Product: Oppo PM-3
Type: Closed Back Over Ear
Preferred Use: Portable/Home
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Warranty: 1 Year Warranty
Some folks know I have a bit of a soft spot for planar magnetic headphones. Although I don’t own one myself (still saving up for that Audeze LCD-2 🙂 ). But the thing is they really intrigue me. When you start reading and learning a bit more on headphones like I did before I started with this site, the general impression you get is that planar magnetics are “something very special”. And they should be with most of these headphones costing between $1000 and $4000.
A few months ago I did an article on the HiFiMAN HE-400S and I was really tempted to buy these since they sold at $300. They got great reviews, but the one thing that held me from actually buying them was the general consensus on the sound quality. Almost every review I read said they sound great, BUT… they didn’t sound like a true planar magnetic. It didn’t have that typical bass response that you expect from a planar magnetic.
Welcome Oppo PM-3
Out of the blue, a friend came over a few weeks ago and he carried the Oppo PM-3. He offered to loan them to me for the next 2 weeks and asked me to make a review of them. At first I thought “Hmm another budget planar magnetic headphone??” But at the same time this was the first one I got to actually listen to! Needless to say, I accepted his offer graciously.
So today I’ll give my opinion on it. Although a bit more expensive at $399 it’s still considered budget-friendly when it comes to planar magnetics. Let’s see if the PM-3 can succeed in giving the listener a true planar magnetic sound signature.
Design & Portability
The Oppo PM-3 comes in 4 colors. The standard black and white. But also in cherry red and steel blue, although in limited editions. Whichever color you choose, they are a beauty to look at. While the HiFiMAN HE-400-S looks a bit cheaply made, the Oppo PM-3 looks like an expensive item, made of quality and sturdy materials.
The headband is covered in protein leather which gives sufficient padding to be comfortable on the head. The PM-3 is very light for a planar magnetic. Just to give you an indication: Audeze EL-8 488gr; HE-500 492gr; PM-1 390gr. Although the PM-3 only weights 320gr (310gr for the limited editions!), don’t expect them to disappear on your head for longer listening periods.
A word on the earpads. Some people might be turned off that the earpads are not genuine leather (they’re also protein leather), but honestly I wouldn’t think too much about it. The earpads are soft, breathable and very comfortable.
Furthermore, the earpads can rotate 180 degrees, so you can fold them flat on your chest. Great and comfortable if you hang them around your neck.
When you think of planar magnetics, you’re not really thinking about portability. After all, we’re talking about big heavy clumsy things where audiophiles spend way too much money on… 😉 However, the PM-3 ticks all the boxes to be an excellent travel companion:
- Weight: Weighting 320/310gr. it’s not that heavy to walk around with.
- Closed-back: You won’t disturb other people and other people won’t disturb you.
- Impedance: At 26 Ohm these sound great with your mobile phone.
- Cable: Oppo provides a standard 1.2m detachable cable (3.5mm).
- Size: For a planar magnetic, these are remarkable small.
The PM-3 is Oppo’s third planar magnetic, but it’s their first with a closed-back design. Characteristically this means a less wide and more intimate soundstage. This is not necessary a bad thing, but something to consider when looking at these headphones.
Being a planar magnetic, I expect this headphone to outperform a conventional dynamic headphone. At least on certain areas. Otherwise, what’s the point in buying, right?
Planar magnetics typically have a very tight and responsive bass. Something that’s very hard to achieve on dynamic headphones. This is thanks to the excellent transient response of the driver. Meaning how fast the driver can cut off the incoming sound frequencies, as they’re cut off from the source. The PM-3 does not disappoint in giving clean, fast and responsive basslines. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by bass. The bass is very controlled without being excessive or bloated.
The midrange on the PM-3 is incredibly well rendered providing amazingly natural vocals. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever heard such realistic sounding vocals on a headphone. Mid-range is definitely the PM-3’s forte.
If you want a headphone that exposes every detail in a song, you should probably look elsewhere. Although the highs are crystal clear, they are a bit held back and sound very smooth. All this makes the PM-3 to be pretty forgiving on poorly recorded tracks and lossy formats. Ideal for listening on your smartphone!
The Oppo PM-3 comes with a nice carrying case made out of selvedge denim in which you can store the headphones in flat. There’s a 3m straight cable and you can choose one of three 1.2m bonus cables: Apple compatible with mic and controls, Android compatible with mic and controls or standard without mic and controls. You also get a screw-on 6.35 mm adapter.
So it’s time to return the PM-3 back to my friend. We had some fun evenings the last 2 weeks and it’s with a bit of a tear to see it go. But I’m sure it’ll come over from time to time.
That being said, the Oppo PM-3 is an amazingly sounding headphone. I would describe it as neutral, balanced, buttery smooth and non-fatiguing. It’s built with premium and durable materials and the design is very handsome.
For a planar magnetic, the PM-3 is light as a feather and super comfortable. You can use it at home, as well as on the go.
For the metropolitan audiophile on the go who does not want to compromise convenience for excellent sound, the Oppo PM-3 might be the best bet.