Andover Audio PM-50

General Information

The Andover team, led by former Cambridge SoundWorks General Manager Rob Mainiero, is a collection of audio experts and engineers from an iconic lineup of companies, including Apogee Acoustics, Acoustic Research, Harman, Bose and a/d/s/.

https://www.andoveraudio.com/collec...nes/products/pm-50-planar-magnetic-headphones

Since its formation in 2012, Andover Audio has provided its design and manufacturing services to the most recognized brands in automotive, telecommunications, and high-performance consumer audio. Andover is now focusing its award-winning approach on its own branded products, blending innovative audio technologies with distinctive design.

Its flagship product, the Model One Record Player, is a high-grade turntable music system. It combines a Pro-Ject turntable with a high-grade audio system that supports vinyl playback, Bluetooth, and connection to external devices, such as CD players and streaming devices. Feedback-free phono playback is made possible by Isogroove™, an exclusive Andover Audio technology that eliminates the occurrence of feedback between turntable and speaker. This allows the turntable to be mounted in the same, low-profile enclosure as the speakers, without fidelity-disruptive hum. The result is great sound in a compact package. Accessories for Model One upgrade it from table-top device to a complete entertainment system with LP storage and a range-extending subwoofer.

Andover is continuing to grow its unique lineup of turntable music systems, including Spinbase – the first speaker base for turntables – as well as its line of Planar Magnetic headphones, starting with the PM-50.

Latest reviews

Pros: Detail, build quality, balance of mid/bass/treble, dynamics, pleasant and fun sound
Cons: Possibly fit issues depending on head / ear size, not the punchiest or bassiest, needs a bit of adjusting to
Just figured I'd put my two cents in. Am new to this whole scene, so take what I say with a grain of salt, since I don't really know anything.

Just got the PM-50s in today. Been listening for 6hours or so and a/b-ing with my sundaras. Tried them on a Geshelli Labs Enog2 + Archel 2.5 pro stack (balanced) and an iFi nano iDSD BL. This review will be more of a comparison to the Sundaras, since they are my daily drivers and my first "audiophile" headphone. Testing these with the stock pads they come with. Did not use the second pair, as I have yet to feel the need to try them out.

For starters, from my point of view, these headphones sound neutral with no real mid recession. They are warm. They are detailed. Will not be a bass-head's headphone of choice, and will not be the studio mastering set of the century. I think they strike a great balance between analytical capability, warmth, bass, portability, build quality, and literally everything else. TLDR : good pair of cans. Wicked easy to drive too.

Burn/break-in :
These have changed drastically in sound profile / quality over the 5 hours I've been listening, and have only improved. It might just be my ears adjusting, but regardless, significant improvement. The bass got tighter, the treble got smoother, and the mids came out a bit. Pads and headband also got more comfortable. The sound got smoother and less warm the more I listened.

Bass :
Quite nice compared to the sundaras. More of it and better almost better defined. More punchy. Slightly longer resolution, which leads to a warmer sound. I prefer this set of cans for bass in almost every respect.

Mids :
Much better defined and less recessed than the Sundaras. Honestly might be closer to neutral. Again, a win for these cans.

Treble :
Cannot find fault here. I would say they are as similar as similar can be in their treble presentation. The PM-50s might have less grain and less emphasized treble than the Sundaras? It might also be that the mids are more forward and defined, so it makes the treble sound less focused. Regardless, I would call this one a close tie.

Dynamics and Resolution :
PM-50s win here too. I find myself tapping my foot and jamming unconciously. I think it's cause the dynamics on the PMs feel just a smidgen more impactful than the Sundaras. This makes them more 'fun' to listen to. They are slightly warmer with a little longer resolution, but it feels controlled and intentional. No points off for that.

Detail :
I hate to give the PMs a win again, but it just narrowly edges out the Sundaras for detail. I'm struggling with the warmth of these headphones, and I thought that the Sundaras were the clear winner here at first. However, the more I listen the more I am able to pick out details that the Sundaras sometimes struggle to give me at the same volume. I expect this to improve with more analytical amps and/or break-in.

Sound stage :
Tie. Sundaras are slightly less wide, but seem to be more separated than the sounds in the PMs. Close enough for me not to call either way.

