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Noble Audio Kaiser 10

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. ss5972
    Phenomenal combination of art and music
    Written by ss5972
    Published Feb 24, 2017
    Pros - sound quality, build quality, fit, soundstage, separation, asthetics
    Cons - size (a bit bulgy), cost
    After spending over a week of daily listening to these ciems I can confidently say that I have made an excellent choice with these ciems. There is nothing that i can say that hasn't been already covered by the numerous reviews. The plentiful reviews that praise the k10s for its amazing lows, mids, highs, sound-stage, separation, and not forgetting about the gorgeous art....they're all true. Noble's TOTL offerings are truly end-game gear for those who are in the hobby.
    Cons? They're a bit bulgy - but i can live with that. Not much you can do with so many drivers in each ear. Oh and they are a bit expensive. If you can look past those two "cons" then the kaisers will become the best earphones you own.
  4. Kaisendon
    The one sound in my life
    Written by Kaisendon
    Published Nov 11, 2016
    Pros - The IEM has a gorgeous finishing and fit is so perfect. Sound reverberates in your ear so naturally.
    Cons - I only have one pair of it
    The Noble Audio Kaiser 10 is the most perfect IEM I have ever heard, period.
      Number9redreD likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. RPB65
      C'mon, stop procrastinating! Get to the point! lol.
      RPB65, Nov 13, 2016
    3. Watagump
      Relax, my review was even shorter.
      Watagump, Nov 15, 2016
    4. Overkill Red
      5/7 perfect review
      Overkill Red, Dec 27, 2016
  5. Bossatiger
    End-game portables
    Written by Bossatiger
    Published Oct 6, 2016
    Pros - sound quality, fit and comfort, build quality, wizard art
    Cons - price, build time, cable
    I purchased a second-hand pair on Head-Fi and got them reshelled through the Noble "OWNERSHIP TRANSFER SERVICE (ACRYLIC)." I chose to add Wizard reprint of a beautiful pattern I really liked, and added my own little signature. 
    As many other reviewers stated, the sound is extremely cohesive. Silky smooth and non-fatiguing, but all the detail is there. Everything sounds so damn good and transparent. And I can listen to it for hours on end. This is my end-game portable, and I enjoy it over my HD800 and LCD-3. Responds excellently to EQing. 
    The Wizard reprint is beautiful. I really like how it's not a 1:1 reprint but rather a unique re-make of the same overall design. 
    EDIT: I am currently noticing problems with the fit and seal. The right earpiece breaks seal when my jaw is nearly or completely closed, and only seals properly when my jaw is two finger widths open. The left earpiece seals much better through my entire range of jaw motion, but also seems to be much tighter of a fit than my right earpiece (which seems loose). For reference, during my first audiologist impression, she had me use my index finger as a bite block. I also have TMJ issues, which may exacerbate the problem.
    EDIT2: there's also a degree of play between the right earpiece canal and my actual ear canal. The right earpiece can seat in different positions resulting in different fits and sealing, while the left earpiece only fits in one position and consistently seals better.
    Cable is really microphonic and feels kinda cheap. Might be replacing it in the future with one that's better built, but it works fine for now. 
    Noble took two months to build it, as stated on their page. It took a long time, but was worth the wait.
    Price is definitely in the high range, but I knew what design I wanted and I was okay with purchasing second-hand for a reshell. Probably my best audio purchase yet. 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Bossatiger
      youre right value rating can't be low if its my best purchase hahaha
      Bossatiger, Oct 6, 2016
    3. Kerouac
      Some nice (personal) design you've got there!
      Reading about the cable (cheap feeling and even worse: microphonic) I think it screams for (and deserves) an upgrade cable :)
      Kerouac, Oct 7, 2016
    4. Bossatiger
      having issues with the fit, gonna contact Noble audio as well as my audiologist
      Bossatiger, Oct 13, 2016
  6. dubbcd
    Worth to get at least one pair.
    Written by dubbcd
    Published Sep 27, 2016
    Pros - Amazing sound quality even with orginal cable. Steep bass.
    Cons - 2 pins style (not really cons)
    Very detailed quality sound . I am able to find details which missed before.
    Details with layer and staging.
    Staging and positioning isn't huge or odd. But I can feel it in my head when listening certain kind of music in a quite environment.
    Bass can be pushed very hard and steep. 
    WIth different quality cable and quality AMP, my K10 does give me surprise.
    Make sure your ears mod are made with quality or professionally.
    Content is King. Same old rule.
    To enjoy high quality sound, you need high quality source.
  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. 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
  9. Bighappy
    Written by Bighappy
    Published Apr 29, 2016
    Pros - They are perfect!
    Cons - Nothing!...Absolutely nothing!
    This is my first review and it's going to be brief...Never in my life have I been so damn impressed with an audio product (I have a bunch) than I am with my Custom K10's!!! There is not 1 thing that I can think of that hasn't completely surpassed my expectations...I'm a picky son of a gun and these have surprised the hell out of me and I had my bar set extremely high...Do yourself a favor...run don't walk to Nobleaudio.com and get ya some :wink:
    1. Uzuzu
      sounds kind of like an advertisement here. can you go into detail a bit?
      Uzuzu, Apr 29, 2016
    2. Bighappy
      I can assure you it's no advertisement

      I apologize for not being much of a detail guy...To me, these are very hard to explain or pick apart because they do every single thing so well. If my short review isn't allowed or isn't detailed enough I'll be happy to take it down? :grin:
      Bighappy, Apr 29, 2016
    3. willyvlyminck
      At this price point it should be no wonder these are nearly perfect .
      willyvlyminck, Apr 30, 2016
  10. stimy
    Outstanding ciem!! Does everything effortlessly, pure pleasure
    Written by stimy
    Published Jan 25, 2016
    Pros - Incredible fit and finish. Extremely well balanced nothing is overemphasized everything is in its right place.
    Cons - Large chassis needs to fit all those drivers, I can't lay down flat on my pillow and listen.
    OK first let me start out by saying the wait time is brutal! I think I checked my tracking numbers 763 times. My wife kept telling me have patients my young Padawan it will be worth the wait and as always she was right. These monitors are outstanding, as I write this I am listening to the new Pink Floyd endless river and it's amazing! It's interesting a lot of the other reviews have touched on this but it just does everything extremely well. There's no real emphasis on any one frequency, is kind of interesting to hear you just get lost in the music. I never realized when I listen to music with all my different headphones I'm kind of internally thinking about frequencies and how they affect my listening experience. With a K10 you truly get lost in the music. 
    As far as my sources go I do have a Fiio X3 II the sounds pretty good with it. I found it all Fiio products have a little bit of a cold feeling to them and these will definitely show you that. I recently acquired the Centrance DAC port HD and it has brought the noble audios to a different level of enjoyment that I didn't realize possible. To my ears this is a marriage made in heaven. I believe the Centrance has a warm beautiful sound. I believe having 10 different drivers in each year really makes a difference when you put different sources to it. It can reveal details that only 10 drivers can give you.
    Brandon and Sunny have been unbelievable through the whole process. Incredible customer service getting back to me from email questions in under a minute. I can't say enough about it the whole experience with Noble its been great. Just prepare yourself to wait it out, 6 to 8 weeks is easy to talk about but hard to wait for. Mine was a little compounded from a mishap in Canadian customs, pretty much added an additional week. Of course not Nobles fault.
    Highly recommend these badass chunks of beauty!!!!