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."

Oppo_PM3_Photo_ColorsThe 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_PM3_Photo_pad

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 better—I 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.

COMPANY INFO
Oppo Digital
2629 Terminal Blvd., Ste B
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 961-1118
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
ELPCU's picture

Well, I think spike on 9~10khz is mainly due to innerfidelity's own compensation curve. Maybe it is OPPO's PM series sound signature of having slight peak, but it seems 9~10khz peak is very common for many innerfidelity data.

Back to PM-3 graph, note peak and trenches start to appear after mid range. usually it became more intense from treble.

Since innerfidelity do not apply any smoothing option at this point, you can assume the sharp peaks are not too bad. At the same time, PM-3 lacks ultra-high as well. I am not saying PM-3 is unable to generate ultra high, because I heard 19khz sound when I performed ultra high frequency test, but it makes me to increase volume more than my other cans(HD600, B&W P7).

I personally nver heard NAD VISO HP50, but I think planar magnetic unit or PM-3's own sound signature makes some differences from normal dynamic headphone. Though, I do not want to say it is better because it is planar magnetic.

Below from here is completely my personal experience, but after I read several PM-3 reviews, it seems impressions are surprisingly similar. They are not same, but I see very similar nuance in the review.

The unique sound signature of PM-3 is..... relaxing. If I put it in bad way, it is boring. It does not give any "WOW" impression when I first pick up my can. But it is not bad by any mean.

When I compared PM-3 to P7, which has a bit more bass, but except that, pretty similar sound signature, P7 is headphone that give "WOW" impression. Not just because it has some more bass. Its treble also impress me a lot. A lot of detail is there. Wierdly enough, P7 has also slightly suppressed treble just like PM-3. But P7 impressed me hard. I feel I heard every instrument of song very vividly, especially treble.

On the other hand, after using P7 for a while, I start loose my concentration, and when I lost my concentration, P7 became just plain. There is no WOW left.

PM-3 is just opposite of that. When I first hear it, it does not impress me by any mean. So I do not concentrate at listening at first. But the sound of PM-3 is very relaxing, no fatigue. And it is so relaxing. I start to like it more. And this makes me concentrate back. From here on, I starts to hear very well extended ultra-low sound, and I also found mid is very punchy. After that, I hear all the detail back from zero. More and more I hear PM-3, I starts to like it.

I do not know this 'relaxing sound' aspect is common aspect of planar magnetic headphone, but PM-3 sounds very relaxing, which makes me think this is very natural sound. And this is probably reason why Tyll say this PM-3 is one of the most neutral headphone. It is fairly neutral in graph already, but graph-wise, I think HP50 is flatter. due to lack of treble. and I can definitely feel lack of treble when I directly compare PM-3 to other cans. However, it just sounds very natural when I just hear PM-3 alone casually.

I won't say PM-3 will be better pick, but I think PM-3 is definitely worth of hear especially for an extended time period of listening.

ADU's picture

And you seem to have excellent taste in headphones.

Based on the graphs, the B&W P7 looks a little beefier in the mid-bass and upper treble than the Oppo PM-3...

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/BowersWilkinsP7.pdf

And the peak at 3kHz isn't quite as well-defined. But it also looks like a pretty good match to the Harman curve. I'd like to see a compensated Harman plot of this model as well.

The midrange on the B&W P7 also looks very similar to, and possibly somewhat smoother than the Oppo PM-3.

markanini's picture

Focal Spirit Pro is even flatter, in the bass range at al teast: http://cdn.innerfidelity.com/images/140321_Blog_HarmanResponseFR_FocalSp...

ADU's picture

...in the 100-300Hz range. But the NAD still looks flatter to me overall, due to less chop in the treble.

http://cdn.innerfidelity.com/images/140321_Blog_HarmanResponseFR_NADVISO...

FWIW, the PSB M4U 1 and Koss SP330 also seem like they'd plot pretty close to the Harman curve, but with a few more bumps and valleys (esp. in the treble) than the NAD.

ADU's picture

The Akai MPC also looks like a pretty good match, though it has a fairly sizable notch between 3.5 & 9kHz, some ringing in the Impulse & 300Hz tests, and needs a good seal for correct bass response, based on the raw FR samples...

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/AkaiMPC.pdf

Some graphs of M4U 1 & SP330 for comparison...

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/PSBM4U1.pdf
http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/KossSP330.pdf

Sub-bass looks a little out of balance on the Koss's left and right channels (with too much on left).

