Continuing « Headphone Month » at Hifi Pig here’s Linette and Stuart’s thoughts on the well thought of Oppo PM1 headphones.

Although Oppo are known for their bluray and cd players (and mobile phones, outside of the OPPO_PM1_4audiophile market), I didn’t know they made headphones….and they didn’t until recently.
So, is a high end, £1099 pair of planar magnetic headphones what you would expect for a company’s first foray into the headphone market? Not really……this is certainly going to be interesting!

Right from the off you know Oppo have gone high end. The box arrives…surely this can’t be headphones, its too big and heavy?! But headphones it is.
Nestling in the Oppo branded box is another box, in an understated silvery finish. Sliding off the lid and its Christmas morning and my birthday all rolled into one. Oppo have obviously made a mistake and sent me a beautiful, shiny wooden box with some luxurious jewellery instead of headphones!
The understated, luxury vibe continues as I open the box and lift out the ‘phones. Cool, sleek and minimal…and very light for planar magnetics, just 395g.
I love the feel of these headphones. The leather is soft and flawless and everything, twists, pivots and moves just as it should do with a effortlessly smooth action, they put me in mind of a well oiled, top of the range Mercedes…perfection!
There is also a very nice, denim carry case for taking them out and about, an extra pair of velour earpads and the choice of a long cable and a shorter one for portable use.

They slip onto my head and the feeling is one of complete and utter comfort, indeed rather like settling into the seat of a high end car. They fit me like a glove, like they were tailor made for me; I really like how the earcups pivot in their mountings to achieve this. The leather feels soft on my ears and, even though they are an open backed design, I feel cosseted and cocooned.
Are these the most comfortable headphones that I have ever tried? They are, I thought that the Hifiman were the pinnacle but these are even better for me, and even with extended wear they remain exceptionally comfortable, my ears don’t sweat and my glasses cause no issues.
This does surprise me because looking at them, the PM-1s do not appear to be ‘over padded’ in the way that the Audeze are, a little investigation reveals that they use a hypoallergenic natural latex for padding, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

As soon as I turn the music on I get chills in the same way as I do when I listen to a high-end horn system…this is weird! And I’m listening to Deadmau5…which is not really the most ‘chill inducing’ music in the world…it’s brash and banging, but the Oppos bring so much detail and feeling it is really uncanny.
I described my first experience of listening to the Audeze LCD-XC headphones as being ‘like a nightclub on my head’ Oppo take it one stage further, this is total music immersion. To be fair, I didn’t think that anything could blow me away more than the Audeze, much less an open backed pair of ‘phones, but Oppo have done something VERY clever here and are starting to seriously justify their grand+ price tagOPPPM1_2

The soundstage is perhaps the most 3D I have heard, the music is all around me with an incredible depth and clarity, there are layers to Deadmau5‘s tunes that I never knew existed or expected.
It extends in every direction but still retains the drive in the centre of my head; there is a sense of the sound coming from many different directions.
The bass is very controlled and again detailed and fast…and there is plenty off it, enough to satisfy even a basshead like me!
Don’t get me wrong…I love, love, love the Audeze but I just feel that where they seem to shout with a sharper brightness, the Oppo’s whisper and reveal more detail…with the Oppos the dimensions in the soundstage are unsurpassed and I feel that I could walk around quite happily in a way I could not in the Audeze…yes there is sound bleed from the open backs, but I’m feeling a bit selfish and don’t care about that right now.

The chills are back again as I put Rudimental’s album ‘Home’ on…..’Feel the love’ is elevated to epic status, I love this tune…I hold my hands in air to it and I just feel that the Oppos have the edge…best headphones I’ve ever listened to? Right here right now……. I would say yes.

Of course Hardfloor are back for the serious bass test with ‘once again back’….again I am getting incredible levels of detail and clarity and serious, serious bass…better than the other headphones I have reviewed? Yes, and bear in mind that I have them all on my desk and am switching between them to gauge my aural memories.

I switch to Gil Scott Heron and his ‘Ghetto Style’ album, again, something I have listened to with all the headphone reviews this month. With more natural than electronic music the 3Dness of the soundstage is even more apparent…I pick out ‘No Knock’ because the bongo player is sat about 4 feet diagonally behind my left shoulder….I have to look round to check he is not really there!

