Noble Kaiser 10 - What is it?
How far can you - or perhaps more accurately, should you - push this leeway? If we exclude the true high end from this process as a law unto itself (and equally crazy in most other luxury goods categories), when does the desire to build something as perfectly as you possibly can, start to move from ‘deeply impressive’ to ‘slightly scary?’ Some months ago, I reviewed the Sennheiser IE800 earphone that costs a significant £600. After some time spent with them, I awarded them a maximum score noting that they are objectively an almost perfect piece of equipment. If £600 buys something effectively perfect, what could possibly be the benefit of spending another £400?
This is what Californian company Noble is asking you to do with the earphone you see here. The Kaiser 10 is their new non-custom fit flagship that uses technology and experience garnered from their custom mould designs to build the ultimate universal fit earphone. The specifications (more of which later) are extraordinary but can this little earphone really be worth a thousand pounds? Ever one for some personal sacrifice, I’ve been finding out.
Noble Kaiser 10 - Design and Connections
Each housing of the Kaiser 10 features ten armature drivers. Ten, double figures, loads, describe it however you want, this is a concept so out of the ordinary as to require a bit of time to think about. These ten drivers are divided into various frequency sections by a crossover that by necessity has to be extremely compact. Trying to build a box loudspeaker that fits ten drivers into it which then goes on to sound like a single loudspeaker is a serious undertaking and the engineering required to make it work at the dimensions earphones have to work to is faintly mind boggling. Noble has some experience in this process as the custom mould version of the Kaiser 10 has been on sale for some time but even so, this is still a fairly singular piece of design.
In fitment terms, the Kaiser 10 is a structured in-ear meaning that the cable leaves the housing at the top and loops around the top of the ear before heading down. The ‘loop’ has a deformable extra jacket on it to help form a fixed position and broadly it works rather well. The cable itself is detachable and, as is fairly standard for high-end earphones, includes no mic or inline remotes.
The general build quality is - as you might expect - very good. The Noble doesn’t feel as solid as the Sennheiser because the housings are larger and the cable arrangement is less compact but they still have a sense that someone has invested considerable time and effort in their construction. That ‘someone’ is important too because the Kaiser is hand finished rather than machine built. One of those people might be the person that the Kaiser is named after. The designer is a man - and I’m not making this up - who goes by the name of Kaiser Soze. The website is unclear on whether this is startling coincidence or whether the chap happens to really like The Usual Suspects.
Noble Kaiser 10 - Accessories
Noble Kaiser 10 - Any drawbacks?
If you feel that the Kaiser 10 doesn’t have the visual pull that a four figure earphone should have though, I have some better news. The custom mould Kaiser 10 is available in a variety of startling custom finishes and it is unclear at the moment but it might be possible to get the Universal in the same way. If you’ve always wanted earphones in gold aerospace aluminium, this might be the pair for you.
Noble Kaiser 10 - How did we test them?
Noble Kaiser 10 - Performance with Music
And that frequency response is eye popping. From what feels like single figures, all the way to the upper registers of my hearing, the Noble is perfectly even and as smooth as Leslie Phillips drinking linctus. The really clever bit is that this refinement never comes at the expense of the detail and power that some recordings need. Listening The Gravedigger’s Song by the Mark Lanegan Band and Lanegan’s vocals are just perfect. The texture that suggests he starts each day with a pack of twenty and a sandpaper sandwich are presented with absolute clarity while the track thunders away behind him. At no stage during my time with them has the Kaiser 10 been wrongfooted by anything I’ve thrown their way.
Effectively, like the Sennheiser, the Noble needs to be judged as competitive with full size headphones because it produces a performance that is completely free of any limitations of scale, detail or sheer authority. The way that they handle Craig Armstrong’s Its Nearly Tomorrow isn’t good for an earphone or even good for a headphone, it is a performance that any speaker of virtually any dimensions would be proud to claim at its own. With decent mastering and sampling rates, the Noble is capable of performance that would see many stereo speakers getting very dusty through lack of use. Recording quality matters though because while the Noble is happy enough with 320kbps Spotify, anything less than this starts to sound thin and can become actively strident if you push the levels too high. This impacts the ability of the Kaiser 10 to act as an all-rounder but I suspect that Noble has probably done their homework here and figured that the intersection of people who are willing to drop a grand on a pair of earphones and then choose to listen to double figure bitrate internet radio stations is probably fairly low.
Noble Kaiser 10 - Performance with Film and TV
- Astounding sound quality
- Impressively sensitive
- Well built
- Horrible cable
- Huge carry case
- High price
Noble Kaiser 10 Earphone Review
Ease of Use
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