Imaging / Separation :
This is where the PMs fall short. Imaging is a tie, but separation is odd. I can tell where everything is and see the space between intruments, but even with the wider soundstage the warmth makes me feel that, at times, sounds are mish-mashed with each other. When I relisten I find this to not be the case, but it isn't as up-front clear as it is with the Sundaras. Idk. Both are great in different ways. This is where I'd say Sundaras for busy tracks / orchestral / live music (for a real "I'm in the audience" type of experience), and the PM-50s for everything else.

Build quality :
PMs win hands down. Real walnut, metal grille, no plastic (?), better feeling pads, and just rock ****ing solid feel. Wire also blows the Sundaras out of the water. Would buy the wire by itself.

Comfort :
This is a toss-up. I like the feel of the Sundaras cause they fit my head so well. However, they have no swivel and that can be a major downside for a lot of people. At the same time, the PMs are pretty much on-ear for me, and the headband (if not properly fiddled with) can become uncomfortable. Depends on what you're willing to compromise on / head size. Large ears will hate both. Neither are winning awards for fit. Comfort I'd hand to the 50s once they break in. Idk if these pads are filled with angel feathers or what, but damn. Fit I'd hand to the sundaras.

Conclusion :
Imma keep both the pairs of cans. They both do different things well. If I'm listening to soundtracks, being really analytical (no fun allowed :p), my PMs on-ear fit gets tiring, or in a really quiet environment I'd grab the sundaras. For everything else I'm liking the PMs right now. I'm just having more fun with listening with the PM-50s. I think the highest praise I can give them is that I don't want to take them off. I'd rather just walk around with them plugged into my phone / iFi nano. I also trust the build quality moving around more and the isolation is flat out better. I would heartily recommend these headphones to people who want a slightly warm and well balanced planar with gobs of detail. Will be keeping these. Might become the daily driver.

I will remind you again, these have changed in sound drastically since I started listening. They may have comfort issues for some people. However, I find myself not wanting to take them off and walking around with them. They are just pleasant and fun to listen to. Great for relaxing on the porch with a scotch or dancing around on the patio while not sacrificing detail to make itself fun.

Anyways, hopefully those of you who are on the fence go for it. Would recommend. I'd love to hear other people's opinions on these cans.

I'll try update this if anything drastic changes (good or bad).

Pictures :
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Attachments

trellus
trellus
Thanks for the review -- they are pretty 'cans, for sure.
Pr3ssAltF4
Pr3ssAltF4
Update two weeks in :
- I would say that all of the above holds true. The extra time with these has proved to me that the other reviewers here also got their critiques very right.
- I am actually selling my Sundaras, rather than these, to buy my Elegias. I believe that the sound signature and role these fill are more important than the analytical cleanliness of the Sundaras for me. My Eikons are filling my critical listening role right now. These fill the fun headphone role.
- These cans are really amp, intention, and music dependent. They aren't analytical even though they provide detail. They react really well with certain amps / dacs (my Enog2 + Monolith Liquid Platinum stack sounds amazing with them). They play really well to more laid back and open music. Congested tracks will sound congested. I think these play best with acoustic and reggae/dub. I use these to unwind and relax, since they are just pleasant to listen to and wear.
Pros: Gorgeous wood, solid build – all metal construction, very detailed signature
Cons: Clamping force is excessive initially, adjustments are slip-fit and may loosen with time

Headphones/Earphones Wired Over ear
Andover PM-50
March 3, 2020 wiljen 122 Views Edit
disclaimer: Andover Audio is both a new player in the market, and a long established company which takes a bit more explaining. Rob Mainiero, the GM at Andover, came from Cambridge Soundworks, and recruited team members from Apogee, Acoustic Research, Harman, and a/d/s among others in building the company. Since 2012, Andover has been designing audio solutions for the automotive, telecommunications, and consumer segment for other companies. Recently, Andover started releasing products under its own name in addition to their continued work behind the scenes for other outfits. I ran across some of the marketing material for their new headphone and being a sucker for a Planar Magnetic anyway, decided to request a sample for review. I received a loaner unit and will be sending it on to another reviewer when my notes are complete, so I have received no compensation for this review, nor do I have a financial interest in Andover or any of its distributors. For more information about Andover products, see their website or facebook page.

