Sendy Aiva…a gift from the clouds

Sendy Aiva…a gift from the clouds
Written by ngoshawk
Published 2 minutes ago

Pros – Clouds!
Build.
Cost.
Finish.
Gorgeous wood look.
Cable.
Sound, tastefully presented, with excellent air.
Gorgeous looks.
Clouds!

Cons – Ummmm…still thinking about that give me a year or so…

Sendy Aiva: $599, available from Musicteck:https://shop.musicteck.com/collections/sendyaudio/products/sendyaudio-aiva-black-beauty-series-97-76mm-planar-magnetic-headphones?variant=18480633839678

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Intro:

Perusing the Musicteck site, which I do not do often enough, I noticed a couple of items. One, which has been on my radar for a long time, and another that piqued my interest simply by looking at the image. This review is about that item. The Sendy Aiva. To say I was smitten would be like a dog anticipating a new bone. Needless to say, my tail wagged, and tongue was panting like said dog. You think I jest, but…I quickly contacted Andrew, with whom we arranged a model. This is about that model. First and foremost, the Aiva was purchased at a discount for an open and honest review. And of course, I would have it no other way

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That’s my dog. My dog kicks ass.

After the order (which included the other item), I read all I could about Sendy and the Aiva. I found a brief thread on Head-Fi (https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new-sendy-audio-aiya-impressions.900362/) and a mention by another reviewer, with copy/paste items from a foreign webpage. Images of the Aiva were superb. This was indeed a looker. Having been stolen by @PinkyPower Atticus, the Aiva recalled the way I looked at his gem upon arrival. But first, a brief history.

From the Musicteck page description: SENDYAUDIO (SHI YI Technology Co., LTD.) founded in 2015 and is made up of the elite teams who worked in audio industry earliest in China. Black Beauty Series is 2019 new positioning products of SENDYAUDIO, and it took three years of hard research and development. We adhere to the use of traditional craftsmanship, coupled with the selection of high-quality natural solid wood as the material for the housing. The whole production process consumes a lot of manpower and time, which include material selection, CNC machining, engraving, grinding, polishing as well as repeated oiling and drying. The finish texture of each individual piece is unique.

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Intro YouTube video from Sendy: https://youtu.be/iHVVXY5SA6s

From the video, you can see the care taken in making the cups. Hand sanded, and finished with several layers of poly, the company states the finish will keep the headphones together through many weather variations. The first time I have heard a company address humidity and such as a concern. Grado never mentions the sort, but no one concerns themselves with deterioration either. What I can say is that the Aiva finish is top notch, superb. No blemishes, and definitely built to last.

Very little is out there regarding Sendy Audio, but from my perusing’s the talk is of how the Aiva punches well above their weight. Some call for a raising of the price to $1k. Well…I for one am glad they do not cost that much. Could they? Well, I guess you will have to read on to find out.

Suffice to say, I really, REALLY like this set of headphones so far. I would state that this isn’t quite your typical planar sound. There is a bit of dip in the mids (to me as opposed to a flat response), but not enough to bother me. Some have posted graphs, buuuuuttt…I’m not going there. Nope, no way

Specs:

  • Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
  • Driver Size: 97*76mm
  • Frequency Response:5-55Khz
  • Sensitivity: 96db
  • Impedance: 32Ω
  • Weight: 420g

Included in the box:

1. Aiva Headphone
2. Headphone Hard Leather Carry Case
3. Headphone Balanced Cable with 4.4mm Plug
4. 4.4mm Female to 3.5mm (SE) Male Pigtail Adaptor

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Gear used/compared (prices USD unless noted otherwise):

Focal Elear ($700, 2.5bal cable)
Campfire Audio Cascade ($800, 2.5bal cable)
ZMF Atticus (from memory, $1099, 2.5bal cable)
Mr. Speakers Ether-C Flow ($1500, 3.5/6.3se cable)
Grado GH-2 Limited Ed ($650, 3.5se cable)

iFi Pro iDSD & xDSD used for MBP and XDuoo, others run on their own accord.

