Oppo PM-3 Review (vs. the Sony MDR-1As)
Oct 21, 2015 at 5:54 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 3


Headphoneus Supremus
Oct 6, 2014
Chicago Suburbs
(FINALLY got this in the right area!)
So I started reading all these reviews on the Oppo PM-3 planar magnetic headphones. The reviews were consistently strong, with some saying they're the best headphones (at least closed-back with an opened-back sound headphones lol) out there for under $500, and one site even said $1000! lol One review in particular's "Our Verdict" really got my attention. This definitely piqued my curiosity, so I decided to try them out vs my Sony MDR-1As which I also love very much, and see which one would be better. The PM-3s sell for $399 (1As are $299), but I was able to find a site that sold them for only $369, no tax or shipping either. So then they showed up................
Packaging: The packaging of the PM-3s is pretty nice. Easy to open box, looks premium enough, etc. All contents are packaged neatly in the box too. You get all the cables you need, including a couple regular cables (3 meters and 1.2 meters) with 3.5mm connectors, a larger connection adapter for home stereo amps and systems, and a really nice denim jean hard case. If you order from Oppo (which I did not), you also get your choice of a free Android or iOS in-line remote cable (1.2 meters I believe). I have no interest in in-line remote cables, so this was not an issue for me at all. I really liked that they included a hard case with the headphones. Don't really like having to buy that separately. Headphones fit perfectly in the case with room for cables too. 
Looks: In terms of appearance, the PM-3s reminded me a little bit of the B&W P7s, which I recently pitted against my 1As, and although close, they didn't have quite the same "bass PUNCH" the 1As did, so I just returned those. Aesthetically-speaking, the P7s are still my favorite, but the PM-3s do resemble them. I do love the looks of the 1As too, or else I wouldn't have kept them for as long as I have. I'm a big fan of Sony in general anyway, so that played into me purchasing the 1As too (I own SEVERAL of their products and love all of them.) 
Comfort: I found the PM-3s to be very comfortable. My 1As however are slightly more comfortable though, which has mostly to do with weight. The PM-3s weigh less than a quarter pound more than the 1As, but even with that tiny of a gap, you still can feel the difference. However, despite all that, the PM-3s still fit and feel great on my head, even after a few hours. You can always stretch them out on some books too if it's an issue as that might help, but they're nothing like my old Sennheiser HD 598s (my first premium headphones), which I had to return not b/c of sound quality (they sounded great), but simply b/c they were clamping too tightly on my head. Far from it really! So even with the 1As being a bit more comfortable, this wasn't an issue for me so it's all good. I should also mention that the PM-3's planar magnetic neodymium speaker driver units on each side are 15mm larger than the 1As' are (55 vs 40), so that definitely plays into the weight difference as well. They also tend to be heavier than regular traditional neodymium or ferrite magnet drivers units. 
Design/Build Quality: Excellent! These headphones look and feel very premium, with plenty of metal all over the exterior to make it perfectly clear that they are TOTALLY worth their asking price! They say there's a little bit of plastic on there, but I'm not really sure where from looking. You can tell it was very nicely put together as the hinges don't squeal when you rotate or move the headphones around at all. Much like my 1As, they were designed to impress!
Sound Quality: So I did my usual thing where I play several different song clips on each headphones, playing each clip twice in order to compare the two. My setup was the Sony Xperia Z3 smartphone and my Celsus Sound Companion One portable amp/DAC, which, shouldn't really need an introduction at this point anymore IMO. lol And of course the 1As vs the PM-3s. I noticed right away that the bass was a bit weaker on the PM-3s, so I made a custom EQ for them with more bass and a SLIGHT bump in mid-range too. Not sure if I needed the mid-range bump, but I just did it anyway cuz my gut told me to. The EQ I had was custom for the 1As, so I felt tweaking it a bit was necessary for their rivals. Everyone kept saying the clarity on the PM-3s was incredible, so if a little extra mid-range brought that out, then so be it! 
Anyway.................I played a couple CD-Quality FLAC tracks, but mostly Hi-Res content on both headphones. The songs ranged from mostly rock.... some hard rock, some soft. Once I applied that new EQ on the PM-3s, they sounded pretty much equal to the 1As to me. After several songs, I felt like the bass might have better control and isolation on it with the PM-3s than on the 1As, since bigger driver units will do that, but I'm still not sure. What I WAS sure about was that when I played the very hypnotic & awesomely bassy intro to The Eagles' "King of Hollywood", but MOST ESPECIALLY when playing the intro to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' "You Tell Me" (both in Hi-Res), that the 1As had a BIT more audible hiss in the quieter parts of those clips, even with the volume being at the same level (I had to put the volume level up a bit higher on the PM-3s for it to be equal). Even with the PM-3s having that slight mid-range bump from my custom EQ which may (or may not??) have risked bringing on extra hiss, I was surprised to find that the PM-3s were quite "dark" where the 1As weren't. THAT was it for me. I went back and forth several times just to make sure I wasn't imagining it, and especially on "You Tell Me" it was extremely obvious that the PM-3s simply offered noticeably more clarity!
Conclusion: Overall, the PM-3s beat out the 1As in pretty much every category. The 1As do have a slight edge in terms of comfort and weight, but it was definitely not enough to overlook the PM-3's strong points. The 1As have kept me VERY happy for close to a year now, but the PM-3s simply bring a little bit more to the table. And with the price difference being less than $100 (in my case anyway), the decision to keep the PM-3s and sell my 1As was an easy one. 
