Here is my review of the flagship dynamic - the Phoenix
Sivga is no stranger to make good headphones at a great value, and they did not break that tradition with the brand new Phoenix. With the more-mainstream success of their planar-magnetic P-II, Sivga is surely building a name for themselves. I am really hoping to see this company enter the mainstream market. Being a company that is dedicated to details and high quality products (no matter the budget), it was nice to see that they followed the same fashion with their brand-new product. Metal and wood has been the standard that Sivga has followed even with their lowest priced models, we have only gotten an even better construction this time - with the same construction of the headband as the SendyAudio Aiva.
So far we have only seen entry-level and budget dynamic headphones from Sivga, so I was very curious to see their flagship dynamic headphone. The wooden headphone features a 50mm dynamic driver with a polycarbonate diaphragm and neodymium (Nd-Fe-B) magnet. They have a gorgeous (and brand-new) wood finish, Sivga calls it - the Zebra wood.
I have been looking forward to a new release from Sivga ever since I had a very positive experience with the budget-friendly SV004 headphone - a headphone priced under 100 USD that offered flawless build quality, accessories, and a very mature sound performance for the price. Finally seeing a flagship dynamic model is something which we were all very much looking forward to. I am not disappointed, the anticipation was very much worth it.
We are met with a sleek and modernly designed box. The box consists of two parts: the top and bottom. The bottom one features the black portion, and the Zebra wood patterned second portion that is angled. The top part (the lid) is black and also at an angle, when the two parts are put together you get a very nice and sleek looking box. The unboxing itself was rather minimalist - only a headphone case is in the box. In the headphone case you get the Phoenix headphones, a carrying pouch, and a cable with a cable tie. Sivga opted for a more simple and minimalist approach for the Phoenix - no fancy accessories or anything. I actually didn’t mind it, I was rather pleasantly blown-away by the headphones themselves. This field is left open for Sivga to explore - something like an extra rubber cable, or extra pair of ear pads could be included as accessories in the future.
What you get in the box in a formal format:
1x Phoenix headphone
1x 3.5mm cable
1x leather carrying case
1x cable tie
Wood. Metal. Precision
Wood & metal are Sivga’s trademark - premium materials present in their lowest priced headphones, all the way up to their flagship models… and even In-Ear Monitors & earphones are constructed from wood. In terms of the headband construction & system, the Phoenix is a step-up from the previous dynamic driver models - a stainless steel construction was implemented for frame (of the headband) combined with a suspension headband system. This frame & headband system may be familiar if you have seen the SendyAudio Aiva, which features the exact same construction. Unlike the SendyAudio Aiva, the Phoenix features a padded headband, much like the one on the Blon B20.
The Zebra wood is a very premium looking finish. The color of the wood doesn’t look anything like in pictures from Sivga, I was much happier with the real color of the wood. Whereas the wood looks yellow-ish and pale on the pictures, the actual finish is a deeper & richer brown - much like a walnut wood finish. You can get a basic idea of how it looks like from my photography. I invest a great amount of time color-grading and perfecting colors in my photography. Due to the complex nature of the wood in the Phoenix, it was a great challenge capturing its qualities, making it the longest review to complete. The angle and lighting can vastly affect the wood appearance, as it can look anything from a pale oak finish, all the way to a walnut finish - which is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The wooden housing is perfect as usual. The housing and the frame were made with the process of CNC machining. This explains the flawless nature of Sivga’s products.
Besides the padded headband, new frame construction, and new ear pads, a more premium design was present. This time around, we see a large grill with slight curvature. Surrounding it is a mirror-like silver ring - the ring is what makes the character of the Phoenix. A very modern and sleek design touch.
Overall, Sivga is moving in the right direction. They are trying new design features, and are still using high quality materials. It will be interesting to see what else they can come up with next. Sivga has not failed or disappointed yet, and that single factor contributes to the professional nature of the company.
Design and design features
We have seen the same concept behind the majority of products from Sivga - wooden housing, and pretty much everything else black. Phoenix followed the same concept when it comes to the color palette, and I love it! It’s consistent and something that Sivga is recognized for. However, unlike the previous dynamic driver models, the Phoenix features two 2.5 mm mono connectors (instead of a single 2.5 mm stereo connector). The cable is braided and consists of a single crystalline copper wire.
I didn’t mind the cable itself, but I would definitely like to see Sivga using high quality rubber cables - like the one Sennheiser HD 598 has (similar cable quality to the one Apple uses for their MacBook chargers).
