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Oppo BDP-105 Universal/Blu-ray Player and DAC

In recent years Oppo Digital has followed a simple recipe for success: Just build universal disc players that offer greater versatility, more audiophile-friendly features, and more sensible pricing than the competition does, and then give them decisively better sound and picture quality than their peers. Naturally, this laudable goal is a lot easier to describe on paper than it is to achieve in the real world, but Oppo has made good on its promises, year after year and player after player, in the process earning a reputation as the nearly automatic “go-to” source for players that will satisfy discerning music (and movie) lovers on a budget.

Historically, many of Oppo’s most popular players have sold for around $499. But with the 2011 release of its BDP- 95 universal/Blu-ray player ($995), the firm began to explore a more upscale market. What set the BDP-95 apart was that it was not merely a “hot-rodded,” sonically tweaked version of a standard Oppo player; rather, it was a unique, dedicated high-end model with a distinctive configuration all its own.

The award-winning BDP-95 sounded remarkably good both for its price and in a broader sense. Never a company to rest on its laurels, however, Oppo has recently announced the successor to the BDP-95; namely, the BDP- 105 ($1199)—a player that promises to do everything its predecessor could do and then some.

Like its predecessor, the BDP-105 can handle virtually any format of audio or video disc, including Blu-ray Video, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, HDCD, and more. But with the BDP-105 the universality theme doesn’t end with disc playback because the new player is also designed to serve both as a network-streaming player and as a multi-input high-resolution DAC (complete with asynchronous USB).

To really “get” what the BDP-105 is about, think of it not so much as a powerful multi-format disc player (although it is that and more), but rather as a multi-function digital media playback hub whose bag of trick includes, but is in no way limited to, disc playback. In practical terms, this means the BDP-105 neatly resolves debates about whether it is better to listen to discs, to stream content from the Internet, or to enjoying audio files stored on computers, because it can quite happily do all of the above.

The BDP-105 comes housed in an all-new steel chassis said to be significantly more rigid than the chassis used in previous Oppo players (including the BDP-95), and it benefits from a fan-less architecture, meaning all internal components are convection-cooled (most previous Oppos required fan-cooling). Do such seemingly small detail changes like a more rigid chassis or a fan-free design make for meaningful sonic improvements? My opinion, based on extensive comparisons between the BDP-105 and 95, is that they do. Specifically, the new player offers a noticeably more solid and “grounded” sound with quieter backgrounds, improved resolution of low-level transient and textural details, and superior three-dimensionality.

 

Moving on, the BDP-105 uses a beefy toroidal power supply and provides both 7.1-channel analog audio outputs plus two separate sets of stereo analog outputs (one single- ended and the other fully balanced). Interestingly, the BDP-105 (like the BDP-95) features not one but rather two costly 8-channel ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, one to feed the 7.1-channel outputs and the other to feed the two sets of stereo outputs. ESS’s Sabre32 Reference DACs are used in some very pricey components, making it impressive that Oppo fits two of the devices into its sub-$1200 player.

Another new touch is that the BDP-105 provides a built- in headphone amp that runs straight off one of the player’s ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs. While the headphone amp offers relatively modest output, it has the undeniable benefit of being fed directly from one of the Oppo’s ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, so that it gives listeners an unusually pure, uncluttered, intimate, and up-close perspective on the music (precisely what you would want for monitoring applications, for example). I found the Oppo headphone amp had more than enough output to drive moderately sensitive headphones such as the HiFiMAN HE-400s or PSB M4U1s, though it might not have sufficient “oomph” for more power-hungry top-tier ’phones (for instance, the HiFiMAN HE-6).

While the original BDP-95 offered a reasonable range of Internet-content options and could play digital audio files from USB storage devices or eSATA drives, it was never set up to function as multi-input playback device or as a high- resolution audio DAC. The 105 changes all this by offering a greatly expanded range of general-purpose inputs, including two HDMI inputs (one that is faceplate-accessible and MHL- compatible) and three USB 2.0 ports (one that is faceplate- accessible). Moreover, the BDP-105 also provides three dedicated DAC inputs: two S/PDIF inputs (one coaxial, one optical), plus one asynchronous USB input. Finally, to complete the connectivity picture the new player provides both Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connections implemented, respectively, through a rear panel-mounted RJ-45 connector and a handy USB Wi-Fi dongle.

To take full advantage of these network-connection options, the BDP-105 offers DLNA compatibility, complete with support for DMP (Digital Media Player) and DMR (Digital Media Renderer) protocols. In practice, this means the BDP-105 can access audio, picture, and video files stored on DLNA-compatible digital media servers (that is, personal computers or network-attached storage devices) that share a common network with the Oppo within your home.

From this technical overview, you can see that the BDP-105 is an extraordinarily flexible source component, but for most audiophiles the key question is, and always will be, “How does it sound?” Let’s focus on that question next.

