Sendy Audio? I had zero knowledge that Sendy Audio existed. I get so focused on the IEM side of the hobby that I sometimes forget that wonderful over the ear options abound as well. When I do think of headphones, it is generally one of the well-known brand names throughout the audiophile crowd, not the boutique offerings.
Andrew, from MusicTeck, shot me an email and asked if I had any interest in reviewing an over-ear Planar headphone by a Chinese company name Sendy Audio. I respect Andrew and MusicTeck and haven’t written a full-sized headphone review in quite a while, so I obliged.
I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, as the sun kisses the wall in front of me, and listening to a FLAC version of Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, with the Sendy Audio Aiva as my crown and felt inspired to write. Okay, sorry for the dramatic overture, but the song, Time, adds to my melancholy. I know you have heard the song, by Pink Floyd Time, maybe a million times, but just focus on the lyrics and their meaning. *SIGH*
Searching the web for Sendy Audio yields little, they are as elusive as Sasquatch. There are a couple of YouTube videos showing you the painstaking process that goes into producing each pair of Aiva’s, some reviews, and a whole lot of forum chatter about the sound quality and how they perform well above their $600 listing price.
The Aiva has a unique sound; it is different than many of the Planar Magnetic headphones I have had the pleasure to hear. The sound signature may not be for everyone, but to my ears, I only have a couple of improvement items on my wishlist for the Aiva, that could move the Aiva closer to sonic perfection.
Those of you that follow my reviews know I am not a fan of the garish or gaudy. IEM’s or headphones that attract attention are not my style. One example would be Meze Audio 99 Classics; I prefer the Meze Neo just because the Classics are so ornate, with their wooden cups and gold accents. While I would never wear the Aiva outside, except sitting on my porch, they are indeed a sight to behold. They are beautiful, and once you give them a critical eye, you begin to see more depth of detail in the “little things” and how well they are crafted.
The Aiva is part of the Sendy Audio Black Beauty series. I am not sure what other series they have because company information is lacking online.
Overall, Aiva is a fantastic package that deserves a more in-depth look.
A little marketing hype from their website:
Aiva is equipped with a 97*76mm ultra-nano composite planar magnetic diaphragm unit as its transducer. Combined with the superior sound characteristics of the zebra wood housing, the overall direction of its sound signature is one that is very comprehensive, exhibiting natural coherence across the frequencies with airiness, detailed with distinct layers of clarity and transparency.
SENDYAUDIO founded in 2015 and is made up of the elite teams who worked in the audio industry earliest in China. Black Beauty Series is 2019 new positioning products of SENDYAUDIO, and it took three years of hard research and development. We adhere to the use of traditional craftsmanship, coupled with the selection of high-quality natural solid wood as the material for the housing. The whole production process consumes a lot of manpower and time, which include material selection, CNC machining, engraving, grinding, polishing as well as repeated oiling and drying. The finish texture of each individual piece is unique.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX:
Headphone Hard Leather Carry Case
Headphone Balanced Cable with 4.4mm Plug
4.4mm Female to 3.5mm (SE) Male Pigtail Adaptor
Unboxing and Accessories:
I am including photos that highlight the unboxing. The unboxing is rather uneventful, as the Aiva arrives in a brown box with the Sendy Audio logo in the upper left-hand corner, a sketch of the Aiva, and beneath the sketch, the cursive word Aiva, some Chinese scripted text, and 97*76MM. Beneath all other writing is their home site, www.sendyaudio.com, which when you attempt to access the homepage, takes you to nowhere.
The back of the box has text which says Sendy Audio Aiva, Black beauty series, the name of the technology company and their address, and again the homepage address. In the center of the back of the box, there is a large sticker which explains the same thing I highlighted earlier in the marketing hype section above.
Upon removing the top of the box, you are greeted by a hard, leather case with the SendyAudio logo adorning it. The case itself is just the beginning of the company, demonstrating the level of detail involved in Sendy’s total Aiva package. The leather case has four small feet on one end so that it can be stood up vertically, allowing it to take up less space on a table or shelf. The case is felt lined and has a recess in the bottom center, to let space for the earcups to sit flush to be stowed. It is difficult not to notice that the shape of the case truly evokes thoughts of the back side of the human body, yep, butt cheeks. I must admit that my juvenile, immature humorous side, snickered upon beholding the rump case, but a luxury rump case it is.
