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Christmas Gift Guide
Headphones

Your ears will love 'em: Oppo PM-3 headphones

Oppo's gorgeous new, beautifully crafted headphones are best in their price class, says the Audiophiliac.

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The Oppo PM-3 headphones Oppo

The Oppo PM-3 headphones knocked me for a loop: they look and feel great, sound like a more expensive pair, and they're really comfortable to wear. As for build quality, they're way ahead of similarly priced Beats, Bowers & Wilkins, HiFiMan, Sony or V-Moda 'phones. The PM-3's thick metal parts and sumptuously padded headband and earcups lend a true luxury feel to the design.

The sound is richly balanced, but detail and resolution abound. I started my PM-3 auditions with the PM-3's plugged into the $200 FiiO X3 2nd Gen (£159 in the UK, and AU$249 in Australia) music player listening to high-res files of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," and the PM-3's could do no wrong. For one thing, Jeff Tweedy's vocals sounded more realistic than you'll hear with most headphones; there was more body and presence to the sound than I get from Bowers & Wilkins P7 or Audio-Technica ATH MSR7 headphones, for example. Those two models are awfully good, but switching over to the PM-3's the sound filled out, so the instruments and vocals had more body and soul. Plucked electric bass on SMV's "Thunder" album had tremendous power and weight.

Moving to a better music player, the Cowon Plenue M, all three pairs of headphones sounded clearer overall, but the PM-3 model maintained its lead, and each bass pluck was more distinct.

This over-the-ear, closed-back design features seven-layer 55mm planar magnetic drivers, with a 26-Ohm impedance. The headphones come with a 3-meter "straight" cable, and a 1.2-meter Apple- or Android-compatible cable with a one-button control and mic. Weighing just 320 grams, or a little over two-thirds of a pound, it's the lightest pair of planar magnetic headphones I've tested. They're certainly the most comfortable. The PM-3 model is available in a black or white finish, and comes with a sturdy denim carrying case.

I briefly compared the PM-3's with Hifiman's open-back HE-400i planar magnetic headphones. Despite the PM-3's being closed-back, the two sounded very close; the HE-400i sound was a little brighter, but if you need isolation from external noise, a closed-back design has a clear advantage. If you want to hear the world around you, the open-back HE-400i's are better. One other thing, the PM-3's play louder with a music players set to the same volume; that's because they're easier to drive (more sensitive) than the HE-400i's.

To finish I also compared the PM-3 model with Oppo's top-of-the-line PM-1 headphones, with my Schiit Lyr 2 headphone amplifier. The PM-1's sounded bigger, more authoritative and spacious; the refinement is definitely there. That said, the PM-3 model's sound is more immediate and present, it sounds closer.

I love the PM-3 headphones, right now they're leading the pack, they're my favorite for the money. That's $399 in the US, £349 in the UK, and AU$549 in Australia.