 absolutely stunned me. I still cannot believe how much deep extension is there on every cymbal crash. Every detail in the treble is there in full extension, not prematurely rolled off, but it is not harsh either. In fact, I find the K10’s almost paradoxical in that they have some of the smoothest, soothing treble I have ever heard, yet they also have some of the deepest extension and brightest shimmer. I’m not really sure how Noble did it. Personally, I really like treble extension, and I usually accept a bit of harshness in order to get the extension I prefer, since I usually hate rolled off highs. Well, the extension is just ridiculously deep with the K10’s, but it is incredibly smooth as well.

    I know it sounds boring, but honestly the best way to truly appreciate how special the highs are is to listen to a good, high quality audiophile test track that plays instruments like cymbals. The amount of extension in every clash is unreal. Of course, this translates to actual music in the sense that all of those sounds that sort of blend into the background like cymbals are clearer and better represented, which makes the backbone of the track sound better and the overall experience more enjoyable.

    Overall Sound Signature:

    Honestly, this is a tough one. Usually when I listen to a monitor or headphone, I could pretty easily deduce things down to “it’s a warm headphone” or something like that, but I’m really struggling to do that with the K10. I guess if I had to give it a description, it’s really quite balanced. I’m not going to say that it’s perfectly flat, I think it’s slightly more V-shaped than that, but it really is pretty balanced.

    As I mentioned, I hate when a V-shape causes mids to be too distant, but that is not the case here. The lows do not overpower anything else but are very present when they need to be, and the highs have deep shimmering extension without being harsh.

    Since I can’t really come up with a good “standard” word to describe the sound signature, I’ll describe it like this: You’ll love it. I really don’t see how anyone could dislike this sound signature; it’s tuned… dare I say it… perfectly. The highs are a shimmering diamond, the mids are a luscious ruby rose, and the lows are a well-tamed bull. How could anyone dislike that?


    I find with most in ear monitors, especially flagships in this price range, actual clarity from quality of drivers is not really an issue, and they’re all capable of producing very clear sound. Where I’ve found that some fall behind is sub-optimal tuning that results in some aspect of the sound being too distant and creates a false sense of muddiness. Since I find the K10’s are tuned in such a perfect way, all aspects of the sound are crystal clear, and “muddy” is not in this monitor’s vocabulary.


    To me, an exceptional IEM is one that can break the barriers of being an IEM, and sounds more like a full-size open back headphone than an IEM. A few that have done this for me were really the entire Siren series from JH, the Shure KSE1500’s, and definitely the K10’s. To me, the “IEM Sound” is one that kind of remains within the ear canal, and doesn’t seem to fill your head. Frankly, it sounds like some small speakers jammed into your ear canals, which to be fair is exactly what it is. However, the best of the best somehow overcome this, and the sound fills my entire head, creating an immersive and exceptional listening experience. The K10’s do this with ease, and truly allow me to close my eyes and lose myself in an endless stream of airy music, just like a pair of open back headphones.


    Audeze LCD-3: This was the comparison I was really quite excited to make, since I have tremendously missed my LCD-3’s since the day they left my possession. In my opinion, the K10’s sound very similar to the LCD-3. Overall sound signature is similar, but the soundstage is a bit more narrow on the K10 since it just can’t compare equally to a full-size open back headphone. It comes close, but it’s ever so slightly behind. In a direct head-to-head, the K10 is barely get edged out by the LCD-3 in performance, but their sound signatures could be compared very closely. Something that needs to be considered is the K10’s are a heck of a lot more convenient and physically versatile than LCD-3’s, and because of that I can now say I’m happy I have K10’s instead of LCD-3’s.

    Audeze LCD-X: To me, the LCD-X and LCD-3 sounded very similar, with the LCD-X carrying more punch down low and a little less shimmer in the mids in the highs, which is why I ended up buying the LCD-3. I think on the spectrum of LCD-3 to LCD-X, the K10 falls somewhere in the middle, leaning more toward the LCD-3. The K10 carries a touch more powerful bass than I ever got from my LCD-3’s, but the luscious mids and shimmery highs I loved so much are still present.

    Shure SE846: I wouldn’t say the K10’s and 846’s are direct competitors. In my opinion, the K10’s are in a class above, and their performance shows it. It’s hard to compare sound signatures since it can be changed with the 846, but the K10 outperforms the 846 in just about every way. The bass carries more “umph”, the mids are richer, and the highs have all the extension without the bit of harshness I found on the 846.

