Audiophiles know excellent sound when they hear it. Take Oppo and their PM-1 headphones, proclaimed by many enthusiasts as truly brilliant Hi-Fi, and my brief time with the original was engaging to my inner connoisseur. And appropriately so because that particular model cost over one-thousand-dollars ($1,099).
Even my acceptance for perfected sound couldn’t conquer that extraordinary asking price, nor would I even attempt to justify it to anyone less than a fevered enthusiast. However, the Oppo PM-2 Planar Magnetic Headphones are meant to be the relatively lower-cost option, starting at a more attainable $699. But the real question is what exactly is sacrificed for nearly half a grand?
The look of the PM-2 forgoes flamboyance for a tastefully restrained appearance, a choice that’s refreshingly no-nonsense and weighing in at a lightweight 0.84lbs (or 385 grams). However, an aluminum frame provides long-term durability with convenience handled by 2.5mm mono jacks on each earphone for removable cables is designed for easy travel. Comfort is also accounted for with thick synthetic leather and circumaural ear coupling pads, brought together by plastic chrome and silver trim pieces.
Accessories include a fancy denim clamshell carrying case two types of removable optical fiber (OFC) phono cables (3.5mm/6.35mm), all of which are excellent touches but you’ll have to do without the additional earpads (made of velour or lambskin) and the cherry redwood box with creamy suede padding.
It should be known that the overall acoustics are identical to the PM-1, and it makes sense because Oppo points out that the transducers and basic construction are pulled directly from their own flagship. The most unique trait among both is the implementation of planar magnetic technology, which utilizes a flat a conductor pattern and thin dual-sided multilayer driver diaphragms; that further optimized by high energy Neodymium magnets. The idea behind this intricate method means theoretically maximized sensitivity, balanced resonance, and improved damping for driver potency.
With a rating of 32 Ohms at 102dB sensitivity (in 1 mW) the performance will work with any music device or amplifier, and immediately had my initial hopes raised for everyday usage. If your catalog is made up of compressed playlists you can expect a more direct sound, but not dramatically improved for most of your existing lo-fi MP3s. It probably goes without saying that having a preference for analog, vinyl, or a willingness to embrace high resolution (Hi-Res) audio PCM, DSD (DFF/DSF), WAV, AIFF, ALAC, and FLAC files (24-bit/96KHz minimum) will pay much bigger dividends here.
Most of my listening was with albums in FLAC and DSD formats which come closest to digitally reproducing the quality of their original sources. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon was a prime example of how the PM-2 effortlessly portrayed surrealist overtones, as metronomes and synthesizers were laid out with chilling transitional twangs and cymbal pitches of “Time” and “Any Colour You Like”.
With Donald Byrd (Caricatures) and Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) for deep and enveloping jazz sessions, the variation in definition caught distinct trumpet notes while the band complimented the songs in percussion and bass guitar sequences throughout. Distortion was eliminated and captured the feeling of warmth with accurate midrange separation, which not even the highest volumes could break the PM-2 under pressure.
However, if you’re after muscular bass then the PM-2 might turn some away since lows are handled in a far less exaggerated manner, and will probably be considered lacking by those standards. Also, a bit of outward noise can be heard due to its open back design, the obvious tradeoff is that music typically sounds bigger and more realistic as intended. Beyond that, other weaknesses are next to none if you regulate them to inside enjoyment.
The fact of the matter is this: the Oppo PM-2 Planar Magnetic Headphones will be damn expensive to the uninitiated but phenomenal as far as precision is concerned. A logical marriage as carryover quality and crisp balance is easily on par with any other premium headphone in its category, not only for lossless soundtracks but also by itself for device pairing or heavily compressed MP3 libraries — and that’s before considering optional and equally pricey DACs to match, such as the Oppo HA-1 Amplifier.
Truth be told though, the PM-2 could be some of the nicest luxury headphones I’ve currently heard for critical audiophile and/or casual listening; if only behind the likes of Audeze, Beyerdynamic, and definitely Oppo’s own PM-1.