Home  |  Audio Reviews  Show Reports   Partner Mags  News 

 

April 2015
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
REVIEW: OPPO PM-3 Planar Magnetic 'Phones & HA-2 Amp/DAC
Two tasty bits of audio gear for the budget-minded music lover.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin

 

OPPO PM-3 Planar Magnetic Headphones & HA-2 Amplifier / DAC

 OPPO has been a heavy-hitter manufacturer that offers very high quality, excellent sounding electronics at a variety of price points. Cases in point are the $399 OPPO PM-3 planar magnetic headphones and $299 HA-2 headphone DAC/amplifier as reviewed here. Sure, if you invest more and choose the next model up within their product lineup, you receive higher sound quality. But what if you were on a budget and wanted great sound without breaking the bank? This is where the new OPPO PM-3 closed back planar magnetic headphones and HA-2 come into play. After years of selling more expensive products, OPPO took all that experience and put as much of the great stuff into the most cost-efficient package yet without sacrificing build quality and reliability.

A Bit About The OPPO HA-2
Let us take the HA-2 headphone DAC with amplifier as an example for starters. OPPO combined the popular ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018-K2M DAC with the versatility of working with nearly every conceivable device as digital input, headphone amplifier output and a standard output to feed your home receiver, powered speakers, etc. Do you want the HA-2 to work with your Mac or Win machine as an external DAC to feed your external amplified speakers? Yup, it has you covered. What if you want to hookup the HA-2 to your Android or iOS phone/tablet/iTouch/etc device? Sure, it'll work with all those too. What if your headphones are highly sensitive CIEMs (custom in-ear monitors) or highly inefficient power-hungry headphones? You guessed it; the OPPO HA-2 will work with all those too via an adjustable amplifier gain output setting. Perhaps the only exception is if your headphones are extremely power hungry and you like your music on the ultra-loud side. Now what if you wanted all this flexibility combined with reliability and beautiful build quality for only $299? Are you friggen nuts!?!? Don't cha think you're asking for bit too much there mister? Oh, wait, hold on there, you can get all this incredible convenience and flexibility since the OPPO HA-2 is priced at $299.

 

A Bit About The OPPO PM-3
So what is it about the OPPO PM-3 headphones that make them so special? Am glad you asked. What if, say, you wanted a set of planar magnetic headphones because you heard they sound great as compared to normal driver types as used by Beats and others? Well, you're on the right path, yet if you've been looking around you've also noticed the pricing for a good set of planar magnetic headphones can reach thousands of dollars! For those unfamiliar with the difference between normal drivers and planar magnetics within headphones, am sure there are plenty of websites that cover this topic in detail. Staying on-topic, planars are an excellent design yet can cost a bundle. Here is where OPPO comes in as they have been making these headphones for years. So with R&D and manufacturing already in place, they found a way to bring a true high quality set of headphones down in price. When I say "down", we're talking the highly competitive $399 price range. Sure it may be a tad bit more than those fashion-types you've seen at big box stores over the years, yet those are old designs using basic technology. Imagine if you wisely chose to invest just a tiny bit more. For if you did, you could get a great set of very durable, high quality planar magnetic headphones!


To learn more details about the build quality and technical description of OPPO's HA-2 and PM-3 see my preview at this link.

 

An Impossible Task?
It is always a challenge to review portable audio devices as the variables can be mind-boggling! Take the OPPO PM-3 planar magnetic headphones and HA-2 DAC/amp combo as reviewed here for example. Am 99 44/100% sure after this review gets published my e-mail box will be filed with how the PM-3s sounds with _____ DAP/amp or how the HA-2 works with the _____ headphones / IEM / CIEMS. As you can see within the photo below, there was an abundance of options to choose from and to cover them all would be an exercise in futility. Since i have five CIEMs, four IEMs, three high quality sets of headphones, three, no make that six headphone amps, a variety of DACs... and an abundance of units to use as a source for digital files from Android (six different) and Apple (five different). To review each and every combo in every possible configuration would mathematically be like hitting the lottery. So my strategy here is to use a few popular items and try a few, i said a few, variables. The goal is to assess the sound quality of the DUT (devices under test) in a general sense. As you can see by the photo below, which only shows a handful of all the devices employed during this review, I did my best to ascertain how the OPPO PM-3 and HA-2 units will sound given a good variety of a wide range of common circumstances.

