Periodic Audio makes a terrific set of inner ear monitors at very reasonable price points. Roger Skoff and I awarded their Be IEMs an Alfie Award at the LA Audio Show. And let’s be honest, the whole theme of a periodic table of elements is quite clever. Well now we have another element to add in the table via the Nickel amplifier. I heard an early prototype at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and was impressed. Priced at $300 USD, the Nickel now adds a robust headphone amplifier to the lineup.
As a dedicated road warrior, nothing pleases me more than performance in a compact size. The Nickel is a very compact 2″ by 1.25″ by 0.5″ form factor. Weighing only half an ounce, it uses a polycarbonate body. But the device has power too and is stable into an 8 ohm load so it can drive a diverse set of headphones. It can create 270 mW into 16 ohms. A fixed 3db of gain provides more headroom than most phones and DACs but allows a full range of volume control.
What’s very cool is that it uses an MCU-based system that senses when inputs and outputs are connected and turns on…so yep, no on/off switch is needed. Once on, an LED indicates battery level by color (green, yellow, red) as the battery is used. It’s a two stage system where a 220 mAh battery powers +/- 5V analog power rails in a fashion that eliminates USB switching noise. The device is said to use zero power when connected to a smartphone. Remarkably, all the mechanical and electrical work was done in-house. The Nickel is designed, engineered, and built in the USA.
I’m a fan of this company and I’m looking forward to hearing this new amp. Could be just the thing for travel with my iPhone.