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Custom item created by Sorensiim, Oct 9, 2013
Pros - Excellent Treble, Mid and Bass. Wide soundstage and good seperation.
Cons - None, Nil, Zilch on sound. More accessories would be nice. Say, amp bands?
The Sovereign King.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Noble Audio in anyway. This pair of K10s was NOT provided by Noble and was purchased with my own funds. The following reflects my thoughts on the K10s using my own systems. Your own mileage may vary.
For those not familiar with what Noble is, well, they are a boutique company based in Thailand and China that craft exquisite Custom In-Ear Monitors. The brainchild of The Wizard, the K10s is the flagship model of Noble and represents the pinnacle of portable audio beside the JH Audio Roxanne, Fitear 435 and Unique Melody Mentor. In addition to the K10, Noble offers a whole range of different IEMs and CIEMs such as the Noble 4, 8C and 5S.
Right. Now that you know a little more of what the Noble is, lets get down to business.
Lets get Accessorizing!
What do we get out of the box? Well, pretty standard stuff. You get the usual Otterbox case, earwax removal tool, a Noble warranty card and your pair of customs! Oh, and stickers! Coz everyone loves stickers! The cable is by far the most interesting accessory though. More on that later. If I had to be picky, the only fought I could find with this was the apparent lack of -insert lack of “noble” prize joke here-…
The Voltage Transferring Mechanism Thingy.
Hey look! Later wasn’t that much later now was it? Anywayyyy, if this cable seems familiar to you, then well that’s because it is. It’s made of silver plated copper and is exactly the same cable as the Magnus upgrade cable provided by Heir Audio bar the pins and termination jack. In this case, the pins and jack is both molded in plastic, with the jack molded in a 45-degree angle as opposed to the metal barrel pins and Neutrik jack from Heir Audio.
While I’m not going to comment on the sonic qualities of the cable coz well, erm, this is not a cable review, I however, will comment on the external qualities of the cable. It’s tough. There. That’s it. Ok, really tough. It has gotten accidentally snagged on a door handle or two, survived a sneak by my cat and being stuffed into my bag as I ran between lectures. Comfort wise, it’s a light and supple cable that barely feels like it’s on your ears. Memory wire could have been a little longer but it’s a stock cable so I wont complain! (Although I am…)
Anywho, I hear Noble has a contest going in their Facebook page to guess the strength of their cable! Good luck!
One of the best darned finishing on a pair of customs I have ever seen. Lacquer used really gives a nice texture to them. They don’t just feel like hard acrylic but slightly textured. Glitter was evenly applied and as far as I can tell, there are no air bubbles in sight.
As for fit, the first pair of K10s that came had a slight fitting issue with my right ear. They just wouldn’t get a seal no matter how I twisted it. Left ear was perfect though. So I shipped them off for a refit, which rectified this issue. These now fit like a glove and I only lose the seal when I smile or laugh. So yeah, top notch built quality as far as my pair of K10s goes.
Design wise, I’ll let my K10s speak for themselves as well as Nobles designing prowess.
As much as I would like to start this portion of review off on a high, I’m afraid I can’t. The K10s just did not wow me on first listen and it seemed anticlimactic and underwhelming when I first put them on. One could argue that I had too much an expectation for these and yes, you wouldn’t be wrong. Maybe I’m too used to the 8A that I have, but, these are $1,599 CIEMs and I just expected a huge wow factor from the beginning but all I got was something really bland.
With all that said, I hope that didn’t put you off from the K10s. These, after just a few hours of listening, really showed it’s true nature. And boy, was I sorry for even doubting them.
Let’s start from the top of the frequency spectrum shall we?
Treble is fantastic. Being used to a warmer sound signature, ALA LCD2s, HD650s and my 8A, the K10s was a real step up. While some IEMs make you wish you hard more treble as they roll off fast or the fact that they sound muffled, these simply do not. Not only do they extend very high without sounding harsh, they do so with resounding clarity. Piano’s have a nice extension and decay to them, as do cymbals. Many a time I have heard headphones that do not accurately reproduces how a cymbal sounds. The K10s does it expertly with finesse. Cymbals crash loudly with authority and clarity that never sounds harsh to the point of causing discomfort nor does it sounds muffled. Yes, I am one of those who are sensitive to peaky treble and no, the treble output here does not bother me one bit.
