SENDY AUDIO/SIVGA AIVA headphones
+ Build quality beyond reproach; very comfortable despite their weight; comes with many accessories; excellent detail retrieval and resolution.
– Sonic nature may be too in-your-face for some; not the big, expansive soundstage expected from an open-backed design.
GO big or go back. There’s no better way to introduce oneself in the crowded headphone market than with a statement product – and that seems to be what Chinese manufacturer Sendy Audio is trying to do with the Aiva planar magnetic headphones here.
When I first received the pair for review, Sendy Audio didn’t even have an official website. Its only presence on the Internet was a Kickstarter project for the same unit, and it was only towards the end of the review period that the official website went live.
What I’ve learnt since is that Sendy Audio is a subsidiary of Dongguan Sivga Electronic Technology Co. Ltd., which makes budget-friendly cans and that the Aiva bears striking similarity to the P-II in the parent company’s line-up.
Even without the typical marketing spiel touting its own glories, the Aiva’s presence is a statement of intent. It is impossible not to be awed by its gorgeous wooden cups and uncompromising build quality in all aspects – down to the supplied cables and even the carrying case.
The eyes will inevitably first gravitate towards the bold stripe grain on the aptly-named zebrawood earcups. Lift it up, and at 420g, it feels surprisingly heavy in the hands.
Scrutinise it further and it one can see all-metal construction – there isn’t any sign of plastic on the exterior. The entire headband, including the joints and pivots, are all metal, and there’s a strip of soft leather to adjust for different cranial sizes.
Even the accessories – and there’s quite a bundle – have the same attention to detail. The supplied braided cable is substantial and there are even wooden accents on the cable that serve as Y-splitter and sliders. These are terminated with heavy metal plugs that have a textured fish-scale pattern, which is easy to get a good grip on. Those that go into the earcups are 2.5mm and on the other end is a balanced four-pole 4.4mm, and also included is a converter cable of the standard 3.5mm stereo variety.
The carrying case is solid as well and looks like it is able to take quite a beating, but in hindsight (pun intended), the chosen design could have been a lot better.
As for specifications, Sendy Audio says the planar magnetic driver used here measures 97 x 76mm and the cans have a 32-ohm impedance.
Although the Aiva is on the heavy side at 420g, it is very comfortable when it sits on top of the head. The supple leather headband spreads the weight evenly and the pads are contoured to fit around the ears. It is thinner at the front and top, but thicker to the bottom and the back – pretty much how the typical cranium is shaped.
On to the sound. If you’re expecting the typical warmer, laidback sonic of planar-magnetic drivers, this is NOT what the Aiva gives. It has a forward-sounding nature that adds excitement to everything that goes through it. It doesn’t reach the point of being too brash or bright, but there is a sense of aggressiveness here that may not be to everyone’s liking.
In most other aspects, the Aiva performs exceptionally well. It has excellent speed and detail resolution, and if your taste leans more towards a modern and clinical sound, the Aiva will be just the ticket.
Bass performance, while having good control and going low, doesn’t quite deliver the rumble to make its presence truly felt. That said, the Aiva still has that intrinsic nature of bass planar drivers – there’s a sense of realism when you hear drums, for example, in a way you can almost hear and feel the way the skins vibrate when hit.
This realism extends all the way up the frequency range through the midrange and the treble. Vocals are very articulate, but could have done with a touch more presence in the lower mids. Instrumentation is always crystal clear and there’s quite amazing separation. There’s not much you’ll miss – from massed orchestral instruments to choral pieces or when a rock ensemble hits its stride, you’ll get an open window into what each musician is doing.
Which brings me to another thing the Aiva could have done better – soundstaging. It did have good side-to-side width, but there wasn’t the openness and expansiveness I’d heard from other planar cans like the HiFiMan Ananda (reviewed previously) or even the budget HE-400i and HE4XX I have. Rather than portray a sense of space toward the front and back, it extended outwards in a narrower linear band.
THE LAST WORD
Just like its parent company Sivga, Sendy Audio delivers great value with its impeccable build and premium materials. In terms of the hardware you get for your money, there aren’t many that can touch this.
Where the Aiva will get its most detractors – or fans, depending on your preference – is its overall forward-sounding sonic nature. Perhaps it can be matched with some high-quality, warmer-sounding gear to tune it down somewhat, but there is no denying that the Aiva is a very exciting headphone to listen to.
If detail, resolution and vibrancy are at the top of your list or if your musical tastes lean towards higher-paced music, this is definitely one to consider.
Sources: Toshiba Windows 10 notebook running jRiver Media Centre, Spotify and TIDAL; iPhone 7 / Amplification: Chord Mojo and Earmen Eagle DAC/head amps / Headphones: HiFiMAN HE-400i, HE4XX, Mitchell and Johnson MJ2
Malaysian price: RM2,550
Malaysian distributor: Stars Picker Audio Library (+603-6156 1984) / Find your distributor.