Oppo PM-1: The Intimacy Titan
Hard to believe Oppo contingently rose out of the ground one day and began metaphorically shooting at the current Summit Fi headphone lineup…and with great success.
This headphone’s most intense flaw is the lack of sound stage width. That sense of goose-bump worthy envelopment is non existent on this set, severely lacking separation qualities in the stereo void from left to right. A sad thing, indeed. While staging depth and dynamics are just passable in my opinion, clarity and intimacy potential are absolutely sublime for an entry level Summit Fi product.
The general shape of the presentation is much taller than wide, in turn emphasizing vocals and midrange centric track cues.
The Bass quality is rock solid and firm when paired with Oppo’s HA-1 USB Dac and Amplifier, the combination here is a match made in heaven and the absolute definition of how two properly matched entry level Summit pieces of gear can sound equally as good as some of the other big boy toys that exist in the upper end pricing tier of the headphone universe. Control is not a strong suit of this headphone, nor is smoothness. The low end of the PM-1 alters drastically with more power fed into it, as capable as it is on a portable rig without any amplification, the PM-1 greatly benefits from upwards of 1.5watts to 2watts of power. Anymore than this and I’ve found the bass to continuously feel distorted, over driven and borderline bloated.
The midrange and vocalist experience is quite stellar, due to that taller than wide, forward midrange tuning, the PM-1 gets my award for the champion vocalist headphone in this report in terms of placement. I find the midrange in this headphone highly addictive and considering the price of the headphone, coupled with the headphones jet black background coloration the midrange here only pops that much more by comparison to other sets like the Hifiman HE560. While tonally sharpened and offering a bit too much kick and slam for me, the upper-midrange of this headphone is not defined in its space nearly as well as some of the other headphones I’ve tested here in this report.
Treble is fairly lackluster, offering neither enough quality nor quantity to fully satiate my ears. A bit recessed, perhaps too much, the upper end of the headphone is reserved yet it still retains decent treble in the right rig. Prominent midrange and powerful bass are offset by the more secluded bass quantity, as a result the entire upper end feels lopsided and a bit off. Not that this is a bad thing, most of the Summit level headphones have fairly ugly treble response. It is very evident that Oppo “played it safe” with regard to the treble response: it leaves much to be desired with a softer and more distant approach, something not at all common with the more expensive headphones in this report that tend to offer a much brighter…and sometimes even painful treble experience.
Tone on this headphone is mildly dark with a very solid feel in the bass and midrange, with treble as the weakest and most thin sounding area of the sonic spectrum that is available. While not nearly as dark sounding as the Stax 007, Oppo’s PM-1 remains one of the darker tones available in HiFi’s $1000+ price tier.
The Most Interesting Comparisons
PM-1 vs Alpha Dog
I feel the Alpha to be superior to the PM-1 with bass quality as well as treble. The PM-1 is vastly more efficient and portable, however far less well rounded with genre selection by comparison to the Alpha Dog. The Alpha Dog retains a very “musical” house flavor with some noticeably coloration and pristine liquid bass texture and quality, the PM-1 offers more of a rock solid and less textured approach to the low end. No doubt the Alpha Dogs sound stage and imaging with vents fully opened absolutely obliterates the PM-1 in every facet of the word. Where the PM-1 is a bit neutral and monitor in tonality, the Alpha Dog is properly colored and extremely musical in coloration with overall tone in the low end. Outside of portable application, I do not think the PM-1 can quite compare in raw clarity across the frequency response spectrum inside the Alpha Dog, but I also do not feel the PM-1 to be too far off. Both headphones have a seemingly artificial treble repsonse at times. The Alpha Dog sound scape is significantly more well formed and shapely than the PM-1.
PM-1 vs Hifiman HE-560
While I consider the PM-1 the better all around deal, I find the HE-560 to offer a much more interesting sound signature, something I can enjoy more due to that softer presentation approach to the bass and midrange, as well the more distant and relaxed imaging placement the Hifiman tends to offer. Where the Hifiman is a fair bit brighter in the background coloration and tone, the PM-1 seems more darkened and much more forward. The PM-1 is very claustrophobic in stereo imaging properties, which isn’t too much of a problem in the HE-560’s presentation. Separation, air and width are all superior qualities found in the HE-560, however the PM-1 seems more tall and slightly more deep to me. The PM-1 is also again more portable and much more efficient, allowing you to take the headphone on the go with most portable rigs without the need of a portable amplifier.
PM-1 vs Beyerdynamic T1
The T1’s sound signature is significantly more bright across the board, with a much more potent treble response ( all be it still in the realm of relatively mild kick potential ). Immediately, you will notice the general shape of the T1’s presentation to be infinitely more well formed, a solid stage forward image out in front, where the PM-1 seems totally absent that area of the stage. Bass and vocals are much softer, more smooth on the T1, much sharper and more solid feeling on the PM-1. Again, due to the PM-1s forward and highly intimate sound signature, vocal tracks seem very accentuated by comparison to the T1. The T1’s background is significantly more bright and omnipresent, it is also immensely harder to drive at 600ohm, where the PM-1 plays nice with pretty much any portable source.
Rig Recommendations: The PM-1 is extremely easy to pair with pretty much any middle tier to higher end portable music player. Seek sources or amplifiers ( not at all needed ) that offer a highly forward and lush midrange experience, as well as something with a more potent treble response to help accentuate the mildly reserved treble response of the PM-1. If you avoid recessed midrange sounding amps and sources, you should not have any trouble in easily finding a good rig pairing for this headphone.
Click here for the Sennheiser HD800…