Huge driving power, Highly compact design, Transparent sound, Low output impedance, Mic pass-through
Battery passively discharges, Slightly higher noise floor
The Ni represents a versatile upgrade, bolstering dedicated sources with huge power and lowering the output impedance of low-quality ones.
Periodic Audio is a US-based company founded by a handful of audio enthusiasts. They design and tool all of their products in-house with a focus on quality material choice and streamlined portable usability. Periodic is most renowned for their high-performance dynamic driver earphones, however, with the Ni, the company have turned their sites towards enhancing the wider audio experience. This is a portable amplifier with stunningly good output power and a highly pocketable design. It comes with a $299 USD asking price which seems substantial given the size of the device. However, make no mistake, they’ve made every mm and gram count with this one. See Periodic Audio’s website for more info and store links.
I would like to thank KS Distribution very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Periodic Audio Ni for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the amplifier free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Frequency Response: 8 Hz to 80 KHz
THD + N: < 0.005%, 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Power Output: 250mW Continuous @ 32ohms
Damping Factor: >100 @ 32 ohms
Run Time: 8 hours, typical
Charge Time: 30 minutes from full discharge
Dimensions: 50 x 30 x 18mm
Jack: 3.5mm TRRS (mic pass through)
The Pitch –
High output power
The Ni is easily one of the smallest portable amps I’ve tested, on par with something like the Fiio A1. Despite this, the amp outputs as much power as a high-end DAP, 250mW continuous into a 32ohm load and almost 500mW into a 16ohm load, in fact. That’s a staggering amount of power, for reference, the A1 outputs 78mW into a 16ohm load. Furthermore, the amp has a 6.5dB gain so it will effectively double the maximum volume of the source.
Split power supply
Though compact and high in power, the amp provides a very liveable 8hrs of battery life. As it uses a discrete +/-5v power supply for the audio circuit, it can be charged during use without affecting sound quality. This should also translate to lower noise and high fidelity; power is a hugely influential factor on sound quality yet it is often overlooked as the quality of implementation is difficult to quantify.
Periodic’s website states how the Ni “Breaks the laws of physics” and surely that appears to be true when handling the device – it is absurdly small. With a polycarbonate construction, the amp is also incredibly light and not at all cumbersome to use day to day. The design language is clean and minimal with arrows denoting the input and output alongside debossed periodic logo. The polycarbonate exterior has a matte finish that resists oils and smudges while providing additional tactility. The edges on the rear are slightly sharp and there are clear seams, however, subjectively these imperfections suit a hyper-powerful micro amp developed in-house by a team of crazy audiophiles.
I think there are clear applications for the Ni given its dimensions. Of course, it complements a smartphone, but more so, I found the amp to pair perfectly with BT receiver such as the Fiio BTR3. With a Velcro strap to stack or simply some reusable 3M double-sided tape, this makes for a perfect pocket rig. Of course, the plastic construction doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as the metal and glass BT receiver, but for the uninformed, polycarbonate is no ordinary plastic. I’ve been carrying the Ni with the BTR3 in my pocket alongside my house keys for months. And where the BTR3 has developed marring on its frame, the Ni is unscathed. I believe this bodes well for the robustness of this product despite its lightweight feel.
The amp has been designed for simplicity and, in turn, is plug and play in operation. There is no power switch, instead automatically powering on when both input and output are connected and powering off when either is removed. Between the two 3.5mm jacks is a status LED that glows red, yellow and green to denote remaining power. The amp charges via a micro-USB port on the opposing side. It should also be noted that the jack is of the 4-pin variety so it can pass through remote commands and mic which is a nice touch. You will require a 4-pin interconnect cable to the source and the source itself will have to support TRRS too, for instance, most BT receivers don’t.
I didn’t find the use of a 4-pin connector to cause an unreliable connection as some other sources do. The amp also has no volume control, it simply scales with the source, aligning with Periodic’s focus on ease of use. I found it to offer a versatile range, getting just quiet enough for my most sensitive monitors and ear-splittingly loud when turning up the source. Battery life is rated at 8hrs on high volume which I was able to beat consistently. That said, the amp does passively discharge over time meaning it’s important to keep it topped up and in daily rotation.
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