Periodic Audio Ti: Drop It Low
Today we’re checking out the middle child in Periodic Audio’s iem lineup, the Titanium (Ti).
Periodic Audio are relative newcomers to the industry, having been formed in 2016. Their staff certainly aren’t newcomers, however, with more than 140 years of combined experience between them. With the Ti, Periodic Audio is taking a very straightforward approach in advising who these are intended for. Let’s see if you can figure it out from this statement:
“The sonic signature of the Ti IEM is very aggressive, with enhanced bass and treble response. It tends to be preferred by those who listen to electronica, dance, and bass-heavy music. Not our most objectively accurate IEM, it is a lot of fun to listen to, especially pop, rap, and world music.”
And that statement is exactly why I chose to review the Ti. As of late I’ve been reviewing lots of products that were tuned to follow the Harmon Curve. That gets pretty boring after a while. Why not review something that was designed with a fun, v-shaped signature, tailor-made for a number of my preferred genres?
Let’s take a closer look at the Ti to see if Period Audio made a quality v-shaped earphone, or if your average Beats clone would do the job just a well.
A big thanks to Dan at Periodic Audio for arranging a sample of the Ti for the purposes of this review. Note that the sample sent is a b-stock unit. It sounds as it should but may have visual blemishes you won’t get on a regular retail unit. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on just over a month of listening. They do not represent Periodic Audio or any other entity. At the time of writing the Ti retailed for 199.00 USD. You can check it out here: https://periodicaudio.com/product/ti/
For at home listening the Ti was paired up with my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp, damping set to mid, with a ZiShan DSD or HiFi E.T. MA8 providing source duty. For mobile use it was paired with the ZiShan DSD or a Shanling M0/Periodic Audio Nickel amp combo. The Ti is slightly less sensitive, and has a slightly higher impedance, than most earphones. While a basic cellphone or DAP will get it up to volume easily enough, the extra power afforded by an amp seems to tighten up the low end even more than it already is, making the Ti feel a bit more nimble. Amping isn’t needed, but I recommend trying it to see if you hear any benefits.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800 Silver, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
- Driver: 10mm titanium diaphragm dynamic driver
- Frequency Response: 16Hz – 30Hz
- Sensitivity: 96dB SPL @ 1mW
- Impedance: 32ohms
- Power Handling: 200mW continuous
- THD: Less than 0.8% @ 1 mW
- Peak SPL: 119dB
Packaging and Accessories:
Periodic Audio ships their products in environmentally friendly cardboard packaging. The front flap contains a wire-frame style image breaking down the component parts that make up the construction of the Ti, along with the usual branding and model info. Lifting the flap reveals frequency response and CLIO measurements along with product specifications and a product description. Also neat are some facts about the material properties of the element Titanium. Flipping to the back you find some blurbs about their design philosophy, safely using the Ti, and info about the packaging itself. Peeling open the flaps on the left side you find another cardboard box holding the Ti and all accessories. In all you get;
- Ti earphones
- Screw top carry tin
- Airplane adapter
- 1/4” adapter
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Dual flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Foam tips (s/m/l)
Overall this is a nice unboxing experience. As someone that likes to keep and display nice packaging, it’s a bummer the strong adhesive makes opening the packaging without damaging it unlikely. Not something that will affect most buyers. The accessory kit provided is extensive and useful with high quality tips that seal well and are appropriately matched to the product. I especially like that in addition to the variety (three tips styles), they include them all in three sizes. There is no need to replace the tips out of the box since you are sure to find something that will work for your particular ears. The airplane adapter probably wasn’t necessary though and could be replaced with something more useful, like a shirt clip.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The Ti’s polycarbonate shells are lightweight and durable. They seem to be quite scratch resistant too, sliding down an 8ft or so skate ramp made of rough concrete without a mark to be found. The rubber strain relief sticking out the bottom is quite long but unfortunately stiffer than I would prefer. The cable flattens and deforms well before the relief starts to give and as such I don’t see it offering much protection from bends, though it will hold up to be crushed quite well. The stainless steel back plate embossed with the Periodic Audio logo is glued on straight with a minimal gap between it and the main body of the earphone. Out the top is a fairly spacious vent, also lined with what looks to be steel. The nozzles have a prominent lip in place to hold the tips on, and is a little wider than what I consider the industry average; 5mm. As such it is great for tip rolling since you can install a wide variety of options, but those with smaller ear canals might have issues with fit. The steel nozzle filters are installed neatly with little risk of accidental removal, and feature a neat design; a series of circular cutouts that shrink in size until they meet in the centre. Overall the build of the earpieces is excellent. My only concern with the build is the left and right indicators. Instead of more traditional queues like L/R letting, a raised bump on the strain relief, or coloured pieces of plastic somewhere on the body, the nozzle filters themselves are coloured red for right, black for left. This is cool and clever, but in the dark you can’t see it. And the difference in colour isn’t particular vibrant either. I didn’t even notice the filters were different colours until I started writing this review, thinking that the lack of L/R indicators was probably why my review unit was b-stock.