Unboxing / Packaging:
The PM50 comes packaged in a slip-cover with a line drawing of the PM50. Once removed, a lift top presentation box in black vinyl is revealed with the Andover name in silver. The box lid has a cloth tab at front for easy opening, but does not have a cloth strap so the lid will open a full 180º and may wear prematurely as a result. Inside the box we have headphones in a foam surround, a spare pair of pads (different style) , the cable, and a one page quick setup guide. The cable has a screw on 6.3mm adapter over a 3.5mm jack so no additional adapters are provided in the kit.





Build/Fit:
The PM50 has a very solid build with very little plastic anywhere and none at stress points. The headband is steel with metal couplers that allow the gimbals to rotate on the vertical axis roughly 15º in either direction (a trick Hifiman would be wise to learn). Gimbals allow the cups to rotate fully on the horizontal axis, but depending on which pad is in use, the pad will prevent full rotation as it strikes the gimbal. The cups themselves are figured walnut with a satin finish that appears very similar to a tung oil finish if it isn’t actually that. Drivers are affixed by an aluminum plate on the inside of the cup which also serves as the attachment point for the pads. Pads snap on and off and do require gentle pressure to install or remove. This is the one place where plastic is used and if twisted to attempt to remove the pads, I can see damage to the attachment studs being fairly likely so be aware that these are a straight push/pull operation. Two different styles of pad were provided with my preference being for the more squared off variety as I got a better seal with my glasses. Andover has also announced a 3rd type of pad will be available in the near future. Clamping force on the PM50 is much higher than that of similar models in my collection. While it is smart to set them up tight and let the customer loosen them, but be aware you may need to. The good news is after a conversation with Andover to confirm it, the headband is indeed metal all the way through and gentle pressure is all it takes to adjust the level of clamping force to the desired level. Other than a higher clamping force than I am used to, the PM50 was comfortable for long wear and didn’t feel heavy on the head.








Internals:
If the name hasn’t already given it away, the PM50 is a 50mm square planar magnetic driver with a nominal impedance of 32Ω and a sensitivity of 102 dB/mW. Andover’s marketing material suggest the PM50 is designed to be run from a wide variety of devices including phones and tablets as well as more potent devices so I tested using some of both just to see how well the PM50 performed. Planars have come a long way in recent years as regards drivability, and the PM50 indeed does work well from lower powered sources and scaled qualitatively with improvements in DAC much more than quantitatively with increases in power. I was able to get comfortable listening levels out of android and iphone models as well as a couple tablets I had handy. With portable source gear, I tested with the Cayin N3 (specifically because of its 1V output), the DTR1, and the Sony WM1A. Desktop gear included the Burson Stack (Swing/Fun), the Auris Euterpe, and the Schiit Bimby/Valhalla to see how the PM50 would react to tube amplification.

Cable:
The cable starts out with a 6.3mm Screw on adapter over a 3.5mm jack in black metal housing followed by a short strain relief before the cloth wrapped cable exits. The cable is roughly 4 feet in length between jack and splitter and is obviously designed for in-home use. The splitter is a matching black barrel housing before two smaller cloth wrapped cables exit and continue northward to the 3.5mm jacks that also have matching black housings, this time with L/R marked clearly in white on the sides of the barrel. The right connector also has a red strain relief for easy identification. The oddity here is that the PM50 itself is symmetrical and the pads are not angled so the cups themselves are not marked and the only quick visual indicator of L/R is the red ring on the cable itself.


Sound:

The FR Chart was done with the Mini-DSP ears measurement rig using the RAW calibration.

Bass:
The low end has good extension but is not emphasized so won’t make the bassheads to-get list. Sub-bass has good rumble when called upon with roll-off only becoming evident in the mid 40s and pronounced by the mid-30s. Mid-bass is only mildly elevated above the sub-bass and lower mids with a center around the 150Hz mark to my ear. Overall clarity and speed is very good which gives the bass good texture and more detail than average. Without getting heavily into comparison, I find the bass similar to the presentation of the LCD2c with slightly less layering.

