Component Reviews

Oppo BDP-105 Universal 3D Blu-Ray Player

Terrific audio and video disc playback, but somewhat problematic in network streaming.

Published on February 19, 2013

Oppo BDP-105 Universal 3D Blu-Ray Player
SRP: $1199

Key Specs:
Firmware Version: BDP10X-38-1220 (Jan. 2, 2013)
Dimensions: 16.8” W x 12.2” D x 4.8” H
Weight: 17.3 pounds
Voltage: 120/240 (for use anywhere in the world)
Passive Cooling (i.e. no fan)
Power Consumption: 55W, .5W (standby)
Warranty: 2 years
Rating: ****

Full Specs:   http://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-bdp-105/

Oppo Digital
2629 Terminal Blvd., Suite B
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 961-1118
http://www.oppodigital.com/


Associated Equipment

System 1: JVC HD-250 Projector; Meridian G68 Preamplifier; ATI AT2505 Amplifier; PS Audio Power Plant Premier Power Regenerator; Bowers & Wilkins Signature 8NT, CWM DS8 Speakers, unRaid NAS; Hsu Research ULS-15 Subwoofers; Audioquest Cabling.

System 2: Music Hall PH25.2 headphone amplifier (for comparison ~$400); Grado SR80i; Audeze LCD-2 headphones.

System 3: McIntosh MC452 Power Amplifier; McIntosh C48 Preamplifier; Bowers & Wilkins 803 Diamond; PS Audio P5 Power Regenerator; Rotel RCD-1520 CD Player (for comparison ~$1K); Music Hall DAC 15.2 (for comparison ~$300); Audioquest Cabling.

System 4: UD-5007 (for comparison); Samsung PN64D550 64” Plasma TV


Unpacking

Aside from the player and remote (with batteries), the Oppo comes with a heavy-duty IEC power cord, a high-speed (thick) 6’ HDMI cable, a wireless Ethernet adapter (supporting B/G/N) and a USB extension box (that can be hung on a wall to help with range), a MHL cable and a fairly sizable manual (book!)  I should mention that the manual is one of the best I’ve ever seen—clear, concise and in perfect English!  In case you’ve never heard of it, the Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) cable has a standard HDMI connection at one end and a mini-USB connector that interfaces with many of the Samsung Galaxy tablets as well as other devices.  For more info visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_High-Definition_Link.  The player is quite heavy and solid.

 
Description and Connections

I took some time to read through the manual before taking the player out of the packing.  The 105 is the most full-featured blu-ray player I’ve ever seen.  There is a stereo pair of XLR balanced audio outputs in addition to an RCA set, full 8-channel RCA analog outputs, IR and RS232 input for control systems, 3 USB inputs (1 on front, 2 on back), 2 HDMI 1.4a outputs**, coaxial and optical outputs and a LAN connection.  One of the unique features of the Oppo is the ability to process an outboard video signal and upscale it to 4K.  The player offers both a front (for MHL devices) and rear HDMI input for this purpose.  Additionally, the Oppo can be used as an external DAC for other digital sources (most likely a computer, but could include a satellite box or game system, etc.).  For this there is an optical, coaxial (both 2-channel up to 96kHz) and USB input (2-channel up to 192kHz).  Lastly, the Oppo advertises a high quality headphone amplifier for those who are headphone listeners and have quality “cans.”

**One should take note that although video and audio work through both HDMI outputs, only the first output utilizes the superior video processing of the internal Marvell video processor.

For those wondering about analog video—sorry, you are out of luck.  There is no HD component video output and not even a lowly composite video jack.  As I still run multiple plasma TVs remotely through an analog switcher I was limited to using this player on my main system only.  If this feature is important to you, take note.  For those who noticed the “DIAG.” composite output on the back, this is only for the on-screen menu to help get the HDMI working (with older TVs I assume).  All players made after January 1, 2011 (“Analog Sunset”) should be affected.  I.e. they should not output 720-1080 signal through the Component video jacks and most players have dropped the connections completely.

