Review - Sivga Phoenix

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 

The Sivga Phoenix has been kindly loaned to me by Keydis, who is the official distributor for Sivga and Sendy Audio (amongst other brands) in Spain. As they are the distributor and do not sell directly to the public, I will leave a link to the page that shows the stores that these can be purchased from in Spain.

Keydis have not requested anything specific, therefore, as always, my review will be as sincere and unbiased as possible, although it is always good to consider that it hasn’t cost me anything to try out these headphones.

The list of stores that carry the Sivga Phoenix can be found here: https://keydis.es/comprarsivga.html

Intro…

Sivga is a brand that appeared recently in the headphone world and has soon made a reputation for themselves. The same manufacturer is actually responsible for two brands of headphones, Sivga Audio and Sendy Audio. The latter of the two focuses on higher end models whereas the Sivga brand is focused on more budget orientated offerings, while still maintaining a lot of the same technology used in their higher end items.

Until now, I hadn’t had the chance to try out any models from Sivga and the Phoenix is a model that I had read a lot about and was generally praised by the majority of its users. As you have probably noticed if you have read previous reviews of mine, just because something is praised does not mean that it will be something that I will enjoy personally, therefore I was very interested in trying it out and when I was offered that chance, I jumped at it.

With a sales price of 265€ (at the time of writing this review), this open back dynamic driver headphone sits in a range where there have been some good models appearing lately and, to be totally honest, the majority of my listening time lately has been with planar headphones so I was excited to spend some time with an open back dynamic model.



Presentation…

The Sivga Phoenix arrives in a black box with wood coloured highlights around the center. The box is nothing special to look at but once inside, I feel that Sivga have included decent quality accessories, especially for something in this price range.

The first thing we find is the carrying case. The case is a rigid style that follows the shape of the headphones. It has an imitation leather look to the outside and on the inside, the molded shape does a good job of holding the headphones in place. There is no specific place for the cable but there is plenty of space for it to be stored inside the small drawstring bag that is included and fits nicely inside the case with the headphones.

Also included is a single ended, fabric covered cable, which I find to be very nice. The cable is terminated as a 3.5mm TRS on one end (adapter to 6.35mm included) and two 3.5mm TS connectors on the other ends, one for each cup.

In my case, Keydis also included a second set of pads that have been released by Sivga for the Phoenix, which I will discuss more about a little later. The stock pads are imitation leather on the outside with a cloth interior, whereas the replacement pads are imitation leather in their whole.

That is it as far as presentation and included goodies, however, I feel that the items included are enough to be happy with without having invested too much on items that are not a necessity.



Build and aesthetics…

In my opinion, the Phoenix is a well built set of headphones. It does have a few quirks that I will mention in a moment but in general, it is well put together and I cannot see any obvious flaws in it’s assembly or mechanisms. 

The cups are made of Zebra wood, with metal yokes and plenty of adjustment in swivel and angle. The headband is metal with a comfort strap underneath, however, this is one of the first quirks, the length of the headband and comfort strap. In my case I need to wear the strap adjusted to its maximum height. Now, this is enough for me personally and I have a rather large head but if you are someone with a larger head than mine, you may find it is not quite long enough. Again, this is not the case for me personally but it is worth taking note of.

The second quirk is the depth of the (stock) pads. As far as internal diameter they are fine and large enough to surround my ears without issue. The issue is depth. I don’t have small ears, but they are not large either, and they do touch the cloth covering the drivers. I haven’t found them to be uncomfortable but if this is something that irritates you, the fact that your ears touch the part covering the driver, then the stock pads will probably not be for you. The sensation is very similar to wearing something from the HD6X0 series with well worn pads.

The second set of included pads, which can be purchased separately from the same places that stock the headphones, are deeper and I do not feel the inside of the driver covering them. However, the second pads are made entirely of imitation leather which, in my opinion, is not as nice as the fabric covered stock pads. There are also some differences in sound between the two sets but I will talk about that in just a moment.

All in all, I find the Sivga Phoenix comfortable but if I could make the headband extend just a little more (in order to fit a but thicker comfort strap) and the pads a little deeper (which is done with the replacement pads), they would go from being comfortable to very comfortable.



Sound…

As I mentioned a moment ago, there is a difference between the stock pads and the replacement pads as far as sound, as is the case with almost all headphones when the pads are swapped for something different.

I spent the first few days using them with the stock pads, getting a good feel for their sound, before swapping over to the replacement pads for a few days, to finally do some back to back comparisons with my usual list of test tracks (which you can find here). My impressions that I will leave below are using the stock pads, I will leave impressions on the replacement pads at the end.

Before I do continue though, I just wanted to mention power. These headphones do not need hardly any power at all. While using the JDS Labs Atom for the comparisons between pads, I was sitting at a level that is lower than many IEMs I have tried. The Sivga Phoenix will run easily from a phone, a dongle, a laptop, or just about anything else that has a headphone socket. This does not mean that every source will sound great but to be honest, I didn’t find huge differences between sources with these headphones, unless the source is a bad source like my cell phone, they always seem to sound pretty much the same.

Starting at the bottom with the subbass regions, there is a slight roll off when reaching really low, as in below the 40Hz region. However, this is not something that is really noticeable unless we are isolating sounds in those frequency ranges as the harmonics of these low notes easily make up for the slight drop. Let’s just say that there is no lack of rumble when listening to “Chameleon” as a test track. In fact, as these headphones have a high sensitivity, 40% on the dial of the Atom is enough to feel the vibration in my ears from this track.

