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Get more from your OPPO PM-3 headphones with a balanced cable

  • fujiya_avic_spring_2016Ochanomizu’s Emilai distribute a number of well-known brands in Japan: Aurender, AURALiC, exaSound, MrSpeakers, Resonessence Labs and OPPO Digital (among others).

    Generating the biggest buzz at Emilai’s stand at the Spring 2016 Fujiya Avic show was Dan Clark and his forthcoming Ether E electrostatic headphone, previously covered by yours truly at its CanJam SoCal debut in March.

    At the other end of his long table, Emilai mainman Kenzo Kono wanted to talk OPPO. Kono has already introduced red and blue versions of the HA-2 (colour-coded to match the PM-3) and Japan Limited BDP-105D to the local market but his latest commission might see wider distribution.

    The PM-3 is OPPO Digtial’s most affordable planar magnetic to date – reviewed here – but perhaps not every owner is aware that their headphone is internally wired for balanced connectivity and therefore has more performance still to give. You just need the right cable.

    Smaller third party vendors have already stepped in to soak up some demand, largely from Astell&Kern owners wanting to tap their player’s 2.5mm TRSS socket, but Kono has had three differently terminated versions commissioned with the full approval of OPPO Digital HQ in China: a 2.5mm TRSS for A&Ks, a 3.5mm TRSS for the OPPO HA-2 and XLR for desktop headphone amplifiers.

    Kono spills the specifics here:

    Each cables features a 6N-OFC core and is made in Japan. Samples are already in Russia, Singapore and Australia but readers are advised to discuss availability with their local OPPO Digital distributor.

    And yes, with a pair of PM-3 lassoed to an HA-2, the balanced cable sounds more micro-dynamically vibrant than the standard single-ended cable.

    No, the HA-2 doesn’t offer a balanced circuit. Think of its output as quasi-balanced. According to Emilai, the four pole 3.5mm socket is used to separate each channel’s signal grounding, which the tech wizards at OPPO HQ believe is more important to channel separation than the doubling up of amplifiers.

    Pricing starts at ~US$100.

    Further information: OPPO Digital


    DAR 750 x 290

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    1. Excuse my ignorance, but is it compatible with the iPhone 6? I noticed that you haven’t mentioned the iPhone, only DAPs and headphone amps. I’ll take a guess that the iPhone doesn’t have a balanced output… I’m probably not alone in asking this! I’d be keen to try it myself…

    2. @Ismael HA-2 doesn’t output balanced, as its output stage has only one TPA6120A2 chip plus transistor current buffers (*have looked the internal before). If it was balanced, you will need two of everything to create the balanced circuit. While it does have TRRS socket (*not TRSS btw!), the last two pins are internally shorted together, which I confirmed with a multi-meter myself. That means you can plug any TRRS balanced headphone to HA-2 and it will work without a problem (normally a TRRS balanced headphone to a TRS socket will result in sound in only one channel, typically the left) – but that’s because that way HA-2 TRRS socket is soldered means it will automatically convert the TRRS balanced configuration back to a TRS single-ended configuration. Thus bear the question, is the author really heard ‘more micro-dynamically vibrant’ or is it all in the mind? A proper blind test will probably give an more accurate answer.

    3. Could you expound upon your statement, ” sounds more micro-dynamically vibrant” to me it is very abstract. I know the very nature of audio reviews make it difficult to pinpoint the correct words to use sometimes, but I really don’t understand what you mean. Thank you!

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