Midrange wise, they sound extraordinary. These are mid centric CIEMs and they do not disappoint. They sound north of neutral but far less than that of the syrupy mids of the 8A. Coupled with a good amount of detail to them, every pluck of a guitar string sounds loud and clear and every crackle in a vocalist’s voice easily picked up without sounding thin and dry. Female vocals really excel here, sounding clean and spacious, with a good amount of air in them. In short, you really get enveloped in a swirl of mid rangy goodness.
Part of why I wasn’t wowed in the beginning might be due to the K10s bass response. Tuned differently than its siblings, the bass here is a little shy and only rears it’s very beautiful head when needed. When it is needed however, there is nothing shy about its bass. It’s excellently controlled and very precise. When compared to the 8A, which uses the same number and type of drivers, one will start to appreciate its precision. Not only does it almost match the 8A’s output it does so without even bleeding into the midrange nor does it start to sound loose, something that I found the 8A suffered from. Impactful, thunderous and accurate, three words I find myself repeating all too often. I love the K10’s bass response.
Soundstage on these is really wide. They really give the sense that you are enthralled in the middle of a concert. You will NEVER feel congested with the K10s. Imagining you are in a concert; you can feel the music in front of you and as it extends toward your sides, with the bass exploding right behind you.
Separation of each frequency range is excellent and never does one frequency intrude on another. Instruments as well do not sound congested and can be easily picked apart from the music distinctively. It is this separation that causes the K10s to sound less coherent than other CIEMs such as the Westone ES5. Nonetheless, they still sound fantastic and you probably won’t even care about them not sounding coherent! I know I didn’t.
It’s all these points that really make the K10 very enjoyable to listen. They aren’t what you would attribute a fun sounding CIEM as they lean towards being slightly neutral. Most likely, this is why I wasn’t wowed at the very start. However, after using the K10s for close to 5 months, you really start to appreciate the way these sound. Switching away from these to say, an 8A, a pair of UM3X+3 or, the Tzar 350s, there would always be something missing from my music that makes me yearn for the K10, be it its controlled bass or its ever so spacious midrange.
Truly, one only starts to appreciate and miss something when it’s gone.
Test was done using an DX50, AK100 and AK240. All 3 were tested with an SR71B and E12. Single ended output from all DAPs including the AK240. I've only just received my balanced AK240 cables and have not have the time for a proper sit down listening session.
MORE PHOTOS INCOMING TOMORROW. My camera is outta juice and phone's do not do these justice.
Pros - Incredible lows, lots of detail, actual imaging in a CIEM/IEM, silky smooth, BEAUTIFUL design, QUALITY craftsmanship, close to perfect
Cons - Cost, CIEM's require impressions, can't let friends hear how good they are, resale value (but I would never sell them...)
First of all, full disclosure, I did not pay for these Noble K10's. I traded for work I did for Noble.
Given that, however, I think Brannan and John would want me to post an honest review rather than a biased review just to keep them as a client!
With that out of the way, I have to say, these are the best CIEM/IEMs I have had the opportunity to hear. Am I just saying that for Noble's benefit, no, but you have to decide if you believe me.
I received these Wizard design K10 CIEM's in late 2013. They are obviously black carbon fiber faceplates with dark blue shells and a touch of glitter that seems to show up as different colors depending on the light. They are very clean and simple and I LOVE the way they look. Yes, they do remind me of some other CIEM's that use carbon fiber as their signature material. That's OK, I love the look.
The workmanship is perfect. I can't find any flaws anywhere. No bubbles, finger smudges, etc. Perfect.
I had Brannan do my impressions, so obviously there was no problems with my impressions. The K10's fit me perfectly. They are really easy to pop in and and out, but stay in really well. They seal great too. I don't get any popping or change in the seal even when I open my mouth or chew, etc. But the best thing is that they are super comfortable. I can wear them all day and barely even notice they are there. That's really the whole point with customs. with any IEM or CIEM their performance is all about the seal. although you can get a good seal with universals, with properly fitted customs, there is no struggling with the seal. You just pop them in and you've got a perfect seal. Easy!
