Review: Sivga Oriole – Sweet Herald of Spring

Decorating the Oriole for the season.
Decorating the Oriole for the season.

Beautifully crafted wooden songbirds, or just a decoy?

Thank you to Collin and Sivga for providing the Oriole for review purposes.

Sivga has made a name for producing affordable wooden-cupped headphones constructed at a level far beyond their modest price tags. Sivga’s headphones are also known for having somewhat divisive sound signatures as they are not all tuned to the same curve, and each have their own unique sound.

The Oriole are the successor to the Robin (aka SV021), are priced about USD $50 higher, and have a similar package, style, and shape. However, the Oriole promise a more refined and improved sound.

The Oriole do not have Sivga’s standard SV0xx numbered model designation.
Decorating the Oriole for the season.
Bottom Line

With the Oriole, Sivga again delivers a pair of headphones with terrific build quality and a potentially divisive sound signature. The combo of effective passive isolation, small size, lightweight, high-efficiency, and rotating earcups make the Oriole an excellent choice for commuters and portable listing. I’m a big fan of how the Oriole look and feel. Comfort is good and the bundled cable is excellent. The Oriole’s clarity and soundstage are outstanding for a pair of headphones in this category. However, to my ears, how the Oriole handles the upper midrange can accentuate those frequencies a bit too much and become a touch aggressive.

What We Like
  • Impressive build quality at this price point
  • Well-made cable
  • Great passive isolation
  • A solid choice for commuters
  • Clear and detailed sound
  • Wide soundstage for closed-back cans
  • Lightweight
What We Don't Like
  • The cable is a bit long for portable use
  • Pleather pads are small for bigger ears and heads
  • The headband could be better padded
  • Upper midrange presence can be harsh at higher volumes

I recently reviewed the far less catchily-designated SV023 (with no corresponding bird name) and was impressed by their relatively ‘safe’ and well-mannered sound. The SV023 are about 2.5 times more expensive than the Oriole and sport the brand’s higher-end headband and 300 Ohm dynamic drivers.

The Oriole have a clean and elegant design.
The Oriole have a clean and elegant design.

On paper, the Oriole are far closer to the Robin, sharing 50mm, 32 Ohm drivers and more straightforward construction. Both are priced between USD $150-$200 and share very similar looks. Do the Oriole differentiate themselves enough to fly on their own?

Put on your sun hat, grab your favorite bird book and binoculars, and let us see if this bird has the wings to fly.

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 experienced industry engineers and audio pros, Sendy/Sivga 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

The Oriole box is simple and classy.
The Oriole box is simple and classy.

Packaging

I’ve become used to the higher-end, sister-brand Sendy Audio and Sivga products that come bundled with a distinctively shaped hard case and beautiful braided balanced cable. For the Oriole (and Robin), the bundle is leaner.

Slide open the foam-lined, black cardboard box, and you’ll find the Oriole, hemp bag, cable, and 3.5-6.35mm adapter nestled in foam.

All the accessories are securely ensconced in foam.
All the accessories are securely ensconced in foam.

In the box

  • Oriole headphones
  • 3.5mm to dual 2.5mm cable (2m)
  • 3.5mm – 6.35mm adapter
  • Hemp cloth storage bag
The only thing missing is a travel case.
The only thing missing is a travel case.

Cable

While the basic functionality remains the same as the higher-end Sivga and Sendy balanced cables, the Oriole’s bundled cable is a touch less flashy. Rather than a woven braid, the 2-meter cable is sheathed in black paracord.

The cable is fairly thin but is supple and soft to the touch. The connectors and y-split are constructed from black metal with gold contacts. The 3.5mm TRS connector has a metal spring strain relief, and the dual 2.5mm connectors are easy to differentiate with white ‘L’ and ‘R’ indicators and red/green colored bands.

It’s all bundled up with a Velcro tie.

I’ve encountered some TOTL headphones bundled with FAR less functional cables. Ahem.

The Velcro cable tie will come in handy to bundle up excess if using the Oriole with a portable source. Two meters is too long for a mobile cable, but I appreciate the length to make the Oriole more suitable for desktop or home use.

Sivga makes great cables!

The dark stained Rosewood looks gorgeous.
The dark stained Rosewood looks gorgeous.

Design

The Oriole, like the Robin before them, are available in two color schemes, either light brown wood with silver metal bits and tan colored pads or, as reviewed, dark brown cups with gunmetal colored yokes and black pads. Both options are distinct and attractive.

The cups are milled from Rosewood, which Sivga claims “is the first choice for balanced and high resolution sound, and no fatigue for long time listening.” Sivga uses a five-axis CNC machine to cut the cups and sand, polish, and coat them by hand. The final finish is a piano gloss clearcoat with a laser-engraved logo.

It’s this attention to detail that elevates the Oriole.

The Oriole differs from the Robin as the cups have a flattened diamond shape surface, rather than circular, and can rotate 180 degrees to sit flat on a desk or while around a neck. There are three small vent holes on the top edge of each cup, and the gold 2.5mm jacks are centered flush in the bottom.

A pair of jacks. Of the 2.5mm variety.
A pair of jacks. Of the 2.5mm variety.
My exceedingly patient wife has become very used to a non-stop supply of new headphones floating through our living space. One week it may be $5000 monsters, and the next may be humble $100 IEMs.

 

When I handed her the Orioles, I asked her what price range she thought they might belong to. Her guess was five times more than reality. That is high praise for Sivga’s construction.

The sturdy metal yokes retract into the band with a solid-feeling 12-step click mechanism.

A look at the blue memory foam inside the ear pads.
A look at the blue memory foam inside the ear pads.

