OPPO PM-1

Average User Rating:
4.25/5,
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  1. Currawong
    4.0/5,
    "Oppo has created a great successor to the old vintage Yamaha and other orthodynamic (planar) headphones with the PM-1."
    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.
    [​IMG]
     
    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.
    gevorg, bahamot, White Lotus and 7 others like this.
  2. ogodei
    4.0/5,
    "A solid, all around performer and an excellent foray into the flagship market by OPPO (LCD-X comparison)"
    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.
     
    BassYello – The Eye- Track 5 - "Junior B"
    Dianne Reeves - Never Too Far - Track 2 - "Never Too Far"
    MidsSteely Dan - Gaucho - Track 1 "Babylon Sisters"
    Steely Dan - Aja - Track 2 "Aja"
    TrebleKishi Bashi - 151a - Track 2 - "Manchester"
    Paper Aeroplanes - The Day We Ran Into the Sea - Track 2 - "Free Wheel"
    VocalsThe 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"
    OpennessKishi Bashi - 151a - Track 2 - "Manchester"
    Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 10 - "How Can I Be Sure"
    ImagingPink 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)
    DynamicsOpus 3 - Selections From Test Records (CD) - Track 10 - "  'Taint Nobody's Bizness" (Tomas Ornberg's Blue Five)
    Attack \ transient responseDianne 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 MaterialsRives 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.