Love headphones, hate – “beats” – and all the branding rubbish that gives hifi such a bad name (I saw a “beats” laptop at the weekend!); I still struggle with buds, with the odd exception, but for sport, grass cutting and walking I need a neck band type of headphone. But proper headphones are the ultimate immersive hi fidelity experience, face the lounge door (so you’re not caught out making stupid faces) and put on some proper well produced high quality music; or in my case ‘Amnesiac’ (needs a proper re-master if any album does).
My Oppo PM-2 planar magnetic headphones turned up just before Christmas; I have to throw them on straight away with my lossless android samples and they sound good, nice, a bit tight but not exactly seven hundred pounds. Then I’m advised to run-them-in, just the two hundred hours or so (Whaat !!!!? really!). Mind you, seems reasonable, high-end speakers are run-in, so are cables. Now I’m the New Year side of Christmas and the run-in has happened so we can listen, critically.
These Oppo PM-2s are the less expensive siblings to the exceptional PM-1s. Retailing at £400 cheaper than their older sister at £699, the saving is probably as much as you would budget for some open backed headphones for the average indulgent lounge. However, these headphones are as good as it gets acoustically, since they have the same drive unit (a planar magnetic driver) as the more expensive pair. See my unboxing after this to find the link to the differences but they are really aesthetic in my view. It seems to me that you could buy the PM-2s and a pair of ‘Original Lambskin Leather Ear Pads’ that match the PM-1s for $59 (approx. 40quid?) and save yourself a bundle.
The pads are very easy to change over, or replace if needs be.
The headphones themselves ooze quality, which you may expect at this price level. They feel luxurious and well-finished. The box is nice, the carry case crafted and the three-meter 6.35mm headphone jack is beautifully
presented, thick, and heavy. The headphones have removable leads (left and right) into each ear so you can change the connection depending on the jack adaptor on your source. For example, portable devices have a 3.5mm jack. Older style stereos, like my Dad’s thumping ‘thousand watt’ 1970s Akai amplifier have a 6.35mm jack. I note with annoyance, on the better equipment I have, I do not have the 6.35mm jacks for relaxed listening (meaning the 3-meter-long 6.35mm lead as opposed to the one meter 3.5mm lead) which is very frustrating. I even have an extremely nice Denson CD player on loan with accompanying pre and power amplifiers and there is not even a headphone option in any of them there. So I’m left with my Android device or better still FLAC files and foobar2000 on my laptop for critical listening.
Finally, aesthetically, the faux leather of the PM-2s makes no difference to me as they are superbly comfortable and soft. The headphones are actually very big on the ear which for me is very comfortable but some may find them too big. They are light too, by design and innovation, at 385 grams, ensuring comfort over longer periods. Overall the ‘phones are a pleasure to handle, feel, and wear.
What about how they sound?
The information given by Oppo suggests the planar magnetic driver operates from 10-50,000Hz, which is profoundly wide and, compared to the average ear at 20-20,000Hz, is way beyond normal listening capability. The planar magnetic driver is basically a thin lightweight diaphragm where the entire surface area is evenly driven. This allows the diaphragm to deliver sensitivity and consistency over a huge dynamic range and prevents distortion
compared to normal electrostatic headphones that are coned. The diaphragms are paired during manufacture to ensure optimal outcomes and ensuring a balanced soundstage. The diaphragm design ensures a high-resolution performance with minimal distortion and a promised increase in longevity, performance, and reliability.
The image presented by the PM-2s is crisp and life-like; direct, but expanded and rich. The vocals are clear and wonderfully presented. Pianos are near perfection. I have a 24-bit FLAC recording from The Neil Cowley Trio and it is hard to imagine anything sounding better, given their insistence on production values. In the opening track called ‘Lament,’ you can hear Neil Cowley’s breathing and his nails on the keys, it is an incredibly immersive experience, which is what headphones are all about. The bass presented by these headphones is soft and rounded not overbearing or thumping, just very natural.
Really, these headphones are a must-listen if your budget approaches this price point or beyond, or even if your budget matches the savings between the two siblings. I have yet to arrange a PM-1 v PM-2 listening session but I will and I’ll report back, ideally with the HA-1 headphone amplifier I can’t think the PM-1s can offer £400 more than the 2s. I would compare listening to these headphones (with a well-produced piece of high quality music) to listening to a serious audiophile set-up that retails in the five figures with appropriately priced cables.
A must listen and congratulations Oppo.
For more information goto http://www.oppodigital.com