I knew the moment I opened the box that I was dealing with a highly precious bit of kit. Off the top of my head I couldn’t tell you another set of headphones that are as expensive. The Oppo Planar Magnetic PM-1 headphones weigh in at around £1,100 and the packaging itself only served to reinforce my feeling of reverence.
Unlike most headphones, the PM-1s use a planar magnetic driver to generate sounds – as opposed to the more commonly utilised dynamic drivers. This means they are relatively light in construction (an advantage of ditching the more traditional speaker construction of heavier moving coil or dome diaphragms). They come in an understated retro black leather/chrome with lashings of the former, and their adjustable moving parts glided/clicked/moved effortlessly. Oh, and you have a choice between leather and velour earpads.
OPPO PM-1 PLANAR MAGNETIC HEADPHONES
BUY FROM: WWW.OPPODIGITAL.CO.UK
Now, I wasn’t going to do these headphones the injustice of just plugging them into my smartphone – oh no! For these, I broke out the vinyl and converted a handful of CDs to FLAC and lossless .wav files. I tried to make the music selection as broad as possible (within the confines of my music collection, you understand):
The Seldom Seen Kid [Live] – Elbow & The BBC Concert Orchestra
AM – Arctic Monkeys
Man of Steel Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer
GIRL – Pharrell Williams
Lifted – Aloe Blacc
Music for a Gilted Generation – The Prodigy
Thriller – Michael Jackson (vinyl)
Rump Shaker – Wreckx-n-Effect (vinyl)
Listening to Elbow’s live album and the Arctic Monkeys, I was struck by how warm the tones were and, although I’m a fan of bass, the balance between the frequencies felt so perfect, I didn’t miss it. I felt as though each of the instruments being played wasn’t being overpowered by any of the others in the production. That said, the music felt alive and not produced; it was almost breathed into my ears. The palpable rumbles on the Man of Steel soundtrack were delicious. It didn’t quite sound as though the artists were in my living room, but it’s the best I’ve heard my music through cans. It’s worth noting that the Oppos didn’t seem to be a fan of FLAC files, but sounded amazing on .wav, vinyl (Thriller sounded epic) and .mp3. The more orchestral, live, acoustic tracks were more of a joy to listen to. The electronic tracks from Pharrell and The Prodigy felt tempered and less frenetic. The bass was present, it just wasn’t crushing everything in its path. It would seem the PM-1 headphones are not fans of dance/electronics.
It took me a little by surprise when my wife spoke to, rather than shouted at me when she wanted to know how much longer I’d be hogging the amp (it’s connected to our media centre). The open back design is great for sound generation, but offers inadequate isolation. Also, leakage is a problem with these – I wouldn’t recommended them for commuter or office listening, as there is no concealing your choice of music and any annoying looks or embarrassment that may come your way as a result of ‘sharing’.
There’s little doubt that the Oppo PM-1 headphones are for real music lovers – emphasis on real music. It’s almost as though they were built to caress and not batter your hearing senses; at any volume level, distortion was almost unobtainable! If you’re going to listen to that bedroom-produced, over-produced urban youth-orientated noise, these are most definitely not for you. As for the price: well, if you’re a true music fan, you’ll find a way… right?
4.5 out of 5