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OPPO PM-1

Posted

Pros: Built extravagantly well, wondrously comfortable, absolutely breathtaking sound, plays just as good from a mobile as it does an amp.

Cons: Soundstage may not be as vast as what one would expect from an "open" headphone.

                                                                               

 

 

 Firstly I've got to give a massive thank you to  @Jiffy Squid for accepting me into the Loaner Program for @OPPO , for if it wasn't for him it's very unlikely I'd have had the honor and pleasure of listening and reviewing these quite wonderful works of art and also my new standard for audio. Also as mentioned above this was a loaner/review unit so my experience will differ slightly from a newly purchased unit, namely in the unboxing experience.

 

You'll notice my comparing them to the Bowers & Wilkins; The reasons for such is that those were previously my standard on what I expect from a headphone and audio company. This is probably going to be one of my shortest reviews because these are truly a new standard for what to expect from an audio company, and only having the ability to rate it a 5 is rather shortcoming in my opinion.

 

                                                                                           

 

                                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Opening Experience

 

The opening experience on these I can't give any sort of impressions on because as a loaner/review unit I didn't receive any of the box/packaging other than the headphones, cables, case and extra pads. Now amongst those I was incredibly impressed by the sheer quality of everything minus the 3.5mm cable, I felt it was the last thing they worked on so for a lack of better terms, threw something together.

                                                                                           

 

 

Construction

 

The only pair of headphones I've ever come across that are even close to being as well built as these (other than their own model line) are the Bowers & Wilkins. The frame is completely aluminum with lambskin leather being used as padding. This theme continues all the way down to the drive housing which is the only plastic I find on these and even such is very high quality.

The pads are not only made using the finest of materials, you actually get 3 different ones to choose from. A large lambskin leather set, a small lambskin leather set, and finally my personal favorite, the microfiber/velour set. These are easily interchangeable by a simple magnetic lock mechanism so no worries about being unable to find one to your liking.

 

The 1/4" cable is what I expect from an elite class product such as this. It's beautifully braided from the jack up to about 8" from the headphone connectors which does an amazing job at shielding the sound from outside interference including brushes against clothes etc... The other cable is not as well built however. The mobile 3.5mm cable to me feels like it was just something thrown together at the end of the production line for in kinks, has minimal, if any, shielding and does receive some feedback when brushed against something.

 

                                                                                             

 

 

Comfort

 

The comfort on these is something that yet again, I've no complaints on. They fit oh so snuggly on ones head just tight enough to feel like a nice welcoming hug. The lambskin leather headband sits softly on your head and doesn't bush ones hair back which quickly leads to discomfort, in fact I've not had to even so much as adjust them even after several hours of listening to them.

 

These take comfort a step that no other brand I've tried does and includes 3 pairs of ear pads (rather this was a loaner program exclusive or actually does come with a purchased unit I'm unsure) so no matter your cup of tea, they have you covered. The one that worked by far best for my was the microfiber/velour pads that are very similar to what's found on the Beyerdynamic DT880's whereas the other 2 are a small and large lambskin leather which is nice but nowhere near what the fiber pad does.

 

The pads also do a great job at keeping the ears away from the padding which was a big downfall for me on the PM-3 because that agitated the fart outta me. But these have no such issue. Super long 4+ hour listening sprees needn't fear for these beauties all but massage your ears.

 

                                                                                             

 

 

Sound

 

 

The sound on these, oh how I can preach about the sound. The first thing you'll notice is that if you plug from your amp. to your phone you wont notice any loss of quality of if such minimal. This I'm honestly unsure of rather it's a good thing or not that it didn't scale, for better or worse, at all when I went from my phone to my tube amp. or visa versa. So unlike my PM-3 review I will refrain from separating a before and after amplification section and simply talk about its sound. Which before I get into the individuality of it, was extremely neutral, yet still very inviting. The only downside I've found and honestly I really had to look hard to find it so I could put something in the con space, but these don't sound as spacious or "airy" as most open back headphones I've tried have. But if you see them as a semi open back, which is what I personally believe they should be, that issue goes away because they sound similar to other semi opens.

 

Treble

 

The highs on these are extremely clean and very accurate with what I'm hearing vs what I know is real. The only thing I sometimes notice is when it goes from treble to the upper treble range, I guess the "audiophile" term is rolls. It just sounds ever so slightly off, not better or worse, just off.

 

Mids

 

The vocals on these a point blank neutral, they're detailed, unbiased, and wondrously clean. I'm trying to think of more to say but I can't really babble on about what's already darned near perfect.

 

Bass

 

The bass on these are stunning, throughout the range, stunning. I was afraid when I got these they'd be rather bass light like the PM-3 but oh no, they're wonderful. They have the speed I've come to expect from a planar but retain the bass resonance or hit of a dynamic driver. The upper bass seamlessly flown into the mid section but yet oh how you'll get that sub bass feels when a hard rock song comes up in rotation.

