I want to thank Oppo for the PM-1 they graciously sent me to keep as being a member of the beta testing. What a top notch company!
Pros: Excellent customer service, excellent packaging, excellent build quality, pleasing modern aesthetics, comfortable, velour and breathable leather pads, removable cables, easy to drive, sub-bass is top notch, mids and highs are clean and musical, low level listening excels.
Cons: Mids can overpower the midbass, could use more air in the soundstage.
Style: Open circumaural.
Tonal Balance: Warm leaning neutral
Listening Set-Up: Musicbee (WASAPI) -> Oppo HA1
Included with the PM-1 is a selvedge denim carrying case, a pair of leather and velour pads, a 3.5mm cable, a ¼ inch cable, and an owner’s manual.
Design and Build Quality
The PM-1 have been designed under the highest scrutiny to ensure a product that is incredibly well built and comfortable with no nook and cranny left unturned. The PM-1 has not compromised or cut any corners, all the while offering this at a very reasonable price. Color me extremely impressed.
I can’t say that I have the most experience with high-end headphones. In-fact outside of the Audio Technica Ad2000 I’ve never used a full-sized headphone with a value of over $500. I can not compare the build quality of the PM-1 to the HD800, LCD2, nor the HE-6, there are others who can and I certainly encourage checking out their perspectives also. My thoughts on this are coming from my experiences with the headphones I have experience with, with that in mind I hope you can handle all of the gushing that I’m about to do.
Full-disclosure, I was in the PM-1 beta in which I received the Beta 1 unit, then the Beta 2 unit. I was lucky enough to see how much care and detail Oppo put into designing this product based on the collective beta testers opinions as well as their own knowledge and intuition. I was fortunate enough to see the subtle changes that went into creating such a finely tuned piece of equipment. Even so, the full scope of just how much Oppo cares about this product didn’t hit me until the retail version arrived.
I’m not going to discuss the packaging, you can see how beautiful it is in the pictures. What I’m here to talk about is how solid the PM-1 are built. Starting with the top, the PM-1’s headband is wrapped in lambskin leather with a slightly softer than firm padding on the inside and a clean unlogo’d outside. Moving down the headband a chrome accent greets the black lambskin with an Oppo logo on both sides on the outside. The inside accent on the right side shows the model number, while the other side carries some federal regulation logos. With the headband extended the left side shows the serial number and a clean silver extension that I would guess is a brushed aluminum. When fully pushed in the first chrome accent connects to a left and right indicator.
Below that accent the headband finally connects to the earcup, which has small chrome accent that lines up nicely with the other two unless swiveled. The earcup is held to the headband by a clean aluminum frame which swivels 90 degrees either way. The ear cup is attached to the frame and allows for moderate vertical movement of the earcup, ensuring a great fit for everyone who has tried it that I’ve read. The removable cable attaches at the bottom of each cup with a 2.5mm straight plug, nothing locks it in, but it feels steady in place. The bottom of the frame is cut-out to avoid the frame smacking into the removable cable. A very minor touch of detail is that on the cut-out portion of the frame is a very small jutting out clear plastic nub that prevents the metal frame from hitting and damaging the removable cable. The earpads come off very easily simply by pulling them out, while staying secure on the headphone. Doing so exposes some of the innard wizardry that Oppo has managed to pull off.
I don’t think that I could possibly put into words just how solid this feels. No creaks when moved, no loose moving parts, everything is put together with care and it shows.
Before I talk about the comfort I should explain how the headphones distribute the weight. It should be noted that the PM-1 are rather weighty, but do not feel so on my head. The way the headband is designed is in such a way as to distribute the burden of the weight between the headband and the earcups. The earcups provide a firm clamp in which keeps some of the weight from pulling the headband down on my head. This relieves a lot of pressure from the top of my head, in-fact I have forgotten that I’m wearing headphones at times.
Now the clamp would be a big problem if the pads weren’t plush and thick, but they are. The velour pads have become my favorite not only for their sound, but for their plushness. I’ve only briefly demod the Beyerdynamic DT770 with velours, but these are recalling that experience in the best way possible. Full-disclosure though, I haven’t worn these for longer than 3 hours at a time. I simply haven’t had the time to. During my 3 hours though I have felt no discomfort nor any reason to think that these couldn’t be worn for marathon sessions.
On top of my head there’s a mild pressure, but the soft padding between the head and headband makes it a non issue in the time that I’ve used the PM-1.
The Oppo are about the perfect blend of relaxed and warm while having forward and energetic qualities that bring music to life. Many are describing these as warm leaning neutral with forward mids and laid-back highs and I think that overall assessment is a fair one. The soundstage is wider than the average closed headphone, but rather forward like the Audio Technica Ad2000 with a clean background and depth that rivals any headphone I’ve heard. Sorry though, these aren’t as airy as headphones like the Ad900.
