Periodic Audio is a new audio company, founded less than a year ago in June of 2016. However, between their founders and designers, they have over 140 years of combined experience across dozens of high-end audio brands. Founder Dan Wiggins worked previously at Microsoft, contributing to the gaming headset portfolio. He then co-founded Doppler Labs and was principal transducer engineer at Sonos and chief transducer engineer at Blue Microphones. Periodic Audio clearly states its mission on its website: to focus on audio products that fit in your pocket, that are comfortable, and that sound great--not good ... great.
To meet the first criterion, the company's first three products are all in-ear monitors. To meet the second, Periodic supplies six different tips to best fit your ear shape and size. I found a tip that provided just the right fit, with good isolation and comfort. All three models are also extremely lightweight, with their center of gravity slightly inside the "fulcrum" created by the tragus/anti-tragus--which results in a balanced weight distribution that further improves the overall comfort level, even during long listening periods. The bodies of all three models are made from polycarbonate, which is acoustically non-resonant. As far as the third criterion, I'll get to that in a moment ... read on!
I auditioned all three of Periodic's IEM offerings: the $99 Mg (Magnesium), the $199 Ti (Titanium), and the top-shelf $299 Be (Beryllium). Why come to market with three models? Well, there is a time-tested axiom that brands seeking to capture as much of the market as possible should offer a good, better, and best option. Periodic Audio is able to change only the transducer across these three models to create three distinctly different acoustic signatures and value propositions. The good IEM is better than the ear buds that come with your smart phone and is the most affordable of the bunch. The better IEM is much better than what came with your smart phone; for most on-the-go music listening, game playing, and TV/movie streaming movies, it delivers more than higher quality for twice the price (although still affordable). The best IEM is, well, knocking on the door of any audiophile IEM or headphone of any type at nearly any price--yes, the Beryllium IEM is that good. Well done, Periodic Audio, well done indeed! For more on my unholy love of beryllium, read my review of Focal's Utopia headphones.
I listened to each of the three IEMs using the following 24/192 FLAC file tracks: "Hey Nineteen" by Steely Dan from the Gaucho album, "Dear Doctor" by The Rolling Stones from Beggars Banquet (2002 Remaster), "True Sons" by Thievery Corporation from Zion from the Temple of I & I, "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" by Urge Overkill from the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, and "Crazy" by Chaka Kahn from Best of Jazz Audiophile Voices.
In each of the three Periodic IEMs, a single wideband dynamic transducer eliminates the need for a crossover, which results in very low distortion across all three models. How much does simply changing the transducer metal matter in each design? A lot. The Magnesium IEM is a little one-dimensional compared with the Titanium and Beryllium models; the stereo imaging is a little narrower, but it's still pleasing. Overall tonality is even and pleasing, with plenty of low end, and the highs never get harsh or brittle. The mids are slightly compressed; however, measured against other $99 IEMs, the Magnesium IEM more than holds its own. In fact, if I weren't comparing it to its own big brothers (the Titanium and Beryllium), I would give the Magnesium IEM nothing but praise.
The Titanium IEM immediately presents bigger bass than the Magnesium while somehow never getting in the way. The mids are a bit clearer, the highs remain smooth, and that single dimensionality I heard in the Magnesium IEM disappeared. The soundfield opened up a bit more. There is no doubt the $100 price difference is warranted by the step up in performance.
The improvement is abundantly noticeable as we move up to the top-of-the-line Beryllium IEM. Beryllium is magic when it comes to transducers. I love the Focal Utopia headphones, and here again we get extremely fast transients, highs with headroom to spare, a full and tight bottom end, and mids that are never cluttered. I added a dense track while auditioning the Beryllium--ZZ Tops' "Cheap Sunglasses" from Deguello--just to see if it could manage all that midrange energy ... yup!
Comparison & Competition
During my interview with Periodic founder Dan Wiggins, he indicated that they did zero competitive research--they just wanted to make audiophile IEMs at price points that were accessible and not stressful if lost or broken. Mission accomplished. That said, readers here might be interested to know how these measure up to a few top sellers in this space.
The 1MORE E1001 Triple Driver IEM uses two balanced armature drivers plus one dynamic driver to achieve impressive overall sound quality, and it include the in-line mic and controls for $99. The overall sound is comparable, although I give a slight sonic edge to the Periodic Magnesium IEM.
The Shure SE315 IEM has very good sound quality, although to my ears it's a little too smiley face EQ'd at the $199 price point. My preference goes again to the Periodic Titanium IEM.
The Etymotic Research ER4SR IEM is very accurate, and I preferred it for classical music. However, the Periodic Beryllium outperformed the ER4SR on all other musical genres at the same $299 price point.
Considering the use-case and price-to-performance factors that set the Mg, Ti, and Be in-ear monitors apart, Periodic Audio has nailed its competition at each price point and provided exactly what the mission statement promises: affordable, audiophile-quality IEMs that are comfortable and meant to be with you all the time. After all, the best IEMs are the ones you aren't afraid to take with you. Carry on, Periodic!