 

                                                                                            

 

Conclusion

 

To sum these masterpieces up, they're so darned amazing I never would've thought that my Bowers & Wilkins would ever be blown away. Yes there's a big price difference but I've heard others that are yes better sure, but don't blow them away for what it is that I personally look for in audio. These are also a pair of cans that can somewhat play nicely with lower quality audio files. Now they shine with top tier but if you're watching YouTube music video, unless it's very poorly encoded, your experience should still be quite enjoyable.So for those of you looking for a wonderful elite class tier of headphone that's extremely well built, very neutral and accurate, and benchmark setting comfort, or in other words a very close to perfect headphone, then these are definitely for you, if you can afford them.

Posted

Pros: great design, light weight, comfortable, portable

Cons: pricey but with caveats

 

 

I was part of the Canadian leg of the Oppo PM-1 loaner program. For reference, my primary rig is my modded HE-6 (significantly “darker” than stock): regrilled, removed rear and front foams, J$ leather pads with additional front damping, modified “fuzzor”. Amping is from a pair of Nuforce HA-200 monoblocks. My dac is an Echo2usb. Most of the review will be point-form-ish because who wants to read a long blather of purple prose? I also haven't read any other existing reviews or impressions, so I'm coming at it rather blank slate.

 

My very initial reaction: wow, I like these and I want one”. After a bit more time, my not-so-initial reaction: “ok the wow has worn off but I still want one, and the build quality makes me want to punch Audeze and Hifman in the face”

 

First impressions were that the sound was fairly clean, with good staging, though a bit dark sounding. Second impressions were that it was not quite as clean or distinct as the HE-6, the staging is cozier, still dark-ish but pleasant nonetheless for a low fatigue session.

 

Stock pads:

- Very “polite” sound (ie: moderately downturned treble)

- slight bass rolloff

 

“Alternate” pads:

- more treble, more energy overall, a bit more tizz though which makes it a touch grittier

- holds lower energy better as well

 

Velour pads:

- less bass, more upper mid/lower treble when compared to alt pads, feels cleaner but contrarily a bit more fatiguing

- to my ears the brightest of the pads, but still darker than my modded HE-6 which I hold as reference

 

best uppers: alt pads

best clean sound: velours (short term), alt pads (long term)

best bottom end: Vida Guerra? Uh, I mean the alternate leather pads

 

 

Comfort and Design vs the other big planars

- Everyone else go home. Seriously, the Oppo is lightweight and actually looks like a polished product, unlike the others that kinda look like they were cooked up in a high school shops class because they spent their R&D on drivers then panicked and got their kid to make a headband.

- Pads are not memory foam but still nice and soft and feel great

- Light clamp that doesn't put too much pressure and rests easily on my head for hours

 

Vs Hifiman HE-6/500/560

- The HE family is known for being a bit bright up top, especially in comparison to the PM-1 which I would characterize as moderately dark. The HE-6 hits the hardest in the lower bass, whereas the Oppo has a noticeable drop in the very lowest registers. It doesn't hit hard, but what it does have is smooth and not boxy or muddy. Comparisons in the upper registers are kinda apples to oranges as the Hifiman's in stock tend to be too much, and I feel the Oppo not enough. In terms of technical prowess and midrange/treble resolution, I would slot the Oppo somewhere between the 500 and 560.

 

Vs Audeze LCD-2

- I have honestly never been a fan of the Audeze family, finding them uncomfortable and way too oomphy in the bottom and too inconsistent in the upper mids from one headphone to the next. That said, the Oppo bass doesn't even compete in terms of extension or impact. Where I find it better is in that midbass to midrange transition where it is more even handed compared to the LCD hammer. Moving upwards... hey if I ever heard two Audezes that sounded the same then I'd be able to offer a decent comparison, but I can't.

 

Vs LFF Enigma

- I find the Enigma and PM-1 are much closer in tonality, with the Enigma sounding cleaner but even darker than the Oppo. Both have a relaxed signature, but I can relax better with the Oppo which is significantly more comfortable.

 

Vs Modded Fostex T50rp

- My own modded pair are actually tuned fairly close to the PM-1 sound. Mine perhaps have a touch more bass and the advantage of being closed, but other than that they're ugly and ginormous on my head compared to the Oppo. Really, the longer I have the Oppo the more I resent the size and weight of everything else.

 

Amping

- Holy cow these get uncomfortably loud from my little Sansa Clip+. That's practically unheard of for a planar magnetic headphone and starts entering into the realm of actual portable-ness (that carrying case is pretty sleek too btw).

- I'm serious, just run it off your dap of choice and call it a day

 

Other notes

- A tiny bit recessed/spooky with female vocals, like in an empty chamber (good example: Eva Cassidy - Wade in the Water)... yet contrarily it doesn't sound like a big room. This lends to a soundstage that is only moderate in size; not cramped, just a nice intimate feel though with recordings that already have a lot of room reverb it might sound a bit off.

- Those open cups are neat. They're really more semi-closed with light isolation, but you can wave your hands in front and there's no change in sound which means they're actually designed to minimize outside interference. Cool beans.

