IEM Review: Periodic Audio Carbon (C): Perfectly balanced, like all things should be.

Dan from Periodic Audio has graciously sent me a review unit of the C and the Nickel amplifier for honest reviews. This review is in no way sponsored and I will be honest about my feelings surrounding this product. . This is my humble opinion. YMMV!

Introduction:

IMG_20190624_143326

We’ve definitely been down this road before, but if you’re interested in learning more about Periodic Audio, check out my review for the entry-level, Periodic Audio Mg.

All you need to know is that the Carbon uses a unique, lab-grown, diamond-like carbon transducer. Because it is impossibly hard to manufacture your own, in-house “dlc” drivers, the C is the most expensive iem that Periodic Audio currently carries, at $499 USD. This is a statement piece for the brand.

 

Specs:

Driver Type: Diamond-like carbon dynamic transducers
Connector: Non-detachable
Nominal Impedance: 32 Ohms
Frequency Response: 12Hz- 38kHz

 

Accessories:

IMG_20190624_164658

1 X Periodic Audio C
1 X Periodic Audio Tin Case
3 X Double Flange Silicon Eartips (S, M, L)
3 X Foam Eartips (S, M, L)
3 X Single Flange Eartips (S, M, L)

Like the other earphones in their current-lineup, they feature the same accessories. Nothing has changed, but as per usual, there is more than enough out of the box. Again, the tin’s interior is way too small for the typical “three finger curl” technique (BOO).

 

Design, Build and Comfort:

img_20190619_202627.jpg

I sound like a broken record but comfort wise, there is little to whinge about. The C features a barrel-style housing that fits snugly in the ear with the right pair of eartips. Its mass is negligible and I had no qualms wearing it for hours on end. All Periodic audio iems are incredibly comfortable thanks to their light, poly carbonate shells and straight down cable. I’d suggest users to be gentle with the C and handle them cautiously; their cables don’t exactly inspire confidence.

The strain reliefs are exactly the same; they don’t feel substantial enough for the daily commute. However, Dan from Periodic Audio has stated that the company is working on a detachable cable solution that is superior to the industry standard MMCX and 2-pin CIEM connectors. Fingers crossed, hopefully they integrate this new system in the near future.

This time, the C features a black-end cap for a sleek and understated look. I dig it.

However, I still think compared to the likes of Campfire Audio, at this $399 USD price point, I expect a build quality reflective of its exorbitant price tag. The plastic shell is fine but the cable needs a lot more tweaking.

 

Sound:

Star Track: Dry the River: New Ceremony (Acoustic)

If the spirit has left you baby
Don’t lie to yourself
Put them old records on
And admit that it’s gone somewhere else

Coming to this review, I was using the Mg’s as my daily accompaniment for long-listening seshes . The C replaced them for the past week and the sonic improvements are easily picked up on (as expected of an earphone 4 times more expensive).

First of all, there are some similarities between both earphones. The Mg and the C share a voluptuous, bass response that is bloated in the mid-region. However, the C practices more restraint, with the mids mostly unclouded by that assertive bass-hump.

There were certain acoustic presumptions after demoing the Campfire Audio Atlas and Vega’s awhile back. Three of these iems share similar driver-tech and I expected them to share similar sonic qualities.

I am convinced that out of all the three DLC iems, the Carbon is both the cheapest and the most polished.

The Carbon is dark, smooth and velvety. It is inviting and pairs well with many genres of music.

The highs are slightly muted but it carries enough detail for it to sound “coherent”.

The mid-range is the star performer. It is organic, smooth and the transient shift from upper to lower-mids is buttery smooth. Everything is perfectly balanced and nothing sounds offensive. It is refreshing to have an iem with a single driver at its core.

Bass notes are definitely accentuated and some might consider it overpowering. But that bloom elevates acoustic tracks with a “chamber” or stage-effect that adds body and definition to string instruments with a slow-decay.

Treble is free of sibilance, masking odd-harmonics that can easily cause listener fatigue.

Sound-stage is unfortunately, rather intimate and noticeably narrower in size compared to the Periodic Audio Be. It is definitely a step down.

However, imaging is sublime. Everything is well placed in each track and it is easy to pick up on a minutiae of new-elements never heard before in cheaper iems. Because of its ultra-clean background, it is easy to distinguish audible cues and the positioning of each instrument. With Dry the River’s New Ceremony, each vocalist is presented with studio-like precision. Using your ears as a 3-D reference ball, each vocalist gently envelops you with their sonorous falsettos from all sides, slowly coalescing into a harmonious mix of voices.

At 32 Ohms, it is easily driven out of any source. However, I have been using it with the Periodic Audio Nickel and it is match made in heaven. This thing packs power and I will be reviewing this in the near future. The C was also used with my Shanling m0. Nothing much can be said except that it is certainly a more “audiophile” source compared to my Pixel 2 XL.

 

Conclusion

To quote my previous review of the Mg, the “Cable” needs to GO. I expect the build quality to be reflective of the $499 USD. I understand that Dan doesn’t like to use any sort of metal chassis because they have a tendency to ring and amplify unwanted resonances. From an engineer’s perspective, it is perfectly understandable. As long as the cable is replaced with something more durable, I’ll be a satisfied customer.

Apart from those minor flaws, the Carbon is a flagship IEM. Syrupy and ultra-coherent, the C is a a smooth operator with the sonic capabilities expected of an earphone in this price bracket.

Spare me the balanced armature arms race. Sometimes, less is more.  And the carbon reaffirms that sentiment.

For people interested in purchasing the IEM, you can purchase the earphones directly from them.

Periodic Audio: http://50.21.179.130/product/ca/

 

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