Periodic Audio Ni Review – Sound, Science and Technology

Thank you Periodic Audio for letting us give our honest take towards the Periodic Audio Ni. Given that the review unit is from Periodic Audio and is free of charge, it doesn’t affect the honesty and integrity of this review.

The Company

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“We focus strictly on audio products that fit in your pocket. Not a separate case, or that need to be tucked in your bag. If you have to stop and think about bringing it with you – it’s not portable.” The statement above is very true, as I use their products I can literally put my DAP (Shanling M1), the Periodic Audio Ni and Periodic Audio Be all at the same pocket of my jacket and for me it is the most convinienct setup that I have to this date.

The Periodic Audio Ni

The Ni is like David, it’s very tiny yet it packs good amount of power and battery life! Well if you have a single ended DAP and you want the power of the balanced output then this guy got your back it has a power output of 250 mW (per channel) at 32 Ohms, it is far from other amplifiers under the 300 USD price tag but the size is just a fraction of those too. It has a black housing with “Periodic Audio” above, on the left side is the 3.5 mm input and output as well as the light indicator, lastly on the right side the micro USB input is placed. It shows green light when it is on use and has above 20 percent battery life, it shows yellow when it is below 20 percent and red when it approaches empty. Charging speed is blazing fast, it is already full at approximately 30 minutes when using a 2 Amps and 5 Volts adapter. It is light, it is made out of polycarbonate and stacking it to your DAP is almost hassle-free. I’ve been using it with high impedance earbuds, Planar headphones and sensitive IEMs and the Ni did a really great job on being versatile. My only gripe here is the lack of volume control, using it on Line Out with my Shanling M3s was impossible because I don’t have a means of controlling the volume, nonetheless using it on PO still sounds clean and transparent.

Technical Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 8 Hz to 80 kHz
  • THD+N: < 0.005%, 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Gain: 6.5 dB
  • Power Output: 250 mW Continuous, 32 Ohms
  • Damping Factor: > 100 @ 32 Ohms
  • Run Time: 8 Hours
  • Typical Charge Time: 30 minutes from full discharge

Packaging

Just like the Be, the Ni also came with the same looking box with exploded view of the Be and at the back there are some special definitions for the product. For a 300 USD amplifier the packaging is just decent, inside the box you’ll have a 3.5 male to 3.5 male cable, a short micro USB cable and the Periodic Audio Ni. Well, I really hope that Periodic Audio improve their packaging, at least they should have it sleeved rather than glued because it is almost unavoidable to open their box without breaking it.

Sound

I love IEMs and earbuds with mid-centric to flat sound signature as I really love listening to vocals rather than instruments. My genre ranges from heavy rock, alternative rock, pop rock, acoustic, pop, jazz and folk. Majority of my test tracks are in 16 bit – 44 khz and 24 bit – 48 khz FLAC file and here is the list of my common test tracks.

  1. Reese Lansangan – For the Fickle (background, female vocals and upper mids)
  2. Foo Fighters – Bridge Burning (Imaging, Layering, Coherence, Sub bass and Mid bass, Mids, Treble)
  3. Jensen and the Flips – Come Closer (Mid Bass, Mids)
  4. Ed Sheeran – Dive (Mid bass, Lower Mids)
  5. Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why (Upper Mids and Instruments)
  6. Paramore – Hard Times (Imaging, Layering, Coherence, Sub bass and Mid bass, Mids, Treble)
  7. Utada Hikaru ft. Skrillex – Face My Fears (Imaging Layering, Bass, Mids, Treble, Coherence, Quickness)
  8. Passenger – Coins in a Fountain (Mid bass, Layering, Imaging, Instruments, Lower mids, Treble)
  9. Tori Kelly – Hollow (Background, Upper mids)
  10. Ariana Grande – Raindrops (Background, Upper mids)

Bass

The sub bass and mid bass is almost untouched, no coloration or whatsoever. The sub bass is preserved to be as flat as it can be, it is far from warm but with high impedance buds there’s an obvious improvement in terms of refinement and texture. Same goes to the mid bass, there’s no added quantity and elevation but the resolution improved slightly but not too much, control is slightly better.

Midrange

There’s an improved in terms of transparency and clarity, it is slightly thin but less veiled. Usually, amplifiers that I’ve tried adds smoothness and body but it’s not the case with the Ni, instead it increases resolution and transparency which is what I really love because a lot of IEMs and earbuds now is tuned to be smooth and lush. Upper midrange is slightly pushed forward making things more intimate and sweeter.

Treble

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Now this is my favorite part, the Ni is a bright source for example the TOA BTHLA and 150 Ohms both have smooth treble and lacking sparkle the Ni easily added some sparkle. The control became better too while the speed and airyness remained the same. It became slightly more forward too, the details retrieval improved a little as well.