Mids:
The mid-bass gives way to the lower mids with no bleed or bloom and very little fuss in the transition. Here again, the PM50 is defined by the speed of the drivers with great clarity and separation at the expense of a bit of warmth and weight. Male vocals are articulate and well detailed, but don’t come across as quite as lush as some other models. This isnt a knock on the PM50 at all as technically it is a more correct presentation than those warmer, smoother sounding models, but some will find it less desirable as a result. Upper mids are emphasized and female vocals definitely take a step forward from their male counterparts as a result. Strings are well textured and gain a bit of extra energy from that same push. If a track tends to be a bit strident or contain sibilance, the PM50 does nothing to attenuate that so be aware that poor recordings will result in a poor listening experience as these are not particularly forgiving. Conversely, well recorded material can sound phenomenal on the PM50 as the mids really do have great detail and textures that the big planars are known for.

Treble:
Treble tends to be the Achille’s heel of the planars as they tend to be linear up to a point and then all hell breaks loose. While I can’t say the PM50 doesn’t have some struggles with this, it does a better job of taming them than many. Lower treble is boosted as it follows the climb of the upper-mids but the climb is gradual and doesn’t really jump out at the user like some can. Above about 4kHz, the treble drops back to levels similar to the lower mids and mid-bass before rolling off above about 14kHz. Cymbals sound realistic and snare rattle has good realism as well. Highhat can be a mixed bag as it sits right on the border between normal and taking on that metallic click and largely depends on the recording in use. Overall, I have to commend Andover on the tuning as it is very solid for a first effort and makes me look forward to future releases.

Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is a bit wider than deep but has good proportion and has some sense of height. While I don’t think it can compete with the bigger planars in overall stage dimensions, it is clearer larger and better proportioned than the EL-8 I used in comparisons and has a more 3D feel to the sound. Instrument separation is what we expect on a planar as well and seating the orchestra is straight forward with no major anomalies. Layering is also equally good with no notable compression or thickening as tracks get busier. Spatial cues are both easily identified and tracked during movements as well.


Comparisons:
Audeze EL-8 (open) – I’ve made some sound comparisons to the LCD classic earlier, but the PM50 is a good bit smaller and fit is closer to that of the EL-8 than the LCD series with considerable clamping force and a more on-ear than over-ear style fit. The build quality on both is good, but the PM50 is a step above with solid wood cups instead of the rather ugly (in my opinion) veneer of the EL-8. The EL-8 is lighter than the PM50 but not by enough to feel the difference when in use. Both have a sound signature with the attack speed planars are known for but they use it differently. The EL-8 has a bit more warmth in the lower mids and is a touch more tame compared to the PM-50 that is a bit closer to neutral in the low end but a bit more aggressive especially in the upper range. Bass depth is better on the PM50 as well as that is one place the baby Audeze struggles to keep up with its larger counterparts. The PM50 also has a bit larger stage to my ear. Both are roughly the same as regards drivability with both benefiting some from amping but neither needing a ton of power. While my personal preference is for the PM-50 this one is going to come down to which signature the listener prefers.

Hifiman Sundara – Again not an exactly linear comparison but as close as can realistically be made to the Hifiman line based on matching features. I prefer the wood of the PM-50 to the metal frame of the Sundara in the looks department. I also prefer the headband of the PM-50 as the ability to rotate on the vertical axis of the PM-50 is something the Sundara cant match. The PM50 is smaller than the Sundara and fit is a bit more on-ear when compared to the larger Sundara. Clamping force is much greater on the PM50 and will make the Sundara a more comfortable wear at least until adjusted or broken in some. Sound wise, the Sundara is a bit more polite while the PM50 is a bit more aggressive. Those who argue that the Sundara needs a bit more attack in the mids will like the PM50. I do think the Sundara treble has more grain when compared to the PM50 as well. While I like the fit of the Sundara a bit better, the sound of the PM50 wins the day.