Individually, Sans Their 'Dance' Partner
OPPO's PM-3 Sounding Off
OPPO's PM-3 closed back  planar magnetic headphones exude quality and are very comfortable for those of us who enjoy long-term listening seshs. My ears are neither big nor small, so of course the opening's size will dictate if they work as perfectly for you as they do with my ears. With some headphones, after two or three hours of continuous use you either have sweaty ears, keep grabbing the headphones because they are so heavy they keep trying to fall off your head, or the opposite as the headband combo is so tight it feels like your head is within a vice. OPPO, with many years of producing truly high quality headphones, struck an excellent balance of secure comfort and light weight design. The build quality is exceptional at this price range plus you get two cables. Within the box you receive a shorter 1.2-meter one with microphone for using with your cell phone plus a longer 3-meter cable for when you need more cable length. The cables connect via industry standard 1/8" (3.5mm) gold-plated stereo jack. This allows you to use a variety of other cables, if you insist, or if the cable itself gets pulled on due to my typical stupidity of forgetting I'm plugged in, the cable detaches without any damage to the headphone setup. In a sense this is proof how comfy the OPPO PM-3 'phone are as if I can 'forget' I'm wearing them, it means they are so comfortable that my focus is on other things. Before I forget to mention, within the box you also get a nice denim carrying case and 1/8" to 1/4" gold-plated adapter. If you want more details about the build quality, etc, then see my preview.

After the typical 100 hour burn in it was time to give these headphones a listen. Due to being exceedingly busy, I had zero time to seriously listen to them beforehand other than ensuring they worked. So, should I cut to the chase and say both my muse/wife Heather and I are 'fighting' for 'ownership' of these or did you really want details about the way they sound? Yeah, we both want them and we've heard a boatload of 'phones, IEMs, etc. Hmmm, since you're still reading this, (sigh) well, guess I should at least give you some remarks about their sound quality. First, they are not the very best headphones I've ever heard, but then again they are not $4000+ and weigh a kajillion pounds bearing down on my head plus needing a dedicated specialized amplifier that needs 1.21 jigawatts of power to make it all work. What if I told you that the 1/10th priced PM-3 is about 85% of that sound quality. Ah, that got your attention didn't it? Frankly, I want to say 90%, yet us reviewer types are never one to, proverbially-speaking, paint ourselves into a corner.

Usually reviews are either akin to a shat sandwich with good, then bad, then good again, or all good and then a few drawbacks at the very end. I'm going to avoid the former and do the later yet in reverse. So here's the drawbacks first and then the good news. Starting with the highs, they are smooth and nicely harmonic up to a point. Fairly clean with a smooth decay in response/extension somewhere around 9kHz and then cutting off more through the next octave up at 18kHz on upward is what I'm hearing. There are advantages to this as, frankly, as typical inexpensive devices tend to have a bit harsh upper octave response and so the response of the OPPO PM-3 helps to keep these in check. It also lowers the possibility of migraine headaches from these lousy devices, which I tend to suffer less from over the years as the quality of equipment and source material has improved. For an example, the self-titled album by Dream Theater song "Enigma Machine" was recorded at 96kHz/24-bit and at the 1:20 mark is when the drummer's ride cymbal bell hits centered around 7kHz should be there cutting through. With the OPPO PM-3 they are more recessed into the mix of other instruments that fill the lower frequencies.

The great news is that the critical midrange, which frankly is where most music 'lives' is wonderfully resolved and natural sounding. This is where those headphones which are beat, yet have great marketing, just can't hold a candle to a far higher quality headphone as the OPPO PM-3. Perhaps a touch on the warmer side of neutral, the OPPO PM-3 have very good definition and you can hear that planar magic come through nicely. Song after song I was impressed by the quality of these headphones for the relatively low $400 price. For those looking for budget-beating sound quality without breaking the bank, the OPPO PM-3 are a winner!