 

Irrelevant gripe

- The cable came wrapped with velcro, but the velcro picks a bit at the cloth sleeving and leaves fuzzy tiny patches which nags at my ocd audiophile nature

 

Cables

- Very nice built quality, very low microphonics, I dislike TS shorting-style plugs into the cups but they have a little stub which makes them feel secure

- What's with the short 1/8” cable? Really needs another 6 or 12 inches.

 

Why you should get this

- You want that planar sound but don't want to carry a separate amp because you're not that crazy (yet)

- You want some audiophile cred and are willing to spend moolah, but also want it to not look ridiculous on your head

- You don't have a wrestler neck and would like something lightweight-ish

 

Why you should not get this

- because headfi is a terrible wallet draining hobby and you should escape now before you wind up with monoblocks like me and wondering how you're going to get your next upgrade fix

- but really, the PM-2 is the far better value because it's virtually the same headphone (as told directly from their rep) except the PM-1 gives you: really really fancy wooden box, nice headphone stand, better cables, three sets of pads instead of one (and real leather, not synthetic), all metal construction vs some plastic

- to be fair, considering the extras I think the PM-1 price is reasonable

Posted

Pros: High quality design, light weight with an excellent selection of accessories and a lush sound. Scales well with better equipment. Readily portable.

Cons: "Dark" sound wont be good for everyone nor all types of music.

 

It was certainly a big surprise to find out that the company famous for multi-media everything-and-the-kitchen-sink players had come out with a pair of headphones and planar ones at that. With the revival of planar (orthodynamic) headphones we have had had one consistent thing: Weight. Audeze’s and Hifiman’s headphones have been heavy and that hasn’t always been good. One of the endearing things about the old, circular diaphragm planars from Yamaha and others was that they were light and portable and pleasant to listen with. Oppo’s PM-1s, on the other hand, are light and more like a conventional pair of headphones in size. They are beautifully finished and their design is well thought-out, from the all-metal construction and soft, but firm ear pads to the clamping force that is just spot-on.  The ear pads themselves also come off and are put on easily, with a non-leather pair included for people who don’t like leather.

 

That allows the PM-1s to act as a pair of portable headphones. The ear cups swivel flat and a zip case is included. Likewise, as well as a long, full-size cable they also include a short cable for portable use. Both cables connect using a 2.5mm TS plug to each cup. For balanced amp use, especially important now Oppo is also selling the HA-1, a balanced cable with a 4-pin XLR plug is available for purchase.

 

That ends up making the PM-1s a super-flexible pair of headphones, either for home use or portable, especially given the number of more powerful portable amps out there now planars have been around a few years. The downside is that they have a dark sound signature reminiscent of the old LCD-2s and the LCD-X that will not be to everyone’s tastes. One man’s lush is another’s muffled. Comparing them to the LCD-Xs I didn’t find them to be less detailed overall than the larger headphones, but the smaller diaphragm seemed to give the feeling of a smaller soundstage. The LCD-Xs have a large, precise presentation that the PM-1s don’t quite match. They are, however, quite a bit more money and quite a bit heavier.

 

As a pair of portable headphones I tried the PM-1s out of my iPhone 5 with better than expected results. If anything, the more muted treble mated nicely with the slightly sharper sound from my iPhone, which was at maximum volume when I was listening at a bit higher than my normal moderate volume. 

 

What was interesting was when I plugged the PM-1s into my Hugo after listening with the HA-1. The level of detail jumped up as I would have expected from the switch to better equipment, suggesting that the PM-1s can scale. Much of that likely has to do with the modern take on the old-style circular planar diaphragm. The diaphragm itself is corrugated and reinforced to ensure precise movement and the sound is channeled through a “mandarin” plate to focus the sound waves hitting your ears.

 

When I first tried a PM-1 prototype I was asked how much I thought they could be sold for. I replied I thought that if they priced around the LCD-2s they’d give them a serious run for their money and I think I was right. If there is a real successor to the old and legendary Yamaha and other planar headphones, this is it.

 

Thanks to Oppo Digital Japan for lending me the PM-1 and HA-1 for review.

Posted

Pros: Solid performer with excellent midrange; Beautiful presentation and design; Portable and "public" friendly (ish)

Cons: Rolled off treble; may not please the "Open and Airy" market

Review:

 

I've had the OPPO PM1 set for a week now and have done listening sessions exclusively with these phones over that time to lay down some impressions.  Yesterday I did some comparative listening against my LCD-X, the only other planar I have right now. (Hey Hifiman, ship the dang HE-560!) . The write up below is a culmination of thoughts over the week and the comparisons I performed.  Standard disclaimers here, my own opinions and bad hearing, etc., etc.

 

Hardware used was an Audio-gd Master 8 amp fed by a Mytek 192 Stereo DSD DAC, or a Technics SL-1200MK2 TT & pre-amp.  Source materials I listened to over the week are a total mix of stuff (CD, LP, DSD, and FLAC & MP3 of varying quality).  Tracks used for comparisons are listed at the bottom of the review.

