Because the Noble Encore is a bit on the warm side, with slightly elevated bass, it pairs well with just about any device you can imagine. If it were warmer, like the U12, you’d want a brighter DAP. If it were too bright, you’d want a warmer DAP. Just to keep things nice and balanced. But Encore is like the Meze 99 Classics, in that it is so dynamic, with a healthy low-end, and lustrous highs, it marries effortless with every player I own.
King of that pile is the Opus#2. This is a neutral-warm DAP, with strong yet smooth rendering. Highly refined, and insanely detailed, and the widest soundstage I’ve yet to hear. The Opus#2 plays to all of Encore’s strengths, even giving it some nice kick in the sub region. You will be hard-pressed to find a more natural, realistic DAP. It handles all its shit better than any other. As far as portable solutions go, this pairing is one of the smartest things you can do with your money.
Unless we’re talking about REAL smarts, and you want to save as much as possible, getting the most bang for your buck. Then I must recommend the Opus#1. I bought this AFTER I owned the Opus#2, because it is the finest sounding player in the sub-$800 range, according to my ears. It might possess even MORE dynamism than #2. It’s a little less smooth, with less body to the notes, though still very, very clear, clean and articulate. The soundstage is quite big, just not AS BIG as #2. But damn! Such glorious bass slam and treble sparkle. And those transparent mids! It really is a splendid DAP for Encore. It’s a splendid DAP for every IEM. Period.
You can’t go wrong with the Cayin i5, either. If you want to add a little color to Encore, the i5’s deep, warm sound will steal your heart. This DAP has powerful sonics and the most body and bass presence of the bunch. The treble is less free and open than the Opus set, so if you’re at all concerned about Encore’s high-end aggression, this is the wisest choice. The soundstage is more than adequate, and I love the full, rich timbre. The Cayin i5>Encore is to die for.
Only just recently, my principle music player was the AK120II. Opus#2 now holds that position, yet a piece of my heart will always belong to Astell&Kern. The 120II’s audio is like the finest silk flowing over the contours of a beautiful woman. There’s something so perfect and luxurious about it. The dynamics aren’t as high as the other players, but Encore is always willing to handle that for you. Together, the AK120II>Encore is one of the widest, clearest, and smoothest systems you can achieve with human funds.
On any one of these players I detected very little hiss. I don’t want to say there was none, because I think there was some low-level noise. With the exception of the AK120II, whose background is pitch black. But on the others, it was so low-level I had a hard time hearing it, even without music playing. I was under the impression the K10 is highly susceptible to hiss. Does that mean Encore is a little less efficient? I don’t know. Or maybe my ears are going? I heard a metric shit-ton of hiss off the balanced output of the older Cayin N5, using my then-top-set of IEMs, the JHAudio Angie. So I feel I am sensitive to it. Or I was at that time. Whatever the truth, on these DAPs Encore sounds amazing, in balanced, or single-ended. I invite you to buy them all. Not from me. Just buy them.
Well there you have it. Another review. Ya’all were betting I wouldn’t make it, weren’t you? Don’t lie. I can taste your contempt. In fact, this review was more or less easy to write. Encore made it easy. One has only to listen to them, be filled with desire, and put pen to paper. Or greasy fingers to keyboard. Don’t be afraid of your vices; they define you.
Noble Audio’s Kaiser Encore forced its way right alongside my previous favorite earphone. Its performance matches the U12 with ease, and in some ways, bests it. Which one do I prefer more? F**k if I know. They are so different. I suspect my answer shall change with my mood. One things for damn sure, I can’t recommend the 64Audio U12 to just anybody. I have to know they are up for a hellish banquet of bass and recessed treble. Many folk can’t deal with those savage realities. Encore, on the other hand, I can freely suggest to almost every person and expect them to fall in love. It won’t be the absolute perfect IEM for everyone, but it will come awfully close. It is balanced for pure bliss, regardless of your bent. You’d have to be broken not to love it, at least a little.