Years ago, my penchant for Hong Kong cinema, especially martial arts films, led me to search for a region-free DVD player so that I wouldn't be limited to viewing the titles that were sold in the United States. This was my first experience with Oppo Digital, having purchased an after-market version of one of the company's early up-converting DVD players. I remember that, for the small amount I paid for the player, I was quite impressed with both the video and sound quality, which were certainly a cut above the common line-doubling DVD players of the day. I used that player for years, until Blu-ray became the established format.
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Oppo's new BDP-105, along with the earlier reviewed BDP-103, represents the third generation of Oppo's universal Blu-ray disc players. The previous generation's highly regarded BDP-93/95 players have established Oppo as the "go-to" brand for disc transports, with the BDP-95 considered by many to be a high-value reference-quality universal player. So the BDP-105 certainly has big shoes to fill - so much so that, as with the summer blockbuster action movie that everyone expects to dominate, other producers try to avoid the direct competition during the same opening weekend. At $1,199, the BDP-105 sits relatively isolated at a price point higher than most budget players offered at your local big-box retailer, but far lower than some more exotic makes that can cost multiples higher.
The BDP-105 shares much of its video processing, connections and networking capabilities with the lower-priced BDP-103 ($499), which already won our enviable Best of Home Theater Review 2012 award. The big question is: what does the BDP-105 provide to make it worth spending the additional $700, compared to an already world-class player like the BDP-103? Much of the answer lies in the design of the BDP-105. As with the previous generation, the higher model is positioned as an audiophile product, with improved audio quality - especially analog playback. At first glance, the audio section of the BDP-105 looks very similar to that of the BDP-95, sharing the same ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC chip, toroidal power supply, and balanced outputs. However, the BDP-105 is not simply the old BDP-95 with new functionality slapped on top of it. A closer examination reveals some interesting tweaks. For starters, while the BDP-95's analog section rested on one single board, the BDP-105 is split into two boards: one dedicated to stereo and the other to multichannel audio. In fact, the entire power supply and analog section have been redesigned with dedicated channel pairs for the RCA (unbalanced) and XLR (balanced) outputs and two for the headphone/headphone amp outputs. This serves to reduce signal crosstalk and further improve upon the already fabulous sound quality of the BDP-95.
Using Blue Jeans HDMI cables, I connected the Oppo to my BenQ W7000 DLP front projector. Using balanced XLR cables, I alternately connected the BDP-105 first to my reference Parasound Halo JC2BP preamp and then directly to two amplifiers, which drove my reference Salk Signature SoundScape 12 speakers. Why this complicated setup? With the increased number of features offered by the new Oppo player (including two HDMI inputs and a trio of digital audio inputs: optical, coaxial and USB), there's been a lot of talk about how much of its functionality is encroaching on the territory traditionally occupied by AV preamps and receivers. I wanted to fully test this idea by using the BDP-105 as my AV preamp. It's one thing to be able to connect directly to an amplifier, but how well would the BDP-105 be able to actually drive the line stage output and control an amplifier as a true preamp would? Would the Oppo's digital volume control work well enough for this purpose?
Read about the Performance, the Comparison and Competition, the Downside and the Conclusion on Page 2 . . .