Note: Oppo has since stopped making products, although they still support existing ones and will occasionally provide firmware updates. This is sad news as I considered some of their products (the ones I tried) to be among the best. Included are these Oppo PM-3 headphones, as well as their HA-2 Amp that I’ve also reviewed and owned at one point.
- Originally published on 6/24/17.
- Updated September 18th, 2018.
- 7/10/21. Article re-visit as I now own the headphone.
- 1/18/22. Replaced the pads!!
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Before we get into the Oppo PM3 headphones review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
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In The Box
Oppo PM-3 Headphones
3m detachable cable (3.5mm)
1.2m detachable cable (3.5mm)
Carrying Case for Cables
User Manual (not pictured)
1/4″ adapter (not pictured)
Note: If using the short cable, you’ll want a snap-on adapter for these headphones as the screw-on variety won’t work. I don’t like long cables at my desk and I’m using the PM-3 into a 1/4″ jack currently.
Table of Contents
Introduction/Updated 2021 Impressions
Pros & Cons
Genre Pairing, Portable Use, Gaming & Film
Stu’s Notepad & Pad Replacement
Consensus/Conclusion & Final Word
Shoutout to Crinacle for the graph!
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- Type: Closed back. Closed back vs. Open back headphones
- Fit: Circumaural
- Frequency Response: 10 – 50kHz
- Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
- Impedance: 26 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Sensitivity: 102dB/mW
- Clamping Pressure: 5N
- Cables: 3m detachable cable, 1.2m detachable cable (3.5mm)
- Connectors: Output: 3.5mm stereo jack
- Weight: 320g (Black/White), 310g (Cherry Red/Steel Blue)
- Included Accessories: Carrying case, User Manual, 1/4″ adapter
- Features: Inline remote (Play/Pause, Volume +/-)
- A+ price to performance ratio. These things are worth every penny that they’re sold for. I really don’t say that often, but in this case, I truly believe that they represent a perfect price point where you receive the value that you gave.
- Incredibly detailed sound. This is a headphone that articulates every note with pristine clarity and accuracy. I really wasn’t expecting this at all. Ever had trouble making out the rhythm guitars in the Allman Brothers’ Blue Sky? Have no fear, the PM3 is here. 🙂 You can clearly hear the moment when the rhythm guitar turns into the second solo. Ridiculous.
- The most textured and lively bass that I’ve heard. It’s not too heavy and not too light, but gives you just the right amount alright? 😛
- The durability here is excellent. No plastic and they feel extremely solid in your hands.
- Comfort-wise, these are a dream. I haven’t once had to adjust them, and they don’t weigh you down or feel like they’re moving around too much. The clamping force is just right.
- No need for an amp. Just plug these babies into your mobile devices and you’re ready to go.
- Great Soundstage for a closed-back model, or any model for that matter. The sound has this knack for jumping out at you without being in your face. Doesn’t make much sense I know, but trust me. There’s this uncanny presence as if the band is a lot closer to you.
- Versatile. I love these with all genres and they work because they have an overall balanced signature with a touch of added warmth. They are just a bit north of neutral which makes them incredibly enjoyable rather than being too clinical.
Introduction & Summary
Recently I got a great deal on the PM-3 from my cousin and thought I’d update this article to see if my initial lovefest with these headphones was warranted back when I first heard them around June of 2017.
In short, I feel the same way even years later. It’s just too bad Oppo decided to stop making headphones because this is absolutely one of the best closed-backs I’ve ever heard.
In fact, I was so excited about them back then that I actually made this graphic of what I call an Oppo-Potamus. Yeah, don’t ask because I don’t know either. xD
I know, it makes no sense. But he is cute! *swoon* I even did a gradient thing or whatever. Because Graphic Design, or something. xD
- Amps & DACS used: FiiO K5 Pro, xDuoo TA-20/DragonFly Red, iFi Zen/Zen V2 (more to come!)
- Source: Spotify Premium
- Playlist: Here!
The fact that the PM-3 is a planar magnetic headphone certainly helps its case, but there’s just something about it that makes me want to listen to songs I’d otherwise skip over.
