- Great design and construction.
- Remarkable ergonomics.
- Very good cable.
- Wide soundstage.
- It can sound very good with some particular genres of music or songs.
- Specialised and very different tuning, warm and very smooth.
- Great storage case.
- They require a certain amount of power.
- Overly specialised tuning that takes them away from being all-rounders.
- Unrealistic low end bass.
- Music is limited in base and overtones.
- Limited detail, resolution and transparency.
Link to the WEB
As many may know, Dongguan Sivga Electronic Technology Co, Ltd, was established in 2016 and is headquartered in Dongguan City in China. Sivga focuses on the innovation and production of high-end headphones. The engineering team consists of highly skilled personnel from electronics and acoustics. Their philosophy is to manufacture a delicate and perfect product, where every step and every part of the work must be done carefully and with good workmanship. Only in this way can the product stand the test of time. True to that reflection is the result of the new SIVGA Nightingale, an IEMS with a 14.5mm diameter magnetic planar driver. This is a dual magnetic field rectangular array structure that offers high transmission sensitivity, even sound distribution and good transient response. It uses magnetic mechanics to reasonably combine two sets of high-performance rare-earth iron boron magnets, which significantly improves efficiency compared to an ordinary single magnet.
Well, that’s what the product presentation says. Let’s see what my impressions are in the following review.
- Driver Type: 14.5mm diameter magnetic planar.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz.
- Sensitivity: 100 dB ± 3 dB.
- Impedance: 16Ω ± 15%.
- Cable length: 1.2m ± 0.2m.
- Connection plug: 4.4mm balanced.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm.
- Weight: 15g.
The SIVGA Nightingale comes in an almost square black box whose dimensions are 142x146x57mm. On the main face, on the centre right, is a golden rectangle with the brand name inscribed. At the bottom of this face is the model name in white letters, accompanied by a red globe with Chinese letters inside. The surface appears to be micro-sandblasted, with shiny dots. On the back is the brand logo at the top left, the description in the centre and the specifications at the bottom. At the bottom there are the brand’s logos and in the lower right corner there are the logos of the certifications the product has. The lid of the box opens upwards. Behind it is a thick foam frame with a velvety black surface. At the top are the capsules and at the bottom is a large zippered case with the brand logo in the centre. Its surface has a diagonally ribbed texture. Inside is the cable and a plastic case with silicone tips. In summary, the complete contents are as follows:
- The two Nightingale capsules with a pair of medium sized grey silicone tips.
- A zippered case.
- A flat plastic box containing the silicone tips (2 sets of 3 pairs black and grey sizes SxMxL).
- One cable with 2Pin 0.78mm interface.
The presentation is luxurious starting with the exterior treatment of the case and the use of velvet over the protective foam moulding. The zipped case is attractive and large enough to hold the IEMS and its cable without any problems. There is one set of Sony style tips with black silicone and a brightly coloured core, while the other set is simply grey. You want to elevate the feeling of exclusivity with the plastic case containing the tips, but the sets are simple and, for my morphology, too small. There are no foam tips.
The cable is quite good, but I think that the quality of the tips, despite the fact that there are 7 pairs, is not up to the quality of the set and the price. Finally, the outer side of the capsules is protected by a transparent plastic sheet.
Construction and Design
SIVGA seems to have a penchant for the use of wood in its products. In the case of the Nightingale it is no less so. The capsules are made of a special aluminium-magnesium alloy, CNC-machined and polished to a shiny finish. The outer face is made from precious wood that has been harvested over many years. Subsequently, it has also been polished and finished through various traditional hand processes. The driver housing is made from aviation aluminium-magnesium alloy material using a CNC machining process. The diaphragm is constructed from the latest ultra-thin composite material developed in-house, combined with an aluminium coil.
The capsules are in the shape of a drop of water. On the outside, on the wooden panels, the brand logo is inscribed in silver-grey ink. The edge of the plate is a metal ring. The inner side is black and very smooth. The 2Pin 0.78mm connection interface is semi-hidden in the edge of the capsules, inside a small right-angled step. The gold-plated connectors are inside a rectangular translucent plastic plate, the corners of which have been rounded. The inner side combines an almost flat outer side with a side that slopes towards the metal nozzles. A hole is located halfway up the sloping part. On the flat part there is white lettering indicating the channel. There is also a hole on the edge of the capsules near the connection interface. It should be noted that the nozzles are threaded and removable. They have three levels of diameter, the base is 6.6mm, the inside is 5.2mm and the rim is 6.6mm. The length is 5.7mm. The bore is protected by a golden spiral grid through which a shiny black foam can be seen.