 

For reference:  I usually listen at low to moderate volumes (about 57 dB casual listening, maybe 67 dB rocking out).  I listened to both the leather and velour pads on the OPPOs before settling on the velour as a favorite for the midrange.  Measurements and conclusions were all done with the velour pads.

 

Build Quality and Design:  Build quality and finish is first class, at least in line with other flagships.  With design, OPPO obviously was aiming to make a headphone that could be worn both for serious listening and in more “casual” environments (in the office, walking around the house, etc.). I think they succeeded.  I keep thinking a corporate exec will be buying these and won't mind being seen wearing them around the office (whereas the HD800s might stay hidden unless the door was locked).  The metal grills on the back seem to attract dust in the perforations and may need to be dusted regularly for those concerned with appearance.

 

Accessories:   The box is the most beautiful thing in my house by far (don't tell my wife) and the best looking flagship packaging I've seen.  This is designed for leaving out on a side table to impress yourself and your guests.   The extra ear pads are easily switched out and both sets look good with the phones.  Ear pads are on the less substantial side than some other flagships. The choice of denim for the carry case is just weird in contrast to the silver & leather phones design, so I'm sure there is a story about this I'm missing.

 

The braided cord is very nice and generously sized.  The extra short cord is useless with a stationary amp.  (I sit at a desk with the jack less than three feet from my head and it’s too short.)  The short cable is clearly designed to use with a DAP or smart phone: It’s just long enough to allow my smartphone to sit in a pants pocket when connected.  I would have liked a balanced cable in the box instead, but OPPO will be pitching this phone to its wider market demographic (bought our Audiophile blu-ray player? Now buy our headphone!) and they wouldn’t know what the heck it was.  I understand the balanced cable will be available for separate purchase shortly (next few weeks) but as the connectors are just non-proprietary 2.5 mm mono mini jacks a replacement cable should be very easy for DIY’ers to construct.

 

Comfort: The PM1s are comfortable for extended listening, especially with the velour pads.  The oval shape makes them half 'on'-half 'over' for me but they are very comfortable.  I wear glasses and didn’t find that an issue with these phones.  The headband is padded nicely if not excessively, say better than Fostex TH900, same as T1, less than Audeze LCD-X.  The weight is acceptable for wearing for a few hours, I probably wouldn’t want to all day.  I find myself adjusting the headband forward to get weight pressure of the top of my head occasionally.  For a reference points, I can wear my LCD-X's for only a few minutes without being uncomfortable, my Alpha dogs for a few hours or so, most of my other phones all day.  Here are some relative weights of my phones as I find them this morning:

 

Phone

Weight

Notes

Beyer T1

364 grams

 

HD800 

388 gram

 

Fostex TH900

389 grams

 

OPPO PM1

417 gram

Velour pads

Alpha Dogs

444 grams

 

LCD-X

600 Gram

Vegan pads

 

 

Sound:  The PM1s are flagship quality listening, definitely.  They perform solidly on most fronts, with very good imaging, dynamics, and transient response.  All the detail you want is there.  Bass is plentiful without being overpowering end extends solidly down to 20Hz or so.  Mids are beautiful and accurate without any anomalies or holes that I heard.  It is not dark: The treble is good, though it does roll off at the high end more than some phones (HD800 and Beyer T1, I’m looking at you!). I am sure this one fact will be raised by someone every time this phone is mentioned, but that will be because the phone has so few other weaknesses, if any.

 

Power requirements:  I listened to these with the included short cord from my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, my FiiO Kilimanjaro portable amp, and directly from my PC.  All fed the phones just fine.  Perhaps a slight loss of detail stepping down from the desktop amp, but very acceptable at the levels I usually listen to. The short cable is barely long enough to hold a device at waist level, but acceptable for that purpose.  Bottom line, the cans seem very easy to drive.

 

Conclusions:

 

A solid, all around performer that can contend with any other flagship out there right now.  The audio performance doesn't immediately leap out at you in any particular fashion: They're not all "boom" or "hiss", they're just solid across the line with a very pleasing bass and exceptional midrange.  Perhaps I’ll add a “very” to that exceptional midrange.  But if you’re looking for a 'sparkly' phone out of the box this is not it, at least not with my equipment.  And because they don’t have polarizing “stand out” sound characteristics I doubt they will be items for heavy debate on the boards.

 

The bigger value here may be the comfort, lower weight, style, and cost that make this a very viable option compared to other planar magnetics out there.  OPPO was clearly thinking about their broader, non-audiophile client base when they designed these and that’s great.  Again I’m thinking that I could wear these around an office and get great sound out of a DAP or portable amp without having the co-workers staring at my head. And that might be a gateway to bringing a few more audiophiles into the hobby.

 

 

Comparisons with the Audeze LCD-X

 

I listened to an LCD-X with velour pads v. the OPPO-PM 1 with velour.  I listened mostly at higher volumes (for me) for the comparisons below, about 70dB. Phones were level matched to pink noise at 70db when switching between phones.  Stock cables on both phones.

