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A small but fierce DAC


The Rhodium DAC makes a big difference for music, but it turns out it’s not quite enough. Not everything it tries to do is entirely positive, and therefore it’s not as easy to recommend, even in light of its modest price.


  • Brings wired connectivity to (most) smartphones
  • Open and revealing sound
  • Compact and well made

The inconvenients

  • High-end reproduction is too assertive

  • ConnectivityUSB-C with USB-A adapter

  • CADRealtek ALC5685 DAC


“Wireless” might be the word, but not everyone is sold on the concept. Some people understand that the best pound-for-pound performance of a pair of headphones, for example, is that of a wired pair.

But the sight of a headphone jack on a smartphone is getting rarer, and half-decent sound from the headphone jack on a laptop is even rarer. So what if you want to know what your wired headphones are capable of?

Periodic Audio of California wants to help. Its tiny Rhodium DAC/headphone amp is small and lightweight, remarkably spec’d, and has a USB-C input on one end and a 3.5mm analog jack on the other. So it can turn your smartphone into a source for wired headphones, and/or bring a big improvement to your laptop’s sound, without costing a fortune.

That’s the theory, anyway.


  • UKMSRP: £49
  • EuropeTo confirm
  • CanadaTo confirm
  • AustraliaTo confirm

The Periodic Audio Rhodium DAC/headphone amp is on sale now, and in the UK it’s priced at £49. In its native America, the price is $49, while Australian customers should expect to part with AU$79 or thereabouts.

You barely need me to point out that it’s not a lot of money. Certainly Rhodium is not a lot of thing, but if its effect on the sound of your headphones is half as pronounced as Periodic Audio claims, then it will be one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make.

That’s a big “if,” isn’t it?


  • Weighs only 6g
  • 11 x 8 x 140mm
  • … and that’s all

As befits a product designed to sit between your music storage device’s USB-C output and your headphones’ 3.5mm jack, the Rhodium is small, light and functional.

Periodical Audio Rhodium out of the box

At one end there is an aluminum USB-C socket (there is a small USB-C/USB-A adapter in the Rhodium’s somewhat medical packaging), at the other there is an analog input in 3.5mm aluminum. Between the two there is 63 mm of braided cable.

In short, Rhodium is a utilitarian design, which is precisely what a product like this should be.


  • 32bit.384kHz PCM compatibility
  • Realtek ALC5685 DAC
  • … and that’s all

Almost all of the Rhodium’s significant features are concealed inside the tiny aluminum shell that houses its USB-C socket. And by ‘features’, what I really mean is ‘functionality’.

This is where the digital-to-analog converter is kept. It is a Realtek ALC5685 system-on-chip, just 6 x 6 mm in size and capable of processing PCM digital audio files of up to 32-bit/384 kHz resolution.

Periodic Audio makes bold claims about Rhodium performance, including a super low 5Hz to unnecessarily high 160kHz frequency response, 108dB signal-to-noise ratio and an extremely low 0.007% total harmonic distortion, as well as very Low energy consumption.

It’s safe to say that if any of these numbers are accurate, the Rhodium will perform beyond any realistic expectations you might have when price and product configuration are taken into account.

Sound quality

  • More detail, improved dynamics
  • Overall more punch and low-end extension
  • Relentless in its presentation

The Rhodium’s 3.5mm input is used to connect a pair of Campfire Audio Andromeda wired in-ear headphones on one end, and its USB-C plug attached to an Apple MacBook Pro (2020) on the other (because this is handy for contrasting the DAC’s performance against that of the laptop’s 3.5mm analog jack). It’s also hooked up to a Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone from 2021 (which, of course, is the only way to use wired headphones with this (and most) smartphones).

From both sources, the Tidal app is used to deliver digital audio – Big Thief’s Shark Smile and Low Light by The Soundcarriers in particular. And no matter what laptop or smartphone I’m listening to, the Periodic Audio Rhodium proves stable, consistent, and remarkably outspoken listening.

The laptop is the most useful device here, of course, as it’s possible to listen to its internal DAC and headphone amplification directly against the Rhodium. And while every laptop owner understands that their audio circuitry is usually just an afterthought, the difference Rhodium makes is nonetheless quite startling.

Compared to the unassisted sound of the MacBook Pro, Periodic Audio is an altogether more direct, candid and assertive listen. It extracts and retains a lot more mid-range information than the laptop, which means vocals are considerably more informative, more characterful and more nuanced, which is basically a long way of saying “more enjoyable”. .

Rhodium Audio Periodic connected to macbook

There’s more punch and solidity to low-frequency sounds, and a bigger, more defined soundstage on which all the action happens. And the dynamics (both the broad “quiet/LOUD” elements and the more subtle harmonic variations of each individual strumming of a guitar) are enhanced – or, more accurately, more evident in their effects.

Control, with regards to the attack and decay of individual notes or strikes, is much improved. Rhythm expression is pretty decent too, thanks to those punchy yet controlled low frequencies. The tonality, particularly from the low end of the frequency to the point where the “mids” become the “high frequencies”, is wider in its variation, more assured in its musicality and superior in both timbre and tone. the texture.

It is in the high end of the frequency range that the Rhodium somewhat overplays its hand. All the improvements that are apparent elsewhere on the laptop’s unassisted sound – greater detail retention, better dynamic variation, more space and “lightness” are apparent, but the way this DAC attacks the high-pitched sounds is quite wearisome.

There’s a relentless quality to the way periodic audio serves up the high end, a determination to bite your teeth even when it’s not appropriate, and as a result the higher frequencies have a harshness and jitters to them. tiring at moderate volumes and almost painful at higher levels. ‘Lively’ is great sound-wise, ‘intransigence’ not so much.

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Should I buy it?

You want to equip your smartphone with a headphone jack. This is an affordable and effective way to open up your source player to wired headphones.

You don’t consider ‘living’ a positive with respect to sound. Rhodium’s high-end reproduction will tire you out sooner rather than later.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, being small and affordable while making a big difference in audio performance isn’t enough. For £49 the Periodic Audio Rhodium can have a noticeable effect on the sound of your laptop’s headphone output – but it’s not entirely positive, and therefore it’s not particularly easy to recommend the outlay ( no matter how small).

How we test

We thoroughly test every DAC we review over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to properly compare features. We will always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product.

Learn more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Tested with real-world use


Is Periodic Audio Rhodium compatible with iOS devices?

To make the Rhodium compatible with iOS devices, you would need the Apple Camera adapter, but Periodic says compatibility is not guaranteed with iOS products.


US Recommended Retail Price


Size (Dimensions)



Release date



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Jargon Buster


Midrange refers to the part of the frequency range that falls between the lows and highs. The midrange is the area that handles the vocals and most of the instruments heard in a track. It can also refer to midrange speakers that reproduce that area of ​​the frequency range.

Hi-Res Audio

High-Resolution Audio is considered a standard as well as a marketing term that describes digital audio files that are higher than CD quality (16-bit/44.1kHz).