Pros: + Relaxing yet detailed sound reproduction - timeless sound signature
+ Small and premium built quality resin shells - Swiss Made philosophy from end to end
+ Versatile IEMs that can play most of music genres very well
+ Impactful yet tight bass
+ Full sounding vocals and sweet treble
+ Realistic soundstage and convincing depth
+ Forgiving with average recording tracks...but able to make professionally recorded tracks shine
+ Fit and noise isolation
+ Stock tips are very comfortable and allow a perfect seal, at least for my ear anatomy
+ 56 Ohms impedance allows the usage of an external amp with my DAPs (useless for some, important for me)
+ Premium client service and communication from P-EAR-S Audio
Cons: + Stock cable is too thin and needs an update in the future
+ Some might want additional air and better extension in the treble
+ A very little extra resolution would have been welcomed, even at the cost of the lovely warmth signature
+ Expensive compared to IEMs sharing the same tuning
What follows is my impression report of the P-EAR-S SH-2U. It’s a dual balanced armatures IEM (1x mid-low & 1x high), 1 passive crossover, with an impedance of 56 Ohms. It’s a swiss made IEM. One of the very few as per today. I have ordered it at the beginning of May and got it 3 weeks later. Special thanks to Robi, who kept me updated all across the process. I wish him a good recovery with his very painful back aches. Once more, P-EAR-S delivers when it comes to communication, reactivity and service. Your are in good hands with P-EAR-S.
Unboxing is not my thing. No detailed explanation in that regard. You get everything you need in the box. A nice extra, the FR-Graph:
...and the website also gives you an idea of the IEM's intended sound signature:
I’ve spent a few hours with the SH-2U at the beginning of March in P-EAR-S premises before pulling the trigger for their semi-tunable flagship, the UT-3. However, weeks later, the SH-2U, with its smooth and delicate tonality, didn’t stop haunting my mind… I’ve spared some cash and decided to get a pair. And here we are.
I don’t need a month to get an opinion about an IEM or a full-size headphone. A few hours are sufficient. I know my sources very well and the sound signature I am after didn't really change over the last 2 decades. Does it sound arrogant or "unprofessional"? Well, maybe, but it's not my attention. And you know what? I have written this review the night after I got my SH-2U. I've spent 14 hours with it and the IEMs I am comparing to it further below. I even had time to switch sources. I am exhausted, but happy. I won't listen to anything for the next 2 days
Disclaimer: I paid CHF 690.00 (ca. USD 700.00) for my SH-2U and was offered, at my request, a CHF 200.00 discount, after my first purchase - the CIEM UT-3 - back in March 2020 (MSRP CHF 1’490.00). I was not asked by P-EAR-S to review my set. I do it because I like the SH-2U a lot and P-EAR-S deserves more exposure in the crowded IEM scene. As always, pardon my broken written English and the average pictures resolution.
Let’s start with the name. Why SH-2U? Well, Samuel Harsch was the co-founder of P-EAR-S Audio back in 2016, eventhough the SH-2 was launched in 2014 already, based on Samuel’s first IEM prototypes. Today, the S(amuel)-H(arsch)-2(dual driver) can be ordered in its U(niversal) form or in C(ustom). Price starts at CHF 790.00. As usual, personalization options are available. You will have to pay a bit more for them, though. It’s obvious.
The SH-2U is a slightly warm and dark sounding IEM. It won’t be everyone’s taste, that’s for sure. But I like it myself quite a bit. The tuning of the dual drivers focuses on musicality over absolute precision in the sound reproduction. It has a potent yet controlled bass, full sounding mids and an inoffensive global treble section that present details in a smooth, but accurate way. My now sold Fibae Black was quite similar in its tuning, but was even darker and more muffled basically speaking. The SH-2U is a kind of Fibae Black sibling, just with a slightly improved resolution and better balanced tonality. The confort of the SH-2U is also much better than the Fibae Black for my ears. Still, being 30% cheaper than the SH-2U, the Black remains a very good offering with a similar sound signature.
Switching back and forth with my DAPs and amps, the best combo is the Calyx M/Phatlab Chimera (Tube mode). The Dethonray DTR1 is not far behind and I have noticed no hiss with the SH-2U. Put the HA-2 amp into play, listening pleasure goes upwards a bit, adding even more blackness in the background and a welcomed energy. The Calyx M, its uncompromising Class A amplification and his masterfully implemented ES9018S-2M DAC chip, helped with the premium amplification of the Phatlab Chimera, offers an even better synergy. Music flows effortlessly. No sharp edges, no peaks of any kind, just velvet poured into your beloved ear canals.
3 is family... SH-2U / Calyx M / Phatlab Chimera
My music preferences vary from modern classical to pounding industrial & electronics. In between lie ambient, classic rock, pop, jazz, female and male vocalists and OST. For example, listening to the whole album « On Every Street » from Dire Straits was pure bliss this afternoon. The instruments, the rhythmic and the voice of Mark Knopfler are beautifully rendered. Impossible to stay quiet listening to the tracks one after the other. It’s not only a truly masterpiece from end to end, but emotions are perfectly conveyed through the SH-2U and the DAP/AMP combo. The track « You And Your Friend » brought tears in my eyes 20 seconds after the song started. Music delight at the highest grade.
