Oppo PM-1 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Astonishing sound quality: a Bentley for the ears

Image: Hugh Threlfall

A brand previously unfamiliar to me, Oppo is known for expensive Blu-ray players and mid-range Android phones and tablets. Now it is well on its way to becoming a Chinese rival to the Sennheisers of this world with the extreme high-end PM-1, its first headphones. They are OK-looking, robust, well-made and comfortable, though not suitable for travelling, since they’re quite bulky and not particularly sound-isolating. Where they win is on astonishing sound quality, produced by using a new implementation of an unusual (though not wholly new) technology called planar magnetic drivers, instead of the more common dynamic drivers. In planar magnetic technology, a flexible diaphragm laced with flat wires creates the sound, the result being a more precise sensation on the ear.

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Although they are designed in Silicon Valley, the headphones’ Chinese heritage is to be seen in the splendid, polished wooden case they arrive in, which looks as if it should contain some fine oolong tea. One annoying detail is a lead that came “permed” with curls — but think of the Oppo PM-1 as a Bentley for the ears and you’ll get them. The (justified) price tag will help.

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