Comfort

Fortunately, the Oriole weigh in at a mere 280g, as the faux-leather padding on the band and ear cups is fairly minimal and would not be sufficient for heavier cans. The headband is less comfortable than the comfort strap design included with the SV023 or Sivga offerings.

The pleather, memory foam earpads are approximately 20mm deep with an internal oval cavity measuring 45mm x 65mm. Roomy enough for my smallish ears, however, those with more prominent appendages may run into fit issues. The Robin come with larger, more plush pads.

While pleather pads tend to deteriorate over time, the good news is that the earpads are easily replaceable and simply slip on the cups.
The cups are simple but well made.
The cups are simple but well made.

Internals

The 50mm dynamic driver is advertised as being developed in-house. Further details are scarce beyond the 108dB sensitivity and 32 Ohm impedance ratings. It’s fair to consider that the Oriole are designed for portable usage as their efficient nature can be driven easily by most sources.

The driver is mounted to a plastic baffle with two small, felt-covered vents into an unfinished wood cup without internal dampening material.

The driver is protected by mesh and has vents above and below.
The driver is protected by mesh and has vents above and below.

Sivga Oriole Sound

I tested the Oriole primarily with a Burson Conductor 3R, Hidizs AP80 PRO-X, and Chord Mojo 2. My music mix was my typical concoction of pop, rock, soul, and folk delivered at various resolutions and formats, including streaming. I’m currently addicted to Sloan – check them out for some great rock music.

As noted, the Oriole are easy to drive to sufficient volume from most anything, including an Apple iPhone dongle. Some improvement in dynamics comes from using more powerful sources, but purchasing an amplifier to power the Oriole is not necessary.

Their closed design provides a relatively high level of passive isolation, making the Oriole a good choice for commuters that don’t want or need active noise cancellation (ANC). It’s easy to get immersed in the Oriole and block out the outside world, even at relatively low volume levels.

The Sivga website describes the Oriole as “balanced, natural, and accurate” with “moderate bass, smooth mids, fresh and exquisite treble.”

For the most part, Sivga delivers on these promises.

Frequency response graph for the Sivga Oriole as measured on a miniDSP EARS fixture.
Frequency response graph for the Sivga Oriole as measured on a miniDSP EARS fixture.

Last week I was reviewing the TOTL, open-backed Focal Utopia (2022). These, unsurprisingly, sound spectacular and set the standard for headphone performance. It’s an interesting process to recalibrate my ears and listen to what a pair of headphones costing approximately 25 times less can deliver.

The Oriole’s overall sound is relatively balanced, although a lift in the upper midrange around 2.5 kHz can add an aggressive, in-your-face tonality. The detail is quite good, giving the impression of clarity and instrument separation.

For relatively small and shallow closed-back headphones, the soundstage is fairly roomy, and the Oriole don’t sound as closed in as many headphones seem to in this price range. Voices and instruments extend laterally, and the Oriole manage to avoid a closed-in, center-of-the-head listening experience.

The mid-bass is more controlled than I expect in closed-back consumer cans, and things remain blessedly free of boominess and bloat. Coupled with the energetic midrange and extended treble frequencies, the Oriole feel nimble and detailed. It’s just the upper-midrange peak that stands out and creates a bit too much presence for my tastes with some music.

With a song like “Waves” by Bahamas, the male vocals jump to the forefront and the very low-end thumps with respectable authority.

Bass

Bassheads should likely pass on the Oriole, as the low-end isn’t tuned to brain-shaking levels. Instead, they exhibit a restrained demeanor, with a relatively flat mid-bass response. This tuning goes a long way in keeping the mid-range lean and controlled.

Punch is there when required, and the result is a natural, quick response that is quite different from today’s tendency to boost those lower frequencies unnaturally. As a result, the Oriole are perhaps better suited to rock, folk, and other less electronically driven genres.

Midrange

The Oriole dip around 300 Hz and steadily climb until they hit a 2.5 kHz peak. The lower midrange is somewhat recessed, and the upper midrange jumps out. Unfortunately, this signature is a bit fatiguing at louder volumes, so the Oriole sound best at moderate volume.

It’s a balancing act that gives the vocals presence and clarity, but when it goes too far, can sound a touch harsh. The Oriole’s lean signature does well with fast, energetic music.

Looking for clarity and energy? The Oriole deliver in spades. Those wanting a more lush and full sound signature will likely not gravitate to the Oriole’s personality.

Horns take the forefront, while kickdrums sit back further in the mix.

Treble

Articulate, natural, and lively, the treble takes a back seat after the upper midrange and adds to the clarity and splash without becoming sibilant. I find the treble spot-on for a pair of closed-back headphones in this range.

The yoke and slider mechanism work well.
The yoke and slider mechanism work well.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

With the Oriole, Sivga again delivers a pair of headphones with terrific build quality and a potentially divisive sound signature. There’s no arguing that at the USD $200 price point, few (if any) contenders show such good looks, high-end materials, and meticulous construction.

The combo of effective passive isolation, small size, lightweight, high-efficiency, and rotating earcups make the Oriole an excellent choice for commuters and portable listing.

I’m a big fan of how the Oriole look and feel. Comfort is good and the bundled cable is excellent.

I’m a little more on the fence with the sound signature, although there is lots to like. The Oriole’s clarity and soundstage are outstanding for a pair of headphones in this category. I appreciate that Sivga doesn’t simply model every pair to the pervasive Harman target.

However, to my ears, how the Oriole handles the upper midrange can accentuate those frequencies a bit too much and become a touch aggressive. Depending on the music choice, the Oriole can become fatiguing for long-term listening.

Suppose you are shopping for a new budget pair of closed-back headphones. In that case, I suggest giving the Oriole a listen and seeing if their particular flavor tickles your auditory taste buds.

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