Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

Score

Pros

  • Phenomenal sonics throughout the frequency range
  • Excellent selection of eartips
  • Beautifully made
  • Superb custom-fitting options
  • Solid, detailed soundstage

Cons

  • UK pricing

Key Features

  • Review Price: £1699.00
  • 10 balanced-armature drivers per side
  • Replaceable cables with 2-pin plugs
  • 11 eartip options
  • Hard carry case

What are the Noble Audio Kaiser Encore?

US earphone manufacturer Noble Audio knows that not everyone has the same sonic tastes, which is why it has two models sitting jointly in the top branches of its ever-expanding product tree. Alongside the phenomenally good Noble Audio Katana are the Kaiser Encore, an update to the acclaimed Kaiser 10.

What do you get for, frankly, such a jawdropping amount of money? A whopping 10 drivers in each hand-assembled earpiece is what – as well as a quality of finish and attention to audio tuning that’s second to none.

Where the Katana focus on an airy treble and upper mid-range that make them sound closer to a pair of open-backed hi-fi headphones than any other IEMs I’ve heard, the Kaiser Encore promise meatier sonics for those who value a solid, thumping bottom end. And they deliver just that.

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Noble Audio Kaiser Encore 3

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore – Design and Features

Visually, the Kaiser Encore aren’t too different from the Kaiser 10 they replace. You get the same two-part aluminium enclosures with a ribbed outside, but the outer half is now a blueish-grey and has sunburst-style machining on the end surface, where the 10s had a look-at-me red anodised outer with cross-hatching.

The tip end has three holes porting to the 10 balanced-armature drivers within each housing. On the side of each earpiece is a tiny socket for the two-pin plugs terminating the braided cable. This style of plug is pretty common these days, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble if you need to replace the cable – or even fancy swapping out to try the 2.5mm balanced connection on a PMP such as the Astell & Kern models or Onkyo DP-X1.

The cable has hooks on each side, which can be bent into shape to fit comfortably around your ears and provide a little security. These aren’t the lightest earphones, so the hooks are very much worthwhile.

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore 4

As with all Noble earphones, the Kaiser Encore come in a rugged Peli Case, which also contains a velvet drawstring pouch and 11 different choices of eartips in various sizes, shapes and materials. You really shouldn’t have much trouble finding a set of tips to give a decent combination of comfort and noise isolation.

If you’re interested in getting the absolute best fit and sound from these earphones, though, you should try Noble’s awesome custom-fitting service. Not only does this option get you a pair of IEMs moulded specifically to your own unique lugholes, but there’s the opportunity to choose from all kinds of colours, finishes and personalised designs. It comes at a price, but when you’re already spending this much, why not go that extra mile, eh?

Noble Audio K10U 10
Noble offers an incredible range of personalisation options from its custom-fitting service

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore – Sound Quality

I tested the Kaiser Encore mainly through the Chord Hugo 2 and Chord Mojo headphone amps, but also driven directly from the Onkyo DP-X1 portable player. I fed them a mixture of Hi-Res Audio FLACs, CD-quality FLACs and 320Kbps MP3s, as well as streaming in Hi-Res from Qobuz.

Having used the previous Kaiser model extensively, I mostly knew what to expect from the Encore. It doesn’t seem to be a huge upgrade, but nevertheless an upgrade it is – and that’s impressive in itself, since the Kaiser 10 was one of the finest IEMs ever made.

For many people, the Kaiser Encore will be as close to sonic perfection as you’ll hear from in-ear headphones. The solidity and enormity of the soundstage is tremendous, the detail and separation throughout the frequency range is exceptional, and they sound toe-tappingly musical with any kind of music.

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore 2

The soundstage is wonderfully clear in its distinction, with anything central – usually vocals, for instance – sitting slap-bang in the middle, but slightly above ear-line. Instruments in the stereo channels sit just outside the ear. Really, the only criticism I can aim at the Kaiser Encore’s sonics is that they can’t match the out-of-ear spatiality of their Katana stablemates, which genuinely place instruments way outside and around your head, and add a certain extra shimmery realism to vocals.

What the Encore have over the Katana, though, is the reinforced lower mid-range and bottom end – which is increasingly becoming a priority for headphone listeners these days. Bass guitars and bass drums are brought to the fore and have more impact, drawing the sound in a little, but adding real meat.

Personally, because I listen to so much acoustic folk these days, and also love an ultra-natural vocal, I’d take the Katana ahead of the Kaiser Encore; in an ideal world, however, I’d have both and switch depending on genre. Oh, to be an oligarch.

To really get the best from the Kaiser Encore, they deserve appropriate amplification. The Chord Hugo 2 proved to be a perfect sonic partner, with just the right blend of power and subtlety for the Nobles. The little Chord Mojo gets you 95% of the way, and with the benefit of portability.

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Noble Audio Kaiser Encore 1

Should I buy the Noble Audio Kaiser Encore?

The Kaiser Encore are incredible earphones, right up there with the company’s other joint flagship – the Noble Audio Katana – but for slightly different reasons. Which you should choose will be down to personal preference, but you won’t go far wrong with either. They’re the two best pairs of in-ear monitors we’ve ever tested.

If your musical tastes mean you value a beefy bottom end, the Encore will most likely be for you. Lovers of more vocal-led acoustic music and a floatier classical should probably give the Katana a try. Horses for courses, as they say.

As is the case with all the Noble Audio models currently, though, if you’re in the UK then you’re going to take a massive hit on the pricing. If money is no object, these earphones off the finest portable listening experiences around – and the custom-fitting option is well worth splashing out on.

Verdict

With a soundstage so solid you could chew it, the Kaiser Encore are among the finest in-ears you’ll find.

Score