Fostex TH500RP – The price point on the PM50 will likely draw comparisons to the PM50 due to similarities in drivers and price point. The TH500RP is the closest as the TH610 is a couple hundred dollars more expensive and closed back, while the TH50RP is enough less expensive to invalidate the comparison. Like the Sundara, the 500 uses a metal frame and is a bit larger in circumference than the PM50, weight is similar on both. Sound wise, bass is better on the PM50 as the 500 rolls off a bit higher. Mids may be a hair more detailed on the 500 but are cleaner on the PM50 comparatively. Treble rolls off sooner on the 500 than the PM50 as well. While the price has slid some on the 500 in recent years, I would still rather pay a bit more and get the PM50 as the build and sound are both better in my estimation.

Thoughts / Conclusion:
For a first effort from Andover, I have to applaud the PM50. Its well built, well tuned, and fairly easy to drive. I has most of the features we expect from a planar, good transparency and speed, near linearity (up to a point), and better than average instrument separation. If there is a caveat, it is in the build of the PM50 where it fits more like an on-ear than an over-ear and the clamping force is excessive until adjusted. You will likely need to bend the headband slightly to mitigate the pressure especially if you wear glasses as I do. Those willing to make the adjustments are rewarded by a mature tuning with good extension on both ends, good detail throughout, and a boost in the range needed to bring vocals to the foreground. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the PM50, and have now sent them on to Ngoshawk so he can enjoy them as well. For a second opinion, I suggest you checkout his review here in a few weeks.
Pros: Build quality of a Lexus.
Good quality vocals.
Very good detail.
Gorgeous looks + tasteful.
Fit is good.
Cons: Clamping force too much (but change is coming).
Sliding adjustment may loosen over time.
Not enough fore/aft rotation of cups for me.
Fit is good.
Andover PM-50 ($500): A Pleasant Surprise, Indeed.

Andover Audio: https://www.andoveraudio.com/

PM-50: https://www.andoveraudio.com/pages/pm50-planar-magnetic-over-ear-headphones



Initiale: When @Wiljen contacted me saying he was sending a critter my way, I realized that I had been looking at the very unit he would send, the Andover PM-50. Intrigued by their ad as well as the other products listed on their site such as an all-in-one turntable/amp/speaker kit; I kindly thanked him and waited. Through our conversations he relayed that the PM-50 was quite a unit, and I would be in for a treat. I currently listen to the critter as I peck on my keyboard. And I can say that Will isn’t wrong. This is a good little unit, and one in which I am enjoying my time (extended due to COVID-19).

I thank Andover for allowing the unit to come my way, and to Will who in my opinion has very good taste and is as honest a reviewer as you will find. No, that is not an exaggeration. I thank both and please know that I am not being paid for this review, nor is there an financial incentive for doing a positive review, just a critter that passed through my doorway of which I will gladly review.



Specs:

Headphone Style:
Over-Ear
Enclosure: Genuine Walnut Hardwood
Ear-Cushions: Two Sets
Cable: Removable / Upgradable
Headphone Impedance Rating: 32 Ohms
Frequency Response Range: 15Hz - 50kHz
Driver Sensitivity: 102dB/1mW


In the box:

Included:

• PM-50 Planar Magnetic Headphones
• High-Grade OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) Removable Cable
• 1/4" (3.5mm) Adapter
• Second Set of Swapable Ear Cushions




Comparisons/Sources:

Verum Audio Verum 1 ($349)
Sendy Aiva ($479)
Dan Clark (Mr. Speakers) Aeon Flow ($799)

Cayin N6ii
Dethonray DTR1
XDuoo X10Tii/iFi Pro iDSD




Songlist:

Los Lobos- Disconnected in New York
Van Morrison-Three Chords & The Truth
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots Regional At Best, Trench
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever


Further intro:

In talking to Will and Andover, it was mentioned by both of us to Andover that the clamp pressure was too tight. Andover did not hesitate to state that we could carefully bend the headband to accommodate our cranial matter. I did so gently, and also note that Andover is aware of this and working to correct the “issue” as we speak. I will also note that the careful bend (since the unit was not mine…) seemed to be temporary as the critter would be back to near normal the first couple of tries. I then added a bit more pressure and the unit fit my head quite well now as a result.