The accessories arrive in a burlap style bag that shows the text, SendyAudio, and their company logo. Inside is where you find the headphone balanced cable terminated in a 4.4mm configuration. Also, you find the 4.4mm Female to 3.5mm (SE) Male Pigtail Adaptor. I find it an odd choice to terminate in a 4.4mm plug, but maybe I find it strange, only because I do not have a Sony DAP.
The cables are a wonderful braided 6N Oxygen-Free-Copper. The cable reminds me of braided IEM cables. It is the first time I have encountered a Headphone cable that was hand braided, it is truly awe-inspiring. On the MusicTeck site, there are other cable configurations with all of the various outputs. The cable prices are $240, and the Pigtail is $75. If needed, there is also a SendyAudio Headphone stand for $75.
I also want to touch on the detail put into the plugs and cinch. The plugs all have a matching fish scale pattern. It matches the look of the grillwork adorning the outside of the cups. The neck cinch is fabricated out of wood, as well as is the splitter and has Sendy Audio branded into the wood. In my opening, I mentioned it is the little detail that matters, and this is another example.
Build Quality and Fit:
The fit of the Aiva is very comfortable to my head and ears, especially given their size and weight. They adjust to fit over the largest of heads. The design is one of those suspension types of designs with a leather headband that sits on top of the head. The weight at 400 grams, is heavy, but the weight is evenly distributed, and I have used them for a couple of hours on end without any issues with comfort. The cups do swivel from side to side if you need a little control over your adjustment to sit on your ears comfortably. The cups are large enough for my ears so that I do not have any issues with my ears touching the drivers. The pads, in the cups, are a unique design. First, they have an angle that is full at the bottom of the cup and taper up as you approach the top of the ear hole. I think this allows for a more natural following of the shape of the ear. The pads are leather on the outside edge, which covers the majority of the cup. The part of the earpad that sits against your head is similar to a microfiber type of material and the inner ring, closest to the driver, returns to leather. Plush, thick, and comfortable are the best descriptors I can provide. I love the cup and pad design.
Beauty is defined as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. The definition truly sums up the Aiva. Each Aiva is handcrafted, and the labor of love is undeniable. From the Zebrawood cups to the metal and leather, all materials are top notch. I examined my Aiva for flaws, and I could find zero defects. From the metal grilling on each ear cup to the fact that the rivets that attach the earcups to the arms have the Sendy logo, the attention to detail is one of a kind and impeccable. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I allow the photos to speak for themselves. I recommend you take the time to watch the YouTube video that demonstrates how they hand make the ear cups; it is super impressive.
The review was written utilizing four different sources, QP2R, QLS QA361, iBasso DX120, and a Samsung S10+. I used only the stock cable. My sample music consisted of 320kb, FLAC, 24bit, as well as streaming Tidal Masters, and Qobuz HI-Fi.
Moving on to the sound section….
Earlier I mentioned that the Aiva has a unique sound, and indeed it does. If you follow my reviews, you know that I spend much time researching DAPs and pairings with IEMs, but I also attempt to find DAP’s that can drive full-sized headphones with authority. The DAPs I am using for this review are all capable of driving the Aiva with such authority.
I generally have a strong preference for a warm and smooth character to my gear. The AIva should not be characterized as warm or smooth overall. Where Aiva does excel is at its sparkly, crisp, treble extension and its warm, non-linear bass frequency. The Aiva is not neutral in its sound signature; it is an engaging listen and a top-notch purchase for $600. My brief description may have conjured a visual of a V shape signature, and you would be partially correct, but there is a slight goosing in the lower register of treble which would not graph, on paper, as a traditional V shape.
The soundstage is narrow for an open-back design. The stage is not congested or veiled; only, it is not as wide as you might expect from an open-back headphone. The height of the stage is average, and the depth is barely audible for a headphone in this class. Thanks to an incredibly sparkly treble and its airiness, the stage seems to work well for the Aiva and avoids any congestion in the sound. It is possible I am being too picky on the soundstage. Overall the stage is adequate, it isn’t veiled or congested, but it isn’t the widest either.
The lift in the basses presence is welcoming to my ears. The bass elevation has a calming effect of balancing out the brighter top-end. The bass doesn’t necessarily always rumble; it is after all, planar magnetic bass which has a level of texture and layering that strives for realism. It is a case of quality over quantity, but there is enough quantity that genres like EDM are displayed aggressively, which lends to its character and the authenticity of the music.
The bass frequencies provide the warmth and fullness in the signature of the Aiva. The nimbleness of the bass creates a sound that is natural sounding with all genres of music.