That was the sentiment yesterday as I was listening to Spotify. The decay of instruments and vocals is especially noteworthy and in large part why I initially drooled over the sound signature.
The bass is also thumpy without getting out of line; something I was also impressed by back then and still am to this day.
There’s just enough of a mid-bass bump to keep you excited without ever feeling like it’s overdone like your mom’s meatloaf.
The sub-bass also digs deep and hits those notes you’d otherwise in headphones with more roll-off.
Speaking of bass…
What is it about bass that enamors us as humans? Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by it.
Is it because it gives the music a satisfying punch? Is it because it completes the song or fills in the gaps that our brains desire?
I have no idea, but what I do know is that bass response is extremely important when it comes to headphones.
In fact, it can make or break a pair and can be the difference between 1) a boring pair with no bass, 2) an over-hyped bass that is essentially useless, and 3) a perfect pair with an articulate but tight response.
In short, this is what the PM-3’s deliver.
In listening to the PM-3’s, I’m starting to really understand the way music is supposed to sound. I’ve listened to many different types of headphones and the better the headphone, the more clear things become.
Think about a bad pair; they might only present to you about 45% of what you’re listening to (I’m talking the Drug Store homies). You literally have no idea what the other 55% is. You’re not even aware it exists because the headphones do not reveal it.
Now think about a pair that is around 65% – 75% accurate. This is the majority of headphones out there in my opinion. I believe this represents a mostly V-shaped sound: Big bass, treble sparkle, and a somewhat recessed mid-range.
It’s a typical bass-head experience. Not bad, but not exactly what we’re looking for.
A pair like the Oppo PM-3 fills in the gaps or that last 25% that most headphones lack. This is the best way I can describe higher-end cans. Perhaps “mid-tier”, as audiophiles like to call it.
This should be the standard of a bass-head headphone: Bass that you can actually hear. The beauty of them is that the bass is so darn articulate that I can’t stop writing about it.
It’s amazing what our ears can miss with cheaper stuff. You start to really appreciate the work and musicianship that goes into a well-made song with talented artists.
Case and point: Chon just recently came out with a new album called “Homey.” Upon first listen, I thought it was excellent. But after I put on the PM-3’s and listened again, the music takes on another dimension.
Suddenly you can hear each and every bass note, and I am not exaggerating. On “Sleepy Tea” There’s a point in the song when the bass line becomes very apparent.
This is pretty audible with nearly any pair of headphones. But starting at 2:04 with the PM-3, I can literally hear every single note that he’s playing. This astounded me.
How could I have missed that before? This is what good headphones give you. There are clarity and precision about this pair that cannot be overstated. They never become sibilant, and the bass never feels too heavy. It sits perfectly in the mix but still has a crazy impact.
All in all, every nook and cranny seems to come out with these. It’s a truly enjoyable experience.
I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since Chon’s Homey came out, but I digress.
The sentiments above still ring true, and actually nearly brought me to tears yesterday as I listened to a song I thought I knew.
That extra layer of detail manifested itself again and I was reminded of just how intricate and layered the PM-3 is.
You’ll start to pick up on stuff that may not ever appear in dynamic headphones. I’ve talked a lot about how the planar sound is an actual upgrade from a dynamic, and that certainly rings true in revisiting the PM-3.
In listening to J Dilla’s “Climax” Instrumental, (a song I’ve heard a thousand times) a new layer of added sounds made themselves known.
For the longest time, I thought I had heard everything this beat had to offer, but I was wrong. It’s hard to explain, but during the verse section leading up to the hook, you can hear really really subtle sounds and different stuff going on in the background.
The best way to describe them would be like little cookie crumbles – Small morsels of goodness that add to the experience but aren’t necessarily immediately noticeable.
Upon first listen, the beat really just sounds like drums and a whispy background melody, but the genius of Dilla was that he was able to make something seemingly simplistic sound almost otherwordly.
The PM-3 only enhances and magnifies this notion in a way that truly surprised me.
Thieves in the Night
On Blackstar’s “Thieves in the Night”, another song I’ve heard probably 2,000 times, my jaw dropped yet again.
