Bass

Like a good wine, the PM-1 low end offers a refreshing and firm experience that is both memorable and highly engaging. This is not a balanced sounding headphone by any means and was intended to be the average consumers best choice for entry into the HiFi world. There is a bit of an illness in the audiophile world that really bugs the hell out of me and those like me who are musicphiles first, audiophiles second. Musicality is top tier on this headphone as well as on my list of necessary qualities an audio product must have. Thank the audio deities that Oppo has heeded my prayers. The bass on the PM-1 isn’t the most well textured and tonaly amazing, but it certainly isn’t lacking. It is very plentiful and firm, something Oppo ( as well as myself ) feel that the average consumer would best enjoy. It is highly engaging with very good impact that won’t be too harsh even with a firm bass booster active.

At 32ohms, the PM-1 is nicely driven by light to moderate amplification and your higher grade audiophile Daps out there are going to power this headphone as easily as a nuclear reactor would. With that in mind, your bass experience will be plentiful in most setups. My recommendation would be to try to tailor your portable or home rig with a source or amplifier that has a less pure sound signature on the low end. Maybe, something that is a bit warmer and more velvet like instead of stark neutral. The PM-1 isn’t nearly as pure on the low end as the Audeze LCD-2 or LCD-3, which side by side with the PM-1 sound liquid like, raw and incredibly unbiased and pristine sounding, like a solid rock wall emitting bass. The PM-1 sounds more like a Hifiman HE500 than the LCD-2 on the low end tonality. There is no question that the PM-1 bests the HE-500 on quality and quantity, firmness and weight.

Bonus Round – I’ve found the low end of the PM-1 to be the most satisfying of any headphone I currently have on hand when it comes down to pure musicality and quantity. While the LCD-2 is still untouchable in purity of tone, texture and coloration in this price tier, I always find myself bass boosting the LCD-2 to achieve more quantity. As a result, the punch and kick gets too out of control. This doesn’t happen with the PM-1. From classical to jazz, gaming to movies the PM-1 low end is vibrant and plentiful so I would recommend a Burson amplifier on low gain, or your pick of any of the Ray Samuels portable amplifiers, which tend to have a more robust low end with a darker sound signature that will match up nicely with the PM-1.

My RSA F-35 Lightining in pure balanced mode with a gorgeous balanced Artemis cable makes for an incredibly wonderful, yummy and lively bass experience. Even on a dead flat EQ setup, my Red Wine AK120 portable player plays very well with this headphone. I personally do not find the low end on the PM-1 to ever lack in any specific genre. With more power comes a more firm bass experience, especially in a balanced rig. The bass firms up a bit over its stock sound signature that is noticeably more loose sounding than the LCD-2 Rev2. With the PM-1, the low end, even while bass boosted, will not lose control so easily. So long as you do not go absolutely insane and crank your low end up too far Oppo’s PM-1 will cradle your experience and remain yummy and responsive down to 10hz.

Gamers are going to enjoy this headphone not only for the stellar comfort and ease of use for long gaming sessions, but also for the tasty and plentiful low end experience but with minimal severe punch and kick. Something lets say the Sennheiser HD800, AKG K812 and Audeze LCD-2/3 tend to have while gaming. Opting for a more soft but weighty approach to the bass, the PM-1 will satisfy gamers of all types. The journey through Borderlands 2 for the PC is jam packed with explosions and an absolutely mind bogglingly large pool of different bullet and explosive sounds that seemingly never ends. the PM-1 handles the entire experience incredibly well and with a vibrant flare that is absent in every other headphone I’ve named so far in this review. Most of those simply have too much kick to the bass and it tends to get annoying very fast. Thankfully, the PM-1 will handle those sudden and frequent explosions and loud noises very well, while retaining a nice amount of quantity and quality without sounding overblown. I think the Battlefield and Call of Duty players are really going to love this headphone.

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Mids

This headphone is incrediblly lush sounding, more so than the LCD-2 Rev2 I have here and far outshining the HD-800 and K-812 as well with the overall weighty and intimate sound signature. The headphone sounds extremely thick and has a stellar amount of body to the entire frequency spectrum, top to bottom. The HD-800 and K-812 sound paper thin by comparison. If you are into a load of body, intimacy and heft to your sound signature, this is the headphone for you.



This headphone has one of the darkest and most blackened backgrounds I’ve heard in a long time. It makes the HD800 and K812 feel like my minds eye is looking directly into a light bulb by comparison. With that jet black background, the midrange pops more and enters the stereo void seemingly from nowhere. Vocal experiences are highly engaging and intimate, but they are also lacking a sense of depth of field in the stereo imaging.