I need to rock out a bit, Eels ‘Beautiful Freak’ goes on …I forget that I am supposed to be ‘reviewing’ and just lose myself in the music in the way that I have only really done before with the Audeze. The connection with the music is incredible, combined with the comfort and the fact that you could wear these headphones 24/7 if you were so inclined makes me very, very happy. I could go on…I’ve listened to loads more music on these headphones but I am just drawn into listening and enjoying rather than reviewing, that has to count for something.

So which would I pick? They are both stunning in their own way; I guess it just comes down to personal preference, if they were cars then the Audeze would be a seriously rugged Jeep and the Oppo a slick, silver Mercedes…horses for courses and hard to decide between; but for me the emotion and detail coupled with the slickness of the design and supreme comfort puts the Oppo PM-1 as the best headphone I have used.

Yes the Audeze are a bit more expensive , but basically the two are competing for the same market, they are both £ grand plus planar magnetic headphones from California, but where as you probably haven’t heard of the Oppo PM -1 you can’t have avoided Audeze if you have any interest at all in Hifi.
If the Audeze are the A list celeb, posing for the paparazzi at the VIP lounge in the airport, Oppo will have already slipped discretely through security and be sat on their private jet sipping champagne ….Audeze are what all the cool kids say we should buy, Oppo are what the cool kids haven’t discovered yet…………..go figure, be a leader not a follower.

Linette SmithOUTSTANDING PRODUCTboxred

Sound – 9.5/10

Comfort – 9.5/10

Fit and finish – 9.5/10

Value – 8.75/10

Overall – 9.3/10

The best headphones that I have heard….I’m putting my neck on the line and saying it. The ultimate combo of sound and comfort…I would happily live on beans on toast for a month to pay for them.
Probably as close to a perfect ten as I can give.

…and now Stuart Smiths thoughts.

The Oppo PM1 headphones have gained quite a reputation as a very well regarded set of cans since their launch and so we thought that Headphone Month at Hifi Pig would be incomplete without taking the opportunity to take a listen to this £1099 pair of planar magnetic headphones.

They arrive packaged in a luxurious, polished wooden box with a good quality, long OCC cable that is wrapped in a black fabric and terminated with an Oppo branded quarter inch jack. The cable is terminated on the headphone end with a pair of minijacks which means you can have a play with aftermarket cables. There’s also a handy denim carrying case which allows the headphones to be popped in your hand luggage when travelling about (the PM1s fold completely flat which I think is a useful and advantageous feature). Topping off the accessories is an alternative set of velour pads which OPPO say offer users a slightly different presentation over the lambskin pads the headphones come fitted with. All in all this is a good start for the Oppos, initial impressions count for a lot and at the asking price buyers should expect to feel they are buying a lavish product.OPPO_PM1_3

The cans themselves are over the ear, a squared oval in shape and pretty much cover the whole ear, but are actually relatively small in comparison to the likes of the Audeze cans. I’d have preferred the cans to be a smidge larger so they did cover the whole ear as I found they rubbed slightly on the outer part and to the back of my ear.
I’d certainly be happy to walk about with these on my head and the design is relatively understated so you don’t stand out like a spare part at a wedding. They also leak very little noise into the surrounding environment which will be a boon for your fellow passengers on public transport. They are well padded with natural latex and sit fairly firmly on your head but not with too much clamping effect – though shaking your head about does move the phones about so they’d not be ideal for vigorous exercise.

The headband is well padded, covered in the same lambskin as the earpads which coupled with the relatively light weight of the PM-1s (395g) makes them extremely comfortable on the top of the head. They’re not as comfortable on the top of the head as the HifiMan HE 560s but you can wear them for long periods without any problems at all. Altering the headband is nice and easy and can be done while the PM-1s are on your head, meaning you can get the perfect fit quickly, even if you share your headphones.

Along with the Audeze and HifiMan headphones we’ve been sent for review the OppoPM1 have a planar magnetic diver and here it’s 85 x 69mm with a symmetric push pull neodymium magnet system. Oppo also say that the They are a 32 ohm load and 102dB (1mW) sensitive and I found that they were easy enough to drive from both the output of the preamp and the headphone amplifier. Plugging them into my portable player I found that they were a much easier load to drive than the Beyer Dynamic T1s with me struggling to get the volume above 20/30 without it being too loud. Indeed I’d be really happy to have these connected to this whilst out and about as the sound quality was really rather good.

