Component Reviews

Jena Labs Mod of Oppo BDP-83 SE Player SRP: $1125

Major first-rate modifications to the already excellent Oppo universal player raise it to highest-end AV levels.

Published on December 22, 2010

Jena Labs Mod of Oppo BDP-83 SE Player
SRP: $1125

Jena Labs Mod of
Oppo BDP-83 SE Player

SRP: $1125

Intro
Oppo Players have been well received since their DVD Universal players came out. They were known for their quality versus cost. The units played DVD, CD, SACD and DVD-Audio for about $200.  Their picture and digital outs were better than my modified $1800 Marantz universal player, which was a couple of years old at the time. The sound of their analog outs were better than the cheap players at the time, but were not that great. People started modifying the players to get better sound. The players were somewhat cheaply made. With the introduction of the BDP-83 Blu-Ray universal player, Oppo took a major step upward in quality of build and performance of their product. The analog output sound was slightly better than my Marantz. The introduction of the BDP-83 SE brought the analog sound quality of the Oppo even higher. The sound was now much better than the Marantz. When you look at audio forums, a majority of the members list the Oppo as their player. Oppo then came out with an entry level player. Oppo now had a player for most consumers. Several higher-end manufactures have used the OPPO design and put a price many times that of the OPPO on their units. Many modifiers started modifying the BDP-83 units. Jena Labs’ rebuild is the one I will review here.

The Mod                       
The modified unit has had major modifications made to it. The quality of the work is first rate, unlike mods done by some other modifiers. Jennifer says that she has had a number of units come to her that other modifiers have messed up. Operationally the unit is the same as the stock unit. Jena Labs has made upgrades to the power supply, analog circuitry and vibration dampening. I’ll paraphrase the Jena Labs information on the mods to get the information more correct than I could do on my own. They replace the two-prong AC inlet with an immersion LN² cryogenic-treated grounded version inlet, and properly ground the chassis – both as a safety issue, and to turn the metal chassis into a proper Faraday shield that keeps noise out of the chassis rather than leaving it a floating antenna that takes in RF and transmits it to the electronics. They replace the AC fuse with a superior high grade circuit breaker, eliminating the FM distortion and higher power-line impedance that the fuse can create. Also replaced is the AC wire with the Jena Ultra-Wire that has lower graininess in sound than the stock wire. They replace the three rectifiers that feed the analog board with real Schottky’s parts; this reduces avalanche noise in this delicate voltage position. They add high speed bypass caps to the final filters that feed the analog stage on the power supply board.

On the analog board they added about 30 parts. The stereo out jacks are replaced with immersion LN² cryogenic treated Cardas jacks with Jena Labs Ultra-Wire hookup. The op-amps are replaced the latest National Semiconductor LM4562 parts. The output of the stereo set is direct-coupled, eliminating the caps in the signal path. The final filter electrolytics at the stereo set are removed and replaced with the best possible – the Elna Silmic II silk paper electrolytics. Some of the small value bypass caps on the audio board are removed and replaced with current generation ultra-fast monolithics, as well as almost 20 more of these being added to bypass the remainder of the electrolytics and poly caps on the stereo section of the audio board.  If the multi-channel output is to be used, we will do the same op-amp upgrade and direct coupling, and power supply improvements to the multichannel side of the board as well. All the ICs on the audio board are treated with Silent Running® Audio dampening material.

The main mother/video board has all of the ICs, crystals, inductors, and the digital video output jacks treated with Silent Running Audio dampening material. The bulk of the chassis and the cover are also treated with a combination of Silent Running Audio and  Cascade Audio Engineering® Vibration Blocker 2 damping materials. The two new DC power filter boards are designed and built for these audio and video boards is called the Full Force. It replaces the original harness that was there which was unfiltered for both boards. They also replace the economy feet with our damped compound rubber + density filled feet. They treat the base plate of the player with anti-vibrational VB2 while leaving the ventilation ports intact. They also use vibration dampening on the inside of unit’s upper cover. Pictures of the modifications and additional information can be found at http://www.jenalabs.com/mods/oppo-bdp-83

Listening and Evaluation
The Oppo plays about every audio and video format except HD-DVD. The modification shows improvement in almost all areas of the player’s performance. First, the background is quieter. The sound stage is deeper and more defined. On choral works the voices are more separated and distinct and have more air around them. Vocals and instruments have more detail and have better dynamic contrasts. Bass has more control and power. High frequencies are airier and more extended. The surrounds are stronger and better integrated, adding a better sense of space. Dynamics, both macro and micro, are improved. Delicate sounds have more beauty and big sounds have more power. The video output has better blacks and a slightly sharper picture. I also noted that even the TV speakers sounded better when they are used alone. On movies there was a better feel of a three-dimensional sound field. I am not going the blow smoke up the proverbial dark place and tell you that the improvements were huge. They were more evolutionary than revolutionary improvements. One friend after listening to it said it was more analog sounding. Music is about feelings and structure. This mod helps you feel more the emotion of the music. It also gives you more insight into the structure of the music. The audio portion of video is supposed to make you feel that you are actually there. This mod takes you closer to being there. My one negative comment is the Jena Labs plate on the front of the modified player is too big, the wrong color and doesn’t look like a natural part of the faceplate. I talked to Jennifer and they will be getting new name plates for the unit.

At $1125 this is not a mod for everyone. Oppo produces a good player. The $500 dollar Oppo competes with or beats players up to $1200. The $1000 SE model competes or beats players up to $2500. I would think their cheaper unit at $300, would compete or beats units up to $600. Oppo also gives the bonus of DVD-A and SACD. This mod takes the Oppo’s performance into competition units above the $5000 level. Being a direct dealer allows Oppo to put more money into the machine, because they do not have a retail mark up. Jennifer says that she puts about $400 worth of parts in the mod. Jennifer says that if you just play stereo, the modified $500 unit, actually sounds better because of the unit’s less complex circuitry.  For Oppo to put these mods into a machine would increase the units by thousands of dollars. The consumer manufacturers markup is around five times the cost of parts. High-end retail manufactures markups can be greater than ten times the cost of parts. I feel that modifying good equipment is a very cost effective way of getting better sound. If you have a good, well-setup sound system and are searching for better sound, this may be the unit for you. I am very satisfied with my modified Oppo player.

Unfortunately, from what I hear, Oppo’s popularity became a problem for their optical drive unit supplier, Sony.  Sony felt that they were taking away too many sales and cut Oppo off from getting drive units. So Oppo is coming out with a two new units, BDP 93 and 95 with a different optical drive. They will have 3D capability and HDMI 1.4.  Jena Labs will be offering a similar mod to these units.

Equipment used

Heavily modified Outlaw 950 AV Preamp 
Modified Crown Macro Reference Amp
Eminent Technology LTF-VIII Speakers
AV123 super Tweeters
Two Thorough Bass Magellan VIIII SU Subwoofers
Modified Marantz DV 8300 Universal Player
Samsung BD UP-5000 Blu-ray/HD-DVD player
Sony XBR3 60 inch monitorSurround equipment: Sumo, Parasound and Adcom amps: Fulton monitors and modified Radio Shack Linaeum tweetered speakers.
Cardas and Jena Labs cables
Tweaks: Room Tunes; Shakti Onlines, Stones, Sonic Hallographs; Bright Star Sand boxes; Avalon and Mapingo isolation feet; Corner Tunes; lead sheets and bricks; and cable risers.

– Clay Swartz




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