Sivga look & quality
Sound is a bit more neutral than past offerings
Bass is fairly tight, under control
Pleasantly clean in sound for the price
Open-back allows good separation
Details are what you expect: good but not great
Good but not great sound-stage (I do not mind, though)
The Luan is the latest from Sivga, who are known for outstanding build quality and stellar looks. And they have mostly succeeded with the sound as well. I consider the Robin (SV021) & Oriole to be very fine models from the closed-back department, and the SV023 to represent a very fine open-back model. Looks are superb on the models, and the Luan follows suit in that department. With a seemingly standard 50mm dynamic driver (dd) for a headphone, the Luan had better excel in the sound department to succeed. Early impressions are that the Luan can.
The sample was sent to me by Sivga for review purposes, and no influence was had in the writing of this. All they ask is for an honest evaluation. The headphone is mine to keep, unless asked back for. Plus, flipping this is still really, really, REALLY uncool and unethical as well.
In The Box:
Astell & Kern CA1000T
Shanling M6 Pro
Meze 99 Classic (yes, closed back…)
Tidal & Qobuz feed-
Jazz, Ziggy, The Mavericks, David Grisman Quintet
Sivga has always had the unboxing aspect down pat. The Luan continues this tradition with a simple, straightforward, quality black box. The lid lifts off like a candy jar to unveil the tan leather carrying case, nestled in a soft foam insert. A cloth bag inside the case holds the cable, while the headphone snuggles in the confines of the contoured case.
A handle on the zipper of good length and feel provides added good looks, while allowing the user to carry the case in such a manner, or help with the zipper. I have always appreciated that the case is narrower where the headband lies, so that one can grip the case easily.
Typical subdues, quality Sivga unboxing experience.
By now, most of know that Sivga provides top class quality, and craftsmanship for their wares. The Luan carries this tradition on, with excellent looks in either Mahogany color or black hand carved shells. CNC machined aluminum parts round out the rest in delicate looking, but sturdy material. That delicate nature carries over into the headband like the arches of a fine bridge. Double rails are flexible, but due to the shape hold the ear cups in place with very adequate clamping pressure. Plus, those sumptuous velvet-lined pads caress your cranial matter with a very good size as well as depth. Sometime the thicker pads, while soft give way too much, crushing onto the cups, or creating an overly hot condition. With the Luan, the pads crush just enough to provide excellent seal and comfort. That double rail headband also carries the sub-headband with it, made from leather as well on top and velvet on the side, which contacts our heads. A double suspension system, which can be adjusted well. Yes, many other headphones carry this system as well, but at this price the construction is impeccable.
Those fluffy pads flare out on the contact side making them wider than where the cup joins the shell. The perforated insides of the cups also flare out as well, yielding a larger chamber for the sound to fill. More on that in sound impressions, but my seat of the pants feeling is that there is an expansion of the sound as a result. I also feel that those pads might be a smidge too big due to the flare. I have no problem with them contacting my ear, but they do carry over just short of my jaw line. The headphone is so light though, that it doesn’t really matter. A slight oval shape also helps to fit most ears when properly worn. One reviewer stated, the Luan is absurdly great,” comfort-wise. I cannot disagree with that statement.
The cable comes in a single ended 3.5mm, with a 6.35mm jack adapter as well. Single ended 3.5mm jacks attach the cable to each cup. I have a 4.4mm bal cable from DDHiFi for my Meze 99 Classics, which I will try as well, since they will fit.
The leather case is again of stellar quality, and shaped like a buttock down low. I cannot hide my snickering when I say that, but it serves the purpose perfectly. Plus, that narrower area up top allows you to quickly grab the loaded case, unlike some other manufacturers overly-large cases.
The 50mm dynamic driver has nickel coating at the edge of the diaphragm as well as a macromolecule of organic carbon fiber composite. This set up not only helps to absorb unwanted modulations, but makes for a speedy delivery of the sound; something many dd’s are not known for. Light weight and elasticity of the driver also allow for good speed in the sound. The open back allows for an expansive stage, while the driver provides good reach down low, and treble notes not normally associated with dd’s. A copper clad aluminum coil also helps aid in signature response, while (to me) providing a certain amount of warmth to the tune. An oversize magnet of NdFeB sized at 24.5mm assures the detail is passed along accurately and with excellent speed.
If you had told me that the Luan cost $299USD, after I had listened, I would have said one of two things: 1. Fabulous! Or 2. You are joking, right? Right?! Not only is the Luan amongst the most comfortable headphones I have ever tested, but the sound pierces the lower end of mid-fi with a sound, that while fairly neutral comes across with a mid-tonality that might be too far forward for some, and a bass that is a bit light; but made up for with wonderful detail. It seems that many manufacturers have the sound-thing down, and differences appear as their house tuning, or open v closed, or planar v dd. The Luan blurs those lines as well, with bass that is tight and fast, but does not reach as low as I would prefer. This is countered excellently by the superb mids, and clarity wrought from the emphasis here. Treble can run a bit hot, but rarely did I reach for the volume knob to turn the music down on a song, which carried such weight up top that bothered me. A rarity to me.
