Friday, May 18, 2018

Update on the Oppo PM-3 v. Ultrasone Signature Studio Contest

I've been listening to both set of headphones using my Pioneer XDP300r hi-res music player, which decodes up to 4xDSD plus MQA. I've been listening both to my own stored FLAC files and music from TIDAL (although TIDAL's android player does not yet allow for the highest resolutions, including MQA files).

At first, I found the Ultrasone headphones a bit "hot," even harsh, at the top end. But I was digging the smoothness of the Oppos. Over time, however, the Ultrasones either mellowed out a bit or I just got used to them. Currently, I must say, I prefer their clarity and dynamism, including their more expanded range on top and bottom, along with their larger (admittedly, artificially enhanced) sound stage to the Oppos neutral imaging. Indeed, the Oppos have begun to strike me as a bit boring by comparison. Interestingly, I find myself trying to split the difference between the two sets of cans by using an equalizer both to reduce the U-shaped tuning of the Ultrasone's and to liven-up the flatter response of the Oppos. But the effects of equalization have not been equal. It has helped more with the Ultrasones, the sharp edge off the highest frequencies, than with the Oppos.

Both cans are light and seem equally suitable for travel. The Oppos fit in a somewhat smaller case, but the Ultrasone actually fold up to be as small or smaller than the Oppos (in the shape of a super-sized banana). I wonder why Ultrasone did not make a travel case that takes full advantage of their portability; its case is significantly larger than the Oppo case, though still sufficiently portable. The weight difference between the headphones doesn't differ enough to matter to me. And they are both quite comfortable, even though the Oppos have real leather compared to the Ultrasones' PU leather. My relatively small ears fit well within either set of ear cups. The cups on the Ultrasones clamp a bit more tightly than the Oppos. That could make them less comfortable over the course of a long flight, but it could also provide superior isolation (all else being equal). In any case, I don't to wear any single pair of headphones for more than a few hours at a time; I always alternate between headphones and my Nobel X in-ear monitors (not to mention my custom Weston noise protection inserts for sleeping).

The contest is not yet over; it's even possible that I'll decide to keep both sets of headphones. But at this point, I'd say that the Ultrasones have the advantage.

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