Roughly two years ago Oppo Digital entered the high-performance headphone market in a powerful way. First came the firm’s flagship PM-1 planar magnetic headphone (favourably reviewed in Hi-Fi+ Issue 115 and Issue 116), which was followed by the cost-reduced PM-2 planar magnetic model (a model patterned directly after the PM-1), and finally there came the very affordable PM-3 closed-back planar magnetic model that is the subject of this review.
While there is an unmistakable family resemblance between these three headphones, the PM-3 distinguishes itself from its higher-end brethren in several important ways. First, it is the only compact, lightweight, closed-back model of the group and the only model explicitly developed with smartphone/tablet compatibility and portable applications in mind. Second, unlike Oppo’s PM-1 and PM-2 models, the PM-3 uses a circular planar magnetic driver (55mm in diameter) rather than the oblong (85mm x 65mm) driver featured in the upper end models. Finally, the PM-3 is priced at just £349, making it by far the least expensive model in Oppo’s headphone range and one of the most affordable planar magnetic headphones on today’s market.
Like all Oppo headphones, the PM-3 is the brainchild of designer Igor Levitsky (of BG Radia fame), whose credentials as a designer of planar magnetic drivers are impeccable. In a 2015 interview with Hi-Fi+, Levitsky spoke at some length about his headphone design priorities, stating, “Without a doubt, for a top-level headphone, sound quality is the most important. If we talk about a real life headphone, not just a lab device for short term comparative sessions, then the second top objective for me is to make sure it is enjoyable to use in real life conditions for prolonged periods of time. This is mostly related to comfort (weight, construction), ergonomics, and, to some extent, to industrial design, feel, and appearance.”
Levitsky also acknowledged that the PM-3 was at once one of his most challenging but also most satisfying design projects, observing that,
“We wanted PM-3 to be truly portable and affordable for a wide range of customers that would appreciate higher resolution quality sound… This was a very tough call. How were we to retain superior sound quality at a much lower cost while also providing high sensitivity combined with small weight? I hope you realise that all those factors are contradictory, especially for planar magnetic headphones.”