July 21, 2015 5 min read 19 Comments
We haven't seen a lot of truly exceptional closed/sealed-back portable headphones in the $200-$500 range. But recently the Oppo PM-3 has been making news in knowledgeable headphone circles with its uniquely smooth tonal approach and wallet friendly price. The versatile PM-3 delivers impressive audio accomplishments at a surprisingly affordable cost.
Of course, planar magnetic drivers are hot in today’s premium headphone market thanks to their unparalled ability to deliver sound with low harmonic distortion, huge dynamic range and great detail clarity. The Oppo PM-3 manages to do what only a few other headphones at this price have accomplished which is to wrap up brand-new planar technology in well-built, stunning looks and a highly functional design.
The PM-3 are constructed with a strong but light aluminum headband frame and proprietary leather cushions. The lines ooze urban sophistication with refined fit ergonomics that deliver excellent ambient noise isolation and very good portable listening privacy.
Putting the Oppo PM-3 on the head is a pleasure thanks to the widely adjustable fit, extra-soft enveloping earcup padding and stable, secure feel. The PM-3 are also more efficient than your average planar magnetic bear, and while a headphone amp is still a good idea, the PM3 will sound surprisingly strong un-amped. And lest we forget, Oppo has managed to produce all of this goodness at a price lower than most other comparable headphones.
The Oppo PM-3 are positioned as a portable headphone and for the typically 'huge-&-heavy' planar magnetic category, the PM-3 can indeed be considered very portable. Oppo describes their design as 'lightweight.' However, some wearers might deem them a tad on the heavier side at 320g, or just over 11 oz. The heft gives them a beefy feel, yet the PM-3 remain quite travel-friendly thanks to their sleek build, fold-flat design, hip selvedge denim travel case and choice of Apple or Android-compatible mic'd headset cables.
If you're an urban audiophile on the go who doesn't want to sacrifice comfort for sound, the Oppo PM-3 headphones could be your perfect match. And at the end of a long day, the PM-3 will work nicely plugged into a home audio system as a 'Top-Dog Headphone' (or 'Cat’s-Meow Headphone' per your animalistic preference).
Our Headphone.com review team thinks the Oppo PM-3 sound excellent; you’ll note that many other reviewers agree. The PM3 are uniformly smooth and cohesive top to bottom with a good soundstage and excellent overall tonal balance. They're perhaps a stitch laid-back in the upper highs, which may or may not be considered beneficial depending personal listening tastes and the particular recording. We think perhaps a bit more punchy low-end emphasis could also help deliver an improved low-end presence. But this is nitpicking; at this price, our team marks the PM-3 high for its surpemely evenly-toned, non-fatiguing presentation. Here's our Headphone.com staff takes:
Jamey: "These headphones are all about three things: sound, sound, sound! If I were looking to buy a new set of affordable headphones today, these would be it. Their closed design isolates very well, allowing me to enjoy great music wherever I may be while not disturbing others. Compared to my reference open-back Sennheiser HD650, the Oppos sound a tad leaner in the bass but maintain a nice tonal balance in the mids, while sounding smoother in the highs. If I had to be picky, I would say their weight could make them a bit uncomfortable for some users during long sessions. I also hope that replacement ear pads are offered down the road."
Mike: "The Oppo PM-3 are a great affordable portable headphone option for the audiophile on-the-go. They have outstanding build quality, although their fit is a bit tightly clamping for my big head's liking. The PM-3 have a smooth, dynamic sound with decently detailed highs, but I found the bass a tad weak and lacking solid impact. But their overall soundstage and imaging was excellent, and so was their isolation for the size. If I were tied down and forced to choose between these and my Sennheiser Momentum headphones, the Senns would probably edge them out due to the stronger bass slam, more personalized fit - and slightly cheaper price. However the PM-3 really are fantastic headphones!"
Jeremy: "I love these headphones; so much so that they might even be my favorite closed-back affordable headphone right now. The PM-3 have a tight, controlled and articulate bass with vocals & mids that sound clear and precise. The highs are fairly crisp without edginess or brightness. While I really like my Sennheiser Momentum cans, the PM-3 are slightly better from an audiophile perspective with tighter, more controlled bass, clearer mid-range and more transparent high frequencies. I’ve always really enjoyed the very expensive Fostex TH-900 cans, but I think these almost sound slightly more musical for my tastes - and are much more portable."
Jorge: "The Oppo PM-3 isolation factor is excellent for portable listening on the road without ambient environmental noises leaking in to disturb the music - or my jamming tunes leaking out and disturbing people next to me. They're not quite "noise-cancelling" headphones per se, but they certainly blocked out the world around me pretty effectively. I thought the soundstage was perhaps a little narrow or 'vertical', but they ably handled 70s classic rock and instrumental jazz recordings better than any other headphone I've heard at this friendly price. A terrific bang-for-the-buck headphone."
Ivy: "I was really surprised at how much I liked these headphones. I felt their overall build quality and fit was on par with much more expensive headphones. Compared to a typical (non-planar) headphone, these feel a bit heavy at first but Oppo was able to overcome this with careful attention to the weight balance and fit ergonomics. They literally feel good to wear on the noggin; 5 stars for comfort in my book! The Oppo PM-3 sound quality was balanced and neutral; maybe a bit more contained overall compared to my Sennheiser Momentum. And while something like a Sennheiser HD800 or, my personal favorite - the Fostex TH-900 - provides a more lively and engaging experience, the fact that these headphones are only $399 puts them in a very sweet spot on the price-to-performance scale."
When it comes to premium headphones in the $200-$500 range, the Oppo PM-3's are probably some of the best headphones we've recently reviewed. If you're looking for features like a closed-back, travel-friendly design, sophisticated looks and mic'd smartphone cables, the PM-3's come fully loaded. If you're also wanting this nice package to deliver reference-type sound quality... well, all we need to say is helloooo, planar magnetic punch! Audiophiles who find themselves on the road a lot should certainly consider the PM-3 for their nice wearing comfort, superior sound quality and solid isolation.
All this adds up to why we think the Oppo PM-3 could be a category leader - the PM-3 does a lot of things quite well at a very attractive price. And while no one headphone is perfect for every single person, chances are the PM-3 are not likely to disappoint most music lovers on the go.
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