The cable consists of a Japanese square silver plated copper conductor. Its structure consists of 0.23mm wires per 7 cores + 250D bulletproof wires per strand. The cable consists of 4 strands. The outer insulation is black, imported high gloss smooth PVC, soft and hard to tangle. The plug is 4.4mm balanced gold plated with a flat end. The sleeve is a cylinder of various diameters. The largest thickness is next to the pin and near the cable exit, which is protected by a bushy metal spring. The four strands are knotted together smoothly. The splitter piece is black and metallic, just like the plug sleeve. The pin is a black metal ring, matching the other parts of the cable. It slides on fairly easily, in my opinion it could be a little firmer to improve the fit. The cables are guided over the ear by a semi-rigid transparent plastic cover. The sleeves of the 2Pin 0.78mm connectors are made of dark plastic, angled. They are short and have the channel lettering embossed on the side of the sleeve. There is a metal ring on the edge of the connectors and they are semi-buried in a recessed base with a rectangular shape with rounded corners.
Both the cable and the capsules are exquisitely, delicately and preciously made. The finishes are top of the range.
As I said, the nozzles can be unscrewed, it’s something I discovered by chance, changing tips to find the best fit I noticed that one was loose. I thought I had broken the IEMS and it was just that it had unscrewed. It would be nice if they had included some different mouthpieces to get another tuning, because I can tell you that the tuning of the Nightingale is almost niche type.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
SIVGA has created a great teardrop-shaped design that fits my morphology very well, but with a big but: the mouthpieces are short and that makes the fit very difficult, a durable fit. I had to resort to unique tips, which have a narrow core, but are large and long. I have filled them with foam and with them I have achieved the necessary projection to reach my ear canals. The narrow core favours the bass and the large size and diameter, together with the homemade foam filling, ensures that a large part of the tips’ surface area is in contact with my pinna and the entrance of the canal. This maximises the bass and the feeling of texture. The flat shape of the inner side close to the rim, together with the oval teardrop shape of the capsule, combine to ensure a fairly good integration into the ears, where there is hardly any contact with the ear parts, although movement is minimal, with no rotational capability. However, the whole success lies in the combination with the tips, which are unique in my collection. If the mouthpiece had been more projected, the fit and ergonomics would have been much better. So it depends on a fragile combination, but it has given an excellent result.
Again, as in the introduction, I will rely on the brand’s own information: «The scientific combination of the ultra-thin composite diaphragm and powerful magnet makes the bass powerful and elastic, while maintaining high resolution in the treble. The vocal mids are rich, emotive and slightly forward.» This sentence, translated to my own actual listening experience, translates as a distinctly mid-centric profile. I certainly haven’t tried IEMS with such a mid-focused profile as the SIVGA Nightingale. Before I received them I looked up their frequency response and I already saw that they are unique IEMS. I also noted that such a curve was going to be a problem for my personal tastes. But I was getting ahead of myself.
Going back to the profile, as you can see from the graph, the sub-bass is dipped and the mid-bass is quite light. All the emphasis is on the mids, but rather in the first half, from 200Hz to 2kHz. After that, the high-mids and the first treble are sunk again until the high-mid and the air zone are reached. With this frequency response the sound of the SIVGA Nightingale reminds me of a PK capsule earbuds, with slightly muddy mids, very light bass and smooth highs.
Finally, the Nightingales would appreciate a little more power to offer some virtues, but it is also true that a high volume can make them suffer in the low end.
With this frequency response I couldn’t start any other way than with my classic very low frequency pure tone test, to check the behaviour of the Nightingales in their lower range. Starting with the 20Hz tone reveals that the behaviour of the LFOs is unrealistic and coloured. There is hardly any sensory capability and the response is more audible than natural, like the classic vibration produced by BA drivers. Yes, the 20Hz note does not sound as it should and hence the graph represents so little bass. This sensation is not recovered until 40Hz, at which point the bass begins to sound more realistic, but without losing that sense of colouring. Despite this, the frequency presents some power above what I expected. And that encourages me to think that the bass performance is perhaps above what is represented in the FR. Although, in no case does it reach the neutral point, but is slightly below. Yes, the bass is soft, perhaps too soft. But they are not inactive. As I said, there is a certain punch in the bass that is noticeable in the ambience, even if it is only to warm up the ambience and to keep up with the rhythm of the music. If I analyse the bass performance with electronic music, I find that the sense of depth is low, the bases sound coloured, displaced, with a very light gumminess and little darkness. The texture is dry and somewhat sterile. Admittedly, there is some presence to the bases and a sense of compact, somewhat energy-biased punch, which gives a sense of wanting to turn up the volume for superior bass response, but this doesn’t solve the problems. If you compare the bass response with any decent dynamic driver you can see how the bass is mutilated in its LFOs, even displaced, sounding unrealistic, turning the bass into something different. And this brings me to my other classic test of dirty, unfiltered and very low frequency bass. The result is not pleasant, the Nightingales are able to follow the rhythm, it is fast, but the sonority is not adequate, nor realistic, it is not able to represent the low frequencies as it should, being noticeable the vibrating sensation of the driver. And this is something that gets worse when the volume is higher. If the volume is low or normal, this sensation may be less. But its nature cannot be compared to bass from dynamic or other planar drivers.
