OPPO is sporting quite a bit of product diversity these days, ranging from Blu-ray players and headphones to headphone amps and a slick new Wi-Fi speaker. The company officially launched its first non-disc player offerings two years ago with the introduction of the PM-1 Planar Magnetic Headphone ($1,099) and HA-1 Headphone Amplifier ($1199). Soon there after, it released a second Planar Magnetic Headphone, the PM-2, which promised PM-1-like performance at a more affordable price. Currently selling for $699, the PM-2 has sufficiently solidified itself as a great option for the cost-minded enthusiast looking for access to premium sound. Today, we’ll take a second look at the PM-2 with a quick performance review.
The PM-2 was designed to reasonably replicate the PM-1’s sonic performance while cutting material costs without sacrificing product feel and presentation. To make that happen, OPPO endowed the PM-2 with the PM-1’s Planar Magnetic driver, cable design, aluminum frame, and open-back construction. It then found cost savings by using synthetic leather for the earpads and headband, replacing metal with plastic for various body parts, slightly modifying cable construction, and ditching the PM-1’s wooden storage box and alternate lambskin and velour earpads.
If the above list of modifications has you shaking your head with doubt, apply the breaks and park your skepticism at the curb. The PM-2 truly has the physical presence of something that looks and feels like it should cost twice as much. Its oversized open-back earcups feature 180-degree swivel functionality that’s controlled and silky smooth, its synthetic leather surfaces are tasteful and soft to the touch, and overall weight (13.75 ounces) strikes a nice balance of feel in the hand and presence on the head. There are also nice touches, such as exposed brushed metal surfaces, that give the headphone a high-end appeal.
In The Box
The PM-2’s packaging is right inline with OPPO’s other products, full of polish and quality materials (right down to an elegant envelope holding the manual and a linen paper wrapped box). The company charges a premium for its gear and the packaging certainly conveys a sense of premium quality. What you find inside of the box is slightly modified from the PM-1, which shipped with a robust wooden storage box. That box has been replaced with a simple yet well-constructed soft carrying case (plush interior, hardy denim exterior) and a silky black bag for the included 6.35mm black fabric sleeved terminated headphone cable and a standard 2.5mm mini cable.
Design, Setup, and Comfort
The PM-2 is an open-back circumaural headphone that features 85 x 69 mm oval Planar Magnetic drivers. The outer surface of each earcup is “open,” functioning exactly as the word implies. The benefit of an open-back design is a spacious soundstage. The drawback, however, is that your music can be heard on the outside (something to keep in mind if you plan on using the PM-2 in a public setting).
OPPO’s Planar Magnetic driver utilizes a thin lightweight diaphragm made from 7 layers of material that’s driven in a push-pull manner by a FEM-optimized system with Neodymium magnets. This magnetic system affects even movement across the entire surface of the diaphragm, resulting in a stable and linear vibration pattern with minimal distortion. OPPO says driver sensitivity is 102 dB (which means the PM-2 can be driven by a range of sources including simple mobile devices) and its overall frequency response is a gapping 10 to 50,000 Hz.
The PM-2 ships with two different connectors. One is 42-inches long with a mini-stereo plug. It’s thin and portable, perfect for use on the go. The other is a thickly sheathed 63-inch long cord that terminates with a stereo plug. This cord is significantly more robust and stately looking, and its length is perfect for sitting comfortably away from a source. If you own a balanced headphone amplifier, you’ll need to buy a 3-meter or 5-meter cable direct from OPPO ($149 and $199, respectively).
The earcups’ 180-degree swivel motion and vertical pivot point allows for the PM-2 to quickly find a comfortable over-the-ear resting position. These features also allow the PM-2 to rest comfortably around the neck. Once on the head, the PM-2 feels great, even after hours of use. Its soft-touch surfaces are skin friendly and the headband has a firm cushion that allows the headphone to rest with a minimal feeling of pressure on the top of the head. The earcups are just large enough to accommodate ears without any discomfort, and the earcup well is deep enough that no part presses on the ear. Just to add, the PM-2’s open-back design (and the exterior sound it allows in) lends to a certain feeling of lightness. As stated earlier, it weighs slightly under 1-pound – perfect for seated critical listening and equally imperfect for any kind of vigorous activity.
I put the PM-2 through its paces using three different sources, including an iPhone 6, a Yamaha RX-A3050 AVR, and Onkyo’s DP-X1 Hi-Res Digital Audio Player. Of the three, the iPhone was the most forgettable experience, which had nothing to do with the headphone itself (and everything to do with a middling source). It’s worthy to note, however, that the iPhone was able to provide enough juice to power the PM-2. So, if an iPhone or other handheld device is your source, consider yourself safe to purchase.
