Note – My main impressions are with the stock ear pads. I also received Aiva’s fenestrated ear pads which are a perfect fit on P-II and have written impressions with them separately. Also, these impressions are with the HiBy R6 2020 and iBasso DX160 as the source. I’ve written impressions with my production desktop setup later in the review too. Even though it has low 32Ω impedance and 98dB sensitivity, its sound signature shines through a nice powerful balanced output of a good DAP and even more on a good desktop setup with a clean linear powerful amp.
Summary – P-II has a nice warm-ish balanced sound signature. It has very well done neutral and linear bass which has very good clarity but also good weight and slam when the song demands it, linear lower midrange up till 800Hz, a tiny bump at 800Hz that introduces slight honk, an upper-midrange tuning that isn’t as forward as Harman Target or headphones like Sennheiser HD6XX or Focal Elex, fairly easy lower-treble tuning, a bit more present upper-treble compared to lower-treble where a 12kHz peak adds a bit of sizzle and sparkle into the signature and fairly good extension till 20kHz. It has good extension at both ends but neither is over-exaggerated. What impressed me most was the separation between layers of instruments, depth wise as well as across the width. It has a soundstage that engulfs the front of your head, like you’re wearing a helmet of tiny speakers mounted inside till the parallel line of your ears. Lol! The soundstage is quite interesting and holographic for the price in my opinion.
Let’s dig in deeper to know more…
Bass – Even though P-II is an open back headphone, there is no sub-bass roll-off. Sub-bass is fairly linear and neutral but has good weight and rumble when songs call for it, like in Linkin Park’s ‘Sorry for Now’ where there is a rumbly sub-bass dominant bass line playing right from 5 seconds onwards. Both sub-bass and mid-bass are very linear, reference-ish and tastefully done. Overall, bass is very clean, has really good resolution, weight as well as well defined clarity and definition in the centre image.
Mids – Lower-midrange is very clean and neutral up till 800Hz. There is a tiny ~2dB bump at 800Hz which introduces a bit of honk in P-II’s sound signature. Since the Q factor of it is so small, a lot of people might not even notice it. Even some Focal headphones like the Clear, Elear and Utopia have a bit of bump in the 800-1.5kHz range. It’s a bit more noticeable if you switch to P-II after a reference-ish headphone like the HD6XX, which is more linear in that range. There is a trick to get rid of it with SIVGA’s fenestrated ear pads of Aiva that are a perfect fit for P-II, but more on that later in the review. Upper-mids are a bit easier than Harman Target or headphones like HD6XX, Elex and Clear but instruments still have strong definition and clarity but are less forward as they are in HD6XX and Focals. P-II has a dip at around 2kHz compared to reference-neutral but isn’t as recessed as the Audeze LCD-2C in the rest of the upper-midrange. What really impresses me in P-II’s midrange is the realism and musicality without the forwardness. As a musician and audio engineer, even though I love the HD6XX and know that it is more accurate in the midrange, there is something about P-II that makes me pick it up again and again to listen. I’m guessing its musicality over absolute reference neutrality would certainly work for a lot of people.
Treble – Lower treble is smooth and well-balanced whereas upper treble is a bit more prominent in comparison, introducing a bit of musical excitement but in a fairly balanced manner. Because of smooth and easier lower treble, there is no hint of sibilance or spanky hi-hats. The 12kHz upper treble peak on the other hand adds a tiny bit of sparkle and sizzle to P-II’s signature. P-II is very open and fairly airy in its upper treble presentation with good extension till 20kHz, which adds on to help songs sound exciting.
Soundstage and Imaging – Soundstage isn’t the widest in this price segment of open-back headphones but it is one of the cleanest with excellent separation between instruments throughout the soundscape while maintaining a nice warm-ish sound signature. Being an open back, it is much wider, deeper and more holographic than most closed-backs as well as most open-backs I’ve tried in the range, barring a couple. What I really dig is the strong sense of realism in P-II’s soundstage that a lot of headphones don’t have. Width is fairly wide and it has good depth too but the excellent separation between instrument layers, be it width or depth wise, adds a dimension to the soundstage that enables the holographic experience. It’s definitely an out of head soundstage, but it sounds like you’re listening to the band performing in a century old heritage concert hall than an open arena.
SIVGA’s fenestrated ear pads (Aiva pads).
Knowing that Sendy Audio Aiva’s ear pads are a direct fit, I wanted to try them on P-II and SIVGA were kind enough to send me a pair. They don’t feel too different from stock ear pads on the head but they affect the sound signature significantly. With Aiva pads the signature tilts more towards the upper-midrange with bass and lower-midrange reducing. With this, that 800Hz honk disappears and you perceive a much more forward presentation in line with HD6XX but in turn the bass weight and slam takes a hit too. I perceive the soundstage boundaries wider and slightly deeper with the Aiva pads and even the lower-treble becoming a bit more present as compared to the stock ear pads.
Now this is a case of ‘you win some, you lose some’. I do like the more forward, slightly more energetic and the wider soundstage of Aiva pads but I like the bass slam, note weight, lower-midrange naturalness and the more balanced and complete sounding signature of the stock ear pads too. Also, I can increase levels to fun loud levels more easily with the stock ear pads. I’d recommend spending the $30-35 extra for the Aiva ear pads and trying them out for yourself to see which ones you like more. My tilt is more towards the stock ear pads, but well….
SIVGA P-II with DROP THX AAA 789 Linear Amp.
Now my desktop setup is more pro-audio-ish since I use the DROP THX 789 Amp with my Universal Audio Apollo Twin Interface for my music production work. Now this is where SIVGA offering their cables in different jack terminations and multiple adapters comes in use. The DROP 789 Amp has a 4-pin balanced XLR connection whereas P-II comes stock with a 4.4mm balanced cable. For that, they have a 4.4mm female to 4-pin XLR adapter as well as their stock cable in the 4-pin XLR termination. There are multiple other options too and I’d recommend having a look at their store for all the current offerings.
Moving on to sound impressions, P-II has more bass weight and slam, more instrument realism, better separation and slightly more open and airy soundstage on my desktop setup. Even though the soundstage sizes are similar, the boundaries are a bit more defined on the desktop setup with the 789 Amp. Again, this is easily perceivable but isn’t a big significant difference. I also don’t know which element in the chain is bringing out the most refinement but P-II sounds good on both setups to be honest. DROP 789 is a linear amp and is known for its clean neutral amplification which doesn’t add much or any colour from its side which I think pushes cleaner power to drive the P-II and helps it sound cleaner, more open and airy. Even though it has a low impedance of 32Ω and 98dB sensitivity, I do hear its sound signature shining much better through a nice powerful balanced output of a good DAP and even more on a good desktop setup with a clean linear powerful amp. DAPs like HiBy R6 2020 and iBasso DX160 can easily power the P-II from their balanced outputs, so no need to go looking for a desktop setup if you’re thinking of getting the P-II. But if you can get one, I’d highly recommend looking at the THX AAA 789 Amp as a pairing with the P-II since I highly dig it.
Sennheiser HD6XX – HD6XX is a dynamic driver open back headphone. HD6XX is much lighter than the P-II, so it feels much lighter on the head but has more clamp force than the P-II. Also, P-II’s ear cups are custom shaped and feel much easier on the cheek and jaw plus its yoke’s 30° swivel and 90° rotation are something the HD6XX does not have. HD6XX ear pads are fairly comfortable but I find P-II was more comfortable overall, except for the awareness of it being on your head at all times because of its weight. Build quality and premium quotient is not even a competition and P-II wins in both departments hands down with its boutique design and build. Moving on to sound, HD6XX is a more reference-neutral sounding headphone whereas P-II has a more warm, musical and exciting sound signature. Even after all that, P-II is actual the more neutral and accurate sounding headphone in the bass department. HD6XX has a a bit of sub-bass roll-off and a minor mid-bass bump but P-II is completely linear with very good low end extension right down to 20Hz. HD6XX does lower-midrange more linearly whereas P-II has a tiny bump at 800Hz. HD6XX is more neutral and forward with its upper-midrange presentation whereas P-II has lesser pinna gain and isn’t as forward as a result. Even then, P-II does not lose out in instrument realism but HD6XX does have more accurate tonality and timbre of instruments. HD6XX has more prominent lower-treble but P-II has slightly more upper treble and a bit better extension up top. P-II has better separation between instrument layers depth and width wise, better precision in imaging as well as a much better and more holographic soundstage than HD6XX.
HifiMan Sundara – Sundara too is a planar magnetic open-back headphone. It is lighter at 372g, has a bit less clamp force and feels lighter on the head with a more open feeling open-back design. Build quality, design and QC wise, P-II wins hands down as it has a much more premium boutique design and build. Coming to sound, Sundara is overall brighter and a bit more clinical reference-ish sounding headphone compared to P-II. It has a sub-bass roll-off at 60Hz whereas P-II is more accurate, neutral and has better low-end extension. Both have neutral mid-bass presentation but P-II has more overall note weight, slam as well as rumble. Sundara is more neutral and accurate with its lower midrange presentation whereas P-II has a tiny bump at 800Hz. Both have dips in the 2kHz range but then Sundara is more forward with its upper-midrange presentation. Sundara has more prominent lower treble as well as upper treble with a colder tonality. P-II comes off as warmer and more musical in comparison. Sundara has a wider soundstage owing to its upper-treble tuning but at the cost of it coming off as bright. P-II has a more natural sounding soundstage with sharper imaging, better resolution as well as separation between layers while maintaining an easier warmer sound signature.
Ollo S4X – Ollo S4X is a dynamic driver open back headphone and is tuned as a reference headphone for audio engineers and musicians. It too has boutique design and build quality but I have to give it to SIVGA for nailing the design, build quality and premium-ness while keeping P-II’s price under $500. P-II definitely looks like a much more expensive headphone in front of the S4X, even though S4X is no slouch and is quite the looker itself. Sound wise, P-II’s bass has better isolated clarity, rumble, note weight as well as slam. S4X is more neutral and reference-ish with its lower-midrange as well as upper-midrange presentation. As a result, S4X’s sounds spankier with its forward upper-midrange and is more accurate in tonality and timbre presentation. Even though P-II hasn’t been tuned to be a neutral reference headphone, is still has very good instrument realism, clarity and fairly natural sounding instrument tonality. S4X has more neutral and present lower-treble whereas P-II has more upper-treble in comparison. P-II sounds a bit more open and airy with better extension up top. Both have good separation between instrument layers as well as resolution but P-II does it better in comparison as well as has better imaging. Even though S4X’s soundstage is no slouch and I quite enjoy its presentation, P-II has a more open and wider sounding soundstage. All in all, S4X is more tonally accurate and a better reference headphone but P-II sounds more fun, exciting, is more spacious sounding of the two and has better technicalities in several areas.
P-II has a lot going for it as it is a well thought out product with an attractive design, extremely good build quality and a sound signature that isn’t trying to hit a target curve perfectly for reference sound but is going for an interesting, exciting and musical signature instead which has very good separation between layers, resolution, details and an interesting soundstage. Even though it has a low impedance of 32Ω and 98dB sensitivity, its sound signature shines much better through a nice powerful balanced output of a good DAP and even more on a good desktop setup with a clean linear powerful amp. Well, if you’re tired of owning and listening to reference-neutral headphones and would now like to get a nice warm, exciting and musical headphone, I definitely recommend giving P-II a shot!
Just a heads up, P-II is priced at $399 but it shows a higher price (around $480) on AliExpress because that is inclusive of VAT for EU countries and AliExpress only allows a fixed price and not dynamic pricing for different countries. So, if you’re interested in ordering, I’d recommend messaging and asking them where you’d be able to get the best deal since they have a growing network of dealers now and one might be in your own country.
Gear used for testing and review.
- DAPs – Hiby R6 2020 | iBasso DX160
- Audio Interfaces – Universal Audio Apollo
- Desktop Amp – DROP THX AAA 789 Linear Amp
- Laptop – Apple Macbook Pro 15″
- Phone – OnePlus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
- Foo Fighters – The Pretender, Best of you, Everlong & Sonic Highway album
- Coldplay – Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
- Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings & Ellipsis albums
- Ed Sheeran – Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
- Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow album
- Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia album
- Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
- John Mayer – Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train, Say & A Face to Call Home
- Gavin James – Always & Hearts on fire
- Switchfoot – Meant to live & Dare you to move
- Porcupine Tree – Sound of Muzak, Blackest Eyes & .3
- Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
- Linkin Park – Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
- Maroon 5 – She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
- Lifehouse – All in all & Come back down
- Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
- Karnivool – Simple boy & Goliath
- Dead Letter Circus – Real you
- I Am Giant – Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
- Muse – Panic station
- James Bay – Hold back the river