The fixed cable is not particularly confidence inspiring, in direct contrast to the rest of the build. As mentioned above, strain relief at the earpieces is stiff and not particularly effective. It is completely missing everywhere else. If this were a thick, braided cable as you’ll find on competing products, I wouldn’t mind so much. The Ti is not equipped with such a cable though. Instead, it has a fairly thin, microphonic, somewhat sticky, rubber-sheathed cable not unlike what you would find on your average 30 USD earphone from a mainstream brand. On the plus side, the straight jack is extremely tiny and I can’t see it interfering with any cellphone or DAP case. The cable is also very light and behaves fairly well, in that it does not retain memory for bends or kinks. And despite being somewhat sticky and thin it does a good job of not tangling. Still, such a cable on a nearly 200 USD earphone is a disappointment, especially being that it is also fixed in place. If it were removable, I’d be more accepting. As it is, it’s a bit of a bummer that such a durable housing is affixed to such a fragile feeling cable. Make sure you use the included tin to keep it safe when not in use.
There’s not much to say here. Comfort is excellent. The plastic housings are on the larger side for such a design but the front is well rounded and they weigh very little. The traditional barrel shape means you can pop them in with little to no hassle and wear them cable up or down just as easily. They never quite disappear in the ear, but I didn’t have to constantly fiddle with them to retain a good seal or address hot spots. None of that is an issue. You wear them and listen to your music. Just as it should be.
Isolation is well above average for a ventilated dynamic driver-based earphone, and that’s with the single flange silicones. Toss on the dual flange or foams and it gets even better. With no music playing, the noise of the busy main street outside my window is dulled to a steady murmur. If using them while typing, the clacking of the keyboard is reduced only to the highest pitched part of each keystroke. Bring music into the equation and the outside world nearly disappears. How Periodic Audio managed to pull this much isolation out of this design is impressive and defies my past experiences. I’d have no issues recommending these to someone that needs an earphone for noisy commutes, especially if they want something in this style versus the low profile, over-ear wear designs that usually dominate when it comes to offering high isolation.
Other earphones with titanium coated drivers I’ve used in the past had a certain edginess to their treble, such as the Dunu Titan 1. The Ti is also marketed as having elevated treble and bass, being well suited to electronic, dance, and other bass-heavy genres. To say I went into this review with certain expectations would be accurate. I was surprised to learn that while v-shaped and high energy, edgy is not a term I’d apply to the Ti. It falls more into the “relaxing bass cannon” category.