 

Build quality on both phones is what you expect, top notch.  Design goals differ for these two phones. The presentation on the OPPO is beautiful and meant to be left out to be seen while the hard case of the LCD-X is much more practical.  If you want to impress your NON-audiophile visitors, get the OPPO-PM and leave the box out on your credenza or something.

 

The velour pads on the LCD-X are much heavier as is the weight of the phones themselves, so it’s a much different feel. The OPPO was much more comfortable for me, especially with my glasses. The OPPO leaks much less noise than the LCD-X. That and its looks make it a better choice for being out in public. As far as accessories go, the balanced cable being included with the LCD-X is nice for those of us with balanced amps but I expect that at the higher price point.

 

Sound Quality

 

Bass on the LCD-X is more pronounced and forward.  It digs slightly deeper, both on test sweeps and in music.  Bass heads can give the nod to LCD-X for the bump and extended range below 20 Hz, but both phones performed very solidly.

 

In the mids both phones were top performers. Mids seemed a very little more forward on the LCD-X but tonally both phones were similar with great detail and timbre present. Both phones stand out here.

 

In the treble department both phones are very good and very similar. I consider neither of these phones "bright".  That said, the LCD X seemed slightly brighter when listening, while never becoming shrill or sparkly.  Measuring them both, above 10,000 Hz the OPPO drops off much faster. But again no clear winner between these two.

 

Male and female vocals were simply excellent on both phones.  Nothing else to say but good, good, good.

 

Openness and Imaging : The LCD-X's bass reinforcement (when compared to the OPPO PM1) cost it in the imaging department on some tracks, slightly muddying up the picture and making the instruments harder to pinpoint (Shelby Lynne - "Willie and Laura Mae Jones", J.S.Bach - "Invention no. 14").  This was a minimal issue though; for rock music (Pink Floyd – “On The Run”, Steely Dan – well, pretty much everything) it was not noticeable, and on some more 'open' tracks it created a very pleasing effect of spaciousness (Kishi Bashi - "Manchester", Shelby Lynne - "How Can I Be Sure"). It’s a close tossup between the two, with perhaps a slight edge to the OPPO for imaging.

 

Dynamics range on both phones was excellent, both handling loud and soft passages well (Tomas Ornberg's Blue Five - "Taint Nobody's Bizness".  Attack\transient response on both phones was, again, excellent. These are planar magnetics after all.  I couldn’t tell the difference between the two in that aspect

 

Conclusions:  The LCD-X is slightly meatier then the OPPO, given the relative bass bump, better isolation, and the psychological effect of the phone’s weight difference I think.  I don’t think that the OPPO will displace Audeze in the planar magnetic realm any time soon. But, given the similarity of the sound along with the weight and comfort issues, I can see myself reaching for the OPPOs faster than the Audeze in the future.  And I think if I need a set of top-end performers for the office, the bus, or any other public arena the OPPO’s are my new go to phones.

 

Test tracks and other materials used

 

These are SOME of the tracks I used for comparison. These are NOT all the tracks i listened to, just ones I wrote down for reference.

 

Bass Yello – The Eye- Track 5 - "Junior B"
Dianne Reeves - Never Too Far - Track 2 - "Never Too Far"
Mids Steely Dan - Gaucho - Track 1 "Babylon Sisters"
Steely Dan - Aja - Track 2 "Aja"
Treble Kishi Bashi - 151a - Track 2 - "Manchester"
Paper Aeroplanes - The Day We Ran Into the Sea - Track 2 - "Free Wheel"
Vocals The National - Trouble Will Find Me - Track 1 - "I Should Live In Salt"
Allison Krause & Union Station - New Favorite - Track 1 - "Let Me Touch You For A While"
Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 10 - "How Can I Be Sure"
Openness Kishi Bashi - 151a - Track 2 - "Manchester"
Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 10 - "How Can I Be Sure"
Imaging Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (30th Anniversary Edition) Track 3 - "On The Run" (SACD)
Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 7 - "Willie and Laura Mae Jones" (DSD)
Opus 3 - Test Record 1 - Side B, Track 1  - "Invention no. 14" (J.S.Bach)  (LP)
Dynamics Opus 3 - Selections From Test Records (CD) - Track 10 - "  'Taint Nobody's Bizness" (Tomas Ornberg's Blue Five)
Attack \ transient response Dianne Reeves - Never Too Far - Track 1 - "Hello (Haven't Seen You Before)"
The National - Trouble Will Find Me - Track 3 - "Don't Swallow the Cap"
Nu Shooz - Pool Side  Track 1 - Dont Let me Be The One
Other Test Materials Rives Audio Test CD 2
Finlandia Surround Test CD
opus 3 Test CD 4 
 

Steely Dan - everything

 

 

 

Edit: Removed mention of a certain shopping establishment that I think is not worthy to be mentioned here; grammar.

