- Manufacturer & Model
- Periodic Audio Be (Beryllium)
Extremely wide soundstaging properties with no frequency response subtractions or additions. 100% designed and tooled in-house.
Accurate, comfortable, affordable.
Periodic Audio is a relatively new name in the IEM (In-Ear Monitor) game, coming to us about May of 2016. The PA team possesses over 140 years of combined high-end development experience and has already set fire to the industry with the performance/price points and sound signatures of their various offerings. The focus of this review is their current flagship, the Be (Beryllium).
PA was created to bring top-flight performance for a reasonable amount of scratch. The Be forgoes niceties like inline controls for taking calls or controlling volume or Bluetooth connectivity. This not only keeps costs down but makes them sound better. Nothing in the way but the cable, just how I like it.
Left and right 'buds are easily discerned by red and black grilles. The fit is tops, perfectly balanced by the end caps, which weigh the same as the drivers. This balancing act makes the Be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. People that do not normally like in-ear monitors might find these to be less bothersome and those of us that are not bothered by foreign objects in our ears might even forget they are there.
I did swap the stock tips to get a proper fit, but that's typical of my needs and those of many others. Firing up Danzig's "Mother" for my first audition, I experienced strong up-tilt in the highs, the bass... where is it? As my good friend, Wayne Myers, sez, "No seal, no deal!" It is super-important to get a tight seal. Otherwise, the sound is going to suffer, period. I found myself rolling the PA supplied tips but did not get what I needed, which is typical of every single IEM I have ever tried, so I am positive I just have oddly-shaped earholes and most people are going to be fine with those that PA supplies. I turned to tips I have found work great for me, the Comply Isolation T-600, finding a satisfactory seal. Ah, there it is, a nice, full bottom end, balanced nicely with the mids and highs.
Now I could move on to deep listening!
At a recent audio show, I talked a bit with designer and engineer, Dan Wiggins, and he explained the different sound signatures of the PA line. The success of the various elements depends highly on geography, as preferred sound signatures are regional and/or music genre-dependent. I did audition the entire line, as well as the Carbon prototype. Dan let me try a few different memory foam tips, but I was unable to get a satisfactory seal. Even so, the differences between the various elements were stark, not subtle at all.
I tried the PA Be with three sources, a Samsung Galaxy S8, S9 and a Lenovo ThinkPad, all streaming Tidal HiFi and Qobuz lossless, finding myself preferring Qobuz. Good earphones can parse differences like these, and I enjoyed exploring them. I could get more volume from the Galaxies than the ThinkPad, to the point of potential hearing damage, such are the capabilities enabled by the Be's high sensitivity. I could crank the ThinkPad L380 Yoga up to 100 and not feel like I was anywhere near my limit or that of the Be.
Soundstage is wide for an IEM – wider than my ATH-M50x closed-backed over ears – but not so much as some uber open-backed 'phones at the top of the 4 and 5 figure price ranges. Still, the Be approaches uber-style width and at a price of $299, that is rarefied air.
All of the following impressions were streamed from Tidal, at work, on my couch or out on the town.
- Aldo Nova's "Fantasy" cranked is a good example of great gain structure in the studio. This album can be played max-volume and the Periodic Audio Be was more than willing to accommodate.
- Enjoying a pint after work, Ram Jam's "Black Betty" is a rough, raw and ready live-stage soundtrack. The Be took me from my perch on the bar stool to standing in a crowd, in front of an outdoor stage. Fun!
- The intro to Spitball's "Underestimated" highlights the L/R soundstage-width capability. Extreme pans, starting left, traveling slowly but surely right. When you think it might stop going right, it just keeps going! This extraordinary SS width becomes a theme throughout my audition, an attribute that helps separate the Be from the crowd.
Harry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme" has become a reference track for me. My favorite song as a child, it has become a newly discovered track I found on Tidal and now listen to often. The detail and dynamics are ridiculous, the sound staging and imaging, spot on. I use it to judge gear, I use it to just enjoy. The Be is so good at the former that it let me do the latter.
Listening to Boston's "More Than A Feeling," at my work desk completely absorbed in my task, at about the 4:10 mark, the guitar solo captured my attention, snatching me away and bringing goosebumps. I did not expect that!
Korn's "Hollow Life" underpinned the bass-capability of the PA Be. The initial low-bass hit is massive, with a decay that fades into a much larger sound field than exists inside of our heads. Impressive! I had to go back and listen to this song a second time; the subterranean bass was addicting!
London Grammar's "Hey Now" - This track nailed it for me. The deepest bass, juxtaposed by the Hannah Ried's wonderfully uplifting, yet haunting vocals, each in stark contrast, yet one complimenting the other. Once again, absorbed in my work, I was brought back from the real world and into another and the goosebumps rose again.
Porcupine Tree's "Deadwing:" The width of the sound stage stuck out like a big, red sore thumb (this is a good thing). These IEMs just slay, the PA Be can have one looking left or right at what is going on, thinking the sounds are coming from the real world, outside of the listening experience and this track highlights that attribute.
Long story short: Periodic Audio's Be's are my daily drivers. I wandered over to the Periodic Audio web store, and they happened to make mention of these becoming daily drivers, too! I didn't steal that line from them, that's how I feel, and these really do the job. I am glad to have them help isolate me from the outside world as I work or play. More than twice, when listening to new, unfamiliar tracks, the PA Be had me looking around and even over my shoulders, so wide is the soundstage, so neutral the tonal balance. They present excellent realism, folks.
Distortion is low and sensitivity is high, leading to a fresh, clean presentation. One must be careful with the Be as they are quite capable of damaging your hearing. One will appreciate the headroom offered by the Be, but don't get carried away, be mindful. The sensitivity is admirably high and the distortion low, they can lull you into increasing the volume to get more.
Fit with the Isolation tips I settled on was secure. Working out, riding a bike, sitting placidly barside with a favorite ale... nothing outside of an unwanted event could unseat the Be and their balance makes them super comfortable. The thin cord made rolling up and inserting into the can easy, but I wished for a more robust cord with a tech-flex or teflon-coated covering, if nothing else, so they do not tangle so easily. That might introduce microphonics, though, something this rubber-coated cable slap down handily. Still, I had no problems with durability, even when I accidentally caught the Y where left and right meet at the neck, yanking them out of my ear or ears hard enough to cause concern (more than twice!). No damage, though, they held up, no worse for wear. The storage can is a tight fit, it takes a little practice learning how to roll 'em up and fit 'em in. I leanred to twist them around two fingers, then in they go.
With an eminently neutral sound signature, there is no emphasis or detraction to or from any part of the frequency spectrum. No harshness delivered in the highs, no bass or midbass bloat, no scooped mids to give a faux-smiley-face EQ-type presentation. These things are FLAT. Period. Very precise, no overhang, no euphonics, expect no fatigue, these are listen-all-day ear gear. The Perodic Audio Be is highly recommended.
Periodic Audio BE IEM Specifications
- Frequency Response: 12 Hz to 45 kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms nominal
- Sensitivity: 100 dB SPL at 1mW in ear
- Power Handling: 200 mW continuous
- Peak SPL: 123 dB
- THD: Less than 1% THD at 1mW
- Cable Length: 1.5 m
- NRR: 31.3 dB (foam eartrip)
- Overall Length: 21 mm
- Body Diameter: 12 mm
- Nozzle Diameter: 6 mm