That’s because the low end is thunderous with good extension into sub-bass regions, though roll off seems quite rapid once it starts to decline. A prominent mid-bass hump also works it’s way into the signature, and you know what, it doesn’t ruin it. Normally mid-bass humps kill an earphone for me which is why I like them to be skewed towards sub-bass, but here it works. The low end presentation actually reminds me quite a bit of one of my old favorites, the JVC FX3X. Lots of texture, not super quick but fast enough to keep from tripping up on speedy, complicated bass lines. It’s bassy without going overboard, at least compared to some other earphones tuned this way. Someone that likes a neutral signature will be well out of their element here.
The lower mid-range is recessed slightly with a peak showing up around 3k. I know some out there have a conniption fit with 3k peaks, so if you’re sensitive to that region, be advised. Me, I don’t find it detrimental. It’s raised enough to give vocals and other mid-range instruments some presence, but not so much as to be aggressive and cause listening fatigue over short periods. This is a great example of a 3k peak done right. Aesop Rock and the RTJ boys kill it on their respective tracks feeling right at home through the Ti. This thing is killer for hip hop with the way it expertly blends the beats and vocals. That’s not to say it slacks on other genres. I can still enjoy the entirety of Supertramp’s ‘Crime of the Century’ with the bass feeling intrusive of cymbals and horns being too invasive. It works pretty well with classic rock in general, giving lower tones more body and heft resulting in some tracks being more impactful that they are through other earphones. It’s a good midrange with a warn, sweet, woody timbre that is truly pleasing to the ears.
Pleasing to the ears extends to the treble which is clear and detailed with a slightly elevated state thanks to a 5k peak. Like the treble peak, this one is smartly introduced. It finds a good balance by providing clarity without crossing the line into harshness. For my tastes, they could have added a couple more dB, but I think as is it’ll be just right for a lot of listeners. Since the treble tapers off after 5k with another mild peak at 11k, treble effects have just the right amount of shimmer. It gives the presentation some space and air between notes that keeps instruments distinct and clean.
The Ti’s sound stage is a standout in my opinion, pretty easily overshadowing the similarly priced 5-driver BGVP DM6 I recently reviewed. It feels wide and deep giving instruments tons of room to play within. Bass notes in particular have a habit of stretching and lingering off into the distance. I love me a bassy earphone with a large sound stage and the Ti is just that. Imaging is sharp too with clear channel transitions and well defined layers applied to tracks. It’s pretty easy to pick out a specific instrument or effect with the Ti which is always an appreciated quality.
JVC FX3X (69.00 USD): The FX3X, despite it’s age, is still a staple earphone in my “basshead” collection, even if I use it nowhere as often as I’d like. The FX3X has slightly more bass emphasis than the Ti. It’s low end extends further which makes it a more visceral experience. What the Ti gives up in depth it makes up for in mid-bass impact and texture, as well as overall control. The Ti’s mid-range is similar in emphasis with a similarly excellent timbre, though it provides a touch more clarity. The FX3X is slightly more treble heavy and while to my ears is a smooth, non-fatiguing experience, it’s not quite as smooth as the Ti. The biggest difference between the two is sound stage. The FX3X’s massive bass port helps give it a good stage, but up against the Ti it is noticeably less spacious sounding, especially when it comes to vocals. Imaging is tighter and more accurate through the Ti while both offer similar layering and separation performance. If you’re still using an FX3X and want to upgrade to something similar but more technically competent, the Ti is worth checking out.
In terms of build the FX3X comes out on top. Mine is quite old being an earphone I picked up early on when I first started getting serious about the hobby. It’s shells are a mix of plastic and aluminum with dense rubber bumpers for additional protection. The plastic feels just as dense as the Ti’s, but as a result of being semi-glossy are more susceptible to showing scratches. That said, after all these years it shows barely any wear. JVC’s thick, red, rubber sheathed cable looks and feels like it did the day I got it. In addition to being more robust than the Ti’s cable, it is better relieved at the jack and y-split, though is similarly lacking any relief at the y-split. Fit is very similar with the edge going to the Ti. They both have beefy, barrel shaped housings, but the FX3X’s nozzle protrudes at an angle which makes getting an ideal slightly more tricky for me.
