My current portable set of headphones for the last couple of years has been the B&W P5. I recently started searching for a suitable over ear closed design to augment or replace the B&W P5. I typically listen to my headphones while traveling or before going to bed and needed something that wouldn’t allow much if any music to escape. When researching my next set of portable headphones, I was considering the Audeze EL-8, Sony MDR-1A and the Oppo PM-3. Based on reading several reviews, in-store listening sessions and taking the price point into account I decided to purchase the Oppo PM-3.
The Fit and Finish
The Oppo PM-3 arrived double boxed, with a very nice selvedge denim case, 3.2 meter “long” cable, 1.2 meter “short” iPhone cable, and a 1/4 adapter. I am very pleased with the overall fit and finish of the PM-3. I feel that the reviews that I have read have actually done the PM-3 justice in this regard. I had extremely high expectations based on the glowing reviews that I read and I personally expected this headphone to come up short. The ear cups are extremely comfortable and fit exquisitely snug on my head. The weight is really unnoticeable in comparison to the Audeze LCD-2 and the overall design actually allows me to rest my head comfortably on a pillow. The black and silver accents are very classic and professional. I chose this colorway specifically as a result of not being able to replace the ear pads, which was noted in the reviews. I figured the white ear cups of the others would age and show wear significantly over time, so I decided to error on the side of caution.
Source & Connectivity
For this review, I used the following configuration:
Flac -> Windows PC -> Schiit Audio PYST USB cable à Oppo Digital HA-1
· Adele – “Hello”
· Alabama Shakes – “Dunes”
· Regina Spektor – “Blue Lips” (Live)
· Regina Spektor – “Hotel Song” (Live)
· Musica Nuda – “Imagine”
· Modest Mouse – “Ansel”
· MGMT – “Kids”
· The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”
· Ray LaMontagne “Gossip in The Grain”
· MAGIC! - “Rude”
· Club Des Belugas – “Wild is My Love”
Comparisons (Audeze LCD-2, B&W P5, Grado 225E)
Right off the bat the Oppo PM-3 sounds more open then I would have expected from a closed back design. The resonating of Adele’s voice during “Hello” is immediately noticeable. When comparing the music quality against streaming from Amazon Prime Music to playing a Flac file of this song it becomes apparent that the headphone isn’t the shortfall, but the compression of the music is. This isn’t a dig on the headphone, but a statement that what you feed the Oppo PM-3 will be accurately represented to your ears. The streaming quality was enjoyable, but there was a noticeable difference in the delivery. While listening to “Dunes” I could hear the separation of the voices and instruments with the hum of the amplifier nestled in. This was quite impressive for the $400 price point that these sit at. The atmosphere of the venue really becomes apparent in the live versions of “Blue Lips” and “Hotel Room”, the vocal and instrument separation is night and day between that of the B&W P5. Additionally the resolution is very clear in comparison. I really didn’t expect this much noticeable difference between the two headphones. Several elements that set this headphone apart from the others really become apparent during “Imagine”. The vocals and strings really shine here and I can’t help but smile. This open, airy and resolved presentation is what really makes the Oppo PM-3 shine above the B&W P5 and Grado 225E respectively. I find that the PM-3 has very controlled bass and I really don’t find anything sloppy about its representation of the low end. I am continually drawn into this headphone’s grasp the more I listen. During “Ansel”, the PM-3 remains collected and composed with a lot going on in the music. The same remains true during “Kids”. I as I continued to progress, it became more challenging to remove the PM-3 to conduct the A/B comparisons of music. As “Such Great Heights” ran through the cans, I just sat back and smiled. Tempo, control and placement are all right!
When listening to the same music through the LCD-2, I noticed a wider, deeper sound stage and more detail in the music itself. I felt the same when I did A/B comparisons specifically with the B&W P5. The LCD-2 in general just provides more substance to the music that keeps it at the helm of my desktop system. This observation says something about the LCD-2 and it isn’t necessarily a dig on the accomplishment of the PM-3. The LCD-2 is over twice the asking price of the PM-3 and I feel that it delivers the premium.
The Oppo PM-3 is money well spent in my books. The headphone has brought me to a level of enjoyment that I have been experiencing with my desktop setup (Oppo Digital HA-1/Audeze LCD-2). It has achieved this at a fraction of the price and is portable and cost effective. I am very pleased with the Sony Walkman (NWZA17SLV) combination and feel that if there is any component that is lacking it would be the amplifier section of the Sony. The unfortunate result of purchasing this set of headphones is that I will now be testing other portable media players to determine if there is better synergy. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the music with this combination.