    Ultimate Ears UE18 Pro: The K10’s are definitely more balanced than the UE18’s, which are a bass-heavy monitor, but I think that even in the low-end, the K10’s outperform it. The UE18’s are tuned to be heavy on the low-end in a fun way, but it doesn’t carry that physical power like the K10’s do, and for that reason on many songs the K10’s are actually more fun to listen to. As far as mids, and especially highs, the K10 outperforms the UE18 hands down. If you’re really a basshead you might have more fun with the UE18’s, but the bass profile really is different on each. The UE18’s carry more bass sound that is tuned to be present; the K10’s have more of a physical, balanced bass presence.

    JH Layla: This was a tough one. I love the Layla, and I think I still have to say that it is the best monitor I have ever listened to. I’ve listened to most in this price range, so I think it may be the best monitor money can buy. Granted, it’s about $1,000 more than the K10, and I have no trouble saying that I don’t think the Layla sounds $1,000 better than the K10. The Layla just ever so slightly beats the K10 in overall clarity. With the bass on the Layla’s cable set to ¾, the sound signatures are pretty similar, with the highs being slightly more rolled off on the Layla, and mids being a bit more present and clear. The Layla doesn’t quite have that “subwoofer” feel like the K10, though it does have very strong bass, just in a different way.

    The Layla barely wins this comparison by sounding a teeny bit better by about the width of a hair. However, looking at both monitors holistically, I think I actually get more enjoyment out of the K10. The sound performance is just so close that the beautiful craftsmanship of my K10’s combined with its excellent tuning gives me that little bit of more enjoyment from them. Again, I have to give this to the Layla for better clarity, but they are each so wonderful in their own respects that I prefer the K10 one day and the Layla the next. They are both some of the best. In summary, I’d say the Layla is the monitor that follows all the rules. It’s clear, smooth, and controlled. The K10 has a bit more personality, and music has more of a chance to liven up under its control.

    Empire Ears Zeus: I hope to get my hands on an Empire Ears Zeus soon to really pick them apart; if I do, I will add a full comparison, but I can’t give detailed comparisons here as I really only had a few minutes with the Zeus. However, I can say this for what it’s worth. I listened to the K10 and the Zeus back to back and thought they both sounded wonderful and had many similar traits, but nothing about the Zeus jumped out at me and made some huge impression on me. So, I think a detailed comparison between the K10 and the Zeus would be similar to the Layla in that it would come down to some hairline details, and I might prefer one over the other pending the day.

    Shure KSE1500: As with the Zeus, I did not spend a whole lot of time with the KSE1500. For this reason, I can’t give detailed comparisons in sound signature. However, what I did notice is that the K10 and the KSE1500 shared some similar characteristics in what made them special. With both monitors, I was blown away by how much they sounded like full-size headphones and filled my head with wide soundstages and powerful, air-dense sounds. I think if you’re a fan of one of these two, you’ll be a fan of the other.

    Wrapping Things Up:

    The one trait that seems like a motif in this review is versatility. In so many ways, the K10’s are a very versatile monitor. Firstly, they’re versatile in the sense that they pack performance that rivals some of the best full sized headphones in the size of a monitor. Second, they’re versatile in that they sound great out of almost any source. Third, they’re versatile with genres of music and make almost anything sound balanced and enjoyable.

    I truly believe the K10’s have the best value of any CIEM available today. They are not quite the best money can buy, but they are by far the best bang for your buck. At the base price of the K10, it sort of falls in the middle of the flagship market. Some flagships are a few hundred dollars below the K10 in cost, and some are a few hundred to over a thousand more. The K10 sounds far better than those just under it in cost, yet compares very closely to those that are much more expensive. That, combined with the exquisite design and Noble craftsmanship, are why I believe Noble has created a perfect product that excels in every category. The K10 has something for everyone, and anyone who listens to it will fall in love. Without any doubt, the Noble K10 is a CIEM fit for a Kaiser.

    Mini Review: BTS

    I also want to include a mini review of Noble’s BTS, a little Bluetooth adapter which the K10 or any 3.5mm headphone can be plugged into to create a wireless Bluetooth audio connection to any bluetooth device. Aside from audio, lifting weights in the gym is a big hobby of mine, and I was getting a little sick of having to juggle the placement of my AK100ii while trying to push my body’s limits on a deadlift. Seeing as the BTS was very small and could just clip onto my shorts, I saw it as the perfect solution. Well, it is, and it isn’t.

    Firstly, the BTS costs $99, which frankly is a bit expensive for what it is. Considering many Bluetooth earphones can be had at prices less than half of this, and all this is is a Bluetooth receiver that sends the audio to a headphone jack, I’m not quite sure where all that price comes from. To be fair, though, I’m not sure what the technology Noble incorporated is or what their cost might be.

