In a quick leap from founding to a finalised product you could buy, Periodic Audio add to the ever increasing array of brands on the intimidating in-ear monitor market. Having started just over a year ago Periodic have increasingly started to make some noise and as they polished off the final aspects of their offerings, they attended more and more of the US audio shows to get some buzz. It was from this and their cool concept that got mine and many others attention and separated them from just another company worth overlooking to one that was necessary to give a chance.
Dan Wiggins is one of the founders and he is, without a doubt, the man for the job if I have ever seen one. Checking out his LinkedIn profile we have some serious experience. Beyond a stint at Microsoft, he has been in the deep end of the audio industry. He has worked for audio consultancies such as DW Designs & Acoustic Development and been the CTO or transducer engineer of many household names such as Sonos, Starke Sound and Blue Microphones! When it comes to acoustic engineering he has been around the block so when he is leading a team to try and make some great IEMs it is no surprise peoples ears pricked up. On top of that, the whole team seems to be acting the part, attending shows in lab coats!
Naming an earphone brand after a table containing a tabular arrangement of chemical elements, ordered by their atomic number may initially seem questionable but as soon as you see their product range you know exactly what is going on. They currently have 3 earphones and each one is based on a single driver material. Their entry level model is Mg and costs $99. Then for $199 you can get the Ti and finally ‘Be’ is their flagship costing $299. If you are not completely down with your metals they are Magnesium, Titanium and Beryllium.
I received the “Experimenters” pack. This is a cardboard box complete with branding and a periodic table that contains the retail packaging for all three versions of IEM. I thought this was a nice touch for us press! The retail packaging is nothing exciting even if there are some neat ideas like a sheet of information for each model that includes specifications and a frequency response graph measured on an IEC 60318-4 compliant coupler. In terms of accessories, you get the standard 1/4 inch jack and airplane adapter, a tiny puck like metal tin that easily slips into your pocket and an expansive selection of tips. For tips, you get a choice between single and dual flange silicone as well as a range of different size foam tips. I did find the single flanges to be a bit flimsy and they were the worst sealing for me but regardless you have plenty of options which is great!
While the three models could not be more different in terms of drivers, they are all identical physically which I found seriously underwhelming especially with the Be costing 300 bucks. Reading a lot of Dan’s comments around the internet and on their site’s FAQ he has an answer for most of my worries but if I am honest I still stand by them. They have a traditional barrel-like housing that is made of polycarbonate and then a very thin and slightly worrying cable that is directly attached. The only aesthetic difference between the models is the PVD colour applied to the rear MIM cap of the housing, so you can actually tell the difference between a Ti and a Mg. I just can’t help but find them super tacky and almost DIY like. My units don’t even have a clear left and right channel indication!
Dan would argue that polycarbonate is a better acoustic chamber than metal which would require sophisticated dampening. He also says that the 2 pin connector for removable cables would effect comfort due to its large size. I have heard loads of metal earphones in this price range that sound awesome and also look the part and the same goes for earphones with removable cables. You can whine about the available options to make a cable detachable but look what Jays managed with their new q-Jays, there are no excuses for any manufacturer after that. I do appreciate how light the earphones are due to their material choices to be fair, but still, who doesn’t like something that is made a little sturdier. I also can’t complain about their thorough build quality testing as described by Dan here and that this has given them the confidence to offer a 5-year warranty.
“Our test spec runs 17 pages and covers things like thermal cycling, thermal/humidity/vibration long-term storage, cable bending, cable pull tests, eartip insertion/removal cycling, repeated drop tests, liquids exposure, UV exposure, and much more. With that kind of coverage of testing and the experience background we have you learn a lot about materials, assembly techniques, and longevity of products.
Designing a product where you can offer a long warranty requires paying attention to the details during the design, always with the assembly process in mind (so you do not design in assembly failure operations), and then testing the crap out of it before you release it. You run the tests on a few hundred units to guarantee 2 sigma (98%) results (meaning you build and burn 200 of each model) and then you can offer what you want. Yes, many see a 5-year warranty as risky, but then, starting a headphone/IEM company is risky in itself!”
Even if the cables are proven in strength tests, they don’t feel like something I want on a high-end earphone when models like Campfire’s Orion (just $49 more) come with a high-quality ALO cable. Especially when you don’t even have the option to buy an upgrade one. Regardless these things don’t seem like even the slightest of concerns to Periodic who just want comfort and great sound claiming everything else is just an unneeded addition. While I can agree with this ethos, if you want to impress people looking the part really helps and so does a build quality and finish with a real wow factor.
I should not gloss over the fact that everything periodic do is built and tooled in-house from the ground up. They aren’t importing a housing and just doing the last bits of the jigsaw puzzle. It is also not a ‘designed in the USA’ but built in China product. That has to stand for something!
When we get to the companies self confessed priorities, things do start to look up. Comfort is absolutely great. It is not a design that has tested thousands of ears to determine the perfect housing but it does the job going straight in your ear to just the right depth and it sits there not causing any irritations (harder than it sounds). I did find isolation a little underwhelming having mainly listened to balanced armature units recently that are not ported like this is.
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