Sivga Nightingale ($229): Sivga enters the planar market in IEMs
Sivga is known for gorgeous-looking headphones, with a variety of sound signatures. The recent iterations of Luan and Oriole are stunning at which to look, with a sound that backs up the look. The Nightingale is the company’s first planar IEM, but continues the excellent looks with a hand-finished and polished wood faceplate. Does the sound match the looks? We shall see.
I thank Collin and Sivga for the sample, and continued support. The company is on a roll, and we shall see if the Nightingale matches this.
*As per my standards, the unit was burned in for a minimum of 75 hours. Whether you believe in the potential difference or not isn’t the question. This provides the listener with a potential listening aspect for down-the-road usage after the “new car smell” is gone.
Driver type: Planar diaphragm
Driver size: φ14.5 mm
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40K Hz
Sensitivity: 100 dB +/- 3 dB
Cable length: 1.2 M +/-0.2 M
Plug size: φ4.4 mm
In The Box:
- 1x SIVGA Nightingale
- 1x Hard carrying case
- 2x Eartip size M
- 2x Eartip size L
- 2x Eartip size S
- 1x Eartip case
Shanling M6 Pro
Classical, including piano movements
Portugal. The Man
Sivga also has a reputation for excellent unboxing presentations. The Nightingale is no different, if a bit subdued. Personally, I prefer subdued elegance.
A black square box has a lid, which lifts off to reveal the inside. Other than a gold-laden SIVGA patch and Nightingale (“Night” “Gale/Wind”) with Mandarin script, the box sparkles in gold flecks; reminiscent of the night sky to keep the theme simple.
Removing the lid, you are met with the IEMs, wrapped in plastic stick-on material for protection, and a very nice case below. The top foam is hard to keep the shape, but removing that shows medium compression foam, which helps keep it all in place.
The black & gray crosshatch hard case holds the cable and a nice thin plastic folding tray for the extra tips. Seven sets are included with one already mounted on the Nightingale. Simple and elegant. Almost considered Sivga modus operandi at this point.
There is no denying Sivga’s build quality. There was a hiccup early in the production of some earlier headphones (wood issues), which was quickly addressed. Since then, the company has stayed on top of their QC. The Nightingale is no different.
With a faceplate cut of rare old remnant wood, and hand-polished you get a stunning look to start. The silver rim around it gives an elegant look, but I wonder how a darker bronze color might have looked. This might have continued the understated look. That silver rim accents the glossy black shell (with two ear-facing vent holes). A larger silver nozzle contains a gold spiral-patterned screen for protection, adding to the good looks. A silver rim also accents the jack where the covered 0.78mm 2-pin connection comes into the Nightingale.
The black soft PVC-sheathed cable of four-wire variety comes in 0.23mm 7-core 250D bullet-proof wire in copper. It does not tangle, either. An easy-to-use Y-splitter moves up to keep the Nightingale in place as well.
The teardrop (water droplet reminiscent) shaped shell also helps the user grasp the unit, which as we know can sometimes be an endeavor in itself. I noticed that the silver rim also has an open area right behind it, where the shell curves inward. This can also help the user grasp the unit on ingress & egress.
The 14.5mm planar diaphragm is marked by dual magnets in front and behind. Those magnets are made of an iron-boron combination, which reportedly “significantly improves efficiency.” An aluminum coil combines with the composite diaphragm material making for a transparent treble note while purportedly expanding soundstage. The frame circuitry disc lies between the back magnets and the diaphragm, keeping a close eye on the driver.
The dual frames (between magnet and driver) are also CNC-machined magnesium alloy, which gives a speedy, more accurate response to sound input.
Anytime a planar is used, there will be benefits and drawbacks. Speed in the notes is mostly good in these models. Bass can be a detriment to those IEMs or headphones not named Audeze. Balancing that act with very good sound, soundstage, and signature can be tough. The Nightingale succeeds more than it does not. The bass is tight and speedy, but there is a 9kHz rise, which can create some sibilance and an unnatural tone in the treble region. Cymbal hits tend to sound digital, without realism as a result. The bass is taut, and the mids are lifted and forward accounting for the noted sound above. The Nightingale is very, very good with classical works, especially piano works. Jazz works well, too. Pop and rock sounded “different” to me.
As noted in a recent Reddit thread, the FR of the Nightingale is extremely flat, except for the 9kHz jump. This is what I hear as well. Normally a flat FR bodes well for most music across the spectrum. Here not so much, as this leads to a lack of micro-details, even with the planar driver. Definition in the notes does not come across as crisp or well-defined, with a smoother response; that isn’t really all that smooth. The jump in the mid-treble region can hinder some genres such as the aforementioned in Pop and Rock, lending to a less-than-realistic signature.
The mids do come across as the best part, especially in piano works. Female vocals such as on Amado Mio from Pink Martini showcase the talents of the artist, and the supporting instruments do make way, allowing the highlight. But there is some sibilance. Strong, and fairly well defined, but lacking the cutting edge some female songs demand.
The bass is fairly strong, and I suspect foam tips would help here (I do not have any on hand…), lowering the floor; which would help separation even more. The speed and decay of the bass notes are powerful and succinct, but slightly thin due to the rapid response. This is more about reference, than tuning.
The treble as noted above, has that bite at 9kHz, which detracts from the “realism” factor. Timbre is slanted towards thinner as a result. There is sufficient air between notes, but separation suffers a bit due to the thinning. The soundstage is fairly complex with the extra top-end energy, making itself higher than deeper; with good width. I did find the sound to go beyond my ears, which did help with separation.
I can recommend the Nightingale for jazz recordings and piano works. Here is where the Sivga unit shined. The piano notes were strong and natural. Clarity and detail were at their best with works such as the noted ones. I can add that the Nightingale would be good for older recordings, where detail crispness is not of paramount importance. Male vocals were also good, with a warmth to them that added smoothing to the character.
Latin-esque music such as much of Pink Martini’s works sounded accurate, except for the items noted above. I was provided with good energy but of a richer variety than vibrant. Sometimes, a smooth character works in genres such as this, allowing the immersive effect to provide a calmer response. Where other IEMs would provide that “get up and go” energy, the Nightingale posits a calm attitude. Not bad, just different.
Coming off several very good to excellent headphones from Sivga, I had high hopes for the Nightingale. And for some genres, the Nightingale provides a character, which matches the music well. For others, it does not. This is a dichotomy of sorts, as lately, the IEMs I have had in were very good to excellent across genres. The Nightingale is more specific to the music presented such as piano, jazz, and classical works.
This is almost a brandy-snifter by-the-fire listening device, where you value the calming effect of the song after a hard day. That is not all bad, and neither is the Nightingale for a listening session such as that. It has some very decent good points for the music listed, and your opinion may be quite different for the genres I listed as “OK.” That is kind of the point of these, you like what you like; and my opinion may be different.
I again thank Collin and Sivga for the review sample, I do appreciate it. The company is on a roll, and this small hiccup should not stop them from moving forward.