    NOTE: As John pointed out, the BTS does come with a cable as well, which definitely justifies the higher price.

    As far as design goes, I was a bit disappointed. A plus is that the device is very light. It’s so light that any heft from it is essentially negligible. However, it is also kind of cheap feeling, which is a departure from what I’ve come to expect from Noble. With their monitors, I don’t think there’s a single fault in Noble’s craftsmanship; they are the gold standard. However, this device’s plastic shell feels pretty flimsy, and the little rubber cover on the end which pops off to charge the device doesn’t stay down very well.

    As far as actual performance, my experience was pretty hit and miss. Range was decent: if there was direct line of sight to my device, anything up to about 20 feet was fine. At really any distance, as soon as an obstacle was introduced, there were some noticeable struggles in the connection. Under normal use, the connection was usually pretty solid and smooth. Audio quality was fine, nothing special. In my opinion, this should be a solution for these situations like the gym where getting good audio quality is simply inconvenient. Obviously audio quality listening to Spotify from my iPhone over Bluetooth isn’t going to compare to DSD out of my QP1R, but it’s fine–it didn’t disappoint. I did notice when no audio was playing I would get a bit of an interference-like sound, but I never noticed it while listening to music. My only real issue was that pretty frequently I’d go through random periods of the audio stream becoming choppy or just cutting out completely for a few seconds. I would say this happens a couple of times a workout. It’s completely usable, but it is really distracting when I’m trying to focus on a lift and suddenly my music starts cutting out. Battery life has been right where Noble claims at about 8 hours of playback.

    Overall, the BTS gets the job done, and I will continue to use it in the gym, but it certainly could be improved. I think that either the price should be reduced, or the overall quality of the product should be increased. If this was $99 for a premium product that was simply the best of the best, I’d say that’s a solid price point, but I think that price is a little steep for what the BTS is right now.
      knopi, Shini44, HiFiChris and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Narayan23
      Fantastic review and man are those K 10 stunning!! Thanks for your impressions.
      Narayan23, Jun 17, 2016
    3. ard-nac
      Pls give me description between andromeda and k10. Tx
      ard-nac, Jan 12, 2017
    4. Intensecure
      Simply.. Out..Standing.
      Intensecure, Feb 26, 2017
  4. Stranger Than Fiction
    Breath of music: A review of the Noble Kaiser K10
    Written by Stranger Than Fiction
    Published Apr 25, 2018
    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.


    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.




    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.



    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.

    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.”

    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.
      ehjie, Henrikfi, H T T and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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.
      Koolpep, Apr 27, 2018
    3. 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).
      Stranger Than Fiction, Apr 27, 2018
    4. 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...
      ehjie, Apr 1, 2019
  5. prismstorm
    Noble K10 - Famous Last Words
    Written by prismstorm
    Published Sep 16, 2017
    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,

    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:


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.



    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
  6. Loquah
    Noble Kaiser 10 - In-Ear Perfection
    Written by Loquah
    Published Dec 16, 2014
    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)


    [​IMG]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.


    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.
    [​IMG]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.
    [​IMG]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…


    [​IMG]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.
    [​IMG]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.


    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.


    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

    [​IMG]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)


    The bass from the K10 is perfect – yes, perfect.
    [​IMG]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.


    [​IMG]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!


    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

    [​IMG]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

    [​IMG]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.
    [​IMG]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

    [​IMG]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
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Chefano
      awesome review!!
      what tips do you use in se846?
      Chefano, Dec 25, 2014
    3. 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! 
      Jimmy24, Dec 30, 2014
    4. 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.
      paulomario77, Feb 2, 2015
  7. Wilderbeast
    Full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon
    Written by Wilderbeast
    Published Jul 6, 2016
    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). 
    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.
      JaZZ, knopi, Kerouac and 1 other person like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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. 
      The Life, Jul 8, 2016
    3. 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, Jul 9, 2016
    4. 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.
      Wilderbeast, Jul 9, 2016
  8. Kunlun
    Simply Outstanding
    Written by Kunlun
    Published Oct 15, 2013
    Pros - Balanced signature that works with many music genres; bass, midrange and treble are all excellent
    Cons - No real cons (this is one of the pros), although people should read the review to see if the sound signature matches their own needs.

