Fantastic sonic performance for audiophiles who don't want to skimp on bass depth. Excellent array of eartip options in various sizes, shapes, and materials.
Expensive. Visual design feels like an afterthought. Lacks inline controls.
- Bottom Line
The Periodic Audio Be delivers a wonderful sonic experience in spite of looking like a bargain bin pair of earphones.
By Tim Gideon
The first pair of earphones we reviewed from Periodic Audio, the entry-level Periodic Audio Mg, impressed us sonically, but felt a little humdrum in the design department. As we check out the top-of-the-line $299 Periodic Audio Be (for Beryllium for those less familiar with the periodic table of elements), the scenario is quite similar. Visually, the design is near-identical—there's not much that sets apart the Be's look and feel from, say, a $10 pair of in-ears. Sonically, the Be's performance is stellar, with full, rich bass depth and crystalline clarity in the highs. At $300, users might be expecting more niceties like a sexier design, or an inline remote control—but Periodic Audio invests everything in audio performance here.
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All black, except for gold-colored metallic caps on each earpiece that sport the Periodic Audio logo, the Be isn't ugly, but would not be described as an eye-catcher either. The most disappointing aspect of all of the models in the debut Periodic Audio lineup is the physical design. The earphones are not poorly made, and seem well assembled. But the cabling is about as thin as can be and is covered in simple black rubber at a time when manufacturers of far more affordable earphones have started covering the cables in attractive, shoelace style cloth, or at the very least, making a thicker cable.
Even if the thin cable and lack of any obviously attractive design facets don't bother you, the lack of an inline remote control might. It's true that fewer in-ears than headphones offer detachable cables, but it's not an unheard-of feature, and for $300, it would have been nice to see, perhaps, two included cables, one with and the other without an inline remote. But for $300, if only one cable makes the cut, many listeners would probably prefer it to include an inline remote.
Inside the earpieces, each driver is made of pure Beryllium foil and delivers an impressive 2Hz to 45kHz frequency response.
One last minor design gripe: The demarcation of left and right ears is your standard L and R, but with different colored grilles inside the eartips. Stare through the hole leading to the grille and you'll see either a red or black grille. Why not demarcate the earpiece with an L and R in an easier to find spot? It feels like this was an overlooked aspect of the design, and the colored grilles were the last-minute fix.
There are several in-ear fit options—three pairs of single flange silicone eartips, three pairs of double-flange silicone eartips, and three pairs of memory foam eartips. (All of these come in S/M/L sizes.) The foam tips, in particular, will block out a good amount of ambient noise and often can provide the most secure fit, and as a byproduct, slightly stronger bass response.
Beyond the eartips, the Be ships with a ¼-inch headphone jack adapter and an airplane jack adapter, as well as a screw-shut metallic case that all of this, and the earphones, just barely fit into. (Things fit more easily if you don't carry all the eartips around with you.)
We're not in love with the look of the Be, or the lack of remote. The earphones fit quite securely, which is nice, but for $300, when the design feels this scaled back, the audio performance had better be phenomenal.
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And the Be does sound excellent. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the lows are delivered with all the thunder the mix engineers for this track intended. They're also matched by excellent presence in the highs, so things never even come close to sounding muddy or overly bass-boosted. It's a track with powerful bass, for sure, but the Be ensures that it doesn't become an unbalanced mess by pumping up the lows far too much.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with a lot less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better overall sense of the Be's sound signature. Does it invent bass when it doesn't exist in the mix? The drums on this track can often sound unnaturally heavy and thunderous on excessively bass-forward in-ears, but the Be brings us an ideal amount of low-end—the drums here sound powerful, large, and full, but never overly thunderous or fake. Callahan's baritone vocals are delivered with a pleasant richness that is complimented by the wonderful clarity in the high-mids and highs. The Be does some sculpting in the higher frequencies, but it's all in the name of adding a little brightness or shimmer to the mix without things ever getting overly sibilant or harsh. The guitar strums and higher percussive attacks sound clear and sharp, and every aspect of the mix is given strong representation. This is the sound signature for audiophiles seeking sub-bass presence without things going overboard.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop's attack gets an ideal high-mid presence, allowing it to retain its sharp edge and slice through the layers of the beat. There's also some added thump in the lows and low-mids, beefing up the loop just a tad. It sounds excellent. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with gusto—not like there's a subwoofer rattling your brain, but with the perfect balance if deep bass power and restraint so that the rest of the mix isn't overwhelmed by these bursts. The vocals on this tracks sound ever-so-slightly more sibilant than they typically do, but it's not unpleasant—it adds some shimmer and brightness without things slipping into an overly sculpted zone.
On orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the Be shines. The lower register instrumentation is given just a bit of added body and depth—it never distracts from the dominant, crisp presence of the higher register brass, strings, and vocals, it only complements them. This is a bright sound with beautiful richness.
What else can we say except that while we wish Periodic would rethink the design next time around, because, man, do these earphones sound great. Are they worth $300? Yes, if you care about quality audio that much, the drivers deliver a wonderful sonic experience. But if you're also expecting luxury for that price, you're going to be disappointed. Consider the RHA T20, the Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2, or the 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones—all excellent options of varying prices, and all of them look better than the Be. But, even with its no-frills design, the Be matches or exceeds all of them in terms of audio performance and accuracy.
By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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