As the temperature climbs ever higher today in New York, I’m keeping cool with a solid staple earphone – the Periodic Audio Carbon. Retailing for a solid $399, Periodic Audio’s flagship earphone offers an impressive sound for $399. But can it take on the competition? And if so, how does it ultimately fare?
Periodic Audio Carbon Review
The Periodic Audio Carbon comes in a nifty box that holds the earphones, a gold-colored metal carrying case, and ten pairs of eartips.
Holding the Carbon in my hands, it seems like an easy jump to assume the low-key exterior might fall on the cheaper side, as earphone construction goes. But doing so would be a disservice to Periodic Audio, who have really put a ton of though into the Carbon.
Two sizeable (but not bulky) earpieces each house a single 10 mm dynamic driver that does an impressive job of shouldering the entire frequency range. And in all honesty, this approach feels more than a little ballsy, especially as more companies try to cram ever-increasing numbers of drivers into earphones.
Equipped with a fixed cable that measures a standard 4 ft (1.2 m), this constitutes my only sore spot with the Carbon. In this day and age, there’s no real reason to have a fixed cable except as a cost-saving measure. As such, it really grinds my gears that Periodic Audio, after making something as impressive as the Carbon, slapped some fixed cables on it.
In all fairness, though, the cable sports a fairly-high-purity copper construction, and the Periodic Warranty covers products for five years.
Keeping this one hiccup in mind, the Periodic Audio Carbon otherwise remains fairly flawless, with an impressive, low-key build. And, that same low-key build belies the attention to detail lavished on this earphone by its maker.
In terms of comfort and fit, there’s really nothing to complain about here; they sit snugly in my giant punch-bowl ears and don’t fall out when I’m strutting my stuff streetside. Eat your heart out, New York.
In the lows, the Periodic Audio Carbon offers a full, driving sound that lends an almost palpable weight to any track. Songs like ZZ Top’s Got Me Under Pressure and Untitled #1 by Spain showcase a visceral, percussive element. The bass response isn’t so much something you hear in the Carbon as it is something you feel, in the marrow of your bones. Not overly-bassy, sloppy, or uncontrolled, the lows on the Carbon feel real but luscious, organic but overflowing.
When it comes to the midrange, the Carbon continues to deliver an impressive listening experience. With neither compression or distortion, the sound here remains clean and clear. Hip Hop numbers like Denzel Curry’s mind-melting Carolmart or U2’s Bono-proof I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For display this fidelity in spades. Never too forward, the midrange feels just a little reserved, keeping equal pace with lows and highs to result in a full, balanced sound that seems to work with everything.
The high end on the Periodic Carbon earphone compliments the lows and mids. There’s a decent amount of detail here, but the earphones never sound to harsh or sharp – even when pumping Rihanna/Mary J Blige mashups. Yet, there’s still enough nuance and sparkle here to spice up your pop and classical tracks, whether you’re bumping Party in the USA or the Tannhauser overture.
Somewhat hampered by its design, the Periodic Audio Carbon still manages to deliver a sense of space and depth. While not as open-sounding as a pair of over-ear Grado headphones, it’s still fairly impressive for an earphone.
If you’re looking for the earphone with the best bass under $500, the Periodic Audio Carbon delivers a sound that will knock your socks off. While never too emphasized, the low end provides an incredibly detailed listening experience that matches the mids and highs for nuance and energy. The result comes in the form of a sound that remains as fun as it is revealing, and one that works equally well with any type of music.
If you want even more bass – and perhaps the punchiest low end south of $500 – my recommendation goes to the Campfire Polaris. At $499, this earphone offers far more weight in the low end, but perhaps at the expense of the mids and highs found in the Carbon.
For fans of a more neutral, flat-ish sound (but keeping some bass impact in the mix), I’d advise them to check out the competitively-priced Westone B30 at $449. While not as warm as the Polaris or the Carbon, it houses a rich, full sound that provides plenty of accuracy while still remaining engrossing.
While $399 might seem a little steep for an earphone that sports a single driver and a fixed cable, the Carbon still manages to deliver a fair amount of value. The longer I listen to this earphone, the more I enjoy it. But personal opinions aside, the sound quality speaks for itself. If you’re looking for a fun-sounding earphone with fantastic lows at $400, look no further.
Get the Periodic Audio Carbon here: