StereoPravda SPearphone SB-3.5 RU Review

Cable

As with the other SB IEMs, the SPearphone SB-3.5 RU 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 and SB-3.5 RU. 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 SB-3.5 (RU) cable is red with black.

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 SPearphone SB-3.5 RU, and because of the lesser weight, the earpieces stay even better in place now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a challenge to keep the earpieces properly in place, especially when walking around, but the lighter cable does help.

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 cable, but I do hope to see smaller options being available in the future, 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 hope to see a balanced cable from StereoPravda soon.

Tips & Price

Like the cable, the tips are also attached to the unit but in contrast to the SB-7, they can now more easily be replaced by the user as the tip connection is new and “more simple”. When you have an issue with them you can of course still send them back to Russia for maintenance but you can also ask StereoPravda to send you over the tips and instructions so you can do the reparation yourself. This just is something you need to take into account when buying these monitors, SPearphones do require special attention. At the High End Munich show in 2018, Misha showed me the new tip design he was working on and I have to say that even though it’s as unique as the SPearphones, it actually will get you the best possible seal. See for yourself:

Misha hasn’t mentioned that design anymore since he gave me the demo, so I’m not sure what the future will bring regarding the tip system. Also note that the tip on the SPearphone SB-3.5 RU is less angled compared to the one on the SB-7. Compares to the SB-3.5, the RU version is shorter in length and wider. The reason why the RU is wider of course is because of the positioning of the opened driver as you can see in the pictures. This might make it more difficult for you to get a good fit, if you have smaller ear canals.

The StereoPravda SPearphone SB-3.5 RU earphone’s MSRP is $2 500. It’s clear that the SB-3.5 RU (or any of the SB models) isn’t an everyman IEM, it’s for the hardcore audiophile for whom sound is more important than looks, comfort and price.

Packaging and Accessories

The SPearphone SB-3.5 RU normally comes in StereoPravda’s stylish box with a set of accessories as you can see on their website. The version I have here doesn’t have a box or any accessories as just the earphones were sent. I’m perfectly fine with that and I actually use a Pelican case to transport the SB-X IEMs wherever I take them to.

Build Quality –  Design

It’s clear that the SPearphone units are special and the build quality – because of its unique design – can’t be compared with a regular set of IEMs.  Some may say the SB-series looks weird because of the creative use of heat shrink and the length but it at the same time is exactly what makes it so cool. It might be a bit weird in the beginning but the look actually grows on you and I personally find these units extremely cool. The typical design isn’t for everyone, but for the hardcore audiophile the sound quality probably is more important than the way it looks.

Build quality wise there aren’t any remarks from my end, though you’ll have to keep an eye on the tips to make sure they stay in perfect condition so they don’t rip off.

In use

The SPearphone SB-7 and SB-3.5 models for sure aren’t the most comfortable IEMS, but the SB-3.5 series has hugely increased in this regard and the small brother is much easier and comfy to use and wear. At the same time you will get used to the design and the way you have to wear them and insert them into your canals.

For me the best use of the SB-7 was when listening to music in the couch where you don’t move a lot. It’s not really a matter of comfort when moving, but it’s more about keeping the perfect seal in tact when you’re not sitting still. And without perfect fit, the sound quality will drop very fast. The smaller, lighter SB-3.5 RU (with the new cable) does make it a lot easier to walk around with the unit.

With the SB-3.5 RU you still need to get the fit right and it isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in the beginning when you’re still learning on how to use them. Therefor the SB IEMs comes with a manual just on how you have to use these and how you have to insert them into your canal to get the best possible sound. It’s more or less the same as using the SB-7, just easier. And once you know how to use them, it will be a piece of cake. As I said earlier, the RU versions is smaller in length but larger in nozzle diameter, so it does make them more difficult to insert and keep in place.

Even when you’re used to wearing the SB-3.5 (RU), they will never be very as comfortable as “regular” IEMs. StereoPravda is serious when they claim “no gain – no pain”. This is sound before comfort, be aware. For me personally, the original SB-3.5 is the most comfortable SPearphone to wear, but this might be completely different for your ears.

Source Matching & Fit

I have found the SPearphone SB-7 to be very dependent on the source used but this is a little less important with the new SB-3.5 models as it’s not about power. The fit still is the most important thing to get good body and bass, so make sure the fit is right before describing its sound, or deciding if you like it or not.

The first time I listened to the SB-7 was when it was hooked up to StereoPravda’s DACCA which Misha carried around with him and I haven’t managed to make the SB-7 sound as good as it did with that amp. The SPearphone SB-3.5 (RU) is easier to drive and several of my sources make it sound incredibly good.

I advise to use the SB-3.5 RU with a normal power, low gain source with a full bodied, yet detailed tuning. If your source music files aren’t of good quality, the SB-3.5 RU like any of the SPearphone IEMs, will be brutally honest. The SB-3.5 RU is very transparent (though the TOTL model even more) and it will show you what exactly your source is bringing to the party.

Sound

You absolutely need to get the fit right and make sure the seal in your ear is perfect. it’s important with all IEMs, but probably even more so with the SPearphone SB3.5 RU because of its typical shape. Get it wrong and the SB-3.5 will sound thin and lifeless, like any bad fitting IEM and monitor.

We used a multitude of sources for this review, but the most used were the new Fiio M17 transportable DAP, the Chord ANNI, the A&K SP2000T and the Ferrum OOR.

The tuning of the SB-3.5 RU is clearly neutral, a way a lot of high end units are tuned. The SB3.5 RU also is a technically strong IEM but one that presents the music in a musical way. As said, the SB-3.5 RU is transparent and as such you will hear your source in the way the music is delivered. The SB3.5 RU has a good but normal amount of body from bass to highs. It’s not light in impact and presence but it’s natural/realistic and not exaggerated in any way. One of the RU’s strongest points to me is how “open” the SB-3.5 RU sounds. It doesn’t give you the impression you’re listening to an IEM, and you don’t get the typical inside your head/intimate sound presentation. The SB-3.5 RU’s left-right balance and stereo imaging is also very impressive.

The part on sound continues on the last page of this article. Click here.

Page 1: StereoPravda, SPearphone, Pain, SB-3.5

Page 2: Cable, Tips, Price, Packaging, Build Quality, Usage, Sources, Sound Pt. 1

Page 3: Sound Pt. 2, Comparisons, Conclusion

4.7/5 - (23 votes)

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

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