A lot has been said already in the above mentioned pros & cons, no need to insist on all of them any further, some are self-explanatory and some deserve more development.
For example, the fit is great, really. The best from universal IEMs I tried so far. The shells don’t stick out too much and the nozzle allows a deep insertion. Isolation in both directions is just perfect. The BQEYZ cable (ordered separately on Penon Audio) has zero microphonic and the ear hooks help in keeping the IEM well-inserted in your ears. Very satisfied with the confort.
Yes, it's me, and I tried to photograph my ear... I am not a professional photographer obviously, but I do my best, believe me or not...
Let’s have 2 short comparisons, which make sense to me. One IEM from the same brand and one IEM with a similar tonality. That’s it. Comparisons for the sake of it bring nothing to the discussion, isn’t it?
SH-2U vs. UT-3 (3BA)
The UT-3, a semi-tunable IEM via the UT-125 interface (check my review for more details), sports 3 BA with a more neutral sound signature. In the tuning process, I've boosted the bass just a bit. It would be lying to say that there are no differences between the two. The UT-3 is a more refined and better version of the SH-2U, in every aspect. However, the SH-2U has a big advantage over the UT-3. It's way cheaper and you can listen to it the whole day without any fatigue. The UT-3 brings so many details and energy, yet without sibilance or harshness, that you will feel a long session with it. I am far from being a treble head or someone chasing the last bit of detail in my music, but things are as they are, the UT-3 is the true masterpiece of P-EAR-S Audio. The SH-2U is more or less coherently priced in the product range and its tuning will satisfy those who, like me, need an IEM to simply enjoy their music without breaking the bank (it's quite relative, I know). But hey, do you want to hear what P-EAR-S is really capable of? UT-3 is the answer.
SH-2U vs. Oriveti OH500 (1DD/4BA)
2 very confortable IEMs sharing a common sound signature. Warm, a tad dark, but with sufficient resolution to fully satisfy the most of us. In the left corner, the Oriveti OH500, an USD 500.- hybrid Chi-Fi IEM, sporting 1DD and 4BA. In the right corner, the pricier SH-2U, with its dual driver tuned by Samuel Harsch, our swiss mastermind. Quite simple, coherency wins here. The SH-2U takes the crown, just because of its coherency. Otherwise, we are splitting hairs. Bass is a bit heftier (but not bloated) on the OH500, mids are delightful on both drivers and the treble is a bit more energetic on the OH500. Pick your winner. Mine is the one with treble and bass being in communion, namely the SH-2U. The job made by Oriveti is impressive, because you get a well-balanced sounding IEM, whose compromise between warmth and resolution is very appealing. Still, you hear it's a hybrid, because bass is sometimes detached from the mids and treble. Nothing dramatic, really. It exists, though, especially when you have the SH-2U at hand (or at ear). The fit and isolation of the SH-2U are a step above compared to the OH500, it's not even close actually. Once more, it depends on your ear anatomy, but for me, it's a clear win for the SH-2U. All in all, if you are ready to trade a bit of confort and sound cohesiveness at the benefit of value, get the OH500, it's cheaper and very-well built also. You even get more bass, provided you need/want/like it. If you have a bit of extra cash and are looking for Swiss Made craftsmanship, I think you should consider the SH-2U. In the long run, it will make the difference. There is no real winner here actually, it's a matter of priorities and tastes or even budget.
I could have made a word game by saying that I am a bit "harsh" with the 4.5 stars rating. Why not 5 stars? Well, even if the confort and built quality from the SH-2U are top notch and very difficult to be outperformed, the IEM market has become very crowded, in particular in the mid-segment (USD 300 - 800). This "cozy" sound signature is very pleasant and non-fatiguing, but a very small extra portion of excitement would have been welcomed in the tuning. Not much, just lifting up the upper-mids a tad. On the other hand, P-EAR-S flagship, the UT-3, is such an achievement, that its significant sound superiority over the SH-2U cannot be overlooked. Even at 2x the price. To a lesser extent, even if I don't believe in real sound quality difference when it comes to switching cables in the IEM world, the stock cable does the job, but needs to be replaced with something sturdier. I am talking about confort also. I praise the BQEYZ cable for that. So, do you need a SH-2U in your life? Ahah, I am not sure, it depends on what you are looking for. What about me? Even with the UT-3 at home, I know I will listen to the SH-2U a lot. The forgiving, warm, cozy yet detailed sound signature will please me for years to come. The immediate musicality of the SH-2U is addictive. If you are into a slightly warm and dark sound signature and seek a very confortable IEM, give the SH-2U a chance. You might end up falling in love.
Thanks for your time reading my impressions. Stay safe. Be kind to your peers also (no pun intended). Enjoy your music and the week-end ahead. I leave you with 3 nice quiet pieces of music. Peace.