Posted

Pros: Light for a magnetic planar and actually quite portable. Good value for money and a very good first try by Oppo Digital

Cons: A little closed sounding for an open back headphone. Decent sounding but lacks the sparkle

 

Introduction
 
Oppo Digital is a name renown for their Blue-ray & DVD Players but recently branched out to the headphone world by releasing their very first planar magnetic headphones, the PM-1, and matching desktop DAC/Amp, HA-1. With the courtesy of Oppo Digital Japan, I received a demo set of PM-1 and HA-1 for just over two weeks. The PM-1 comes in an impressive wooden storage box and a suite of cable accessories for portable and home use, velour ear pads which offer an alternative signature, and a denim carrying case.
 

 

Headphone Ergonomics
 
Of all magnetic planar headphones I've tried, the PM-1 is the lightest and most comfortable to date. They are such a contrast from the current magnetic planar offerings which are large and heavy and it's as though Oppo is trying to make a point that magnetic planars can be compact, light, comfortable & portable - as such even a compact carrying case and 3.5mm cables come along with it. No longer does a planar magnetic have to stay at home. In addition the way the PM-1 is designed, it actually has a very low profile that hugs & stays close to the listener's cranium.
 
As if it wasn't enough, velour pads were also offered in addition to its leather. Both are comfortable and glasses friendly, but the velours add a further softness to the comfort. However there's a little more to just comfort to the velour offering.
 

 

 

 
The PM-1 Headphone Sound Signature
 
Considering this is Oppo Digital's first attempt at headphones, the result is actually quite a decent effort. It has, as it's advertised, a natural and pleasant sound signature. At least to my ears the Oppo doesn't  shout analytical nor clear cut surgically perfect reproduction of a mastered track, but instead more of a lush and musical presentation that is easy to like on an initial listen. It doesn't attempt to wow by having deep pounding bass, nor by having sparkling trebles, but instead focuses more on being calm and mellow with it's midbass and midrange focused signature, whilst the lower trebles seem to take a quick dip but comes back neutral enough to grab the listener's attention. There is a light touch of texturing and layering which is more easily heard with the balanced cable through its complimentary HA-1 DAC/Amp.
 
The signature can be tailored by switching to the velour pads which seems to tone down the midbass and midrange to have an overall more neutral signature. The cost of doing so however seems to be  a slight loss of depth imaging.
 
Whist on the topic of depth and width perception, the PM-1 does have a more up-front close and personal presentation, and it's not shy about it. One does feel they're sitting close to the performing artists in a very private performance. Depending on the DAC/Amp combination that perception can be further tailored a little.
 
Overall Sound Signature of the Combined Package
 
As a package, I find that the two compliment each other into producing an easy listening sound that one can like very quickly. It does this so at a very reasonable price point too especially with most other magnetic planar headphones demanding higher quality DAC/Amps to help them shine. However, the sound signature to me isn't one for critique or articulate listening. At least for how I'd consider such a sound signature to be leveraged in my environment, it'll probably in a situation where I just want to kick back and listen in the background whilst I'm focused on other activities.
 
Conclusion
 
Oppo Digital has given other magnetic planar headphone makers some food for thought by producing one that is lighter than it's competitors, and at a very reasonable price point - all packaged up in an impressive storage box with very practical and needed accessories. Meanwhile with their HA-1 DAC/Amp, they have packed it with full of features and as with the PM-1 headphones, priced it accordingly too. I can easily see how such a package would be suited for portable audiophiles who want to take the next step and dabble on a home magnetic planar desktop gear but not fully step away from portable audio at the same time.
 
Having said that, (and rather unfairly) coming from my collection of Stax SR-009s/SR-007Mk1 setups to Fostex TH-900s & Alpha Dogs, I find the Oppo to be just merely pleasant sounding but lack the "wow" factor for my expectations. It makes a decent stepping stone but as for myself I see it to be an interim setup. However if I'm limited to $1100 to spend, I would prefer to spend it on this than on other open backed magnetic planars of similar pricing.

Posted

Pros: Top notch build quality and extras, great detail and clarity, nice extended bass

Cons: Not as open and airy as other open-back designs

I got to spend some time with these as part of the PM-1 loaner program from Oppo.

Awesome company here to lend these out to us at just the cost of shipping to the next person - much appreciated!

 

To preface this - I can't review this from an angle on how well these scale with the right equipment.

The DAC I used was a Schiit Modi 1.

The Amps I used were a Schiit Magni 1 and an Objective2 -- I noticed no audible difference between the sound signature on the two amps that I normally don't notice.

 

On to the review.

 

Build Quality

 

Simply put, Luxurious.

 

From the very soft and comfortable, leather-wrapped headband, to the very sturdy metal yoke and gimbals, to the plush (and plentiful) leather and velour earpads, everything on this headphone spares no expense to be as comfortable and sturdy as possible. The included long cable is also very nicely sheathed in cloth and is terminated in two 3.5mm (or 2.5mm - hard to recall) mono connectors on the headphone end, a very sturdy 1/4'' connector on the other end. There is also an included mobile cable which seems to be the only cheap-ish looking standout in the package. It's passable but nothing to get excited over.