TFZ Secret Garden HD (199.00 USD): While the TFZ’s low end offers better extension, it is notably less bassy in terms of quantity, especially in the mid-bass. TFZ skews towards sub-bass. Ti’s bass is smoother and more impactful, but lacks the texture and detail of the TFZ. It’s also not quite as quick. The TFZ’s mid-range is notably more forward and detailed which makes vocals clearer and more prominent, though it’s timbre is dry leaning and not as natural. It also shows off some mild sibilance not present in the Ti. Treble on the Ti isn’t as emphasized as on the TFZ and is much less revealing of track imperfections. The TFZ’s treble isn’t as evenly balanced between brilliance and presence regions and as such as a somewhat clinical, sterile feel compared to the Ti’s upper ranges which are more organic. Sound stage is similarly good on both with the Ti feeling slightly wider and the TFZ slightly deeper. TFZ is slightly ahead in terms of imaging accuracy and layering, though they both seem to separate elements of busy tracks equally well.
The TFZ Secret Garden has a very boutique feel to it’s build thanks to the design of the bass port and nozzle. It almost looks hand-built. While I think the TFZ is more attractive and looks a lot more expensive, it doesn’t feel as solid and durable. While I’m not a fan of the twisted cable TFZ provides with the Secret Garden, it is thicker and better relieved but also quite rubbery and springy. Like the Ti’s cable, it is also somewhat sticky. The clincher for TFZ is that the cable is removable with a common 0.78mm 2-pin connector. In terms of comfort, Ti all the way. The TFZ’s shape is quite familiar and similar to very comfortable iems like the Kinera IDUN, but it’s not the same. Its size is exceptionally large considering it houses only a single dynamic, and the ergonomics are just a little off. It requires a fair bit of fiddling and the right tips to get a perfect fit, unlike the Ti which requires little to no effort.
Campfire Audio Comet (199.00 USD): The Comet’s single armature lacks the depth and impact of the Ti’s dynamic in the bass regions, but provides more texture and better control. The Comet’s mid-range is more forward with a similarly quality of timbre but it’s not quite as smooth and no more detailed. The Comet’s lower treble is slightly more prominent giving it a duller presentation but also helping it out with detail. Clarity is better on the Comet but it’s treble is a touch less controlled and nearly comes across as splashy with cymbals. The Ti’s sound stage is larger and more rounded. Imaging quality is similar with the Ti coming out ahead in terms of layering and instrument separation.
The Comet definitely takes the build crown with it’s hand polished, stainless steel housings that are comparable in quality to the 1,299 USD Campfire Audio Atlas. The twisted cable is also much nicer thanks to the dense sheath, solid strain relief, and use of MMCX connectors. It is stiffer than the Ti’s cable though, and doesn’t hold up quite as well in cooler weather where it loses all flexibility. Comfort goes to the Ti. Despite a similar length and broader face, it is a lot lighter which makes those qualities a non-issue. The combination of weight and length with the Comet mean that when wearing it cable down, it falls out of place often enough to make cable up wear near mandatory.
I’m glad Periodic Audio is clear and forward with their product descriptions. When I was asked which model I wanted to cover, the Ti was the one that called to me. Something pretty much tailor made for EDM and hip hop? Yes please! As I said in the intro, I wanted to review something fun this time around, not just another Harmon curve biased earphone.
The Ti gave me pretty much exactly what I was expecting and is another great example of a v-shaped tune done right. Some may scoff at a company asking 199 USD for an earphone with this signature, but pitting it against other offerings with more “audiophile oriented” signatures in the price range shows that on a technical level, the Ti is just as capable. While I would like to see Periodic Audio improve the cable quality, or at the very least make it removable, the Ti provides listeners with a competitive and competent listening experience that just so happens to have a focus on the low end. This is one that I would happily recommend to anyone that listens to a lot of electronic and/or bass-heavy genres.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)