    Synopsis: The Noble Audio Kaiser 10 is at the summit of custom in-ear-monitors representing the flagship of new designs from Dr. John Moulton. The Kaiser 10’s 10 drivers have been brought together seamlessly for superior coherency and a very realistic, natural sound. These drivers give great depth and extension to the Kaiser 10’s balanced tuning. The bass is present and very capable but not boosted or forward, the midrange is clear and very smooth with slight warmth, the vocal range has a gentle lift to bring it to the forefront, and the excellent treble is smoothly bright and non-fatiguing. With no sonic weaknesses, the Kaiser 10 does very well with a wide array of music genres, making it a very good choice for audiophiles looking for the most versatile choice at the top-tier of portable audio.

    Dr. John Moulton and the team at Noble Audio:
    Dr. John Moulton, known as The Wizard, needs no introduction but perhaps a little history and background: John is a doctor of audiology and has a long history of working with high-end portable audio. His first company was Full Circle and the seed of his later ciem designs first came to fruition there. Next was Heir Audio, which was quite successful as John continued refining his designs and the artistry for which he quickly became known for. He brought together a team of highly experienced technicians and engineers with finely tuned skills. It is this team which John has brought over to Noble Audio. Noble is set up very wisely: By giving each of his team a share in the company, they can really put their hearts into what they do and everyone will reap the benefits of their hard work and talent. John has assured that Noble is built to last for years to come, just like his earphones.
    The Noble Audio Line at NobleAudio.com :
    Noble Audio will carry a full line of custom fit in-ear monitors (ciems) and universal fit in-ear monitors (iems). The high-end iems will be rolling out soon, but for now let’s look at the ciems available:
    Kaiser 10, this is the all-new 10-driver flagship. You’re reading a review of it right now!
    8C, this is the re-tuned and updated version of Dr. Moulton’s earlier 8-driver. He says it adds clarity and treble presence to his older tuning.
    5C, this is John’s 5-driver custom. It’s the same as his earlier 5-driver universal, now in custom form. He describes it as having a bassy signature similar to his older 8-driver. This model will be available in both acrylic and silicone shells. The silicone shells are innovative in that they allow for a custom faceplate!
    4C, this is the re-tuned and updated version of his earlier 4-driver. The 4C’s new tuning eliminates any dips in the frequency response. It’s a clear, clean sound which is flat with a bit of brightness in the treble. I have it and will write a review later. This is the one you want if you want an analytic sound. It is available in both acrylic and silicone shells. Did I mention the silicone shells are innovative in that they allow for a custom faceplate? I’m going to repeat it for the 3-driver custom, too!
    3C, this is all-new, totally re-designed 3-driver with some special, new drivers from Knowles (the foremost designer and manufacturer of balanced armature drivers). John says it’s tuned for a v-shaped, fun signature. It’s available in both acrylic and silicone shells. Yes, the silicone shells can have a custom faceplate.
    One thing I always like to mention is that with any ciem from anywhere, ever, is that this is a product designed to fit your unique ears. Fit is absolutely vital to the sound quality and isolation and comfort. You get that all-important fit by having an audiologist make an impression and this is what the audio company has to work with. Don’t try to go cheap with this! Work with audiologists who have experience making impressions for musicians and audiophiles and not only with hearing aids which require a much less precise fit. Even with the best audiologist, you may not get a perfect fit the first time, that’s the nature of ciems. Again, this is true with any company, anywhere, ever. So, it’s important to consider not only the product, but the customer service when it comes to ciems.
    Customer Service:
    Noble Audio may be a new company, but everyone in it has a long experience in high-end portable audio and ciems. They really know how to give excellent customer service. I’ve worked with John for several years now with a few of his earlier ciems and I can say that I’ve had great experiences and I’ve talked to others who have as well. You’ll be in good hands.
    Noble will have representatives in the U.S. for American customers and a representative in the U.K. for customers in the E.U. Of course, for folks in S.E. Asia, shipping can come direct from China. Noble Audio is on top of things from the start.
    The Kaiser 10:
    The Kaiser 10 retails for $1599. An important point is that wood or carbon fiber faceplates, custom colors are INCLUDED in that price. Yes, wood or carbon fiber faceplates are free, that’s huge. To get a faceplate personally designed by the Wizard himself costs a bit extra.
    Also, shipping is INCLUDED in that price.
    The key point is that you can get a Kaiser 10 which looks just like the one I've reviewed (minus the Wizard signature) for $1599 flat.
    Here are some professional pictures of my Kaiser 10 by Darin Fong. He did a lot better job than I could have! This is a beautiful design by the Wizard.