 

It's hard to say how much of the build quality is present in the steep price, but these are far beyond the $300 price range that I've tried.

 

 

Fit / Comfort

 

Based on the build quality alone, we're looking at a strong contender for most comfortable headphone.

With the metal construction and planar magnetic drivers, this is a heavy one indeed - definitely the heaviest headphone I've had on my head.

Thankfully though, this does not detract from the comfort.

You definitely will know you have a headphone on - it doesn't just disappear like some of the very light and comfortable sets.

But overall, this is one you should be able to wear for extended periods.

The leather ear pads sweat very little and the headband never really digs into the top of your head - the weight seems very nicely distributed for a single band construction.

 

 

Sound Quality

 

The sound signature here is pleasant and very easy to listen to over long sessions.

I never felt fatigue from any untamed highs or excited mid-range.

Most of the response is laid back and even.

I did feel that the treble was a little forward, but the vocals had a very organic feeling to them - clear, present, picking up some very small detail.

The bass was well extended and polite - the impact was a little light (these aren't basshead cans) but it reached low and was punchy when it needed to be, without even a hint of mid-bass bloat.

For open-back headphones they lacked some treble air that you might expect. 

They didn't sound as near and closed in as most closed back headphones but they definitely aren't going to impress in regards to sound stage.

The mids were well represented and gave a very lush and musical background to the sound - very apparent when coming from a V-shaped sound signature.

 

 

Overall

 

When you take the price out of the picture and look at the whole of what you have, these are an excellent set of headphones.

If you're looking for the ultimate experience in sound stage and airiness in an open-back set of headphones, you'd most likely be disappointed here.

But if you're looking for something easy to listen to, with a polite (not overdone) bass, great mids, and very rich and realistic vocals, this sound signature will impress.

 

When I take price into account, I have to say that I might expect just a bit more from a $1k headphone.

It's hard to make this argument however just looking at the build quality alone.

If I was into the summit-fi area, I would see this as an 'easy listening' headphone that may be unmatched in what it does in that price range.

 

 

Comparison to NAD Viso HP50

 

My absolute favorite set of headphones for quite some time now, and my go-to for comparisons is the NAD Viso HP50.

I was curious to see how it stacked up to a headphone more than triple its cost, so here goes...

 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Viso stood very well against the PM-1.

 

The bass on the Viso is a little more pronounced (impact) in some cases, but I did not find that this made the bass any less realistic or bloated. It reached down just as low as the PM-1 to my ears and seemed to be just as quick on the response. The difference was mostly in polite vs slightly less polite (or less aggressive vs more aggressive). I felt there were some cases where I could hear a difference in that the PM-1 was a little quicker but I could never nail it down - in most listening cases, it appears to be on equal footing.

 

The mids were really the same to me - the Viso does mids very well and accurate, so I wasn't too surprised here.

 

The treble on the Viso was a bit less forward and I did detect that it was slightly (very slightly) less realistic than the PM-1. The PM-1 represented vocals just a tad more realistically wherein I felt the singer was right there in front of me versus the NAD where it was more as if they were also there but further away (maybe like front row vs 4th row?).

 

The sound stage on both was about the same - I'd have expected an open back like the PM-1 to have it beat here, but as I stated in the review earlier, it sounds a little more closed than other open-backs. The Viso has always represented sound stage very well for a closed-back design (strange knowing how small the ear pads and cups are).

 

Overall, the most obvious difference I noticed between the two was the bass impact on the Viso was better and the vocals and treble were a bit more natural and realistic on the PM-1.

If both were equal in price, I'd have to give it to the PM-1 here as bass impact is not that crucial to me - I'd rather have it accurately represented and well extended (which the Viso and PM-1 both do). The difference in the upper range and vocals there was not night and day, but it was enough for me to hear and enjoy the improvement.

Posted

Pros: Neutral-ish, comfort, durable

Cons: rolled off highs, expensive, not as open

First thing first, These are a loaner pair from OPPO.

 

DESIGN

 

One of the most comfortable pair of headphones I ever worn, but they have a bit too much clamping at first, but after awhile it fades away. OPPO defiantly went all out when it comes to their fist pair of headphones, with the drivers, material, and creating a headphones that looks like you made an investment into the future. The stock ,~3 meter, nylon covered, cable fells really thick and durable. I also did really appreciate that the ear cups will go completely flat, for maximum comfort on the head on to fit in the caring case. Do not worry if you have big ears, the cups fit all around, but mine still do touch the driver wall.

 

SOUND

 

These headphones are not airy, they are not bassy, they are not overly forward in the mids, yet almost everything sounds great! The only thing I feel is missing is that it rolls of in the highs, making rock and roll and strings sound not as great, but still good. For being an open back Planar Magnetic, PM, they are not as open as I was expecting, from $1,099 MSRP pair of Headphones. Even though they feel more closed, I do feel like I am sitting right in front to an orchestra and I can feel where everyone is. Now when I first started listening to some of my favourite Albums, and songs, and podcast, I thought that these did not feel like $1,000, and I might pay half the cost. Then I listen to Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Dark Side of The Moon remastered, The Trial changed everything. Nothing I own personally can come even close to beating it. I learned what imaging and soundstage really matters in a song. I suggest that you listen to see what I am talking about. I did find them to be very easily drivable, never needing to put my volume past 1/4 on my MacBook Pro, and found no real advantage of an amp. so the included 3.5mm cord will work well, with any portable device.