Towards the end after Mos Def’s verse, both he and Talib Kweli ad-lib the outro and exchange some ideas about life, overcoming fear, and ultimately coming to terms with the sinister and deceptive nature of the music industry.
I could never make out what they were saying in some of it, but at 4:14 you can clearly hear Mos Def say “You can just walk it off, to get to your destination.”
And then you can hear Kweli say in response, “And then when you get there, you have to, um, celebrate.”
I promise you I’ve been listening to this song intently since the early 2000s and I have never once been able to make out what they were saying on any of the 100+ headphones I’ve demoed or owned.
By this point, I’ve memorized the entire song’s lyrics but could never make out that subtle conversation/talking at the end.
This is just another in a long list of reasons why the PM-3 has always stood out to me. I believe it does a fantastic job at spacing things out and providing better resolution than its dynamic counterparts; a running theme in this article.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I think it comes down to the Planar magnetic drivers.
I noticed this same exact thing listening to the Harmonic Dyne G200 and HIFIMAN Edition XS with Broken Social Scene’s “Cause = Time”.
I’ve heard this song hundreds (maybe thousands of times) since it came out in 2003 and always thought the lyrics at 47 seconds in were “This is a mouth that needs revision.”
It was only when I used these planar headphones that I was able to discover he actually says “This is a mouth that needs religion.”
Let me make this clear: Planar headphones are oftentimes the only ones that can make these distinctions and that is in large part why I always say that they tend to provide better resolution than dynamics (as well as instrument timbre).
Build Quality (2017 impressions)
They are supremely crafted, and just may possess the most efficient headband and swiveling ear-cup mechanism in existence. Everything about the build exudes pure elegance and functionality.
The earcups rotate a full 90 degrees and feel extremely durable in your hands. The chord is detachable and feels solid. The headband has just the right amount of padding, and overall it doesn’t seem like the protein leather will break down or peel over time.
My cousin made me aware that the pair he sold me just starting to show signs of wear, and in researching the headphone again I did read complaints of it breaking down.
This is most certainly going to be an issue for some and will undoubtedly rear its ugly head on my pair at some point.
I will probably invest in a pair of replacements soon given that I do plan to keep these around.
Comfort (2017 impressions)
Astounding. I don’t think these could get any better in that regard, and I haven’t had to take them off or adjust them at all.
This is certainly still true in 2021.
They’re currently on my head and while I do feel them there, they are incredibly comfortable and the clamping force against the sides of my head is almost perfect.
I’m not feeling any pressure on the top of my head either.
The cup size isn’t the largest in the world, but they will envelop your ears better than a 7506/V6; two headphones I consider to be a hybrid Circumaural (Around-Ear) and Supra-Aural (On-Ear).
The PM-3 comes uncomfortably close to being the same, but it just makes the cut for a truly Circumaural fit.
- Crystal clear sound. Laser-like precision.
- Great mid-range. Vocals and instruments really have life to them.
- The soundstage is astounding for a closed-back model. There are so much space and separation between sounds and instruments that I was shocked. There are open-back models that don’t do this as well. What is Soundstage?
- Very nice packaging presentation. I really like the compact, hard denim case.
- Terrific build quality and comfort. It really doesn’t get much better. The headphones are solid and made of brushed aluminum. They are also the perfect weight and rest comfortably on your noggin. The ear-cups are oval and conform nicely to your ear.
- Lively sound. There’s something about the music that jumps out at you but doesn’t feel overbearing in the slightest. The level of engagement is just exemplary. I feel like songs I’ve heard a thousand times before sound different somehow. It’s hard to explain.
- Big heads need not apply. If you have big Ross Perot ears, you may be in for a world of pain like Smokey from Big Lebowski. Lol. The elongated ear cups may cause discomfort depending on the size of your melon.
- High-end not as crisp as some cheaper phones. A tad subdued. As Lachlan pointed out, these headphones can sound a bit dull at times, meaning nothing really jumps out at you.
- Could have benefited from deeper ear pads. Your ears may touch the driver’s assembly causing some minor discomfort.
