Portable Luxury at a Lower Price: The Oppo PM-2 Page 2

Oppo_PM2_Photo_InCase

The Oppo PM-2 in its travel case. Cables must be removed from the headphones when in the case.

Sound Quality
With two pairs of quite similar headphones and four pairs of likewise similar sounding ear pads, listening test for these cans was arduous and somewhat frustrating. Hair splitting isn't particularly fun or easy, especially when faced with the mailability of subjective impressions. I wish I had two pairs of each pad so I could switch more quickly between the PM-1 and PM-2 with the same pads on each. None-the-less, I did find some lasting impressions.

When the PM-1 first appeared it came with two pads: leather and velour. Personally, I preferred the velour pad as it seemed to reduce some low treble glare and seemed to have a more damped sound. With less glare, I heard better bass and treble detail, though I admit it may be a bit too polite sounding for most folks.

When the PM-1 Alt pad came along, it certainly did brighten up the headphones a bit and give them a more neutral sound, but I also heard the treble as being slightly more artificial and sizzly sounding than the leather pad.

Enter the PM-2, now with a little less damping behind the driver and synthetic leather pads with a design similar to the PM-1 Alt pads. For me these cans added a bit more treble sizzle to the mix, along with a bit more sub-bass response. I also heard the PM-2 as a bit more confused sounding—getting a bit more muddled-up—on complex passages than the PM-1.

What I think I'm hearing is that both PM series cans have a bit of an artificial sounding treble. I wouldn't characterize it as harsh, but rather as somewhat artificial. A pure "s" sound takes on a hazy zing sounding a bit more "zth" than ought be. While changing pads around, I found myself oscillating between "too much zing" and "too much damping" without really ever finding a happy medium. It's this character that keeps the PM-1 and PM-2 from being reference level headphones.

I need to remind the reader at this point that while I have put words to my listening impressions and in so doing have drawn out distinctions, those distinctions are in fact substantially smaller than the words might indicate. Regardless, preferences did arrise for me.

My personal preference for a damped, punchy, and somewhat rolled-off sound had me gravitating to the velour pads, but by the end of my comparisons this time around I found myself feeling the were a bit too muffled sounding with both headphones. The velour pads definitely take the edge of any low-treble hardness (not that there's much to start with), but in the end they were just a bit too colored to recommend broadly.

Likewise, the leather pads on the PM-1 seemed a little too damped. In the end I found myself preferring the PM-1 Alt pads on the PM-1 as the best compromise of the various factors.

The PM-2 seems a little brighter than the PM-1 overall to me. As a result I found the PM-2 stock pad and the PM-1 Alt pad slightly brighter than when used with the PM-1, and ended up preferring the PM-1 leather pad on the PM-2.

Comparisons to Other Headphones
Comparing the PM-2 with PM-1 leather pads to the latest Audeze LCD-2 Fazor I found them fairly similar. The LCD-2 had a bit better bass extension and had a bit more treble clarity—though I still find them a bit grainy and unrefined relative to the LCD-3. On the other hand I felt the mid to treble transition a bit more lively on the PM-2. It's a close call, which is a good showing for the $300 less expensive PM-2.

Switching to the venerable Sennheiser HD600 ($399) for comparison, I found quite a bit of similarity here as well. While I found the HD600 mid- and upper-treble a bit hazy and indistinct, it did seem a little less artificial than the PM-2. The lower treble of the HD 600 was a bit more forward and harder sounding than the PM-2; here I think the PM-2 was the better listen being a bit more balanced. The PM-2 bass pretty easily bested the somewhat looser sounding HD 600 to my ears.

I know people will want me to compare these to the HiFiMAN HE-400 and HE-560. I find both these cans too bright by quite a lot for my taste. While I though the HE-560 was possibly my favorite HiFiMAN headphone to date, they are still too far from my tastes to give them a fair review. So, sorry, no significant comparison from me.

Summary
I think Oppo may have gone a bit too far in brightening the PM-2 after the PM-1 introduction and resulting customer impressions of it being too rolled-off. Not to worry though, as purchasing the PM-1 leather pads for the PM-2 puts it right in line with the current PM-1 with Alternate pads. (Don't forget to consider buying the longer mobile cable while you're there.)

The PM-2 ticks all the boxes for a luxury general purpose/portable headphone. Though open, they do provide a little more isolation of higher frequencies than most open cans. Build quality is top-notch, and styling is masculine and understated. Comfort is very good even though the headphones are slightly heavy. And the PM-2 is efficient enough to be easily driven by portable devices, though it will sound better as the quality of gear driving them improves.

For me, the PM-2 is so similar to the PM-1 that I have a very difficult time separating the two. The stock synthetic leather PM-2 pad is too sizzly for me, and were it not for the opportunity to swap it for the PM-1 original leather pad I probably wouldn't put it up on the Wall of Fame. But with the PM-1 leather pad I find it pretty much the equal of the PM-1 with Alternate pads. As such, I see these two cans as part of a system of headphones and pads that lets you mix and match for your personal preferences and price point. So, I'm going to put them up on the Wall of Fame in the same paragraph as the PM-1 with links to the two reviews and pad article and let people looking for a luxury portable sort it out for themselves.

