One of the best ways to learn about new audio equipment — other than reading our reviews — is to attend local meetups and trade shows. At these events you can of often find expensive and rare gear to test, but here’s a pro tip: if you attend a headphone meetup and only play with the gear, you’re doing it wrong. The best part of headphone meetups is the people you meet. At CanJam 2017, we had the chance to talk with Dan Wiggins, creator of Periodic Audio’s new line of in-ear monitors, to a level of extreme geekery. Dan sent us his entire product lineup to test; though not without flaws, we think they sound great.
As we’ve mentioned in the past, we don’t rate headphones based on whether they sound like our individual preferences — we look for gear that’s designed with purpose, rather than compromise. Dan Wiggins is seriously into the science behind his headphones, and it shows. The three heaphones in Periodic’s lineup are named after the metals used in its dynamic drivers — Mg (magnesium), Ti (titanium), and Be (beryllium) — each chosen for their sonic properties. Talking with Dan at CanJam, it was easy to see how passionate he was about the design of his headphones and, most importantly to us, how thoughtfully the choices translated to the finished product. We highly recommend browsing Periodic’s website for more details on their material choices and what they mean for each headphone.
Each of Periodic’s IEMs comes in an identical box with a generous complement of accessories. The included array of ear tips basically guarantees a good fit, with three sizes each of normal silicone tips, double-flange tips, and foam tips. A gold-colored metal carry case — about the same diameter of a soda can — with a screw top is also included, as are a 1/4-inch adapter and airplane adapter.
While it’s great that Periodic’s IEMs come with such a large set of accessories, we think that at least some of that production cost should have been spent on better cables. We can live without inline controls, but all Periodic IEMs use the same thin cable and, to be blunt, we hate it. We know Periodic likes to use exotic materials, but our cables seemed to be made of “tanglonium”, almost actively seeking tangles no matter how carefully we stored them. Even after weeks of use, the original bends in the cable from the original packaging never shook out. This might be more acceptable with the entry-level Mg, but the we think at least the $300 Be should have been equipped with a cable slightly less frustrating to use.
We also noticed that some of the IEMs we received had a strange glue or other residue smeared on the casing that wouldn’t chip off. In addition, the right and left indication on the IEMs are indicated by red and black coloring on the driver grille, but these seemed to be drawn on with a Sharpie. Ours were early production samples, so we’re willing to overlook these oddities in the hope that their QC process improves during the company’s launch.
Minor complaints aside, we think that Periodic’s IEMs have an awesome design. The small, bullet-shaped polycarbonate casings are beautifully simple, incredibly light, and extremely comfortable. The only way to tell which model you’re using is by the color of the cap on the rear of each housing — light gray for the Mg, dark gray for the Ti, and brownish gold for the Be. With such a minimalist design, we found them easy to wear normally or upside down with the cable routed over the ear; the small bass ports were not blocked in either direction. Despite their small housings, it appears that strong magnets are hidden within — the magnetic field can be felt when the individual buds are placed close together. We found all three of the Periodic IEMs easy to drive, though the Ti’s lower sensitivity will require about one more notch of volume than the Mg and Be.
We spent a few weeks switching between the Mg, Ti, and Be, and we were happy with each. Each produced excellent imaging and instrument separation, quick and punchy bass, and clear treble. We think the Mg is a great choice for an entry-level IEM, with a relatively neutral sound except for some extra energy in the high-end that we found to be compatible with a wide range of genres. The Ti is the outlier, with a V-shaped sound signature that we found to be very engaging with electronic music, with intense bass very sharp highs. The high-end Be offers a more refined version of the Mg’s sound, if a little relaxed; the differences are subtle enough that the 3x jump in price might be hard to justify for some users.
Periodic Audio is brand new to the headphone scene, but they’re clearly not just another parts-bin OEM. It’s apparent that Dan Wiggins & his crew were intensely focused on the sound of their headphones, building a brand around the materials that create each IEM’s sound signature. Though that focus seems to have come at the expense of some design details — specifically the lackluster cable — we think the Mg, Ti, and Be are worth checking out regardless of your budget.
Company and Price
Company: Periodic Audio
Model: Mg, Ti, Be IEMs
Price: $100 – $300