    Incredible, right?
    The Kaiser 10 is set up with two giant CI drivers for bass, a dual armature for mids, a dual armature for upper mids, and a dual armature for treble paired with another dual armature for upper treble in a 4-way design. This design uses the same two huge CI drivers as the 8 driver design but several of the other drivers from the 8 have been replaced with different models for the Kaiser and the overall sound is far different than older version of the 8-driver which I am familiar with.
    Isolation and Fit:
    This is an acrylic shell custom and has the same isolation as every other acrylic shell ciem (assuming you have a good fit).
    One thing to note is that multi-armature ciems that have 8 and more drivers are going to be larger than ones that have 2 or 3 drivers. The drivers and other components take up more room. Now, this is all relative as ciems run pretty small as it is, but for those with small ears, your ciem may stick out a few millimeters more with an 8 or 10 driver ciem. It shouldn’t be an issue for most, but it is something to be aware of.
    Cable: Although the cable on mine is a usual generic custom cable, all Noble Audio orders will go out with the new improved Magnus cable at no extra charge. I'll be receiving a review sample of that cable to try on the Kaiser 10. It should be a great cable.
    Overall Sound:
    The Kaiser 10 I'll be reviewing is a review sample from Noble Audio. I've taken several weeks to listen to it and get over any "honeymoon" period. I'll be describing it just as I hear it.
    I tend to run the Kaiser out of my 5.5th gen ipod paired with an Apex Glacier portable amplifier. Another thing to note is that I did extensive listening both at home, but also on commute in the noisy subways of New York City. This is important as you should consider where you will be doing your listening. If you listen on commute, be it plane or train, keep in mind that you may need an earphone that has more bass capability to balance the outside noise. Of course, isolation is important as well.
    The Tuning: The Kaiser has a balanced, natural sounding signature with a very cohesive overall sound. This is a very skillfully tuned earphone! I don’t want to overstate anything as the whole tuning is about gentle lifts here and there to give this natural, balanced effect. Watch me use the word “slight” to describe everything! Usually earphones have some extreme somewhere in their sound, a boosted bass or a piercingly bright treble, the Kaiser just doesn’t. The vocal range is slightly lifted and takes a gracious center stage, as it should being the heart of the music. The bass has great presence. However, to the ear, it’s only very slightly lifted and comes in level with the treble, which is smoothly bright and extended. There’s a nice amount of realistic thickness to the note decay and warmth to the midrange. It avoids a dry sound and gives life to the music. Clarity is very good without distracting your attention from the holistic sound the Kaiser faithfully presents. The soundstage is nice, allowing cues from the recording rather than forcing the sound to be intimate or far away. The 10-drivers could almost be a single driver as far as the ear is concerned. All problems of poor driver coherency such as an artificially separated sound or each driver having its own soundstage are eliminated with the Kaiser.
    People who are looking for one part of the sound or sound quality to be emphasized (always at a cost somewhere else) will want to look elsewhere as the Kaiser really gives a complete package.
    Treble: The Kaiser’s treble is extraordinary. It really gives a very nice brightness and air without harshness—a balance that is very hard to find. Violins and cymbals sound great and the timbre of voices and instruments are very good, surpassing the older, darker 8.A in this regard. The treble extension is superior and there’s no fatigue. It’s the best treble I’ve heard from an multi-armature design. People looking for a dark sound or people looking for extra edge and sibilance won’t find that here.
    Midrange: The beautiful midrange has nice warmth, but far less than Dr. Moulton’s older, thickly warm 8.A. The Kaiser’s mids are clear and the vocal range has a slight lift to bring it just a bit to the forefront. Music comes alive with this tuning and the Kaiser has a way of making drawing you into your music.
    Bass: This is a very high quality bass. The bass is very well controlled and not boosted beyond what sounds natural. It’s a much less bassy signature than the 8.A. Yet the Kaiser’s bass is powered by those same huge drivers, so there’s exceptional presence in that refined bass signature which remains in align with the treble and just a touch behind the vocal range. The Kaiser has excellent bass extension and can really thump and thunder when the music asks, even as string quartets and jazz also sound excellent.
    The Kaiser’s balanced tuning means that it works very well with just about every genre of music. All kinds of classical and jazz sound phenomenal with the Kaiser. Pop and rock are great and ballads are beautiful. The bass comes alive with rap and hip-hop and there’s bass depth for dubstep (although the bassier Noble 8C and Noble 5C may fit dedicated fans of this genre better).
    Is the Kaiser right for you:
    Have you noticed that the Kaiser really doesn’t have any flaws to talk about? It’s a very well done earphone, no question. However, whether it’s right for you depends on what you want to hear and only you can decide that. The first thing is that you have to know what you really like and not just for 5 minutes or 50 minutes, but what you want to hear for the long term. I have a story to illustrate this:
    A Story:
    Storytime! This actually happened:
    True Storytime!
    I received a message a while back from a guy who had been reading about another ciem that had reviewed very well. The ciem was said to have a mostly flat signature and this person liked more bass in his music. People were really excited about this ciem and said it was so great that the person got caught up this excitement. He knew that the ciem didn’t have the sound signature he like but he thought it’d be so great that he’d just love it anyway. You can see where this is going, right?
    Guess what? He didn’t like it! The expensive ciem which didn’t have the sound he wanted wasn’t good for him, even if it was good for other people. The moral is you have to know what you want and get something which matches that. Noble Audio has a bunch of ciems and they will all sound different and be right for different people. The Kaiser will be right for a lot of people, but only you know if you are one of them.
    The Kaiser 10 really defines what a flagship should be as an all-around excellent custom fit earphone with a versatile tuning that sounds great with a very wide range of music. A great deal of care went into every aspect of this earphone and it really shows. When it comes to having the total package, not only sound but customer service and appearance that’s a work of art, look no further than new Noble Audio Kaiser 10.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Kunlun
      Thanks! The K10 is great, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. The Glacier pairs very well with all my high-end CIEMs. I haven't heard the Pure II, but I can say that the Glacier is definitely thinner and is the more portable of the two, so if you're planning of using your gear on the go, that's a big factor.
      Kunlun, Oct 2, 2014
    3. Spurs
      Always enjoy your review as they are really helpful ! I used to own a pair of 8.a which I like a lot. Due to some reason I am not really like those custom fir in my ear. With the lunch of the k10u, would you recommend it for a person who likes bass and the sound signature of 8.a ? Thanks !
      Spurs, Nov 1, 2014
    4. Kunlun
      Hi Spurs, thanks!
      I also used to own the 8.a and here's an interesting fact which has been shared on head-fi by the wizard--who designed both, of course: The 8.A and K10 actually have the same bass drivers. So, that bass capability is still fully present on the K10. However, there is now a more balanced signature with the k10. I think you'll like it a lot.
      I will say that if you really want a darker sound like the 8.A had, then there is the 8.C, which is the new and improved version of the 8.A. You can contact Noble and I imagine that something can be done for you for that.
      Kunlun, Nov 3, 2014
  9. Sorensiim
    The Wizard rises again - And raises the bar!
    Written by Sorensiim
    Published Oct 9, 2013
    Pros - Supremely natural sounding, fantastic mids, thunderous but tightly controlled lows, amazing highs
    Cons - None. (As long as you can find the money)