With an interesting mix of products ranging from a stand-alone turntable, to an “all in one” set up, Andover decided to take the dive into the headphone business. Using the tried and true Planar Magnetic technology, Andover decided to go the somewhat “safe” route. Using a 50mm square planar driver, Andover espouses the virtue of multiple-source usage without much effort. The PM-50 is quite easy to drive as a result.


Unboxing:

Coming in a sleeved black box, the PM-50’s outer sleeve is simple and appreciated. Basic grayish silver colored in drawing, the unit is portrayed on the front, with company address on the back. Pretty much it. Slipping the sleeve off, a clamshell box is revealed, complete with a ribbon material loop to open at the front. Opening, you reveal the PM-50 set in custom formed medium hardness foam complete with a slot for not only the cable, but the extra pair of pads. That extra pair is about 2/3 as thick as the ones installed, and I will state here that I prefer the thicker pads and listened to that combo about 95% of the time. A simple instructional sheet finishes the box.



Fit-n-finish:

Not so long ago there was a wider chasm between build quality of brands. Now though most are built well or move on to a better build for Gen-2 models. Here, the PM-50 nails the build out of the box, first try. A thinly padded strip underlies the metal headband, which could be changed in the future to allow more modifying or personalization. As is though the fit works quite well. With walnut accents and cups, the PM-50 is understated in its looks, which I do appreciate. Here simple and straightforward is the way, as opposed to the Verum 1, which tends to shout at you (not badly mind you, just different).

The gimbals have a built-in swivel, which makes for about a 15-degree movement fore/aft, which is GREATLY appreciated. Some manufacturers (HiFiMan I’m talking about you) would be well to follow suit, as user comfort is as important as sound to many. A slight silver ring separates the cup from the pad, giving a light but elegant look to the overall appeal. Removing the earpad takes a bit of pressure, so one would be wise to be very careful removing from the five spots. An benefit of the five spots is that there is only one way for the pad to go on. Good for them in my book.



Made mostly of metal and wood, the PM-50 exudes quality like a Toyota. Understated, and appreciated. This is top a top-quality build, with no visual flaws. Screws on the outer decorative plate are even with no marrs or scratches, a sign of quality care and workmanship. Easy cable plug-ins round out the bottom, with no L/R marking on unit. Only marking on the cable and a red cable protector to discern the differences. In conversation with Will, he noted that the unit is indeed “ambidextrous.” For a solid, mostly un-adjustable frame, the PM-50 fits my cranial well with and without a hat. Kudos to Andover for making a well-fitting unit, and one could imagine they will build upon this for future models. As a first try, this is quite good.

The cable does have good flexibility, covered with woven cloth. Microphonics is nil. I will say that as a result of the “springiness,” the cable does not wind well and stays mostly untangled. Mostly. Good protection is afforded each end, and again the quality shows through. The copper cable affords a warmer sound overall, and one, which fits my sound taste as well.



Sound:

As stated above, headphones of today are mostly good of build and one need not worry too much about that. Sound though is left to the opinion of the manufacturer and can vary greatly. That is a good thing, but within the last several years products have become mostly good of sound, with personal tastes defining the characteristic of choice. As such, I really like what planar’s have done for headphones. Many approaches vary the end product sound, but start with the basic premise of clarity, a somewhat rolled-off treble, mid-vocals that are good, and depending upon tuning solid bass. Here, the PM-50 affords all characteristics above and well. Planar drivability can make a big difference, and it is good that those who use this technology realize that making their critter drivable across sources can enhance their sales. Period. So, in that regard, Andover has done well. A solid overall sound, without bite up top, which would bother me, and vocals that are quite good. Not taking the forefront or backseat. Just right.

I normally start down low, but here will start with the mids. Defined by quite good male vocals such as Los Lobos in Disconnected in New York, I find Hidalgo’s vocals to come across clean and clear. Amongst the cleanest this side of my LCD-3 and it is much appreciated. I can discern good air between notes as well as good clarity. The notes represented are true and honest of character. No covering or artificiality from tuning is wrought by me. I appreciate this factor in giving the overall character a bit more open sound than many planar’s in this range. Not shouty by any means, just open and presentational. Mids usually are not my forte when it comes to sound characteristics, but here they are mentioned first for a reason. They hold the signature together and do so quite well. Plus, these are brighter than I usually like so they must be doing something right.