The sub-bass is extremely satisfying, I fired up my favorite sub-bass test track Jay-Z’s Holy Grail and after Justin Timberlake’s intro is over the sub-bass hits with authority laying a satisfying rumble that underlies the vocals through the verse and chorus. Yup, underlies. There is no bleed from the sub-bass into the mid-bass and no bloat that causes mids to sound drowned. It’s as if the sub-bass is giving the entire spectrum a hug from behind without surrounding it. Weird analogy, but it makes sense to me. Moving from Jay-Z I like to go to James Blake’s Limit to Your Love for the huge sub-bass that quickly drives the song and boy is it satisfying. It’s as if the drivers are lightly chopping my ears like one would do to a back for a massage. The sub-bass isn’t the quickest, but it keeps up with the quavering pulses. What’s still impressive is that the sub-bass doesn’t interfere with any other frequency. It hangs in the background complimenting the vocals, mid-bass and mids while providing a huge presence.
The midbass is interesting to me. On tracks like Daft Punk’s Something About Us I find the bass to be a bit thick, fuzzy and lacking the punch that I loved about my Audio Technica Ad2000. I find that it can also sometimes get lost behind the forward mids as well on songs where the bassline isn’t prominent, David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream comes to mind. On vocal trance tracks like Above & Beyond’s Air For Life I find the exact opposite though, the kick drum is incredibly punchy and drives the song with great energy. In-fact I’ve found that the midbass is greatly suited for most EDM and has the perfect texture for genres like trip-hop. The lacking of the midbass isn’t fully specific to rock like David Bowie though, Failure’s The Nurse Who Loved Me and Interpol’s Obstacle 1 have the right amount of midbass to completely fill out the soundstage. I feel that the midbass could use a slight boost for certain genres, while being a bit more lean for certain genres. My feelings on this are very split, I don’t feel that the midbass is perfect, but I’m not entirely sure what I would even want changed about it.
Mids & Highs
On the whole I find that the mids are clean and forward with a touch of warmth, just a touch. I feel that the forwardness of the mids may be the culprit for why I experience such inconsistencies with the midbass as well. Vocals of all sorts sound wonderful on the PM-1 from Frank Ocean’s soulfully smooth voice to Sara Bareilles’ soft and subtly smoky voice. The PM-1 do nothing to hide sibilance, this is clear on Sara Bareilles’ track Come Round Soon which is known to have prominent sibilance, though it does nothing to enhance the sibilant qualities of the music. What’s impressive is the clarity and cleanness of the note that Sara holds that registers around 2khz. The upper mids are certainly clean and controlled as evidenced there. As for instruments I’ve found that anything acoustic sounds fantastic from the piano to the cello, instruments sound clean and lovely. Listening to Esperanza Spalding shows this off, Wild is the Wind gave me chills the first time I listened to it. The mids are able to get dirty though as electric guitars roar with energy that reminds me of my Grado SR80i.
I find that the highs are clean with a natural sound on the brass instruments I’ve heard through them. The highs are present, though no sparkle. I would dare someone to call the highs lacking after listening though, that’s just simply not true. Someone may want more presence out of the highs, but to say that they are lacking would be a farse.
What I find interesting with the PM-1 is that with the velours the sound is reminiscent of the Audio Technica Ad2000, albeit a bit more relaxed in the highs but almost as aggressive in presentation. The soundstage is not nearly as wide as other open headphones I’ve heard, Ad900 come to mind, nor is the sound as airy as them. The sound is a bit more compact, reminding me of a small indoors venue, though with enough width to feel that the music is almost fully surrounding me. What I find impressive about the soundstage of the PM-1 is the depth, instrument separation and positioning qualities. I have never found instruments to be blurred together from the post-hardcore tracks of early Finch to the complex classical/jazz inspired passages of Esperanza Spalding. The depth of the soundstage is what greatly impresses me though, instruments aren’t presented as a wall of sound, rather each feeling as if they’re a different distance away. The dynamics between them are fantastic and music lingers and decays appropriately into the black void.
The soundstage on the whole could be described as intimate with a great sense of space.
Before anyone asks, I do not have experience with other high-end offerings. My stance is coming from an avid headphone enthusiast who was lucky enough to get to work with Oppo on these headphones. Despite not being able to compare their value or quality to other high-end headphones I feel that a review from someone more familiar with mid-fi is beneficial to how others might view stepping into the world of high-end headphones.
With that said, I’ve found the PM-1 to be an extremely pleasing headphone in every aspect with little to complain about. I find the sound to be extremely pleasing in almost every aspect, from the deep rumbling detailed bass to the forward mids that bring music to life. The midbass could use a slight bump, the highs could stand to be a tad brighter, and I would like the soundstage to have a bit more air, but these complaints are very minor in the grand scheme of things. The PM-1 provides a complete package from unboxing to listening that I find immensely satisfying, I simply put on the headphones and forget that they are there. The PM-1 are a headphone I simply put on and enjoy music with and that's rare to find.
Come see more pictures here.
Edited by keanex - 4/26/14 at 7:11pm