The SH-3 has been designed with a flat and accurate sound signature. It is more specifically designed for singers, guitarists or other music players who need detailed mid and pristine highs. It is also the ideal product for sound engineers who need very transparent and accurate reference monitors.
Driver Configuration: 3 Balanced Armature (Dual Mid-Low, Single High)
INTRO Everything started with a referral from a sincere friend of mine. He had the custom version of the PEARS SH3 and he was very happy with it. I researched a bit and immediately realized how little data there was on the internet about them. I wanted to try and hear it myself so my friend contacted PEARS about this review and they made it possible. The review reflects my unbiased, honest opinion about SH3 Universal.
PEARS (Personal Ear Systems) is Switzerland’s first Custom In Ear Monitor manufacturer. They are located in Ins. PEARS has 2 key names, 2 founders. Samuel Harsch & Stéphane Rochat. These gentlemen are both very skilled and meticulous about the work they do. Samuel is an acoustic engineer, he has A LOT of experience from speakers to hearing aids. He definitely knows his way around the technical aspect of audio. Stéphane’s story is quite similar, he is an Electronic Design Engineer and he has been interested in music since his childhood. He takes care of PEARS’ marketing front, too. They both worked for big names in the industry and gained priceless expertise. Since October 2016, they have been using their expertise towards PEARS and reach audiophiles around the world.
Samuel made his first custom in-ear monitors for himself and for some of his friends in 2012. After designing and creating successful prototypes, he devoted his partial working time to make in-ear monitors and launched SH-2, PEARS’ dual driver earphone. In 2015, Samuel decided to create a more capable and flat monitor; the SH-3. It features a triple driver configuration along with a complex acoustic design. PEARS may look like they do not have many models but that is because they are perfectionists. From the technical aspect, SH-3 is an amazing monitor. It is the living proof of the fact that driver count does not mean anything in this industry. I will try to describe it to you as best as I can in the - Sound Quality - section.
Universal Customization & Order Experience
PEARS has a beautifully designed website where you can look into the details of the models available and order online. Customization options are ample. You can choose the color of your cables, the color of the shell, the design of the faceplate, whether you want the Pears logo or not. There are also special options such as rare woods, carbon fibre, glitter or fabric. In total you have nearly 30 options for the faceplate. Whichever combination you select, just know that the build will pearfect. Furthermore, if you have anything exquisite in mind, I say share with the team!
Package & Accessories
SH-3U comes with an elegant rectangular hardbox. After opening it you see a thin paper that wishes you a pleasant musical moment by PEARS. Behind this thin paper, there is an envelope that has user manuals located inside. Taking these aside, we are welcomed by PEARS’ beautifully finished aluminium carrying case. The sanded aluminium case feels and looks very premium. Inside of it is even more impressive. PEARS covered the entire thing in velvety rubber, that should definitely help protect your IEMs during any kind of transportation. The case seems fireproof, waterproof and shockproof to me. In the case, there lies your PEARS IEMs. There is also an empty flask in the box. Pears included it for you to fill it with your preference of cleaning liquid. It is a nice addition to the accessories. Furthermore into the box, with the universal version you get 6 pairs of tips, a cleaning tool, velvety smooth earphone pouch and a cleaning cloth.
Whole unboxing experience feels premium.
Unboxing Experience with photos.
Build, Fit & Isolation
As I stated above, they are very careful and meticulous about the work they do. My unit is universal, my friend’s unit is a custom. Our shells are perfect. There are no rough edges, absolutely no residue, no faceplate-shell unevenness, nothing. It is perfect. It is quite impressive for a completely handcrafted shell. The shape of the universal is another subject all together.. For me the fit is really really good. The shape makes it grip your concha and it sits in there very comfortably. I often forget that I wear earphones. This does not happen to me a lot. Another clever design is the nozzle. It has a wax-trap nozzle design, much like the VisionEars’. I absolutely admire little practical design choices like this. The wax-trap works and it is a big plus for me. Isolation-wise, of course, universals may be a little behind their custom variations but this particular shell has really good isolation with the optimal tip choice. I am pretty happy about this as well. To sum it all up, PEARS impressed me with their craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The Asking Price & Customer Relations
Communicating with PEARS is really easy. They reply fast and they are solution oriented. It feels like you’re in good hands. SH-3U comes with a 1-Year Warranty. As for pricing, SH3 Universal is 890.00 CHF Excl. VAT. That is roughly 980 USD. Of course, customization settings increase the price by a small margin. In my opinion this pricing is very competitive for what you get in return. I will talk more about it in the next chapter so read on!