I have a lot of different headphones and IEM's and one other CIEM, the Heir 8.A.
First, I can easily say that the Noble K10's are the best CIEM/IEM I have heard. To me they are a big step up from the 8.A. The bass on the K10 is much tighter and controlled, but still plentiful. I am amazed at how good the bass is on these CIEM's. When watching movies, especially, the bass feels like it's shaking my body even though I know that's not possible. But lots of bass is no good if it's not controlled and tight. It's not just bass for the sake of having bass. It's simply perfect. Even compared to my other headphones, the bass is better on the K10's. (OK, so the other headphones i have are not known for having much bass such as Stax, HD800, Etymotic ER4S.)
The mids are equally as good. Lots of detail, not too forward sounding, clean and smooth. Vocals, piano, guitar all sound very natural. Not much more I can say other than it sounds just right to me.
On the high end of the spectrum, the first word that comes to mind is "smooth". No sibilance, but still lots of detail. However, this is one area where I think the Stax definitely come out on top. My tastes lean towards super detailed, airy high end like the Stax or even the Etymotic ER4S or the HD800's to some extent. But with all the high frequency resolution, I can't stand harshness or sibilance or etched sound. To me the Stax sound is perfect in that way. The K10's don't have that super airy-ness, high end extension. They have tons of detail. I can hear the brushes on cymbals, the lips of a singer, the drumsticks hitting the cymbals, etc. with the K10's, but they very top of the frequency range just isn't as present as my other headphones. As a byproduct, the K10's never sound the slightest bit harsh at any listening levels. Dare I say they remind me a little bit of a "tube" sound that just has that luscious, silky, smooth sound, yet still very detailed.
But then when you talk about micro-detail like the ambience of a room or the imaging of a recording, the K10's are still somehow capable of all of that. I don't really hear a lot of imaging per se out of any headphones or in-ears but I am used to listening to virtual speakers using my software to give me WAY more imaging than any headphone could hope to achieve on it's own. So when the image is collapsed down when I disable my software, then the contrast is so great, I find it hard to evaluate imaging in headphones. It's so much less, that I don't hear a lot of difference from one headphone to the next. However, with the K10's, I am not sure, but maybe I am hearing so much detail in the recording that on a well recorded track, I can really hear some imaging. Maybe the drivers are also so "fast" that they can accurately playback all the micro-detail. Regardless, compared to my other in-ears, the K10's do actually image. WIth Out Of Your Head software running, I thought IEM/CIEMs wouldn't work as well as an open set of full size headphones, but when there is a lot of speed and resolution, the "Out Of Your Head" effect works really well.
What else can I say... Whenever I listen to the K10's, they just sound right. They make me smile every time. I can count on them to do everything I ask. Tons of bass and punch when watching movies; tons of detail and speed when listening to music. They are certainly what I take with me on the go. OK, if I could only have one headphone/in-ear, I would have to keep my beloved Stax-009's, but we're talking about a $10,000 system. In any situation where I can't have my Stax, the K10's fit the bill perfectly. I am always "blown away" when I am on a plane with my K10's running Out Of Your Head on my laptop watching a movie. Having such huge 7.1 surround sound and bass impact on a plane makes me feel guilty that the other passengers can't hear what I am hearing!
Thank you Noble!
Gear used for evaluation:
Out Of Your Head software
Vostok Sound ES-21 electrostatic amp/dynamic amp/DAC
Schiit Vali (with 75 ohm adapter for in-ear's)
Pros - Drop Dead Gorgeous, Sound to match. Highs like no other, deep bass, everything balanced in between.
Cons - Brain burn-in definitely required.
I am not an expert reviewer by any means, but these CIEMs are something special. The look, fit, and finish are truly extraordinary, these are not headphones but are ear-jewelry.
