Oppo PM-3 Headphones

Oppo PM-3 Headphones Review

The PM-3 is Oppo’s third planar magnetic headphone, following the PM-1 and PM-2. Unlike the PM-1 and PM-2, the Oppo PM-3 is a closed back design. Not only is outside noise reduced, allowing more of the music to be heard, music leakage from the headphone is also limited. The Oppo PM-3 utilizes a new 55mm round planar magnetic driver featuring much of the technologies pioneered in the PM-1. The lightweight yet durable 7-layer diaphragm and strong Neodymium magnets play a key role in the PM-3’s weight reduction and in turn its portability. The Oppo PM-3 is the first truly portable closed back planar magnetic headphone to hit the market and Oppo hits the ball out of the park with it. Plush padding, soft materials, and near perfect clamping pressure make the PM-3 one of the most comfortable headphones I have worn.

Specs
Manufacturer: Oppo
Model: PM-3
Headphone Type: Sealed Planar Magnetic
Sensitivity: 102dB/1mW @ 1mW
Nominal Impedance: 26 Ohm
Review Date: March 16, 2015
Price: $399
Company Website

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I am a big fan of planar magnetic designs and the lush, transparent sounds they produce. Their drawbacks are often weight and need for a dedicated headphone amp. The majority of designs are also open-backed which creates a wide, open soundstage but are bad if you plan on using them around other people. I have been waiting for a closed back headphone suitable for my office work environment, portable enough to carry back and forth with me, and with the sonic performance I have only experienced through planar magnetic designs. Oppo has delivered this with the PM-3 and at $399, it is a bargain as well. Truly amazing and one of the finest headphones ever made.

Oppo PM-3 Design

The Oppo PM-3 are available in black, just like the PM-1 and PM-2, and a stylish white. Most headphones that come across my desk are black, so the white is a nice change. Oh boy are they a sight! They are sleek and easily portable, yet the ear cups rest just outside my ears. The headband is well-padded and the clamping force is nearly perfect unless you’re going to listen for hours on end. The light weight (only 320 grams) makes up for this and being able to enjoy a pair of headphones for the majority of a work day without any comfort issues is a real accomplishment. The white material is very soft, almost between a microfiber and leather. I think the only main concern with something white is how it will hold up to the dirt and grime of everyday use. The synthetic leather can be cleaned but in the end, just go with black if you are worried.

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Depending on to which side of you your source is placed, the left-only cable connection will either be a plus or a possible nuisance. As a right-hander, having a cable only on the left ear of a headphone is perfectly fine with me. Oppo ships the PM-3 with both a 1.2 meter cable more suited towards portable use and a 3 meter cable, a nice touch that adds flexibility. Integrated mic and phone controls are built into the 1.2 meter cable and you are offered your choice of an iOS or Android compatible version.

At 102 dB and 26 Ohm, the Oppo PM-3 are easy to drive, especially for a planar magnetic design. For comparison, the HiFiMAN HE-400i are 93 dB and a nominal impedance of 35 Ohms. Powering the Oppo PM-3 directly off a smartphone is a reality and they sound great, but they are capable of so much more. Pairing these with a high-end portable or desktop headphone amp like the Oppo HA-2, produces astonishingly good sound quality at this price level. I have never heard a closed-back headphone sound this good before, let alone one for $399. I can plug them directly into my iPhone and listen with contentment, or I can plug them into the HA-2 and drift away into a blissful state of sonic brilliance. Heck, I can even plug them into a desktop headphone amp like the Burson Soloist or Auralic Taurus and the Oppo PM-3 will perform on an even higher level. The high-resolution and transparency of the Oppo PM-3 allow the listener to experiment with different amps and DACs and hear the differences.