MacBook Pro/ iFi Pro iDSD
XDuoo x10tii/ iFi Pro iDSD & xDSD
Shanling M5s
Questyle QP2

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Songs used:

Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots-Trench

shuffle SD card music

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Unboxing:

Coming in a recycled brown top/bottom box, I get an immediate sense of environmental awareness. A good start. Laden with a drawing, which hearkens back to the early 1900’s on the front and silver decal in three languages on the back one could start to understand the simplicity from which the Aiva comes. A simpler time, but none the less important.

Taking the lid off there is a hard foam insert glued to the TOP of the lid, which is used to hold the headphone case in place. The bottom has molded hard foam conforming to the shape of the case. Not much to see, but simplicity again. The black hard case, which holds all inside is quite reminiscent of a Mr. Speakers case and similar in proportion. Slightly smaller in size, and less sturdy, the case will still protect the headphones quite well. Replete with four “feet” on the bottom, the case can stand on its own without scuffing the case. A nice touch.

Opening the black hard case, you are met with a chorus of angels singing. No, reeeaaallllyyy.

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A thick zipper (better in fact than some I have, which cost more…) opens neatly to reveal that chorus, errrr headphone and a reclaimed material cloth bag. With a grab handle to boot, the case is quite functional. This is tingling my environmental senses, it is. Inside that bag of course is the superb cable and the adaptor converting 4.4bal to 3.5se. To say the cable is beautiful, would be say that Elle McPherson is beautiful…Hmmm…I went from angels to a beautiful woman. Apologies.

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Pulling the hefty weight-wise cable out, I marvel at the look. Four braids of thick gauge copper meet your eyes. Each end has silver jacks, complete with the cloud pattern. I quite like the pattern and will go more into that in a moment. With a splitter that looks to be Cocobolo wood, or something similar, the Sendy name is engraved; while the slider shows the company’s Crane logo. Both works well, but I do have long-term concerns surrounding the slider. It is fairly small and is made of wood. The cable is gorgeous to look at and brings a slightly warmer touch to the sound.

Some mention that this cable as an aftermarket would cost $300-400 dollars (actually $250 on the MusicTeck site, so…). I somewhat concur and do enjoy the (what seems to be) hand weaving of the cable strands. With imperfections down the line (just the look of hand-braiding, NOT the cable itself), you get a hand-made feel more and more.

Then…the…headphone…and it really is more stunning in person than images. Superb. Sublime. Sensuous. Sumptuous. I could go on but won’t…for your sake.

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Fit & Finish:

Tasteful. A singular word, which can mean so much more. It can denote the palate of food. Or it can signify a thought, action or behavior, which is thoughtful in deed and in good taste. This could describe the Aiva in one word. But that one word could also signify a simple thought, action or deed. Yet again, this could be apt for the Aiva. But there is more. Humility and a humble nature would intertwine as well.

Each Aiva set is unique, much like the Grado GH-2, or any ZMF headphone. The wood can be matched, much like Zack at ZMF does when concocting sets, but the character of each set is singular. Special. Oneness. Here that trait follows (especially since I saw a darker model in a video), and that is a wonderful trait to have.

The headband is well made utilizing flat aluminum strips for structurally rigidity. In comparison, the Ether-C Flow uses round bars, which can seem flimsy even if they are not. There is some bend here, but not like the Flow. With a nice (p)leather strap just below, the headphones should contort to most heads out there. Plus, with excellent clamp-tightness the strap stays put, adjusting firmly but easily. No plastic is used between the swivel and band either. Nice to see. Swiveling like a Fostex, but much better, the adjustment is more limited fore/aft than others I have tried. But not once have I had an issue.

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Even the rivets, which hold the band and yoke to the earcup themselves is laden with the Sendy logo, a Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis). The Crane denoting honesty and integrity fits the simplicity to be found yet again.

Finishing with the highlight, the ear cups and overall appeal, you are not disappointed. Near-flawless construction embodies honesty and integrity at its heart. With multi-layers of poly the cup will stay protected. Hand polished, and handmade, the electronics and cup fit together extremely well. Only a slight imperfection from the fit of the electronics to the cup was had on one side. And, truth be told, it seemed to be a small fleck of wood left in place mistakenly. After carefully brushing the fleck off, no mismatch could be seen. I do expect flawless construction, and this is about as close as you can get. The metal cloud “grate” fits over the silver dust cover quite well, giving a nice 3-D look to the side.