Technical Data & Specifications Configuration: Triple Driver dual mid-low/single high 1 passive crossover Frequency Response: 10Hz – 18kHz Sensitivity: 117dB @ 1kHz, 1mW IMPEDANCE 25 Ohms Isolation: -26dB of ambient stage noise
Reference. Accurate. Refined. SH3U has this natural timbre that feels right. It is not your ordinary flat tuning, not at all. SH3U is a technical marvel. It is one of the best in-ear monitors I have ever heard. Period. What makes it so good then? I will try to do my best to describe it to you. Before everything else, the frequency spectrum feels even. There are no ups and down, no dips and peaks. Resolution is very very impressive. Clarity is top-notch. Neutral sound signature feels quite spacious and transparent.
Tight. Snappy. Reference monitors have linear bass response so quantity-wise it is adequate. It can go pretty deep when the track calls for it so I would say it is delightfully tuned. It does not feel elevated or saturated therefore it does not feel artificial. It feels completely natural, it definitely feels like it is just the tool, the bridge between you & the mastering guy. Frequency control across the spectrum is something SH3U is expert at. This is excellent as the bass section never overlaps the mid section. Attack/Decay is very fast, making transients quite agile, dynamic. Even the micro details of sub-bass, like vibrations of the strings are easy to track with SH3U. Many of the in-ear monitors with flat-ish frequency responses suffer from dry bass presentation. SH3U does not. At all. Big cheers to the people behind this tuning.
Tonal accuracy is the first thing you notice here. Switching from an industry standard such as the MDR7506 proves that point very well. Apart from being tonally true, midrange features excellent control just like the rest of the spectrum. Weight and the thickness of the notes feel very natural and organic. Vocals are delicate, detailed and transparent. Micro-detail retrieval is very impressive. You get to hear every breath, every vocal movement with SH3U. Upper midrange is energetic, lively and crisp. It has excellent extension and decay. It is very easy to track any instrument due to the spacious and relaxed presentation.
Just like the rest of the frequency sections, highs are perfectly precise, not ahead or behind. They are fluid, articulate and incredibly detailed. They offer excellent clarity and detail while being coherent. That is something quite hard to achieve with in-ear monitors. Pears somehow managed to do this, and we are glad that they did. Treble never overpowers the presentation and hurts the imaging, in fact, highs being very detailed results in a very analytical, clear presentation and combining it with a great tonal balance, you get a very technically capable monitor.
Soundstage, Imaging & Instrument Separation
SH3U has a wide, airy soundstage. The width is ahead of the depth by a small margin. The staging feels quite realistic as well, it does not have an overly vast stage where the coherency takes a hit. No, it has a realistic, airy stage where every instrument is in place and there is enough space between instruments to distinguish each and every instrument with ease. It is precise and instrument locations are downright accurate. Thanks to the staging and high technical capability, imaging is brilliant. Close your eyes and you’re in front of the stage listening to your favourite tunes along with a pitch-black background.
Pace, Rhythm & Timing
SH3U’s technical capabilities do not end with a very detailed and accurate presentation. SH3U is also a very fast monitor. Attack/Decay is most certainly impressive and during my fast/congestion prone track testing, it did an outstanding job handling 7+ instruments with ease. Airy and wide soundstage definitely helps here. Just a little heads-up here though. SH3U is not a forgiving monitor. It is very accurate so if the mastering of the track is bad, you are going to know about that.
Source Match Astell&Ultima SP2000 - $3,500
Snappy bass region, velvet midrange, delicate highs. Sweet, articulate presentation. Everything is in perfect balance. Instruments are very well defined, the soundstage is quite breezy. This is a combination that you can listen to for hours.
Chord Hugo 2 - $2,500
Out-of-this-world resolution. Outstanding technical performance. This combination impressed me more than anything I have ever heard in this hobby. Tonal accuracy, naturality of the presentation, imaging, dynamism, articulacy, PRaT... Just perfect.
iFi Hip-Dac - $150
For a $150 device, Hip-Dac offers good resolution and imaging capability. It also sweetens the analytic signature of the SH3U and turns it into something more forgiving. For 150 usd, you can’t get a better pairing.
