Review: Periodic Audio Mg, Ti, and Be IEMs
Posted by Alex on May 21, 2018 in Reviews | 0 comments
As you all know, “military intelligence” are not the only two words that can’t make sense. The same can be said for “affordable audiophilia” too. Walk into any self-proclaimed audiophile trade show and prepare to file for Chapter 11 – floorstanding speakers worth more than your car, tricked out turntables that require mandatory credit checks to demo, and now of course, the obligatory and oh-so practical reel-to-reel tape machine. The irony in the air is truly thick: Most “audiophile” grade components are priced way out of reach of most audiophiles. It’s sad, but true.
That’s why I recommend to most civvies who want to get into this game to first concentrate on their personal audio experience vis-à-vis their in-ear monitors (“earbuds”). Because unlike the plethora of high-end home stereo components made out of unobtainium, you don’t have to break the bank to get a sliver of high-end sound when it comes to IEMs. Better still, most earphones are easy to drive, which means they sound great straight out of your smartphone.
But what IEMs should you buy? Well, let me introduce you to my little metal friends from Periodic Audio.
Periodic Audio founder Dan Wiggins is no stranger to designing audio products. In fact, he has been doing it for over 25 years. And though you may have not heard of him, you have definitely heard of one of his designs; the man has designed transducers for the likes of SONOS (yeah, them!), Polk, Genesis, Ford and even Microsoft to name just a few. So although Periodic Audio is only about a year old, its founder and merry band of engineering misfits have been designing audio products for over two decades now.
Speaking with Dan, he gave me the four main guiding principles behind Periodic’s products: comfort, audio quality, reliability, and attractiveness (in that order too!). Putting it in another way, Periodic strives to deliver great sound at an affordable price all while looking and feeling good [Dave: That’s pretty Schiity of them!]. And their first round of products are three IEMs, the Magnesium ($99), Titanium ($199), and Beryllium ($299).
Periodic’s IEMs are all named after the type of metal used in their respective transducers. However, since all three were 100% designed and tooled in-house, all three also share a lot of common features including the same polycarbonate bodies, custom front-and-read turned volumes, and N48H grade magnets. Consequently, they also share the same look and feel with only a colored cap to really differentiate them. But that cap also has a vital purpose too in that it serves as a counterbalance keeping the overall weight of the IEM balanced. And a balanced ‘bud is a comfortable ‘bud, allowing long listening sessions without any of the usual soreness your accustomed to with most IEMs today.
In the box you get a splitter, a gold 1/4″ adapter, and a number of different sized rubber tips. I found the stock ones to fit my ears perfectly. In fact so much so that I now can crown these IEMs as some of the most comfortable ‘buds I’ve ever inserted into my ears (with only my custom Roxannes ranking above them). And they isolate well too, just ask my wife – actually, don’t.
Sticking with their look and feel, Periodic has also done an absolutely stellar job making all three of these IEMs feel beefy. The polycarbonate body shared across the line is not only strong but feels strong, and gives you a sense that you could definitely drop these on the ground without fear of cracking them [Dave: No worries folks, no IEMs were actually harmed in the making of this review!]
Finally, instead of dedicated left and right channel notches, if you want to know which channel is which, just look on top of the bud and you will see one side painted red. A very nice stealthy touch to keep aesthetics consistent across the line.
With that said, I do have one major gripe with Periodic’s overall design: the cable.
The problem with the cable is that the stress reliefs and material itself are a bit flimsy. I suspect if you accidentally pull on them very hard, they will dislodge from the main housing. And since the cables are not detachable, there is no way to replace them either. Truth be told, I didn’t run into any issues with any of my review units but I was extra careful not to try to yank them out of any source harder than absolutely necessary. I’m not claiming they are fragile to the point of being a deal breaker, but I can imagine Periodic is going to get a few support calls from some heartbroken audiophiles soon.
The Periodic Table of Heavy Metal
In terms of specs, all three can reproduce frequencies that only bats and dogs can hear. The entry-level Mg can do 20-30kHz while the Ti ups the ante on the bass side clocking in at 16-30kHz. The higher-end Be is the most robust coming in at 16-45kHz. All three have a 32ohm nominal impedance and are efficient enough to sound way too loud straight out of most smart phones. So just looking at the paper specs doesn’t really tell you much. But yes, they do indeed sound very different.