The pads are on the more unique side. Shaped asymmetrically with the thicker part to the back (and bottom) they are also made of two different materials. The shape continues to vary as you hit the top, with a “cut out” to help fit your gray cranial matter. Thick and plush the pads fit very well and extended sessions do not bother. Not too plush, with good feel this is among the best fit and feeling headphones I have had the honor of trying. With the right amount of compression, and that strap a good fit is had all around.

The front part of the pad is of a suede material, which is very comfortable and does not attract dirt/etc. Call it a hybrid pad if you will, but the pads are quite comfortable. This is one good looking unit.

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Sound:

Apparently the Aiva was the hit of CamJam NY in some circles. After one listen, I can understand why. On looks alone, this could easily demand twice the asking price. The look is simply superb. Beautiful, well-built and tasteful. Artfully displayed with the cloud motif and polished, coated wood cups. This is a beauty. But we’ve already covered that.

With many planar headphones, one can semi-rightly assume that the bass response will either be elevated or flat. Think Fostex. While the sound fits what people are looking for, there can be a bloaty-bass on some models. I think that is an unfounded punishment of a sound, which many like. I only use it for comparative purposes. Here though, there is not any of that. The bass is tight, fairly fast decaying and solid. Not as fast as the Ether-C Flow 1.1 mind you, but quite acceptable. This is not meant to compete with those TOTL headphones or have the bass of the Campfire Audio Cascade, no. That bass signature is meant to be present but support the extremely good clarity of sound. And it does. Quite well. Not reaching particularly deep the bass signature is one, which can be enjoyed as part of the overall signature. And it does so very well.

My panacea of course is the mid sound. I have a hard time discerning difference in intricate mid patterns, so I focus on the overall signature. And here to me it is quite extraordinary. On twenty one pilots Don’t Forget About Me, the bass is strong from the drum. As the keyboard enters along with Tyler’s vocal’s you begin to understand what might make the Aiva such an extraordinary critter. Clarity, separation (even to me…) and detail are exquisite. It is almost like I can discern the air moving around each finger as it strikes a note of keyboard. Almost alarming, it is. I may exaggerate a bit, but the sensation is one of top-notch response. Follow that with Los Lonely Boys Heaven and that guitar riff as the song comes on and you have to sit down. I immediately played the song again with the Ether. Yes, I could discern the difference, but how close they were (OK, PRETTY close) to presentation made me smile.

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Quietly Making Noise from Mr. Jimmy Buffet through the XDuoo x10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD lends me with true appreciation of how the treble is presented. That detail of clarity comes through almost too strictly. This is a pretty tight song, but there is still true feeling and south seas sound galore. You go inside the song through this combination and it is good. No sibilance whatsoever, no overly bright treble to me, this is good stuff up top. I do not get a sense of much sparkle, which to me would have made the top end simply sublime. That would have been too much to ask at this price I do believe.

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Not the widest sound stage, this is not meant to be an other-worldly sensory sound of stage. No, it is meant to have that airy feeling of an open-back with width sufficient to dispel any claustrophobic feelings one might have. Sufficient height and depth make up for that somewhat narrower stage. I’m OK with that as the sound is so good. Separation and layering are good as well. Not the best, not the worst. Clarity helps separate what you hear well.

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As this is an open-back, there is no isolation so what you hear, your partners hear. End of story. Then Blurryface comes on, and I just turn the volume up…a good bit, too. Clear highs, sensuous vocals. Bass, which is fast tight and deep give the Aiva a smile in my book. This is reverence. SRV’s Riviera Paradise comes on next, and I pour another of KC’s finest whiskey, J. Rieger & Co.

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Comparison:

Sendy Aiva ($599) v Focal Elear ($700ish, 2.5bal cable):

The Elear first came to me on a tour from TTVJ (fantastic person for our hobby). I immediately fell for the warmer signature, which fit my bill. It helped that I was playing them through the ampsandsounds Kenzie, which to this day is one of the best amps I have ever heard. Through that tubey goodness, I fell hard. I still very much like the Elear, but do not use it enough, mostly for comparisons such as this. A shame too, for the bass is sublime through the iFi Pro iDSD/XDuoo x10t ii combo. Better reach than the Aiva, with a bit more grunt as well, the bass comes through nicely using the LQi 2.5bal cable. Not quite the clarity of the Aiva, but a wider sound stage. This is a really good set up. Sting’s voice comes through clean and clear. I will admit that the purported dip in mids of the Elear does not bother me at all. I find the sound excellent, fitting my taste for a warmer signature well.

