This isn't an Ultra HD Blu-ray player review. An odd claim to make right from the giddy-up, I know--especially given that the headline above reads "OPPO Digital UDP-205 Ultra HD Audiophile Blu-ray Player Reviewed." But I'm not approaching it as such. Instead of evaluating the UDP-205 as 4K video player with audiophile enhancements, I'm sizing it up more as high-performance music player/hub/DAC/preamp/headphone amp that also just so happens to have the latest in video wizardy thrown in for good measure.
And by "the latest in video wizardy," I mean that the UDP-205 is built on the same platform as OPPO's UDP-203, which Adrienne Maxwell reviewed back in January. As with that player, the UDP-205 shares quite a lot in common with OPPO's previous universal disc players, and it features a number of noteworthy differences. Gone, for example, are streaming services like Netflix and YouTube. That's not a major loss, given that most of us have probably moved on to dedicated streaming media players for accessing such services. But gone, too, is the front-panel MHL HDMI input, which is a major bummer for me, since I use said input on my BDP-103 to connect my MHL Roku Stick.
However, the features that make an OPPO an OPPO at its heart are all here: dual HDMI outputs (although, in this case, one of them is a fully featured HDMI 2.0a port with HDCP 2.2 and the other is a dedicated audio-only HDMI 1.4 output, in the event that you need to run video directly to your display and audio to a receiver or SSP without current video connectivity); advanced video processing and scaling (including, in this new generation, HDR and numerous color space and color depth tweaks); subtitle shift options for those who have constant-height video projection setups; and numerous other enhancements that you're likely all familiar with by now.
As with previous generations, the most significant differences between the UDP-205 and the UDP-203 boil down to audio performance. And there are quite a few of them. In lieu of the UDP-203's AKM AK4458VN DAC chip, the UDP-205 relies on dual ESS ES9038PRO SABRE DAC chips, one for its 7.1-channel analog output and another for its dedicated stereo audio outputs, with a true differential signal path to its pair of XLR outs. The player also boasts a high-precision HDMI clock and specialized HDMI audio jitter-reduction circuitry, a hefty toroidal power supply, and an asynchronous USB DAC input with support for PCM up to 768 kHz and up to DSD512. This USB DAC input only supports two-channel audio, and it outputs directly to the player's dedicated stereo output (no HDMI out, no bass management); however, the UDP-205 can also access digital audio stored on external drives via dual USB 3.0 ports on the back and one 2.0 port up front, as well as via your home network--with support for AIFF, WAV, ALAC, APE, and FLAC files, as well as multichannel DSD. These inputs, along with the optical and coaxial digital inputs (which can receive Dolby Digital, DTS, AAC, and two-channel PCM up to 192 kHz), can be output any way you'd like.
In addition, the UDP-205 features an upgraded headphone output connected straight to one of the ES9038PRO chips, with upgraded power output compared with previous-generation audiophile players like the BDP-105.
All of that does, of course, add up to some substantial differences in form factor between the two players. The UDP-205 is, at 4.8 inches, a good 1.7 inches taller than the 203. At 22 pounds, it's a solid 9.5 pounds heavier than its less-expensive counterpart.
Putting the UDP-205 through all of its possible paces would have been an unreasonable task, but I did my best to set it up in as many ways as possible to replicate the various ways it may be used in different hi-fi and AV systems.
I decided to start with a connection (several, actually) to Classé's Sigma 2200i stereo integrated amplifier. Of all the integrated amps I have kicking around the house, I zeroed in on the Sigma 2200i due to its direct-digital design. For an in-depth discussion, see my review from earlier this year. The "TL;DR" of it all is this: the 2200i routes the DSP output of its stereo preamplifier stage direction into its amplifier DSP, eliminating the need for digital-to-analog conversion (although it does do analog-to-digital conversion on its analog inputs). In short, it's as neutral and coloration-free as any component I've heard in quite some time, and it features HDMI inputs, giving me a chance to evaluate the UDP-205's DAC in as controlled a setting as possible. I connected the UDP-205 to the 2200i via a combination of HDMI (with output set to bitstream, except when listening to SACDs), XLR cables and custom-made RCA cables out of the dedicated stereo output, and custom-made RCA cables out of the front left and front right channels of the multichannel output section. Speakers for this setup were a pair of Paradigm Studio 100 towers connected via Kimber Kable 12TC speaker wires.
I then brought the UDP-205 temporarily into my bedroom home theater system, routing it via both HDMI and stereo RCA through Anthem's MRX 720 receiver into my old Samsung 1080p plasma, mostly to test the player's HDR-to-SDR conversion capabilities and to perform some quick listening comparisons between the Anthem's DAC and that of the UDP-205.
I then added it to my main home theater setup, connecting it to an Acurus ACT 4 preamp (currently under review) via the HDMI audio output, as well as the dedicated stereo output and 7.1-channel analog output, with the HDMI video output of the UDP-205 routed directly to the One Control box of my Samsung JS9500 Ultra HD TV. Speakers for this setup were a pair of GoldenEar Triton Ones, a pair of Triton Sevens, a SuperCenter XL, two Paradigm Studio SUB12s, and Sunfire's SRS-210R SYS SubRosa Flat Panel Subwoofer.
For control in both home theater systems, I relied on an Ethernet connection, along with the UDP-203/205 Control4 driver available from Annex4, developed in cooperation with OPPO. The player also features an RS-232 connection, trigger input and output, and a back-panel IR receiver (not a 3.5mm IR input, as was found on the BDP-103/105).
Clcik over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...