Disclaimer: The SendyAudio Aiva sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Musicteck USA for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about MusicTeck products previously featured on Headfonics click here.
Priced at $599, the Aiva is aiming to get close to what I call a ‘sweet spot’ in current magnetic planar headphone pricing. A tier that is currently occupied by the likes of the Hifiman Sundara, Verum Audio’s Verum 1 and the recently reviewed Brainwavz Alara.
It is fascinating to see the welcome tumble of good planar headphone tech into obtainable pricing over the last few years. Previously, only Hifiman really went all out for this price tier with the HE4/400i at around $500 or less.
There have been moves from other well-known brands but not quite as close. The recent LCD-2C from Audeze sits just outside at $799.
Both of MrSpeaker’s excellent AEON models are also just a little beyond this benchmark price point but still fairly obtainable compared to flagship pricing which can go as high as $6000 for TOTL variants.
So, whilst not the cheapest model on the block the Aiva does bring to the table a premium looking visual flair. It also delivers a unique sound that will give it a distinct and welcome appeal to those hunting for a headphone that can handle modern beat-orientated pop with some gusto.
The Aiva is an open-back circumaural planar magnetic headphone. Inside it uses a 97 by 76mm planar driver with an asymmetrical double NdFeB magnet array. The Aiva driver is also very thin indeed. It uses a TUYU ultra-nano composite diaphragm which is similar in thickness to the alternatives used by Hifiman.
This particular build uses a 0.0005mm aluminum foil which is a commonly used trace coil material for most planars outside of the HE6’s highly resistive gold option. Given the Aiva’s treble performance (see page 2 for sound impressions) I would also suggest that the trace weight of aluminum used is quite light.
I see no data to indicate if that measurement is the entire driver or the moving part of the diaphragm which can often be a confusing spec. Given its physical size, I would guess it is the entire driver measurement. The much bigger cups of the Verum 1, for example, have a listed 82mm moving part and despite the elongation of the Aiva cup, I would guess it’s moving part to be smaller than the Verum 1.
The design is beautiful, probably the best at this price point and no tout of place on a $1k plus headphone. There is a slight homage to the likes of the MrSpeakers AEON series with that elongated cup design and pressure headband strap and the choice of materials and finishing is very refined to the eye.
The Aiva uses an elegant mix of zebrawood strong grain natural wood cups, a matte black finished gimbal, pivot block made of aluminum and a similarly finished spring steel headband. The wood finishing, in particular, looks very nicely done and certainly a step up on some wood veneer panel designs I have seen on flagship headphones. You can tell the treatment level of the wood materials has been intensive because there is nary a sharp edge in sight.
The front grills are comprised of the same matte black lattice aluminum finish with a perforated aluminum silver plate just in behind which I presume protects the drivers. You could argue that the Aiva may have a semi-closed nature to its performance given that the aluminum sheet behind the front grill is quite dense despite the perforations. Certainly, it is not as open as the grills of the Hifiman Sundara but slightly more uniform than the venting on the Alara.
The gimbal and headband slightly offset the elongated cups so they are more forward facing than straight down, much like the natural angle of your ears. There is a degree of lateral and vertical adjustment capability with the Aiva cups and impressively not a creak or sound to be heard when moving them about. This is a solid design and excellent materials, no doubt about that.
Cables & Connectors
To the bottom of each zebrawood finished cup is the dual-entry 2.5mm dual-mono jack connector system which is fairly discreet and has a pressure-based locking system inside to keep them secure.
This is not a channel agnostic design, there are dedicated left and right channels on the Aiva. The connectors are angled slightly forward in line with the cups which does help with immediate familiarization on left/right channels even though the labeling on the jacks of the cables are quite visible.
This is an interesting choice for me and one level the supplied stock cable is excellent, and on another level, I am not 100% it is the right length and termination choice. I guess this will depend on how you choose to use the Aiva.
This is a 1.8m 6N OCC wire wrapped in a translucent PET jacket and terminated with a 4.4mm balanced jack. It is not that stiff of a build, remains fairly tangle free and is dead quite for microphonics.
The Aiva is also supplied with a 4.4mm to 3.5mm pigtail converter of the same wire and finishing to allow you to plug into unbalanced jacks. All of these are slipped into an attractive little fabric drawstring soft pouch making it fairly easy to manage when on the go.
The chrome barrel and lattice grippy finish on both the jack and 2.5mm dual-mono connectors are beautifully designed and do match quite well with the similar aesthetic of the cup grills. Strain relief is a springy metal coil for the jacks on both the stock cable and pigtail connector with some discreet rubber on the dual-mono connector end. Both the chin cinch and Y-splitter are crafted from matching zebrawood which nicely complements the finishing of the Aiva cups.
The bit that surprised me was the lack of quarter jack inclusion given that for many, the Aiva is going to end up as a desktop amp-based headphone. Yes, there are some nice portable DAPs out there with decent power, but this thing can scale with some great amps so ideally, two cables of 1.2m and 3m would have been ideal with a 4.4mm to 4-pin XLR pigtail as an option.
I only have one dedicated 4.4mm amp, the Xi Audio Broadway that works for the Aiva’s balanced 4.4mm option but plenty that could use XLR. I do have plenty of quarter jack converters but the length of the stock cable means I am having to snug up quite close to the majority of the amps which is never ideal.
Comfort & Fit
At 420g the Aiva is not the lightest planar headphone in the world but they do feel very comfortable on your head for a few reasons.
First, the cup shapes are longer than they are wider which is my preferred design. They allow the Aiva to stay relatively compact despite being a full-sized planar headphone. It also means the Aiva cups follow your natural ear shape and angle so despite the relatively small pad openings they do a fairly good job of staying away from unwanted pressure on your ear.
The second is the pressure balancing properties of the Aiva, aided by an excellent pressure strap and headband adjustment system. The pressure strap is nothing new to the world of headphones but this one is as good as the MrSpeakers version and very supple also.
I am not 100% sure its real leather or protein leather but either way it is soft and easy on the head. Combine that with the ability to widen or shorten the headband itself and you do get some excellent dissipation on the top of the head which is where I hate pressure.
Clamping or lateral pressure is spot on. You will not get any seal on the Aiva as its an open-back but the lateral pressure is just enough to give it some welcome stability for the weight. The additional comfort in part is also due to the unusual pads designs on the Aiva.
These are a hybrid of pleather and fabric with memory foam underneath. In a way, they are a bit like Hifiman’s FocusPads but just slightly smaller and not as wide. They also have a slight indentation at the top which allows for a better fit just above the ear where your head shape is further out than below the ear.
The only slight critique I have on the pads is the relatively shallow depth on the opening. Despite their wedge and indented external design being fairly comfortable on the outside, the lack of depth might be uncomfortable for those with bigger ears. I can foresee a few ears touching the driver enclosure and for some, this might have an effect on the staging capability they hear out of the Aiva.
Accessories & Packaging
The Aiva comes with a fairly decent looking mid-sized golden/light tan retail box. The box splits in the middle to reveal a fairly simple layout designed to hold the carry case and inside the headphones and cable bag.
Taking a leaf out of MrSpeaker’s playbook the Aiva comes with a black transportable curved zippered carry case. The inadvertent “butt cheek’ design of the base of the case is a tad unfortunate if slightly giggle-worthy but otherwise, I quite like these cases. They do a great job of blocking out dust and offer enough protection for the headphones when on the go.
Inside there is plenty of room for the headphones and cables so its not going to be a hassle packing this and taking it with you. On the outside, the zipper seems quite durable so unlikely to every split and you do get not one, but two clasps, one on the zipper itself and a larger one at the top of the case. Both of which will allow you to connect to the sides of backpacks or whatever takes your fancy. There are also 4 little bumps at the bottom to stack the case vertically without it falling over.
Click on Page 2 for Sound Impressions & Comparisons