My notes on the PM-2’s performance when paired with the Onkyo DP-X1 are best read in the DP-X1’s full review. A summary, however, would be demo sessions that showed-off articulate levels of richness, airiness, and natural balance. Those sessions were a total delight with strong credit given to both the PM-2 and the DP-X1 for putting-on a classy show. The DP-X1 is an exceptional Hi-Res device and the PM-2 more than rose to the occasion.
My sessions with the PM-2 sourcing from the RX-A3050 (and OPPO BDP-103) were equally wonderful and revealing. To kick things off, I reached for the Gorillaz’s self-titled debut album. The track “Tomorrow Comes Today” was a great test for the PM-2, as it features a rather robust and textured bass attack. The PM-2 delivered, showing composed depth and strong bass character. Overall sound was super smooth, and Damon Alburn’s edgy and haunting vocals rang to perfection. I did note that the sharper high frequency sounds of the track were slightly tamed, but in comparison to my Grado SR60 (best characterized as bright), the PM-2’s sound carried more detail and richness. Switching between the two headphones also revealed the PM-2’s strong anti-ear fatigue nature (especially at high volume levels).
Next, I moved to The Best of Lou Reed for a little “Walk on the Wild Side.” Once again, low-end composure was on display and Reed’s voice was full of revealing subtleties and character. The song’s backing vocals by the Thunderthighs allowed the airy nature of the PM-2 to shine, while demonstrating a soundstage with decent width. Overall tonality of the track was balanced and pleasing to the ear. In comparison, the Grado SR60 displayed a sound much more punctuated by sharpness, lacking the thick richness delivered by the PM-2. This same result was found while demoing Don MacLeod’s “Come to Find” from his album Bring it Home. McLeod’s voice in this track pushes outward with echoes and the PM-2 was more than happy to accommodate. The song also features a harmonica with quick and sharp attacks, which the PM-2 kept comfortable and pleasing to the ear. The headphone’s ability to subdue harshness is a major benefit, in my opinion, especially when it comes to recordings that are thin. This was certainly apparent when listening to The English Beat’s Best of collection.
One last album worthy of mention is Yello’s Touch. During the track “Expert,” the PM-2 popped-off exacting tightness and snap with the track’s abundant high-frequency sounds. Yes, they were toned-down compared to those heard through the Grado SR60, but hardly lacking. The PM-2 also presented great 3D sound depth with an admirable width to the presentation. “Kiss in Blue” proved to be another revealing bass track with controlled depth. The PM-2 handled its delicate female vocals perfectly. Again, symbols on the track were a bit subdued, but not to the detriment of the overall sound.
Home Theater Shack’s Wayne Myers reviewed the PM-1 in July of 2014 and his take-home sound conclusion was one of clarity and smoothness with mention of a relaxed high frequency presentation. Due to the PM-2’s Planar Magnetic drivers, one would expect to hear clean articulation, an open sound, and tonal neutrality. What I found was a mix of those descriptors and Myers’ PM-1 findings, but with a slightly different take on treble. The PM-2 has an overall balanced and controlled sound with great depth and character in mid-range and lower frequencies; that is undeniable. High frequencies can certainly be characterized as tame, but not to the detriment of the sound. I hesitate to say the PM-2 sounds warm; full and rich are probably better descriptors. And forget about ear fatigue, because the PM-2’s presentation is so smooth and controlled that you can easily listen for hours on end without issue.
The OPPO PM-2 is a fabulous headphone, delivering insane levels of performance for the price. Physically speaking, the PM-2’s build quality is excellent, with notable differences between the PM-1 and PM-2 rendered moot. While the PM-2 have a relaxed high frequency sound approach, I found the headphone’s overall balance and excellent low frequency performance to be a homerun. Highly recommended.
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- Acoustic Principle: Open back
- Ear Coupling: Circumaural
- Nominal Impedance: 32 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 102 dB in 1 mW
- Clamping Pressure: 5 N
- Cables: 3 m detachable OFC cable (6.35 mm); 1 m detachable OFC cable (3.5 mm)
- Output: 2.5 mm mono mini jacks
- Input: 6.35 mm stereo jack, 3.5 mm stereo jack
- Weight: 385 g (without cable)
- Included Accessories: Carrying Case; User Manual
- Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
- Driver Size (Oval): 85 x 69 mm
- Magnet System: Symmetric push-pull neodymium
- Frequency Response: 10 - 50,000 Hz
- Max Input Power: 500 mW according to IEC 60268-7
- Pulse Max Input Power: 2 W
Image Credits: OPPO Digital, Todd Anderson/Home Theater Shack