All the housings on the cable are made out of of metal. This includes: the housing for the 3.5 mm jack, the housing for the Y-splitter, and the housing for the 2.5 mm mono connectors. The 3.5 mm jack is reinforced with a spring, this prevents it from bending damage and similar abuse.
You can get a comfortable fit due to the new headband construction which allows the ear-cups to rotate and pivot slightly . The ear-cups are attached to the stainless steel frame which doesn’t move, so you adjust the height by sliding the headband up & down - the headband is attached to a plastic part on each side. This plastic piece can be moved within the frame thanks to the design of it. I personally prefer when the cups have full 180˚ rotation, but even with the reduced movement I was able to adjust them to my ear and head shape.
What seems to be varying in terms of experience with the Phoenix is comfort. People are having mixed experience. I myself prefer earpads that don’t have any tailoring and curvature - just flat earpads that are the same thickness all-around. I prefer even pressure all-around my ear.
Sivga is known for their ergonomic earpads. We have already seen the same earpad concept on the Sivga P-II and SendyAudio Aiva - tailored at the top earpads that feature a velvet material on the part that faces your ears, while . This material is very smooth, in fact it actually feels like leather.
The fit of the Phoenix isn’t perfect. Let’s face the truth, it simply isn’t. Sometimes I get a good fit, sometimes I don’t - it’s not consistent. That is the problem to me. I myself don’t have particularly large ears, but I found the top of my ear touching the driver portion, and this is what caused fatigue. If I get a good fit this isn’t the case. Mind you, most people are experiencing the pads clipping their ears - something that I experienced on the SV004. I didn’t find this to be a problem on the Phoenix, but if you have larger ears, they will probably be clipped at the bottom and top. The tailoring at the top of the pads and uneven thickness is what causes my ears to touch the driver.
The clamp force of the headphone is pretty strong at first. You can go a few ways about loosening it up - placing the headphone over something wide (and keeping in that position for some hours), or you can physically stretch it. It is made out of stainless steel, so you shouldn’t worry about breaking it… you can get a better idea by watching what Zeos did to his
Earpad systems vary, but most widely used one is where you can simply pull the earpad off. This makes it suitable to use aftermarket earpads, because it just needs to match the dimensions and shape of the earcup. Sivga decided to use a twist-lock mechanism for the earpads, meaning that you will not be able to use after-market earpads (such as Dekoni). The pads are glued to the plastic piece that twists in place. This is why you cannot just buy the widely available after-market replaceable pads… unless somebody finds a way to mod the mechanism. Good news for everybody is that Sivga is going to do some testing and see if they can release some extra pads. Look out for that, make sure to stay up to date!
I would’ve never expected to experience driver flex on an open-back headphone, but here we are.
Attention: I only experienced driver flex when I proceeded to very quickly take the headphones off - with normal usage you will not experience it!
I believe this was caused by the suction created by my ear, especially because it touches the driver. The earpad design seems to be a problem beyond just comfort, that is why I am keeping my eyes open for any mods or pads that will work with the Phoenix.
I must say, based on what I read on the internet beforehand, I wasn’t expecting a lot from the Phoenix. I am pleased to see that the Phoenix proved the internet wrong. The combination of controlled bass, tight punch, clean mids, and clear yet tame highs are what made the overall performance mature.
You don’t really expect a very deep and present bottom end in a dynamic open-back headphone, but the Phoenix broke that conception. The bass performance may be the strongest characteristic of these headphones. The bass has a good quantity while not sacrificing the punch & definition.
It’s not always easy to get a full-body bass response with a small dynamic driver… not to mention that having an open-back design only makes things more difficult. Phoenix managed to overcome this, but there are some trade-offs that I will touch on later.
Playing MOON’s “Hydrogen”, I really questioned myself whether I am listening to an open-back headphone or a closed-back headphone. Those who played Hotline Miami are probably familiar with the games genius overpowering techno soundtrack - I would go as far to call it one of the most intense and powerful soundtracks from a video game. Stephen Gilarde, or better known as MIOIOIN (often stylized as M.O.O.N) is the mastermind behind the track. The Phoenix was able to keep up with the track and was able produce full-body sound, where the bass has a very tight punch and carried the weight & quantity of it. I strongly recommend to anyone to explore M.O.O.N’s music, or even give Hotline Miami a play - it’s full of violence and it’s the definition of badass
Moving on, even in slower and less busy tracks like the “Paper Moon” from Booka Shade, the Phoenix performs very well. The bass-line of the track is well reproduced, the impact of the bass i presented with full-body, while also succeeding to reproduce the definition & presence of it.
