That's me, on the left, trying out some Periodic Audio in-ears — while sound expert (and my doppelgänger) Ben Webster dropped knowledge.
In their element
It was hard to miss the Periodic Audio booth at CanJam NYC this year — their whole crew was decked out in lab coats. It was a fun, tongue-in-cheek tribute to the company's name, but also underscored their measured, scientific approach to personal audio. Case in point: the dynamic drivers inside their top-of-the-line Be IEM in-ear headphones.
For this model, the company uses a beryllium diaphragm that delivers incredibly accurate sound across a wide frequency range.
Who is Periodic Audio?
Periodic Audio was founded in California by a group of longtime audio experts, who are well-versed in high-grade metals and their different acoustic characteristics. So they created a trifecta of solidly constructed, studio-quality in-ear headphones, all identical except for one key piece: they switched out the diaphragm material in each model to create three distinct-sounding headphones.
Which Periodic Audio in-ear headphones are right for you?
The answer to that question depends on how you're listening and what you're listening to. Here were my thoughts, after very brief sessions with each:
Mg IEM (magnesium diaphragms) — I was told ahead of time that this model was the utility player of the three, and worked best as an everyday, on-the-go set of headphones. Totally made sense. I connected them directly to my phone and enjoyed a pleasant, neutral sound. Their clear mids and highs stood out, even with the noise from the crowded show.
Ti IEM (titanium diaphragms) — If you listen to a lot of EDM or hip-hop, take a look here. These headphones had a lot of swagger and energy, particularly on the low end. Titanium tends to produce powerful, punchy bass. I'll admit — these were my least favorite of the three with the acoustic tracks that I sampled. But I bet they would thump nicely with some old-school Gang Starr, or even some classic soul — anything where it's just as important to feel the beat as it is to hear it.
Be IEM (beryllium diaphragms) — This flagship model sounded the most articulate, and I wish I had been in a quieter area where I could really soak in and appreciate the subtleties. To get the best out of these, I had to switch over to a high-res portable player. Beryllium is much lighter and stiffer than the other two metals, so it can move more smoothly and efficiently. Smooth is a good description of the sound, too — the vocals were some of the silkiest I've heard in a pair of in-ears.
Built for success
When I spoke to Ben Webster, one of the company's founders, I was surprised at the level of care in just selecting the build materials. Ben told me how much they labored over every choice — "is this the lightest? The sturdiest? The best?" Every single tiny piece was considered significant, and went through a large amount of scrutiny.
This exploded view shows the magnesium diaphragm and other carefully selected driver materials.
And I could feel that care as I held the textured earbud housings between my fingers. They chose polycarbonate resin over a host of other materials, due to its rigidity. The powerful magnets and top-notch driver elements inside move quickly with minimal resonance.
A proper fit for sound
Here's something I've learned from listening to many, many in-ear headphones: their sound is only as good as their fit. Periodic Audio includes 9 pairs of ear tips to ensure a secure, comfortable seal.
There are six medical-grade silicon tips that help properly direct the drivers. (A few of the company's engineers have experience creating hearing instruments.) And I personally preferred the included foam ear tips. They expanded and conformed to my ears, blocking out the noise, so I could better enjoy my tunes.