The remote that comes with the player is a fairly standard Oppo remote with a few additional functions: 3D, input button and a Netflix and Vudu button for streaming services.  It is backlit (via a “light” button or it can be set to come on with a button push) and is perfectly serviceable for those who don’t have a separate remote system that they use.  The volume control is at the top middle and the buttons are rather small but worked okay when I used them.  There is also a free remote control app available for iOS and Android.  Unfortunately, I got the message “This App Is Incompatible With This iPhone.”  Oh, well…time to upgrade my phone (to a 4 or higher) I guess.  You can see pictures of it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/oppo-remote/id584701552?mt=8

The front panel of the 105 looks extremely sparse, but if you look closer you’ll find some navigation controls next to the drawer, so it might be possible to work most discs without the remote—though there is no scan/select buttons so this might hinder full operation for some.  The controls are flush with the front panel which does give the panel a nicer look, but not quite as positive a feel as raised buttons would.  When I was in a hurry I often had to slow down and push a button a second time to activate the function.  The less expensive model (the 103) does have raised buttons.  The eject button is raised, so opening and closing was never an issue.

The top of the unit has vent holes, so I would make sure that nothing sits directly above it and, for long-term reliability, that the unit has proper ventilation.  The bonus is that this unit does not have a fan and therefore is quiet in operation.

 
Detailed Setup, Operation and Features

This review came about partially due to a reader’s request for a comparison between this unit and the new Marantz UD7007 ($1200 retail).  I didn’t have a sample of this model, but Audiophile Audition has reviewed just about every Oppo player since they started making them!

What should be mentioned up front is that Oppo’s current lineup includes two players: the 103 ($499) and the 105 ($1199).  The 105 is very much an in-house “modded” 103.  The differences are related almost entirely to the analog audio performance of the player.  The 105 has a significantly upgraded analog section including the two-channel and the multi-channel outputs.  Additionally, there is a premium grade headphone output and an asynchronous USB input. Other benefits include an upgraded power supply and improved mechanical construction.  You will have to weigh the importance of these “extras” to decide if the 105 is worth the $700 upcharge.

To address this question for myself I made some comparisons later in the review to a separate CD player, outboard DAC and a dedicated headphone amplifier to help the reader.  The USB input will appeal to those who want to directly connect a computer to their system.  Even those who do not take advantage of these capabilities can appreciate the difference in weight and solidity offered by this unit over other brands.  I believe this will contribute to product longevity and reliability over cheaper, lighter models.  For some, $1200 is a drop in the bucket and they will opt for this unit over the 103 for that difference alone.

At the time of this writing there are very few people who can take advantage of the 4K scaling output of the 105.  4K TVs are just being shown as prototypes or cost upwards of $20K.  It is yet to be seen whether the processor in the Oppo is superior to what is available in the future TVs anyway.  I had no way to test this capability.

3D playback and conversion is another functionality I did not test.  Frankly, watching 3D makes me dizzy and after a few minutes a little sick to my stomach.  If 3D performance is important and you feel there is a difference in quality between blu-ray players then you’ll have to read about it elsewhere.  Especially if you use the conversion feature to take 2D->3D then you might want to investigate further.

The ability to stream video from various services is now a common feature on blu-ray players.  The Oppo offers Netflix, CinemaNow and VUDU.  It also supports Film Fresh, YouTube and Picasa.  My network service is mediocre but in the past when I was able to get my Roku player to stream at the highest quality the picture was excellent.  I expect the same with this player (and possibly even more so due to its internal video processing).  I don’t have a subscription to VUDU or CinemaNow, so I did not test these services.  I did try the YouTube with some success, but, to be honest, I really don’t get the appeal.

The Oppo player offers balanced (XLR) as well as unbalanced (RCA) 2-channel audio outputs.  Due to the possible difference in output levels and how the signal is handled by downstream equipment (i.e. the preamplifier) I did not compare these two directly.  The balanced output on the Oppo is truly differential from the DAC (according to specs), so theoretically offers superior noise rejection and improved dynamic range.  Additionally, XLR connectors lock and tend to offer better connection between ancillary equipment in comparison to RCA.  If you intend to connect the Oppo as a CD player then I see no reason not to use the XLR outputs.  Also, when using longer lengths balanced is always the safest way to go.  Take note that XLR outputs were lower in output level in comparison to RCA outs (with the equipment I used).