Sound Stage and Resolution

The Sound Stage of the Ni isn’t that spacious compared to the iCAN SE and Jazz R7.0 but it is controlled and has very good layering and imaging it is on par with the SE in terms of coherence (Non-planar HPs and less than 150 Ohms buds). The resolution of this little fella is amazing, especially on the treble it actually sounds analytical for me.

Sound Signature and Synergy

The sound signature of the Ni is leaning to analytical and bright, everything is neat and clear bass and midrange almost didn’t get a boost while the treble experienced some noticeable changes. I’d love pairing this amplifier with smooth and warm gears like the BQEYZ BQ3, Earsonics ES3 and Empire Ears Bravado.

HIFIMAN SUNDARA

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The body of bass and midrange are slightly reduced compared to the iFi iCAN SE and Jazz R7.0 but it sounds more transparent than the R7.0, details are there but not as prominent as when I’m pairing it with iCAN SE. Noise floor is suprisingly low despite using it on PO and not on LO (the Ni doesn’t have volume control, same goes to the M3s when it is on LO so I have no choice but to use PO to be able to control the volume). Despite being small, the Ni was still able to power the SUNDARA decently (55 steps on the M3s) with good enough details, transparency and dynamics and being pocketable at the same time. I’d say that it became thinner and drier compared to the jazz and iCAN SE but not as dry when I plugged it straight to the M3s.

Periodic Audio Be

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Using Periodic Audio Ni as amplifier, it is noticeably more transparent than the Jazz R7.0 and almost on par with O2 (low power mode). I’d say that this pairing gave the Be better treble and upper midrange while retaining the warmth of the bass and lower mids. Female vocals became sweeter and a bit more forward, the treble gain some sparkle but with this pairing the dynamics and sound stage took some toll as it isn’t as wide and separated as with the M3s. Nonetheless I prefer this pairing as the sound signature became closer to being neutral.

Final Audio E1000

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Using the Periodic Audio Ni and Shanling M3s, bass became lighter but quicker and more controlled, mids became less thick and became more transparent without being forward. Lastly the treble became slightly emphasized, less airy but with better clarity and sparkle.

BQEYZ BQ3

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The Periodic Audio Ni is kinda bright, and man this pairing is the best pairing I was able to get amongst the sources that I have. Playing the track “Heartbreaker” by Led Zepplin, I can still hear that crawling rumbles and bass line, yet I can also appreciate the faint cymbals that’s still kinda recessed but with better sparkle and definition. On the other hand, playing “Beautiful Birds” by Passenger, lower treble seems to be slightly more forward and with better resolution and definition, still airy but a lot more present than playing it straight to my DAP. Vocals seems to be pushed a bit more forward too especially the lower midrange.

TOA 150 Ohms

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The Periodic Audio Ni sounds transparent and quite bright, for me except that it lacks power compared to the iFi iCAN SE it has better synergy. The bass isn’t as punchy as when I paired it with the iCAN but it sounds more transparent and the treble gained more sparkle. Resolution and Sound Stage wise, I think that the iCAN is better but for synergy I liked the Ni better.

Moonbuds Bunting 

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The Bunting sounds neutral to me and pairing it with Ni sounds pleasing and analytical. The bass remained thumpy without forwardness but the control improved with the Ni. Midrange became more transparent and clear with slight boost to the upper midrange. Treble is more forward and more sparkly but that doesn’t made it piercing at all. Sound stage became slightly more spacious and accuracy became better. Resolution has noticeable improvement only on the treble.

Comparison

Ifi iCAN SE

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Of course the iCAN SE has a lot more powerful than the Ni but there’s three advantages over the iCAN SE. First it is very small compared to the iCAN SE, even if the SE is portable you’ll not attemp bringing it with you because of it’s bulk. Second is portability, the iCAN SE is purely dekstop and doesn’t have a battery to be used when you’re travelling. Lastly with not so power demanding gears such as BTHLA and Kingslayer the Ni is more transparent for me. On the other hand the iCAN SE is more flexible due to switches and again it packs more power.

Jazz R7.0

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Both are portable but the size and weight of Ni is less than half of the Jazz. The price is more than 5 times but the Ni offers cleaner sound, lower noise floor and better battery life and charging speed. The Jazz is a bit more powerful and can be modified but in terms of technical performance hands down to the Ni.

Conclusion

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The Periodic Audio Ni is a very good amplifier because it has decent amount of power, it is extremely portable, and it sounds very transparent. I would love it more if it has more power (at least 800 mW @ 32 Ohms) and a volume control knob so that I can use it on Line Out with my Shaling DAPs. Nonetheless it has very good neutral to analytical sound, bass control and speed became better compared to my M3s alone. The midrange sounded more intimate and transparent. Treble became slightly more forward and has more sparkle in it. Though staging doesn’t improve drastically, the imaging and layering became better. Resolution wise, treble has more evident improvement but still it isn’t that humongous. Periodic Audio Ni looks simple but packs a lot of technology in it and that’s science for you!

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