The Mg was designed to be a neutral sounding IEM with more oomph in the top-end. While the Ti has a much more aggressive FR curve, eschewing treble for gobs of bass and front forward mids. Finally, the Be is tuned like the Mg but does everythingbetter due to its use of Beryllium which is known for its wonderful acoustic properties.
I had several setups to choose from over the course of my lengthy listening sessions with all three. However, I spent the majority of time listening to these IEMs either straight out of my Pixel smartphone or Macbook Pro or through a Fiio Q5 headphone DAC/amplifier (review pending) to get a sense of what they sound like in most daily applications. Sure, I also listened to all three of them through my Pro iCAN and Chord Mojo to hear the best that they can offer too. But at the end of the day, I think the majority of headbangers shopping for IEMs want to know what they sound like without thousands of dollars of fancy equipment driving them. Anyway, enough talk.
Monolithe’sNebula Septem is arguably my favorite record of the year and the best thing these French doomers have released since III. But more importantly, Septem is the culmination of their evolution from a fringe experimental doom project to a real honest-to-goodness band. They have a real vocalist now and track lengths are far more digestible than before (read: more than one). And of course, the band offers the whole record in full dynamic range too!
The Be was of course the best sounding of the bunch – punchy bass, a warmish but prominent midrange, and just enough treble to still be labeled “high-end” with a straight face. I also thought they were the fastest of all three too, with transients extremely pronounced and having a very well-defined headstage. The Mg on the other hand sounded exactly as Dan described them – basically a lesser version of the Be. Though I would say a lot lesser. Bass extension was there, but not as detailed nor as tight and occasionally sloppy. Mids were muddled but had a warmish fun to them. Treble was indeed more prominent than say the Ti but definitely a step below the Be. But at $99 bucks, I like their sound a lot better than say my Etymotic HF-5’s I use at the gym which I find generally more recessed and lacking bass.
The Ti on the other hand is a different beast altogether. If you enjoy a more “Beats” like sound profile with head-banging bass and an in your face midrange with no real treble to speak of, then the Ti delivers in spades. To be honest, for a lot of genres, including metal, this can actually be a very addictive curve to listen to. Case in point:
My most listened to record this year is Hollywood Burns’Space Invaders, which has been on heavy rotation ever since its release. If you like other synthwave projects like Perturbator or Dan Terminus, then this record will be right up your alley – and so will the Ti. And even though I personally enjoy the Be’s overall sound signature better, the Ti was very hard to put down (shout out for the new GosT too). It’s over the top bass and forward headstage makes rocking out uber fun.
Omnium Gatherum’sNew World Shadows is at this point a modern day classic, and probably one of the best melodeath records ever recorded. This one is also just a personal fav of mine since it’s the record that got me into the Gatherum in the first place. For fans of Amon Amarth, Insomnium, and Dark Tranquillity, this is your record.
Right off the bat, I didn’t like the Ti with this record at all. A lot of the sonic nuince on the album is just lost because of that enthusiastic bass profile again. Couple that with the fact that this album is highly compressed, any kind of imaging presented in the mix is simply lost on the Ti. The Mg on the other hand offered a very balanced sound profile, with the extra treble really shining through as the crashing of cymbals came to life. The Be again got top scores all around, sounding decently neutral if a tad warm but presenting the most realistic version of all three.
If you can look pass the spartan packaging and lack of extra features (e.g. no mic), Periodic Audio offers some of the best bang for your buck IEMs out there. The Mg at $99 bucks is really unbeatable, and far superior to many other multi-driver armature IEMs in its class. The Ti on the other hand offers gobs of fun for all of you bassheads and could act as a cheaper alternative to say Shure’s SE425 or even their 525s. And the Be is simply fantastic, sounding a lot like a condensed version of the Audeze house sound – rich bass, slightly forward mids, and just enough treble to take it seriously. In fact, the Be has been my go to IEM for sometime now. Put simply, Periodic Audio really know their metal. Seriously, they do.
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