Hands On: Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray Player

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A Fort Knox of Home Theater Technology


Jan. 18, 2013 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

A lot of home theater enthusiasts have a bit of a crush on Oppo, a small company that pretty much makes one thing—Blu-ray players.  In fact, if you look at the Oppo web site now you only see three products, and the BDP-105 3D Blu-ray player is the flagship.

You might think that by now it’s hard to make a Blu-ray player that stands out in a significant way. You’d be wrong. The BDP-105 is a Fort Knox of technology for home theater and audio. It, and its slightly less well-armed sister the BDP-103, manage to cover all the bases in terms of playback formats, connections and extras. In fact it might go a bit overboard on those extras (which is why there’s the BDP-103).

For starters, it’s a universal disc player compatible with all media, BDs, DVD, DVD-A, SACD and of course CD. Because shiny discs only account for a portion of what most people consume now, most digital formats are also included, such as AVCHD, WAV, MP3, FLAC, and MKV video.

Like other disc players today, the BDP-105 offer a basketful of streaming services including Netflix, VUDU, Film Fresh, Pandora, Picasa and YouTube. That’s less than you get on players from LG, Samsung or Panasonic, but it includes the ones most important to video and music folks. The remote includes direct buttons for Netflix and Vudu, and there are control apps for iOS or Android.

Oppo players are known for their hardcore videophile guts, and this model comes loaded with a custom dual-core processor and Marvell’s Qdeo video processor. The dual-core system-on-a-chip allows the BDP-105 to load quickly and navigate online services without pause. With the Marvell video processor, the unit can upscale video to 4K. All of today’s current 4K displays (which we should start to call Ultra HD) include good video processors, so at this time it’s best to leave that task to the TV or projector (a very short list), but it won’t be too long until lower-quality 4K displays start hitting the market. For that reason a better 4K scaler isn’t a bad thing to have around. The same Qdeo scaling happens to be available on a number of AV receivers, including the Onkyo I use, so you might want to experiment to see which device does a better job. The BDP-105 also does 2D-to-3D conversion (which I doubt anyone will use more than once) and two HDMI outputs that can send video to two displays at the same time. That’s useful if you run two media rooms and only want to invest in a $1K Blu-ray player once, or if your display is a projector but you want to have a smaller accessory display for navigating menus when playing music (so you don’t have to turn the projector on just to listen to Pandora).

On the audio side, the BDP-105 supports bit-stream output and onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. With SACDs you can take your pick of native DSD or PCM via HDMI or analog.  The unit offers 7.1 channel analog outputs plus two ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, a toroidal linear power supply, dedicated stereo outputs with both RCA and XLR balanced connections, and a headphone amplifier connected directly to the DAC.

If you have a vast digital music collection on a computer or external drive, the Oppo becomes an audiophile’s friend by offering an asynchronous USB DAC.

One of the most interesting features, and one I’ve not seen before on a Blu-ray player, is dual HDMI inputs (one supporting MHL) so you can connect other components to take advantage of the Oppo’s processing power. This means you can use the Oppo to upscale your Apple TV, game console, smartphone or cable box to 4K.

Strangely, with all those connections, Wi-Fi isn’t built into the player. It comes with a Wi-Fi adapter though, so it’s all good. The built-in Ethernet port is a better choice for a network connection anyway.

The setup menu and options are equally stuffed. Complete audio and picture adjustments let an installer tune the player to your system and room more than any Blu-ray player I’ve seen. This is clearly a serious home theater device, not the kind of player you hook up to a mediocre flat panel in the den. It even offers a stretch mode for systems that use a projector with an anamophic lens. In that mode the black bars on 2.35:1 aspect radio movies are eliminated, making a perfect fit for your Cinemascope screen.

With such a comprehensive wish list of features, you’d expect stellar performance, and that’s what I got. First, it’s pretty fast. Big box Blu-ray players still tend to be slow-pokes when it comes to loading discs, changing menus and going online, but the BDP-105 wasted none of my time. I hit the player with all the video-killing test patterns I could find, and the Oppo batted them away like Godzilla swatting down fighter jets.

For movie torture tests, I ran Jet Li’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. While much of the action, and all of the dialog, is a little ridiculous, the disc can be a serious challenge for a video processor. The opening scene in particular, where the camera cruises though a medieval shipyard, presents an obstacle course of masts, ropes and waving flags. My Panasonic Blu-ray player passes a lot of that out as artifact mashed potatoes, but the Oppo rendered most of the edges smooth and clear for my 120-inch screen.

Being a universal player, I dug through my collection of SACDs and DVD-As, as well as regular CDs and sat though some audiophile bliss. The multichannel music was gorgeous, but I was particularly impressed with the detail and imaging coming out of my Canton speakers when playing curmudgeon two-channel CD music.

I switched over to the USB input and hooked up a Seagate drive. The player handled my digital files well, but did get hung up once while navigating folders. That may have been the fault of the drive, because it never happened with a Western Digital external drive, only the older Seagate.

The headphone DAC on the Oppo is a curious addition. I listened Alison Krauss’ Down to the River to Pray on Yamaha’s new PRO 500 headphones. Upon first switching back and forth between the Oppo output and the one on my Onkyo receiver, I though the Oppo sounded a bit more subdued, but I believe the Oppo was just a few dB quieter. When I popped the Oppo’s volume up a bit it sounded at least as good as the output coming from the Onkyo, maybe slightly better. In a few instances the male vocals in the chorus were more discernible, but not by much.

A much bigger difference in audio could be heard when comparing Pandora on the Oppo against Pandora via my Roku player. The same channels played a bit cleaner on the Oppo.

Video streaming also looked better. I compared Netflix videos played over the Oppo to the same movies from the Roku and the differences in detail were obvious. Oppo’s video processing made streamed movies look better than I’d ever seen.

Overall, the Oppo BDP-105 seems to do most things better than any other player on the market. For $1,199 it ought to, but if you take your theater experience seriously, and don’t want to regret something down the road, this player is the one to check out.

Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray Player
$1,119
http://www.oppodigital.com
Full specs here.

Match that Oppo Blu-ray player with a good projector, like the Epson 5020UB reviewed here.

Read about The World’s Loudest Home Theater.


 




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