OPPO PM-3 Review – Best Portable Planar Magnetic Headphone

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Oppo PM-3 BoxProduct: Oppo PM-3
Type: Closed Back Over Ear
Connection: Wired
Preferred Use: Portable/Home
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com

 


Introduction

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.

IN A HURRY? READ THE CONCLUSION!

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 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.

Oppocollection

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 remarkably small.

Sound Quality

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.

HA-2 with PM-3 on stand

Being a planar magnetic, I expect this headphone to outperform a conventional dynamic headphone. At least in certain areas. Otherwise, what’s the point in buying, right?

Bass

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.

Mids

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.

Highs

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!

Extras

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.

oppoincase

See what others have to say about the Oppo PM-3

Conclusion

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.

Our Rating
  • Sound Quality
  • Comfort & Design
  • Build Quality
  • Sound Leakage
  • Noise Isolation
  • Price/Value
4.2

Summary

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.

11 thoughts on “OPPO PM-3 Review – Best Portable Planar Magnetic Headphone”

  1. When you say portable do you mean wireless? It still seems a bit expensive for a headphone but it’s understandable if music quality is important. I’m very active guy doing a lot of outdoor physical activities and I like to listen to my music but don’t want to carry my iPod or phone around. I heard there are wireless ones you can use and you don’t need your phone or music device to carry with you. What do you recommend for wireless headphone for people who play a lot of sports while listening to music

    1. Hey Joon! Portable does not persé mean wireless. It means that these headphones are suited not only for home (indoor) use. Every portable headphone has a closed design. This is when the outside of the earcups are fully closed. I mean, you don’t want to annoy everyone around you in the bus or on the street with your music, right?

      You have different kinds of portability. Portable as in for sports or for just walking around the street or sitting in a coffee shop. The PM-3’s are definitely for the latter. If you’re looking for a great wireless headphone that has an inbuild music player, I suggest you check out the Creative Outlier. Here’s my review: https://inspiringheadphones.com/creative-outlier-review-actually-the-ultimate-lifestyle-buddy

      Cheers!
      Jurgen

  2. I must say that I would be a little worried about carrying around a pair of headphones that were $399. That is one expensive gadget to break. I have never really considered the quality of headphones as I usually just go for the cheap ones. But what I liked about these was seeing the padding they have. Most headphones, for me, are really uncomfortable and begin hurting my ears after a few songs. These look like they could be just as soft on my ears from song 1 to song 400. That was what caught my eye the most about them.

    1. Hi Jessica! About carrying around expensive gadgets.This is happening more and more in recent years. I mean, we carry around smartphones costing $300 or $700 and with those smartwatches becoming more popular it’s even gonna get worse. Even now, you have people walking around with an iPhone 6S AND an iWatch. If you think about it and compare it with 10 years ago, it’s completely nuts 🙂

  3. Wow a $399.00 headphone. To me is still a ok price as long as it have good quality and functionally. The most expensive headphone I had bought was around $195 something. The major issue I have is that some headphone are will become uncomfortable for a long period. Since Christmas is coming, I might be able to spend a bit more on it. You know, headphone are very very useful at work.

  4. I would agree that Oppo PM-3 is one of best portable headphones available. It seems practical and trendy too. But one thing that bothers me, it is not wireless. While it offers so much flexibility, we do not expect to deal with cords from a portable headphone. Even though it seems comfortable to wear, wireless feature is still a major consideration when we buy a portable headphone.

    1. That’s a good point! Never thought about it really, but now you mention it. I don’t think there are wireless planar magnetic headphones. Maybe it has to do with the fact that, until recently, they were solely targeted for home use. I’m not sure why. Searching google left me without answers… However, I’ve made a note of this and whenever I get the chance, I’ll ask someone who knows more about this topic.

  5. My husband was just telling me last night that he wants new headphones. He was mentioning that he wants noise cancellation ones (I think that was the term he used).

    As his birthday is coming up next month, I decided to see if I could find some that he might like. The oppo pm 3 headphones sound great based on your review. But I am not sure what planar magnetic means. Also, would they fit in the category of noise cancellation?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Simone, the Oppo PM-3 is not a noise cancellation headphone. But due to the closed design very little sound gets in or out. These have actually great passive noise isolation.

      Check out my article on Audeze Headphones, where I briefly explain the difference between a normal dynamic headphone and a planar magnetic headphone.

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