Sivga SV023 ($449): The latest has a dynamic driver. How good is it?

Sivga SV023: The latest has a dynamic driver. How good is it?

Pros: One of the best Sivga tunes yet
My favorite Sivga so far
Smooth character with good bass response
Excellent build

Cons: Preconceived dislikes for the marque
Vocals could be more vibrant
Really tough competition at this price

Sivga SV023 ($449): The latest has a dynamic driver. How good is it?

SV023

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Intro:
Having reviewed several previous models, Collin asked if I was interested in the SV023. I appreciated the craftmanship involved with the previous models, and of course said yes; for I liked the sound of most so far. The SV023 was in my hands a short time later. Below are my words, and mine only. A word to the wise: do not discount this model based upon the others in the line. Take that for what you will, and as always, YMMV.


Specs:

Style: Over ear, open-back
Transducer type: Dynamic driver
Transducer size: φ 50mm
Frequency response: 20Hz – 40KHz
Sensitivity: 105 dB +/- 3dB
Impedance: 300 Ohm +/-15%
Cable length: 2.0 M +/-0.2 M
Connector: φ 4.4 mm balanced
Weight: 318 g



In The Box:

  • SV023 headphone: 1pc
  • Audio cable: 1pc
  • Leather carrying bag: 1pc
  • Hemp bag: 1pc
  • Adapter 1: 4.4mm to 3.5mm -1pc
  • Adapter 2: 3.5mm to 6.35mm – 1pc
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Gear Used:

Topping A30P/D30P/Shanling M6 Pro
Topping A30P/D30P/MBP
Shanling M6 Pro

HiFiMan Edition XS ($499)



Songs:

Coldplay
Billie Eilish
Green Day
Alex Fox
Tommy Emmanuel
2Cellos
Peter Frampton
John Coltrane
Lynyrd Skynyrd
O.A.R.
David Bowie

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Unboxing:

In typical Sivga/Sendy fashion, the box lifts off like a top cover, replete with outline of the product inside. I like this approach, and the inside, which has a semi-hard foam cut out is shaped perfectly for the equally shapely leather case, which holds the headphones. Sivga does a nice job presenting and protecting the headphones.

Unzipping the hard-shell case, you are met with the headphones tucked neatly inside, along with the typical hemp bag, which contains the headphone cable and adapters. Simple, straightforward, elegant.

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Build/Fit/Finish:

Again, in typical Sivga form, the walnut wood cups are polished to the point that they look like plastic. They aren’t, and the dark color is gorgeous. With a double headband set up, the strap fits over your head, and can be adjusted using the sliders above the yoke. Once adjusted, the headband stays, and is supported by the thin, dual metal band running over the top. Good clamp pressure is had as well. This is another aspect of Sivga that I have liked over the years, the clamp pressure. Not too loose, not too tight. And some have gone as far as bending the metal parts to give a tighter fit. For me it is just fine as is.

Dual 2.5 jack cables fit into the cups, while the other end of the gorgeous 6N OCC cable came with a 4.4bal jack. Included adaptors allow for either 3.5se or 6.35se jacks as well. Overall build of the cable is excellent with no microphonics at all. It is a bit sticky and has gotten caught a couple of times as I move, but I have become aware of that with all headphones and try to be careful regardless of the headphone in question.

As an over-ear headphone, the cup size may be a bit small for some. There is a good oblong shape, but the smaller size and depth of the cup itself may be troublesome to some users. That said, the cup is soft and pliable with the typical cloth cover, which contacts your ears. Contoured to be thinner and shaped differently on the top allows for excellent feel of the cup on the bottom. With some headphones and their same-thickness cups, I have had trouble in the past, below my ears; with too much pressure occurring. Not here, though; the SV023 provides the right pressure for my face and ears, regardless of whether I am wearing a hat or not.

