The Oppo PM-3 A Competent Comfortable Mobile Headphone
Third in a series of planar magnetic headphone releases from Oppo Digital, and at $399 their lowest cost entrant to date, the PM-3 is intended as a planar magnetic headphone for portable use...and it delivers.
The PM-3 is a full-size, circumaural (around the ear), sealed headphone. The planar magnetic driver in the PM-3 is very similar to that of the PM-1/2. The primary difference is that the driver diaphragm in the PM-1/2 is oval and is slightly smaller and circular in the PM-3. Other than that, the driver is virtually identical. I won't talk about the driver itself here in this review as I've already written a pretty comprehensive description of it in my PM-1 review. General information about these devices can be read in my article "How Planar Magnetic Headphone Drivers Work."
The styling of the PM-3 is masculine, conservative, and sumptuous. The mix of metals, high-quality protein leather, and plastics is appropriate for a headphone at this price. The PM-3 is currently available in black and white color schemes, but Oppo was showing some blue and red prototypes at AXPONA 2015.
Planar magnetic (PM) headphones are often quite heavy due to all the magnets in the driver. The PM-3 is extraordinarily light for a headphone of this type weighing in at 323 grams. For comparison with other PM headphones: PM-1 390gr; EL-8 488gr; HE-500 492gr; and LCD-3 613gr. On the other hand, the PM-3 remains a bit heavier than dynamic sealed headphones in this category: NAD VISO HP50 256 gr; Focal Spirit Professional 282gr; Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 285gr; and Shure SRH1540 290gr.
Even though its very light for a planar magnetic, it remains a slightly heavy headphone for portable use and as such needs ample padding on headband and ears...which it indeed has. The headband is fully wrapped with protein leather and covers foam all the way around, with thicker foam on the inside of the band.
Even though the outside ear pad dimensions are smaller than the PM-1/2 (98mmx77mm vs. 103mmx80mm), the inside opening on the PM-3 is actually larger than the PM-1/2 (57mmx40mm vs. 57mmx35mm). I'd say that's about an average size openings for a circumaural headphone. I found them comfortable for long listening sessions, though just a tad too cozy and warm feeling due to the weight and needing to hug the head sufficiently for them to remain stable on the head. They're quite comfortable, but they don't disappear on your head like some lighter weight cans can.
Ear cups rotate 180 degrees to rotate flat in either direction. Arms to either side slide in and out of the headband to adjust for fit. The detented adjustment is appropriately easy to move, yet remains securely in place when set. I found the overall mechanical performance of these headphones excellent with no sign of a rattle or squeak at all.
Oppo's PM-3 manual states that the pads are not to be removed by the end user. However, they are not permanently attached; with a very strong pull with fingernails prying apart the pad from the ear capsule, the pad does un-clip from the headphones. Do not pull from the pad itself. It takes way too much force and I worry about the pad material tearing. Putting the pad back on is a bit clumsy as well. The problem is that it's not designed to be done by the end user and getting a feel for where to place the pad to get the six clips to line up is not easy. If you need pads replace, the headphones should be sent to Oppo for repairs. If you're a die-hard DIYer who doesn't care bout your warranty and just has to get under the hood...I get it, have fun, but be careful. I'll also note for DIYers that under the ear pad is a foam pad over the driver, which is adhered to the surface of the baffle plate covering the baffle plate screws. This foam pad will have to be damaged to get to the screws underneath for further disassembly. Lastly, as you'll see on the next page, these sound very good already and I'd bet 9 out of 10 times a hobbyist modification would make them sound worse not betterI just don't see these cans as much of a candidate for modding.
Included accessories are quite nicely selected. A selvage denim hard-side, clam-shell case will contain the PM-3 when folded flat with cable removed. (Photo on next page.) It has a small padded tab located between the ear cups so they don't bump and grind during transport. Two cables are included: a 3 meter long straight cable; and your choice of a 1.2 meter cable with remote for iOS, Android, or none at all.
Isolation is quite good for a passively isolating sealed headphone. These will work in fairly noisy environments. And unlike many planar magnetic headphones, the PM-3 is quite efficient and can be driven to satisfying levels from portable devices.
All-in-all, I find the build quality, comfort, and styling well above average in its class, mainly in that it does such a great job covering all the bases. Real leather and 50 grams less would have put it right at the top...but I'm not sure real leather is actually more comfortable and cooler on the skin than high-quality protein leather. (Have to look into that one of these days.) The big question is how do they sound?
Turn the page and we'll have a listen.