 

Sounding Off On The OPPO PA-2 DAC With Headphone Amplifier
Will get this right out of the way and say that yes, with super highly efficient in-ear monitors or the custom variety (CIEM) there is a bit of hiss. With the PM-3 this hiss was a complete non-issue. With the Noble Kaiser K-10 CIEM there was a bit of hiss, yet once the music began to play I had to concentrate to hear it when the music had average to loud dynamic sounds (read: not during silent or very quiet passages). With that said, the OPPO PA-2 is quite a lil' performer for the money. For only $299 you get the ability to enjoy virtually every knows digital audio file type available now or in the foreseeable future. We're talking everything from lowly compressed decades old MP3 to the latest (?future?) 32-bit/384kHz plus up to DSD256 (11.2896 MHz). If you use Android, it worked. An iApple device you ask, well, the OPPO PA-2 has got you covered there too. You want to use the HA-2 as an external DAC for your computer? Sure, it'll work as that too. During my review I tried the unit on my top-line max'ed out MacBook Pro, Windows-based home computer, iPhone, iTouch, Android 4x and 5x too. In all instances it was pretty much PnP (plug-n-play).

After many hours of trying so many combinations it makes my head spin, my overall impressions are the HA-2, especially with the OPPO PM-3, is a great all-around no-nonsense DAC with headphone amp. You can also use the built-in Line Out to feed your home audio system or self-powered speakers too! The sound is smooth and clean, if a bit dynamically compressed as compared to the very best cost-no-object comparo. Harmonically, it is more on the neutral side than rich and 'rose-colored glasses'. If there was one thing I found a bit distracting, was the lack of extreme frequency extension over 10kHz. Even when using the Onkyo HF Player it seems there is something not quite getting through on high resolution audio recordings that have sound above 20kHz.Many reviewers like to wax lyrically at all the positive, yet there was something holding the unit back that I could not escape from.

Bringing in the iFi Audio Micro iDSD for comparison and there simply was more to my liking. Hiss is gone, subtle nuances are more audible, and there is more power and drive to handle virtually anything you can throw at it. Then again the Micro iDSD is about 3x the physical size of the OPPO HA-2 and retails at $499 versus OPPO's HA-2 $299 MSRP. That extra $200, nearly 60% more in price for you math types, can go a very long way when you're a manufacturer seeking to squeeze out as much as possible at the lower price points. If your budget is extremely limited and the size of the Micro iDSD is simply too large, the OPPO will do nicely. Still, I can't help but look over and see that for $200 more that my music improves in virtually all departments. With the Micro iDSD you get better and more extended highs, firmer bass, adjustments such as 3D and XBass plus better musical delicacy, more subtle dynamics, etc. Also, the Micro iDSD was far more 'analog-like' to coin a well-worn phrase. Simply put, the iFi Audio Micro iDSD offered too many advantages not to be the go-to piece.

OPPO PM-3 Planar Magnetic Headphones And HA-2 Headphone Amp/DAC

Conclusion
OPPO's HA-2 is very impressive for the money, truly it is. I found nothing offensive and enjoyed many hours of music through it. When combined with the OPPO PM-3, it is perhaps the best value for your money within the market today at just under $700. They work extremely well together and I wonder if OPPO voiced this combo to work extremely well together. Yet taken separately, the PM-3 planar magnetic headphones outshine the HA-2 DAC/headphone amplifier. My wife Heather and I are fighting over who gets to enjoy the PM-3, whereas the HA-2 is more an interesting curiosity without a home. Perhaps that best sums it all up now doesn't it? Love the OPPO PM-3 closed back planar magnetic headphones! OPPO's PM-3 headphones are extremely comfortable and very well-built. They continue to produce hour after hour of great music, especially for the money. Hmmm, perhaps Enjoy the Music.com needs a new way to rank Music For The Money (MFTM)? Oh, wait, we do have a rating for Value For The Money, yet MFTM sounds far more cool! My Blue Note ratings below will tell the tale. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music (since today, April 7th of the year 2015, is Billie Holiday's 100th birthday celebration...),