Another review mentioned that this unit will not be for bassheads. I guess begrudgingly, I would admit to being a near-basshead, lathering myself in the stellar bass from my Empire Ears Legend X. The Luan in no way matches that, but because the bass is taut and in control, the succinctness with which it presents the low end makes me nary miss the Legend X. On Massive Attacks “Safe From Harm” the bass line sets the stage and holds its own on the Luan. Something like the Campfire Audio Cascade would be sublime here, but the Luan shows its mettle by fast attack and a delay, which makes for the tautness of which I speak. I find no bleed into the mids, either; which aids in that near neutral sound of which I speak.
Those mids are superb for female vocals. Using the aforementioned song, the female voice sounds succinct and under control. Realism is a word I would use here, and combined with the male support vocal makes for a very nice vocal treatment. Male voices do lie slightly behind the female, but both a pushed forward due to the presence in those mids. I will add that hiss sounds such as “S” or soft “C’s” can come across with a bit of harshness, but not like others I have heard. Sharp snare hits or cymbal hits can carry that same sonic quality, but this really did not bother me, especially in concert with the overall sound signature.
Normally with something such as the Luan, the treble becomes too bitey for my tastes, and are a result of not only a V-shaped signature, but also to keep the overall presence in check. The Luan can be a bit hot for me, but not to the point of those multi-BA IEM’s, which seem to be coming back in as flavor of the month. I do not like a treble, which is too hot, and to me the mids help to keep that under control, mostly. A brighter song will cause me to lower the volume, but that seems to be song dependent.
This brings up an interesting note. Another reviewer stated that the Luan can play well across genres, and I agree. He goes on to say that while the ensuing sound may not be the best emanating from the Luan, it is inoffensive in presentation. While the Luan does not need much power to drive it, in fact the amount really does not change the signature, some genre such as jazz and pop do sound a bit better to me. This could also be one to use with EDM, and tame the upper end for when you simply want to listen, without the pumping up session. Conversely, Ziggy Marley on “Dragonfly” comes across as wonderfully musical through the Astell&Kern CA1000T and the Luan. Sometimes this song can become too much for me, and I am left wanting to raise the volume. Not here, as I can raise the volume without bother.
Soundstage is deeper than high, and a width of a slightly out of head experience. You can certainly tell it is an open-back headphone, but not so wide as to lose thickness in note or become too airy. This to me also plays into the feeling of overall sound quality, without becoming boring, or too harsh either.
Combined with the build, the Luan sound adds to its repertoire of goodness across many genres.
Sivga Luan ($299) v Meze 99Classic ($309):
Yes, this is an open v closed, but a natural comparison not only due to the price, but most consider the 99C the benchmark at this price. I was able to find a mint condition 99C used (along with a couple of other gems), and have since added the excellent DDHiFi BC150B in 4.4bal for the cable. And yes, I tried the cable on both.
To me, the presentation of the 99C completely satiates ones need at this price, or well beyond. Details that a closed-back has no right of presenting, and a fit that is superb. Throw in the excellent build, and you can see why used variant are quickly snatched up. This is still a superb headphone. Where the Luan bests (to me) the 99C is in the presentation within space. The Luan give a bit more space for the instruments to breathe, as it should with the open back. But the two would be excellent compliments to each other and for the price of a mid-fi headphone you could easily justify having both. Your need for open and closed would be taken care of as well.
I do find the 99C reaches a bit deeper with slightly better control (which says more about how the Luan handles the low end than not). The Luan on the other hand would be just about perfect in this range if the mids were held back slightly. I find the Luan to be slightly richer in presentation as well; which says a lot for how Sivga has done their research. The lower treble is a little untamed on the Luan, but countered with better detail; and this makes for a tough decision.
I end this by going back and forth between the two on The Maverick’s “Things I Cannot Change.” The 99C comes across as a bit harsh, but slightly easier to drive. Switching to the Luan, I have to raise the volume knob to match the sensation (a comparison done by ear…). I appreciate both headphones on this song, and it highlights the difference perfectly. The 99C has better depth of sound down low, while coming across as a bit harsher in the mids. The Luan lacks the oomph down low, but even with the forward mids, sound more palatable to my tastes.
Sivga has it going form them. Getting past a couple of speedbumps has given way to open highway, with the top down and the desert surrounding them on a fine Spring day. The Luan comes across as thoroughly musical, even if the mids are a bit too forward for me. That can of course be EQ’d out should you desire. Bass can be dialed in as well. Mind you these are minor quibbles surrounding a $300 headphone. Yes, we should judge cost in our purchases, but when something such as the Luan comes along and you come away stating, that this is a damn fine headphone at the price, you can fully realize that this may be quite the bargain.
The Sivga Luan is a very good headphone, especially at the $300USD price. As such, this to me is yet another winner from their stable, melding excellent build quality with sound I find quite pleasing. As such, this should definitely be on your list if you are looking for an entry-level open-back headphone.