I applaud Oppo with how simple their on-screen setup menu is and that many of the choices selected are the correct ones for most users.  Another bonus is that it is possible to adjust settings in the menu while the video plays in the background.  I made sure to turn off the Dynamic Range Control (DRC).  In the Video Setup menu I turned off 3D.  I left the Output Resolution set to Auto and I could tell that the unit was outputting correctly based on my projector’s display (i.e. choosing native resolution and switching to 24p when applicable).  Some may prefer to set this to a fixed setting as there was a few second drop in video and/or audio when the projector “handshaked” with the player from 60Hz to 24Hz.  I left Color Space selection to Auto, but with the Spears & Munsil disc you can figure out the proper setting.  See: http://www.spearsandmunsil.com/articles/choosingacolorspace.html.  If you are using the analog outputs you’ll want to check the crossover settings in the Audio Processing menu.  The Oppo automatically defaults to CEC off, but I did switch to Quick Start vs. Energy Saving mode in the Device Setup menu.  This is the area where you set up accounts for Netflix and Vudu.  Since I used a hard-wired connection there wasn’t anything to set up in the Network Setup menu.  I like how the Oppo auto sets BD-Live Access to off.  For those who are sensitive to the light output on the front panel display, it can be dimmed or turned off completely.

The picture menu has a wealth of adjustments including the standard brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, color enhancement and contrast enhancement.  These are separately adjustable for both HDMI outputs.  I would leave them centered and adjust in the display.  The only control I tried was the sharpness.  I had read that “+1” was the correct setting.  This was not the case.  On the 100” screen (with the DVE sharpness pattern displayed), moving the sharpness from 0 to +1 clearly introduced ringing in the image.

The main startup screen is similar to that of a media player giving the user options for BD, music, photo, streaming services, Pandora, etc.  If the source is not on disc, then you have to select it to start the disc playing.  More on some of these features later.


The remote was very responsive although having the backlighting in a darkened room doesn’t help if you don’t know what the symbols on the buttons stand for—you’ll still have to squint and try to read the light/white text above the buttons.  Luckily, for most of the common buttons, this is unnecessary.

Just for fun I directly connected the 105 to my amplifier and bypassed my preamplifier/processor entirely.  I set the front speakers to large, the surrounds to small and crossed the bass over at 60Hz.  The distance adjustments are in 3” increments and levels are in .5 dB steps.  I made sure to turn the volume way down before attempting (take note).  For a few digital sources (and for cost savings) this setup may appeal to some.  There are quite a few limitations however.  The first I encountered involved the volume control.  At 0 there was no sound, but at a setting of 1 (of 100) it was already louder than some might like (when listening at low levels).  You might be wondering why you’d even want to use a digital level control when it reduces the volume by chopping off bits.  The key is to use a control with more resolution than the signal itself—in this case a 32-bit control.  This allows attenuation without affecting the noise floor or changing the music information itself.  See here: http://www.esstech.com/PDF/digital-vs-analog-volume-control.pdf.  Some of the other issues may include: (1) Inability to use surround modes like Dolby Pro-Logic on DD 2.0 tracks.  These would be common on older films, satellite TV, etc.  (2) No processing choices for music that some people like (aside from the DTS Neo option) like 5-channel stereo, club modes, etc.  (3) Not enough source inputs.  A game system, satellite box and you are already full up on the HDMI inputs (assuming you use the front and if not, then only one source via HDMI).  (4) No analog upconversion/scaling/video processing as there are no analog inputs.  For those with a Wii, laserdisc player, VCR, etc. this could be an issue. (5) One of the biggest reasons for many people not to do this is the inability to do any sort of room correction using Audyssey, ARC, YPAO, MCACC, Room Perfect, Trinnov, and any others I forgot without an external processor and multiple A/D D/A processes.  (6) Ability to have different subwoofer levels for different surround modes and/or the ability to run multiple subs at different levels or (electronic) crossover frequencies.

So, you might be wondering why you’d want to use the analog outputs vs. the HDMI in the first place (assuming you have a surround receiver or preamplifier in the system)?  There are a few reasons: (1) You have/are planning to get an older piece that does not offer the newest processing for blu-rays like TrueHD and DTS Master Audio.  (2) You have an even older piece/are planning to get that doesn’t offer any digital processing for DVD.  (3) You have an ancient component or one specifically with all analog circuitry, but does have multi-channel inputs.  (4) More likely, the DACs and/or analog section in the Oppo are superior to what’s in the preamp/receiver and this pass-through offers an improvement over the internal circuitry of the preamplifier/receiver.