Class Leading Performance

Oppo has done a terrific job engineering a closed-back planar magnetic headphone. The work put into the tiny vents on the back of the headphones and internal damping have yielded a very musical and open sound. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon does a fine job of demonstrating the spacious soundstage of the PM-3. The clocks on “Time” are scattered around your head in a wider and deeper virtual space than most closed-back designs produce. As the song progresses, the strong bass notes have ample presence and weight. The vocals by Gilmour and Wright are clear and concise without a hint of sibilance. Another great soundstage example is on the soundtrack for We Bought a Zoo. The track “Brambles” features a wide and deep acoustic space and the Oppo PM-3 capturers this with excellent transparency. As good as the Oppo PM-3 sounds, the Hifiman HE-400i does edge it out in the areas of soundstage and overall detail. The veil-lifting transparency of the HE-400i allow me to better visualize the performers and instruments. The low end is more prominent on the Oppo PM-3 than the HE-400i, but the HiFiMAN’s are able to resolve more texture and detail in the bass. Again though, the HE-400i are not as easy to drive as the Oppo PM-3, allowing the Oppo PM-3 to perform better in a portable setup.

On various piano pieces by Yann Tiersen, the tonality of the Oppo PM-3 is brilliant. Voiced a touch on the warmer side, the tuning of the Oppo PM-3 is exactly what my ear gravitates to. If you prefer drop-dead neutral, perfectly analytical sound, these may not be for you. For me, I never find real life sound to be that analytical. Sound is always playing off objects, the end product a result of the space in which it is presented. I find the Oppo PM-3 does an excellent job recreating that lively sound and presenting music in a way I previously thought impossible for a closed-back design under $400.

The planar magnetic drivers in the Oppo PM-3 produce a much more open and transparent sound than competing dynamic driver based headphones like the NAD HP50 and Sennheiser Momentum. Those are great headphones, but the Oppo PM-3 are that much better. One listen to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and the PM-3’s ability to resolve transient detail immediately reveals itself. Since the entire diaphragm in the PM-3’s planar magnetic driver vibrates in sync, it is able to deliver audio at a very high-resolution. The snap and sizzle of a snare drum, or breathy throaty tone of an alto sax are expertly recreated via the Oppo PM-3.

Conclusion

We recently gave another Oppo product, the HA-2, perfect marks, so to do so again seems odd. Yet I feel even stronger about the Oppo PM-3’s perfect score than I do about the excellent HA-2. The Oppo PM-3 planar magnetic headphones are scary good. Previously my go-to recommendations for closed back headphones were the PSB M4U, NAD HP50, and Sennheiser Momentum. The Oppo PM-3 outshines them all and will be one of the most confident product recommendations I have ever offered. They are versatile as they can be driven directly from a smartphone, but will benefit from quality amplification so users can squeeze every bit of performance from these amazing headphones. If you don’t need a closed-back headphone, the Hifiman HE-400i delivers better sonic performance but only with better amplification. If looking for more flexibility with sources and listening environments, the Oppo PM-3 is the clear winner. Very highly recommended.

Review Summary
Product: Oppo PM-3
Reviewer:
Pros: Astonishingly good sound quality for the price. Best closed back headphone we have used. Sensitive enough to be used directly with a smartphone, yet excels with quality amplification.
Cons: Not a completely neutral analytical headphone. Competing open-back planar magnetics like the Hifiman HE-400i still resolve more detail and three dimensionality to the sound.
Summary: The PM-3 is one of the best sounding headphones on the market and takes the performance level of a closed-back design to another level without breaking the bank.
Value: 5/5
Performance: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

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  • Bjamesb

    You ass kisser! Oh. Wait.

    I got mine. They’re perfect. Never mind. Jesus these are a nice product.

    • Stephen Hornbrook

      haha, I realize it probably sounds like that, but I really love the PM-3. They are a fantastic headphone.

      • RockStar2005

        Stephen,

        I just ordered these and should get them by next week. I’m a bit worried about the clamping. I have the Sony MDR-1As and had the AKG K550s before. BOTH are very comfortable. I initially had the Sennheiser HD 598s as well, but they were a bit too tight on my head. How would you rate the clampingness (I just invented that word btw lol) of the PM-3s vs the 598s? Are they less tighter? How about to the other two? Please offer as much detail as you can.

        Thank You,

        RockStar2005

        • Stephen Hornbrook

          They are not tight on my clampness scale. I’m pretty sensitive to headphones that clamp too hard. Since I wear glasses, too much pressure can cause pain around the area the glasses rest on my ears. I can use the PM-3’s all day long without an issue. I think you will be happy with the comfort on these.

          • RockStar2005

            Stephen,

            Thank you VERY much for the quick but more importantly detailed response!

