Hailing from China Sivga is known for their high quality headphones with a touch of wood in them. They raised their head a few years ago and have a handful of headphones under their belt. Sivga has been delivering eye-catching designs as well as intriguingly equipped headphones since their arrival. The Phoenix reviewed by Ryan has been one of their most popular headphones and their budget headphone SV021 Robin, which I reviewed last time, can be considered as one of the best headphone under $200. What I am reviewing here is the SV023.
Is it the successor to the SV021? That’s not clear but it is thrice as expensive as the Robin and is the most expensive headphone on offer from Sivga. Just like any other Sivga headphones, SV023 too has wooden cups but unlike the Robin it doesn’t have any color options. It houses a 50mm dynamic driver and is currently priced at $449. SV023 competes with the highly popular Sennheiser 6 series of headphone.
I will compare it with one of the most accomplished headphones under, $500 Sennheiser HD650.
Get one for yourself from here:
UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES:
Last time when I reviewed the SV021 there wasn’t much to talk about when it comes to accessories but this time around we have a few interesting things inside the box. First of all, unboxing is fairly straightforward. Open the upper half of the box and a beautiful looking semi-hard carry case with leather like texture greets us and all the accessories along with the headphone are placed inside it. Its 4.4mm pentaconn cable and a 3.5mm single ended adaptor are safely tucked in a drawstring cloth pouch between the headband and protective foam.
I have a small issue with the case though. It barely can fit the headphone and can’t be closed if the cable is attached. This is not a serious issue but unplugging from the sockets every time I put the headphone in the case is not very convenient.
BUILD QUALITY AND COMFORT:
Sivga does not make clunky or shoddy headphones and SV023 is no exception. Built around a light weight frame and wooden cups this headphone feels lighter than most of the full size headphones. At 318g this isn’t exactly feather weight but its minimal looks do give an impression of that. There is no excessive use of metal or padding but it still is very sturdy and flexible. What I didn’t like is the sliding faux leather padding. It has no stops and slides freely on both sides according to the pressure applied which can lead to asymmetrical movements on the metal band. If this is looked over, SV023 has no weak points. Its wooden body adds class and even when this is open back there is good amount of insulation on its back to stop heavy leakage and protects the drivers from dust and moisture.
Comfort wise there is little to no complain. SV023 has an ergonomically design hybrid pad with cloth like texture on the face side and faux leather on the sides. I am not sure if the curves on the pad will fit all heads but it’s reasonably designed. These pads are fairly comfy but can get a bit ticklish after a while, I had it on when I was doing some twists and it started to feel a bit funny after sometime. I should not complain but this is a possibility, especially in humid conditions.
SV023 ships with an excellent looking high quality 4.4mm 6N OCC copper cable with 2.5mm mono connectors for the headphone. Length of this cable is somewhere around 6 feet. For a change, this cable has no microphonics at all and is very supple and doesn’t bouncy either. Most of the headphone cables are stiff and have horrible memory problems but this barely has any. Components used here are of higher quality (metal) with reasonable protection at the headphone jack. Both the cable splitter and cable slider are fairly smaller to get in the way or weigh the cable down.
Use of metal jackets on all the connectors do make this cable feel a bit heavy but it’s still is fairly lightweight. All in all its one of the best looking stock cable.
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:
Even with an Impedance of 300ohm SV023 is not a hard to drive headphone but pairing still is vital to extract good performance from it. What I observed is not the power but it’s the signature and timber of the source. When I used the Beam 3 Pro which has a very precise and very neutral tonality SV023 sounded off, especially tonality and timber were suffering. Notes felt a bit compressed and held back. When paired with similarly powered Shanling UA5 and UA3 SV023 opens up like a friendly neighborhood headphone and when I switched to the Questyle M15 it was a party, excellent pairing with this beauty. The stage gets even bigger and the layering and separation takes it to the top of its class. This is an highly capable headphone after all.
When I used it with my Playmate 2 and S.M.S.L D-6 paired with Bravo Audio V2, SV023 exhibits reasonable improvements with separation, resolution and definition over the Shanling UA3. So in short, SV023 is not a very whiny headphone, pair it with something jolly and crisp and watch it dance.
I don’t know why but initially I wasn’t expecting a lot out of this fairly expensive headphone but I was in for a pleasant surprise. I have a few headphones in this price range, while all of these are very good, none have the balance and end to end accuracy of the Sivga. SV023 delivers a well rounded performance which barely leaves much to be desired. It’s not bass heavy and has a well balanced spectrum with a mild W shaped signature. SV023 does all this without suppressing or trimming out resolution or definition. Just like most of the head-gears of recent times the SV023 too doesn’t have much coloration while having a neutral timber. If you have to know, yes, this headphone is considerably better sounding than the SVo21.
I have used Micro Signature, S.M.S.L. D-6 paired with Bravo Audio V2, Shanling UA5 and Questyle M15 for this review.
