Oppo also notes that it is equipped with two ESS Technology ES9038PRO 32-bit HyperStream DACs for both stereo and 7.1-channel analog audio, and claims that the ESS PRO sets a new benchmark for audio excellence with its best-in-class 140dB of dynamic range, and that the XLR outputs are fully balanced to provide common-mode noise rejection.
Used as a full DAC and disc player to provide analog signals, it has high-quality stereo XLR and coaxial stereo outputs plus eight channels of separate coaxial outputs (left-right front, center, left-right sides, left-right back, and subwoofer). The sound from its analog outputs has natural detail without exaggerating the upper midrange. Deep bass is tight, full, and accurate. It does very well in reproducing the upper bass and lower midrange—a region where many players lack the proper energy and balance. Peak dynamics and low-level detail are both very good, and sudden dynamic contrasts do not come with the slight hardening that is common to all too many players when instruments en masse suddenly change radically in volume. Soundstage size and imaging are also very good, and stage depth is good-to-very-good for the money. So is the Oppo’s ability to reproduce the life and air of truly great recordings.
What is particularly striking in a DAC and CD/SACD player at this price level, however, is the UPD-205’s ability to get the best out of ordinary CDs, SACDs, and normal sampling rates when streaming. This latter ability will be critical to anyone with a serious library of existing discs or who does not want to pay high-resolution prices for all-too-ordinary recordings. The ability of the latest generation of current-production CD/SACD/DAC players to make ordinary CD discs and 16-bit/44.1kHz streaming input sound really good is the most striking single improvement I’ve heard in the sound of the best new units. It is also the one most likely to affect the playback use of your entire collection and your streaming experience for years to come.
If you haven’t auditioned the best-sounding CD players recently, you’ll be a bit surprised at how good older CDs can now sound and how competitive the sonic result can be even with higher rates of resolution such as 24-bit/96kHz. Try for example, the Perlman and Ashkenazy performances of the Beethoven violin sonatas on London. This is a conversion from analog originals dating back to the mid-1970s, but it is really good music. It comes across as such with the Oppo—with many older or similarly priced current players, much less so.
A lot of the problems we’ve ascribed to CDs in the past actually seem to really have been inherent to the players. Perhaps the Oppo’s ability to outperform many units at anything near its price range could be ascribed in part to the two ES9038PRO DACs inside. The Oppo also isn’t “picky” in providing its sonic benefits. It does just as well in getting the soul out of blues and jazz vocals as it does out of Mahler. It also does equally well with a wide variety of acoustic performances where the capability to make female voice, upper strings, upper woodwinds, massed brass, percussion detail, and the full range of the piano sound natural is critical.
At the same time, the UDP-205 isn’t euphonic or forgiving; its reproduction of music won’t surprise you by emphasizing a given set of sound features or highlighting a given passage in an unexpected way. But then, the Oppo shouldn’t. What it will do is engage you in the music of any well-recorded performance, and this makes it more of a pleasure to listen to over time than many far more expensive CD players have been in the past.
Finally, it has an unusually good headphone output. Oppo states that “the headphone amplifier is connected directly to the ESS SABRE PRO DAC and offers a unique performance advantage over stand-alone headphone amplifiers. Compared to the built-in headphone amplifier in our previous generation BDP-105/105D players, the new design offers more power and higher performance.” I’m not heavily into headphones, but the sound was quite impressive with a range of different ’phones, and the UDP-205 could easily drive the ones I tried without any sign of strain.
The Oppo UDP-205 as a DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray Video Player
Video disc performance with the Oppo is as good as I’ve seen and heard. Oppo advertises that it has teamed with MediaTek to produce and manufacture a specialized 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder—called the quad-core OP8591—which offers the most advanced image decoding and processing technology available for 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and user-generated media formats. The UPD-205 also has high-dynamic range (HDR) video and an expanded color range to provide more natural and true-to-life hues. Support for Dolby Vision was recently offered as a firmware upgrade. The UDP-205 also supports the HDR10 format, and can provide an accurate conversion from HDR to SDR for older displays. The only set of video features that the Oppo currently seems to lack are the various video-streaming functions built into some players—e.g., Netflix, Amazon, etc.—but almost all 4K sets that take advantage of the Oppo’s Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray capabilities already have these.
As for picture quality, I am not a video expert, but I do have a calibrated 75" Sony XBR850D TV set with HDR. I not only use it to display 4K discs and streaming, I make my own 4K films and stills and use my video display to show them. I really care about video picture quality, and the Oppo UDP-205 provides excellent video performance in my setup. In both consistency and detail it outperformed my previous Samsung 4K player and a Sony 4K player I had on loan.
I really did not expect the Oppo to make much improvement in the quality of older DVDs and ordinary Blu-ray discs. At least in my system, however, the upconversion features of the UDP-205 consistently produced video quality that was slightly better in playing back ordinary DVD and Blu-rays than my reference Oppo 105D. The UDP-205 also provided better video quality than the ordinary Blu-ray players used by my friends with quality AV systems. Accordingly, I’d recommend the UPD-205 as much for how well it can play back your existing DVD and Blu-ray collection as I would for its ability to play back Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray videos.