The Sivga Phoenix: one fickle b*+@$!
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Hello, and welcome back to the Neighborhood! It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer with InToit Reviews! What I’ve got for use to take a look at today is the Sivga Phoenix. This headphone has been getting a lot of attention right now, but does it deserve the praise?
Let’s get InToIt!
So the Sivga Phoenix hit the market not too long ago, as a dynamic headphone that seemed to be inspired by the look of the Sendy Aiva and Sivga’s own clone of that headphone the P2. But this time, the Phoenix sported a dynamic driver rather than a planarmagnetic one. However; after hitting the market, the reviews started pouring in- some loved it, and others felt more luke warm or even confused about it. And, after spending some time with the Phoenix myself, I understand why. This headphone is fickle as f$%&! In other words, it is extremely amp dependent, and, interestingly, seems to be ALERGIC to power.
In fact, I found the Phoenix to sound best on my phone, the FiiO BTR 3K, and the DACport HD on low gain. On higher power devices, anything over a 1/3 of a watt really, they became bloated, muddy, and rather odd sounding.
In fact, because of their amp reactivity, the sound of these is rather hard to describe, as they present wildly different- dependent upon source. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this review I will try to do my best.
But let’s talk about the build first. Like the sound, the build is a bit of a mixed bag. They are mostly constructed of metal, zebra wood, and a soft leatherette material. The headband appears to be made of spring steel, and the clamp force is neither too light nor to firm; which is good because from a comfort and sound perspective these need to be worn as on-ears, but more on that in a second. Despite its solid construction the headband is also rather small, and its sizing may not fit some larger head types.
The leatherette comfort strap is affixed to a tension mechanism that slides up and down the headband, much like the approach by formerly, Mr. Speakers, and now, Dan Clark Audio. Positively the yolks swivel, and the screen mesh portion of these open-backed headphones appears to be rather sturdy, and is constructed of notably, non-pliable materials. Having said that, both the cups themselves and their pads are simply just too small. And, adding further insult to injury, the pads themselves are nonremovable. Uniquely, my ears are both small enough to fit inside the pad, or large enough to support the cup as an over-ear. I do not recommend these as an over-ear. As an over-ear, my ears touched the driver and sonics suffered. These seem to need some distance between your ear and the driver to sound remotely normal, and the only way to achieve this is to wear them in an over-ear fashion.
And while the zebra wood is beautiful, the single-poled, 2.5 mm connection at the base of the earcup was another odd choice for this odd headphone. And although, I suppose you could run them balanced with the right cable, this single-poled 2.5 mm connection seems rarer to obtain in comparison to cables with dual 3.5 mm connectors, or even other cables with dual-poled 2.5 mm connectors. The fabric-lined cable that comes in the box is nice, and of a sufficient length, but it terminates in an unbalanced connection. I think an opportunity was missed here by Sivga here, and they should have chosen to terminate the Phoenix’s cable in a balanced 2.5 mm connector and provide appropriate adapters instead of what we got in the box. The inclusion of the “butt” case was a nice touch though.
So, the sound. These are warm boys. They perform best with V-shaped music, and there is a dearth to the mid-range. In fact, on the mismatched amplification, I’d go so far as to describe the mids as extremely veiled and hazy, especially the frequencies amongst the lower mid-range. At moments, I thought that the mid-range performance sounded like I was listening through Vaseline. For example, the song, “She Gathers Rain” by Collective Soul, just sounded like a muddy, hazy mess; especially the guitar. Rhythm guitar frequencies were generally a stretch for the Phoenix. A number of Songs by AC/DC off their Live Album stick out as exemplars in my mind. Nevertheless, mid-clarity is ultimately best for the Phoenix on lower powered devices.
The highs are rolled off, but also smooth. And yet, at times they have some intensity to them. Ironically, I would say that the treble is the best part of this headphone, and still it is just not very good. At times it comes across as dark and boring, and yet at others times it presents as overly intensive.
Its bass is also pretty emphasized in general, and I find it overly forward at times. Furthermore, it tends to bloom; dependent on both over-amplification and the track. In a number of ways, the low-end here stylistically reminds me of a bass from a sensitive, bloated KZ IEM. When over-amplified, the bass here simply bleeds profusely- leaking out, everywhere. Characteristically, the low-end is soft, pillowy, and with loads of weight to it. It looms amongst the other sonics, resting in the mix like a heavy fog- overpowering, dominating, and domineering the soundscape. Dynamics are mid-bass focused, and there is some percussiveness to its sound. These sound like getting hit with a hard pillow from a cheap motel.
Cohesion was also not a strength of the Phoenix, and again, things sounded increasingly disjointed as one added power to these cans. In my testing with the THX AAA 789, I could not go to the second gain stage without sonics falling apart, and everything sounding disconnected.
The soundstage was also odd, and rather miniscule. These sound like one is running on an inclined treadmill, whereas there is some depth to the presentation up and out from the listener, but there is also very limited staging on both sides, to the left and to the right. The stage is enhanced somewhat when worn in the on-ear position, and is more egg-shaped, but there is still greater focus pointing out, in front of the listener. Despite the fact that these cans are open, they don’t really sound it, and while I had aspired to experiment with pad swaps here to rectify the sonics, this idea was ultimately a nonstarter because the pads are nonremovable.
In summary, I won’t be able to recommend the SIvga Phoenix., but that doesn’t mean it won’t make someone else happy. It’s build and sound are simply too peculiar, too flawed, and too finicky for me to give them a whole-hearted recommendation for the masses- especially at their price tag of $255 dollars. In my eyes, these are ultimately a set of cans that are oddly warm, and only sound good with a select variety of V-shaped music. With that said, because I had a varied experience with Phoenix based upon wear-style and amplification, I can also understand why some audiophiles have chosen to gravitate towards this Sivga. Both Ricky RDT (who sent these into the channel for review by the way; link to his channel below) and Zeos from Z Reviews really like this headphone. And, I suspect that this may be due to each of them wearing them primarily as on-ears, and powering them off mainly low powered sources, such as the FiiO BTR 5 in each of their arsenals.
When I was initially discussing this headphone with Z, I shared with him my initial impressions, which were that I thought Phoenix was pretty much a dumpster fire, at least, at first. Thoughts to which he sent me the following message: “F$%&ing Lies! They’re amazing! Break them in, and give me a real review!” So, I investigated a bit further, and although I was able to find some silver linings in their use as a portable device, which has low power requirements, I just can’t get behind the Phoenix myself. Nevertheless, hopefully both Z and the Neighborhood feel that I have done this set some sort of justice, and, in the end, given them “a real review.” Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Thanks to RDT for sending the Sivga Phoenix in for review! Check out his channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9iMhq8mdCnDxXP6EYJNmxg
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