            I totally get what you mean about wearing headphones with glasses on. I don’t wear glasses (at home I do, but not when I have headphones on) but contacts instead, so that shouldn’t really be an issue for me. Some ppl I knew thought the HD 598s were very comfortable, I just didn’t share that viewpoint. A few of the reviews I’ve read elsewhere on the PM-3s seemed to allude to the opinion that they were a bit tight. Your response however seems to disprove that completely since wearing glasses in my opinion would make you more sensitive to extra clamping, and you’re saying that’s not the case at all. Very cool!

            Yes I hope so! I’m very much looking forward to testing them out against my current headphones, the Sony MDR-1As. A review of the PM-3s on C|Net stated that PM-3s sounded noticeably better, and for around the same price (the 1As were $299), which really got my attention (I got the PM-3s for only $369 + free shipping from a reputable seller in Hong Kong).

            Your review was great btw! It really covered all bases and I like the review summary info as well. Very helpful.

            Your comparison to the HE-400i headphones though does interest and sort of worry me too. lol I know they are a bit more expensive, but if these are 5/5 for Performance, than how is it that the bass is not as detailed as you think the HE-400i’s bass accuracy is? Did you use the HA-2 or another amp/DAC when testing these? I bought but cancelled my HA-2 order in favor of the $595 Celsus Sound Companion One amp/DAC (you should do a review on it. Incredible device!). It’s rated slightly better than the very nice HA-2 and even has been said to outdo the $1200 Oppo HA-1 and $1200 Sony Walkman ZX2 in sound quality. I know having a good amp/DAC makes a difference, like you said in the article, so I hope this helps improve the bass accuracy, soundstage, etc. Perhaps you just mean that at this price point (under $400) the PM-3s are the best? My 1As handle bass extremely well, so I hope this won’t be a step down for me in the bass accuracy dept.

            Thank You,

            RockStar2005

          • Stephen Hornbrook

            Scoring is always difficult, but the performance for a closed-back planar mag deserves a 5. The HE-400i do sound fantastic, but they don’t work for an office environment so there are trade-offs. All of these headphones have a different flavor and one isn’t necessarily right and another wrong. It still comes down to personal preference. Hopefully you enjoy the PM-3’s and I’m curious to know what you think. Feel free to leave another comment with your impressions.

          • RockStar2005

            Stephen,

            I see. That’s what I thought too, that it was in a different price range but more importantly that it’s closed-back vs the open-back HE-400i headphones. I work from home so it doesn’t matter as much, though I sometimes take my headphones on the train too, so there it might.

            I really like closed-back headphones that have an open-backed sound, much like the PM-3s it seems, as well as my (former) AKG K550s and (current) Sony MDR-1As. You get the best of both worlds really. The Audio-Technica M50xs though were closed-back AND sounded closed in, which is why I didn’t keep them for long after buying them. But honestly, if the PM-3s are better than my 1As, I’m not sure I could handle something even better than that. lol If I don’t feel the PM-3s are better, I MIGHT consider the HE-400is, despite the higher price. But I’d rather keep it under $400. I’m still payin’ off my $595 Companion One (http://www.celsus-sound.com/index.php/product/companion-one). lol

            I’m gonna assume that you didn’t use the HA-2 or an amp/DAC then in your review? I hope that will improve the bass accuracy, etc. I find that using an amp/DAC does just that, and much more.

            Ok will do! Thank you again!

          • RockStar2005

            Hey Stephen,

            My new Oppo PM-3 (vs the Sony MDR-1As) Head-Fi review can be found via link below. Please feel free to read and respond to it here or there. I can say I definitely agree with your full assessment of the PM-3s!

            Thanks again for all your input and everything else. Hope you like the review!

            http://www.head-fi.org/t/784696/oppo-pm-3-review-vs-the-sony-mdr-1as

          • Stephen Hornbrook

            Great review! Always nice to hear other opinions. I’m listening to the PM-3’s at this very moment. Enjoy!

          • RockStar2005

            Stephen,

            Thanks so much for the compliment!

            Yes it is. Haha…….that’s awesome! Perfect timing.

            P.S. Hope you noticed the lil “shout out” to your PM-3 review in the first paragraph. lol