Seth195208's picture

out of curiosity, did you level match the NAD's with the Oppo's? Going back and forth while listening to cymbals, the more efficient phones will naturally sound louder and more exciting.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
To the best of my ability, yes.
Long time listener's picture

Tyll, I got it from John Atkinson's definitions of the presence range, occurring in many places in Stereophile over the years. He doesn't always verbally define it, but the times I've seen him do so, it begins at about 2,000: One example is here: 'The WITT's 2–8kHz "presence" range is mildly depressed relative to the midrange.' Another is his reference to the presence region in the Revel F30 speaker's frequency response, showing a graph with a dip between 2kHz and 4kHz. Another: "The HF contour can be seen to boost or depress the speaker's output over an octave or so in the presence region, centered on 4.5kHz,..." I don't recall it ever going as low as you define it, and it just always seems to me that your definition is just a little too broad, and therefore not as meaningful as the narrower definition.

But...you're the expert. I'm just a guy who read Stereophile for several decades.

zobel's picture

Holt and Atkinson are not in agreement here. Atkinson is probably more correct looking at established norms such as this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_frequency

It does make sense, as you said, that those frequencies are where the ear/brain is most sensitive, and most aware of excesses.

Seth195208's picture

This is the Audio Glossary from stereophile. Everyone should read it at least once. It will much better allow one to describe exactly what they are hearing, including the "presence range".
http://www.stereophile.com/content/sounds-audio-glossary-glossary

Neo Zuko's picture

Just recently sold my Sony MDR-1A for the Momentum 2.0 Wired Ivory. I've tried a few others like the MSR7 (gave me the worst treble headache ever) and M50X (very nice but needs more resolution and upper end smoothness) and found that the MDR-1A made me the most happy so far. However the MDR-1A's build quality let me down with creaks and the bass was a bit too loose in the end.

The Momentum 2.0 fixes the build quality issues I had with the MDR-1A, tightens up the bass, sounds great overall, is just as comfortable, but the upper half of the sound isn't quite as exciting as the MDR-1A - if by only the smallest of amounts. However as a portable headphone overall the Momentum 2.0 is excellent, especially considering build quality longevity vs the MDR-1A. Real Leather and a nicer iOS remote seals the deal.

However I was wondering if it was worth trying the Oppo PM3 next or start saving for the Noble K10 Wizard Edition that I really want. I would be very interested in hearing Tyler comment more on the Oppo PM3 vs Momentum 2.0. CNET mentioned that the PM3 isn't very forgiving vs something like the Momentum 2.0, something which gives me pause. All the headphones I've liked so far are forgiving. The MSR7 for example rapidly turned me off using just my iPhone as a source. That said the Oppo PM3 has a lot of hype around it.

Neo Zuko's picture

After watching the video I decided that the K10 is next.

meringo's picture

I didn't love the Momentum. I bought them blindly to be my portable, and was never impressed during my month of ownership. Everything was just weak to me. Vocals seemed distant, the bass was reckless, and the highs didn't sparkle in the way people described (although I'm a big Grado fan, so take my opinion of the highs with a grain of salt.) BOTH the NADs (which I ended up with) and the Oppo PM3 would be better options - by a lot. They have an incredibly similar sound. For me, it came down to value. $250 new for the NADs, with a huge jump in SQ over the momentum, and $150 less than the Oppo. ALSO extra points for coming from Canada.

Neo Zuko's picture

There must be a law that says if I post I'll do this I have to do the opposite in the end. Just ordered up the PM-3 + HA-2. Thanks inner fidelity, your reviews as always was a big factor. I needed a DAC Amp to progress and these two seem to bundle nicely together.

gertost's picture

Hi!

How do you think this headphone is against audio technica msr7? I now own the audio technica msr7,and shure se846.Sorry for bad english,i live in norway.I want the best sounding headphone for portable use (with fiio e07k andnes,and sony xperia z3).I think the msr7 sounds great,but are a little to bright.So i get a little tired in my ears.And they are warm and pressure a lot on my head.I like headphones best,but have iems i use in loud enviroment (i think iems have better noise cancelation).The shure se846 is an great allrounder.And im looking for an headphone that also is an great all rounder.I like warm,smooth sound,and that where u can hear all the details.Im not an expert audiphile,but i like audiophile sound ;) Have bought some high rez albums on hd tracks,and are using wimp hifi (tidal).Before i have ovned sennheiser momentum,denon ah-a100,and yes,one time i ovned the hd800.But open headphones are not for me.Having kid in house,its absolutly impossible to use.Lol.And for the price,i thouht it was to bad having it in the box,99% of the time.So i sold it.