The Aiva definitely has a somewhat brighter signature, with more clarity as a result (to me). That alone should say how good the Aiva represents sound. I would call this a wash, especially if you can find a used Elear. Caveat-many find the Elex or Clear to be better sounding than the Elear. I have not heard either, only the Elegia. As such, I still like the Elear more. Fit and feel of the Aiva is miles ahead in my book, as I consider it well above on the comfort level. The Aiva are harder to drive as you would expect with a planar as well.


Sendy Aiva ($599) v Campfire Audio Cascade ($800, 2.5bal cable):

Again, the Cascade is easier to drive, much easier. Fit is well behind the Aiva as well. Almost clamp-like this is probably the only aspect of the Cascade, which I do not like. Having used @Wiljen ‘s pair long term, I was lucky to find a barely used pair on Head-Fi at a time when new ones were not available. I do not regret the purchase one bit. Bass is rumbly and superb. Some say it overpowers the overall signature. I say that it sets the tone. Vocals are not lost in the fray either. Treble has a bit of sparkle, but feels a bit disconnected to the overall sound. In my less than professional opinion, this was done to counter the bass. Drums come across clean, crisp and clear. Sound stage is very, very good for a closed-back as well. When I want to jam out in the presence of the family-unit, I pull out the Cascade. Or the Atlas, but that is another story.

Listening the Pink Floyd’s Any Colour You Like, you have that psychedelic sound, which just makes the Cascade sing. This is late night drinking sound of the solo variety. And it is extraordinary. The Aiva on the other hand is a bit mellower believe it or not. Along for the same late-night session, but more subtle. Less sparkle up top than the Cascade, the Aiva presents a more balanced approach. It is hard not to like both, and I do. They are different enough (well, duh) to enjoy both. Different enough so that having the Cascade as a closed-back and the Aiva for open-back would be a superb compliment to each other. I am very lucky, indeed.


Sendy Aiva ($599) v ZMF Atticus (from memory, $1099, 2.5bal cable):

The first time I heard the Atticus of @PinkyPowers, I was smitten. He point-blank told me the Atticus sated his purpose for an open back. We spent two glorious weeks together. And a definitely longing was had in my heart upon their return. I was sad. I went to school with a chip on my shoulder, and a loss of step. Not even my favorite single-malt could bring me from the funk. Until I heard the Aiva. It was like having a pair of Atticus again, almost. The Atticus presents sound extraordinarily well, with full detail, clarity to die for and a sound stage of small concert hall proportions. The look is stunning and counters the girthy-size of the pair. They are superb, presenting sound like it was meant to be heard. Delicate female vocals were sublime. Punchy male vocals were thrusting in quality. Complicated music was simplified in presentation, without losing that detail. It was hard to justify a better pair of open-backs of which I had heard. Until the Aiva. But, put an asterisk by that “until.” For you see, the Aiva does about 80% of what the Atticus does, but for 50% the price. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to someday have a pair of the Atticus. But until then, the Aiva not only reminds me of them, but reminds me very well.


Sendy Aiva ($599) v Mr. Speakers Ether-C Flow ($1500, 3.5/6.3se cable):

The Ether-C Flow came about after researching headphones equivalent to the Atticus. I wanted a TOTL closed-back, to “finish my lineup” so to speak. After researching many, I came across a barely used pair and took the plunge. I do not regret it even though a well-known publication had the Ether-C Flow in the bottom half of a comparison test. I have always tended to go against popularity, so I went with them. I was able to have the pair on hand with the Atticus for a four-day period and found myself staying up very late. What a time. The fit-n-finish of the Ether-C is astonishing. Exemplary fit allows one to fully experience the sound. With pads similar to the Atticus, as in pillow-like you should be able to easily find good fit.

I find the bass to be quite good, with a bit of rumble, song-dependent of course. Every Tear Is A Waterfall gives good rumble, delicate detail from the acoustic guitar and vocals of heavenly ascent. This is what I was searching for with a TOTL. The clarity rivals my DaVinci X. Phenomenal. The Aiva cannot match that, and it isn’t meant to, no. The Aiva is more open, a bit more laid-back but with excellent clarity. And for the price, hard to beat, period.