This 50mm dynamic driver has a more balanced approach and doesn’t exaggerate the lower end but delivers very good details with very good accuracy. It has very good sub-bass extension and rumble for an open back headphone but doesn’t have a huge volume or heft to it. This lower end is tighter and more precise. Mid bass is slightly fuller and voluminous than the sub-bass but is still not in the bassy category. There is good amount of punch but it’s not heavy or slow. It doesn’t try to bring the bass unless the track asks for it, exhibiting its control and dynamic abilities. Upper bass is equally energized and capable as the SV023 doesn’t have any issues in place notes dynamically. SV023 doesnt skimp on technicalities, delivering the notes in layers without slowing down or dropping frames. Decay speed is on the faster side and is neck in neck with more expensive headphones like Focal Clear.
If you are looking for hard hitting bass with vim and vigor, this might not be it. SV023 doesn’t have a lot of interest in pleasing the bass heads. It is more about accuracy and precision while keeping the air clean of any wooliness or bloating.
I have heard a lot of headphones, extensively in this price range of $150-600, but since the Ollo s4x and Fischer M12s there wasn’t anything comparable to these. There was something off with most of them. But that streek is broken by the SV023. This HP has one of the best presentation and imaging in this price range and can easily outplay cheaper headphones with both its technical and musical abilities.
Sivga has tuned this mid range with high precision and accuracy, I was slightly skeptical of its abilities but once I A-Bed with Sennheiser HD650 it left no doubts in my mind. First thing that caught my attention is its pleasing natural and cohesive timber. There is little to no aggression and the aggression it has is either well controlled or is necessary. Sviga is simply superior to its HD650 in every way possible. It has better balance, slightly less attacking note, a calmer approach with better air between instruments and cleaner, clearer presentation. I was surprised by the stage expansion and instrument distribution, it’s more even and has better definition of individual notes too.
Unlike most of the headphones SV023 has a more balanced vocal region giving it a more accomplished and mature feeling. Both male and female vocals barely have any aggression and maintain a very good balance of energy and body. Tonality and timber too are very accurate with high quality texture. While I was listening to “Fallout boy: my song knows what you did in the dark” SV023 impressed me a lot with its back and foreground separation of both male and female vocal and instruments. The way it creates a stage with accurate instrument placement, aided with subtle cue placement is what makes this an excellent headphone. It doesn’t have any deformation or unnecessary attack to worry about. There is no uncomfortable aggression in the upper mid either. It’s accuracy with instruments like guitar, triangle and similar percussion instruments are absolutely spot-on, vivid yet not sharp. If anything, there is no dull feeling with the SV023. This mid range is tuned for precision and accuracy.
The only place where I find it compromising is with the lower mids. It just dials the energy down to maintain a bit of clarity and separation but this leads to a bit of less transparency to this region.
Treble region retains all the goodness of the mid range and make it slightly milder. It’s lively, crispy and agile yet clear of any offence or aggression. SV023 brings out the melodious yet accurate side of tracks with its exemplary sonic and dynamic abilities. Its ability to distinguish central and surrounding acts is superlative. Treble extension too has little to desire but yes, the upper treble region is slightly relaxed yet retains excellent definition and resolution.
SOUND STAGE AND IMAGING:
As mentioned in the mid range SV023 is a highly capable headphone when it comes to imaging. It has high quality contrast between back and fore ground instruments and the layering and separation is top quality. SV023 delicately places subtle notes further from the head adding up to its sonicality.
Stage size too is above average for a headphone in this price. Initially the stage was a bit intimate, I though, okay.. This is not bad but it opened up with burn-ins and after 120+ hrs it has a well developed stage with evenly dense instrument distribution. No part of the spectrum feel heavy or over crowded. This stage has very good expansion in every direction. It’s more holographic than the HD650 thanks to its wider and deeper stage. Height is very good too but is not as tall as the HD650.
VS Sennheiser HD650:
This has been one of the crowd favorite under $500 and I can understand why but this headphone has started to show its age. Both the headphones have excellent details, and resolution but HD650 is a hit or miss when it comes to definition. Those who like tighter notes and do not worry about sharper notes might like the Hd650, for other Sivga has the SV023. Due to its leaner notes HD650 lacks with tonality, timber and body, notes feel a bit compressed yet tall giving it a unnaturally developed stage height while the SV023 has these things more natural and cohesive. Notes have precise yet fuller body and do not have the excessive finishing energy either. SV023 does not try to make thing lean to bring better transparency like HD650 but still maintains very good clarity. It might hurt a few but SV023 has a much bigger stage than the HD650, its much bigger in every dimension delivering better layering, air between instruments. Thanks to its delicate nature SV023 has better sonics and feels more dynamic while the HD650 can feel a bit monotonous.
Yes, definitely, HD650 needs tube amps priced at over its asking price to tame its excessive energy while retaining good amount of its resolution and detail but the SV023 does not need anything like this. SV023 is happy with most of the sources. If the source is not thin sounding, SV023 is game.
Hmm, as I usually feel with all the head gears I love, I feel like writing all the things in the conclusion too. It just comes naturally. SV023 is a very capable headphone to say the least. It has nearly everything one can ask for. It has the vividness, transparency and details without compromising with dynamics or sonicality. All this is held together in a well developed stage.
In short SV023 is a jolly yet highly technically capable headphone. It is one of the best all-rounder in the market under $500.