This has been a hard review to write for many reasons. I like to be as objective as possible when going into items but when presented with a pair of headphones that cost over one thousand English pounds, it’s hard to hear anything other than “well that’s bananas”. The Oppo Planar Magnetic PM1 headphones come with a whole physic’s degree’s worth of information on exactly why they charge well over top dollar for a listening device and I’ve spent over 50 hours just “warming” them up ready for serious testing. Make no mistake, these are good headphones. Maybe the best ones to ever sit on my ears. But are they worth a month’s rent (yes living in London sucks). I still can’t look you in the eye and tell you definitively yes or no.
Presentationally the PM1s already set themselves apart from every other pair of headphones I’ve ever played with. They come in a giant box, large enough to house an old school desktop PC and 14″ TFT monitor combo. Inside this box, is a smaller (albeit still large box) that could comfortably fit a VCR. And inside that? A fancy presentational wooden box, that pops open to reveal one thousand pounds worth of audio headgear. There’s also a denim carry case that screams mid-life crisis.
Again. They sound fantastic. There are 3.4 and 1.4″ jacks, so you can pop them straight into an iDevice or laptop and think “wow these are good”. But if you want to fully appreciate where all your money has gone, you’ll need a headphone amplifier. Ran through a Musical Fidelity HPA the raw power of the Planar Magnetic technology really shines.
“The advantages of planar magnetic technology are based on the fact that in a planar driver, sound is generated by a very thin and light diaphragm that is driven evenly over the entire radiating area. Sound, entering our ear, has a planar wave front at the so called ear reference point (ERP), with all spectrum components in phase. A typical dynamic headphone driver, due to its phase irregularity, disrupts that coherence, resulting in less than perfect signal peak reconstruction, especially of very short impulses. A planar magnetic driver has another advantage that relates to its purely resistive impedance. It has a flat conductor pattern that does not have any inductive component, which eliminates inductance related IM distortion, common in dynamic headphones. A resistive load also ensures that any amplifier will drive the headphones without any changes in spectral balance.”
This isn’t just marketing bumpf. The company spent years working on this pair of headphones and has slide after slide just daring you to ask for the science behind them. The PM1s aren’t just headphones and become an experience unto themselves – almost a ritual. I have music on almost all the time. Oppo demand I listen to it. Every note carefully calls out for you attention, and it such a neat an orderly fashion it’s never muddled. Listening to track after track was incredible. It doesn’t quite bring you into the studio, but it does bring the experience alive. A well recorded concert will sound extra magic, and if you close
Like most high-end audio, it will make you hate Spotify, and rue the day you flogged all your old CDs and traded them in for iTunes and streaming audio. I rescued an old CD player from a cupboard, and after some fiddling with optical cables was able to listen to Things Fall Apart, Penguin Cafe and Rage Against The Machine in all their glory.
Out now the OPPO’s PM-1 planar magnetic headphones have a UK MSRP of £1099.00. For further information, visit OPPO