Some users might find a happy medium by using both:  Simply using the Oppo for the newer blu-ray/DVD titles, SACD and DVD-A discs as well as CD titles and rely on the preamp/receiver for all the other sources and decoding of older titles, DVDs with 2.0 tracks, etc.  With both connection paths you don’t have to worry about encountering any of the limitations except possibly related to subwoofers.

 
Network Media File Playback – Description and Setup

Due to the numerous options and possible permutations of network setups, Oppo does not offer support or assistance with this aspect of the player.  In other words, enter at your own risk.  If you plan to use the Oppo in this fashion it’s important to do a little research ahead of time.  The Oppo works best with DLNA servers although there is support for SMB (with some caveats).  For more information on some DLNA server options you can look at the unofficial FAQ on the 103 here: http://watershade.net/wmcclain/BDP-103-faq.html#what-are-some-dlna-servers.  (The info is the same for the 105.)

I have an existing SMB server and with a few clicks I was able to access my Network Attached Storage (NAS).  Luckily I didn’t need to enter a user ID or password—I couldn’t figure out a way to enter anything beside the numbers from the remote.  One of the current problems with SMB is that files are mysteriously displayed in no particular order.  With numerous files you can understand how this would be difficult to navigate.  Another issue I had was the 105 will continue to play files within a folder one after the next and I didn’t find a setting to turn this off.  (As the files were out of order the result was TV episodes and album tracks in random order!)

The user is first prompted to select the type of media file: photo, music or video.  When selecting one of these the player filters the other types and they are not visible and therefore inaccessible.  I didn’t have much use to display pictures on the big screen, but I could see how some might find this feature useful.  (The pictures were sorted alphabetically/numerically unlike the audio/video files.)

 
Network Media Audio File Playback

Being that the audio tracks were in random order I wasn’t able to determine if songs that followed each other with no audio/space in-between played as such (like live concert discs).  Track changes caused my preamplifier to lose the digital signal and miss a split second of audio.  All my music is stored in .FLAC format and I played hi-res 2-channel files that were 24bit with 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz sampling rate and the sound was fantastic.  Recognition was poor—very few albums showed the correct artwork and information.  The same held true for video files.

After some more configuration (playing with the streaming sharing settings) on the computer in my office (running Windows 7) I was able to share music files from it.  These were in alphabetical order and played perfectly (but did not play gapless).

I tried a few different formats of multi-channel hi-res files including some DTS 20-bit rips, 24/96 6-ch FLAC files and 24/88 6-channel files.  These all played with no trouble (although I wasn’t able to get them in the correct order due to their location being on my SMB server).

One of the features of the Oppo is the ability to act as a Digital Media Renderer (DMR).  As a Digital Media Player (DMP) the user is limited to the Oppo interface.  Strictly speaking, most people would rather have a nice graphic interface (like those on an i-device, Android, 2-way remote) that allow the user to see colorful album art, allow for searching, browsing by category, etc.  The Oppo as a DMR makes this possible.  Instead of the Oppo as a mechanism for playing files directly, as a DMR it is another device/computer/software that “pushes” the files to the Oppo for playback.  The large distinction is that the end user can use the Oppo as a streaming device with its improved audio capabilities while using another device that has a much better interface—if you can.

My first thought was to try PS Audio’s eLyric interface: http://www.psaudio.com/products/audio/elyric-manager/.  It is not unlike iTunes, but works easily with .FLAC files (no conversion necessary), loads cover art and is manageable.  All I needed to do to get it working was to select “Play With” at the top of the Controls tab and select the Oppo.  Frankly, I was amazed when a few seconds passed and music started playing in the other room.  I wasn’t able to advance through a song, but I was just ecstatic that it worked.  PS Audio offers an app for $10 that controls the software—I didn’t try it because I’m a cheapskate, but it should allow for a fancy interface to play music through the Oppo with all the features and niceties that one expects these days.

