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Oppo PM-3 review

Andrew Williams

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Summary

Our Score:

10

Pros

  • Class-leading sound
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Good isolation
  • Smart design

Cons

  • Use synthetic leather, unlike some at price
  • Some open-back sets offer greater scale

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Key Features

  • Planar magnetic driver
  • Removable cable: four included
  • Carry case
  • Manufacturer: OPPO Digital
  • Review Price: £349.99

What are the Oppo PM-3?

The Oppo PM-3 are highly unusual headphones, much as they might look like a more grown-up take on the Beats Studio. Why? They have a completely different sort of driver – planar magnetic – a type only usually seen in headphones much more expensive than this £350 pair. They’re the most affordable planar magnetic headphones we’ve ever worn.

It’s not just the price that caught our attention, either. The Oppo PM-3 are also the first planar headphones designed for use outdoors, not only for chin-stroking audiophile types who listen to vinyls in dusty old rooms.

They’re Oppo PM-1s for normal people, more or less. And the amount they manage to bring over from those £1100 cans make the Oppo PM-3 some of the best portable headphones ever devised.

Video: Trusted Explains – What type of headphones should you buy?

SEE ALSO: Best Headphones 2015

Oppo PM-3 – Design and Comfort

The Oppo PM-3 are closed-back, over-ear headphones; it's pretty much the only style to go for if you want to offer both portability and extreme comfort.

Naturally, this means they're on the larger side, but they skilfully manage their size to avoid becoming too big to wear outside without making you feel self-conscious. The cups don’t stick out too far from your head, and neither does the headband.

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We’ve been wearing the Oppo PM-3 as portable headphones for a couple of weeks now, and the design is perfect for the job. The look is a bit classier than most portable headphones too.

Oppo PM-3 13

The Oppo PM-3 have brushed aluminium caps on the cups and chunky black leather-style pads on the headband and earpads. These come to characterise the PM-3 look. It’s not all that vivacious and youthful, but it’s neutral enough to cater to just about any crowd.

For £350 you might be expecting the Oppo PM-3 to be made of high-end materials. And from other brands, so would we. However, these headphones only put the expensive stuff where you’ll notice it, while the main frame is actually plastic. And all that leather is actually fake.

Synthetic leather can make your ears heat up quite a bit during hotter weather, but we used them in the gym a few times and on a walk in 20-odd degree weather without any real discomfort. Live in Miami? We don't have that sort of heat to test in.

Oppo PM-3 7

Comfort is one of the Oppo PM-3’s real strong suits. The pads are very thick, and despite being synthetic the leather is soft, not tacky like cheaper kinds of fake stuff. And the way they distribute their weight and pressure is absolutely perfect. They don’t clamp too much, the headband doesn’t dig into your head. As a result you can wear these headphones all day without any ear ache. Unlike with on-ear headphones, that stands for glasses-wearers too.

The Oppo PM-3 are not particularly light, but among planar headphones they are very light indeed. As headphone nerds may agree, it’s remarkable enough that you can wear these headphones without even realising they have planar drivers, which require much larger magnets than a standard dynamic driver set.

With a design that gets you some of the best bits of portable and at-home headphones, the Oppo PM-3 are pretty versatile. And they have the accessories to match. The cable is removable, and you get four as standard. That's right: four.

One is a 3m cable for use at home, two are portable 1.2m cables for iPhone and Android users and another has no remote at all. The difference between them is that the iPhone remote has three buttons, the Android version just the one.

Oppo PM-3 3

The remotes are a style-free area, but what matters more is what's going on in the core Oppo PM-3 hardware. Right near the top of the list is excellent isolation.

They block out as much sound as you could hope short of upgrading to active noise cancellation headphones such as the Bose QC15. For public transport, they’re a dream, and good isolation is also a part of making the PM-3 sound work in pure practical terms.

Oppo PM-3 5

Oppo PM-3 – Sound Quality

Unless you have very good isolation, headphones need to inflate the lower-end a bit as this part of the audio spectrum is the most obviously affected by lots of ambient noise. The Oppo PM-3’s don’t need to do this.

Among style-influenced portable headphones, the Oppo PM-3 sound is incredibly natural, making even the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 look a bit like Beats by Dre wannabes. They don’t lack in bass, but there’s not a hint of bloat to the lower mids, the sound equivalent of having a bit of winter weight around the tummy.

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Voices sound incredibly natural because the mid-range is just so well-rendered. Its combination of amazing ‘structural’ integrity and detail makes the Oppo PM-3 very much three-dimensional, even though the other characteristics don’t immediately make you head to such a description.

What do we mean? Well, a lot of headphones try to sound big and expansive by either aiming for a super-wide soundstage or by not making the mid-range sound too forward, something that makes the sound appear to be ‘closer’ to your ears.

The Oppo PM-3 do not have a remarkably wide soundstage, as you’d expect of a closed headphone, and the mids here are quite forward. Here, the sense of scale to the sound comes from having superb coherence and sound 'contours' you can clearly differentiate between. This likely has a lot to do with the low-distortion properties of the planar magnetic driver.

Oppo PM-3 9

This is something that becomes clearer as you live with the Oppo PM-3 because, unlike so many headphones, they do not rely on the treble to provide that perception of detail. Treble is quite restrained. There’s no pushing to reveal sound in the very highest registers, and the tone is not particularly bright.

As a result, the Oppo PM-3 can seem a little ‘ordinary’ on first listen. But on closer inspection, they are in fact very special.

What about bass? Its depth is excellent, but thanks to the great isolation there’s no need for much of a bass boost to make the low end apparent when the Oppo PM-3 have to contend with outside noise. It sounds balanced and natural. If you want very obvious bass thrills, look elsewhere.

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Should I buy the Oppo PM-3?

When the Oppo PM-1 arrived we were a little sceptical. They were too expensive for the vast majority of people at £1100, and placed a bit too much emphasis on how luxurious they were, including the box the things come in. Being used to high-end headphones such as the Grado GS1000, which come in no-fuss cardboard boxes, we don’t like the idea of too much of the budget going on fluff.

However, the Oppo PM-3 cut all that out, and the impression we get is that a much greater percentage of your cash goes into the sound quality. And all without trading away comfort or a classy-looking design.

The Oppo PM-3 are some of the best portable headphones ever made, offering comfort, sound quality and isolation that should make most other headphone makers extremely jealous. They hit the target so dead-on you could almost believe a soul or two has been traded away at the crossroads just for their sake.

You can still get more expansive sound from a rival open-back pair such as the AKG Q701 if you’re going to be listening indoors in a quiet room. However, we can think of few better choices if isolation is a must. Simply fantastic.

SEE ALSO: Best USB Headphone Amps 2015

Verdict

The Oppo PM-3 are some of the best portable headphones ever made.

Overall Score

10

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Andrew_TR

May 19, 2015, 1:11 pm

I did consider going into this but the review was already getting quite long! There are some good articles on this online, but one of the more important elements is that planars use a large, flatter driver whose shape distorts less as it moves, compared to a dynamic driver . This makes getting a low-distortion sound easier. They're a bit like electrostatic headphones that don't need a separate power source.

Andrew_TR

May 20, 2015, 3:36 pm

I'll try to give them a direct A-B comparison tomorrow and come back with impressions, but they are really in quite a different class, including cash spend of course. From memory, it's the mids that separate the two in quality terms. But are the Oppos worth twice the price? That's a very tricky one.

PaterFrog

November 20, 2015, 1:21 am

Since they're enclosed, do they give you that pressing feel you get from those ear protectors people might use at construction sites? I've tried a few very expensive headsets (virtual surround sound) and that feeling made them sound bad, kinda smushed. The best sounding headset I have is open-backed, but it's about to break.
I would use the PM-3 anywhere, including gaming at my PC while talking on skype or TS and having the sound insulated from the mic would be pretty great. I also have to deal with outside noise, but I've gotten used to that, so that's not so much a worry.
Except if I have to worry about that same pressure I got from the Sennheiser 363D and the Sound Blaster Recon3D Omega Wireless. Listening to music was thoroughly unpleasant and even the sound while playing games seemed to be smushed, artificially heavy. I really don't know how else to describe this.
Long story short, do I have to worry about this from the PM-3, since its back is closed?

Ro Bin

December 11, 2015, 5:55 pm

Hi, thanks for the great test of this PM-3. As a Jazz listener I am considering getting these, however not being able to try them easily I have one question. I wear glasses and have relatively large ears, I often have problems with this, for example the Sennheiser Momentums hurt my ears. Do you think the PM-3s would be ok, not too snug ?? I read a review saying that with glasses the isolation wasn't too good, it put me off a bit !
Looking forward to your response, Rob

Andrew_TR

December 18, 2015, 8:06 pm

Hi Rob, Sorry only just seen this! Are you talking about the first-gen Momentums? These have much larger pads than those, although they're closer to the second-gen Momentums. If you're listening on-the-go the PM-3 would be great. However, for at home use I'd also suggest the open-back Q701. Massive ear cups/pads, awesome sound.

Marcomartin Matute

December 23, 2015, 6:58 am

I've been trying to figure out what headphones to get and it seems Im between the Pm-3, HD650, and HD25. I also heard of the ath m50x. I listen to mainly dnb, house, dance etc. What are your thoughts on that? Thanks ahead of time if you respond :D

Ro Bin

January 7, 2016, 4:23 pm

Hi Andrew, thanks for your quick answer (I'm much slower off the mark !). I had a look at the Q701, seemed very good indeed, however I went for Beyer's T70p to have a closed back for the office. They're excellent, great for Jazz.
All the best, Cheers

Taniya Thakkar

March 4, 2016, 11:39 am

“Fabulous Job”

The Oppo F1 has done the superb job as the smart device has got the best features with the superb long-lasting battery and the camera has got 13 megapixels but the clarity of 50 megapixel. The 2 years of warranty rocks and the 30 days of replacement guarantee are really working well. I love Oppo F1.

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