The kick in the old-school classic “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio - the kick has very good weight, just like the bass-line. It’ tight, while the bottom end of it can be felt. That’s the balance that is often hard to produce, a tight punch and a full-body (weight) of the bass. I have seen many times when there was a tight punch, but the body was lacking, or vice-versa.
Perhaps the more-aggressive “Had Some Drinks” by Two Feet is a better example of what the sub-bass capabilities of the the Phoenix are. The rumble and the body are so well represented that you can feel it - you can feel the vibration of the rumble, much like you would from a sub-woofer. The presentation is very detailed, as though you can hear the release quite clearly.
Going a notch deeper - my standard & favorite track to test the true deep sub-frequencies: “Why so Serious?” by Hans Zimmer. Specifically focusing on mark 3:26 - the sub-bass has full-body sound and it pulsates. It doesn’t rumble like in “Had Some Drinks”, but it definitely has a solid foundation and base to the sound. I am very satisfied as to how it performed with this track!
Overall, the Phoenix doesn’t disappoint in the lower frequency spectrum. It delivers a serious performance with full-body bass, tight punch, and good presence & definition. Considering the size and open-back nature of the Phoenix, I can say I am impressed by what it is truly capable of. Techno, rock, classical, I don’t think you will find it lacking in the bass region in any genre.
Usually you expect a headphone to sacrifice on the mid-range when it has plenty of bass. Not this time. While the mids appear to be slightly recessed in the mix in some cases, they remain very natural and clean - perhaps leaning towards the warmer side of the spectrum.
The slightly intense “Poison” by Freya Ridings is a good track to see if a headphone is able to keep up with Freya’s vocals. The Phoenix was able to capture her immense vocal range, especially when she hit the peaks. When it comes to vocals, it’s really difficult to transfer ones interpretation of them to another - I myself am heavily drawn towards intense vocals, but it’s cannot be quite explained the same way that the lower & higher frequencies can. When a vocal expands, I get a very particular feeling in my ears, much like the one from goosebumps. I would call this an emotional reaction, and the headphone (or speaker) has to be capable of delivering the frequencies that cause this reaction
A great example of this would be in “I Will Survive (single version)" by Gloria Gaynor. Wow. Heavenly track with an angelic vocal. Her voice hits peaks several times, there is a certain edge when it happens. Give this one a listen, see if you have the same experience.
Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, pt. 2” is a dynamic track where you can notice if the mid range is muddy and lacks in detail. The Phoenix was able to cope with it well - giving each instrument and element in the mix breathe. Everything is in its place and doesn’t sound like one instrument/element interferes with another. Perhaps it would sound better if it was more airy or spacious, but that’s one of the characteristics of the Phoenix - it’s has a more closed presentation
Whitney Houston’s classic - I Will Always Love You. There isn’t a lot to say, one of the best vocal performances by a female artist. The Phoenix respectfully managed sing along with Whitney. I honestly didn’t notice any drawbacks or unnatural tonality to the track. Once again, everything sounded in place.
And of course, the “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. At mark 2:17 (where Freddie sings “…face the truth” there is a certain amount of grittiness and edge to his vocals. Headphones with a very warm signature will not capture this detail, they will rather make it sound flat and boring.
Overall, the Phoenix keeps the mid-range very clean and present. It’s not forward, but in some cases it can sound recessed. It manages to capture the details in music, and has great resolution. The mid-range was definitely not sacrificed for the bass response. Listening to Freddie Mercury, Pink Floyd, Lana Del Rey, and Sia is an enjoyable experience. The vocals have both the bottom & high end - though the high end seems to be tamed down and this lets you listen to the Phoenix for hours without any fatigue.
While I am sensitive to piercing treble, those who follow me know that I love sparkle in the upper range. I am glad that Sivga didn’t cross the line between too rolled-off treble and too piercing. I would say it is somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t provide the full crispiness and sparkle of the upper range, but it definitely maintains above-average clarity and treble response. Music without sparkle is boring and flat… almost lifeless. When it’s there, you just get this feeling in your ears. Almost like an adrenaline rush.
So, how does the Phoenix perform with my standard sibilance and sparkle testing track? Very good! Travis Scott’s “Stop Trying to Be God” is the track I am talking about. Specifically at mark 5:59, where Stevie Wonder’s harmonica hits the peak. At first I found it lacking sparkle, but later on I was satisfied with it’s performance. I definitely got the tingly feeling in my ear, and that is what I define “sparkle” to be. Feeling music is one of the main characteristics that I look for from a device. This is mainly referring to sparkle feeling in music, and it can be present in both vocals and instruments.