In the mid bass and higher bass regions, these headphones will not disappoint those who like their bass. By this I don’t mean that they are overly boosted, although they are a bit north of neutral, it is the way the dynamic driver reacts with the bass notes, added to the lower mids, that give the sensation of having bass that is more than I have come to expect from open back headphones, especially in this price range. A set of headphones that I keep in my collection mainly due to their bass performance are the DT1990 Pro, and while the Phoenix may not be quite as clean and fast in their bass as the Beyer offering (that costs double the price of the Sivga), I do feel that the bass is impressive and can come across beautifully with the correct music.

As we get into the lower mids, there is a slight elevation that rolls over from the mid/high bass regions. Depending on the music we are listening to, this may come across a little bloated, for example, with the track “No Sanctuary Here”, I do feel that it is missing a little clarity in the transition. However, moving to songs that are cleaner in these ranges, such as “Shot Me Down”, or even better, moving away from electronic music towards electric bass and guitars, they no longer give the sensation of being bloated and the tonality of bass and electric guitars is very pleasurable.

Moving through the mids, there is no noticeable dip until we start hitting the higher end of the mids. This gives many deep voices a beautiful tonality but some voices that reside in the higher mid ranges may seem a little recessed. As an example, the tonality of the voice of the male vocals in “Hallelujah” by Pentatonix seems to have better presence than the female vocals of the same track. However, listening to the vocals on “Seven Nation Army” by Zella Day, I did not experience the same feeling, even though the vocals are of a very similar range in both tracks, so it is certainly track dependent. I find the overall tonality and timbre of the mids in general to be very pleasant, except on those few occasions where I noticed a slight recess in female vocals.

Climbing into the higher regions, there is certainly a sensation of roll off in the treble. The roll off doesn’t start early enough to make these headphones sound dark but it is noticeable. This can add to the sensation of the bass and lower mid presence, as there isn’t a lot of brilliance up top to balance them out but, to be honest, I think that works in favour of these headphones and the fact that they don’t try to be something they are not. Sibilance is avoided and they do not come across as harsh, even with tracks that are usually on the verge of being so. At no moment do they become uncomfortable in the higher ranges. 

The soundstage and image presentation is good, better than I expected from a set of headphones with this type of sound signature. They are not huge in this aspect but they certainly have enough room in order to give instruments breathing space between them. “La Luna” is very nicely laid out. The only time I found them to come across as a little claustrophobic was when I played tracks with too many instruments fighting for the space in the higher bass and lower mids.

As far as detail, there are two things going on with the Phoenix. On one side we have the actual detail capabilities of the driver, which are not amazing but they are not bad for a headphone of this price range. The second thing is that the lack of treble does take away some of that “false sense of detail” that many headphones rely upon to seem more detailed than they actually are. Other than a few exceptions, I think that the majority of headphones around this price that seem detailed would quickly be on a par if the higher regions were EQ’s to a similar response as the Phoenix.



Pad swap…

So, after swapping the pads (and also swapping between them), there is a clear difference in sound from the stock pads. 

The first noticeable difference is that the sound is cleaner in the lower regions. Now, with this I don’t wish to say that the sound was dirty before, but some of that low end rumble is reduced, also reducing the mid and high bass slightly, giving a sensation of cleaner and more precise hits. This is something that would usually be my preference, as I am not someone who likes overly prominent bass, however, in the case of the Phoenix, I do feel that it is taking away a little of what the Phoenix is, moving away from its “signature”. 

I feel that with the replacement pads that the lower regions are moving the headphone more towards many other options. Don’t get me wrong, they are still very capable headphones in the lower regions and are way above many other options I have tried in this price range, but it is like going from being in the spotlight to being mixed with the crowd.

In the mids, the recess that I found in the female vocals of “Hallelujah” is no longer present, with the vocals being much more balanced between male and female voices. The tonality of the voices is still very present but the male vocals do lose a bit of the richness that they present with the stock pads. I do like the result of the mids with these pads, again seming cleaner (please refer to comment before about cleanliness) but again I find myself missing a little of the timbre and tonality that the Phoenix has with the stock pads.

The treble also seems to be clearer and a little more extended with the replacement pads, which also adds to that sensation of detail I mentioned previously. Sibilance is a little more present with these pads but not enough to be problematic or irritating. They also keep harshness in check which is a big plus.



Conclusion…

I am a little torn in this review, not regarding the headphones, it is more about the pads. The replacement pads move the sound signature closer to something that aligns with my preferences, however, I find that I enjoy the stock pads which present a sound that is different and is very enjoyable for times that I am in the mood for that bass and rumble. To be honest, having both sets of pads does offer enough of a difference to make it like having two sets of headphones that are very similar but noticeably different.

The replacement pads do improve comfort, at least for me personally, but I don’t find the Phoenix to be too uncomfortable when using the stock pads either. 

If I had to pick only one set of pads, then I would probably go with the stock pads as the sound is something that is different from the rest of my headphones. I feel that when I swap to the replacement pads, it takes it more towards a signature that is similar to other headphones that I already have and perform better in this regard, whereas the stock sound is very complimentary and does not compete directly with anything else in my collection.

For the price of these headphones, I have no doubt that they are worth their cost. I would suggest picking up a set of the replacement pads if these are to be your only (or primary) headphones, as I feel that the improvement in comfort is worth it and that you get two sound signatures in one headphone, the first being something different and very good, the second being more on a level playing field with other models but still very competent.

I am glad that I had the chance to try out these Sivga headphones and I have already been investigating things from the Sendy line up.

SenyorC