 

PACKAGING

 

I did not have the pleasure to open the big display box, but I still got to open the Denim portable caring case, which was very nice! I still am not quite sure why people would decide to take their 1k OPEN headphones out of their house, but it's their money not mine. If you decide to take your mortgage payment on the road, the cables must removed every time you want to put them away. I do give OPPO kudos on adding an extra layer of security, and adding a velcro strap that wraps around the headband. So in case you forget to zip it up, it will take a lot more for your basic Audi A7 car payment to break.

 

OVERALL

 

I know I emphases the cost of these, but I have never had a pair of cans that cost this much. If you can afford the OPPO PM-1s, and enjoy a headphones that are not bassy, and a rolled of treble, these are great. But if cost is a factor, the PM-2s cost $699, but uses more plastic and synthetic leather.

 

I will be sad to see these go, but now I have the urge to save faster and upgrade my game a lot more, looking into another amp and better cans. I am really hoping that more companies do more loaner programs. I am really want Audeze to do one with their EL-8. But I really do Hope that my little review maybe pushed you in one way or another if you were on the fence of buying these!

Posted

Pros: Ultra-present mids, pleasant aesthetic design, sturdy build

Cons: Crowded soundstage, somewhat high clamp force

While generally I can't afford the $1000+ caliber of headphone, I have been lucky enough to demo the Oppo PM-1 and Audeze LCD-3 for the past week at work. That might not be a fair comparison considering the price difference, but it is what it is.

 

Equipment: Laptop, Vivid Tech V1

 

Music: Little Dragon - Ritual Union, Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz, Caribou - Swim, M83 - Saturdays = Youth, LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening, Yelle - Pop-Up

 

Obvious by my music selection, I'm into pop, rock, electronic, bright vocals, and trades between sections of high dynamics and super-density. This is only accentuated by the forwardness of my DAC/amp (which I'll admit isn't the best in SQ, but it's what I've got at work, and sounds decent, especially when you turn up the gain enough to get out of my perceived region of nonlinearities).

 

My only comparison for this headphone is the Audeze LCD-3 which I've been listening to back-to-back on albums (mix of 320k and FLAC). The one thing that is immediately obvious when switching is the compressed soundstage of the PM-1s. I would put the soundstage width/breadth on the order of my Sennheiser HD 595. It's there, the headphone is making the attempt, but it still doesnt put me in a space as much as I'd expect on a $1000+ pair of cans.

 

The positive side to this, is that all the mids are gathered and presented right in front of you, all while still being able to differentiate between sounds/instruments. I'll relate it to the forwardness of some of the lower end Grados (I have the 325i), but the sound is far more refined. The one exception comes from The Age of Adz, which features lots of live instruments. Everything was smeared together during dense sections of the recording. It got me thinking -- maybe the other recordings don't exhibit this smearing because they are carefully crafted/controlled electronic sounds that can be highly managed in mix & master?

 

The other thing that gives clear evidence to the crowded soundstage is listening to Swim back-to-back with the Audezes. The record makes liberal use of instrument panning and fading with great depth. On the Audezes this was almost enough to make my head spin trying to track all the sounds (actually an interesting experience that I hadn't yet come across), but on the Oppos, everything is right there for you to 'see' with a slight darting of the eyes. (I hope that made sense, hah!)

 

Bass is somewhat muddier than the LCD-3s, but still much clearer than my gamut of $200-400 range phones (K701, HD595, 325i, etc.). Extension is there, impact is there (moreso in the midbass than sub).

Treble is pleasant. The LCD-3s sparkle quite a bit more (which can be good or annoying depending on your preference of music). The PM-1s are every so slightly subdued, I would imagine to prevent fatigue (which they do well).

 

Overall I dig these cans (except the price). You get a nice wood case, a denim travel case, a shorter 3.5mm cable and a longer, sleeved 1/4" TRS cable for them. Though the clamping force initially felt a bit strong, I didn't feel more uncomfortable at the end of a 3-4 hour listening period than I did when I first put them on. The chamber for your ear is pretty shallow, but everything your ear is touching is very soft.

OPPO PM-1
Description:

The OPPO PM-1 Planar Magnetic headphone offers a different way of thinking about planar magnetic technology. The PM-1 is characterized by its natural, dynamic, and engaging sound quality with an emphasis on comfort and reduced weight. It is the result of many years of research led by a team comprised of passionate audio and acoustics engineers, chemical and materials scientists, and audiophiles. A number of technological breakthroughs have made their way into the PM-1, including the use of a unique 7-layer diaphragm, double-sided spiraling coils, and an FEM-optimized magnet system.

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