Metallica’s cover of the “When a Blind Man Cries” from Deep Purple’s 1972 album “Machine Head” is a more extreme example. It has edge and grittiness, and it would definitely be too much if the treble was any brighter. The Phoenix performed well throughout the whole song - the bass has thump to it, while the vocals and guitar had the edge. It’s definitely a more aggressive song, and it’s intended to sound bright in certain parts of the track. At no point did I feel like it was piercing or sibilant.
For Hip-Hop listeners - the snares are crisp and clear! There are too many songs that I have listened to, so I cannot reference them all. But I remember that the snares were always very clear and present - but not to the point where they are completely cutting through the mix and affecting other elements. Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre”, “Still Dre”, “The Next Episode”, Tupac’s “Ambitionz Az A Ridah”, “Only God Can Judge Me”, “No More Pain” all have the crisp & clear percussion.
Level of clarity varies in importance & significance to different people, but to me it’s one of the most important elements. I love to hear the detail in music, the depth and detail to sound - this is what you would usually identify as resolution, definition, or dynamic range. Music without the edge and sparkle sounds lifeless & boring, the same way that bass without definition or punch does. I like to have an increased dynamic range, not reduced. This being said, I am very happy with the level of clarity that the Phoenix produces. It maintains the clarity without sounding fatiguing and sibilant.
Usually open-back headphones are known for their airy and open sound, but this isn’t the case with the Phoenix. I myself love open and airy sound characteristic, but there is something special about the Phoenix that didn’t bother me. While the soundstage isn’t as wide as you would expect, it’s not narrow. There is a difference between narrow and narrower. Phoenix didn’t sound boxy or crowded in any way, this is the primary reason why I loved it. It definitely differ from the rest of the open-back headphones, and I mean that in a good way. Sometimes you want a more intense and present musical experience, perhaps you are looking for that deep bass, or you want the vocals to be closer to you - whatever it is, I think that the Phoenix sounds good as a whole.
The Phoenix is something fresh and different. I am happy to see a product that stands out from the rest (in a good way!). It doesn’t sound funny in any way. I would also avoid calling it “fun” - that term seems to have more of a negative meaning. Following the success of the P-II, Sivga hasn’t released a bad product yet. Whether it’s the gorgeous sound of guitar in “Little Wing” or “Tin Pan Alley” from Srevie Ray Vaughan, Deep Purple’s “Soldier Of Fortune”; or the subwoofer-like experience in Massive Attack’s “Angel” and Dopplereffekt’s “Superior Race”… The Phoenix never gets boring and never makes music sound lifeless. A bad headphone would never be able to put out a performance the way the Phoenix did in (e.g.) “Forget Her” by Jeff Buckley at mark 3:16. Capturing Jeff’s top-end and bringing the sparkle out - this isn’t something easy to pull off.
“Dogs” by Pink Floyd is another heavenly track. Just focus at mark 6:16. That pure and clean guitar frequency. If you aren’t squinting your eyes at that point, your headphones are doing something wrong. Or perhaps, at mark 6:07 in “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5) - where David Galmour’s magical guitar performance hits a particularly higher note (peak). The sparkle present and the way it hits you is something that only a good pair of headphones can manage to do. Well… unless you have a personal preference and maybe dislike such experience. I myself cannot imagine listening to music without having some type of emotional reaction that is beyond explainable.
This being said, the Phoenix absolutely crushed my expectation and blew me away. It’s a very mature headphone for the $299 price tag. They are an easy recommendation to those who are looking for a fatigue-free headphone with an immense bass response without the cost of clarity and detail. The bass is balanced in terms of sub-bass to mid-bass - neither overpowers the other. The mid-bass has a tight punch and good delivery, while the sub-bass has a pleasing rumble and body. The mid-range and high-range perform equally as well - though imaging and soundstage don’t compete with other true open-back headphones. I say “true”, because while the Phoenix is open-back, it does have a narrower soundstage (but doesn’t suffer from boxy and unnatural sound). I know that his bad boy is staying with me. It has a fuller sound and is capable of delivering full-body sound reproduction (with great definition and resolution). I am keeping my eyes wide-open for the next release from Sivga, and so should you!
If you are looking for a more intense and present sound signature with the bass performance close to a closed-back headphone without the sacrifice of the mid-range and high-range, you might want to give the Phoenix a listen.
The review is based on the performance of the Phoenix using Earmen TR-Amp.
The Phoenix was sent free of charge to me by SIVGA. I have no affiliation to SIVGA, nor was I payed to write this review. The review is based only on my opinion and what I heard when using it. There was no outside force or person influencing my opinion and experience. I write what I hear. If I don’t hear it, I don’t write it.