    Disclaimer: This particular set of Kaiser 10 is a review sample from Noble Audio.
    It made some serious waves here at Head-Fi when Dr. Moulton, perhaps better known as “The Wizard”, as well as his entire staff parted ways with MDSP, the parent company of Heir Audio. MDSP announced that they would continue building Heir Audio products and selling them under the Heir name. Dr. Moulton and his staff remained quiet about their plans for the future… But nobody really expected them to just stop making (C)IEMs, did they? It turns out that The Wizard had more tricks up his sleeve. Along with his staff from Heir, he has formed Noble Audio. Noble is an American company, with production facilities (full blown lab) in China. Not to cut costs, mind you, but because his impressively skilled artists are there. I call them artists because “workers” doesn’t do them justice.
    I own the phenomenal Heir Audio 8.A and I love them. When I want something a little (well, a lot) more analytical, I pull the Tzar 350 from my bag. The 8.A is an 8-driver monster and it was the Heir Audio top model. With thunderous bass, sweet mids and a treble that just keeps going, without getting sibilant, I couldn’t imagine anything better. That’s why I was honestly a bit sceptical when Dr. Moulton approached me and asked if I would like to review his latest creation, a 10-driver custom. Yes, ten BA drivers for each side.
    With the 8.A being so good, and the hyper-detailed dual-driver Tzar 350, surely stuffing ten drivers into a CIEM could only be a marketing stunt, an attempt to cater to those that assume more = better. At first I dismissed the idea, thinking that The Wizard had finally lost it. But then my curiosity got the better of me - If he could make 8 drivers sound so good in the 8.A, what wonders would he be able to cook up with 10 drivers? I scheduled an appointment with my audiologist and shipped my impressions off to Dr. Moulton as soon as they were done.