SMSL M300mkII & JDS Atom - $350
This highly resolving combo features a balanced signature just like the SH3U. Instruments are scattered across the wide stage, all of them easy to track. The extension of the highs are definitely something to admire. Very good desktop combo.
PEARS SH3U may be the most accurate and tonally correct monitor I’ve ever heard. That being said, the asking price is quite low for the performance you get in return. High-end IEM prices skyrocketed lately and they keep going upwards. Honestly, SH3U offers a performance perhaps even triple its price. If you're looking for a IEM that is accurate and reference, this is your best bet. Resolution, imaging, PRaT, clarity.. SH3U is very well-tuned in nearly all technical aspects. I am an audiophile for nearly 7 years and I have never been more impressed in my life. SH3U & Hugo 2 instantly became my all time favourite combination.
Thank you P-EAR-S for creating this gem.
Thank YOU for reading this review! Best of luck with all your audiophile endeavours!
Pros: +Warm and rather forgiving sound
+Tasteful upper midrange tilt
+Focus on extension at the very upper treble
Cons: -Sound can be seen as a bit too lean at the lowermids
-Slight dip at the lower-mid treble can be a double edged sword
Hello, you may have recognised who I am - I write impressions on IEMs I hear on my thread that I update regularly. I usually don't really write reviews so this is my first review on head-fi. The SH3 was bought 100% with my own money. I'm writing a review because I think the IEM deserves high praise.
P.EAR.S is Switzerland's first CIEM manufacturing company. The team behind PEARS is an army of three - Samuel Harsch, Stephane Rochat & Roberto Piacenti. You may have heard of Mr Harsch prior to this - he was an acoustic engineer at Phonak where he developed the Phonak universal IEMs. He's also involved in the speaker scene by coming up with the Harsch crossover.
With IEMs, PEARS' belief is that the best sound is achieved by minimizing the number of drivers with a perfectly optimized acoustic design. Companies like Etymotic and HUM share similar beliefs when it comes to driver count. My first encounter with PEARS was more than a year back where I purchased a universal version of the SH3. I sold it away in pursuit of a better reference monitor but here I am back with the same IEM but now in custom form a year later.
Triple Driver dual mid-low/single high
1 passive crossover
117dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
The SH3 is very sensitive so make sure it's paired with a DAP/amp with a low noise floor.
After my ear impressions reached Switzerland, PEARS 3D scanned my impressions and finished building my CIEMs in just a week (website states 3-5 weeks). Since they 3D scanned impressions, the ear impressions are sent back without being trimmed down or having anything done to them. Communication with PEARS was done mainly on instagram in my case. Replies were professional and fast (within minutes during working hours sometimes).
What Comes In The Box?
The package comes in a cardboard packaging. Inside the packaging it contains their new aluminium box (similar to Vision Ear's), instruction manuals, warranty certificate, ear impressions, a small pouch for the IEMs, microfiber cloth, cleaning solvent and a earwax removal tool as accessories. The default stock cable is okay, it's those Plastics1 stock cable with memory wire. PEARS are available in both 2pin and MMCX.
In the aluminium case, you will find a top compartment for the cleaning tools and cloth to be stored. The main compartment can fit the IEMs and perhaps a DAP.
Build Quality and Fit
PEARS fully fills their IEMs so their IEMs are a solid chunk of acrylic. Bubbles in the acrylic are extremely minimal and the build quality feels solid. Now you might have noticed that there are some bubbles at the very center of the IEMs, just outside of the drivers. I believe that is actually glue. PEARS seem to encase the drivers in an enclosure of glue then adds acrylic to secure it. Very similar to how my pair of Future Sonics customs are built. In terms of fit, they isolate and seal very well like how customs should. They're my best fitting pair of customs and isolates the best.
