Periodic Audio is a relatively new company founded in 2016, with a mission to create high-quality audio over all else. The Carbon is the latest and most expensive model in Periodic’s lineup, clocking it at $499. The other models in the lineup are Magnesium ($99), Titanium ($199) and Beryllium ($299). You can find them at periodicaudio.com.
This set of Carbon IEMs was sent to me, very graciously, by Dan Wiggins on Periodic Audio, in exchange for an honest review, which I intend to provide. Dan also sent me the Nickel amplifier, which I’ll be reviewing soon. Both units are cosmetically blemished.
The Carbon IEMs arrived in an unmarked cardboard box, which flipped open to reveal the pieces, as well as a small, presumably aluminum tin for storage. The packaging here isn’t anything spectacular, but it protects its contents well and presents them nicely enough. The packaging, much in the vein of everything else Periodic strives to do, is incredibly functional. I have no problem with this, as long as the audio performance can justify it.
The build quality of the Carbon is similar to its packaging. Extremely functional and utilitarian. The shells are constructed from a sturdy-seeming polycarbonate, and the cable (while regrettably not detachable), is perfectly adequate. Fancy, braided, silver-plated cable this is not. But it gets the job done. My only qualm is the fact that the strain relief coming off of the earpiece looks a little worrying. I’m not thinking it will fail anytime soon, but it’s the only part of the product which I’m legitimately concerned about in terms of longevity.
The Carbon is very comfortable, provided you find the right tips. I know this goes without saying, but tips are crucial not only in terms of sound, but also for comfort. I eventually settled on the small, double flanged tips, but may swap them out for foams later. The light polycarbonate shells sit nicely in the outer ear and do not place unnecessary pressure on any ear feature. I have worn these for several hours at a time and never felt fatigue.
The isolation provided by the Carbon is above average. It is nowhere near Shure levels of isolation. But much of that is to do with nozzle length and a deeper insertion. Conversely, the Carbon has a much larger nozzle, but with the right tips, isolation still outperforms much of the competition. I took these on a short flight and forgot about engine noise for as long as I had them in. These are great travel earphones, and I am very happy with their isolation performance.
Overall, the sound of the Carbon is moderately V-shaped with slightly recessed mids and a clear, transparent-sounding tonality across the entire range.
Definitely prominent in every mix. Although the bass is incredibly prominent, I’m not feeling too many issues with it becoming bloomy. Perhaps that has something to do with the material of the diaphragm? Overall, the bass response feels tight and accurate, with enough punch to satisfy most people. Very realistic sounding bass, with easily identifiable instruments. Listening to Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta, the bass, while emphasized, does not overshadow Lamar’s vocals, and I find him to still be easily intelligible. This song is carried by its bass, and the C presents it with lots of energy and enthusiasm.
Recessed. They’re not horribly back in the mix, but they definitely play second fiddle to the low- and high-end. Despite this, there is a high level of detail and articulation present here. Guitar slides sound great, as well as just straight-up guitars anywhere. Oodles upon oodles of detail here. Despite the elevated bass, mids stay crisp, clear, and very resolving. I would prefer them to be a little more forward, but they’re quite good as they are.
The treble on the C is not peaky AT ALL. I can comfortably say that my treble tests did not make me wince, cry, or curl up in pain. Ever-so-slightly rolled off, they sit right where they should in the mix when fun is prioritized. Mainly because I would not consider getting stabbed in the ear to be a fun experience. These portray really satisfying cymbals and do a good job of representing even more difficult-at-times high-frequency sounds.
Soundstage and Imaging
Yes, of course there has to be somewhere that the Carbon falls short. The soundstage, while providing a decent sense of space and accurately placing and imaging instruments and vocals, is very small. The closed-in nature of these makes much of a lot of songs quite intimate. For some people, this may be a dealbreaker, but the imaging and separation present in the C are very good. Soundstage is small.
Fun. Fun. Fun. These little IEMs are fun. They’re light and comfortable, they’re bassy and unapologetic, they’re incredibly in-your-face, and I happen to like them quite a lot. Many reviewers are making the build quality seem worse than it is. Even if it is as bad as they make it out to be (which it really is not), Periodic has a 5 year warranty policy, which, in my mind, negates that altogether. The C is an incredibly fun earphone that I can find myself coming back to again and again for its big, boomy bass and clarity throughout its range. If you’re looking for fun, the C has you covered.
by Lance Rothchild