Cymbal clash and drumstick hit come across as clear and concise in the treble range. Much appreciated again and one in which I can enjoy the sound. I did find myself turning the volume down though on the Los Lobos album a bit over other headphones. This is not a knock on the headphone, just a paucity of my ear-connection to the headphone. At lower volumes, I can listen for hours without fatigue. Many planar’s have trouble with the higher end, and the PM-50 isn’t free of that, no. They just control the upper end pretty darn well. Treble is my well-known Achilles, and this isn’t off from that. Up to about 4kHz they are a bit too biting for me, but thankfully roll off from there. I do have to turn the volume down on some albums or songs as a result. A shame really for some of those are amongst my favorites. Consider that to be a shortcoming of my ears, not the PM-50 by any means.

Now my favorite part of any sound signature. Bass is present like you would expect, but do not expect Audeze-levels. Few can match that. Period. But for a first effort and at the $500 price, the bass provides a solid foundation is missing that rumble. Call it “less-emphasized,” and that would be a good descriptor. Often times I find myself using the same verbiage over and over for very different headphones. But if the idea conveys itself in the same manner, then that is what matters. Here the word “support” would be an apt descriptor, and well earned. The bass neither falls away nor shines too much. It is a means to the whole. And with that in mind, the bass will impress those looking at the overall character of the sound. Bassheads most likely will be disappointed, but I for one do not care.


Soundstage/Separation/Layering:

With a bit more than expected, this shows how different companies have come to appreciate a more open sound to give the illusion of air in note, a better separation. While not on par (and not meant to be) with top class planar’s the PM-50 provides itself well in the soundstage. Wider than some, narrower than others; the sound gives good definition so that separating instruments can be made. A bit higher than deep nonetheless, there is the effect of good layering to be had. Again, this is a function of the whole as opposed to the parts. This in effect presents good detail, which can make up for quite a bit, which may be lacking in some. Here those “lackings” are not very many, though.



Comparisons:

Andover PM-50 ($499) v Verum Audio Verum 1 ($349):

Another small company planar, the Verum hails from the Ukraine and while early sufferings hurt the marque, the sound is…well…astounding for the price! I first auditioned the Verum 1 on a loaner tour from TTVJ. After trying the unity out, Todd emailed me stating he had the critter in stock. Knowing full well the draw this critter had on the market, I quickly ordered a pair. My first choice Zebrano actually sold out seconds before I made my choice, so I “settled” on the Bobinga. And I do not regret it at all.

Another stunning looker, the Hello Kitty look aside, the Verum is heralded for its sheer clarity of sound. Astounding would not be an understatement. This headphone took much of the community by storm, even with the issues (which have been sorted) and rightly so. If the Andover would be the quiet reading room cigar-laden scotch in hand headphone, the Verum 1 would be a front row seat at a Sex Pistols concert. Dashing of sound, the Verum fairly shouts its credentials to you. Very easy to drive with a VERY large 82mm driver (quite thick as I understand it), the sound covers all of the bases really well. Good reach of bass, vocals clean and crisp, and sparkle (yes sparkle!) up top, there isn’t much to dislike about the Verum 1. Subsequent “modifications” have been made to the grill and fit system. A more traditional curves headband now comes standard as does an articulate patterned grill. I for one do not mind the Hello Kitty look but will order the “upgrade.”

Sorry, back to the comparison. If you want superb sound, with a kick then the Verum 1 is the obvious choice. I will caution you that turning up the volume while providing excellent clarity, can be a biting experience. One I cannot handle for too long. If on the other hand you want a more laidback even-handed approach with mids, which are among the best in this type of headphone, you would not be wrong in choosing the Andover product.


Andover PM-50 ($499) v Sendy Aiva ($479):

If this came down to looks and fit, it wouldn’t be close. The Sendy is drop-dead gorgeous, replete with copper cable and “cloud” formation jacks. Add in the beautiful wood flavor and cloud grill and this is a winner in the beauty contest. But as we know, not everything is in looks. Harder to drive than the Andover, the Aiva faults in a too-forward mid, which also conveys a slight bit of veil when compared. A bit brighter signature overall as well, but with better bass reach, the Aiva was a click-purchase on looks alone. And I do not fault that purchase one bit. I like the offbeat sound of it, even with the shouty bits.