Frequency Response Analysis
I would like to mention that the SH3 seems to have had a retune. Since I owned the universal previously, the new SH3 measures with 2dB more bass and more gain at 1-4kHz to balance out the extra bass. My customs now have what is the new single port design which according to PEARS, smoothens out the frequency response even further up in the highs compared to the old 2 bore version. Check out this new port:
Here we see a QC with about 1dB variance from the L and R channel. This is fine and inaudible. Sound wise, the broad 4dB boost from 100-500Hz provides a warmer tone that pushes vocals forward. Subbass doesn't roll off here - there's still enough at 20hz so it does not sound like subbass is rolled off. At 2kHz, there is a 8dB gain, similar to Etymotic ER4SR's 8dB gain at 2kHz. Due to the amount of energy at 2kHz, it helps lift vocals even further providing a leaner tone. At 4kHz the same 8dB gain is maintained. After 4kHz the gain starts to drop and ends at 6.5kHz. Personally I think it can use a bit more acoustic energy at 6-8kHz. That area is a bit dipped so cymbals stay a little behind and can sound slightly dark. Won't talk about the graph further after 8kHz since graphs are unreliable past 8k.
Past 8k, I can hear excellent, smooth extension of the treble. Where many IEMs start to roll off after 10kHz, the SH3 has great acoustic energy from 10-15kHz. The extension here is definitely audible.
Enough about graphs. FR is just a part of how it sounds and can't explain everything. The SH3's signature to my ears, has a warm sound with a slightly boosted uppermidrange. Bass levels sound neutral. Due to the warmth and more forward uppermidrange, vocals sound forward and are on the leaner side of things. I do feel the tone of the vocals is nice here with adequate amounts of warmth. The boosted uppermids adds this sense of precision in transient response and helps vocals and electric guitars sound exciting with great energy. The uppermids are not overwhelming - they're balanced out by the warmth. In Joe Satriani's "Crowd Chant" (Super Colossal) and Steve Vai's "Tender Surrender" (Where The Wild Things Are), electric guitars sport great bite and are always well separated at the front.
When it comes to vocals, Stacey Kent's "The Ice Hotel" (Breakfast On The Morning Tram) has her vocals leading with a sweet and soulful presentation. I know some would prefer a more lowermids here with more chesty vocal presentations but I think the SH3 works well with female vocals. Hayley Williams from Paramore has a pop-punk, spunky type of vocals. She's best known for her husky voice. In "Misery Business" (Riot), I can hear that there is perhaps insufficient lower mids that best displays her timbre. The SH3 captures more of her upper harmonics better. The same goes to male vocalists - lower harmonics of their vocal range can sound a bit scooped out which lends vocals a thinner, leaner timbre. Suits female vocals best I'd say.
How about the treble? I mentioned that the 5-7kHz frequencies can sound a bit dipped. Since this is where the lower harmonics of cymbals can be found, cymbals can sound a little behind in some track. However this also means the SH3 plays damn well with tracks that have cymbals mastered too forward or poorly mastered tracks in general. In Dream Theater's "The Enemy Inside" (Dream Theater), cymbals are always kept well controlled and sound well extended despite it behind a bit behind. Extension above 10kHz is really the best part of the SH3 - it captures the shimmer and decay of cymbals very well. With Chon's "Fall" (Grow), cymbals have a beautiful splash and shimmer in the background. They really never sound like they are too much and allows me to hear that captivating extension in cymbals.
I don't think I've talked much about the bass. They just sound fast and present with adequate midbass and subbass. Never boomy or overwhelming. There's really more warmth than bass here. I think SH3's strength lies not in the individual parts of the tone like its bass, midrange or treble. It's all about how it comes and mashes together. Lead instruments and vocals are kept forward in the mix and sport excellent separation from everything else. Cymbals sound a bit behind but perhaps you can say it aids with depth. Layering is the SH3's strong suit and it never sounds congested, keeping all instruments in check behind the leading vocals/instrument due to the uppermid and warmth boost. With Daft Punk's "Lose Yourself To Dance" (Random Access Memories), the "Come On, Come On, Come On" synth travels slowly from the side of my head. The spatial cues are well imaged with a great sense of precision and detail.
Transient response is sharp and fast like typical BAs. In Judas Priest's "Lightning Strike" (Firepower), the SH3 sounds coherent and handles the track well no matter how fast things can get. There's no room for bloat and muddiness with the SH3.