    When the package arrived, I was not prepared for the sight that met my eyes. It turned out that The Wizard had dictated the design to his padawan Kaiser Soze (Who this model is named after): “Amber shells, clear canals and make sure they’re dripping in gold”. Mr. Soze did not disappoint. Most people here on Head-Fi, at least those of us keeping an eye on the CIEM threads have seen some crazy Wizard designs, so while I was expecting something out of the ordinary, I was simply not ready for these. The amber shells seem to shift their color depending on how the light hits them, while showing off the drivers. The clear canals let you see the 3 sound tubes (mids, highs, lows) and the gold. Yeah, that’s 24K gold. Lots and lots of it. I think the gold alone could pay for a second set of IEMs! They really pulled all the stops with this set, I almost expected that I would find them a bit gaudy and over the top. Yet here I am, two months after first unpacking them and I still find myself just turning them around, letting the light hit the gold and acryllic, admiring the honestly insane level of craftsmanship that went into making these works of art. Dr. Moulton, if you read this then make sure Kaiser Soze gets a raise. Alas, the world is a cruel place! These deserve to be on display in a museum, but I’m afraid my ears will have to do. Why? Because honestly, they sound even better than they look.

    Noble Kaiser 10 (left) with my Heir 8.A (right)
    It turns out all those drivers aren’t just for show. These sound like nothing I have ever heard - although they do somehow remind me of my brief encounter with the mighty Stax SR009 - so let’s look at how the hardware is put to use. Starting from the bottom, I immediately spotted the two HUGE drivers responsible for the bass. I recognized them from my 8.A (my first 8.A build had a transparent shell) and Dr. Moulton has confirmed that they are indeed the same units as those in the 8.A, but tuned differently. Going by ear, I’d say he’s shifted the dial from “Crazy, but well controlled” to “Pure magic”. While not boosted like the 8.A, bass on the Kaiser 10 is amazing. Put on a track like James Blake’s version of “Limit To Your Love” and the mids and highs will carry you away through a dreamy soundscape, luring you into the illusion… then SLAM, the bass hits you out of nothing. Like running through a meadow, chasing butterflies in the afternoon sun, only to have one of those butterflies suddenly turn into Mike Tyson and punch you in the face. Oh these babies pack a punch, alright! With the 8.A, the bass is the star of the show. It never interferes with the mids, but it’s got a commanding presence and with rock and electro, the 8.A will have you grinning from ear to ear. The Kaiser 10 is tuned to be more neutral, but still capable of throwing those crazy punches - but only when called for. This means that they go as low as the 8.A and can hit you almost as hard as the 8.A, but with the Kaiser 10 you’ll never see it coming. If you consider yourself a basshead and you live and breathe dubstep, the 8.A might be a better choice, but the Kaiser 10 is right up there when it comes to bass.

    The mids, oh the mids! This is where the Kaiser 10 really pulls away from the rest of the pack. There are 4 drivers assigned to this task - 2 of them are the ones responsible for the mids of the 8.A and then there are two more (different) drivers for handling “high mids”. The mids on the 8.A are good, but the Kaiser 10 is on another level completely. These 4 drivers in unison produces mids so beautiful that it actually hurts me that I can’t share the experience with anyone. The mids are forward without ever sounding artificially boosted and rest assured that you will hear every little single detail in the recording, but without the Kaiser 10 becoming as merciless as the Tzar 350. Yes, you can tell when it’s a bad recording, but sibilance doesn’t feel like daggers in your ear as the Tzar 350 sometimes do. Somehow Dr. Moulton struck a balance that sounds like the perfect mix of the 8.A, the Tzar 350 and the 4.Ai. Well-made vocal recordings will be giving you goosebumps. Close your eyes while listening to the acoustic version of “Tracy’s Flaw” and Deborah Skin will be sitting on your lap, singing only for you. Put on Rebecca Pidgeon and you’ll be instantly hooked. Male vocals are equally impressive and the sheer level of detail presented to you will have you enjoying not only the lyrics, but also the texture of the voice, the reverb of the stings and the sound of the room. This results in hands-down the best soundstage I have heard in any IEM, beating the 8.A. My favorite live album of all time, “Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet” by Fink, is an utter joy on the Kaiser 10 as it accurately communicates the size and type of the venue. If you don’t already own that album, go get it. It’s not perfect and that’s what makes it so good and so real - Some venues have better acoustics than others, some days the tech didn’t get the levels perfectly right. You can hear that on the album and that’s what makes it so great. The 8.A is very detailed as well, but it makes you work for it, makes you actively listen for those details. The Kaiser 10 just serves it all on a silver platter for you.