Sendy Aiva ($599) v Grado GH-2 Limited Ed ($650, 3.5se cable):

Right off the bat, you notice how bright the Grado is. Almost bitingly bright, I have to re-adjust to the sound. Plus, as an on-ear, the fit can take a bit to re-acclimate. Once past that though, the sound is clear, bright and clean. I will state that as a result of being easy to drive, and with that bright sound, the Grado cannot be turned up too much for my taste. It becomes too bright. Not sibilant, but a bit too much. The bass is good, with as bit of rumble, but not like some of the others mentioned here. They are not meant to be that way. Sound stage to die for is a key focus of the Grado, and as such, separation and layering is almost as good as anything in my stable. I do still like the Grado, but they will most likely leave my corral as they get very few looks from me these days.


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Sources:

The Aiva through the Shanling M5s provides me with the sound of which I search. Bold, fairly deep reaching bass, and a fullness wrought from what I call the “Shanling sound.” This is a very good pairing, and more than enough power is had with the pair. Intricate detail takes a backseat to seat of the pants rich and full sound. I could get used to this pairing. Again, detail falls behind the XDuoo/iFi Pro iDSD as one would expect; but the rich sound from the M5s is almost a match for the tube sound emanating from the former pair.

Using the 4.4bal to 2.5bal adaptor only let the balanced aspect of the cable shine through, and it was good. An increased sense of layering and separation. I could note a bit more air between the notes as well. While this may have been a bit of placebo, I do get a better sense of layering and separation when I use balanced cables. This of course is a main object of using balanced cables in the first place, so that is good.

The Aiva/Questyle QP2R sound brings back the clarity completely. Playing Neon Gravestones, I am reminded why I like the song so much. Deep full bass arises from the song itself. And with this pair, there is no hiding from any fallacies of sound. There is none. This is TOTL portability sound for anything I have. And this would work for most, short of those who have the Lotoo Paw Gold or Cayin N8. Both are exemplary, and for those seeking TOTL DAP territory, the Aiva will not embarrass itself. I consider the XDuoo/iFi pairing on par with the two mentioned. At least to me they are…

So, you can see that the Aiva is multi-dimensional with respect to source as well. I will admit that my favorite pairing was the XDuoo x10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD. The XDuoo is superb in its own right as a transport/turntable. Throw in the tube sound of the iDSD and this is good enough for me. Exemplary.


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Finale:

With each comparison, I begin to understand just how good the Aiva really is. It isn’t that the Aiva necessarily beats all comers, no. But when you combine the beauty of the overall unit, with a wonderful copper cable, the intricacy of detail imbued upon the scroll work and wood. The multiple layers of protection on those wood cups. The just right thickness and feel of the band. The sturdiness of the yoke. The just right thickness and shape of the cross members. The oh-so-cool multi-fabric pads (including what I would assume is real lambs’ leather). The robust jacks, inlaid with the cloud pattern; replete with coiled spring, which matches the overall appeal. The handwoven aspect of the cable. And then…the sound… For the price, you are definitely hard pressed to beat the sound. I can say with a high degree of certainty that you will be very hard pressed to find something at this point which sounds this good AND looks as gorgeous. I will openly admit that it was the look, which drew me to contact Andrew. I was enthralled with the cloud lattice. The wood cups, laden with multi-layers of protection, plus the copper cable, which compliments the gorgeousness. This…is…good…stuff, indeed. Find one. Borrow one. Listen to one. Audition one. Listen longer. You may just do what I did and smile the whole time I wrote this review. Delightful stuff.

I end this with the live version of Riviera Paradise, one of my all-time favorite SRV songs, especially live while he is sitting on the edge of the stage swinging his legs. This is the perfect closing song to the Aiva, what with the three dimensions of the live version. A fitting end, and I kick back with that KC whiskey and enjoy. Go find this critter, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

I thank Andrew for the opportunity to try (and keep!!!) the Aiva. It will reside on equal terms with my Ether-C Flow and DaVinci X. I can think of no higher praise than the company in which I will consider it.

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