I’m already a Foobar2000 user (http://www.foobar2000.org/) and I’d read that this worked well as a controller–however, there was no direct interface.  Foobar required a uPnP component download and installation.  In the Preference section under Playback I was able to select the Oppo and it also worked!  The problem was I could no longer get the eLyric software to play music beyond about 30 seconds before it shut off.  I spent a couple of hours troubleshooting before I gave up.  Foobar seemed to work every time.  As for a remote interface for Foobar…I don’t know one that would work directly although there is software that is designed to allow for remote desktop control from an iPad like Splashtop: http://www.splashtop.com/splashtop2.  If you do a search for “remote desktop control iPad” you’ll find others.  I’ve read that jRiver: http://www.jriver.com/index.html will work as both a controller and has a remote interface option as well.  See the FAQ (above) for more suggestions.

 

USB Playback (via external hard drive)

Using a USB device was a different matter entirely in comparison to streaming music from my server!  You need to select it from the Home Menu and select Music.  I spent a couple of minutes trying the input selector and navigating through the network to no avail.  Once I got it working I was happy to find that all the directories were indeed alphabetical, music files played sequentially and album recognition was quick (~six seconds) and correct.  It brought up covers from soundtracks, remix albums, indie covers, international music, jazz, and even a Japanese import!  At the top of screen there is a way to sort the music by songs, artists, albums, genres or just folders.  It took a couple of minutes to build the sort, but once it had completed the various choices worked right away.  Strangely, when I selected the same tracks that I had in the folder view the graphics did not seem to come up.  Go figure…

Another issue I had was a slowdown when jumping from one folder to another.  When music was playing and I tried to navigate to another folder the machine completely locked up and wouldn’t resume until the track finished.  Then it completely locked up and even turning the power off and on wouldn’t get it going.  I finally had to pull the plug and this got the player to reset.

So, all in all, music streaming was an exercise in frustration.  A more technical user may get lucky (or be more skilled) and get the interface and controller working 100%.  Even when I did get it working I was unable to get gapless playback.  Aside from the advantage of playing hi-res music I will stick with Sonos until there is a better option.

 

Network Media Video File Playback

Video files suffered from the same issues I had with streaming music– files were out of order (due to my use of SMB vs. DLNA) and the interface was extremely lacking.  I scoured my drives to find a variety of files and test them with the Oppo.

For those who are new to storing video on harddrive I should mention there are a couple of ways to handle DVD and Blu-ray.  If you rip a disc you can choose to store it as a single .iso file or in a directory structure.  Additionally, there is the option of converting to a “friendlier” format that can be handled by most software/media players.  Personally I’ve had good luck with the .mkv container/format and the Oppo was able to play these files with no trouble.

The drawback to converting the files is loss of menu structure.  This is either good or bad depending on your viewpoint.  If you are one of those people that hates the previews, can’t seem to navigate away from the 100s of Disney trailers, and/or just wants to “watch the film” then this will be ideal—one click and play begins.  If you want to watch commentaries, bonus features or just prefer to have the disc in its original form (perhaps for backup purposes), then you’ll want to keep it as an .iso or in the directory structure.  As it stands the Oppo is not able to play a DVD in either format.  If you don’t convert it, you can’t play it.  The Oppo will play .VOB files and you can go in the directory VIDEO_TS folder and play them, but this isn’t the best option and these files aren’t always in the right order.

For Blu-ray there is a method to “mount” the disc and play it.  This involves making the computer think that the movie is on disc and in a drive and then sharing this drive with the network.  I could not get it to work in my system, but it is in the FAQ mentioned above.  Since the Oppo won’t play .iso files and I wasn’t able to get it to play Blu-ray directories, this means a conversion is necessary as well.

Video files that I tried and was able to play were: .mkv, .avi, .asf, .divx, .xvid (in avi container), .mts, .vob, .ts, .wmv, .m2ts and .mpeg.  Mp4 files played with no sound and .mov files said “unsupported.”

I fared much better with video files than I did with audio (perhaps it was due to the length and fewer quantity).  Picture and sound were never a problem, but there are other dedicated media players (like the Dune HD product) that will play the formats the Oppo couldn’t and have much nicer interfaces (with 3rd party installed software).

 

Movie Playback Features and Basic Performance

If you were one of blu-ray’s early adopters you might remember waiting up to two minutes for a disc to start playing.  Luckily, this has changed dramatically.  I tried a few discs and measured the time it took from pushing play (while the drawer was open) to the point where I got to the main menu/company logo.