As for sound, these sound like nothing else I have ever heard. Particularly the highs are very, very good. They are bright and sparkly and revealing, well extended but never, ever harsh or sibilant. The bass is amazing, I swear you can feel it in your chest (for example, even watching movies unamped out of an iPad it has movie theater like bass). Mids are incredible as well, vocals are so well incorporated and where recordings are used with oversampling, doubling, or even where there are just multiple vocalists each layer can be clearly discerned.
I would highly recommend these to anyone with the means to attain them. Truly Summit-fi.
Pros - Versatile sound signature, excellent build quality
Cons - $$$
I received my K10s in mid December. Before that, I owned another pair of CIEMs (the Heir Audio 8.A) which I have since moved on from. The 8.A was John Moulton's original 8 driver design, with a relatively dark, bass-heavy signature.
When purchasing the K10s, I was slightly worried that I may give up some of the sound that I loved so dearly. Man, I just didn't know what I was missing out on. The K10 can do everything that the 8A could do, plus more. The highs are incredibly well-detailed and non-fatiguing, the mids are incredibly natural, and bass doesn't overpower, but is still booming when the current track commands it.
I've seen other reviews mention that the K10 has less bass quantity than the 8.A, but I have not found that to be the case. Sure, the sound signature is perhaps less dark overall, but far more natural, and the bass is not lacking in any way, shape, or form. I've yet to come across a recording where I've not been exceptionally pleased with the sound quality.
Versatility is the name of the game, the K10s will pleasantly reproduce any recording you throw at them. With that said, it is very much so advantageous to feed them with a high quality sound source. I tend to only listen to ALAC files, through an HRT Microstreamer fed through Amarra, or through my iPhone 5s whilst on the go.
Fit and isolation is wonderful, as I had my impressions taken by Brannan from Noble Audio, free of charge. If you happen to be in Southern California, I would highly recommend having Brannan taking care of your impressions, as he knows to take impressions to Dr. Moulton's standards. I had some seal issues on my 8.A's, but my K10s fit wonderfully.
I will also note that build quality is second to none. My K10s are absolutely flawless, and beautiful to boot. I opted for a Wizard design, which was 100% worth it, especially since John took care of me with a design that I have still not seen on an IEM from Noble or any other company.
Pros - Beautiful design, amazing clarity, 3D sound, plenty of bass when you need it, and not a hint of sibilance. I can listen to these forever.
Cons - With a Wizard design and the cost of impressions, you're looking at over $2000. Expensive, but worth every penny.
The Kaiser 10, or K10, is a 10-balanced armature driver CIEM from Noble Audio. The K10 is an evolution of an earlier 8-driver design, this time focused on a more natural sound signature rather than focusing on bass. To this point, the K10 succeeds it its goal. No one portion of the sound spectrum is overly emphasized or unnaturally enhanced. Each part of the spectrum is present and doesn't interfere with the other portions. The bass does not bleed into the mids, and the mids don't bleed into the highs. The result is a very natural and highly addicting sound signature that keeps you coming back for more.
The K10s came in a smallish brown cardboard box. The box itself was completely sealed with "Noble" clear plastic tape and very clear instructions to refuse delivery if the seal was broken. Luckily, my seal was not broken. Inside was about 1 inch of foam surrounding a black plastic hard case, which was wrapped in a purple-blue "Wizard" cardboard sleeve. Inside the hard case were the K10s, two rubber bands, a cleaning tool, Magnus cable (already attached to the K10s), and ownership information card. The hard case has my name engraved on it and a "Noble" metallic label.
For my K10, I went with a Wizard design. The design is impeccably executed. The shells are blue with what looks like the cosmetic grade silver glitter. The signature faceplates look to be a mixture of red, purple, and blue acrylic in a nebulous swirl design, with a light-colored wood inlay thrown in for good measure. The tips of the canals are clear, which looks very nice with the rest of the design. I can only see two bubbles in the entire shell: one in each canal where the acrylic transitions from clear to blue. I suspect that this comes with the clear tips, and they aren't noticeable unless you're looking for them; they in no way detract from the K10s. Overall, I am exceptionally happy with how everything turned out, and I'm loving my truly unique Wizard design.
