High quality street wear!
Oppo Digital, makers of high performance Blu-ray disc players, has released a new pair of on ear planar magnetic headphones to compliment the exceptional audiophile range released so far, they are the Oppo PM-3,they are closed backed and they are ‘Street’.
Superbly packaged in a sturdy presentation box, these headphones feel at least as good in quality as the superb, high-end, open backed Oppo PM-2s that I have recently reviewed. In a neat canvas carry case are the headphones and a choice of shorter or longer leads for either lounge listening or urban wear! I’ve run my headphones in for a good few hours using a CD on repeat to loosen them off and I would recommend you doing the same in this price bracket.
The headphones themselves are more ‘Urban’ than its older, pricier siblings, the open backed PM-1 and PM-2s. They are smaller, and lighter, still over ear but certainly more street wear than before, being smaller and lighter.
Noticeable immediately is that the headphones are closed back. This means you have privacy and therefore
noise isolation from the outside world that does not usually want to hear you listening to Taylor Swift (yep, me too, say no more). The PM-1&2s are open backed so they leak noise both ways, the key advantage of these is that there is no reflected sound from the PM diaphragm that delivers the noise. We will come back to this later.
For clarity, on the Oppo PM-3s, there is no active noise cancelling functionality. Also of key note is the connecting lead, which still detaches, is connected only to the left hand ear can rather than both with the PM-1&2s. This makes them slightly easier to wear on-the-go. There is a choice of several shorter, 1.2m connecting leads with the PM-3s that include an Android compatible microphone, or an iPhone compatible microphone or no microphone at all. There is also a 3.5mm 3m long connector that is for lounge use (called studio use in the blurb) or for very deep rucksacks on the move.
The look is, in my case, black and understated, there is a white option. There is no fancy logo on the backs of the ear cans; this is a good thing for me, maybe not so for premiership footballers who need to associate themselves both with tedious rappers.
The headphones are particularly light-weight, coming in at 320g only.
The PM-3 design uses planar magnetic drivers derived from the award-winning PM-1 headphones; the sound signature is described by Oppo as “very natural and balanced, with plenty of emotion and impact”. The planar magnetic driver diaphragm has 7 layers of thin materials that provide excellent performance, reliability, and longevity. The construction of the diaphragm ensures that it is very stable under thermal stress and vibration compared to
other driver types. All of this combines to present a higher quality sound wave to the ear. The frequency range presented by the PM-3s is quoted as 10 – 50,000 Hz; this is plenty for any normal, or ‘Urban’ human being,
who probably can’t here beyond 20,000Hz or below 20!
The PM design affords a high sensitivity which means I can choose a lower gain setting on the portable amplifier, the HA-2, which I am using. This means I can drive them harder and achieve a better sound through performance. This does tell in the end and delivers a consistent sound throughout listening.
The quality in these headphones is there to feel. Compared to other similarly priced but branded headphones worn by premiership footballers near this price point that cost less than £15 to make (google it!), they are clearly a better quality to feel, own, listen to or just wear. They just don’t feel plasticky or tatty in any way.
The brushed steel cup supports are perfect and the ear cups themselves have a very comfortable feel indeed. I’ve done a good few miles with these in rain and shine and they do not wear heavy on me.
So, in terms of quality the workmanship feels high, the cabling sounds and feels appropriately good and the steel finish marks the product apart from those more popular brands out there, what about the sound?
For reference, I have been mainly using my Nexus Android smartphone using PowerAmp (that plays lossless music files) with the Oppo HA-2 headphone amplifier into the Oppo PM-3’s for a good month or so. This has been mostly on the move. I have also used my ASUS laptop using foobar (that also plays FLAC files) with the HA-2 and also my Naim Uniti2 with the Oppo PM-3’s.
In two words, totally satisfying.
The combination of the HA-2 with the PM-3 really is musically very exciting and energetic indeed.
First of all, I listen to voices, which need a bit of concentration. On my computer I have the 24 bit remaster of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”; an excellent choice for detail, background bits and pieces and voice.
There are clinking glasses, general background hubbub and sea noises; all of this detail is evident. Ringo’s
voice is often right of centre with rhythm of the song in the left ear, disconcerting if you’re not familiar with it but revealing no noticeable left to right can timing issues. Next I listen to ‘A Day in the Life’ because I can’t resist it.
Next I’m engaged in more complexity, whilst listening to a FLAC copy of Helen Grimaud’s interpretation of Chopin’s Piano Sonata #2 (in B flat minor don’t you know). The piano is in the room, energetic and wide open, I can hear the notes clearly and more complex parts are uncluttered.
As my local church ball chimes the hour through my open window, I’m conscious I can actually hear them despite the closed back. I want to play something even more satisfying to see if the headphones get overwhelmed so I go to my favourite album of the last few years, one that I’m very comfortable with, The War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream. The experience is excellent. I have been listening to a wide variety of music on the move with these Oppo PM-3 cans and the HA-2 combination is unparalleled on the move. Broadly, the headphones present an open sound-stage that is very easy to listen to and do not cause undue fatigue.
Finally, at my desk, I listen to a ‘full spectrum’ recording to listen to timing and clarity in the headphones. It’s time for ‘Eruption’ by Van Halen (also a FLAC file). This is a really nice sound and delivery from the Oppo PM-3’s is very good indeed. There is no distortion at all (moderate volume to save the ear drums) and the detail is very accomplished. Overall, in all recordings at my desk or on the move, I do find the bass to be very nicely balanced and natural but not over inflated like some other brands.
Oppo PM-3 Alternatives
There are lots of headphones out there, lots. The only trick is to listen to as many as you can before you buy; and stick to your budget. I’ve listened to many headphones and these are very good value indeed in this price band. I’ve been trying to decide in my head (pardon the pun) if these headphones (PM-3) AND the HA-2 headphones amplifier compare to the PM-2 headphones which would put them in the same price band. At the end of the day though, you are not really walking down the street in a pair of PM-2s.
So yes, have a listen to the Bose Quiet Comforts, that have maybe a softer bass and are very pleasant and light (but do not work when the battery runs out!) then listen to the Beats Studio, that have a pronounced bass and less detail (and do not work when the battery runs out!) and then listen to some other brands (if you seriously want bass listen to House of Marley too!) but do take into consideration that with a little more money these PM-3s deliver a lot more detail and natural character than others. And you are not paying for the cost of the brand marketing and you don’t look like a Premiership footballer.
Oppo PM-3 Summary
In this price band, a very accomplished pair of headphones that draws on the quality of the higher end Oppo PM-1s and 2s. The technology and quality is all there to listen to, in detail, and feel, in comfort.
Visit the website www.oppodigital.co.uk
Available across Europe now from authorised OPPO resellers, a list of which can be found on the “Where to Buy” section of OPPO Digital’s web site, the Oppo PM-3 has a retail price of £349.00 (June 2015).