Oppo BDP-83 Universal Disc Player Recordings in the Round
In over three months with the player, I've watched countless Blu-rays with only two problem discs. The first, Australia caused the player to lock up when trying to watch one of the bonus features, but given the fact it was pre-release firmware, I expected a hiccup or two. Incidentally, a firmware update was available within a week that fixed this issue.
The second disc was the Fox movie 12 Rounds, which has caused problems with Samsung and Pioneer players as well. I've notified Oppo of the issue, and according to Jason Liao, CTO and VP of product development, the company is aware of the issue and will hopefully have a firmware update available by the time you read this review. (I've heard the movie isn't that good, so maybe the Oppo is doing me a favor!)
As I've found with every other Blu-ray player I've used, the picture and audio quality was transparent to the discs—that is, reference discs looked and sounded as they should and less-than-stellar discs didn't look any better than they should. Once the movie starts, every player I've used has been virtually equal. It's what they do before the movie starts that separates the average players from the ultimate ones.
Certain Blu-ray players are so slow to boot up and load BD-Java discs that Disney displays a disclaimer to allow 2-3 minutes for the disc to load. Using Ratatouille, I timed the player versus the PS3, Panasonic DMP-BD55, and Pioneer BDP-05FD with the following results:
- PS3: 10 seconds
- BDP-83: 12 seconds
- BD55: 19 seconds
- BDP-05: 27 seconds (when tray opens)
Disc insertion to first image
- BDP-83: 27 seconds
- PS3: 37 seconds
- BD55: 52 seconds
- BDP-05: 67 seconds
Pressing Top Menu button to menu screen
- PS3: 9 seconds
- BDP-83: 10 seconds
- BDP-05: 23 seconds
- BD55: 30 seconds
While slightly slower than the PS3 in the power-on and top-menu tests, the Oppo beat the speed champion by 10 seconds on loading this particular disc. Additionally, I never once felt the player was slow in any regard in my three months of use. Disc navigation is speedy, and moving between chapters on discs is reminiscent of DVDs—something we've been waiting for since the launch of the format.
With its Profile 2.0 capability, online access is available by connecting the BDP-83 to the Internet. As with other BD-Live players, you must download the content completely before viewing. I downloaded a Year One HD trailer from Sony, which took 4 minutes and 33 seconds for the 2-minute trailer. Unfortunately, those four and a half minutes felt closer to two hours while staring at the screen as the progress bar filled up. I'm not a huge fan of BD-Live due to the lack of compelling online features. Sony has some new features coming in the fall that look interesting, but I'm reserving judgment until I see them.
To compare the different audio-decoding options (bitstream, internal to PCM, analog), I used Roy Orbison's Black and White Night Blu-ray because of its outstanding DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Each decoding mode sounded great, although the analog output sounded a little weaker in bass response. I chalk this up to my calibration, not necessarily the player.
I could detect no difference between decoding internally to PCM and bitstreaming, and comparing the two is much easier on the Oppo than any other player I've used. The BDP-83 lets you enter the Setup menu while a disc is playing and change the decoding method on the fly. Although there was a slight pause while my pre/pro locked onto the new signal, the change was nearly instantaneous. Granted, the best way to hear any differences between decoding methods would be to conduct double-blind testing, something beyond the scope of this review.
Having become so familiar with the Oppo DV-983H DVD player as my reference device, I had high expectations of BDP-83's performance in this area. Happily, my expectations were not only met, but slightly exceeded. While an upscaled DVD will never look as good as a Blu-ray, I was surprised at how good some discs looked. In particular, I was impressed with Paramount's Son of Rambow—yes, that's how it's spelled—a quirky British comedy about a young boy's fascination with John Rambo after watching First Blood for the first time. Foregrounds looked impeccably sharp without any edge enhancement or ringing, but the backgrounds were softer than what you would see on a typical Blu-ray release.
I also tested the Oppo's ability to output DVDs at 24p, but I wasn't that impressed. Oppo rightly warns in the user manual that "the result of DVD 24p Conversion depends heavily on the quality of the content. If the video encoded on the DVD contains incorrect 3:2 cadence, cadence breaks caused by edits, or heavy compression noise that can affect cadence detection, the result may have motion judder or frame tearing."
This is exactly what happened on Star Wars IV: A New Hope—the opening back-story crawl and pan down to the planet at the start of the movie was very juddery. On non-problem discs, I found this a decent option, but when a disc isn't authored correctly, it's unwatchable, so if you plan on using this feature, there may be an occasional disc that will give you problems.
I rarely sit down and listen to music, especially high-resolution SACDs and DVD-A discs, but I do have a smattering of titles. One feature offered by the Oppo is the ability to transmit the native DSD datastream directly from SACD discs via HDMI, which my Onkyo pre/pro supports. I tested the DSD output and internal PCM conversion on Billy Joel's Innocent Man SACD and discovered that the DSD output was nearly 10dB lower in level than the PCM output as measured with the SPL meter. I'm not sure why, but when I matched the levels, my non-golden ears could detect little or no difference between the two. Ultimately, I decided to let the Oppo convert the DSD to PCM because the volume matched my other components. Regardless, the imaging was excellent across the front soundstage, with enough presence that I had difficulty localizing the sound from my left and right speakers.
There have been many reported compatibility issues with some SACDs and DVD-A discs from the 350 early adopters, but all of the discs in my collection played without a hitch. (According to Oppo, most of the SACD and DVD-A issues have been resolved during the Early Adoption Program.) My favorite DVD-A is Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father, and the title track sounded as good as I remember. The bass was nice and tight, and the keyboard strokes were crystal clear and well defined.