StereoPravda SB-7

Dr Jekyll

Pros: Sound, Neutrality, Tonal Balance, Isolation, Design, Durability, Soundstage, Imaging, Speed, Clarity, Dynamic Range, The Absolute Reference
Cons: Fit and Comfort (for some), Non-Replaceable Cable is Somewhat Short, Non-Replaceable Tips
Misha Kucherenko: An absolute maverick in the world of audiophilia. One who is just as at home in his former high-end audio dealership “The Purple Legion”, or at the forefront of IEM technology as the owner of “StereoPravda”, or making his bones arguing politics in numerous Russian magazines.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dmitry Sokolov, who was representing StereoPravda on day two of CanJam 2017 London. I had re-re-discovered IEMs after falling in love with Noble’s Katana, and then finding my own plateau in the form of my beloved ER4XR by Etymotic. A large, graphically generated image bearing the words “StereoPravda” drew my attention almost immediately, and I promised myself I would not finish the day without listening to one of their offerings. The familiarity of deep-insertion IEMs, along with Big Misha’s (as he is known by his friends) ironic sense of humour with the use of “Pravda” in his company’s name were something too good to let pass. I sat down at the bustling StereoPravda stand, and had Dmitry give me a knowing smile in reference to the ER4XRs I had draped around my neck, while unveiling the $2500 SB7 (the 7 being in reference to seven balanced armature drivers in each headphone, and SB being in reference to the second bend of the ear – where the headphones are to be placed) to me and wrapping them around the back of my neck. Drama and industriousness had never seemed more at home in the form of the SB7s gorgeous, thick-gauge cable, and the collection of balanced armature drivers tightly compacted into what appeared to be shrink wrap. I was slightly nervous at the thought of the SB7s coming anywhere near my ears. A feeling that brought back the nerves first faced when coming toe-to-toe with the Etymotics. I had been here before. I quickly found a reasonably comfortable fit, plugged them into my FiiO X7, and closed my eyes. I knew then, I had to have these headphones.

I left some comments on the CanJam London 2017 impressions thread on Head-Fi, praising the SB7 as a revelation. I was pleasantly surprised to see this comment at the top of the page of StereoPravda’s blog post regarding CanJam London, and immediately contacted BigMisha to get a hold of a pair for review. After receiving a promise of a unit, I waited a short few months before I had an e-mail from one Misha Kucherenko regarding whether or not it was okay to send a ‘tried and tested’ review unit, as opposed to a brand new retail unit. While unboxing experiences can be pleasant, they mean little to me. I gave Misha the OK, and a week or so later, they had arrived at my door step.

Unboxing Experience, Accessories

As stated earlier, I had turned down the offer of a retail unit of the SB7s in exchange for them arriving to me quicker. This meant that while I turned down the wonderful wooden and glass box (with an included cleaning cloth!), I received something marvellous in exchange. An old aluminium Liga Privada cigar box held the headphones tightly inside them. I could not help but appreciate the genius behind the gesture. The cool, smoky and effortless Liga Privada tin, now encasing something equally as cool and smoky. It was a gesture that was not wasted on me, one me and Misha laughed about in e-mails. The headphones were capped with a Polybag, the kind used to keep in-ear defenders inside them, this protected the meticulous driver array. This brilliant and improvised delivery method provided me with an unboxing experience that was filled with humour and charm, one that I was more than happy to trade the retail packaging for. Aside from the headphones themselves, and the polybag covering, there was nothing else inside the tin. There did not need to be anything else.

Fit, Build Quality and Comfort

Like the ER4XR, they are meant for a deep, total isolation fit. Capped with a non-user replaceable silicon fan-blade like tip, the SB7 are absolutely a ‘no-pain, no-gain’ headphone. The sharp edges of the cut tip did prove to be uncomfortable at times, and the weight of the cable awkwardly placed around my neck barely clipped onto my shirt or jacket did not do much to exacerbate this. A week later, however, I was quickly accustomed to them as the cartilage in my ears moulded to their fit.

Designed by renowned Japanese cable maker Chris Sommovigo, the thick, non-replaceable, black and red cable is soft and supple, comfortably wrapped around the back of the ears. It is dramatic, and draws the attention. They blanket around the back of your neck, and around your ears. Not as small and discreet and the vast majority of modern cables, the use of the word “blanket” is the only one I find to be suitable in describing the way in which they drape around you. You could almost replace your bedding with them. The cable terminates in a large right-angle gold-plated 3.5mm stereo jack, housing an array of Vishay resistors underneath. If anything, I just wish it were slightly longer.

While I did not find the isolation of the SB7 to be quite as sensory depriving as the Etymotic model, in my case the ER4XR, they're by no means a slouch. This does not, for me, take away from their position as master of all trades. The Etymotics simply over achieve. Besting even the best offerings by Bose and Sennheiser in terms of all frequency isolation, without the horrible nausea. The SB7 put up a valiant effort and are, to my ears, superior to the Bose QC35 in terms of isolation. Even superior to the ER4XR in eliminating lower frequencies. An experience akin to magic begins to take place when you combine this legendary Etymotic tier isolation with the imaging and soundstage of a HD800. No, you do not get the grandeur or drama of the HD800's image. Nor do you get the orchestral visualisations. You get something better. Something different. It is equally as holographic, if not more so. More akin to an expensive speaker setup you'd find only in the testing rooms of an audio show. Perfectly treated to bring out the best in a multi-array speaker setup.


I had them hooked up to the FiiO X3iii/7 with the FiiO K5 amp, as well as the marvellous summit-tier DACs contained within the LG V30. At only 15 Ohms of nominal impedance, they are easily driven from mobile phones. While something like the LG V30 (which bests most high-end offerings by Astell & Kern and Opus) pushes the SB7s to their best, just about anything works. Be prepared, however, for an inferior listening experience. These things are seriously revealing.

