Again, a big thanks to Armand for lending me his PM3 for my honest opinions. This is the third headphone of his that I’ve reviewed and I truly appreciate the support for my YouTube channel and written reviews.
Acoustic Principle Closed back
Ear Coupling Circumaural
Nominal Impedance 26 Ohm
Sensitivity 102 dB in 1 mW
Clamping Pressure 5 N
Cables 3 m detachable cable (3.5 mm with 6.35 mm adapter)
1.2 m detachable cable (3.5 mm)
Cable Connectors Output: 3.5 mm stereo jack
Input: 6.35 mm stereo jack, 3.5 mm stereo jack
Weight (without cable) 320 g (Black/White), 310 g (Cherry Red/Steel Blue)
Included Accessories Carrying Case
Driver Type Planar Magnetic
Driver Size (Round) 55 mm diameter
Magnet System Symmetric push-pull neodymium
Frequency Response In Free-Field 10 - 50,000 Hz
Long-Term Max Input Power 500 mW according to IEC 60268-7
Pulse Max Input Power 2 W
Build Quality, Comfort & Features
Jumping between three far heavier daily drivers, I found the weight of the PM-3 to be near-effortless by comparison. I can wear these for hours on end with no discomfort thanks to the light weight, reasonable clamp and plush earpads.
The construction of the headphone itself is a great selling point. These aren’t the tanks that the V-MODA headphones are, but they aren’t flimsy plastic rubbish like the Beats by Dre are either. They are very capable, and indeed I can tell that Armand has used these quite a bit (he told me that they were a bit older and he has used them as beaters) – but they retain all functionality and, besides a few dings here and there, their looks.
I highly commend both the packaging and the inclusion of a very fetching denim carrying case. There are a number of cables included, so more props for having detachable cables, including a 3m cable that is definitely for home use. I, honestly, have no complaints on the build quality front…however.
The PM-3 is a little confusing to me in how it goes about presenting itself to the listener. It has superior detail retrieval than I have heard from other headphones of this form factor and price range, but it is only brought out properly through amping. It does not take a lot to amp this however, but don’t be fooled by the included cables for use with phones – it will sound slightly hollow out of your smartphone.
In a price range with a big emphasis on what I like to call “consumer-focused tuning,” with bass taking front seat to anything else – the PM-3 goes in another direction entirely. The bass has some speed to it, but it is muted – lacking in impact/slam. This leads to a really waffling sound in punchier genres of music where instruments like kick drums get lost in the mix. Not only that, but you get a feeble sound out of kick drums as well – leading to a sound that is too tonally off to sound realistic and too weak to sound like a studio construction with drum machines. The sub-bass extension is also chopped at a point, but that does not bother me as much as the above complaints.
The lower midrange is not emphasized either, but it is not drastically dipped as was the case with the Soundmagic HP150. That being said, it reduces the resonant wood of acoustic guitar bodies into plastic constructions – as in there’s no depth to their reproduction. They actually sound very tonally off, which I must admit bothers me as a guitar player myself. It didn’t matter if I was listening to my own acoustic guitar track recorded using a mere MXL 990 microphone or a track being played on the Rumours album by Fleedwood Mac – both were reduced to being hollow sounding.
To the PM-3’s credit, it does manage to have a decently wide soundstage – with instrument separation from left to right channel being a strength. There does not seem to be much going for it in terms of depth and accuracy in imaging. A lot of sounds are hard-panned on either channel or directly in the centre.
The midrange itself also feels quite a bit uneven and, quite often, I’ve find that some instruments sound better to me than others in the same mix. Hard-panned vocals actually sound decent, which makes listening to the Beatles on the PM-3 oddly well-paired due to their (at least in the 2009 stereo remasters) manner of hard panning vocal tracks. I also found Pink Floyd’s The Wall album to be a good listen on the PM-3 due to it not requiring the most dynamic of headphones – just don’t expect any of the tracks’ sound effects (like the cars in One of my Turns) to sounds especially well placed imaging-wise or pan accurately.
The upper-midrange seals the PM-3’s fate to me however. Not only does it lack air, but it leaves the above complaints without redemption and instead renders this headphone as quite “dead” sounding. I’m actually not someone who absolutely insists on having heightened presence in this region, but this headphone is a lesson in just how many layers of dullness can be stacked without a light at the end of the tunnel. The other headphones that lack in this region make up for it in other ways: bass slam, punchiness, midrange character or accurate imaging and detail retrieval.
I honestly wonder how the PM-3 does not achieve any of that to a level where I personally enjoy.
To sum up the frequencies overall, there’s a random jump in the treble somewhere that actually manages to be sibilant at times, which is really out of place with the rest of the headphone. Things falling in this region are heightened, if not hot at times, but the rest of the treble sounds in line with the rest of the headphone – dull.
I find the “darkbright” nature of the PM-3 to be something I can’t quite overlook, which is a shame because these are very, very comfortable and light headphones at a price range where most of the portable competitors are even less refined in their presentation in their drive to showcase a certain type of sound signature that is supposed to appeal to the masses. To go against that grain, I guess I have to commend Oppo to an extent, but the existence of the Meze 99 Classics for around the same price means I would pick the wooden headphone out of the two if I had to choose – at least with the old pads, haven’t quite heard the new ones or the Neo.
The PM-3 is, ultimately, a headphone with a confused identity to me. It is not tuned to emphasize bass or warmth and it isn’t tuned to provide air or fine detail. The midrange is uneven and dull and then a sudden jump in the treble leaves me scratching my head. It comes with cables for smartphone use, but sounds hollow out of one.
At least you can wear it for long periods of time, I guess.