Sivga SV021: Do the goods back the looks?
Pros: Gorgeous looks
Fit and finish are stellar
Lad back signature comes across well
Fairly deep reaching bass
Treble (to me) does not have that peakiness mentioned by some
Cons: No case
Somewhat polarizing signature
Cloth bag “case” only
Sivga SV021 ($149): Do the goods back the looks?
Intro: Coming off the Phoenix review, I saw many who really liked it, and some who were lukewarm to it. I liked the Phoenix but did not think it went far enough to separate it from the crowd. Collin contacted me about reviewing the SV021, their affordable closed back headphone made of Rosewood. I accepted the gracious offer and perused some of the initial reviews, which were out but not that detailed. Upon arrival, I opened the box to this gorgeous unit, and craftmanship, which is impeccable. After listening to ensure all was good, I placed the unit on continuous play for a minimum of 75hrs as others in my queue (and moving daughter-unit to college) took precedence.
It is understood that the unit may be asked back for at any time or sent to another reviewer. Until then, the unit is mine to keep, but not sell as that is STILL really uncool.
*The SV021 is now also available in black stained Rosewood, with black cups. More mainstream in color, the two choices complement each other nicely.
Driver: 50mm Moving-coil
Impedance: 32 +/-15% ohm
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
In The Box:
2.5mm dual to 3.5mm tan braided cable
Hemp carrying bag
3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
Thinksound ON2 ($130, discontinued)
Final Audio Sonorous III ($299ish)
Kennerton Magni V2 ($650)
Cayin N6ii (E01 motherboard)
MacBook Pro/EarMen Sparrow
Shanling M6 Pro
Buena Vista Social Club
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Coming in a black textured/patterned box much like the Sendy Aiva, the SV021 has a white outlined image of the unit on the front and specifications in various languages on the back and the slogan, “created with craftsman spirit.” Lifting the lid off you are met with a thin soft foam cutout placed over the unit. Remove that and you find a cutout soft foam insert, which houses the SV021, cable, hemp carrying bag, and adapter. That’s it. Not bad, but I would invest in a $20 case to carry the unit, for on beauty alone it is worth it.
Utilizing a 50mm in-house derived driver with an ultra-thin polycarbonate diaphragm and fiber, the SV021 is not groundbreaking by any means. Set in a plastic cup, which can be accessed by rotating the earcup off, it seems quite normal.
Using a 3mm thick magnet made of Nd-Fe-B, the pull of it is strong enough to drive the 50mm unit well. Speed is helped by a copper clad aluminum wire, ensuring high sensitivity as well as good dynamic performance and speed of driver.
As mentioned in my Phoenix review, other manufacturers could take lessons from Sivga/Sendy on build quality. The Rosewood on the SV021 is impeccable in quality and finish. With a thick poly coat over it, there does seem to be a “fakeness” to it mentioned by some, but all one need do is look at it, and you realize the unit is superbly built. Etched on the outside of the earcup is the SIVGA logo. Some come with white accenting, others with burned in black. Mine came in black, and that is all right, due to the understated nature of it.
With 2.5 mono jacks on the bottom in gold accent, the tan cable ends in 3.5mm se, but an included 6.35mm se jack can be used. The yokes are in burnished silver-gray, and darn near scratch proof. Adjusting is easy with detents making for easy adjustment. The unit stays put as well. Soft tan pleather graces the headband and earcups giving a luxury car-like elegance. I was not sure if I would like it in pictures, but upon having the unit in hand, it is flat gorgeous and would match several high-end autos if placed inside for your listening pleasure. Those tan earcups are soft and sensuous in feel, compressing the right amount for my head. An excellent seal is the result, but it is not completely air-tight, rather mostly. And that is OK. Taking the unit off with music playing, I clapped the earcups together and could barely hear any sound emanating from within. And this was at a good volume as well. Each yoke is labeled “L” or “R” for ease of use as you could easily switch the equally balanced unit build-wise. Other than some slight mismatching on the seam sewing of the headband, the overall feel and look is of impeccable quality. As I said, Sivga has their craftsmanship down pat.
Fit with those cushy earcups is quite good, giving the right amount of grip for my head. In rather violent shaking, the unit did not move wither side to side or fore/aft. Compression is just right as a result for me. I will add that the pads can get a bit warm in hot weather, but most closed cell pleather/leather cups do to me. Overall quality makes this one of the best if not the best at its price.
Many times, as a reviewer our time is at a premium. Especially if this is a hobby, which it is to the vast majority. That said, if you keep organized you can give initial impressions and then burn the unit in while other units are being reviewed. I always burn units in, whether called for or not. It is my philosophy that users want to hear how the unit sounds in a year’s time as well as brand new, should there be any change. Many manufacturers advocate burning their units in. Some do not. Sivga made no such charge, but after an initial listen the unit was put onto my Shanling M0 for 75+hrs straight of music. Personally, I did not hear much change, and would be averse to stating any changes did happen based upon my shortcomings. That said, the initial listen was favorable as was the burned in listening.