Video

Resources
Oppo Digital home page and PM-1 and PM-2 product pages.
Oppo's page describing the differences between the PM-1 and PM-2.
InnerFidelity review of the PM-1 and article on Oppo pads.
Head-Fi threads for PM-2 and PM-1.
Really good Head-Fi PM-2 review here.

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

COMMENTS
Za Warudo's picture

I'm fine with that, but I think a lot of dedicated readers who own them as well as people are interested in the new planar magnetics are very interested in a review of the new Hifimans. Plus, you've reviewed other headphones that didn't meet your personal tastes like the P7, SRH1540, and the Q701.

Sound Maniac 13's picture

PM2 OR Fidelio X2?
I know that the X2 has more bass and it is not comparable to PM2.
I only can afford one of them, so PM2 OR X2?

Thank you :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I liked those cans you mentioned for their very articulate and controlled treble, even though it was elevated above my liking. I didn't like the way the new HiFiMAN headphones responded in the treble...but I acknowledge it might be within bounds for others. I simply see no good reason (except for the good page view numbers a popular headphone would garner...and that's a bias I'd prefer to leave out of this equation) to produce a negative review for a product that quite a few others seem to like.

veggieboy2001's picture

You mentioned the HE560 in your article, but I wasn't sure if you had a chance to hear the 400i...I thought the treble to be very well done to my (less experienced) ears.

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

Tyll, what are your thoughts on the Oppo cans compared to the Philips X1?

ManiaC's picture

Tyll, what are your thoughts on the Oppo cans compared to the Philips X1?

+1

Tyll Hertsens's picture
X1 is a basshed can. The Oppo isn't. No comparison really. I've got the X2 in the house, and will be reviewing it soon.
AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

Can you give us a quick one line sneak peak on the new X2 vs the X1?

Chrisknos's picture

Will you be boasting about the removable pads in the X2's?

ManiaC's picture

Thank you Tyll

tony's picture

There you have it , LCD2 performance at the low power level , an entire Audiophile grade music system that fits in a glove box , look how far it's all come , in our lifetime !!
The Harvey guy can say that we've already got there with his IEMs but who wants to go-in for Ear Molds and not sharing ?
Still , the Shure Universals or EtyMotic Universals all use those tiny Pico amps to good result .
Today , a thousand bucks goes way-far into outstanding !!
Used to need $2k or $3K to get a start on a good pre-amp , a baby Wilson system will crush $50k of spare slush fund cash commitments to create a foundation for a decent system , a lot of money for bite-bar imaging and lease breaking sound levels , not to mention the Spousal accommodations in way of relationship Capitol expenditures ( shopping trips to Gay Paris and Hermes Silk Scarves , etc … )
We all seem well adjusted to iPhone sized electronics , something like an ODac or other JDS Labs combo package or any of that cutie Pico stuff or lots of other little electronics could suffice , if stolen or broken they represent only a small loss . Blow a Woofer on your Wilson with an Amp Problem and you're in for a bill like the front brake job on a Ferrari .
These Oppo 1s or 2s take plenty of pressure off anyone trying to get a good start in Headphone Audio .
Thank You for taking the time and effort to show this stuff to us , what would we do without your clarity ?
Tony in Michigan

TMRaven's picture

What makes you like the HD800 so much despite its extreme brighntess that you can't give a review for the HE-560 or 400i Tyll? Have you grown incredibly sensitive to treble in the recent months? Seems like only headphones with 10db shelves after 1-2khz are automatic wall-of-famers for you these days.

Claritas's picture

It's misleading to call it portable in the title as it offers almost no isolation. "Portable" might be how Oppo wants to sell it--and it can be driven very easily but scales very little--but you can't take this thing anywhere unless you want to go deaf from cranking up the volume. Very useful review otherwise. Thanks.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think you're right. Probably didn't strike the right balance there.
Impulse's picture

I think transportable might be the more accurate description, easy to carry around (like for use at a hotel etc) but not something really portable in the typically defined sense (good for use while out and about, in public places).

CarterB's picture

Thanks for the review--I can imagine your frustration doing all those swaps. Do you think the OCC cable made much of a difference with the PM-2?

lukeap69's picture

That's a good question. I want to know too.

Limp's picture

There's a ~6dB difference between left and right channel at ~9kHz on all your PM-1/2 graphs. I also noticed a similar discrepancy in your latest Sennheiser review.
Has your measurement system developed a quirk?
Good write-up none the less. Seems like the PM-2 might be the reference home listening headphone I've been looking for.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I don't think so, but not sure. FWIW the AP is going home for a refresh and recalibration sometime next week. Won't be taking any measurements until the end of Oct. That 9kHz blip is really sensitive to ear pad position sometimes. Dunno, sorry.

And I wouldn't consider them reference as much as a really pleasant listen.

Limp's picture

That's plenty reference-y enough for me :)

I guess the human input is the most likely weak point, here as most place else.
But it is consistently the right channel that receives the cut, so it might still be systematic, even if it's human.

orel1994's picture

Hey Tyll, will you ever review the HD700?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Way too uncontrolled in the treble.
orel1994's picture

I read that HD800's anax mod can be used on the 700 to tame the treble

Seth195208's picture

In fact, the distortion is so astonishingly low everywhere else on the Oppo, that the THD peak at 300hz "looks" much worse than it actually is, in comparison.

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