Sivga SV023 open-backed headphone
Using a headphone like the Sivga SV023 on the move is not something I do anymore but back in the late ‘80s and the pre-iPod years of the ‘90s I was regularly involved in work-related long haul travel, and my trusty Sony Walkman and then Discman were always in my hand luggage, along with their supplied wired headphones. Today I have retired from that level of hurly-burly and I never use my amazingly capable mobile phone to listen to music.
At home I have two pairs of headphones, both wired, and I do just occasionally enjoy a listening session with them. Both are closed back and one has sophisticated noise-cancelling tech built in. The advantage of closed back is that the sound is almost totally confined inside the ear cups of the headphone, reducing their irritation-factor to others in the same room. However, I was approached to review the Sivga SV023 open-backed headphones, saw a picture of their gorgeous real wood earpieces and was sufficiently impressed to give them a try.
Sivga have been making headphones using real wood since 2016, so are by no means newcomers to the market, but this has been my first encounter with any of their products, and it has been a most enjoyable introduction.
Sivga SV023 impressions
First impressions count, as my late mother always insisted, and the Sivgas arrived in very attractive packaging. A two piece dark brown box has to be pried open, revealing a hard leather case and small draw-string hemp bag. The latter contained the accessories, which are a 2m slender braided cable (in two tone copper sheathing and to my eyes at least, very attractive) with a 4.4mm balanced connector, and two adaptors to allow the 4.4mm to fit into a 3.5 single-ended socket, and one to allow that rig to be plugged into an adaptor for a full size 6.35mm socket. Armed with those the Sivga SV023 can be connected to most headphone ready sources.
Opening the rigid leather case, one finds an incredibly lightweight pair of headphones, only 318g according to the specification. The body of each ear cup is beautiful, at least in the eyes of this beholder, being of real walnut. Behind the scenes, the driver is a liquid crystal polymer (LCP) composite cone with a beryllium-plated centre. The driver is 50mm in diameter and Sivga quotes a frequency response of 20Hz to 40kHz, sensitivity of 105dB and an impedance rating of 300 Ohms. The all-important ear-cups are made of soft memory foam, with a covering that I think is leather with tiny perforations to both improve sound quality and breathability. The headband is soft black padded leather inside a stainless steel frame. Each ear cup is clearly marked right and left, and the cable is similarly marked.
Before starting to listen I wore the headphones for a whole morning without the cable attached and found them extremely comfortable, with no build-up of unwelcome warmth around the ears and no pressure from the headband.
Using the Sivga SV023
In order to become acquainted with the SV023 as sound makers, I ran my usual extension cable from my Primaluna EVO 400 integrated amplifier’s excellent headphone socket to the listening chair and attached the headphones, having made sure that I had switched the amplifier from loudspeaker to headphone output. I loaded the Analogue Productions SACD of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here into the Yamaha CD-S3000. With headphones comfortably ensconced on my head I pressed the play button on the remote control and rather enjoyed the aural treat that followed. The experience was totally immersive and I sat pretty much stock still for the duration of the album. The detail and the ability to follow different strands in the music were extraordinary.
As I only occasionally listen through headphones I had forgotten what an intense experience it can be. I lined up several more of my modest SACD selection and spent several hours totally lost in the music, with classical, choral and classic rock titles passing through the player. The Sivga SV023s gave an astonishingly realistic presentation of everything that I played and I finished that first day still comfortable in them.
Over the following days I switched between headphone listening and loudspeaker listening, because they are very different ways of enjoying music. The Primaluna is a particularly excellent headphone amplifier, as it is powered by the same tubes as the loudspeakers. It is also possible to switch between ultra-linear and triode modes at the press of a button on the remote control, and when playing, for example early ‘70s Rolling Stones albums on vinyl through the SV023s the differences were even more obvious than through the loudspeakers.
Sivga SV023 on the move
I talked earlier about my travel companions in decades past, the Walkman and the Discman. I still have and occasionally use one of the last Apple iPod Classics, with its 160GB hard drive. Pre-pandemic it would accompany me on the occasional flight to a sunshine holiday but has been sitting in a bedside drawer for more than three years. It is of course a pre-Bluetooth device, so requires headphones to be plugged in. I charged it up and set off to remind myself of its Apple Lossless catalogue. Well that was absolutely the right move. The comfort of the SV023 meant that for several days during the review period I would go about my non-hi-fi related chores with the iPod in my pocket and the Sivga SV023s on my head. I don’t think our kitchen floor has ever had a more vigorous cleaning than when I did it listening to ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres.
Back in the system, the Primaluna had given way to the Lyngdorf TDAI3400, which is fitted with a 3.5mm headphone socket. I moved a chair close to the rack and started by listening to Van Morrison’s new album Moving On Skiffle via Qobuz. This is something of a return to form for the veteran Ulsterman, and sounded wonderful through the headphones.
Sivga SV023 conclusion
It has been refreshing to be reminded of what a glorious experience headphone listening can be if one has the right equipment. And make no mistake, the Sivga SV023 is definitely the right equipment if you are looking for what I suppose we must call a traditional pair of headphones. The sound quality is exceptional with what seems to be a remarkably flat response curve across the full frequency spectrum. Bass is rich but not overblown, the midband, where most of the heavy lifting is done, is open, detailed and very musical, while the high frequencies are delivered with a deft touch that never veers towards the harsh or fatiguing. These were a pleasure to live with and come with a strong recommendation from me.