I should also mention that machine turn-on is very quick.  From power up to drawer open it is only about 3 seconds (if you use the eject button as a means to turn the machine on).  With

Matrix (from the box set) – 20 seconds to WB logo
Lord of the Rings Return of the King – 30 seconds to beginning of New Line Cinema logo
Bourne Ultimatum – 30 seconds to Blu-ray menu screen
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II – 60 seconds to WB logo
Star Trek – 30 seconds to Paramount logo

With older, non-anamorphically enhanced DVD material (Truman Show/Tron) I was able to use the Zoom function (full screen) and get the image to fill the entire 1.78:1 screen.  This feature is reset every time you replace the disc.  With 1.66:1 material (12 Angry Men) I was able to Zoom 1.2x and have black bars appear on the left of the 1.78:1 image.  The Oppo was very flexible in this regard and offers a stretch, under scan, 1.3x, 1.5x, 2x and 1/2x setting.

The subtitle adjustment feature would be very useful to those who have 2.35 setups.  It allows you to move the titles up (or down) so that they can be put on the active picture area and not below (which may be off the screen or in a black masked area).  There is no “correct” setting—different discs (Minority Report/Logan’s Run) required different amounts of adjustment or the subtitles would be in the middle of the screen or not high enough for others.

 

DVD and Blu-Ray

I have no complaints about the Oppo’s blu-ray performance.  I played over 20 films on it and they all played without a hitch.  I tried various test discs (Spears & Munsil and AIX) and there weren’t any issues.  Any differences in picture quality were due to the discs themselves or the video display.  With a digital video connection (HDMI) this is how it should be assuming everything is equal and set up correctly on the player.

DVD is another story all together.  In order to get the resolution of the disc to match the display scaling has to be done.  In addition to this there is interpolation, 3:2 pull-down and other video processing that takes place.  Those who have large SD disc collections and/or play material that isn’t available in HD yet will most likely use the player to handle this conversion (the alternative is to pass it onto to the display unaltered or use an external video processor).  Since the video circuitry is the same as what is in the 103 (a $500 player) I felt comfortable in comparing it my current player (at $600).

The first test I tried was the video processing in the player vs. the processing in the TV—a 64” plasma from last year.   I set the player to Source Direct and put on an older DTS Sampler Disc (#3) which is not anamorphic enhanced (i.e. not 1.78:1 native).  To get the picture correct I had to apply Zoom1 on the TV.  With the Oppo Full was the correct setting until the 1.33:1 material came on and I had to turn the zoom off.  1.33:1 material on the TV had gray sidebars that I couldn’t turn off.  Using the Oppo I was able to get black bars on the side which was greatly preferable.  Picture was better with the 105 but only slightly.  Continuing on with DTS Sampler #7 the picture appeared better with the Oppo and the difference was more significant—there was better color, sharpness and clarity.  (I admit that there should be no difference in color, but the fact that the image was sharper no doubt led to the perceived improvement in how vivid the color was displayed.)

Comparisons between the TV and the Marantz were next as switching was made easy by using the remote control while the disc played.  Differences were subtle but still leading towards the player having the better processing.  I tried some direct comparisons between the Marantz and the Oppo with Almost Famous on DVD.  They almost looked the same—close enough to where I didn’t have a preference one way or the other.

 
Music Streaming Services and Basic Observations with Music Playback

After my issues with gapless playback with media file (music) playback, the first disc I tried out was a live concert that has tracks that “bleed” into each other.  The player handled these without a problem whatsoever.  A big issue I have with using DVD players for CD playback is how slow they tend to be.  I admit that I like to jam the disc in there and hear music instantly.  The only added delay with the Oppo was a couple of seconds to recognize the fact that I inserted a CD.

I didn’t cover the music services offered like Pandora and Rhapsody in the Media Player section, so I’ll mention them here.  I don’t have a Rhapsody account, but loading Pandora brought up my favorite stations and streaming started immediately.  Sound was better than I remembered, but then again, I’m used to hearing the stations playing through my computer.  I wasn’t getting goose bumps, but darn, it sounded pretty good.

Unlike with media streaming, the recognition by Gracenote of an inserted CD was excellent.  I don’t really need to see what album I put in (since I chose it in the first place), but some might like this feature.  I found it quite funny to see the background image of a needle on a record playing on the video display while using a (mostly) digital product.

