My impressions and mini-review of the Oppo PM-3
In general, I liked the PM-3s a lot for certain tracks (hip-hop in particular) and not all that much for others (classical piano). I've only just started testing/comparing headphones in the past few months, but I think I'm realizing how much I like treble, and speed and detail in general, in head/earphones. I'm a drummer and always listen closely to the drums in recordings, and that treble detail/extension makes hi-hat work stand out, which I like. The PM-3s didn't always have the treble qualities I like, and the mids sometimes sounded a little blurred together for my tastes. I love the style, fit and finish of the PM-3s. But something about the sound was lacking and/or inconsistent for me, and as such don't have them on my wish list. That could change with the right DAC/AMP pairing, but based on what I've read previously in this thread, I'm thinking maybe not.
As a quick word of background, I reviewed cell phones and other mobile technology for a living for the better part of a decade (2005ish to 2012ish). That doesn't mean I'm more or less qualified to try out some headphones than anyone else. But it did inform the way I listened to and compared the PM-3s with other 'phones. I quickly became very aware of my own biases and point of view, and came to the same conclusion I usually did when reviewing gadgets: A certain level of objective good and bad exists, but after a point it mainly comes down to personal taste.
I listened to the PM-3s for a week, at home and at work, using lossless FLAC files and Spotify Premium (320k streaming) source material driven straight out of a MacBook Air (2015) , iPhone 6, iPhone 6+ and iPad mini 2. I had planned to track down an amp and/or DAC AMP to pair with the PM-3s, but then decided not to mainly b/c I wanted to stay within the boundaries of how I usually listen to music.
I also compared with my own PSB M4U1 headphones and a friend's B&W P7 headphones. And even though comparing cans to IEMs is apples and oranges in many ways, since I'm a huge IEM user, I couldn't help but compare to my Etymotic ER-4S. I also had a few audio nerd friends at work try the PM-3s out.
Some listening notes:
Very comfy. Ear holes a tiny bit small, but ok after a little fiddling. Iso is good but not amazing. Build quality, feel of headband and ear pads are all top notch.
Art Blakey Free For All from album of same name. Spotify 320k MacBook Air
- Great first impression! one of my favorite tracks - hard bop, solo and group horn lines, big drums with dry airy cymbals.
PJ Harvey Rid of Me album. Spotify 320k MacBook Air
"Rid of Me" - Stark opening with low female vocals and spare, growly electric guitar
Slightly recessed vocals?
Those low guitars sound great
"Missed" - This track is heavy on lead guitar and drums. Very stark, open recording. Lots of detail in the toms and splash cymbals
Splash cymbals sound recessed in the recording. Both kind of pushed back in the mix and lacking in treble detail.
Man the toms sound good
Guitars sound great
Hi-Hats sound great
Sounds great. I want these phones.
Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon. FLAC lossless, MacBook Air - Spotify 320k
"On the Run" - Nice, swirling soundstage/imaging. They sound bigger than IEMs, but without the fake boomy-ness of PSBs.
Detail retrieval, overall, is great so far
I might want a touch more treble. Is that b/c I’m so used to the Ety signature?
Switched from MB Air to iPhone 6+ (same spotify source) … wow, it sounds better. I think I need a DAC for my laptop.
Yuja Wang - Fantasia - Solo classical piano
Sounds really good, but a little less separation than I'm used to during the passages that are dense in the mid/mid-lows. Track 5, for example. Doesn’t at all sound bad, but just a little less crisp and distinct than on other music.
A friend described the sound on these tracks as “less physical” than his B&W P7s. Agreed - There’s not as much attack - or however best to describe the initial percussive burst of the piano notes. In the fast passages, the notes are less distinct than on the P7s.
Went back to this later. Track 11. A/B’d with Ety 4S. Friend A/B’d with Senn ie8. I know, don't A/B cans with IEMs. But we did.
The Etys sound so much crisper. Black background, notes have more attack and depth. More percussive, more atmosphere.
Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy - iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320 streaming
Yup. This is it. Details and clarity and lushness.
First A/B with PSBs — The triangle (?) sounds in the chorus sounded clearer and more detailed on the PSBs, but also a slight bit harsher (strident).
"Your Gold Teeth"
- The soundstage is good, extending both L/R and Up/Down. The percussion kind of circles above my head, in a good way. It’s not just layered along a single axis.
Traffic - "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" of Album of same name. iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320k
Sounds fantastic. Percussion details, snare ghost notes, organ in the background - All great. Bass is a little thick for my tastes. … Upon A/B, it’s not really thicker than PSBs.
The PSBs are a little livelier. I think they might also be a little more accurate, which seems an odd thing to say. But it kinda sounds like the PSBs retrieve more detail with more clarity, but then are maybe tuned with a tiny bit more of an emphasized V-shaped curve.
Genesis - Duke (listened to first 2/3 of album straight through) - iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320k
Same thing … Sounds really good but a little darker than PSBs. Maybe a touch less detail retrieval?
Kendrick Lamar playlist (recent hip hop with great production values) - iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320k
PSBs are brighter. Prefer the Oppo. These might be really great hip hop 'phones.
Mary J Blige - "Family Affair" (R&B track with strong groove) - iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320k
Tight bass with good thump. Treble a little recessed? Sounds really good but sort of lacks a high-end sparkle.
Alien Ant Farm - Smooth Criminal (modern power pop) - iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320k
Sounds like I’m listening through a screen door … it’s kind of far away, and some sounds come through clean while others don’t at all. Unforgiving and revealing of a poor recording?
Pharrell - "Get Lucky" and Chic "Good Times" - iPhone 6+ - Spotify 320k
Same thing. Great, tight low-end thump. Good mids. Good detail. But I miss that treble.
Overall: Really nice headphones. But the SQ isn't quite what I'm looking for. I appreciate that they're both less "boomy" and less strident than my PSB M4U1's, but I want more treble clarity/emphasis and a little more attack from the Oppos. EQ'ing didn't give it to me. The PSBs aren't my idea sound, either, but they seemed to be more versatile across a range of music/styles and have a treble sound I like more.