- Because the ear pads are made of synthetic leather, they may become warm and sweaty after prolonged wear.
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These don’t need an amp and will sound good from a mobile device. However, they take on a new level of clarity and resolution when you pair them with a capable one.
The point is that these are incredibly efficient and you won’t need much to get them going. I’d recommend something like a FiiO E10K, K3, or BTR3K to start. You could even go for my favorite K5 Pro as an all-in-one desktop solution. Read: How to choose a headphone amp!
Who do these headphones benefit?
- Movie watching with your boo
- The Office
- New Age
- Works well as a gaming headset
- Classic Rock
Know that instruments and vocals will be the highlights of this can.
I would like to point out that they sound good with Jazz, but not as incredibly revealing as with other genres. I found myself just kind of enjoying the music and not really getting immersed in it. Time will tell if my opinion changes, however.
As mentioned in Lachlan’s review, the PM-3 will excel for most genres and sound really good.
I plan to keep this one as my main closed-back headphone because of that, but also because it’s comfortable, built well, and really efficient.
Because it comes with a long and short cable option, I can take it on the go with me rather easily by stowing it away in the provided carry case.
Even despite being a planar magnetic, it’s relatively lightweight and fairly compact all things considered.
Do keep in mind that you can theoretically just plug it into your phone as well if you don’t want to invest in a DAC right away.
If I want to watch a movie or play some games, I have that option with the 3m long cable. I can easily pair it with my second favorite Amp/DAC in the Creative SoundBlasterX G6 and be off to the races.
I tested this out yesterday with the film Miracle, and it sounded pretty awesome with and without Scout mode enabled.
Obviously, the sound is going to open up a bit with Scout Mode on, but you’ll still find that even despite it being a closed-back, the imaging is very good and the sounds are spaced out nicely.
I found the PM-3 to sound crisp and tight when playing my favorite test game, Fallout 4.
The sound is obviously going to be more closed in than an open back, but I found this makes reloads, firing, and other miscellaneous. sounds to be more immediate and intimate.
The other thing is that the mid-bass gets in the way a little, but it’s really subtle. You’re not going to feel like it’s drowning anything out, but at the same time you’ll get this sense that the experience could be ever so slightly less, I don’t even know the word.
The same goes for the sub-bass. There’s this hint that it’s just a bit much, but again, the distinction is rather subtle in passing.
I probably wouldn’t rely on the PM-3 for full-time mixing duties because of the bass.
This is only my opinion, but I’d much rather have room to elevate the bass on a headphone with more roll-off than pretty much be capped on a headphone that prioritizes its bass response.
Such is the case with the PM-3.
You pretty much have no room to actually mix, and that’s the whole point. The lower mid-range is also a bit recessed which doesn’t help matters either.
If you are looking for good headphones for mixing & production, go here instead.
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
I’ve heard the song “Estimated Prophet” by the Grateful Dead about a thousand times.
It’s one of my test songs due to the fact that it’s mastered extremely well and has some nice instrument separation, rhythm, vocals, and cool bass notes.
I thought I had heard everything, until about 1:28. Right before he says “It’s gonna be just like they say, them voices tell me so” you can actually hear a weird vocal passage that sort of sounds almost demonic or ghostly.
What I want you to do is make a small “O-face” and then slowly open your mouth wider while making a sound. That’s what you can faintly hear in the background, and in all the years listening to the song I’ve never heard that before.
As mentioned in the open, these are the types of things you’ll start to hear, and they really tie the song together. It’s like The Dude in Big Lebowski says: “That rug really tied the room together.” Lol.
So think of the PM-3’s as that missing link between what you actually hear and what was recorded. You’re now able to discern everything.
In fact, If I can make another analogy, think of the PM-3’s as filling in those missing puzzle pieces to the song. You start to realize the intricacies of the arrangement, and music actually starts to become incredibly enjoyable again as a form of pure observation.
In the past, you may have thought to yourself that there must be more to music than this, or maybe you just enjoyed the songs for what they were. No longer. You’re going to appreciate music in a whole new light with the PM-3.
