Review: Sivga SV023 – Versatile Performer With Mid-Century Style

The SV023 marry classic looks with modern sound.
The SV023 marry classic looks with modern sound.

OTL tube amp users rejoice – there’s another high-impedance headphone option available!

Thank you to Colin and Sivga for providing the SV023 for review purposes.

Sivga and their Sendy Audio sub-brand have established themselves by producing a lineup of unique headphones primarily distinguished by their gorgeous wooden cups. The few Sendy Audio products are all wooden cupped with planar magnetic drivers, and Sendy is perhaps positioned as the slightly higher-end version of the brand.

With the release of the mid-century-inspired SV023, Sivga has another beautiful pair of headphones on its hands. Bearing a resemblance to the Klipsch Heritage headphones, the marriage of wooden cups and small circular metal grills stylistically elevates the SV023 above typical consumer-grade options.

Sivga clearly knows how to bring a high level of class and luxury at a reasonable (sub-USD$500) cost.

The SV023 marry classic looks with modern sound.
Bottom Line

The SV023 should prove to be a far less divisive model for Sivga/Sendy Audio. They are versatile performers that sound great with a wide range of musical genres. They avoid being too much of any one thing and can be considered a ‘safe’ audio choice. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Sivga/Sendy Audio’s designs, materials, and construction choices. This, coupled with a balanced, spacious, and easy-to-listen-to sound signature, make the SV023 a great choice for budget-oriented, style-conscious audiophiles. OTL amp owners should put the SV023 on their shortlist, as there are few high-impedance options.

What We Like
  • Excellent construction and materials
  • Terrific cable and accessories
  • Very comfortable
  • High impedance pairs great with OTL amplifiers
  • Spacious sound
  • Good detail and balance
What We Don't Like
  • Higher voltage amplifier is required to bring out the best sonics
  • The upper midrange can be slightly harsh
  • Mid-bass focus will leave Bassheads wanting

Further setting the SV023 apart is the use of high-impedance (300 Ohm) dynamic drivers. OTL tube amp users will perk up at this news, as this type of amplifier works best with headphones having impedances greater than 200 Ohm, and this type of headphone is quite rare.

Bottlehead Crack users should be especially interested, as the SV023 is an excellent aesthetic match to its retro steampunk looks.

Sendy and Sivga Audio products have been fairly polarizing with reviewers and owners in the past. Many of their headphones seem to have been tuned by ear rather than to match a specific frequency response graph (such as the currently popular Harman Target).

As a result, they have various sound signatures, some more treble-focused (Aiva) and some far more relaxed (Apollo).

Let’s find out where the SV023 fit into this lineup.

Company Overview

Dongguan Sivga Electronic Technology Co., Ltd., established in 2016, is located in Dongguan, China. Their corporate vision is to “become a leading company in hifi headphone industry [sic] in China and even in the world.”

Formed by several experts in the electronic and audio fields, Sendy strives to break “the barrier of product performance to set new standards and continuing to create [a] magical experience for customers.” They focus on craftsmanship, quality control, and marrying sound quality with beautifully made products.

Technical Specifications

Sivga's packaging is always very classy.
Sivga’s packaging is always very classy.

Packaging

If you’ve recently purchased a Sivga or Sendy Audio product, you know what to expect for packaging. A simple brown cardboard box houses the distinctively-shaped hard travel case. The headphones, cable, adapters, and a hemp fabric pouch are inside.

The quality and presentation of the accessories and packaging are top-notch.

Sivga's distinctive 'baby bum' case. Now in light brown.
Sivga’s distinctive ‘baby bum’ case. Now in light brown.

In the box

  • SV023 headphones
  • Cable (160 cm)
  • 4.4mm to 3.5mm cable adapter (20.5 cm)
  • 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
  • Hard case
  • Hemp fabric pouch
All the accessories are inside the case.
All the accessories are inside the case.

Cable

I’ve been consistently impressed with Sivga/Sendy Audio’s included cables, and the SV023 cable continues this trend.

The cable appears identical to the one included with the Apollo, a 6N OCC copper, 4-wire braid in a combination of dark bronze and light copper wires. The y-split and connectors are black metal with a silver spring strain relief and white lettering.

The 2.5mm mono plugs are differentiated by L and R labeling and color-coded bands. A change to 3.5mm would be appreciated if only to make the cable usable with more headphones. The 4.4mm-to-3.5mm adapter cable is made to the same standards as the headphone cable, although it is a finer braid of smaller wires.

I love the included cable!
I love the included cable!
The default for all cables these days should be a 4.4mm balanced connector plus a 4.4mm-to-3.5mm adapter. Well done, Sivga!

This premium-feeling cable doesn’t tangle easily or suffer from unwanted microphonics.

Design

The Sivga designers construct some of the best headbands I’ve encountered, and the reuse of the basic adjustable comfort strap design seen on the Aiva and Apollo is much appreciated. It’s both attractive and very comfortable.

The strap is reportedly made of goat hide – genuine leather is a great premium touch!
You've goat to be kidding me. A real leather band!
You’ve goat to be kidding me. A real leather band!

The yokes are a little simpler this time, but the CNC milled aluminum attachment rotates and securely holds the cups. Speaking of the cups, they are constructed of flawlessly milled walnut finished to smooth perfection. A black aluminum ring surrounds the stainless-steel mesh.

Under the superb earpads – borrowed from the Aiva – the face plate is made of grey plastic with the driver and paper-covered vents offset and angled towards the ears. The pads are uniquely contoured to follow the shape of the head and are a hybrid construction of memory foam, perforated leather, and fabric.

