The amount of bass and impact you get with the SB-3.5 depends a lot on the source you’re using it with, but in general you get more quality than quantity. Bass is balanced and always tight and fast. The limited number of balanced armatures don’t deliver the kind of bass that will shake your brain though. So the presentation is musical yet neutral, with lower impact but just enough to keep the overall presentation engaging and coherent.
The bass depth is good but the bass doesn’t reach down all the way, leaving the sub bass part left wanting. I got the biggest and deepest bass with the Sony WM1Z DAP, but more on that later.
You get great speed and detail with good separation and spaciousness. The presentation of course still is neutral and linear but the SB-3.5 never sounds dull, boring or dry. The mids are musical, energetic and rich in detail (not warmth) and give you a natural, transparent, clean sound. The level of clarity is impressive. The vocals are soft yet realistic and natural and they just might be the most impressive part.
Like with the bass the mids in general aren’t the fullest or heaviest but it depends on the source used. The Cayin N6II and Sony again do a great job here and they also bring the best depth.
Treble is extended and has really good detail though the quality of your source will certainly have an impact on this. Misha tuned the treble in a way that it’s energetic and musical yet never becomes harsh, aggressive or sibilant. You get great clarity and transparency and treble flows perfectly from the mids section.
If you like soft, rolled off treble with a peak near the lower treble frequencies, then this isn’t the treble you’ll like.
Bass, mids and treble are linear and balanced, resulting in a coherent and engaging sound. The overall tone is natural, precise and “high end”.
Sources & Amplification
It’s almost impossible to describe the sound of the DB-3.5 with all the players, DACs and amplifiers I paired it up with. It’s clear though that the SB-3.5 is transparent and it will “take over” some of the characteristics of your source. I again want to stress that the fit, even more so than in general, is crucial to get the best possible sound quality from the SB-3.5.
Last time round the SB-7 really needed power on top of source synergy to sound the best, but with the SB-3.5 power isn’t as much of an issue. That and the fact that modern DAPs are getting more powerful, make it so that amplification is no longer really needed.
The Hugo 2 is fast and detailed but it’s also softer and natural sounding and you hear all of that in the SB-3.5. The body in bass and mids is good but neutral, not exaggerated in any way. What I like most in this combo are the, musicality, depth, extension and the natural sounding vocals.
The Chord Mojo is a little leaner or more digital sounding compared to the Hugo 2 and it with the SPearphone SB3.5 it doesn’t really hit the sweet spot for me. It for some reason just doesn’t sound as lively and natural and the amount of body is very light. You get a very flat curve and neutral presentation, but maybe that’s your thing.
The Astell&Kern SP1000 often is my favorite DAP when it comes to Balanced Armature driven (C)IEMs and it shares a lot of characteristics with the SB-3.5. It’s clean, precise, fast, detailed and wide. If you want big body and bass impact then this isn’t the DAP for you and as such it will not give the SB-3.5 more body and impact. With the SP1000, the SB-3.5 delivers a high-end sound where precision, detail, clarity and speed are primal and at a very high level. If you like precision, balance and neutrality with a musical twist, then this is the combo for you.
In that regard the softer, fuller and warmer Sony WM1Z is completely different and that is immediately noticeable with the SB-3.5. It changes the SB-3.5 a lot and it brings bigger bass, thicker mids and a softer overall presentation with less treble. The treble part for me could be a bit more extended and energetic in this combo, but the bass, mids and vocals to me are the very best with this setup. You get a perfect mix of musicality and precision and the Sony delivers it in a very engaging and addictive way. I’m often hard on the WM1Z but this combo simply is heavenly.
The Cayin N6II and SB-3.5 combo is good but the best combo is with the original module. With the new T01 module you get very tight bass and great clarity. Body-wise the SB-3.5 is lighter, more like the SP1000. And it’s mostly that what improves with the original A01 motherboard. You get a softer sound, fuller body and more impact. It’s more like the WM1Z, but at a lower level.
The Astell&Kern KANN CUBE is very powerful, but the SB-3.5 isn’t about power. To me the SB-3.5 sounds more like with the SP1000 but, but more powerful and that’s not really ideal in this setup. For me the higher end Astell&Kern DAPs are not the best match for this specific IEM, and I’d more look into something like the fuller SE100 or SR15. But, again, this might be completely different for you.
You can hear the same house signature in both models but in reality the technical performance and musicality level of the SB-7 is quite a bit higher.
The SB-7 sounds more extended, wide and spacious and it doesn’t stop there as the depth, layering and decay are also ahead of the SB-3.5. I have to admit that the SB-7 is one of the very best IEMs when it comes to this, so it’s no shame that the SB-3.5 can’t produce the same level.
The SB-7 just is a master when it comes to imaging, spaciousness, dynamics and the before-mentioned characteristics.
So yes the SB-3.5 is a mini SB-7, but there imo still is quite a gap between them. Worth the extra $1K, you ask? For me it is. If you’re already set on buying one of these unique IEMs, then go for the best of the best.
The SB-7 won an award last time we reviewed it and it is still on our recommended list where it will be staying for quite a bit longer.
Listening to the SB IEMS is always an experience. The SPearphones are a one of a kind creation by a unique designer, that’s the least one can say.
Sound wise the SB-3.5 has a neutral, yet natural sound signature and the technical level it performs at is high, but not as high as its big brother’s. With the right source the SB-3.5 will sound really good and for me that perfect match is with the Sony WM1Z DAP. Amplification isn’t really needed but if you have good amp that has nice synergy with the SB-3.5, why not use it.
The StereoPravdo SB-3.5 will never win a beauty contest or get an award for comfort but the SB-3.5 isn’t about that. Misha’s “No pain, no Gain” philosophy is what it is but if you can handle that you can be sure to get a very nice and unique high-end sounding IEM with a sound signature you’ve never heard before. A fine example of a technical masterpiece. The truth and nothing but the truth.