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Over-Ear Headphones

Sivga SV023 Open Back Headphones: Review

Can the $450 Sivga SV023 Headphones compete with some of the best from Sennheiser, Grado, and HiFiMAN in the middle of the market?

Sivga SV023 Open-back Headphone

Is it true that every headphone brand offers a “house” sound or can the same manufacturer offer headphones that sound nothing alike? The use of different technology and drivers will obviously impact how a headphone is ultimately tuned but most brands tend to follow a familiar playbook. Sendy/Sivga apparently tossed that binder into the trashcan and have released a mix of headphone products with varied results.

Having reviewed several of their models, the results have been inconsistent; all of the products are built to a high standard and the industrial design has never really gone awry — but the sonic performance has not always hit a home run in the post-season playoff run.

Sendy Audio and Sivga Audio are sister companies operating out of Dongguan, which is a prefecture-level city in central Guangdong Province, China. Shenzhen — where many high-end audio components are manufactured and assembled is located to the southeast. Dongguan hosts some rather significant manufacturing plants operated by Samsung, Nokia, Coca-Cola, and DuPont, and Nestlé.

Both companies share R&D duties and the production side, but their positioning in the market is slightly different. Sivga has been more focused on the affordable side of the high-end headphone category with products ranging from $50 to $350 USD, whilst Sendy has covered the $350 to $1,500 range.

The Sivga SV023 is a slight departure retailing for $449.95 USD and supplants the Phoenix as the flagship headphone in the lineup. The price places the Sivga SV023 into a very competitive category with the Sennheiser HD660, Grado Labs Hemp, and HiFiMAN Edition XS headphones.

Sivga SV023 Open-back Headpones Kit

The Skinny

First impressions are everything and the SV023 was off to a good start based on the quality of the supplied leather hard case that made me think of Maxwell Scott leather briefcases almost immediately. Most $450 headphones don’t ship in this level of case and it’s a trend that we hope other manufacturers follow.

Opening the case reveals the headphones, and a separate cloth travel bag designed to hold the cable and supplied adapters; everything was neatly separated to avoid prevent scratches while in transit.   

Smart looking industrial design has always been a strength of the brand, and the headphone is one of Sivga’s most attractive looking headphones so far; the walnut cups with a central stainless grille in each cup suggest a far more expensive asking price.

The build quality is superb thanks to the steel and aluminum frame that feels very robust in your hands. The only plastic we could find was in the cable which makes the SV023 somewhat rare in the price category.

Sivga SV023 Earpads Detached

The ear pads are a hybrid perforated leather on the sides and soft cloth on the face; Sivga decided to go with a distinct shape for the ear pads in an effort to improve how they sit on your ears and how the overall headphones fit your head.

As someone who wears glasses for most of the day, the Sivga SV023 are one of the more comfortable headphones I’ve worn; the clamping force is just enough to keep them steady on your head and the shape of the ear cups stops them from pushing on the bows.

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Sivga SV023 Headband Hinge

There is an adjustable suspension headband in matching black leather, and the cups rotate on both axis with roughly 25° to either side on the vertical axis and 15° outward on top and 60° inward. 

Cables attach at the bottom of the cups using 2.5mm connectors for easy replacement as needed.

The Kishkas

Internally, the SV023 uses a 50mm dynamic driver and while Sivga has several models with dynamic drivers, the big departure here is the driver in the SV023 has a nominal impedance of 300 ohms with a sensitivity of 105 dB/mW.  

All of the other models in the lineup have an impedance of 32 ohms or below making the SV023 a much more difficult load to drive.

Sivga SV023 Open-back Headphone Driver

The driver was designed in-house and features an aluminum frame with a composite diaphragm with the outer portion being liquid crystal polymer and the central portion being Beryllium coated for added strength. The magnet structure is also a custom design for this driver using high potency neodymium magnets for added flux.

The cables are 6N OCC in a 4-strand braid from jack to splitter and two strand twists above. All cable fixtures are matte black anodized aluminum matching the frame and the dual color (clear and brown) wires really set it off well. The cable is terminated using a 4.4mm jack and an adapter from 4.4mm to 3.5mm is also provided. 