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Technicals:

Coming with a 50mm dynamic driver, the SV023 is made from aviation-grade aluminum alloy. The beryllium diaphragm is coated on the periphery, in a Liquid Crystal Polymer said to help control unwanted movement of the cup thus, reducing distortion tendencies. The magnet is made of a high-performance NdFeb material. The housing is made of hand-selected walnut and goes under close handmade scrutiny when being carved and polished by hand. The SV023 have a high impedance and will most likely require an amp if you want to get the most out of the listening experience.


Sound:

Summary:

The SV023 follows suit with a mature, somewhat laidback sound, which does not tend to offend. Bass is taut, but not as deep reaching as others in this price range, but no matter, for the quality is good. Mids come forward a bit, especially the vocals, which isn’t bad. Treble reach rolls a bit, but not so much that it is subdued or veiled. No, the top end presents an extended reach that almost artificially goes beyond what is heard, tying together a thoroughly pleasant sound, which spreads well in the width and height of the soundstage cavity.

Moar:

Bass does reach fairly low as witnessed om Pomme’s Sans toi, which fills the sound cavity with a good expansive sound to coexist with that bass sound. Tighter and faster in attack to me, there is a very slight delay in decay, which provides me with a melodic response; slowing the sound for that somewhat laidback character. I experienced little to no bleed into the mids as a result, even with the slower decay.

Mids as expressed in the vocals comes across as slightly forward and lifted (which seems to be the way of many lately); which adds the necessary height to the signature for good clarity across the board. The width also allows for good air between notes, but to me the slightly richer and darker sound of the SV023 delays, or rather impacts true spacing of notes. Thus, making the sound laidback yes, but slightly subdued. Some might call this boring, but I rather think it is the combination of what I mention that provides for that.

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The top end of treble notes are slightly rolled to me, but extend enough to artificially (again, to me) broadcast the high notes beyond where they should otherwise occur. Noting no harshness, even on songs with strong female presence in that range or cymbal work such as on Brian Setzer’s high strung Smash Up On Highway One, the sound comes with enough crispness to alleviate that roll, which could very well be how I hear the top end.

Timbre is as a result, slightly subdued, but layering & separation are pretty easily distinguishable. A melding of all presents itself as the maturity of sound in which I speak as well as a smooth character, coming through especially well on the Eagle’s live MTV version of Hotel California. A mellower song with which to start, the song covers all the bases ever so well through the SV023. I rather enjoy this presented mellowness, and replay the song just to re-hear that aspect, with Don Henley’s voice coming through as if I am sitting right on top of the mic as he plays his drum set.

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Comparison:

Sivga SV023 ($449) v HiFiMan Edition XS ($499):

Harder to drive than the SV023, the Edition XS was a nice surprise for me. Coming on the heels of the excellent Deva Pro R2R, the XS comes across with a subdued character, and a feeling of being behind the sound, or rather further from the presentation. Bass is tighter, but with a bit less presence in the sub region. Mids have that particular sound of planar’s as well. Some will like it, others will not. But this brings to point how the Edition XS is more source dependent than the SV023. While it sounds nice through the Topping duo, it needs more power to express itself to me. Some like the HiFiMan sound, others do not. So, there you have it.


Finale:

A shorter review than normal, for there really is not much many do not already know about the Sivga marque. As a result, most already have their impressions made beforehand. Many call the brand boring, with good construction. Others swear by it as their be-all, end-all. Both can be right, for you like what you like, and you dislike what you dislike. That will not change due to a review, nor should it. You may be swayed into pursuing what you already see as a worthy alternative, but opinions most likely will not be swayed.

Here is where Sivga has a seeming dilemma. The SV023 sound quite good to me, and better than previous offerings (including the much more expensive Apollo, which I found very underwhelming). They seem to be melding excellent build, gorgeous looks, and sound; which many will like in the SV023. And for that, I do like the SV023, ranking it as one of my favorites in the line and sub-$500 price. Some will still not like it, and that is their prerogative. But to discount a marque based upon previous models, and you may very well miss a model you like. That would be like judging Chevy on the Aveo alone and discounting the Camaro or Corvette. I shall leave that distinction up to you. I do think you will not be disappointed.

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