The oppo pm3 looks interesting.Little high price,but if the sound delivers,i might buy one set.I listen to all kind of music.Rock,pop,electronica,classical,folk,blues,ect.I want to find the best possible headphone for me.I dont have the chance to test so many headphones,and now i want to buy one,i will have for many years to come :) and the oppo pm3 might be just that one :)

The oppo pm3

Johan B's picture

The OPPO and NAD show near enough the same frequency response, impedance, disortion. The other responses are near enough as well. Are these phones using the same drivers? Sound may differ due the different construction?

effsandoval@gmail.com's picture

Great review on the Oppo PM3. I am awaiting the arrival of my PM3. I was wondering if I could buy a cable like the QED Profile J2J for it. Would it be able to fit the socket on the side of the headphone since it has a stepped jack? =) TIA

apichetk's picture

Hi Tyll - thank you very much for your review. Truly appreciate your work. I'd like to hear your opinion if you were to rank PM-3 / 1540 and Viso HD50 in terms of sound quality and sound + portability? I currently have Final Audio Pandora Hope VI and ifi micro IDSD (dac/amp). I will likely play music from LG G4 when I travel.

Thanks Tyll!

apichetk's picture

Hi Tyll - does the order of sealed headphones on your Wall of Fame only imply pricing difference from high to low or does it imply also the ranking in terms of the overall sound quality? Thanks!

zubkabera's picture

Here in singapore I am not able to find a place where I can compare Oppo Pm-3 with Audeze El-8 or Shure 1540, between the 3 which is ranked one, acccording Type Shure is better but than he says only at low volumes, he says Oppo are best but boring and have not seen any review of EL-8 Closed back, I got the opportunity to hear EL-8 Treble is crisp and sharp but not too bright and bass has good texture and punch but not boomy, I wish Oppo which are more portable can match the Treble energy and bass of Audeze EL-8, So please help me with my quest for best. Thanks

Mauro's picture

Hi Tyll,

how can we understand from measurements if a headphone has better resolving power than another?

I am a happy owner of a pair of NAD HP50 and I really appreciate their resolving power, it is much better than my Wharfedale diamond speakers and probably of any speakers I could ever afford...

Resolving power is to me a very significant measure of audio quality!

Panurus's picture

Thank you for this site.

Have you any informations about the wireworld cables for headphones?
http://nicollpr.com/wireworld/releases/2015/WW_HeadphoneCP_FinalPR.pdf

sunnydaler's picture

I found out that the 6khz dip can be removed by shifting pm-3 a bit forward on the head. I tested with tone generator and some songs.
I guess aligning the "mandarin" opening to the center of ear canal opening is critical.

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

Gosh so these, B&W P7 Momentum's or HP50's... how do you decide? You give these nothing but praise but then say the others are more resolving..... I wish I could buy all of them :/

Sonnie Parker's picture

I agree about the size... manufacturers need to make these headphones to fit over and clear the normal ear size. I would love to own a pair of the PM-3's, but they are too small and going to be uncomfortable over wearing them for longer than a few minutes. I have just been trying out several pairs of headphones, which I wrote up over at www.avnirvana.com and the biggest issue I have is finding a set that will fit over my ears comfortably. No doubt OPPO would sell a lot more if they would make the pads larger, or interchangeable for larger pads.

Realjames9's picture

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JJT's picture

Hi. I plan to buy these cans, but I´m worried about the possibility of not getting an optimal marriage with my studio interface (Apogee Symphony I/O, first generation), because of their impedances: PM-3 is 26 Ohm and the headphone amp on the Symphony is 30 Ohm. I´m concerned not about "loudness”, but frecuency response, because of something I read:

"If the output impedance is greater than an 1/8th of the headphone impedance, there will be undesirable variations in frecuency response: weaker bass, glaring mid-range emphasis, muted high frecuencies, odd phase characteristics. The greater the output impedance, the more likely there will be a discrepancy in the way your headphones receive the sound. This can manifest erratically depending on the headphone. Basically they will not sound as they are meant to”. Is this… true? Does it apply to the PM-3?

According to this, when using the PM-3, the output impedance of the amp should NOT be greater than 3.25 ohm (26/8 = 3.25). But the headphone amp on my interface is 30 ohm. Will this compromise the performance of the PM-3? I think they´ll work well with my Astell & Kern portable player (2 ohm), but I´m choosing the PM-3 because of their neutral reference quality, and if they lose accuracy when paired with my interface, I feel like making a bad purchase decision, as I want to upgrade my headphones mainly for studio work (checking mixes & masters), personal entertainment is just a (very) exciting bonus…

Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

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