The hybrid pads are winners in my book.
The hybrid pads are winners in my book.

At this price point, Sivga sets the standard for construction and materials to which other companies should be held. Most can’t compare regardless of cost.

Comfort

One of the usual benefits of dynamic driver headphones over planar magnetic models is their lighter weight. At about 320g, the SV023 is near 100g less than the Aiva and 250g less than the Peacock. This lighter weight, coupled with the outstanding headband and ear pads, makes for a very comfortable pair of headphones!

The ear cups pivot and swing to fit a variety of heads.
The ear cups pivot and swing to fit a variety of heads.

Internals

“The driver housing is made of aviation aluminium alloy. The periphery of the diaphragm is LCP (Liquid Crystal Polymer) Composite film, and the central part of the diaphragm is plated with Beryllium. The magnet is high-performance NdFeB material.” – Sivga

Inside the SV023, you’ll find 50mm, Beryllium plated, LCP composite dynamic drivers. The drivers are rated as 300 Ohm/105 dB (impedance/sensitivity), which is unusual in today’s land of low-impedance/high-sensitivity headphones intended for portable usage.

Oooohhh, shiny Beryllium coating.
Oooohhh, shiny Beryllium coating.

The high sensitivity means that most sources can drive the SV023 to loud levels, although robust amplification is suggested to get the most out of them.

In general: High impedance headphones require a higher voltage source. Low impedance headphones require a higher current source.

This makes the oddball OTL tube amplifier type, such as the Bottlehead Crack, XDuoo TA-26, or the Darkvoice 336SE, an excellent match for the SV023.

It's nice to see that the driver is branded Sivga and not just a generic model.
It’s nice to see that the driver is branded Sivga and not just a generic model.

SV023 Sound

I listened to my typical mishmash of whatever is catching my fancy, although with an unusual prevalence of glam rock this time. Don’t ask. I paired the SV023 with the Apple dongle, Shanling UA5, Bottlehead Crack, and Burson Conductor 3R.

The SV023 may be the most universally pleasing sounding pair of headphones in Sivga’s lineup.

They are balanced, neither too bass-heavy nor treble-focused, and manage to walk the middle path and do many things right.

The open-backed SV023 are true to their nature, spacious with a generous soundstage, and do not feel claustrophobic or too in-your-head. Compared to the Sennheiser HD650 (another OTL amp darling), they sound larger in all directions.

Resolution and clarity are very good, and the SV023 paint a coherent and precise sonic picture. The fast and controlled low-end allows the details within the music to shine through, while the somewhat relaxed high-end keeps things grounded and easy to listen to.

I’m impressed and delighted to have another headphone option for my Crack.

The trade-off is a bit of dynamic excitement, and their balanced and controlled nature may leave those who crave raw subsonic power or the crispiest highs pining for a bit more. However, I expect most will appreciate the SV023’s detail, cleanliness, and precision.

Frequency response graph of the Sivga SV023 as measured on a miniDSP EARS measurement fixture.
Frequency response graph of the Sivga SV023 as measured on a miniDSP EARS measurement fixture.

Bass

The SV023 prioritize mid-bass kick over sub-bass rumble. This keeps them sounding quick and punchy, but the overall impact is somewhat muted as compared to real bass-monster cans. This is especially noticeable if underpowering the SV023 (such as using the basic Apple dongle), and things are noticeably more authoritative with more stout amplification.

Given proper voltage, the SV023 sound well-grounded and balanced. The bass is well defined and separated from the midrange, allowing for a precise presentation.

Midrange

The midrange defines this pair of headphones. Smooth and natural sounding, they excel at delivering detail in voices and instruments. The bass doesn’t crowd or overshadow the midrange frequencies, resulting in an impression of space with a natural-sounding sonic signature.

If anything, the midrange is a touch boosted in the mix, although this impression seems to vary depending on song choice. Compared to the HD650’s legendary midrange, the SV023 manage to hold their own and sound clearer and somewhat more forward.

Depending on your personal tastes, you may prefer this upper midrange bump, although I find the SV023 sometimes flirt with being slightly shouty. This is nitpicking, as overall, the midrange performance is more than acceptable.

Treble

Treble extension is generous but controlled, with an open, clear, and airy sound that helps to create the smooth signature of the SV023. The treble avoids harshness or sibilance and brings balance to the overall sound. There’s enough presence to give the impression of very good definition and detail.

For all the OTL owners, the SV023 are a viable alternative to the HD650, albeit about twice as expensive as the Drop HD6XX variant. The looks, materials, build, and sound are all a step up.

The Bottlehead Crack and the SV023 make a beautiful retro-styled match.
The Bottlehead Crack and the SV023 make a beautiful retro-styled match.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

The SV023 should prove to be a far less divisive model for Sivga/Sendy Audio. They are versatile performers that sound great with a wide range of musical genres. They avoid being too much of any one thing and can be considered a ‘safe’ audio choice.

The SV023 are great generalist all-rounders.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Sivga/Sendy Audio’s designs, materials, and construction choices. They excel at making premium feeling (and looking) products at a reasonable cost.

This, coupled with a balanced, spacious, and easy-to-listen-to sound signature, make the SV023 a great choice for budget-oriented, style-conscious audiophiles.

OTL amp owners should put the SV023 on their shortlist, as there are few high-impedance options beyond Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, and ZMF. The SV023 slot in nicely, priced slightly above the German options, and bring a taste of the luxury offered by the high-end ZMF models.

Leave a Reply