I need a slight interlude here to discuss why I feel there is a uniqueness in the tuning of specific frequencies, mids dip and treble travels north from the lower treble registers, the Aiva seems to pull together to create a euphoric, cohesive experience.
The Aiva has a celestial, dreamy beauty to their sound. I understand, to describe the Aiva as dreamy, sounds very contradictory for a headphone that is undoubtedly on the brighter side of things. That is the uniqueness referred to throughout the interview.
The Jazz genre or a Jazz Fusion artist such as Snarky Puppy, is an example of a music genre that showcases the abilities of the AIva.
The mids of the Aiva are a touch pulled back but with enough lift to vocals so that they sound natural and effortless. While vocals are portrayed effortlessly, they could be a bit smoother in timbre. I prefer the sound of the mids with instrumental music, especially involving percussion and crunchy guitar. The shining star of the signature is the bass and treble with the mids being along for the ride. The mids are not bad, but they take a back seat.
The treble is light, airy, and full of energy and sparkle. The air surrounding notes provides the transparency and clarity that are a hallmark in the Aiva. The copious amounts of detail and clarity are, indeed, very impressive. There is never any harshness or sibilance and cymbals crash with sharpness and realism that is not abrasive. The energy and dynamics take you to the edge but never become offensive, just detailed and clean.
The sound is so lively and quick that it does create an atmosphere of energy and fun. The Aiva is one headphone that has shown me that I can learn to love a brighter sound.
I have attempted to drive the Aiva with my Samsung S10+, but it requires full volume and is still lacking in its ability to push the Aiva to showcase its finer details. If the S10+ were the only source I had, I would be happy with it because I would not realize it wasn’t complete. However, once I tried my DAPs with more power, I realized I could do better. The S10+ drives them to listenable levels, but the Aiva responds to better amps and sources favorably.
The QA3461 has the power to drive the Aiva to hearing damage levels at 50-60%. This pairing is my favorite as the reference quality that pushes the Aiva without coloring the music in any way. The stage is at its widest, and the signature is pure and unfettered. The power of the QA3461 makes the Aiva soar to an entirely new level.
The QP2R would be my 2nd choice for a pairing, but I cannot try the pairing at its best as I don’t have a 2.5mm balanced cable for the Aiva. On SE output it required quite a large volume to accomplish what the QA3461 could achieve at 50%. The QP2R is a reference quality DAP, but it shows its prowess in 2.5mm output. I am confident if I were able to use the 2.5mm output, the pairing would be sublime the organic tone of the QP2R.
Know that if you give the Aiva power, you will be rewarded, in a big way.
You might want to own this Headphone if:
+ You want a crystal clear, transparent, dynamic signature
+ You are looking for a Planar Headphone that performs above its price point
+ You want a Headphone that is as beautiful aesthetically as it sounds
+ You want best in class looks and sound in a headphone that soars beyond the $600 price tag
Sendy Audio was a brand that I was not familiar with before this review. I also wasn’t sure what to expect from this unknown Planar Magnetic headphone. Without a doubt, I can now say I am familiar with Sendy Audio and am looking forward to their next offering.
I prefer warmer, smoother signatures, but the Aiva made me a believer that a brighter signature can be a spectacular experience.
The Aiva is a beautiful design and has an unparalleled attention to detail. Superior build quality, and the Zebrawood is gorgeous.
When driven with a higher output source, the Aiva soars to levels beyond what most $600 offerings are capable.
I am stoked to see what the future holds for Sendy Audio, and definitely can recommend the Aiva for consumers looking for a beautiful, well-built headphone with a crystal clear sound signature.
The Aiva unit here was arranged by MusicTecktogether with Sendy Audio company, so credits to both for providing the product for the review time. It should be noted that MusicTeck is currently the only international distributor of the Sendy Audio products.
The box is large but doesn't have much of unnecessary free space inside as covers well the included hard case. The case is tough and of good quality with the Sendy Audio crane logo on it and a thick strap attached. There are no extra accessories apart from the elemental 4.4mm to 3.5mm adapter cable as the included main cable is terminated in the new 4.4mm balanced plugs, but just a small pouch where the cables are stored.
The Sendy Audio Aiva are an open-back type headphones of over-ear fit, having large planar drivers of 97x76mm size. Not sure why they are being called part of the 'Black beauty' series, as there is plenty amount of wood, silver and copper added to the mix to being too black, but one thing is for sure, the 'beauty' part suits them well as these are just a beautiful pair of headphones. Right from the unboxing they look so stunning with the high quality implemented materials and so elegant finish. Build quality is top notch and may be used as a good reference from now on. For instance, the Meze 99 Classics showed a so tough build quality for their price, and then the Aiva are on a higher level with even more solid materials.
