Delivering fabulous Blu-Ray performance is only one talent in the Oppo BDP-95’s precocious bag of tricks
Some of us may not have heard of Oppo before, but this American semi-boutique electronics manufacturer has been producing DVD and Blu-Ray players since 2004 and has quickly established an enviable reputation for their equipment.
The company’s products feature highly in the international HT press and have numerous ‘product of the year’ awards, yet for some odd reason I hadn’t yet sampled any of them.
This was just too much for me to bear, so a timely email from Ben Metcalfe from local distributor RapalloAV asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the flagship BDP-95 was answered with a resounding ‘yes’.
The BDP-95 is stacked with features and technology that only a few years ago would have been deemed science fiction, and when I consider the almost $3000 I paid for my first Blu-Ray player back in 2007 the asking price for this marvellous Oppo seems too good to be true. That’s what you get for being an early adopter, I suppose!
Of course players can be had for a fraction of the BDP-95’s price these days, but the sheer quality of build, flexibility and video/audio performance of the Oppo makes for a one-stop silver disc solution of outstanding ability.
For audio the heavyweight BDP-95 utilises the well renowned Sabre 32bit DAC as used in the acclaimed Audiolab 8200 players as well as the stunning reference Simaudio Moon 750D DAC/transport, SACD and DVD-Audio is supported (the BDP-95 is one of few players able to output the SACD DSD stream natively via HDMI), and it’ll replay FLAC/WAV/MP3 (but not Apple Lossless) either via disc, streamed over your network or from an external drive connected to the Oppo’s USB or eSATA inputs. Last but not least, HDCD decoding is also supported for those with the appropriate software (like me).
The assured video abilities of the BDP-95 are courtesy of the on-board Marvell Kyoto-G2 video processor – it uses Qdeo processing to reduce or eliminate noise and artefacts (and I didn’t detect many of those, if any). Two HDMI outputs are provided either for use with two displays, or for those of us missing HDMI v1.4 for 3D on our receivers. Simply connect one cable to a receiver and the other to your 3D panel or projector for instant 3D glory without having to upgrade (again).
DLNA certification means setting up on a network with similar devices is a doddle, and in addition to the myriad video and audio formats it’ll also display picture files – great for videophiles with a penchant for digital photography (or for displaying them at their spoilt kids’ 21’st birthday parties).
Connection to a network can either be via Ethernet cable or by using the supplied wireless dongle, and I had the Oppo up and streaming within 4 or 5 minutes – about the same time it takes me to make a nice cup of tea (which I did at the same time).
I’d have liked to see provision made for an aerial instead of a dongle, this tends to create extra depth and could be an issue in racks without enough depth – however it wasn’t a problem for me as I had the talented BDP-95 in its rightful place, proudly atop my HT furniture for all to see. Balanced XLR stereo outputs along with 7.1 RCA outputs complete the analogue connectivity, while coaxial and optical digital outputs are provided for those wishing to use an external D/A converter.
Build and aesthetics
I really liked the aesthetics and build quality, and on picking up the Oppo I had a definite sense of a heavyweight reference device – the front fascia is a slab of CNC’d aluminium plate, while a hefty Rotel-designed toroidal transformer (manufactured specifically for Oppo) added to the players chunky 7.3kg mass.
It all looked very promising – a state of the art 3D video player with a superb DAC onboard for audio and streaming/HDD connectivity. So what was it really like in practice?
Luckily the BDP-95 lived up to its promises by excelling in both audio and video replay. Blu-Ray discs were reproduced superbly in both 2 and 3D, the ever-so-slight bleeding of colours (especially bright ones) I notice on some discs via my Cambridge Audio 650BD were now gone. The Oppo also seemed to handle fast moving scenes a touch better than the 650, the subtle judder had disappeared from my screen while viewing some movies.
The much-lauded Qdeo chip certainly did its job well by cleaning up most of the noise from both DVD and Blu-Ray discs, although my rotten DVD copy of David Lynch’s much-maligned Dune seemed to be a hopeless task. It surely must be the video equivalent of Iggy and the Stooges or some ancient Blues record – horribly recorded but a must to listen to.
Blu-Ray replay was simply delightful with stunning imagery, viewing Avatar through my Panasonic PT-AE4000 was quite sensational – judder and noise free high resolution viewing was the order of the day here with outstanding detail and colour. It was just terrific, and even intentionally grainy movies such as Children of Men were a treat to behold with hitherto unseen detail revealing itself for the first time.
DVD rips and 720P material from my iTunes library (Apple TV doesn’t handle 1080P material – bugger) were also great when streamed from my Mac, and movies such as The Thing in glorious 720P were replayed with a minimum of fuss and in excellent quality.
Moving to the audio-only side saw the BDP-95 reveal another bag of tricks, with music performance almost as good as the Audiolab 8200CD. I just noticed a slight loss of ‘air’ and a slightly reduced soundstage compared to the 2-channel specialist player, but there was really nothing in it.
Whether playing Bob Marley’s Rastaman Vibration on CD, Beck’s Sea Change on DVD-Audio, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on SACD, or even streaming my tiny complement of 24/96kHz FLAC files (such as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – again) the Oppo played them straight and true with all the hallmarks of a decent $1500 CD player. That’s no mean feat, considering the vast amount of video circuitry onboard that could possibly add its own signature (i.e. degradation) to the sound.
So there we have it. Oppo should be rightly proud of the BDP-95, it’s one hell of a talented component and it does justice to every feature on board. It’ll be interesting to see how Cambridge Audio’s new (and similarly featured) 751BD fares in comparison, but right at this minute the BDP-95 is surely the best Blu-Ray player available. Phew!
By Gary Pearce