For a long time now, there haven't been many truly exceptional closed headphones in the $200-$500 range. But recently the Oppo PM-3 has been making noise, and from what we hear, things sound good! The PM-3 is a closed-back, planar magnetic headphone priced at $399, and makes some very impressive accomplishments at this price.
For starters, planar magnetic headphone drive is a technology that is all the rage in today’s premium headphone market; thanks to it’s ability to deliver sound quality with added clarity, soundstage, and depth. But the Oppo PM-3 manages to do what only a few others have accomplished -- which is to wrap this premium technology in a stunning and highly functional design. These puppies ooze urban sophistication, with sleek lines and refined ergonomics. Putting them on is pure pleasure, thanks to their adjustability, super soft ear cups, and plush headband and ear pad material. The PM-3 are also more efficient than your average planar 'phone, and while a headphone amp is still recommended, they sound surprisingly decent un-amped. Let's not forget, Oppo has managed to produce all of these goods at a price lower than many comparable headphones.
The PM-3 are positioned as a ‘portable headphone’; and for the typically huge-and-heavy planar-magnetic and circumaural headphone categories, these would be considered quite portable. Oppo describes their design as lightweight, but most users would probably deem them a tad on the heavier side, weighing in at 320 g, or just over 11 oz. This gives them a somewhat beefy feel, yet the PM-3's are surprisingly portable, thanks to their sleek fold-flat design, uber hip selvedge denim case, and choice of Apple or Android ready headset cords. If you're an urban audiophile on the go who doesn't want to sacrifice comfort for great sound; the PM-3 could be your perfect match. And, at the end of the day, the PM-3 will fit very nicely in many home audio systems as the Top-Dog-Headphone (or Cat’s-Ass-Headphone, depending on your pet preference).
We think they sound pretty excellent; you’ll see that many others agree. These headphones are smooth and cohesive, with an engaging soundstage and excellent overall tonal balance. They're a titch laid back in the upper highs, which may or may not be considered beneficial depending personal listening tastes and the particular recording. Perhaps a bit more low-end emphasis would give the masses more of what they're really after in the bass department. But this is extreme nitpicking: overall, marks were high. Read on for more personal staff takes:
Jamey: "These headphones are all about three things: sound, sound, sound! If I were looking to buy a new set of headphones today, these would be it. Their closed design isolates tremendously well, allowing me to enjoy true reference grade sound wherever I may be while not disturbing others. Compared to my reference Sennheiser HD650 and HD800, the Oppos sound a tad lean 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. I also hope that replacement ear pads will be offered down the road."
Mike: "The Oppo PM-3 are a great portable option for the audiophile on-the-go. The headphones have excellent build quality, although their fit is a bit tight and clamping for my liking. The PM-3 have a smooth, dynamic sound with quick, detailed highs, but I found the bass a tad weak and lacking impact. But their overall soundstage and imaging was excellent, and so was their isolation. If I were forced to choose between these and my Sennheiser Momentum headphones, the Sennheiser’s would probably edge them out- thanks to their strong bass, personal fit, and $50 cheaper price."
Jeremy: " I love these headphones; so much so that they might even be my favorite closed-back headphone! The PM-3’s have tight, controlled, and articulate bass with vocals and mids that are clear and precise. The highs are super crisp and clean without edginess or brightness. While I really like my Sennheiser Momentums, the PM-3’s are better from an audiophile perspective, with tighter, more controlled bass, clearer mid-range, and are very articulate in the high frequencies. I’ve also always really liked the Fostex TH600 and TH900, but I think these sound better."
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 ergonomics. They literally feel good to wear; 5 stars for comfort in my book! The PM-3's sound quality was balanced and neutral; maybe a bit more contained overall compared to my Sennheiser Momentums. 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 diminishing returns scale."
When it comes to premium headphones in the $200-$500 range, the Oppo PM-3's are some of the best headphones we've reviewed. If you're looking for stellar features; like a closed-back, travel-friendly design, sophisticated looks, and smartphone ready cables; the PM-3's are fully loaded. If you're also wanting this pretty package to have reference-grade sound... well; all we need to say is helloooo, planar-magnetic. And, any audiophile who finds themselves on the road should certainly consider the PM-3's: full-size headphone comfort, superior sound quality, and pleasantly present isolation.
So, this is why we think the Oppo PM-3 just might be a new Category King. The PM-3 does a whole lot of things very well at a surprisingly attractive price. And while no headphone is perfect for every person, chances are, they are not likely to disappoint.
Are you ready to buy a pair? Get them now at headphone.com: headphone.com/OppoPM3headphones.
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