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
Oct 22, 2015 at 6:18 AM Post #2 of 3
Very good summary.
I have just made the same move (although still to sell the 1As yet!). I had two main problems with the 1As.
Firstly the build quality was just awful. I know that they are not that expensive but all of the creaking and noises when just lifting them off the table was unacceptable to me. Even more annoying was the fact that I tried a demo pair of a much cheaper Sony set in a store and it has none of the build issues.
Secondly, the bass was too loose and uncontrolled. The PM-3s definitely have much less bass (and I might try your EQ suggestion for certain types of music) but it is really well controlled. The 1As are a fun listen, though.
The PM-3s are on a different level in my opinion, but they need to be because here in the UK the price difference is much greater. Currently, the MDR-1A are £125 and the PM-3 are £350. A worthy upgrade for me, but the 1As are good for their price.
Oct 22, 2015 at 1:04 PM Post #3 of 3
Thank you man! 
That's cool. Yeah I sold my 1As on eBay via an auction a couple days ago. 
I dunno............ I honestly didn't have any issues (that I noticed anyway) with the creaking and noises really at all. Not sure why you did. But anyway, we both are moving on to something seemingly better anyway. lol
I thought the bass was great, but yeah on the PM-3s it seemed to be a bit more isolated. Having the bigger speaker drivers on the PM-3s is a major factor for that.........15MMs is considerable. The planar magnetic setup may have played into it too since they say it brings extra clarity to the table. But if you noticed the bass improvement too than I have even less doubt now than when I wrote my review (where I expressed a little bit of doubt). You SHOULD try my EQ suggestion and see what happens. I'm even experimenting with raising the treble up a little bit too. The extra clarity the PM-3s have brought have also opened my ears (can't say eyes lol) to the realization that some of my Hi-Res music still sounds a bit compressed. So I already bumped my mid-range up a bit more than when I wrote the article (not just 250 and 500 Hz, but 1, 2, and 4KHz bands too........ 2KHz being probably the most important one, so it's slightly higher than the rest.). I think raising the treble is helping too but I need to test it on a couple more "quieter" songs, or songs where the vocals are more dominant than the instruments. I know since these are "closed-back (with an open-back feel)", that may be part of the reason for the VERY SLIGHTLY compressed sound I'm sure, but the EQ experimentation seems to be taking care of that for me. Yeah I wouldn't have kept the 1As for as long as I did if they didn't hold up well. 
I should also add, regarding the bass EQ bands...... I created an alternate custom EQ preset (which I call Oppo Bass Reducer, vs the standard "Oppo PM-3" one I have) which is identical to my standard one, but with the first 3 "bass" bands lowered down by like a few MMs. I noticed that on certain songs, the bassier parts would be too strong or worse, cause noticeable (though quick) "crackling" or static.............but by making that adjustment, the static or overemphasis on bass would vanish, the song would sound more clear, and no longer distract from the other instruments/vocals as well. I use the PowerAmp app for my phone (Android, Sony Xperia Z3), because it's the best. I heard of another one that claims to be better, but I read it is a bit buggy (i.e. randomly doesn't display album art, etc), so I dunno. May test it out one day. PowerAmp though allows me to make my own presets and save them and make them defaults, even letting me make certain presets the default just for specific songs (aka, it supersedes the main default). Even lets you save all that & the other settings as well as a file which you can import/export in or out like when you get a new phone. Love it! It even trumps the sound quality of the Walkman/Music app, though it's close. 
Once I am happy with my EQ presets for the PM-3, I can post them here as screenshots. They should work on any 10-band EQ, but PowerAmp is where I use them at. I am also using the Oppo HA-2 portable amp/DAC with the Oppo PM-3s. I plan to write up a review of the HA-2 this week and post a link here. But I want to get this EQ issue settled first. They do make QUITE the pretty pair though (and sound GREAT too)! lol **UPDATE: I HAVE DECIDED TO TURN OFF THE EQ FUNCTION (FOR THE PM-3) ON POWERAMP. IT WAS CAUSING STATIC ON RANDOM SONGS, EVEN HI-RES ONES, BUT NOW SINCE DISABLING IT THE STATIC HAS SINCE COMPLETELY VANISHED! THE PM-3s ARE SO CLEAR THAT IT WAS CATCHING TOO MUCH OF THE BAD FROM THAT EQ BEING ON, SO IT HAD TO GO. I DIDN'T HAVE THIS ISSUE WITH PREVIOUS HEADPHONES, BUT THEY COULDN'T DO WHAT THE PM-3s CAN.** 
Wow! That price difference is HUGE in the UK. Here the 1As run for $299 where the PM-3s are $399, though I got them for $369 from a great site in Hong Kong, free shipping too. So I guess the 1As cost more here, but the PM-3s are cheaper. Interesting. Yeah, that extra clarity I got from the PM-3s might not be much to some ppl, but to me it was a major selling point. One of my main reasons for getting into the whole Hi-Res/Hi-Fi game was the pursuit of less hiss and more clarity, or that "dark sound". The PM-3s put me at a much closer position in that pursuit than I was at while using the 1As. 

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