Sivga Phoenix ($255): The dynamic driver flagship from Sendy’s sister company Sivga. The Phoenix looks similar and also pursues a warmer tuning, albeit with more restraint. The Phoenix is actually the more balanced and tonally cleaner headphone. Both have a similar style of bass tuning with wideband emphasis and a thicker, warmer character. The Apollo is more upper bass focused giving it a tubbier quality. However, the note presentation is more controlled and faster on the Apollo giving it the more textured and visceral sound all the same. Above, the Apollo is noticeably more laid-back with the Phoenix having more head-gain and midrange clarity in general.
The Apollo sounds much more laid-back and darker in general but is also more articulate which helps to redeem clarity and openness to some extent. The Phoenix is more balanced and has bigger, clearer vocals while the Apollo is more coloured and contrasted. The Apollo has the superior treble presentation in all aspects. The Phoenix is a bit crisper around the lower treble, however, the Apollo is more linear and has a sharper transient response. This makes it sound both more balanced and more detailed by a good margin. Neither extend terrifically nor have the largest soundstage. The Apollo has noticeably sharper imaging while the more balanced Phoenix rewards with better separation.
Hifiman Sundara ($349): At their now reduced price, the Sundara is the headphone to beat in the midrange planar category. Of course, it is difficult to compare apples and oranges as the Sundara comes across as more of an all-rounder than the more coloured, niche Apollo. The Sundara has a small mid-bass bump for warmth that the Apollo takes to another level. In turn, it comes across as bassier, fuller but also tubbier. The Sundara has better separation and slightly more sub-bass that gives it a more dynamic and balanced character. The Apollo has more mid-bass texture and a keener attack and faster decay but also a fuller note structure that means gains in note definition can be difficult to appreciate. The midrange is far more present on the Sundara, delivering greater balance and clarity.
The Apollo is noticeably more relaxed, being much fuller, warmer and more coherent but also lacking the same vocal clarity. In a recurring theme, it is a more articulate headphone but this isn’t enough to compensate for its dipped tuning. The treble is a bit more even on the Apollo while the Sundara has a small bump in the lower treble for crispness. This gives it a thinner and more aggressive detail presentation. However, the Apollo despite not being as bright, does sound a bit more refined, providing greater fine detail retrieval and accuracy here. Both extend similarly and offer similar levels of headroom in turn. The Sundara has a slightly larger stage while the Apollo has a sharper sense of direction. The Sundara unsurprisingly has better separation due to its more balanced tuning.
Grado RS-1x ($750): A more price-appropriate comparison would be the RS-2x, however, I did not have this model on hand at the time of review. The RS-1x serves as a good Grado-representative due to its combination of warm low-end and bright, revealing nature above that contrast heavily to the Apollo. The Apollo is immediately bassier and more mid-recessed. The Apollo extends better and has thicker, bigger bass notes. The RS-1x is meanwhile faster and cleaner. Both have a similar level of definition but the RS-1x has a big separation advantage at the expense of dynamics. The midrange presentations represent foils to each other. The Grado is bright, revealing and endlessly clear and open.
It resolves the minutiae far better and also layers better. The Apollo is lusher and more relaxed. It has much higher coherence and less intensity. However, though articulate, it doesn’t glimpse the same definition of the Grado. Both headphones have an energetic top-end, the Grado more so. The Apollo is more focused and linear here while the Grado has an airier, more coloured nature. The Apollo has a sharper leading edge, delivering a bit more detail in the foreground while the Grado extends better and resolves more fine detail above. The Grado has a larger soundstage with much better separation and layering. Meanwhile, the Apollo has a sharper sense of direction from its more intimate stage.
The Apollo was a headphone that really took some thought to review as its heavily coloured nature makes fair evaluation a far more subjective endeavour. For instance, coming from other headphones like the Sundara, the Apollo sounds murky and ill-defined. Though vice versa, the Sundara may sound thin and intense. Listeners can acclimatize to many sound signatures over time and it is only after you have extensive experience with a variety of gear that you develop an “internal reference” of sorts. For me, that makes the Apollo a headphone with acceptable clarity and midrange performance but impressive bass texture and a very well-executed treble response. Whilst evidently not the choice for vocal-centric genres or those wanting the largest soundstage, the Apollo weaves together an interesting mix of qualities to provide an engaging listen all the same. It isn’t genre versatile and cannot be freely recommended to all but like all coloured headphones, surely offers special appeal to a select niche. This is a headphone with superb all-day comfort and an attractive design suitable for lovers of a rich, V-shaped sound with zero midrange intensity.
The Apollo is available from Sendy Audio (International) for $499 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Sendy Audio and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.
Track List –
Billie Eilish – dont smile at me
Bob Seger – Night Moves
Courtney Barnett – Rae Street
Cream – Wheels of Fire
Dire Straits – Communique
Dirty Loops – Next To You
Eagles – Hotel California
Elton John – Honky Chateau
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
H.E.R – I Used To Know Her
Jasen – BYE
John Mayer – Continuum
Kanye West – Ye
Missy Higgins – The Sound of White
Radiohead – OK Computer
TALA – ain’t leavin` without you
The Beatles – Abbey Road
The weeknd – After Hours
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride