For some time now, we haven't seen many truly exceptional closed/sealed-back headphones in the $200-$500 range. But recently the Oppo PM-3 has been making some noise in knowledgeable headphone circles, and as we hear it, things sound pretty good! The PM-3 is a sealed planar magnetic portable-oriented headphone priced at $399, and it capably delivers some impressive accomplishments at the price.
Of course, planar magnetic drivers are all the rage in today’s premium headphone market thanks to their ability to deliver sound with great detail clarity and dynamics. The Oppo PM-3 manages to do what only a few other top headphones have accomplished, which is to wrap up new planar technology in a stunning and highly functional affordable design.
These aluminum and leather-outfitted headphones ooze urban sophistication with sleek lines and nicely refined fit ergonomics that deliver excellent ambient noise isolation and listening privacy. Putting the Oppo PM-3 on the head is a pleasure thanks to the easily adjustable fit, super-soft earcups and plush headband/earpad materials. The PM-3 are also more efficient than your average planar magnetic bear, and while a headphone amp is still recommended for discerning audiophiles, they 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 full-size headphone category, the PM-3 can indeed be considered quite portable. Oppo describes their design as 'lightweight.' However most 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 surprisingly mobile-friendly thanks to their sleek ergonomics, 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).
Well, our headphone.com review team thinks the Oppo PM-3 sound pretty excellent; you’ll note that many others agree. These headphones 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 present low-end emphasis could deliver what bass lovers seek in a hefty, controlled low-end. But this is probably a bit of nitpicking; at this price, our team marks were high for the PM-3's evenly-toned 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 tremendously well, allowing me to enjoy great music wherever I may be while not disturbing others. Compared to my reference Sennheiser HD650 and HD800, the Oppos sound a tad leaner in the bass but maintain a nice tonal balance in the mids, while sounding way 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 $50 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’s 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-oriented."
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 a $800+ headphone. 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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