The main structure is all metal, stainless steel in an all matte black color theme. The steel here is really solid and thick, adding some extra weight but also much higher durability. The steel part goes from the upper headband arc down to the round yokes. While the mechanism does not allow going flat, the cups can rotate a bit to the sides and up and down as well. The headband adjustment runs smoothly too, though personally I already found the Aiva to be large enough without need to adjust them any further. Indeed, those with smaller heads would probably find the Aiva being too large. The lower headband strap is made of real leather, very soft and comfortable to wear.
The wooden ear cups are made of authentic zebrawood that undergo a machined CNC carving process as a first step and then carefully handmade finished and well polished giving a kind of shiny tilt to them. They are completely smooth and well assembled to the metal body. The silver metal grills also are perfectly placed over the wood cups, and there is an extra metal layer with a nice scales pattern. The ear pads mix leather like material on the outer and inner contours and a very breathable mesh towards the part that makes contact with the head. As can be seen, the pads hold a very unique asymmetrical angled shape that goes thinner at the top and then widens towards the lower part. Not sure if everyone will find this design better or more ergonomic over the traditional round/oval ear pads, but nevertheless they are very comfortable and fit naturally around the ears. The pads may not have too much depth on them and the planar drivers can be too close to the ears for some, but they are thick and very plushy.
The weight is not to be taken lightly on the Aiva. The ~400 grams are well noticed when wearing these headphones, but even though, the weight feels well distributed and could use them for more than an hour without any discomfort issues. They are on the large size and had to use them without adjusting the headband at all, and despite being a tad loose they have some clamping force that helps holding them on place. I rarely have comfort issues with over-ear headphones as usually the pads surround well my ears to imply any pressure over them unlike on-ear sets. Also, the pads are well cushioned and provide a good seal and can be slightly adjusted to the sides if needed.
The included cable is of good quality too. The OCC cooper wires inside in a four strands setup that are braided on the lower half and twisted on the upper right and left section. There is a good amount of copper wire and the whole cable is comfortable enough; relatively soft, tangle resistant and carries no noise. The plug termination is of the new 4.4mm balanced type which is getting more popular with new audio devices. The detachable cable utilizes the 2.5mm plugs to the each of the ear cups; a click sound can be heard when connecting them and the connection is very tough. All the plugs are well covered by metal too and have an extra spring, and also feature the nice scales pattern, even on the short 4.4mm to 3.5mm cable adapter. The y-split and slider are made of light wood with the Sendy Audio writing and logo.
All in all, the design and build quality are quite awesome on the Aiva, and there is a lot of attention put to the smallest details.
Main sources used:
HiBy R6 Pro (4.4mm balanced output option), iBasso DX120, Shanling M5s, AQ Dragonfly Red, Fiio K3.
Following the superb build and impeccable design, the sound of the Aiva strikes with impressive quality, high definition, clarity and precision. Even right out of the box the sound is very effortless with a lot of micro details that can be easily picked up. I would not say that burn-in process is essential here, but some short break in time is suggested before judging the real sound of these planar headphones. Overall, the presentation is rather neutral with fair linearity from the lows and mids, and then reaching some extra strength towards the upper frequencies. It has somehow a 'reference' kind of tuning but not perceived as a very flat, lean or too analytical as the sound goes fairly full and well weighted for what neutral sound could be considered. Nevertheless, the sound has pretty much no coloration or flavor of its own, leading to very high transparency, and which can be reflected when pairing with different sources.
The bass is linear from the lowest sub-bass notes and goes very even up to the upper bass without any lift on its mid-bass region. As such, the Aiva lack in sheer power and impact but still capable of showing a decent amount of punch when the track allows it. Quantity is right above of neutral at best, and even with paired with a warmer source the bass will never go overboard. The bass here is a clear example of pure quality over quantity, and that's where the Aiva shines. It is technically very correct, tight and accurate. The speed is really high with a fast attack and yet a normal decay. There is still good depth and sense of dynamics with a very effortless extension and reach to the lowest notes, but just not having the real rumble. Surprisingly, it responds very naturally to some EQ, but even more with a bass gain from a good amplifier, adding the needed extra weight and fullness of notes.