After spending more time with the player as a “CD player” I find I’m not fond of the soft transport buttons on the front display.  I still prefer the tactile feel of raised buttons.  For the committed remote user this shouldn’t be an issue.  Another quirk (good or bad) is if you take a disc out and put it back in the disc continues from the point you left off (up to 5 discs and then it forgets).  There is a Pure Audio mode that turns the video circuitry off after a couple of seconds (supposedly to improve sound quality).  I like seeing the track number and timing (and need it for review purposes), so I didn’t play much with this.  The user can easily turn this on/off with the push of a button.

 

CD Playback

I had already spent quite some time casually listening to CDs with no particular issues, i.e. everything sounded good.  I wanted to see if a dedicated CD player would sound better/worse/same.  I chose to use the same cables and RCA outs (on both the Oppo and Rotel) for comparison as the levels matched within .03dB without any tweaking or level matching necessary.

To begin with I played Ella Fitzgerald Sings Sweet Songs for Swingers.  The Oppo was not lacking in extension/high frequency output.  With this recording the 105 presented the listener with great clarity and detail.  The Rotel was ever-so-slightly softer that was noticeable on the voice and the horn.  With Jamie Cullum’s Catching Tales piano notes were sharp and vivid, but the voice was more sibilant although more detailed.  Solid, well-recorded material came across with improved resolution, wider frequency range and detail.  The majority of recordings like The Miles Davis Quintet Cookin’ on DCC sounded a bit bright and brash.  In this instance I preferred the (possibly less accurate) Rotel.  A friend who joined me through some of the listening preferred the Oppo for the same reason I didn’t.  Ultimately, if CD were my primary source I would look for an even better (than both) player if it were in the budget although we are talking about the last percent…

 
USB Playback (as digital input for computer)

Just plugging in the USB cable to the computer and the Oppo brought up the “Detecting New Device” notice (using a PC with Windows 7).  Then, installation failed.  For PC users you have to go here: http://wiki.oppodigital.com/index.php?title=BDP-105_Asynchronous_DAC_FAQ and download the driver.  It didn’t work the first time, but persistence paid off because the second time I got it running.  Since I use Foobar, I went into Preferences and selected the Oppo as the output device.  (The Music Hall DAC installed automatically without any additional setup.)

Since the Oppo has multiple inputs the user can either scroll through (by pushing the input button on the remote) or push input followed by the input number (in this case 8).  This quickens the process from going to one input to the other and allows for programming selection on a system remote control (URC, RTI, Crestron, etc.)

I started with some 16/44 soul tracks from Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder and Al Green.  I give the nod to the Oppo.  It had better focus, the character of the background hiss was not as objectionable and the music “just sounded better.”  (Audiophile alert!)

I tried 24-bit tracks at 88, 96 and 192 kHz from The Doors, Earth Wind and Fire and America.  The differences heard was consistent with the CD quality music—the 105 had an advantage in resolution, but the extra bit of clarity/high frequency extension and detail may be a negative for those looking for relief from the harshness of lower quality digital files—or for those looking for added warmth to the sound as many of the tubes units on the market seem to be in evidence.

I suppose a much higher end DAC might give the Oppo more of a run for its money.

 

Headphone Listening

When you insert the headphone cable into the 105 the volume setting is now active for only the headphones.  There is no manual knob (which I missed).  I pushed play and ended up in the Netflix screen!  This would be a big issue if you don’t happen to near a TV.  I re-inserted the disc and was able to get the CD going directly.  However, any time you leave the player unattended for a period of time it would go back to “Netflix,” then I would have to select “Home” on the remote, and finally open and close the disc tray—not really ideal as a standalone CD player.

With the Grado set I was able to get more than enough volume (these are rated at 98dB/32 ohms).  I compared the sound quality with the Music Hall unit and left the output via the analog outputs of the Oppo to full volume.  I listened to Julie London’s Time For Love: The Best of Julie London, Jurassic 5 Power In Numbers and Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.  The amps sounded different (slightly), but not to where I could tell you one was better than the other.  With headphones that are easy to drive the Oppo’s internal amp should be more than sufficient.  Some may prefer an amp to tailor the sound a particular way, offer multiple headphone jacks or multiple analog inputs—how would you listen to an LP for example?