Esperanza Spalding is a fantastic and simply gorgeous jazz artist, vocalist and upright bassist. I little gem in the current music world that really can move you and shock you with her talent for the arts. Her self titled album holds one of my favorite songs of all time called “Fall In”. Not a particularly fantastic recording in terms of clarity but one that is highly engaging, intimate and emotional. Lately, it has been my ‘go to’ reference track for vocals and forwardness testing. Sometimes I get lost in her voice and forget I am trying to review something, lost to the void and floating somewhere in space free of gravity and the stresses of life. When a headphone can do that, as not many can, I tend to get excited and start to take my listening very seriously for a few minutes and end up totally ignoring the world around me. Only intimate and highly musical headphones can do that for me and it is something I’ve hunted for years to find.

Only a few other headphones have achieved this level of musicality and intimacy. Headphones like the Audeze LCD-3 or customs like the JH16 Pro custom monitors I would put in that bracket. I must say, I am very impressed by how well the PM-1 reacts to jazz vocals and the slower moderately paced type of genres. This is a very clear, but very sluggish headphone that is not quick on the draw and in turn those faster paced tracks may seem a bit clustered and congested. The slower the track, the more lush and detailed the pace of your music, the better the PM-1 will sound in my opinion.

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Treble

50,000hz is a very high ceiling and doesn’t seem reflective of what my experience told me this headphone might sound like. I’d expected a lot of bite to it, abundant brightness and maybe even an icy flavor to the treble experience on the PM-1. Shockingly, that sentiment is polar opposite of what the actually headphone delivers. Oppo has opted to play it safe and tuned the PM-1 with a mildly relaxed treble presentation, which is something I am not wild about but also something I really cannot complain about either. It has excellent clarity, but it is lacking the same dynamics present in the bass and midrange. Therefore it comes across as a bit relaxed, which is a great thing for those sensitive to painful treble, but also has the most gentle hint of brightness. It reminds me of a very toned down Hifiman HE-500 in terms of brightness and quantity, but slightly more pure sounding.

The track “Lucia di Lammermoor” off the Fifth Element OST is a vibrant and bright operatic track with a very slow pacing, one that nicely shows off the treble potential of the PM-1. Seductively, the women ( an alien in the movie ) has the ability to push immensely well controlled treble through her voice. With the PM-1 it comes across a bit too restrained for me. I have an odd feeling that the drivers are struggling when they try to reproduce the treble peaks inside this very demanding track. Something is a bit off, something that isn’t a problem with my Hifiman HE-500, HE-6 or HD800 on this track. I can call this just pretty good treble responsiveness. A notch or two away from being very good. Almost as if the treble is a bit shaky. It struggles too hard and becomes a bit cloudy when it should be more pure with a bit more quantity to help accentuate tracks with violins, screaming guitars and great jazz or operatic vocalist tracks. In terms of engaging qualities on the treble, it still does a better job than the more dry and shelved down approach of the Audeze LCD-2.

Stereo Imaging

If this headphone has a major fault, it is certainly the lack of width and depth of the stage. This is a Planar headphone so I can’t really at all complain about the lack of width, since both Audeze and Hifiman fail miserably in this department, as do most Planars really. I had hoped Oppo would be able to squeeze some really nice sonic depth of field out of this headphone but sadly that isn’t the case with the PM-1. It sounds more like a Hifiman HE-500 or HE-400 in terms of that ‘reach out and touch the artist’ feel. I wanted this headphone to really trump the other Planar Magnetic designs out there and the PM-1 really fell short here, failing to impress me. This headphone sounds like a shallower Koss ESP-950; a headphone with a taller than wide sound stage, clearly and purposely setup to be as intimate as possible. Lacking a good sense of width, the overall stereo imaging and separation qualities mirror Hifiman in my opinion.

Now, if you are buying a Planar headphone and don’t know what you want, odds are good you are not in the market for an HD800 replacement or something similar. I can also easily forgive the lack of innovation when it comes to pushing excellent stereo imaging in a Planar headphone. Only Audeze has really achieved wonders with the depth of field in the LCD-X model, which is noticeably better than the more expensive LCD-3 and leagues better than the MrSpeakers Mad Dog or the Hifiman HE-6. If I had to compare it to anything, the closest Planar headphone with similar sound staging qualities would be the Hifiman HE-500. Is that really a bad thing considering the HE-500 is one of the most well rounded headphone on the market?

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2 Responses

  1. GrizzlybEast

    This is a real review. You can hear the writers preferences but the the sound of the headphone is very easy to understand. I feel like I know exactly what it sounds like now. Thanks!

    Reply

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