As I did at CanJam, I once again found myself going back and forth between the ER4XR and the SB7. They were identical in many ways, but could not be more radically different. Head-fi member ‘a_recording’ (who runs the channel Lachlanlikesathing) once described the ER4XR as “Water+”. In that they were tantamount to the ultimately satisfying experience granted by a simple, cool glass of water on a hot summer’s day when nothing else will quite quench your thirst. I could not agree more. The SB7, similarly, were like a plain and ordinary glass of water. Instead, however, of quenching your thirst after a hot summer’s day, it was more like being deprived of water for forty days and nights in the hot desert, and having a cool glass of water finally give you sweet relief. They are as shockingly neutral as neutral can get.

The tonal balance, however, despite not being on the slightly warmer side like the HD600 (which is long regarded as having some of the best tonal balance of ANY headphone regardless of price) is superior. This is because of the way in which every sound has its own avenue, its own lane to be channelled to your ears. Nothing is muffled or suffocated, nothing is exaggerated. Everything has its own room to breathe, and with planar magnetic like proficiency, the speed of the drivers is unparalleled. This results in even the tiniest of breaths, or the moving of an orchestral music sheet being heard equally as easily as the rumbling reverberations of Geddy Lee’s bass guitar, or the electrical manipulations of his synth. I could go on and on to further hammer home the point on just how outstanding the separation and soundstage of the SB7 is. I feel, however, that it would be in vain. In vain, unless you hear them yourself.

Low End

Unfortunately, this may be the weakest area of the SB7. Tight, fast, articulate, precise, extending well below what is needed, the SB7 have excellent low end performance. Why, then, have I called this its weakest area? The lack of weight and body behind the low end. If exaggerated, even if only slightly, the way in which the ER4XR are, this would handily mop the floor with Noble’s Kaiser. Until such a point, however, where Misha (and he may not) decides to elevate the low end on the SB7 by even 2-3 dB, they will just have to take the place of “mopping the floor with low difficulty”, versus the Kaiser. Just something to give the low end some more texture. It is painfully obvious to see just how incredible the low end could be. It is still the best I have heard in any IEM, but it breaks the previous limitations that any IEM has had and leaves me hungry for more. The horizon is clearly visible.

Mid-range and Vocals

This may be the strongest area, the area in which the SB7 excels the most. Capable of providing the chunky-texture, and almost palpable mid-range that tears off chunks of the air like the Focal Elear, and then singing with more clarity and extension, never overwhelming, like the HD600 and ER4XR. The mid-range, in terms of singers, formulates itself as your very own personal singer, placed in laser-like precision in the centre of your ears, as far forward or back as the song represents them to be. There is no struggling with certain octaves, there is no ability to perfectly display only one kind of vocal range, or only one area in the mid-range. The SB7 do it all, and do it all well, better than anything you have ever heard before. I am desperately trying my hardest not to be hyperbolic, but it is hard not to sound so when you have been given the SB7 to listen to.

Maynard James Keenan’s dulcet moans and growls are visceral. Thom Yorke’s adolescent confidence and tonality are placed in the room with you, effectively making the SB7 disappear. The wild screams of Bowie, Lou Reed’s confident sing-songing, Bill Withers weighted and aged expressions, Michael Jackson’s vocal flexibility, the gentle demure of Jim Croce, Canibus’ anger and never-ending flow, Chris Cornell’s undeniably beautiful wails and passion all performing for you. As if they were your very own personal musicians. Every note sung directly into your ear, or shouted from across the room, or whispered in close proximity to your face. I am not ashamed to admit that I had a tear in my eye on more than occasion. The peaks and troughs of emotional expenditure, all paired with a soul draining catharsis. The SB7 could cure the nastiest of psychoses.


Extension and heights beyond that of which my ears were capable of recognising. I have good hearing, my upper limit is 19.5 kHz. The SB7 flexed and stretched my eardrums to all nineteen and a half thousand reverberations it was capable of doing. Never sibilant (unless the recording was) or harsh, only ever becoming more and more impressive the more complex the track become, throwing as much power and speed into the drivers as the song demanded. Excellently recorded and dynamic tracks had their flawless recordings in synergy with the drivers. Poorly recorded tracks had every flaw and sibilant crackle exposed. I had to draw a line through my music library. Over 9000 songs suddenly became unlistenable, for their sound engineers were simply too incompetent. It is almost a shame, if I am being honest with you. Excellently talented bands like Mastodon had to just be ignored because of how horrible they sounded through the hyper-microscopically picked apart tracks. The separation, of course, meant that I could hear the wonderful musicality of their (and many other’s) music desperately trying to come through the cracks of poor recordings, and worse mastering. Unfortunate, really. The ruthless nature of the SB7.

Letting go of the SB7 was as hard as giving away your child. It was with much sadness, and I wish I had held onto them for a longer period of time. If you are in the market for a high-end headphone (not necessarily an IEM) and want something that can be used portably, or at home. This is your headphone. If you’re looking to spend ANY amount of money on a headphone, and are not quite at the $2500 range, yet; save up and buy these. If you have not heard these yet, get yourself to an audio show and try them. You will regret it. You will regret that you cannot take them home with you from the show. To Misha, you have done a spectacular job. With some fine tuning, a further revision of these headphones, mitigating the ‘faults’ (not really faults, just…small inconveniences) I have listed above, you have a serious case of perfection on your hands.
Fantastic review!
What are the areas where LG V30 bests most high-end offerings by Astell & Kern? Very interesting :wink: