Periodic Audio is a relative newcomer to the personal audio scene, but in just under a year, they've already begun making an impact. Founded in the summer of 2016 by a talented group of consumer electronics industry veterans, the core team of Dan Wiggins, Mike Kim, Ben Webster and Zeke Burgess bring deep experience from well-known companies such as Mackie, SONOS, Dell, Blue Microphones, Mass Fidelity and Doppler Labs.
The company spawned out of a casual conversation about the pros and cons of the many different IEMs on the market. With all the requisite engineering experience, all the talk of "What if?" and "I wish someone would..." eventually turned into "What if we..." and "I think we should."
Their debut product line is an intriguing one. It features three in-ear monitors with a single dynamic driver per side. Interestingly, everything about this lineup of IEMs is identical except for the color of the counterbalance on the outside and the material of the diaphragm on the inside. All three come with a fairly straightforward build, non-detachable cable, a variety of eartips and a carrying tin. The design is simple, but comfortable. The different stiffness and density of the diaphragm materials on the inside actually dictates the final sound differences between the three earphones.
The Element Of Surprise
The mid-level model ($199) uses a Titanium diaphragm. Known for its exceptional stiffness, Ti is a common material used in driver construction, particularly tweeters, offering slightly better speed than its Magnesium counterpart. I found this model to be pretty V-shaped overall. To be honest, it didn't really suit my taste, but its energetic signature may be well-matched to some bassy electronic music.
The flagship is Periodic Audio's pièce de résistance, the $299 Beryllium. As a diaphragm material, Beryllium (Be) is a nearly ideal metal. Its density is almost as low as that of Magnesium, giving it excellent damping properties. When it comes to stiffness, Beryllium even outdoes Titanium. As a result, it possesses the highest speed of sound in the transducers – sound waves propagate at a speed of 12,890 meters per second, over two and a half times faster than the Titanium and Magnesium drivers (5,090 and 4,940 meters per second, respectively).
The result of this unique combination is a driver with a high degree of accuracy and a low degree of coloration. I was genuinely impressed with the Beryllium driver at first listen and immediately asked Periodic Audio for a review sample when I covered their booth at CanJam New York. It has not disappointed one bit.
The Scientific Equation For Dynamic Dynamite
The party really starts in the midbass, where kick drums hit especially hard with lots of authority, yet decay quickly enough that the Periodic keeps up a good sense of pace with fast and involved tracks. The good thing here is that, unlike many mid-priced IEMs, it conveys that powerful impact without overly coloring the sound – I'd say it's definitely in the sweet spot where satisfaction and technical capability meet on the low end.
But the dynamism wasn't just limited to a thumpy bass impact. As you listen further up the frequency response, the Beryllium driver continues to set itself apart. Throughout the midrange, I found that the subtle microdynamics were also exceptional. Pianos and guitars were presented in vivid color, showcasing the driver's strong ability to differentiate between microscopic variances in volume. Key strikes and guitar plucks hurled themselves off the driver membrane in a storm of tiny little impacts, making for an energetic listening experience that never left me feeling bored.
In this regard, I found some similarity to another beryllium-driver-based headphone, the Focal Utopia ($3,999). While the $299 Periodic Beryllium won't hold a candle to Focal's $4K mega-flagship in detail, depth, imaging or resolution – it's worth noting that both of them really excel at delivering a uniquely textured listening experience. Each is very tactile in its presentation, from the big hits down to the finest grain. I always love it when I stumble upon a piece of gear that can convey this visceral texture in the music.
In terms of tonality, the mids stay pretty pure, with relatively minimal coloration aside from perhaps a slight hue of musical warmth. Vocals are smooth and soothing without feeling congested or warmed over. Male vocal performance is especially strong, but female vocals fare quite well too, with just a hint of treble sparkle and shimmer to bring out some nice harmonic content. The high frequencies never felt spitty or sibilant to me – if anything, maybe a little cooled off in comparison to many in-ears, and in my opinion, that is a good thing.
On that note, the fine details are not quite as in-your-face as some other IEMs, but there was still quite a bit there. The Periodic Beryllium won't let you hear deep, deep down into the notes like you would with flagship IEMs like the Noble Katana ($1,850) or the Shure KSE1500 ($2,999), but considering the price difference, I don't think anyone would expect them to.
The Beryllium driver scales up nicely in quality with better amplification and sources, and while it may not beat out some of the $1K plus flagships, it certainly might make a great case for itself if you really consider your use cases for IEMs. If you aren't sitting down and really focusing on listening to the music analytically, you might not even miss that extra layer of detail. Running from a phone or an entry-level DAP at the gym or on the go, I usually didn't miss those points at all. In many ways, the headphone easily makes up for it with strong performance in other, more readily noticeable ways like tone, punch and dynamic contrast. It outperforms many of the competitors in its price bracket quite handily and overall, I would say it usually comes off sounding like a much more expensive IEM.
The one area where it fell a little behind at times was the soundscape size and imaging. In this case, the Periodic really benefitted from the advantages of a better source, where it definitely scaled up in performance. In general, the soundscape is relatively compact, without much in the way of depth projection, which is to be expected from an IEM at this price point. The sound images sit only a small distance apart going from front to back, which can occasionally hurt the separation, though in most cases it is not an issue. Far projecting images are limited to a short/medium distance that is only an inch or two outside your head.
In terms of width however, images pan across a half-orb-shaped soundscape tightly wrapped around the listener's head, from 0 to 90 degrees in both directions. They just don't extend very far away because of the limited depth. With a better source, width and height both improved noticeably, adding a more rounded sense of dimensionality. Given those dimensions, I'd say imaging is likely about average for the price point out of a phone, and maybe a little above average with a good source, but not elite.
Conducting A Peer Review
Regardless, it's likely going to be a hefty jump in price to get to a really clear-cut upgrade, which makes the Periodic a strong value.
The fact of the matter is, the Periodic Beryllium is loads of fun, and for a $299 in-ear, the technicalities are quite respectable. For what it's worth, I'm comparing it to the performance of higher quality IEMs because it outclasses so many others in its price range. For someone looking for a powerful, dynamic sound and a textured, tactile performance, this is an excellent performer. And at the price, it's a very, very easy recommendation.
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