As we've come to expect with the Wizard, the finish is exceptional. I cannot find a single rough spot; everything is sanded smooth and ridiculously well polished. These things are a fingerprint magnet! Fortunately, all it takes is a quick rub-down with a soft cloth to bring them back to pristine condition. I am very impressed with how seamlessly the faceplates blend into the main body of the shell. I also really like the fact that the ends of the canals have a concave shape so that the sound tube bores don't so easily get clogged with earwax. The shape also makes them easier to clean. Also, you can tell that extreme care has been taken to ensure that the three sound tube bores are exactly in the center of each canal. This is a definite improvement from my Heir 8.A, which has an almost flat, slightly convex end on each canal, and the sound tubes are not centered, and almost haphazardly placed. It may seem like a little thing, but it really highlights Noble's attention to detail. If they care so much about getting such a little piece of the overall design correct, it speaks volumes for the rest of the experience.
My K10s fit absolutely perfectly the first time. Whew! It's always a valid concern that after waiting weeks (or months) for your CIEM, it won't fit properly when it finally arrives. I am glad to say that my K10 fits like a glove. A strange, weirdly shaped, blue, ear glove. Noble was also very accommodating with another special request that I made for my K10s. After more than 6 months of owning my 8.A, one thing that I really wished for was slightly longer canals (both to improve isolation and improve comfort; it's a personal preference, but in my experience I definitely enjoy my canals to be as long as possible). When getting ear impressions, I specifically requested that the canals were taken as long as possible. My audiologist was able to produce impressions with those long canals, and to my great happiness Noble was able to give me extra long canals on my K10s. Awesome! My K10 canals are about 5-6 mm longer than my 8.A canals and I couldn't be happier with the extra length. One final point on the fit: the K10s with their 10 drivers per ear are not going to sit flush in your ear (unless your ears are absolutely cavernous!). The K10 sticks out of my ears about 1.5 - 2 mm more than my 8.A, so fair warning if you're looking for a flush-fitting CIEM; you likely won't find it in the K10.
The isolation on my K10 is simply amazing. They're definitely best-isolating acrylic CIEM that I own or have heard (this is probably in part due to the requested longer canals). Without any music playing, I can't hear my fiancée talking next to me unless she yells at much louder than an indoor voice. It's actually a bit surreal; I really couldn't tell that she was talking at all and I had to have her confirm that she was actually talking (I didn't believe her at first and thought she was messing with me!). With music playing, I could probably sit with my back to train tracks as a freight train passed by and not notice, except for the vibrations in my glass of water. Yes, it's that good. The isolation is as good as my silicone CIEMs and custom silicone sleeves, and with music playing may be just a tad bit better.
This is the part that most of you were probably waiting for. The sound is, simply, amazing. The bass is impactful with plenty of quality in the sub-bass region, the mids are right there where they should be front and center, and the treble extends up to the sky and beyond. I would say that no one particular area is emphasized or out of place. It's unbelievable how coherent the sound is from 10 drivers in each ear. Everything is in its place and there, without any area stepping on or trampling the other areas. If I wasn't hearing this for myself, I honestly wouldn't believe how good everything sounds and just perfectly comes together. I'm sitting here listening to Rilo Kiley and just have a ridiculous, stupid grin plastered on my face. I think I'm in love.
The K10 has a fairly wide soundstage for an IEM; it doesn't match a good set of open headphones, but it matches and slightly exceeds the width of some of the closed headphones I've tried. I would say that, in my opinion, the soundstage is about 10% wider than the 8.A's. I would say that there's some height to the soundstage, but it's definitely not the star of the show; it's tall enough to not detract from the rest of the sound, but it's not really anything to write home about. Where the K10 is really shining for me is in depth and layering. I am finding myself getting lost in the music, shifting my focus at ease between each layer. It's a really holographic effect, with the different layers of music in each recording weaving effortlessly together to create something that's truly magical. There is definitely separation between different instruments, but it's very organic and not at all artificial. Everything is where it should be, and while you can pick out exactly where each instrument or voice is coming from if you want to, you can also just sit back and let everything come together. It feels like you're sitting in the middle of the band as they play, rather than sitting in a mixing studio trying to produce a coherent sound after the fact from several individual instrument recordings.
