Most headphones sold today – and that is quite many – are active and wireless. Fortunately, there are still good, old-fashioned hi-fi headphones with cable, intended for a cozy moment at home in the living room. And some of them come from unexpected orgins.
Sivga Phoenix is from Dongguan, China. The company, which has been in existence since 2016, only makes headphones. Under the brand names Sivga and Sendy. However, without us having heard of any of them before.
Sivga Phoenix are open over-ear headphones in a design that oozes classic high-end. The most notable are the ear cups, which are made of glossy lacquered, milled wood. The open ear cups are covered with black metal grilles, and the headband is made of black anodized steel. The headband and ear pads are lined with faux leather on the outside and soft, breathable fabric on the sides that touch the skin.
It all looks like something that could well cost a foru-figure amount if a well-known high-end manufacturer’s logo was on them. But it is not. And the Chinese wooden headphones really only cost a fraction.
To complete the feeling of luxury, you get a transport case in rigid imitation leather. The case is molded to fit just the headphones. That makes sense. But it most closely resembles a carrying case for hippopotamus testicles!
Light and comfortable
The Sivga Phoenix is soft and comfortable like a velvet upholstered beanbag chair. But also quite light. 296 grams is not in itself a high weight for a pair of full-sized over-ear headphones for listening in the cozy corner. And with the solid wooden ear cups, the weight seems surprisingly low. The only thing that drags down the comfort a bit is that the ear cups are not deep enough to accommodate this tester’s ears without pressing against the grille in front of the drivers.
Sivga Phoenix is built on the open principle, which they share with the majority of the best high-end headphones. Open headphones often have one more – yes, open reproduction than closed ditto. The drivers are of the conventional dynamic type, ie built as speaker units in mini format.
On Sivga’s website, you can read in fairly Chinese-influenced English that the drivers are constructed with “three-frequency balance” with “appropriate bass”, “natural midrange and vocals” and “crisp treble”. Without explaining in detail how the good properties are obtained.
Requires a headphone amplifier
Sivga points out on its website that Phoenix, thanks to an impedance of 32 ohms, can be used with a computer or a mobile with analog audio output. It was also no problem to get enough volume on the PC’s audio output. But the built-in amplifier clearly had a hard time controlling the headphones, which went beyond both the precision of the bass and the dynamics when playing at more than background strength.
Connected to the headphone output on a NAD C658 preamplifier, things got more controlled.
The sound of Sivga Phoenix
The look brings back memories of high-end, but havare Sivga managed to make the sound as exclusive as the finish? Maybe not quite – but they made a really good try!
The first thing that falls in the ears is the treble, which is really crisp and well-dissolved. Lots of light, weightless details flow into the ear canals. The strings on mandolins and violins sound as if they have just been changed. After a little getting used to, it turns out that the beautiful treble may not be quite as nuanced as it is prominent. But the cheap Sivga headphones are still better than most in the price range.
The midrange range is really well nuanced. Voices are clearly audible in the soundscape, and it is easy to tell the difference between individual voices – as in “Right Hand Man” from Hamilton, where Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson and Leslie Odom Jr. reciting in shifts. It’s also easy to hear the different vocal layers in Disturbed’s version of “The Sound of Silence”.
About the bass, Sivga themselves say that they have strived to make it “suitable”. Whether the wording is due to language difficulties or honesty is not to say. But the description fits very well. The bass certainly covers the need, especially when you take the very reasonable price into account. But it does not keep the standard from the other tonal ranges.
The good thing about the bass is that it is plentiful. And that’s the bad news, too. It’s fine with rhythm, but the upper bass is so powerful that it both takes the attention away from the deep bass and especially dominates male voices, that stand in the shadow of the bass and therefore seem withdrawn.
This may sound like a harsh critique, and the quality is overall fine. Not least considering the price. But a slightly better controlled bass would have lifted the whole.
Sivga Phoenix looks like a far more expensive product than the price suggests. And the feeling of luxury is complete. With real wood ear cups and a reproduction that is both comfortable and detailed, you are allowed to experience a scent of high-end for a price that does not hurt too much.
This is not the first time we have experienced surprisingly good headphones from unknown Chinese manufacturers. The Planar model Takstar HF 580 is another example. But the Sivga’s are actually more cohesive. You can put a finger on weaknesses, but for the price they will be a perfect choice for armchair listening.