The build quality of the Carbon is good, but this is a really basic IEM. In fact, it is so basic, that people will never know the real price and the real value of them just by looking at them. They will just need to take a listen, and they will understand, but until they do, Periodic Audio Carbon looks really simple and basic. It is different from the other Periodic Audio IEMs in the back, because the cap at the back of the IEM has a darker color than most of them, but otherwise, it is pretty much the same.
The Left and the Right Earpieces are defined by the color inside the earpieces, and the comfort is actually pretty good. There is no driver flex, and no real void, although I would be careful when inserting and taking out the Carbon, as they are dynamic driver IEMs.
The cable is pretty thin and doesn’t look quite as trusty as that of other, higher priced IEMs, but that isn’t a big issue as most units never had any issues. It is a bit problematic when you look at it though, and for the price of the Carbon, I am hoping that Periodic Audio will include detachable cables in the near future.
For an IEM that is this featureless, and which has a pretty simple dynamic driver inside, there’s not much more of an explanation to give about the tech inside, so we can move it to the sound quality, which is the main point of the Periodic Audio Carbon.
The comfort is top notch really, and since you can wear them both straight-down and over-the-ear, I could say that they are versatile in what they give you as options for wearing. The tips included are also pretty good, although I would recommend experimenting with Spinfit too. Foam tips are not really recommended, because the sound is already pretty thick and bassy.
The sound has bass, bass, and most definitely bass. Of course, it wouldn’t be Periodic Audio if it didn’t have treble extension, musicality and a nice stage too, but the sound really centers around the bass, which is powerful, and in terms of quantity, may very well be the IEM with the most bass I have heard up to this point. You could say that they are also moderately V-Shaped, because despite the large amounts of bass, Periodic Audio didn’t leave the treble out, and the midrange feels recessed when compared to the lows and the highs.
The bass makes itself heard in every track, every song, but it is a fairly clean type of bass without distortions. It is large, but also flows naturally, with excellent extension down to the magical 20 Hz, which makes the Periodic Audio Carbon a really good IEM for bassheads. The bass has that audiophile quality, so I don’t feel the need to turn it down, and the even better part is that the bass has a tight speed to it too, so it is never bloated, and I never felt like it was boomy. The entire sound is thickened by the bass, and the midrange has a thicker, smoother presentation, so the bass does bleed a bit in the entire sonic presentation, but it has a good quality to it, makes music enjoyable, very similar to the way FiiO FA7 presented music.
The midrange is recessed when compared to the bass, and the mids feel musical, and somewhat smooth, with the textures being expressed in a musical way, rather than a dry, revealing way. The tonality is fairly good, although in general the Carbon is a slightly sweet sounding IEM, so it works better with happy music, especially EDM, and pop music, rather than sad music. Both female and male voices are fairly natural, and the fact that it is bassy doesn’t affect the vocal presentation, although the voices are pushed a bit back compared to the bass and the treble. This works very well for me, and if you don’t know yourself to be a mid-forward signature lover, the Carbon will work well for you. This is because most people are actually looking for either a V-Shaped sound, or a moderately V-Shaped sound, rather than a full blown linear sound. The textures are slightly smooth, but the clarity and the detail levels are up to the price point of 400 USD. You could call the mid a full-bodied sound, and a pretty impactful / punchy one too.
The treble is a mixed bag, because it is not recessed, which is great, but it isn’t quite where I’d want it to be in terms of sparkle. This is not a negative, and it will be quite excellent for most people, especially since the treble is never sibilant nor fatiguing nor harsh, but the treble can lack that ultimate bit of extension and aggressive touch, so the Carbon is best suited if you enjoy an energetic, yet slightly smoother treble, or if you listen to anything except for metal, which tends to require a slightly more aggressive signature.
In terms of soundstage, I noticed a perfect imaging, really good instrument separation, and a fairly natural soundstage. The dynamics are top notch, and dynamic drivers manage to have quite a bit of headroom and sound quite dynamic, the sound coming through as really punchy and lively. The stage is room sized, and music that’s supposed to sound a bit larger will sound a bit larger, but the stage doesn’t really go beyond what I would call a room-sized stage.
The portability of the Carbon is quite excellent, as they have a fairly flexible cable, a great comfort, no driver flex, and can be driven easily too.
This being said, the cable has a tiny bit of microphonic noise if worn straight-down, and especially if you do a lot of activity. If you want to use the Carbon for physical exercise, it is best to wear them around the ear, as straight-down you’ll get quite a bit of microphonics.
The drive factor is good, although I would not use the Carbon with anything below a HIDIZS AP80, or a Shanling M2X. FiiO M6 would work fairly well too, and there’s also a portable DAC solution that you can go for. You cannot use iBasso DC01 because it is balanced, and you need to search for the single ended one, as the Carbon is single-ended only and cannot be used with a balanced output. This is actually a fairly big thing to take into account, the cable is there to stay, and it isn’t quite as good as the default cable that other IEMs in the price range come with, so if you don’t like a simple, bland cable, the Carbon may not satisfy.
For the best results, I recommend using a midrange DAP, as the Carbon scales well, so anything like an iBasso DX160, FiiO M11, or even an Opus #3 would do. The Carbon is not quite that hiss sensitive, but they have a low impedance, so something like Hiby R6 is not recommended, as it has a high output impedance and the Carbon will hiss a bit with it.
Periodic Audio Carbon is easy enough to drive that I would recommend using it with something that has a lower output power, and it could do just fine with the likes of Audirect Beam, Earstudio HUD100, FiiO BTR5, FiiO BTR3K, and even something like the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital. The carbon will pair better with brighter, more neutral sources, rather than smoother sources, since it is already pretty smooth, and it already has a musical sound.
(Comparisons, Pairings, Value & Conclusion on the 3rd Page)