Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Player Reviewed

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As the BDP-83 performs so many audio video feats, I will begin with two-channel audio and work my way up to high-definition video. My stereo listening was done using the Oppo's stereo analog outputs. I listened to a variety of CDs. One disc that I have been listening to lately is Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity). I immediately noticed that low beats in the opening of "Breathe" were reproduced with significant weight and perhaps with slightly more emphasis than on my reference Classe CDP-202 CD player. "Money" features some well-known guitar work that I have become intimately familiar with and often listen to when evaluating gear. The guitars were detailed and tonally accurate, though they lacked the weight and ambience of my reference player. The difference was not sizable and the Oppo did an overall great job. It displays more than 90 percent of the audiophile performance of my much more expensive reference Classe player, and I would not recommend sticking a DVD-Audio, SACD or Blu-ray disc into the Classe in any event. The soundstage was appropriately wide, with good placement of the individual images horizontally. The stage depth was slightly cropped off, compared to the big-dollar audiophile CD players. Vocals sounded natural and were free from any chestiness, lisps or other colorations. I continued to listen to male vocals with Jeff Buckley's Live at Sine album, specifically the track "Hallelujah." A careful evaluation of this track through the Oppo revealed many of the characteristics I heard while using the BDP-83 as a CD player. The Oppo never inserted any annoying digital artifacts and does a better job with CDs than do 99 percent of DVD or "universal" players on the market.

Audiophiles should not despair. The BDP-83 can also play DVD-Audio and SACD discs. I listened to one of my favorite DVD-Audio discs, R.E.M.'s album In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 (Warner Bros.). I did my listening using the analog outputs unless otherwise noted. "Man On The Moon" does a great job showing off Michael Stipe's voice. Despite the lesser DACs on the Oppo's multi-channel outputs, the sound was portrayed with great detail, reproducing Stipe's inflections and conveying a sense of emotion. The instrumentals were reproduced with a good sense of weight and space. Overall, I found the Oppo to do a much better job on DVD-Audio discs than did my long-owned Kenwood Sovereign Entre and DV-5900M. The Oppo sounded much more natural and three-dimensional and was almost indiscernible from my reference DVD-Audio player, the Marantz DV-9600. For those who have a processor with high-quality DACs, I recommend experimenting by comparing the Oppo's analog and digital HDMI outputs. I found that, by using the BDP-83 as a transport with my processor's DACs, I was able to increase the performance level.

"These Foolish Things" from The Dave Brubeck Quartet's Jazz at Oberlin (Fantasy Jazz) features Paul Desmond on the alto saxophone. Listening to this piece, I found the texture to be pretty impressive. The Oppo reproduced the sound with speed and good balance. The saxophone was never harsh, while remaining lively and involving. "Stardust" continues to feature the saxophone and adds Brubeck on the piano. There was a good sense of rhythm and pace with balance between the instruments, which had a sense of body on the soundstage. In comparing the Oppo BDP-83 to my much more expensive Halcro EC-800 player, the Halcro added even more texture and presence to the recording. However, as with DVD-Audio discs, the Oppo does a great job. The high-end audiophile players just go a bit further with their reproduction capabilities. For those with processors equipped with good DACs who want to extract even more performance, the HDMI output, particularly when the output is set to PCM, can equal the performance I was able to get out of all the other SACD transports I used for comparison.

I used the excuse of reviewing the Oppo to watch an old favorite, Heat (DVD - Warner Home Video). While I enjoy this movie, I usually shun the DVDs in my collection in favor of high-definition alternatives. The Oppo BDP-83's VRS video processing may make me change my habits. Even the best video processors are not going to make standard definition the equal of well-transferred high definition, but the BDP-83 sure can narrow the chasm between the two. The audio through the HDMI output was solid and as well-defined as on any other DVD player I have auditioned in recent memory. The video was even better. I normally prefer the Gennum VXP video processor in my projector to those in the source components that come through my system, but the Oppo's VRS held its own. The Oppo did a great job with the difficult-to-render shadow details when De Niro is hiding in the shadows while being watched by the police stakeout team. The colors and shading were natural and properly subdued. The frenetic gun battle scene in downtown Los Angeles is filled with lots of rapid movement and straight lines, which can be very difficult for some video processors to handle, but the Oppo had no problems and I did not notice any processing artifacts.

The Oppo BDP-83's ability to play CDs, DVDs, SACDs and DVD-Audio discs and play them well is a huge plus. The main reason I wanted the player is to play Blu-rays. If the Oppo could not do this well, the rest of its accomplishments would not really matter to me. I played Transformers (Paramount Home Entertainment, Blu-ray), an action-packed blockbuster that I wanted to see again before viewing the sequel in the theater. The disc is BD-Live equipped. I had no problems using the BD-Live features and even found them to be mildly interesting. The video was stunning, richly detailed and vibrant. Those of you who have seen this movie know that it is filled with lots of bright colors and fast-paced action. The images were very sharp without any unnatural ringing. The colors of the machines were vibrant and the flesh tones and the greens of the foliage never had unnatural exaggerated coloration. I could discern a small difference in video quality between the BDP-83 and the Sony Playstation 3 I had been using as my Blu-ray player and liked the BDP-83's image better. Both players did a good job with video detail, but I found the colors to be more natural with the Oppo. The Oppo is also the first Blu-ray player I have had in my system that had a loading speed comparable to the PS3. Finally, the Oppo's control and connectivity options were much better than those of the PS3.

Low Points
Performance-wise, I have no criticisms of the Oppo BDP-83, which is an amazing statement, considering the player's low price and ambitious list of performance features. Yes, the audiophile in me would have liked to see the inclusion of better analog audio circuits, but I realize that this player was not designed to be a cost-no-object, reference-grade audio source. While preparing this article, I did see that there are options for those seeking such an audiophile player. Companies like Modwright are now offering upgrades, which might be interesting to explore. I have to keep reminding myself that the player is $499 when comparing it to players more than 10 times its retail price tag.

The aesthetics of the remote supplied with the Oppo did not match those of the unit itself. As the remote is the main source of contact with the unit, and I suspect that most units at this price point will not have a custom-programmed touch panel, I would have liked a nicer remote to have been included or at least sold as an option at a slightly higher cost.

Functionally, I would like to have seen the inclusion of one of the streaming services. This feature is becoming more prevalent on players and I think it would be appropriate in a universal disc player that is otherwise able to consolidate so many sources into one box. This said, one can get an Apple TV, which provides even better streaming capabilities than any of the streaming Blu-ray players I have seen or tested to date, albeit with the cost of another box and the associated clutter.

The Oppo BDP-83 is a great player that does a lot and does it really well. This single unit replaces the need for separate high-quality CD, DVD, SACD, DVD-A and Blu-ray players. The BDP-83's analog audio outputs are extremely good, pushing the border of reference grade at an entry-level price. Its multi-channel digital audio outputs are just as good as those of any other player or transport I have had in my system. As for video, the Oppo's performance is phenomenal. Other, more expensive players have equaled the Oppo's video performance in my system, but none have surpassed it. I bought mine and am happy to have it. You might buy one, too, as the cost can easily be justified with the eBaying of any number of SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, HD DVD and/or CD player products in your system. Hell, in this tough economy, you might come out with not just a better Blu-ray and disc player, but a few hundred extra dollars in your pocket.

Additional Resources

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HTR Product Rating for Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Player

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