The SH3 manages great technicalities with forgiveness which makes it a very pleasing, easy going monitor with little to fault. It's a nice take on a reference monitor with its own character and sound profile that is distinct from other reference monitors out there without sounding unnatural. Well done to the team at PEARS. Waiting on the next SH which is releasing early next year. The SH3 does not fall anywhere short with its lower driver count compared to the multi-multi-driver IEMs out there. There's a serious emphasis on maximising what they can achieve in terms of sound whilst keeping it simple to get the basic fundamentals right. Hell, at their current pace and capabilities, the next SH might not even need to be a 4 driver.
Pros: combines good technicalities and natural sound
sounds good with most musical genres
premium build quality( shell filled with acrylic resin)
Cons: bass could have more impact and body
The SH3 is the latest flagship model from the swiss company PEARS, it mounts 3drivers each side and was designed to have a flat and reference signature.
PEARS is not much famous in the audiphile community, so here you can find some info about their philosophy and history:
PEARS is born from the meeting of Samuel Harsch, acoustic engineer and founder of harschacoustic, and Stéphane Rochat, electronic engineer and musicians.In 2012, Samuel Harsch manufactured his first custom in-ear monitors made out of acrylic resin, for himself and for some of his friends and colleagues.In 2014, given the success encountered with his first prototypes, he devoted his partial working time to make in-ear monitors and launches the model SH-2, dual driver. In 2015, Samuel Harsch decided to create a more powerful and flat in-ear monitors; the SH-3, triple driver, is launched in spring 2015. In parallel of this year, Stéphane Rochat joined harschacoustic as freelancer by doing at beginning a study market for understanding more the Swiss market and the wishes of musicians about in-ear monitors. In October 2016 the brand PEARS is officially launched as 1st Swiss made custom in-ear monitors.
Samuel Harsch Co-Founder / Acoustic Engineer
Samuel has always been passionate about sound. In primary school already, he designed and built various speakers. From 2005 he was hired as an acoustics engineer at Phonak. He was in charge of the acoustic part of many research projects and various products such as custom made hearing protection devices called Serenity (passive and active) or the in-ear earphones Audéo PFE series that have won numerous awards and mentions on various specialized blogs and forums, both in audio quality and comfort. He filed 7 patents for Phonak as inventor or co-inventor, including the patent of the interchangeable acoustic filters that was one of the key points of the success of the Audéo PFE series. In 2013, Samuel takes the decision to reduce his working time at Phonak in order to focus on in-ear monitors and other personal projects. He develops speakers and various acoustic elements for a Swiss company, Audio-Performance in Echallens: a waveguide and an adjustable directivity horn for line arrays as well as various filters, small speakers and subwoofers.
Stéphane Rochat Co-Founder / Electronic Design Engineer
Stéphane wears different hats here at P·EAR·S. He handles all the business stuff like sales, marketing, artist relations and different technical aspects such as electronic & acoustic too. Stéphane’s been messing with music since his childhood. He started by studying classical guitar followed by jazz guitar in different music schools for many years. In 2006 he graduated from University of Applied Sciences of Fribourg with a degree in Electronic Engineering. In parallel of his former job, he worked as sound technician during 4 years at Fri-Son Fribourg in order to understand more technical aspects of live music. Since 2011, he is working at Phonak, using his skills in acoustic and electronic engineering. In 2014, he did postgraduate studies in project management for improving his knowledge in business. Stéphane brings to P·EAR·S a wealth of experience in the music and an experience of more than 10 years in different R&D departments. In addition to the business stuff, Stéphane is also involved in new developments for the next generation of P·EAR·S.
This unit was sent me for the purpose of this review, i am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be only my own. This company usually produces custom fit iem, they can sell universal fit too under request.
For more info about PEARS , you can easily contact them on their facebook channel: https://www.facebook.com/pearsaudio/
PRICE: 1083 USD
DRIVER CONFIG: Triple Driver dual mid-low/single high 1 passive crossover
PACKAGING: my units arrived in a simple aluminium carrying case, from what i see on their site, they use a carrying case made of wood too. Inside the case, you can find a cleaning set, pouch and cloth in microfiber. Both SH2 and SH3 comes with a standard copper cable( standard plasticsone cable).
SOUND: the SH3 has a reference signature, but with enough body and sweet vocals to avoid a boring reproduction. It sounds accurate, with good tonality and resolution to satisfy audiophile needs too.
