It isn’t often that I have to review a product on several different levels. The Oppo UDP-205 Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player, however, is an exception. It provides outstanding value for money in four very different roles: as a CD, SACD, and virtually any other form of stereo music disc player; as a DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray video player; as a surround-music disc player; and as a digital preamp.
I can strongly recommend it in any of these roles in competition with other units in anything like its price range. It is also, however, the best surround-music player I’ve yet encountered, and this potentially gives it a very different role than an ordinary stereo disc player. If you put it into a high-quality AV system it does an outstanding job of reproducing the multichannel music on many SACDs, older DVD-As, and DTS surround recordings, as well as on PCM surround recordings like those put out by AIX.
I realize that surround music has gone out of fashion in much of the stereo world, but I think this is a bit of a tragedy. If you have a really good AV system, you also have a really good surround-music system, and it is a pity not to take advantage of it, even if it does not match your stereo system in some respects.
As for its capabilities as a control unit, the Oppo UDP-205 does not provide analog inputs, so it is not a preamp in the usual sense. However, it has built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and RS-232 connections, and TosLink optical, coaxial, and two USB 3.0 inputs. It also has XLR and coaxial stereo outputs, seven separate multichannel coaxial outputs, and a separate audio-only HDMI output with unique jitter-reduction circuitry. If you use it as a digital preamp, its remote control allows easy selection of inputs and volume, and provides the ability to trim each analog output for balancing your music separately from every digital source.
The Oppo UDP-205 as an “Almost-Everything” Audio Disc Player and DAC
At $1300 the Oppo UDP-205 is an outstanding buy as a stereo disc player, even if you ignore all of its video and surround-sound features. Its basic sound quality is excellent for the money, although it does not perform miracles in terms of value. It doesn’t have the same upper-midrange life and air as my $10,000+ combination of a PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Memory player, and it doesn’t compete with my Meitner XDS1 SACD and CD player, which costs some $25,000. But it does provide really good sound in every major respect, and is certainly competitive or better than any of the CD players I’ve auditioned at anything under twice its price.
It also is about as close to a universal stereo player as you are likely to get. It can not only play CDs and SACDs; it can also play stereo and multichannel DSD64/128. (DSD64 is played back in native mode or converted to PCM; DSD128 is converted to PCM.) It can play the 192kHz/24-bit PCM signals used in high-resolution lossless formats such AIFF, ALAC, APE, FLAC, and uncompressed WAV. It can also play back high-resolution PCM streaming, HD Blu-ray discs, Dolby discs, ordinary and high-resolution MPEGs, DVD-As, the full range of DTS musical discs, and AVCHDs.
While the formats are used almost exclusively for video soundtracks, the Oppo can also play Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio surround formats, and Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. In addition, it has an asynchronous USB DAC input that can play back PCM at sample rates up to 768kHz and DSD512. For additional convenience and flexibility, the UDP-205 can convert digital signals to analog from cable and satellite boxes, televisions, video-game consoles, and other digital transports with coaxial and optical digital outputs.
About the only things the Oppo cannot play back are DVD-RAMs and HD-DVDs, but its unlikely that you have any of those, and you certainly aren’t going to be buying more. One caution, however: Oppo says it is examining MQA, but has made no decisions and had no comment on a potential future upgrade.
The UDP-205 is superbly built, and its weight provides a good instant indicator of quality. Lift any of the similarly priced competition (which can be done easily with one hand); then try lifting a unit as solidly built as the UDP-205. Take a look at how well its connections are built, the quality of the screen display and of the drawer mechanism. Many far more expensive units show less attention to detail and sturdiness.
What counts even more for audiophiles, however, is that it is engineered to provide excellent sonic quality. Oppo does not list all of its design features in its advertising literature, although it does note that the UDP-205 has a “high-stability, high-precision HDMI clock and a special HDMI audio jitter-reduction circuit” that reduces jitter and eliminates timing errors “when you use the audio-only HDMI output port for connecting the audio signal.” If the UPD-205 is used as a digital front end for stereo and surround-music purposes, it is the only unit I know of that advertises special circuitry to reduce jitter from its HDMI audio output. I didn’t find that I could hear any consistent improvement in stereo performance with this output, but there were times when SACDs seemed clearer and more open.