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

HA-2 Amp/DAC PM-3 Headphones

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise N/A

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
OPPO PM-3
Acoustic Principle: Closed back 
Ear Coupling Circumaural 
Driver Type: Planar Magnetic 
Driver Size: 55 mm diameter round
Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz 
Max Input Power: 500 mW 
Pulse Max Input Power 2 W
Nominal Impedance: 26 Ohm 
Sensitivity: 102 dB in 1 mW 
Clamping Pressure: 5 N 
Cables: 3 meter detachable cable (1/8" with 1/4" adapter)
            1.2 m detachable cable (3.5mm)
Cable Connectors Output: 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo jack
Analog Input: 1/8" stereo jack 
Weight: 11.3 ounces (without cable) 
Included Accessories Carrying Case
User Manual
Available Headphone Colors: Black or white 
Price: $399

 

OPPO HA-2
Frequency Response 20 Hz to 200 kHz
Audio-In Level: 1 Vrms 
Line-Out Level: 1 Vrms 
Recommended Headphone Impedance 16 Ohm to 300 Ohm 
Maximum Headphone Output Power:
   300 mW into 16 Ohm
   220 mW into 32 Ohm
   30 mW into 300 Ohm 
Output Jacks: 1/8" stereo headphone
Input Jack: 1/8" stereo 
Digital Input: USB A for Apple devices and USB micro-B for smartphones with USB OTG feature and computers. 
DAC Chip: ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018-K2M 
Input Format: Stereo PCM, Stereo DSD (DoP v1.1 or native) 
PCM Sampling Frequencies 44.1 to 384 kHz, 16 / 24 / 32-bit 
DSD Sampling Frequencies: 2.8224 MHz (DSD64), 5.6448 MHz (DSD128), 11.2896 MHz (DSD256, native mode only) 
Profile USB 2.0, USB Audio 2.0 
Included Accessories:
   5A USB power supply unit
   USB A - USB micro-B data and rapid charging cable
   USB A - Lightning data cable (for Apple devices)
   USB micro-B to micro-B data cable (for Android and other smartphones)
   1/8"  to 1/8" male-to-male gold plated stereo audio cable
Silicone rubber band (2 pieces)
Built-in Battery: 3000 mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery 
Battery Operation Time: ~13 hours for analog source via Audio-in
                                     ~7 hours for digital sources via USB 
Charging Time: ~90 minutes 
Dimensions: 2.5" x 6.2" x 0.5" (WxHxD)
Weight: 6.2 ounces
Price: $299

 

Company Information
Oppo Digital
2629 Terminal Blvd., Ste B
Mountain View, CA 94043

Voice: (650) 961-1118
Website: www.OppoDigital.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc

Superior Audio Archives
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

Videos
Musician Series
Enjoy the Music.TV

Music Reviews
Classical Music
Jazz, Bluegrass, Blues, Etc.
Rock, Pop, Techno, Metal, Etc.

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Editorials By Steven R. Rochlin
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Audiolics Anonymous
Nearfield By Steven Stone
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Partner Magazines
The Absolute Sound
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
NOVO (CANADA HiFi)
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

Show Reports
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2017 CanMania
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017
CanJam 2017 Denver RMAF
LAAS 2017 Show Report
High End Munich 2017 Show Report
AXPONA 2017 Show Report
CanJam SoCal 2017 Show Report
Montreal Audio Fest 2017 Show Report
CanJam NYC 2017 Report
CES 2017 Show Report & Videos
TAVES 2016 Toronto Show Report
T.H.E. Show Newport 2016
Audio Engineering Society 141 LA
CanJam London 2016 Show Report
Hong Kong AV Show Report 2016
Click here for previous shows.

Resources And Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions
High-End Audio Manufacture Links

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

Internet Browser
Audiophile Internet Browser V12

Mobile Phone Apps
Android Audiophile App

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty
300B Tube Comparison

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

Contests & Join Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

Our Social Media & Video Channel
     

 

 

     

Home  |  Sitemap  |  Industry News  |  Equipment / Music Reviews  |  Press Releases  |  About Us  |  Contact Us

 

All contents copyright  1995 - 2017  Enjoy the Music.com
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.