In a mid-centric ensemble, the central range should be the star. In fact, it shines at times. The first sensation is that the Nightingales sound muddy, even somewhat nasal. When the first half of the midrange is the predominant zone this sensation happens. Moreover, it feels amplified by the peak between 1kHz and 2kHz, by inverted mid-highs and too smooth first highs. It is true that listening to music with the Nightingales can be a new experience, but it is not always a positive one. As I said, it sometimes reminds me of the sound of some earbuds I’ve tried, where the bass is not fully represented and the treble is limited. The predominance is vocal, but is more favourable in male voices. In general, the midrange lacks sparkle, brightness and transparency, something that adds to the overly warm feeling in the timbre, which comes across as incomplete, as if the music were coming from an AM tube radio. The sensation is of a lack of harmonics and of a restricted, limited, very compact and tight projection. There is hardly any sparkle and detail suffers in the same way. The combination of the lack of transparency and harmonics means that the details of the middle zone are represented in a very faint way, as well as feeling overlapped. And that’s because the recreation of planes is also low. The sound is shallow and the planes are too close together. There is a large and very wide foreground, that’s true. But the warmth, lack of brightness and harmonics dulls the presentation, showing a dense and not very penetrable continuity. There is a sense of body, but it is shown in a two-dimensional way, in width and height. Despite all this, it is true that with some genres I managed to enjoy a lot. But with the bulk of genres in my library, the music is executed in a way that I am not used to, that is far from what I feel as natural or realistic. The result of such specialised tuning is that the Nightingale works against the grain of the rest of the IEMS in my collection. I don’t doubt that it can have some great moments, but the music has other attractions that these IEMS overlook, such as the bass and treble. The music is not only in the midrange and these need a good representation of the sidebands in order to shine.
Are the high notes shining by their absence? Perhaps that is too sweet a phrase to write in a review that pretends to be subtly serious. But to write that the Nightingales have a neutral treble would be untrue. As can be seen in the FR the treble is decreasing to a certain extent. It is also true that the mics used to measure are not very reliable in that area around 8kHz, but there is something real after that point.
The high end is inordinately soft, to the point of making the sound too sweet and warm. The representation of the upper end is very light, the sound in this zone is limited and overly nuanced, something that does not help in the realistic and natural reconstruction of the music. And that is why the timbre suffers so much. Instruments and voices are being damaged by the lack of harmonics and base. But suddenly there is a spark of air, which can further unbalance the upper range. The result is a sterile, almost inert area, too limited and penalising the rest of the sound. I am not an advocate of a flat response, but if the Nightingales had been like this, I think their sound would be much better.
Along with some moments in the central range, I was struck by the size of the central plane. And I say plane because there are not many layers in the sense of depth, but there is very good laterality, width and height. Although the closeness of that main shot presents a more intimate scene, even though the stage is wide, but frontal and relatively lateral. There is no gauzy, volatile feeling, the sound is not transparent or very detailed, but rather blunt and rounded. The background is not very discernible, nor is the separation. It is not a fully cohesive sound because there is some sense of air and precision. But the tuning doesn’t help. The imaging is correct but not very dynamic.
The SIVGA Nightingale is a very well built IEMS with a pure Hi-End design. Their tuning sets them apart from the rest of the IEMS I have tried, being unique and distinctive. Therein lies its virtues, but also its flaws. SIVGA wanted to move away from conventional IEMS by creating a different sound, recreating music in a different way, to the point of twisting what hi-fi means. There are genres that sound great with the Nightingales, creating a scene that is wide, but close at the same time. Their mid-centric, warm and smooth character, seemingly oblivious to the low end and early treble, takes them away from being all-terrain IEMS to become niche IEMS. Do you dare to give them a try? Maybe they are what you are looking for without even knowing it.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC + EarMen ST-Amp.
- Hidizs S9 Pro Plus.
- Aune M1p.