Here, the PM-50 takes a bit more laidback approach and one, which I like very much. I would add that the Aiva has a bit better separation of note and air, but one cannot fault the PM-50 for a lack of that. Simply that the Aiva has more. And easier fit, I almost thought it would fall off coming directly from the PM-50. Fit to me is a bit lax (but that could be a pseudo-effect), but with bigger cups, feels more secure in that department.

So, this comes down to whether you like a bit more bass and air between your note like the Aiva (plus the gorgeous look), or wonderfully detailed mids along with very good note separation and an understated elegance like the PM-50. Both are good.


Andover PM-50 ($499) v Dan Clark (Mr. Speakers) Aeon Flow Open ($799):

Agreed by many as the benchmark at this price for an open headphone (along with the HD650), it took me a bit of time to warm to how good the Aeon actually is. Harder to drive than the PM-50, this is not a fault, just the truth. Detail retrieval is superb. A slight roughness around the edge of that sound makes it almost perfect to me. Slightly warm in nature, with mid detail retrieval of the best, along with solid bass push (but again a bit rough) make this my go to at the sub-$800. I do not regret purchasing a used copy at all. Above that, the comfort and fit, albeit a bit different make the AFO the clear winner here. Light as a feather so to speak, one wonders why the others are so darn heavy.

Some of that slight roughness exudes as vivid as a result. The lower mids can come across as vivid to me as a result of this “rough around the edges.” Call it persona or soul if you will. If one wants a detail monster look elsewhere, for the AFO has a mentality about it, which radiates an attitude. Not like the Verum 1, no. One of quiet confidence instead. Knowing it is the one to beat and doing so in the process. No braggadocio needed in that quest. The PM-50 instead comes across as a bit livelier in the mids, and a bit tamer as well. Somewhat smoother, but without the persona of the AFO. Those mids in the PM-50 are really quite good, and account themselves well, but when faced with a benchmark, fall a bit short in overall schema.



Sources:

I will note, and it should not be a surprise, that the better the source, the better the sound from the PM-50. That said, it scales well with a multitude of sources from smartphone to your TOTL DAP. Paired with the Dethonray DTR1 the two are a hugely fun pair to be had. The detail of the DTR1 makes for a nice alternative to the evenness of the PM-50, bringing out the best. This is a very good pairing for about $1k. The XDuoo x10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD pairing tops even that. It is hard to beat the iDSD in my opinion at its price, and with the ability to tweak the sound, one simply has a very hard time finding something they don’t like from the trio. Making for a bit warmer sound on full tube, the iDSD is a favorite of mine, and will be for some time. Working with the PM-50 on the iDSD, I again appreciate what Andover has done to the PM-50. It really is a fine first effort.



Conclusion:

Based upon what I have written you might get the impression that the PM-50 is really good. You would not be far off as it does sound quite nice. Those mids are sublime to me and tie the whole shebang together. Couple that with the understated elegance of the build and model itself, and this is a top notch first effort. A really, really good effort from Andover here. But all is not perfect. Fitting more like an on ear than an over ear, those with larger ears will suffer. Couple that with the fit, which has the high clamping pressure and it brings down the overall score. Yes, you can bend the headband like they said, and I did. This make fit much more comfortable but still on the high-pressure side. Coming from the AFO, which is a feather comparatively, the PM-50 is too tight. This can be accommodated, with care and the bending as stated. And my sneaking suspicion is that a fix is in the works to aid.

None of the downsides should hinder you from giving the PM-50 a listen. The male vocals are amongst the best I have heard lately, and female vocals are just fine as well. With bass to hold down the low end and treble, which neither punishes nor abuses your listening; the PM-50 is a really fine first effort. Tie together the clarity and air of note and this makes a top-quality product from Andover. One, which to me fits right into their eclectic mix of products on their webpage.

I thank Andover for allowing Will to send the unit my way for review. It was well worth the listen, and I shall enjoy it a bit longer due to current circumstances. Give it a listen, it may just surprise you as well.


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