The midrange is presented slightly forward while keeping the neutral signature. While the tonality is more towards the cool side of things with a bit more aggressive character, the mids do not sound thin or even boring. There is good body and weight on lower instruments with enough fullness of notes despite the lack of warmness on the lower end. Upper midrange is even more forward with more attack and energy, but not getting out of balance. Transparency is very high on the Aiva and one of the main selling points of them, and most noticed on the midrange region. While the detail on vocals is very high, the Aiva may be still missing some sweetness and smooth texture for vocal oriented genres. Nevertheless, pairing with a warmer/darker source should do the trick and give the right fullness and sweeter texture to the sound without losing the so high resolution or detail.
The highs are more prominent next to the lows and even midrange (though the extra forwardness already starts from the upper mids region). Treble here literally 'shines' with the brighter signature and the touch of aggressiveness. It is not overwhelming or splashy, and does not have a 'hot' lower treble emphasis either. However, depending on the pairing there can be a certain treble peak that can make the Aiva sound a bit too sharp. The quantity is abundant and, more importantly, the quality is excellent holding impressive control with a far extension and so much effortlessness. It goes without saying the Aiva are very revealing to recording quality and not the most forgiving either, but pays off when using higher resolution files.
The presentation while not closed or too intimate does not go too wide in its soundstage. From a large full size and open back over-ear set some would expect a more expansive field, and something the Aiva may not stand out. However, the sound is very open and spacious, capable of showing good depth and a very correct image. The micro detail and separation are just as impressive too with very high sense of air and sharp and well marked separation between instruments. It packs much detail that could be considered as a new reference among mid-tier portable headphones.
As technical specs may suggest, the Aiva should be pretty efficient for even low output devices, and in fact, for an over-ear planar set they turn very easy to drive. Still a full size headphones option, so extra volume is required to reach a comfortable listening level but small portable players can do well with the Aiva. Even so, what the Aiva require is a good sounding source to for best performance, and including a 4.4mm Pentaconn terminated cable the company doesn't hide the fact that going fully balanced is their best suggestion for the Aiva. On single ended mode, both iBasso DX120 and (recently arrived) Shanling M5s were positive enough, each with own characteristics on the overall signature; on high gain the needed volume was about 50/100. Sound is fuller on the low end with more energy on the DX120, whereas the M5s gives a better balance and more controlled and quality in the treble, with a bit wider stage, extension and speed. As for small DACs, well, the Dragonfly Red is a perfect match for the Aiva, at least in terms of signature for a warmer, richer and smoother overall sound, but missing some of the greater details these headphones are able to offer.
Yet, a more appropriated option for the Aiva was the new HiBy R6 Pro, and obviously due the well implemented 4.4mm balanced port; it's also the first audio gear I get to try with real 4.4mm and not with 2.5mm adapter. As a relatively reference sound DAP, there is not much of a boost on the bass with the Aiva, but it does hit with a more solid authority. Midrange is more centered, and vocals are particularly more forward and euphonic. Sound stage is not there for what usually the R6 Pro shows, but sound is very spacious with excellent extension, sometimes sharp in the treble area but packs great micro detail.
Pros: Build quality (though the pads were not symetrical)
Cons: Small soundstage, small images, inconsistent resolution.
Super well built and very nice looking. If only it sounded like it looked.
The sound stage is super small. Surprisingly small. My M1060 sounded better and was a much bigger sound. At twice the price of the M1060, I couldnt justify keeping the Sendy when I would ditch it for the M1060 all the time.
The sendy was also weird in that it was really revealing but veiled at the same time. Hard to describe but the images were nice and revealing but the space inbetween instruments was "blurry". It was very strange.
If you have a tinkerbell fetish and flea size vocals are your thing or you love a best built specimen that looks great but never gets played, the Sendy is the bomb.
The grill really killed the sound IMHO and I would like to see what it would sound like with the grill removed, like the M1060s. Takstar has an offering using the same driver and maybe I will get that and mess around. But the Sendy is long gone.
Also on a $600 pair of head phones one would expect the pads to be symmetrical. They had a weird curve anyhow but the 2 pads didnt match in their curve and was out of place in such a well built headphone.
YMMV. whitigir said that the Sendy had a big soundstage but drummer leo talks about how small it is. It certainly was super small to me. Heck my modded 8323 was even bigger than the Sendy....
For $600 I was expecting something better than the cans I already had.
Thanks very much for a well done and informative review of a brand I wasn't aware of.
I appreciate how you tried to compare with models in roughly the same range.
Personally I prefer iems and your review makes me quite interested in the Alyas.