First and foremost, the PM-3’s sensitivity of 102dB at 26Ω means that it gets pretty damn loud with most portable sources. High-current sources like the iPod nano or iPhone 6 will supply it with incredible resolution without the need for an amp. If you stray from normal listening levels, or just hate your ears, the HA-2, or similar amp will ensure that even at ear-killing volume levels, enough current will flow through the PM-3’s drivers to obviate the worst distortion. This is an easy-driving headphone. And it sounds pretty full at low volume levels.
If your thing is absolute clarity, or a frequency-neutral listen, you won’t pick up the PM-3. Why? This headphone is tricked out with thick, powerful tones, chesty mids, and a tempered high end. Its cross-frequency contrast is good, but isn’t the main thrust. This isn’t an ES10. Thank god.
It is very like the Lear BD4,2, favoring midrange warmth and overall balance to absolute detail retrieval.
Its bass slam and warmish mids and highs fit the HA-2’s forward-edging sound to a tee.
Let’s talk trance. Let’s talk Vibrasphere. The Uppsalan duo cut their teeth on thick beats and sweeping melodies. Feel is prioritized over speed. The PM-3’s moody bass and midrange punctuate every beat with organic, if not fibrous, bass. Speedier classics like Darude’s Sandstorm pose no problems. PM-3 keeps up, keeps great space between lows and highs, and keeps great contrast between bass and mids. The only gotcha is that it is more bass than most serious trance-heads are used to bed down with. When the track rolls over from Sandstorm, my ears are pummelled. Burning is harder-hitting, and slower. And while the thesis: Burning’s low end wasn’t meant to hit that fast, that hard, is completely subjective to my experience and preferences, I feel confident in saying that the PM-3 is less a trance phone than it is an EDM phone. Or hip hop.
It is glorious with hip hop. And rock. Folk is also great. But jazz and vocal, and the odd soundtrack: those are where it is really at. Basically, any music that has a thing or two to say with emotion, with sweep, and the odd grand gesture, is what the PM-3 does as naturally as breathing.
Bass resolution is good-to-great, and while weighty, lows aren’t overdone. They are centre-weighted, grounded, and pretty much everything else pivots around them. But the mids are where everything is at.
I can’t say that it has a real liking for any one instrument in particular. It’s not necessarily a guitar headphone, but it sounds great with guitar music. Ditto violins, drums, pianos, jaw harps, accordions, and spoons. It does atmosphere.
Its stereo spread is good, deep, tallish, and semi-wide. For a closed portable headphone, it pitches a wide stereo arc. But due to a laid back contrast between highs and lows, it can’t be fastened with any of the following adjectives: chasmic, canyonic, mad-wide-like-the-smile-when-I-see-you-smile-my-way. It presents a mature, solid, and tapping listen for the person that doesn’t want to get spooked out in the back row, listening for kids spitting wads at other guests. It is for the listener that likes to get all up in there, arguing with the guards for her place on stage, with her favorite performer. Because, that is sort of what happens. Your favorite there, nearly licking your ears. Other important bits unfold around that.
Which is totally opposite to my heretofore favorite, ES10. That phone is all about contrast, crisp bass, crisp highs, bottoming out here, and sizzling there. When it’s on it’s on. When it’s not, it’s not.
Unlike a lot of the price-sensitive planar magnetic competition, the PM-3 is more than just a great-sounding device. Like the HA-2, it is awesomely outfitted for its price, and awesomely finished at any price. Unlike the HA-2, it is exquisite for use both out and in. Like the HA-2, it is destined to turn the planar magnetic world on its ear.
No longer can company X churn out a great-sounding, but otherwise crap headphone. The PM-3 looks, feels, and works like it was someone’s life work. That is, with the crazy exception of its indelible ear pads. Through cold and sweat, you literally are stuck with them. Fortunately, in sub-25º weather, they are supple and comfy. At this point, I consider the cable suspect, but I’ve been wrong before, especially when given such short time to review an audio device. All that said, the PM-3 is such a solid headphone that I’m bowled over. Totally.
There is literally no planar even double the PM-3’s market value that even interests me anymore.
To find out more about the PM-3 follow this link.