Say You Love Me
I hate to say this, but on Fleetwood Mac’s “Say you love me”, I can clearly make out the rhythm of the keyboard. For the longest time, I desperately wanted to hear exactly how it sounded, but couldn’t.
Now, why do I hate to say this?
Because, well, my beloved HD600 which I consider the best overall open-backed headphone could not achieve what the PM-3 has done.
I knew there was a specific rhythm to that keyboard, but my ears just could not follow the strokes of Christine McVie’s fingers with as much accuracy as I desired.
I could make out some parts, but others became blurred together. Think about a drum sequence; you clearly hear the bass, kick, bass kick. The keyboard is the same except you’re playing notes instead.
At the beginning of the song, you can clearly hear the rhythm because there are no other instruments. But when everything else comes into play, it becomes harder to decipher exactly what’s going on. The PM-3’s reveal that and I honestly was blown away by it.
On The Allman Brothers’ “Melissa”, towards the end, there’s a keyboard bit that is very interesting to me. It becomes very prominent and you can hear it well, but I always had trouble hearing it after it became a bit quieter.
So, it gets louder, then quieter, but the sounds of the other instruments always blurred it to the point where I thought it just stopped playing altogether. Turns out I was wrong. I can hear it pretty clearly when the notes change now, but it’s very subtle.
2022 Pad Replacement
Since revisiting this article back in July of 2021, the pads started slowly deteriorating. My cousin mention this to me, and I was fine with it since I planned to replace them.
Fast forward to around December 2021/January 2022 and it got bad enough to where I decided to peel and scratch off every remaining bit left.
If you’re familiar with this type of faux leather pad, you’ll know how EAR-itating (sorry) it is to clean up the little specks and pieces that fall off.
They seemingly appear everywhere: in your ear, on the floor, etc.
After scratching the remaining bits off and being completely OCD about it, I decided to buy a pair of replacements which are advertised as being the same pad.
While not an exact match, they are about as close as you’re going to get considering Oppo’s discontinued their product line and no longer sells anything.
I took some pictures of the aftermath but also recorded a video which I will be uploading soon to my YouTube channel. Stay tuned for that.
Pad Comparison and Sound Impressions
New pads really do make a difference.
As mentioned in the comment section below, everything is crisper, tauter, and livelier, with just the right amount of weight and slam.
They sound fantastic; perhaps even better than the originals. It makes you realize how important a fresh set of pads is, but also why you fell in love with the sound upon first hearing it.
There are subtle differences between the 2 pads, but by and large, they are about as close to being the same as you could realistically ask for.
The thickness, length (up and down) depth, and overall size are almost identical.
The upper corners are slightly less rounded off, and upon further examination, the pad opening seems a tad wider in diameter but this could be the shadows/lighting playing tricks on me.
Note the 2 stacked on top of each other are essentially an exact match. You be the judge!
I did some official measurements as well to verify:
- Length of opening (up and down): Both are exactly 2.25″
- Width of opening: Both exactly. 1.5″
- The thickness of the pad: Both are around 1″. The original is a bit less, but that is likely due to it being deflated and detached from the headphone.
- Length of entire pad: 3.75″
- Width of entire pad: Both exactly 3″
So yeah. Just buy them, you won’t regret it!
An incredibly well-built and supremely comfortable headphone with a startling sound signature that must be heard to truly appreciate.
Bass is tight, deep, and perhaps the most articulate that I have personally ever heard. In fact, the overall sound signature is probably the single most detailed and warm that I’ve come across; at least as far as closed-backs are concerned.
Things to keep in mind
- The pads will likely break down at some point and start peeling. Just get a replacement pair and you should be fine as the overall build is fantastic.
- As Lachlan alluded to, the sound can sometimes feel a bit “blank” but for me, this is certainly a good thing as I’m very treble sensitive. You may feel the same way. The bass is what keeps these from sounding dull in my opinion. The mid-range is also really good as noted above.
I think it should be pretty clear by now how I feel about these. Interested in reading some reviews?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed my Oppo PM-3 headphones review.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Would you invest in these? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,
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Gaming & Film
More to come!