    Treble is slightly brighter on the Kaiser 10 than on the 8.A, but like the 8.A it never gets harsh. Like the mids, the highs on the Kaiser 10 are handled by the same drivers as on the 8.A - plus two more “mystery” drivers for “higher highs”. This might sound like the Kaiser 10 is a shrill treble monster, but what is does is nothing like that at all. They go high, very high, but never shrill. Having two drivers for “lower highs” and another set for the “higher highs” ensures a very detailed performance all over the spectrum. I would have never thought that I would find myself enjoying the sound of a triangle fading away, not to mention being able to pick out that sound… You get that Tzar 350 level of clarity, but without the harshness.

    Here you can see the drivers. In the right monitor you can clearly see the 4x2 regularly sized BA drivers responsible for those sweet mids and highs. On the left, however, you can see those enormous drivers (shared with the 8.A) responsible for that tight, deep impactful bass. No wonder these puppies can kick like a mule! Coming from dynamic driver bass (FS Atrio and UM Merlins) I was worried about if I would feel the bass from BA drivers like that from dynamic drivers… Those concerns were put to shame the first time I heard the 8.A play Take The Power Back and the Kaiser 10 is right up there as well, delivering that same visceral impact, although ever so slightly less of it than the 8.A.

    “So, what’s the most impressive thing about the sound of the Kaiser 10? Bass, mids or highs?” Actually, it’s the way they come together. Yes, stuffing 10 drivers into a ciem is quite a feat but making them sound like one is far more impressive to me. I never think about having 10 BA drivers firing away in each of my ears, I just get lost in the music. Everything I throw at them just flows effortlessly into my brain. Rammstein? No problem. I get every single screeching detail from the guitars, every kick from the drum and Till’s vocals let me hear every single drop of spit flying from his lips as he barks the (surprisingly deep!) German lyrics at the poor defenseless microphone. Metallica? You’ll feel the drum hits and you can almost hear how smug Lars Ulrich looks. Andreya Triana? You’ll be drawn into the delicate soundscape while her soulful voice wraps around you, making you lean back in your chair and I’m pretty sure your blood pressure will drop a bit. Trentemøller? Better make sure the fillings in your teeth are properly seated or the bass will knock them loose - while the soundscape unfolds before you. Classical? Oh boy, you’re in for a treat!
    These are immensely versatile headphones - The shortest description I can give would be “Dr. Moulton’s Greatest Hits”. It’s like he took the best parts of all his other designs and somehow poured them into one headphone. Sadly, this brings us to the only downside to these things: They’ll cost you almost as much as all those other headphones combined, clocking in at a cool $1600. If you want ONE headphone to rule them all, this is the kind of money you’ll end up spending. Buy The Best And Only Cry Once, as they say. Oh and remember to factor in the cost of ear impressions and shipping (not to mention the agonizing wait). And you’ll need a proper setup to feed these - Not that they demand absolute purity like the Tzar 350 or the HD800, but they definitely deserve it.

    Albums I found particularly enjoyable  with the Kaiser 10:
    Fink - Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet + KCRW Presents: Fink In Session
    Puscifer - Conditions of My Parole
    Chesky Records - Open Your Ears
    Porcupine Tree - Atlanta
    Skunk Anansie - Wonderlustre (Tour Edition)
    Soyeusement - Live In Noirlac
    Rammstein - Liebe Ist Für Alle Da + Reise, Reise
    Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine
    Ane Brun - It  All Starts With One
    Agnes Obel - Aventine
    Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
    Daft Punk - Tron:Legacy R3C0NF1GUR3D
    Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert
    Hans Zimmer - The Dark Knight Rises O.S.T.
    Les Paul And Friends - A Tribute To A Legend
    Carina Round - Tigermending
    Gear used with the Kaiser 10:
    Ibasso DX100
    Ibasso DX50
    Heir Rendition 1
    ODAC + O2
    All files are flac, 16/44.1 to 24/192.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. nelamvr6
      Great review!  I am sitting here drooling, wondering if I really need BOTH kidneys...
      Unfortunately, $1600 is a bit out of my price range.  I will have to satisfy myself with just dreaming for now.
      nelamvr6, Nov 13, 2013
    3. 365vanessas
      PLEEEZ let me know when you sell them.....
      365vanessas, Oct 13, 2015
    4. Rully Pratama
      noble = bassy?
      Rully Pratama, Nov 5, 2016
  10. VisceriousZERO
    The K in K10 stands for "Kicks ass"
    Written by VisceriousZERO
    Published Nov 10, 2014
    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
    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).

    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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. 
      budx3385, Nov 20, 2014
    3. A2029
      How would you say these compare to the JH13 FreqPhase ??
      A2029, Dec 8, 2014
    4. 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.
      fairyclean, Aug 30, 2016