The Audeze headphones are rated at 91dB/60 ohms.  I’d read about some people having trouble driving these, but I had no problem whatsoever.  The first disc I tried was Billie Holiday’s Singin’ The Blues and had more than enough gain.  If you are using the player with volume up near the top then you are surely damaging your hearing.  I put on The Best of Johnnie Ray and the sound was fantastic.  The improved quality difference offered by these headphones was immense.  I’m not a big headphone listener (and I miss my time with the LCD-3 which are well worth the difference to me over the LCD-2), but the sound was impressive.

The dedicated headphone amplifier clearly offered more gain, but in my listening sessions the extra volume was not needed.

 

Conclusion

The more that I used the BDP-105 the more aspects of performance and features I found to test.  At 15 pages though, it was time to “call it.”  Here is a short summary of my impressions in various categories (in no particular order):

  1. Blu-ray - excellent, no issues video or audio, lots of options on how to get the audio to the system—direct from HDMI decoded or not or analog multi-channel, 2.35 and subtitle adjustment;
  2. DVD - able to compensate for 1.33:1 as well as non-anamorphic discs via zooming options, picture quality as good as comparison player;
  3. CD - very good, quality sound from analog outputs as well as digital outputs, harder to operate without a video display, memory of “last played” a bit strange, preferred hard button transport controls, pure audio mode for those that want it (as well as HDCD decoding);
  4. Headphone - compatibility with a wide range of headsets and very good sound, can’t use with non-digital (analog) sources, no manual volume on front;
  5. 3D - untested;
  6. Video Services - no complaints with sound or picture, missing Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go so more flexibility with other video streamers;
  7. Music Services - very good sound, missing Sirius XM, MOG, Spotify, Slacker, last.fm so probably best to use a computer or external music streaming device;
  8. Multi-channel Music, SACD and Hi-Res (on disc) - excellent performance through analog outputs with good crossover/level adjustability as well as downconversion capabilities 7/5/2 channels, no issues other than transport controls mentioned in (3);
  9. USB/digital audio input - after driver installed no issues with operation, sound quality very good to excellent, audio input selection requires toggle or multiple button push—no direct input on remote;
  10. Upscaler/Digital Video Switcher - limited input quantity, no analog inputs, input selection difficult as in (9), possible audio/video sync issues (reported by others and not tested), but does 4K!
  11. Network compatibility - minimal issues with DLNA, but SMB is broken, GUI limited with SMB and no 2-way control directly;
  12. Direct into amplifier - don’t recommend unless the simplest systems—preamp or receiver offers many advantages (see above);
  13. DMR (Digital Media Renderer) - difficult to setup and control with some issues/instability, but may work for some—outboard media streamer may still be best solution for most;
  14. DMP (Digital Media Player) - lacks full video file compatibility, won’t play ripped DVD unless converted, issues with menu playback with blu-ray and couldn’t get to play in .iso format, poor audio/video file recognition, mediocre GUI, no gapless playback with audio files—recommend a dedicated streaming device for the serious user for both audio and video files playback, i.e. Dune, Popcorn, Sonos, etc.
  15. Streaming from Flash/Harddrive - Unstable (in my use), very good recognition, multiple sort options, easier selection, no gapless, but correct file order like DLNA—should work better than it did.

Despite the ads, the Oppo BDP-105 is not the “one player to rule them all” yet still offered fine, stable, consistent performance from disc playback—both audio and video.  Personally I would stay away from the network streaming as the 105 lacks a simple, easy-to-use, nice-looking interface at best and the machine would lock up/fail to play at worst.  It offers some interesting features (like the 4K scaling, MHL input, multiple USB inputs and HDMI switching) that will likely only benefit a small section of the population.  For those looking to use it as a dedicated CD player or DAC the results were encouraging—it will hold its own in its price range.  I still believe superior performance can be achieved from dedicated separates, but at a much higher cost.  As a headphone amplifier it was also very good, but limiting in some ways.  Knowing this, most of those who invest in the 105 will be more than happy with its performance given its price.  For those who aren’t interested in using it for its analog outputs, the BDP-103 offers the same video performance (from what I understand) and is considerably less expensive and worth consideration.

- Brian Bloom      big_brian_b@hotmail.com




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