The Sound

Relaxed and unforced are the first words that come to mind when you first listen to the PM1s. Nothing seems to be at all shouty and theirs an evenness to the way they reproduce the music. You put these on, turn the music on and it’s as if a feeling of calm descends. There’s also really good isolation from the outside world with the PM1s that add to this feeling of calm.
Emiliana Torrini’s Fisherman’s Woman sounds absolutely gorgeous and theirs detail in her breathy vocal that is certainly up there with the very best headphones I’ve had the pleasure to hear. The simple arrangements on this record play very much to the strengths of the PM1s with every little nuance of the guitar work being audible and you find yourself really drawn into the recording. This isn’t to suggest that these are an over analytical headphone, they’re not, but there is a natural easiness to the sound without the feeling that you are missing out on any of the detail on the recording.
This story is repeated on Kathryn Williams’ Crown Electric record and whilst this album has more going on than the previous it’s the velvety smooth vocal that is the first thing to grab your attention. Strings are lush and hats are crisp and sparkling with the bottom end having good weight and authority. It has to be said that it would be easy to go to female vocals constantly with the Oppos but convention suggests I ought to seek out tunes that I think will test these headphones and find out any weaknesses.

And do it’s on with Smoke On The Water from Deep Purple’s Live in Japan album that I’ve been listening to as a bit of a test track whilst reviewing headphones this month. The guttural bass guitar is difficult for some headphones to reproduce with any sense of realism but I’m happy to say the PM1s do a good job here. They perform similarly well with the other bass check track from Hardfloor that I’ve been using, with the growling bassline and drum kick sounding as it should. Indeed here there is a really good sense of what the musician’s were doing in reinforcing the bassline with the kick; the kick is clearly apart from, but enhancing, the bassline if this makes sense. There’s also good speed with the bass notes, and particularly the electronic drums starting and stopping on a pin. Like the Audeze and to a lesser extent the HifiMan HE 560s, there’s pace and rhythm that brings the bass and drums together to create a really exciting listen, despite my fears that these would sound a touch lack lustre and polite with this style of music given my comments about them being relaxed and unforced. Indeed, there’s a real dynamic feel to these cans that makes them really quite addictive. I’m no scientist by any stretch of the imagination but I’m guessing, given the similar qualities of the Planar Magnetic headphones we’ve been playing with, that something in the way this driver system works adds to the dynamic feel they have.

Herbie Hancock’s One Finger Snap goes on next and you do really get a great sense of soundstage. It’s not over exaggerated though and the musicians do stay in their place between you head with a reasonable feeling of front to back space too. Moving onto InDuologue’s Blue Skies record there’s excellent sense of the recoding space and a great insight into the way the recordings were made.

Comfort

These are a pretty light headphone and so over the top of the head they are pretty comfortable, not OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe best but very acceptable.
Now here’s where I fell out with the PM1s a little and it must have something to do with the shape of my right ear because whichever way round I had them (right can on right ear, or left can on the right ear) I was getting a degree of discomfort, but only on my right ear and in one particular spot. I asked Linette to wear these for an afternoon before I continued the reviewing process and she reported no discomfort at all, so, as I say, I reckon this is down to some issue with these particular headphones and my right ear shape. On the left they were as comfortable as you’d like. They do get quite warm after extended periods but this is pretty normal with any headphone in my experience.

Conclusion

At over £1000 OPPOs PM1s are not a cheap headphone by any stretch of the imagination, indeed they are the second priciest headphones I’ve heard and only beat in this respect by the Audeze’s. That said they aren’t massively more expensive than the Sennheiser HD 800s or the Beyer Dynamic T1s and so compare very favourably with them.

There’s a sophistication to the sound of the Oppos that is hard to ignore. At first you get the impression that they are going to be polite and a little bit on the boring side but then you listen further and realise that this is only a very small part of their presentation because presenting them with dynamic and complex music really gets them singing. Add to this a great level of detail speed and you really have a headphone that is difficult to better I’d say. Yes, overall the Audeze are a better headphone, but they cost more, are heavier than and not as portable as the Oppos, so you takes your pays your money and you takes your pick.

They are easy to drive, even with a portable device and they fold flat into their nifty little denim carry case and so a good choice for those looking for a high quality sound on the go.

From my perspective I wouldn’t buy the Oppos because of the issues mentioned with comfort on my right ear, but then not everyone experiences this.

The Oppos are a luxurious product with very careful attention to detail being made in the packaging and fit and finish and this should be applauded.

Stuart SmithOUTSTANDING PRODUCTboxred

Sound – 9

Comfort – 7.5

Fit and finish – 9

Value – 8.5

Overall – 8.5

A very good sounding, refined headphone that is portable and offers a level of pride of ownership that will be hard to beat.

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