Bass to me is just about right, with adequate push down below. Speed is not quite as fast as I would have thought, but we are talking about a sub-$150 unit not oriented towards bass. As such there is a bit of bloom to it, and this can render a bit onto the mids. Not nearly as withdrawn to me as some find it, but that bleed into the mids does hinder my enjoyment just a bit. Guitar work such as on Dave Matthew’s Black And Blue Birds sounds wonderful, even if his voice is a bit too far forward. There is the bloom of bass, but it is countered by the treble push, which some have noted is too hot at certain frequencies. I tend not to EQ anything in or out, and do not find it too bad with my high frequency aversion tendency. Soundstage is wide and high but lacks a bit in depth. Not thin of depth by any means to me, but less deep than wide and high. That height gives a good spatial area for the notes to linger, giving a warmth to those notes, which is a laid-back treat.
As stated above, once really should devote more time to a unit, even if upon first impression it is not favorable. One of my least favorite IEM’s ever was downright horrible to me. But of good faith, I listened diligently and fulfilled the obligations necessary to promote who it might be good for. And this was an IEM, which was seeing good acclaim from many. Not me.
That bass note is not as taut as I would like, but it does reach to good depth. That lack of tight nature coincidentally also highlights a bit of thinness to that bass to me. It does not have the girth, which to me should correspond to that depth. I’m not sure what it is, but while I like the bass, it could present a bit richer, warmer signature to be fully satisfying to me. On complex auditions it can cover a bit of the mids as well, hinting on that bleed into the mids. Attack is fairly rapid, but the lingering decay aspect colors what could be a very good bass. It is enjoyable, nonetheless. Tightening up the bass speed would make the bass a bit more coherent to me and make that lingering into the mids less intrusive. At least that’s my take.
Digging deep into Nirvana’s live version of About A Girl, Curt’s vocals are sublime and pastoral. Cutting through the accompanying instruments as well his vocals define the good points of the mids to me in that male vocal genre. A bit thick in presentation, this counters that bit of thinness of the bass. Almost fighting for control, the end is still a pleasantry of sound melding. It really is pretty decent for a sub-$150 headphone, even if others promote much better detail retrieval. The SV021 is not bad by any means, it simply isn’t class leading in clarity if that is what you are looking for. A review mentions how it is a bit veiled in presentation. I can hear this but personally I do not think it hinders the sound. At least in my interpretation. That warmth pervades here as a result. A bit of laid-back nature if you will.
Moving up top, the treble is known for a couple of peaks, which are grating to some. Either due to my losses or my preference for a lifted but not too far forward treble note make this adequate to me and does not hinder my listening pleasure in the least. Not grating, too bitey or screeching to me, the treble could use a bit more push up top to separate away from the mids more. This might stretch the space of notes giving better spatial representation as well. On twenty-one pilots Isle Of Flightless Birds, a very bright song to begin with, the treble note comes out as crisp and a bit too hot. So, there is that ability to stretch notes up, but the song to me is a very hot recording on that end. I have never been able to turn that song up volume-wise as much as I would like on most every IEM or headphone unfortunately.
As mentioned above, soundstage is wide and high, but lacks a bit of depth. The aforementioned twenty-one pilots song is an excellent judge of stage. Keyboard floating between sides and with Tyler’s vocals slightly left of center, the support instruments space out well across the stage. This is a fabulous song for judging such items as airiness and stage as well as complexity. For the SV021, it does an admirable job, but could use a bit of help with the detail department. In fact, if I had to point out the limiting factor of the SV021 it would be the ability to present notes cleanly. This is not a bad thing, as the IEM I just finished “suffered” the same “fault,” but I still liked it very much. On a song such as Drunken Soldier, by The Dave Matthews Band, that lack of clarity actually plays well into the song. You imagine yourself on the deck of a pirate ship as fighting is going on everywhere whence you jump across to those darn British ships.
Sivga SV021 ($199) v Thinksound ON2 ($130, discontinued):
A certain Canadian reviewer and I share a certain affinity with Thinksound. Based in Canada helps his count, but for me (and he) the sound is what drives us. Purchased after reading his review, I picked up the ON2 for a song. I am truly sad that it is discontinued for if you could only afford one portable on-ear that mimics a closed-back and love a bassy, saucy sound, the Thinksound would be it. I lament that I do not get to listen often enough and each time I scribe about it, vow to listen more. Bass that might make the Legend X or CFA Cascade blush and adequate enough detail highlight this gem. It’s major shortcomings (but not to me) are that it is an on-ear (better seal then most closed-backs) and it lacks that succinct detail retrieval. Not meant to be the best at details, the ON2 is a raucous, fantastically good listen. If it came down to that, the Thinksound would trounce the Sivga. But if you want better detail retrieval, with a bit less bass, and less forward vocals, the SV021 might be the better choice.