The build quality and materials are very impressive for a headphone in this price category and most listening sessions lasted 2-3 hours without any discomfort or fatigue.

Sivga SV023 Open-back Headphone Front

Sound

My opening remarks probably set-off some alarm bells for some and that was somewhat intentional. Having listened to probably more Sivga and Sendy models than most headphone reviewers over the past few years, my memory has a specific list of models that were really impressive and some that went back in the box after only a few days.

The Sivga SV023 might be the best headphone they have released so far; and that includes those at the very top of that retail for considerably more. In many ways — they are the new flagship for either Sivga or Sendy.

The tonal balance and sonic signature are not perfectly neutral, but the mild “W” signature is a huge departure from their other headphones and made me want to take them with me to work for weeks before they had to go back.

If you are considering the aforementioned headphones from Sennheiser, Grado Labs, and HiFiMAN, you might want to hold off until you give these a listen.

The low end is particularly strong with good impact and definition; that performance extends upwards into the mid-bass and never becomes overly forward or boomy. The new driver is very quick and exhibits excellent control; bass notes are warm but very articulate and detailed.

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Sivga SV023 Open-back Headphone Cup

The bass response has been tuned to not bleed over into the lower midrange and provides an excellent foundation where required but also disappears when it will only smear the rest of the range.

This is not a headphone for bass heads who want to feel their skulls rattled; the tuning favors those listeners who demand accurate and natural sounding bass notes with definition and texture.  

The lower midrange is slightly recessed which gives male vocals slightly less presence in the mix; they are placed within all of the instrumentation as opposed to in front of it. The separation is still very good and one is able to separate vocalists and other performers rather easily.

Vocals in this range have excellent timbre but lack some weight in comparison to other models in the Sivga lineup. Guitar notes have a strong degree of presence with just enough edge to come alive in the mix.

Violin strings have good presence overall; there is just enough added emphasis in the upper midrange to maintain their energy and the decay is quite noticeable.

Female vocals have slightly more emphasis and are pushed forward of the instrumentation; pushing the SV023 rather hard did not result in any degree of hardness or stridency.

The lower treble shares some of the emphasis that is prevalent in the upper midrange before that begins to roll-off around 6kHz. Percussion is delivered with a strong degree of snap and cymbals have enough energy and airiness to sound quite natural.

The detail retrieval is rather impressive and Sivga have wisely tuned the SV023 to not sound overly bright to accomplish this; a sonic decision that you find rather frequently in affordable headphones.

There is enough top end energy above 10kHz to sound rather open and airy; the SV023 begin to roll-off around 14kHz and it never became hard sounding regardless of how hard I drove it.

Soundstage width and depth are rather respectable for a headphone in this range; the depth isn’t as accomplished but these are spacious sounding headphones. The orchestra is accurately seated and I was rather impressed by the stereo separation and imaging.

Instruments and vocalists are firmly in their proper place and one can easily track movements across the soundstage.

For $450, the Sivga SV023 are over-achievers in this department.

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Sivga SV023 Headphones inside Case

Conclusion

The Sivga SV023 threw me for a bit of a loop; a part of me was prepared to be underwhelmed and I sent them back feeling that I need to order a pair for myself.

The Sennheiser HD660 and SV023 are somewhat similar overall; the German headphones feature slightly less low end extension and a treble that is not as polite sounding.

The biggest points of differentiation would be the overall comfort level of the SV023 and the soundstage performance; the latter was even more surprising considering how good Sennheiser headphones are in that regard,

The Grado Hemp and SV023 both share wood ear cups; everything else about their tonal balance and performance could not be more different. The SV023 are better suited for classical, jazz, and EDM, whilst the Grado are a better option for rock, pop, and blues.  

Picking between the HiFiMAN Edition XS and Sivga SV023 is slightly more difficult because they both do many of the same things on an equal level. The Edition XS are a more accurate sounding headphone with slightly better detail retrieval; the SV023 posses a warmer tonal balance and are slightly more engaging.

What is very clear is that Sivga have taken all of the lessons learned so far and developed a very impressive headphone for $450 that can compete against anything in its price range. Avoiding these would be a mistake. Color me super impressed and these might be good enough to make our “Best of 2022” list.

Where to buy: $449 at Amazon

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