The StereoPravda SB-3.5 is the newest addition to the SPearphone IEM line-up. It’s so new it isn’t even on the StereoPravda website yet. Let’s discover some more about it!
Disclaimer: The StereoProavda SB-3.5 was handed to my by Misha Kucherenko at High End Munich 2019 directly in exchange for this review. The unit doesn’t need to be returned as far as I know.
We have reviewed the StereoPravda SPearphone SB-7 on Headfonia already, so it’s strongly suggested to read up on that review first. As the new model shares several characteristics with the SB-7, you’ll find some parts are copied from the former review.
For those of you that are not familiar with “Big Misha” or StereoPravda yet, I’ll tell something about him and his company. I’ve met Mr. Kucherenko a few times at High End in Munich and well, if you’ve had the pleasure to talk to Misha in person, it’s a meeting you won’t forget.
His unique style, his perfect English, his knowledge about audio and his unlimited drive for his products just make him a very special person. And I mean that in the most positive and respectful way, a true gentleman.
The “About” section on the StereoPravda website really explains it all:
Misha Kucherenko has been a well-known figure in the Russian audiophile circles since 1993 when he co-founded the first Russian real audiophile store called “The Purple Legion” aka “PL”.
Through its history “PL” has been distributing in Russia the products from some of the most respected audiophile brands, including Apogee Acoustics, Krell, Audio Research Corporation, Magnepan, Klipsch, Kimber Kable, MSB, Genesis Loudspeakers, Stereovox, Manley Labs, Grado, etc.
In 2002 Misha left “The Purple Legion” to devote his passion and energy to a new company that was called “StereoPravda”. His close relationship with his manufacturing partners lead to transition of most of them for the distribution of their products in Russia from “Purple Legion” to the new company.
Misha is also well known for his independent audio journalistic effort. Despite his unconventional views, for the last 20 years he published more than a hundred of articles and reports in various Russian magazines, including “Audiomagazine”, “Salon AV”, “Class A”, “Art Electronics”, etc. Since 2013 his monthly “Personal Opinion” column on one of the most popular Internet audio forum soundex.ru was read by many thousands of Russian audiophiles. Misha’s journalistic effort culminated in a long interview regarding portable audio, in general, and StereoPravda line of products, in particular, which he gave to a well-known American magazine called “Widescreen Review” (August 2015, #198).
As a hard core audiophile and jet set travelling audio journalist for many years he’s been seeing inevitable changes coming to the audiophile hobby. Looking at the progress in various relevant technologies vs stale set of audiophile dogmas brought him a new vision: The Portable High End Audio.
To him, what matters is not a type of a no-holds-barred audio system- be it a home system or a portable one – what does matter is the initial purity of its creator’s intentions and the degree of their realization.
From his stand point and the background he’s not being seeing any adequate audio quality portable propositions coming from “The Big Boys”, so, eventually, capitalizing on his hard-earned reputation, he decided to fill the gap with his own line of products bearing the StereoPravda name.
If you’re interested in finding out even more about StereoPravda and Misha, then I advise you to watch the following Youtube clip. If not, just keep reading under the video.
The SPearphone SB-Series
The SB-X are unique earphones crafted individually by hand in Moscow, Russia. StereoPravda uses only the best components for their products, such as balanced-armature drivers made by Knowles, cables crafted by Chris Sommovigo / Black Cat Cable and audiophile-grade resistors by Vishay.
Each pair of SB-IEMs undergoes an extended audition to make sure that it is 100% perfect. At this time, the StereoPravda product-line consists of four IEMs: SPearphone SB-5, SPearphone SB-7, SPearphone SB-7A and the now brand new SB-3.5. The IEMs are designed by Misha himself and they are result of many years spent on their R&D.
Misha’s intention with this line is to carry the audiophile torch through High End Audio’s current “neutral zone” to its new incarnation. And to pass this torch of true values to a new generation of audiophiles.
No Pain – No Gain
As you’ve maybe already seen in the pictures or in the previous review, the SB-series are unique in look and design. SB actually stands for “Second Bend” and the design principle used by StereoPravda explains it all. Unlike the typical ear shell design where the BA drivers can be pretty much anywhere in the shell, StereoPravda is lining them up on one axis.
That means that you have a series of Balanced Armatures in one line, and that’s why this IEM looks so special/long/unique. StereoPravda doesn’t use crossovers but they use Vishay resistors in this unit to get the best possible sound delivered to your eardrums. As you can see in the pictures, the special tip is slightly angled, and that is so that the sound reaches your eardrum in the best angle. That also means that the SB IEMs have to be inserted deep in to your canal to get the best possible sound. In fact, the Second Bend is where all the magic happens, hence the SB name of the unit.
StereoPravda doesn’t keep it a secret, the SPearphone IEMs are a no pain-no gain unit, for the hardcore audiophile.
We would never think that we’ll be able to arrive AS close to our flagship “SB-7″‘s sonic signature with just four BA-drivers. But with the “SB-3.5” we did.
The SPearphone SB-3.5 was previously named the SB-4 but StereoPravda changed the name to 3.5. Misha explains: “As the word “four” is a no-no one in some Asian countries, we decided to use “3.5” in its moniker with some real justification: it does have a “double-stacked” two BA drivers-in-one on its board. So “3.5” number for the drivers’ complement does fully correspond with the reality.”
The SB3.5 at the moment is the entry level SPearphone model of the StereoPravda IEM line-up. As said there at the moment isn’t a dedicated web page for this product yet as it’s still very new.
The SB-3.5 is no different from the SB-5 or SB-7, except for the driver count. As you can see in the pictures, less drivers means less length and as a result the new SB-3.5 is quite a bit shorter. That means it is lighter and it doesn’t stick out of your ears as much and with the new cable, it simply increases the comfort level quite a bit.
As with the other SB IEMs, the SB-3.5 uses the famous, specially developed “Pravda32” wire. It consists out of 32 ultra-thin individually isolated conductors braided in a special configuration.The cables are (hand) crafted by cable guru Chris Sommovigo who is now working at Black Cat Cable .
The SPearphone cables are very impressive in both design and performance. As we reported in the SB-7 review, the Pravda32 wire for an IEM cable is kind of huge. It has a big size, is rather heavy and it is friction noise sensitive. Misha listened to our and other users’ comments and as a result he and Mr. Sommovigo have created a smaller version of their cable for the SB-3.5. The cable still shares the same design, but now comes with less internal stuffing, making the cable lighter and thinner, and as a result more comfortable. StereoPravda also changed the sleeving, and where the SB-7 was black with red, the new SB-3.5 cable now is red with black. Check out the pictures to see the difference in cable.
The new cable has kept the same sonic performance but it’s now much easier to work with. Use the shirt clip, fix the cable and IEM as you’re supposed to and the cable will be extremely nice. The new cable also makes it a lot easier to walk around with the SB-3.5, and because of the lesser weight, the earpieces stay even better in place now. The cable still is hardwired to the unit and it’s not replaceable or removable. We last time reported the large plug the cable is terminated with, was somewhat of a downside of the cable as not all portable devices have room to spare for such a bulky connector. Unfortunately StereoPravda is still using this connector, but I do hope to see smaller options being available soon, and why not a balanced version? That’s right, the SB-X IEM cables come terminated with a 3.5mm single ended plug. Nowadays it’s all about “balanced sound” when it comes to portable audio, so I do secretly hope to see a balanced cable from StereoPravda soon.
The article continues on the next page, here