Our review today is on JH Audio Sharona which is a flagship 16 BA driver CIEM featuring RAU Quad Supertweeters. Pricing starts from $2299.
Disclaimer: The JH Audio Sharona was sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at JH Audio for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about JH Audio products that we have previously featured on Headfonics click here.
Note, that this article follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
JH Audio Sharona Review
The JH Audio Sharona is a custom monitor designed for pleasurable listening. It delivers a beautifully smooth and detailed performance with a tremendous sense of space to suck you right into a non-fatiguing but engaging sound signature.
Huge staging performance
Very comfortable fitting
Does not isolate as well as the older designs
A bit shy for treble enthusiasts
In keeping with their recent flurry of new monitor lunches over the last year or so, JH Audio has recently launched what can definitely be described as their flagship custom monitor this year called the Sharona.
This driver-rich creation targets I guess what you could call the 3rd niche that JH Audio focuses on, the stage artists, with the Jolene aiming for audiophiles and the Contour XO concentrating on the studio pro.
There is always a degree of overlap in how people want to use their monitors with the Contour XO, which is also quite amenable to pros on the road.
However, the Sharona comes with some very tour-friendly features and some new tech including the company’s most complex driver configuration to date with some new Knowles variants, and also a new T2 connector system.
And to my ear, it is also tuned to how many stage pros and artists like it when performing on long live shows that can last for hours. That means easy on the ear but with a very detailed performance.
The tech inside the JH Audio Sharona is a mix of the tried and true and some stuff that is completely new. The new includes a 16 driver per shell count split into JH Audio’s customary Soundrive™ Technology mini quad drivers configuration.
That means you get 4 quad driver packs with a set of woofers for the lows, a quad of full-range drivers for the low-mids, a set of tweeters for the high-mids, and the final array is a set of Quad Supertweeters.
The precise frequency ranges covered by each pack are from 10 Hz – 250 Hz for the woofers, 250 Hz – 4 kHz for the low-mids pack, 4 kHz – 12 kHz for the mid-high tweeters, and 12 kHz – 25 kHz for the super tweeters.
RAU Quad Supertweeter
It is that final array that is something different from what JH Audio has worked with before. All the Sharona drivers are Knowles drivers; however, the super tweeter is a new design in partnership with Knowles called the RAU Quad Supertweeter.
The key to the RAU is the amount of treble extension it can achieve with JH Audio claiming it will go beyond where typical tweeters tend to roll-off or around the 12k marker.
The design objective was to create a type of sound signature that can introduce plenty of air rather than a faux or a forced treble tuning to mimic a high-frequency presence.
Some companies have turned to electrostatic drivers to achieve this type of extension. However, we all know JH Audio’s legacy is pushing the boundaries of BA drivers.
So, this means we have a new coil design with reduced inductance, and a taught low mass reed to push the treble performance further without requiring a demanding transformer which e-stat drivers need.
This massive array of quad driver packs inside the Sharona is all threaded together with a true 4-way integrated crossover as well as the use of JH Audio’s Freq|phase™ for accurate phase timing.
For those unfamiliar with Freq|phase, JH Audio contends that typical multi-driver monitors such as the Sharona that have different time signatures, positioned in parallel at the front, need to account for timing using distance as a factor.
If these designs use equal length tubes and are not staggered in time you will get serious cancellation issues at the various crossover points.
These issues cannot be fixed with equalization or simply moving the crossovers. With Freq|phase, the low, mid, and high BA drivers are positioned differently with different tube lengths to account for the speed of each driver, particularly the highs. Check out Jerry’s own demonstration video below for something a little more in-depth on Freq|phase.
Finishing & Materials
JH Audio has actually released a bespoke signature design called the Sharona which you can pick on the company’s website design software tool. Technically, it is called their Cobalt Signature Design but you will have to pay around $400 per side more than the more basic options that come free of charge.
The one we have here is a Premium series shell finish called Hyper Black which was kindly picked out by the JH Audio marketing team alongside the rather excellent Signature Series metal plates which are the same ones used in the new Sharona design.
This one was prepared a little before the official sign-off on the new Cobalt shells hence the difference in looks. The hyper black alone will cost you an additional $275 which is a little cheaper than the $400 Sharona design. However, it does not come with some gorgeous Sharona patterned metal plates so for an exact duplicate, you might have to pop JH Audio an email requesting it.
This is a cool and unique design, though, perhaps not as much saturated visual pop as Jolene’s ‘Crimson & Clover’ from our 2021 review. Personally, I think it’s quite a subtle contrast to the chrome aesthetics of the faceplate so you could argue it has more of a stealthy look which some prefer.
And like the Jolene, the Sharona design here is carefully blended with a hypoallergenic clear coat on the shell that teases out those nebula-like grey and white swirls. The shell itself is finished from a CNC-milled acrylic resin and those stunning plates are indeed metal with a patterned finish that give it a very nice 3-dimensional look from the top.
The Sharona in its custom finish is actually a much smaller monitor than the Jolene equivalent we have here from 2021.
I initially presumed that working with all BA driver internal design rather than a hybrid build has allowed JH Audio to reduce the size somewhat but comparing it to the 10 driver Layla custom sample here it’s even smaller than that.
It is not a tiny CIEM though. The use of the variable-length Freq|phase tubing that needs to fit neatly into the shell will always mean it is going to be a somewhat bigger design than other competing customs. However, it would seem the flagship Sharona is going to be one of JH Audio’s more slimline and compact multi-driver custom monitors to date which is a plus.
Comfort & Isolation
Since it is a custom you should expect your Sharona to exactly fit your ear and indeed this sample does exactly that. Also, because it’s a smaller custom design compared to the Layla and the Jolene it is not as heavy in the ear and does not protrude as much so it is actually a bit more comfortable also than those two.
The nozzle is still quite long as you would expect for a touring or stage artist monitor since it needs to stay quite secure for active use rather than a typical audiophile’s shorter relaxed fitting.
However, the length is shorter than the Sharona and slimmer than the Layla versions I have here so it is not as tight as I would have expected in the ear canal. That leads to a little more background noise creeping with this sample despite it not using any venting so I would term this as a relaxed-fitting more for comfort than supreme isolation.
Mind you, if you do not like that style of fitting or feel that it is too loose you can send it back to JH Audio for a free fit adjustment within the first 30 days after your purchase.
JH Audio has retained the Acoustic Sound Chamber™ design I first encountered on the Jolene. This is a 3D printed, recessed tubing system that functions to keep sweat at bay and alleviate the need for excessive cleaning.
One other difference though is the bore opening size which is narrower and slightly smaller than the Jolene finished nozzle which is in keeping with its generally slimmer nozzle.
Cable & Connectors
The Sharona sample here uses a T2 connection system which is also known as an IPX connector. That is a marked departure from the new 7-pin or older 4-pin connectors and for me, one of the factors in the reduced weight and sizing of the Sharona shells.
The inclusion of a T2 connector system makes sense given the target market is the stage artist. Quite apart from keeping the whole design low profile, it is also sweat resistant which is an important requirement for the use of any in-ear stuff on stage. In fact, the T2 system here is rated at a very high IP67 for moisture resistance so they should stay protected when in use.
One thing to note though is that it is a recessed T2 connector port so if you plan on rolling some upgraded cables with T2 connectors you will have to use a pair without a bulky barrel.
I have a number of T2 terminated cables here from Null Audio, Ultimate Ears, and Linum and only the latter 2 fit the port of the Sharona as they have a very narrow barrel. The Null Audio versions and the Con X system from Effect Audio will not work unless you specifically request a very thin connector barrel.
Of course, the connector system is not arbitrary. If you wish you can pick the 7-pin option when designing your own Sharona model. It will add some girth and weight but it also means you get the 48″ high purity OFC 4N silver-plated Litz wire cable with the additional bass module.
Sans bass module, the Sharona T2 version comes with the same High Purity OFC 4N Silver-plated Litz Wire stock cable. The sample here is a 3.5mm TRS terminated option but you can get it also with a 2.5mm and 4.4mm jack if you so wish when buying online.
I do prefer the SPC variant of this cable also to the older copper versions that shipped with the Layla we reviewed a few years back. It has a bit more treble presence about it that keeps the harmonic balance heading on the right path.
Without the 7-pin connectors and bass module, it feels a heck of a lot lighter and more manageable but I wonder if this is 4-wire as opposed to 8-wire as the Jolene 7-pin wire is a lot thicker in comparison to the lighter braiding of the Sharona stock cable.
Everywhere else there seems to be a reduction in weight on the Sharona T2 cable. You get a much smaller and lighter right-angle jack in a rubber mold, slimmer silicone wraps for the memory hooks below the connectors, and much smaller silicon cuts for the chin cinch.
I can see why JH Audio went with this system over the bulkier 7-pin bass module 8-wire cables. Combined with the easy T2 connection system it is hella easy for artists to use during long performances without annoying microphonics and the additional weight on the ear.
Packaging & Accessories
The final Sharona packaging is quite consistent with the recent Jolene box and accessories we reviewed last year. That means a reasonably understated and compact soft-matte retail box with a small brown recyclable paper quarter-sleeve at the bottom that will have your name on the front. You also get some useful tools and a superb carry case for the accessory lineup.
Inside, there are copious amounts of protective black foam padding surrounding a very sturdy but compact branded black carbon fiber carry case. Inside the case, you will find the Sharona monitors tucked inside a more portable but less protective suede pouch, a cleaning tool, and your stock cable.
You have a range of additional extras including stickers at the bottom and a thank you card at the top. There is no bass adjusting screwdriver if you have ordered the T2 connector cable since it does not come with a bass module.
The Sharona carry case has been in the JH Audio product lineup for quite a while has been but if you are seeing it for the first time this is a carbon fiber and black ‘diamondyzed’ aluminum square case with a protective outer wrap and magnetized lock.
It is a step up from the flip top and round cases used with some of their other units and indeed it sells for $250 on its own as opposed to these other two which sell for $100 each.
There is enough space for your cables and monitor, however, but not much more than that plus the bass module screwdriver, (if using the 7-pin cable), and cleaning tool. It is slightly larger than pocketable but definitely baggable and very robust.
Click on page 2 below for sound impressions and pairings
Click on page 3 below for select comparisons