All of them have a similar price point too, although from this little comparison list, FH7 cannot be used straight down, while the other two can.
Periodic Audio Carbon vs FiiO FH7 (400 USD vs 470 USD) – FH7 is a bit more expensive than the Carbon, but they also have more overall quality to the build an to the package. The cable is much better for FH7, but they can only be worn straight-down, and the Carbon will work better for smaller ears than FH7. Both IEMs have good comfort, and both come with a large number of tips. The cables for HF7 are detachable, and FH7 is slightly easier to drive than the Carbon, but they are also slightly more sensitive to hiss in practice. The sound is wider, with more overall space for FH7, quicker, but also considerably colder, has less bass, with less emphasis on musicality, and more emphasis on revealing abilities, clarity, and has a more analytic presentation in general. FH7 has considerably more treble sparkle, and it works better for atmospheric music, where the Carbon works a bit better for EDM, Pop and commercial music.
Periodic Audio Carbon vs HIFIMAN RE800 Silver (400 USD vs 600 / 300 USD) – RE800 Silver has a larger package than the Carbon, but with slightly less extras, and with less ear tips included in the package. This being said, the comfort is better on RE800S, because they have a smaller body, and a slightly better cable than the Carbon. The sound of RE800 is much brighter with more treble quantity, but this also means it has better detail, clarity, and a more natural sound. It is less musical and more aggressive in general, and can become fatiguing quicker than the carbon, but the Carbon works more for slower music, Jazz, Classical, Slow Pop, where RE800 Silver works much better for Rock, Metal and uplifting / aggressive music.
Periodic Audio Carbon vs Periodic Audio Be (400 USD vs 300 USD) – The Berilyum is less expensive than the Carbon, but they also have a more musical sound, the same fit and ergonomics, and just like most Periodic Audio IEMs, they have exceptional support from the company selling them. This being said, the sound has less depth to the bass, with a slightly more balanced overall presentation that is quicker in the bass, is thinner, more natural, and with a better extension to the treble. The Carbon feels like it kept the musicality, but it feels like it is darker, thicker, and more impactful / bassy than the Be.
The pairing list includes FiiO M11, iBasso DX160, and xDuoo X20. There are other DAPs that would work well too, and you could go crazy and even use something like the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ if you wanted, the Carbon scales well up to that point.
Using Periodic Audio’s Nickel is also quite a good idea, making the sound even smoother, and giving it more punch / power, but if you need a high-quality DAC/AMP, I would recommend going with Chord Mojo, FiiO Q5s, iFi xDSD, or something like the Earmen TR-AMP. Since the Carbon is easy to drive, even low-power DACs like the Earstudio HUD100 are a great match.
Periodic Audio Carbon + iBasso DX 160 (400 USD + 400 USD) – iBasso DX160 is the most well-rounded midrange DAP in 2020, and it still holds the crown for the easiest to recommend DAP for mid range headphones and IEMs, so it won’t be missing from the pairings with the Carbon either. The sound of this pairing is clean, clear, and has the signature that I describe usually for the Carbon, the DX160 is transparent, so it doesn’t color the Carbon in either direction, making the best possible out of their default signature.
Periodic Audio Carbon + FiiO M11 (400 USD + 400 USD) – FiiO M 1 1 is a really versatile DAP, with Streaming, good battery life, and way more than enough driving power for the Carbon. The sound of M 11 always had a bit of a digital glare in the treble, and this type of slightly brighter sound works exceptionally well with the carbon, and it makes them more balanced, with more sparkle and more detail, better overall clarity and gives them a slightly wider soundstage, while keeping their exceptional imaging and separation.
Periodic Audio Carbon + xDuoo X20 (400 USD + 200 USD) – X 20 is a DAP that always sounded a bit bright and dry in my experience, and that pairs perfectly with the Carbon, because they are already a bit warm and bassy, so the more analytic character of X20 makes them pretty well balanced and gives the entire sound a good clarity, without taking any of the musicality, and the sweetness out of the mix.
Value and Conclusion
The value of the Carbon is actually fairly good, at least when you consider their comfort, sonic quality, and ergonomics alone. The things that would potentially hold it back are the bland design, that may not work so well for everybody, and the cable, which is not detachable, and which doesn’t look quite as strong as other cables, even those of Chifi IEMs.
You can pardon the cable when you unbox them, because they have an awesome package, and you can also stop thinking about it when you wear them. In fact, allowing both straight-down and over-the-ear wearing, the Carob is one of the very few IEMs that is this versatile nowadays, as most really high-quality IEMs are over-the-ear only. This being said, they do suffer from a bit of microphonic while being worn straight-down, but that is not present while wearing them over-the-ear. There is no driver flex, and they are easy to drive, not being very sensitive to hiss either, so most DAPs will do just fine.
The sound is grand, explosive, punchy, and dynamic, with a strong, yet clean bass, a midrange that’s slightly recessed, but sweet, musical and fun to listen to, and with a treble that has some bumps, enough to make the sound enjoyable despite the larger bass, but still doesn’t come through as fatiguing or as too much.
At the end of this review, if you need a simple-looking but good-sounding IEM, something that places function above form, and has a beautiful warm, bassy, punchy, deep sound, with good imaging and separation, and a sweet tonality, and which is priced at about 400 USD, you should totally check out and consider the Periodic Audio Carbon, which once again, does not disappoint.
Full Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.
Bats – Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy – Frances
Incubus – Summer Romance
Electric Six – Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult – High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir – Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin – I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch – The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom – Song Pong
Attack Attack – Kissed A Girl
Doctor P – Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone – Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie – Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate – Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD – Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp – Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy – Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne – I Don’t Wanna Stop
Crow’sclaw – Loudness War
Eminem – Rap God
Stromae – Humain À L’eau
Sonata Arctica – My Selene
Justin Timberlake – Sexy Back
Metallica – Fuel
Veil Of Maya – Unbreakable
Masa Works – Golden Japang
REOL – Luvoratorrrrry
Dope – Addiction
Korn – Word Up!
Papa Roach – … To be Loved
Fever The Ghost – Source
Fall Out Boy – Immortals
Green Day – Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence – London Bridge
A static Lullaby – Toxic
Royal Republic – Addictive
Astronautalis – The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans – My Love
Skillet – What I Believe
Man With A Mission – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei – Mirror
Mojo Juju – Must Be Desire
Falling Up – Falling In Love
Manafest – Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela – Paris
Zomboy – Lights Out
Muse – Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein – Mosaku
Grey Daze – Anything, Anything
Katy Perry – Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 – Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy – Killer Instinct
Pendulum – Propane Nightmares
Sirenia – Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel – Addicted
Hollywood Undead – Levitate
The Offspring – Special Delivery
Escape The Fate – Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment – One With The Universe
Dope – Rebel Yell
Crazy Town – Butterfly
Silverstein – My Heroine
Memphis May Fire – Not Over Yet