Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Player Reviewed

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Audiophile cult favorite Oppo Digital has just entered the Blu-ray market with their much anticipated BDP-83 player. For the past several years, Oppo has been providing the market with very affordable DVD players, which have offered performance that competes with much more expensive "high-end" units. While most audiophile companies are sitting on the sidelines, Oppo has stepped right up and made an industry statement by being the first to market in the specialty space.

The Oppo BDP-83 differentiates itself from the majority of other players on the market by its ability to play nearly every type of traditional five-inch disc. This alone easily justifies its $499 price, a small premium over the majority of Blu-ray players currently on the market. The BDP-83 can play Blu-ray, CD, DVD, SACD, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, Kodak Picture and HDCD-encoded discs, as well as several re-writable versions of these. In short, this one player will likely let you open up a bunch of space in your equipment rack by getting rid of all of your other old disc players. Even the latest top of the line Sony ES Blu-ray player, at $2,000, fails to play SACD and DVD-Audio in their native HD resolutions. Did I mention the Oppo is $499?

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I signed up for the Oppo BDP-83 "early adopter program" and finally obtained a unit when my name got to the top of the list. I have updated the player's firmware to the most current version and the unit tested here should now be the same as the final production models, to the best of my knowledge. Oppo has been releasing firmware updates and I strongly recommend that purchasers of the BDP-83 check to make sure that they have the latest firmware for their player.

The BDP-83 comes nicely packaged. Opening the box, I found the player well secured within an Oppo branded cloth carrying case and foam padding. As with most players, the BDP-83 comes with a manual, remote control, batteries for the remote, power cable and inexpensive analog cables. Impressively, Oppo throws in a decent quality six-foot HDMI cable and the Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark Blu-ray Edition set-up disc.

The unit is a slim line unit measuring a little over 16 inches wide, 13-and-a-quarter inches deep and three inches high, weighing a solid 11 pounds. Build quality is very solid and noticeably better than the majority of the mass-market players. The front panel is divided into thirds, with the outer panels made out of brushed metal. The center panel has a drawer mounted below the display. The left panel has a small power button and IR window. The right panel has a drawer open/close button and transport control buttons arranged in a round iPod style disc format, with a covered USB port at the right edge of the unit. The rear panel features 7.1- and two-channel analog audio outputs, Toslink and coaxial digital audio outputs, composite and component analog video outputs, HDMI, Ethernet, a second USB port and a two-prong (ungrounded) IEC power plug. Lastly, control connections include IR input and output connections and an optional RS-232 connector.

The BDP-83, in addition to playing nearly every video format other than HD DVD (hurry up and trade those discs in with Warner's Red to Blu program), is a full-featured Blu-ray player with BonusVIEW and BD-Live capabilities built in. The player's video capabilities include Anchor Bay Technologies' Video Reference Series (VRS) technology. The output resolution is selectable from 480i through 1080p at either 50 or 60Hz. The BDP-83 can produce a true 1080p, 24 frames per second video signal from Blu-ray and, even more notably, from DVD. The BDP-83 can also output an unprocessed video signal in "source direct" mode, so the video processor of your choice handles all processing. The HDMI output is v1.3 and supports both 30 and 36-bit Deep Color for you "future format" guys out there. Lastly, for those with constant image height set-ups, the BDP-83 can do the necessary processing internally.

As it is a universal disc player, I would expect the BDP-83 to be able to handle a wide variety of audio formats, and it does so, while others in its class and price much higher do not. The player can internally decode all of the popular surround sound formats, including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution. Users also have the option of selecting either LPCM or Bitstream digital outputs. The 5.1/7.1 and stereo analog outputs use different DACs, with higher-quality DACs utilized for the dedicated stereo output.

The BDP-83's feature set, other than the ability to stream media from an outside source like Netflix, is extremely complete. The player is a full-profile 2.0 unit, supporting BD-Live and BonusVIEW without need for any additional memory or other additions. In today's society, with families storing pictures and video on a variety of digital formats, the BDP-83 shines in its ability to support many of these file formats via either the disc or USB media formats.

The Hookup
I used the BDP-83 in a variety of systems. I first used the BDP-83 with a few different Panasonic and Sharp flat panel televisions. These connections were made via HDMI. While I did not do any of my critical viewing or listening with these set-ups, I note them as the Oppo worked easily with them minus any fuss. I briefly installed the Oppo in my dedicated two-channel system, which consists of a Conrad Johnson CT-5 preamplifier driving a Halcro DM-38 amplifier and MartinLogan Summit speakers. All cabling was Kimber Select, though the BDP-83 spent most of its time in my reference theater system.

I connected the Oppo BDP-83 to my Marantz AV-8003 preamplifier/processor via HDMI and analog 5.1. Other relevant components include a Marantz MM-8003 amplifier, Marantz VP-11S2 projector and a MartinLogan Summit/Stage/Descent i speaker system. All cables were from Kimber, with the exception of the 5.1 cables. The 5.1 cables were comprised of three pairs of Ultralink's Platinum series interconnects.

I specifically ordered the RS-232 option, which allowed me to connect the BDP-83 to my Universal Remote Control MSC-400. Had I not ordered the RS-232 option (a feature strongly preferred by all of the integrators I have worked with), the BDP-83 still offers external IR in and out ports. The IR ports, while not the first choice of most integrators, are still much more reliable than the common IR emitter systems. Oppo does a fine job of providing the connectivity and control options found on the BDP-83.

Once I had the BDP-83 installed in my theater system, I had to set up the unit. The BDP-83 has a set-up program called the "Easy Setup Wizard." I found the Easy Setup Wizard to be informative and easy to use. Walking through the program, I had all the settings made for my system in a matter of a few minutes. I also took the opportunity to review the manual and found it to be well-written and informative. While most of the information contained in the manual may be common knowledge to home theater aficionados, those new to the world of audio-video equipment are likely to find the manual informative and useful.

Oppo was kind enough to include a copy of Spears & Munsil's High-Definition Benchmark, Blu-ray Edition. This disc includes many of the standard, most commonly used calibration patterns, along with some unique variations on them. I used the disc to confirm the choices made by the Setup Wizard and to adjust the picture settings. The BDP-83 provides a full menu of picture setting options, which allow the user to optimize the picture for this source component. I appreciate when manufacturers include this capability on source components. When each source component is individually optimized, it is not necessary to change picture settings on your display device every time you change inputs. (Note: the recently reviewed Onkyo TX-NR906 receiver provides individual video calibration for each source.)

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