No matter, find a used ON2, purchase it and use it on the commutes in the morning. You will be like a Wall Street Tycoon after your morning listen.
Sivga SV021 ($199) v Final Audio Sonorous III ($299ish):
Following on the heels of the excellent Sonorous viii, the iii is the “budget model” with similar tuning. From what I hear, the Sonorous viii is a wonderful sounding headphone, which has taken many by storm. The Sonorous iii was a used purchase to fill a niche in which I had a need. The sound definitely comes across as near class leading at the price point, even at full retail. A good, clean reach of bass sets the foundation and the mids to me are simply sumptuous. Rich in tonality, but not syrupy or thick. Full bodied with the right amount of depth to make it a wonderful listen. Treble presents itself as a bit far forward for my tastes and a bit lifted, but not in an artificial manner. Very good for guitar work and orchestral songs, the Sonorous iii plays nicely with Alex Fox. Throw in male vocals, and you get equally good tone. Dave Matthews Black And Blue Bird is a wonderful love song with the right weight and clarity. When the cymbal hits come in, they are true and succinct. With the SV021, there is a small sense of artificiality with this song, but not enough to worry me.
You might think this an unfair comparison what with the price discrepancy, but to me it puts more credence at how well the SV021 can perform.
Sivga SV021 ($199) v Kennerton Magni V2 ($650):
Even though this is V2 of the Magni, I fell for it upon first listen. To me this is the target at this price, and rightly so. Gorgeous of look (but not quite the flawless construction of the Sivga) and a wonderfully deep, rich bass. Vocals can come across as slightly subdued or withdrawn; which you might even call a bit muddled. But it is not. That “muddling” is simply the whole of the unit working together as a cohesive unit. There is a reason that Kennerton headphones are gaining a near cult-like following and to me the Magni sets the low end closed-back standard. This is also the reason that the company LSA uses the Kennerton guts as their template. Less expensive of price, but equally adept, it is a wonder that Kennerton allows this. No matter, I do believe it is because they see the benefit of having good sound for all. Much appreciated, it is.
Finishing this up while Van Morrison plays in my ear is quite a treat. His voice is so powerful, that the wrong listening unit can become quite painful. A bright IEM or headphone might immediately turn you off. And yes, I will admit that there are a couple of spikes in the SV021 sound signature. But they do not bother me like some others I have on hand. Vocals are a bit withdrawn as a result, but to me this lends to the overall appealing laid back tonality present. Is it flawless like the construction? No. Should it be for the meager price offered? Maybe, but I think that is an unreasonable standard with which to set. When looking for a headphone and listening, you should orient your search on the music in which you listen mostly, then tailor to that. If the headphone then sounds good with your favored genre, you have met your marker. If it also sounds good in the other music in which you listen, that is indeed a bonus.
But this holds true as well: should you be looking for something so specific as to only favor your preferred genre? To me, no. If you do, then you may have too much disposable income. And to me, here is where the SV021 can cross those lines. Rich of sound, even with the peaks, but not necessarily tied to one genre. Does it work best for something such as mellower listening? Sure. Does it perform best for say EDM or classical? Probably not, but it will certainly suffice, especially when you combine the price and superb build. Again, my first impression of the color combination was of a car interior. But in hand, it really is quite gorgeous. Plus, I have just been told you can now purchase this model in black (see pictures). Stained black Rosewood is all right, but to me you hide the character of the wood itself by doing so. That said, if you prefer a more subtle look, then indeed the black is the best choice. This does seem weird to me as I usually prefer more subdued looks. No matter, I still like the SV021.
Finally, there have been a couple of reviews, which seemed to pan the SV021, and do so quickly. To me doing so might be their modus operandi, but you really need to be informed on all fronts to make your decision. I like the SV021, they do not. This is how it should be, but the reviews must be of a thorough nature. I have had items, which I really, really did not like, but I still went through the motions, promoting the item for who MIGHT like it. And I think that is the way it should be. You may indeed make your impressions early after a couple of hours, and they may not change (as I mentioned). But to dismiss it after that short time is shorting your obligations as a reviewer and one, we need to take seriously. I like the SV021 for its laid-back nature, potent and placeable bass, even if it is not as taut or deep as I would like. Mids are good, but not great. They portray the sound adequately, but do not shine. If you prefer a shining set of mids, look elsewhere. If you want a thoroughly competent, rich, warm signature that presents itself as laid back, for an affordable price and with gorgeous looks and build; then the SV021 may be one at which to look.
I thank Sivga for the review sample, I do like the SV021 for what it presents: that richness of sound, coupled with a laid-back signature and gorgeous looks, which I like. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s why I like it.