The Low Down
While the good looks, quality build, and reasonable price may get them in the door, the Sivga SV021’s ($149) sensational comfort plus smooth, balanced presentation keep them hanging around.
These wonderful closed-back dynamic headphones have a naturally open sound that makes them a joy to listen to, and the plush earpads will make sure you feel good while doing so. They’re also very sensitive, so you can drive them with any device.
That said, they do scale up well with a quality DAC/Amp combo like the Audioquest Dragonfly Cobalt.
There is some roll-off at the extremes of the audioband, which keeps it from fully competing with more expensive offerings, but the overall smoothness and crispness through the midrange make them sound a lot more expensive than they are.
The only thing they’re missing is a hard storage case, but they do come with a nice box to store and protect them at home.
Good-sounding closed-back headphones are hard to come by, especially for $149! So if you’re looking for a refined closed-back headphone at a value price, look no further!
The Sivga SV021, otherwise known as “Robin,” is a closed-back headphone with sumptuous lacquered wood earcups and plush protein leather earpads. The sleek metal headband is also covered in plush protein leather.
The color scheme of tan leather juxtaposed against the aluminum frame and rosewood cups makes the Sivga SV021 look more premium than you would expect for the cost. The matching tangle-resistant detachable cable adds to the luxurious look.
Speaking of detachable, the earpads are removable as well. In addition, a bayonet mount makes for quick replacement when the originals are worn out.
As far as wearing comfort goes, the light clamping force combined with the cushy memory foam earpads makes these very nice to wear for long listening sessions. And even though the clamp is light, it still keeps the headphones firmly placed on your head. So it’s really nicely judged.
I also liked how the cups adjusted smoothly and clicked securely in place. They have a wide range of adjustment, so you will have no issue with fit if you have a big noggin like mine. The teardrop-shaped openings in the pads also had plenty of room for my big ears, which was nice.
Inside the cups, you will find large 50mm diameter drivers with thin polycarbonate diaphragms and 3mm Neodymium magnets for a powerful dynamic performance.
While I didn’t find a whole lot to complain about in terms of build, it’s worth mentioning that noise isolation is rather weak for a closed-back headphone. It’s better than an open-back but not great compared to other closed models.
Also, inside the box, there aren’t many extras. You get a cloth-carrying pouch along with a 3.5mm to 1/4“ adapter, and that’s about it. I would’ve loved to see a hard-carrying case like the one that comes with their Phoenix headphones.
However, with the SV021 selling at such a great price, I can’t complain too much, especially with nice cases selling for as little as 10 bucks on Amazon.
Listening To The Sivga SV021
For my listening tests, I hooked the SV021 up to many different DAC/Amp combos. My two favorites were the $79 Audirect Atom2 and $159 iFi Audio ZEN Dac V2, as they both were a good value just like the headphones, and they had a nice mixture of warmth and detail.
Their sound played well with the SV021, which benefited from their warmth and dynamics. They also curtailed the Sivga’s slight bit of peakiness in the upper mids, which to me is this headphone’s main weakness, albeit a small one.
If I had to sum up the SV021 sound in one word, it would be “musical.” I know many people don’t like that word since it can be vague, but to me, it means a sound that pulls you into the music. It’s a sound that’s not in your face, but instead, it opens up before you, unfurling the layers of the music and making you want to listen more and more.
Plenty of budget headphones do this, like the Hifiman SUNDARA or the Grado HEMP, but those are open-back headphones that cost more than double what the SV021 costs. It’s quite another thing for an inexpensive closed-back headphone to be so open, natural, and balanced when playing music, especially for $150.
I hate to keep saying “for the price” because that can be something of a cop-out when reviewing products, but in this case, I can’t stress enough how well this headphone outperforms expectations at its price point.
The SV021 had good macro and micro detail, although the macro detail was much better, as expected from a budget headphone. That said, although the top end detail was slightly rolled off, removing some of the air you get from more expensive offerings, there was enough there to give me a “big picture” view of the recording space.
The mids were definitely the SV021’s strong point, as this headphone gets them right for the most part. As I said earlier, there is a tad bit of edginess in the upper mids, but this flaw only came out when there was hardness coming from a budget DAC/Amp in the chain.
The edginess was hardly noticeable with more refined setups, and the overall mids came across as very clean, expansive, and realistic. There wasn’t any bleed from the upper bass, and the timbre of instruments like strings and drums was quite natural.
The bass on the SV021 isn’t super deep, but this headphone gives you more than enough mid-bass punch to make things interesting. However, you don’t get the sub-bass rumble as you would get from a Meze 99 headphone. To me, it’s more measured like what you hear from the Hifiman SUNDARA.
To me, this is the better approach, especially with a closed-back headphone, as a lot of rumble can quickly throw the tonal balance out of wack, making the low end too distracting. I loved the tonal balance of these cans. That said, bassheads may want a little more depth down low.
In terms of separation, this is another place these headphones excelled, as they did a good job of pulling out all the elements of the mix. For example, listening to “Hammer Falls” by The Wandering Hearts, I was impressed by how well all the guitar parts and various harmony parts were broken out.
The strings were also rich and full-bodied, which demonstrated how well these headphones reproduced timbre. Due to the top-end roll-off, I didn’t quite get the micro-detail one would get from a more expensive headphone (like the SUNDARA, for example), but the strings were still pleasing.
When it came to Dynamics, the Macrodynamics were really good. Microdynamics were sufficient enough to give me an inkling of spatiality. The difference between quiet and loud passages was quite pronounced, especially for a headphone at this level.
When I compared it to the Drop x Sennheiser HD58X Jubilee, another headphone I like at the SV021’s price point, the HD58X did better with Microdynamics, but I liked the Macrodynamics on the Sivga headphone better.
As far as Soundstage and Imaging go, this is another area the SV021 really impressed me. It’s tough to make a closed-back headphone sound somewhat open and speaker-like, and the ones that succeed usually sell for $500 and above. So the fact that Sivga achieved this in a headphone that costs 150 bucks is amazing.
It won’t compete with more expensive open-back headphones in this category, but it holds its own against open-back headphones in its price range.
Again, when comparing it to the open-back Drop HD58X, it actually had a bigger soundstage and less of the “three-blob” left, right, center effect. That said, it didn’t have quite the full panoramic sound or the soundstage width of the aforementioned SUNDARA.
The Wrap Up
With its warm, natural, and expansive sound, not to mention its beautiful design, the Sivga SV021 has set a new standard for sub $500 closed-back headphones. So if you’re looking for budget audiophile cans to play your tunes while working, these should be at the top of the list…Highly Recommended!
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My thirst for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.