BASS: maybe the weakest point of the SH3( and usually the weakest point for BA drivers). It is quite flat, a boost from 20 to 100Hz helps to have a fuller sound and sweeter vocals. If you are looking for a big bass, or a fun signature, this is not the iem for you. The SH3 was aimed to combine good technicalities and a natural sound and for this purpose, is a great iem. Bass has enough impact and body to make the SH3 a good all-rounder with most musical genres, and i think the custom fit, can give you a better bass response. Overall, with Spinfit cp145 i can get a satisfying bass response.
MIDS: the strongest point for this iem: both male and female vocals sound enough rich and bodied, creating a great balance with the clear treble. Vocals never sound thin, but quite rich with exellent timbre and realism. There is no sibilance in female vocals like my inear SD5 and can compete in many ways with my Aroma YAO, that is one of the best vocal iem i have ever tried.
TREBLE: treble is clear, showing good resolution and details and giving great presence to instruments like violins, cymbals and strings. This helps to have a mature sound with good technical abilities. Sometimes, it can sound a bit harsh, due to its revealing nature, special if used with a clear sounding player and with bad recorded tracks. From my experience with custom iems, i think the SH3, could have better bass response and less hot treble with a custom fit iem.
SOUNDSTAGE: soundstage is very wide, with great layering, showing a good out-of-the-head experience. Depth is average, here i would have preferred a better balance of width and depth. If i can find one area to criticize is the soundstage, that like vision ear VE8 has great width and layering, but sometimes you can loose the focus of instruments around you. Maybe too much holographic, but don't know if this problem will be still there with a custom fit iem.
PEARS SH-2: the SH2 shares almost the 80% of the SH3, with the same timbre, but it lacks the technicalities and sweet vocals of SH3. Soundstage is less wide, but more rounded, with better depth, thanks to the vocals placed more behind the scene. SH2 is slightly more organic, darker, fuller, a bit more fun with more mid-bass presence. SH2 is a good all-rounder iem, sounding good with most tracks, SH3 has a more flat,detailed and a more mature reproduction.
SH3 VS INEAR SD5: SD5 has a w shaped sound singature, compared to sh3, it sounds more fun and engaging, with more boosted sub-bass and upper treble and overall a better bass quality. Where the SH3 clearly wins is on vocal reproduction, giving much more body and realism to both male and female ones. On SD5 female vocals can sound a bit sibilant. Upper treble on SD5 is more forward, giving more sparckles, on the other side SH3 has less boosted upper treble, but gives more finesse on violin or string instruments. SD5 sounds engaging and fun, working better with more modern tracks, on the other side SH3 has a more mature reproduction, combying in a better way technicalities and natural sound. Soundstage on SD5 has more depth and more or less same width of sh3.
SH3 VS INEARZ EUPHORIA: EUPHORIA has a more u shaped sound signature, with more mid-bass presence and slightly fuller reproduction. Vocals on euphoria are rendered in a more “liquid” way, on the opposite, the SH3 has a more organic and realistic vocal reproduction. Treble on Euphoria was tuned to result innofensive, but is less detailed compared to SH3. Both are exellent iems, Euphoria has a more modern approach, sounding good with many players and tracks, on the other side SH3 sounds a bit more sterile, but with better technical abilities.
SH3 VS nfaudio NF6I: the nf6i is another great iem, if you are looking for a good reference sound. 6i has a bass response similar to SD5 with a more sub-bass boost compared to sh3, vocals on 6i sound drier, on the other side on sh3 they sound more organic and fuller with a better sense of realism. They both have similar treble extension and detail retrieval. Soundstage on 6i has more depth with a more precise instrument positioning.
OPUS 2: great sinergy: reference and natural sound with wide soundstage, female sweet vocals. Can easily drive the SH3 on mid gain, with high gain bass gains more impact, but soundstage is too much holographic.
Opus 1s: more organic reproduction, more rumble on sub-bass area, vocals are more organic and gains more emotions compared to the leaner vocals on the Opus2. Great left/right channel separation, but less width compared to Opus2.
Opus3: more fun reproduction, with more boosted bass and less forward midrange, a bit clearer on top end, sounds more harsh and less natural compared to Opus 2, but portrays more details on top end. Better to use on high gain and push the volume to 85-95 to have a satisfying volume level.