I briefly tried the K10 directly out of my Galaxy Note 3 and directly out of my MacBook Pro. The K10s sounded pretty good out of these sources, but to truly do them justice you'll want to invest in a good quality source. When I plugged them into my Leckerton Audio UHA-6S.mkii, they truly came alive. I've been listening to 24/96 FLAC files from HD Tracks (including the Eagles box set), and the K10s are singing. If you're going to drop the money on the K10 or any other top-tier IEM, I cannot stress how important it is that your source is able to properly drive them!
Comparisons to the 8.A:
Although the 8.A and K10 share 8 drivers in common, there are some definite differences in the tuning between these two CIEMs. In terms of bass quantity combined with bass quality, you cannot beat the 8.A. The K10 has very good quality of bass and it can hit hard when the bass is in the music and it's called for, but in terms of quantity there's a bit less of it there. That's not necessarily a bad thing, really, and it leads to an overall more balanced sound. However, if you prefer listening to genres where there's a heavy bass component, or you just like your bass to be a bit more present and emphasized, you're probably better off going with the 8.A or the similarly-tuned (but slightly tweaked) 8C. The other area I'd like to address is sibilance. With my 8.A, there are several tracks that I simply can't listen to due to sibilance. I'm very sensitive to it, and nothing makes me stop listening to my headphones faster than harsh sibilance. It's really not the 8.A's fault; the recordings are known for being poorly mastered, and the 8.A is simply highlighting an imperfection that's already. One of the first songs I listened to on my K10s was Norah Jones - Don't Know Why. On my 8.A, this track is unlistenable due to the harshness of her voice in the recording. On the K10, I can listen to the track at high volume without the faintest sign of sibilance. I listened to a few other tracks that were unlistenable on the 8.A (coincidentally, mostly songs with edgy female vocals). No matter what I throw at the K10, I don't detect any sibilance. To me, this music to my ears.
I've very, very impressed with the K10. I am glad that I went with the Wizard design option. If you're on the fence at all, I recommend that you place an order right now. They're really that good. I guess now I'm going to have to get an 8C and see if it's an improvement on the 8.A.
Pros - Very versatile; genres and file types. Slamming bass, sweet mids and beautiful highs without the "daggers in ear" effect.
Cons - I didn't order a Wizard design.
These are my first CIEMS, and I took quite a blind plunge as I brought these when there were about 2 reviews. I've had them for just over 2 months, and my enthusiasm for them is as high as when I first got them.
The other reviews are more in-depth/useful; I can only really echo what has been written about them.
For me, the most notable things are that the bass slams very hard when needs be. The highs are extremely good, without any hint of piercing, that my old IEMS had. For me, this alone goes a long way to justify the price. I've never really understood soundstage before, so that will have to be covered by other reviews.
The comfort and fit are everything I need. No longer do the units shift/ fall out of my ears when I'm walking.
About the only thing I regret is not buying a Wizard Design. And this is even though I didn't buy it in the Black Friday sale, which is testament to the K10's quality.
Pros - Sound: Awesome , Build: Awsome
Cons - i can't share my bliss with the people around me....
Got my set at the black friday sales and have been listening to em for almost a mth now.
The mids are so smooth and vocal centric tracks thrive here.
The bass comes a thumping when you need it.
The highs are non-fatiguing.
The thing that surprised me the most is really how well they isolate.
This is my second set of CIEMS. My first CIEM had poor fit on the right side
but this came perfect out of the box.
when the music starts playing, i cant hear s**t from my surroundings and are extremely
comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
the build quality is astounding and they complied with my request to make the red a little darker.
easily the best set of CIEMS of IEMS or "earbuds" that ive ever heard.
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.
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.
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.
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 5.5[sup]th[/sup] 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:
Storytime! This actually happened:
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.
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:
Heir Rendition 1
ODAC + O2
All files are flac, 16/44.1 to 24/192.
Sorensiim, Oct 9, 2013
nelamvr6, the wizard of oz, Kunlun and 1 other person like this.
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