From the outset, the BDP-105 struck me as being a very high- resolution player—one that made child’s play of digging way down deep within recordings to retrieve small, essential pieces of musical information that helped convey a sense of realism. To hear what I mean, try the track “O Vazio” from the Jim Brock Ensemble on Jazz Kaleidoscope—a sampler disc (in HDCD format) from Reference Recordings. Throughout this track the Oppo did a stunning job of rendering the distinctive attack and action of each of the instruments in the ensemble (accordion, bass, drum kit, guitar, trumpet, winds, and other more exotic percussion instruments), giving them a commanding sense of presence with precisely focused placement within a wide, deep, three-dimensional soundstage. In particular, the 105 showed terrific speed and agility on the leading edges of notes (especially on the drums), rendering them with the sort of clarity and impact that reminded me of the sound of far more costly players.

 

Another song from Jazz Kaleidoscope, “Jordan” from the Brock/ Manakas Ensemble, contains a brief, quiet passage that reveals another important aspect of the BDP-105: namely, its impressive ability to maintain focus and resolution even when playing at very low levels. After the introduction of the song, which lasts about 35 seconds, the music comes to a dramatic pause that eventually is broken by the extremely faint sound of a cymbal (or small gong?) gently introducing the rhythmic pulse that will supply a heartbeat for the rest of the song. At first, the cymbal is heard so softly that its sound barely rises above the noise floor, yet even so the Oppo gets the sound of the instrument right, preserving all the essential elements of attack, timbre, and decay. This uncanny ability to resolve very-low-level musical information enables listeners to here all the little interactions between instruments and the acoustic spaces in which they are playing. While the original BDP-95 did a fine job in this respect, I would say the BDP-105 sounds better still.

The voicing of the BDP-105 is generally neutral, with taut, deep, and well-controlled bass, transparent mids, and revealing, extended highs (highs that can, however, expose mediocre recordings for what they are). Pleasing though the Oppo can be, some might find it a bit lean-sounding compared to the deliberately warmer-sounding offerings on the market. If you prefer components that give a voluptuous musical presentation then the Oppo might not be your cup of tea, but if sonic honesty and neutrality are your things you should get on very well with it.

Let me expand on my voicing comments by pointing out that the BDP-105 needs a lot of run-in time to sound its best (some say as much as 200 hours or more). As playing time accumulates, traces of leanness and austerity gradually melt away, thus enabling the player to reveal a smoother, more full-bodied, and more forgiving sonic persona.

If you buy the notion that some source components try for a softer, smoother, and thus ostensibly more “musical” presentation, while others aim for maximum musical information retrieval, then I would say the Oppo falls squarely in the information- retrieval camp (as do a great many other high-performance solid- state players). Thus, tonal colors are rendered vividly through the Oppo, but without any exaggeration or oversaturation, so that there is nothing artificially sweetened, enriched, or “glowing” about the 105’s sound. Instead, the Oppo is one of those rare “what you hear is what you get” sorts of players, whose primary mission is to tell you how your discs or digital music files actually sound, which in my book can be a beautiful thing.

As a disc player, the BDP-105 is more than good enough to show in palpable ways that well-recorded SACDs really do sound better than their equivalent CDs (there’s greater smoothness and ease with SACDs, and simply more “there” there, so to speak). But as a DAC, the Oppo really comes into own, sounding much like it does when playing discs, but with subtly heightened levels of tonal saturation and warmth that make the music more engaging and intense.

Are there caveats? Apart from the extensive run-in requirements noted above, I can think of only a few. First, the BDP-105 is an inherently complex product that—at the end of the day—is simpler to navigate and control when it is connected to a display screen. Second, the player’s sound is so unashamedly refined and sophisticated that you may feel inspired (if not compelled) to use top-tier interconnect cables that will wind up costing more than the player does. But trust me on this one: The Oppo’s worth it.

If ever a product deserved to be considered the Swiss Army knife of digital media playback, the BDP-105 is the one. Whether you choose it for multi-format disc playback, for network- streaming capabilities, or to use as a DAC at the heart of a computer-audio system, the BDP-105 will consistently serve up levels of sonic refinement and sophistication the belie its modest price. Enthusiastically recommended.

SPECS & PRICING

Disc types: BD-Video, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, AVCHD , SACD, CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD-R DL, BD-R/RE
Internal storage: 1GB
Inputs: Three USB 2.0 inputs (one faceplate accessible), two HDMI inputs (one faceplate accessible and MHL compatible), three dedicated DAC inputs (one coaxial, one optical, and one asynchronous USB), one Ethernet port (RJ-45), one Wi-Fi port (via USB dongle)
Outputs: One 7.1-channel analog audio output, two stereo analog audio outputs (one set balanced via XLRs, one set single-ended via RCA jacks), two digital audio outputs (one coaxial, one optical), two HDMI outputs (can be configured for video output on one port and audio output on the other), one headphone output
DAC resolution: (USB Audio) 2 channels @ 192k/24b PCM, (Coaxial/Optical) 2 channels @ 96k/24b
Dimensions: 16.8″ x 4.8″ x 12.2″
Weight: 17.3 lbs.
Price: $1199

Oppo Digital , Inc.
2629 Terminal Blvd., Suite B
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 961-1118
oppodigital.com

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