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Page updated September 15, 2009.          OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray Player Review  

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 :: Review ::


Oppo Digital is very much a newcomer to the world of home video. Yet despite the company's relative youth, it has an excellent reputation and a mountain of accolades under its belt thanks to its well-received upconverting DVD player models. The BDP-83 is the company's first foray into the Blu-ray market, arriving several years after the debut of the likes of Pioneer, Panasonic and Sony. Many of these large manufacturers are now producing their fourth generation of Blu-ray machines, with mature offerings available from all. Entering this market is a challenge for any company, but one Oppo seems willing to accept.

Indeed, Oppo's first Blu-ray machine could never be called a half-hearted effort. It fully supports both Blu-ray profiles 1.1 and 2.0, and comes with 1GB of onboard memory. It features internal decoding of Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution audio, and plays both SACD and DVD-Audio discs as well as CDs and a variety of compressed audio formats over HDMI or through its eight-channel RCA analogue outputs. Its video capabilities are equally impressive, and include 1080/24p output, VRS video processing and scaling, 24p playback for DVD and a source direct mode for use with external video processors.

Like contemporaries SVS and Outlaw Audio, Oppo's products are only available for purchase online and won't be found in typical brick-and-mortar retail outlets. In New Zealand, Oppo's range of products is imported by Auckland-based online reseller RapalloAV. In addition to the stock machine, RapalloAV also offers a locally modified region-free/selectable (for both DVD and Blu-ray) BDP-83 for NZ$1399; it is this machine that is reviewed below (a NZ$300 premium over the Region A machine). The BDP-83 can also be purchased in its untouched Region A/Zone 1 state directly from Oppo Digital for US$499 and shipped from the US. The player's power supply accepts 100-240V at either 50 or 60Hz, meaning a stepdown transformer is not required in 240V 50Hz New Zealand.

When first removed from its box, the BDP-83's build quality is reassuringly industrial. It's a solidly built player weighing a little over 5kg, with an elegant, matt-black metal fascia minimally populated with only a power and eject button, and a round cluster of command buttons. At the far right of the front panel, barely visible behind a rubber gasket, is a USB port which can be used to play various video and audio formats, upgrade the player's firmware, or expand the player's 1GB of internal storage. A second USB port is also be found on the rear panel.

Included in the box is a 1.8m HDMI cable, the usual assortment of analogue cables, the remote control, power cord, and two Blu-ray discs (one a setup disc, the other an HD audio demo disc). The player is presented in a tightly-fitting nylon carry bag printed with the Oppo logo. At around 8 cm in height, including feet, it isn't as slim as the latest offerings from Panasonic, Pioneer or Sony, but it appeared positively waif-like beside a 23kg Onkyo AV amplifier. 

BDP-83 HDMI Output
HDMI Output

Video and Audio Connections
Connecting the player to a TV or receiver is simple, especially if using HDMI cables: one cable between the Oppo and a receiver or TV and you're done. For analogue video there are only composite or component video outputs to choose from: no S-Video. Although Oppo has provided these analogue connections for greater backward compatibility, they should be avoided if possible, as only the HDMI output uses the player's Anchor Bay VRS processor. This player is definitely geared for the digital video (HDMI) market in this respect.

If analogue audio is required, there are two choices: the eight-channel RCA cluster which utilize a single Cirrus Logic CS4382A DAC, or a dedicated stereo RCA pair which use Cirrus Logic's flagship CS4398 DAC, as found in Bryston's megabuck BCD1 CD player. All ten analogue audio outputs are gold plated.

BDP-83 Analogue Audio Connections
Analogue RCA Audio

Setup and Initial Run
Initial player setup is a breeze thanks to a clear and concise, full-colour, quickstart onscreen guide. After answering a brief series of questions about cabling and the type of equipment being connected, the Oppo should be up and running in less than five minutes. One of the first impressions of the BDP-83 is of sheer speed. Older Blu-ray players have typically taken a minute or more merely to turn on, and additional minutes to load Blu-ray discs utilizing the thorny mess that is BD-Java. The Oppo is typically on and playing any given Blu-ray disc in less than 30 seconds. The time between pressing the eject button in standby to the disc tray opening is a mere three seconds. For DVD and audio the Oppo's operational speed is even faster, beginning playback of SACDs almost instantly. Only on extremely java-intensive Blu-ray discs does the player begin to lag (Blu-ray java torture-test 'Terminator 2: Skynet Edition' took just over 42 seconds to load to its first menu, for example). The player's speed brings Blu-ray closer to what most are accustomed to from DVD.

BDP-83 Remote Control
BDP-83 Remote Control

Remote Control
The Oppo's remote control unit is backlit, with a logical layout and easy to read text. It's also large, sitting comfortably even in large hands. Reactions to commands from the player are immediate, and all of the most important functions are intuitively positioned. The remote control also allows users to change the player's video output resolution on the fly. This is a feature I have only seen from Pioneer before, and it is surprisingly useful. Among the resolutions that can be selected is a 'Source Direct' option which outputs the video disc's native format (typically 480/576i for DVD and 1080/24p for Blu-ray), entirely bypassing any additional processing. This feature is particularly useful for those using external video processors. A button in the bottom right-hand corner of the unit activates the remote control's backlight, but a second press does not turn it off and the light stays on for around eight seconds before switching off; this is just slightly longer than necessary in many cases. Virtually none of the remote control's buttons are duplicated on the player's front panel, so this is one remote you don't want to lose down the side of the couch!

In Operation
In use the player is mechanically very quiet, with the drive motor audible only during the disc's initial spin-up and when stepping through chapters. There is a small cooling fan positioned on the player's back panel, but it was quiet and never audible during movies or when listening to music, and only once while pausing a film. Mechanically, the only slight disappointment is the disc tray, which is loud when opened or closed and less sturdy than I would have liked. It also lacks the silky-smoothness of the disc trays on flagship Denon, Sony or Pioneer machines, but this has no impact on player performance.

The front LCD panel is large and can be viewed clearly from a distance, displaying information about the disc being played and connections in use. The display can also be dimmed or turned off (coming back to life briefly after each remote control command). Likewise, the player can be coaxed to present an onscreen display on a connected television of projector, providing such information as the playback time, audio and video formats, combined video and audio bit-rate (but not separate audio and video bit-rates, which is information I always find interesting and is often found on conventional DVD players), chapters, titles and other information. When playing music, track details are displayed onscreen as well as disc art if present, and a screen saver can be activated for plasma TV owners.

Audio Performance
The BDP-83 is the world's first 'universal' disc player. It will play virtually every five inch disc format currently in production, from CD, DVD, DVD-Audio and SACD through to Blu-ray (but not Toshiba's now-defunct HD DVD format). It will also play a variety of audio formats on USB flash drive or external USB hard drive via its front and rear USB sockets. The Oppo features comprehensive onboard audio decoding, including the elusive DTS-HD Master Audio, and HDMI 1.3a for bitstreaming of Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD HR and MA to suitable processors.

True to this promise the Oppo played DVD, CD, Blu-ray and SACD without any problems (no DVD-Audio discs were available to test). It can, if required, also stream raw DSD from SACD over HDMI (or converted to PCM if required). The Oppo is only the third SACD player I am aware of with this capability. I preferred the sound of direct DSD, but the differences between DSD and its PCM conversion are probably best left to debate by dedicated audiophiles.

Bitstreaming DTS-HD MA and TrueHD soundtracks to an external decoder was problem free, with no dropouts or other issues. As expected, bitstreamed audio from the player sounds identical to that of every other player I have tested with this capability. High resolution audio decoded to PCM is slightly quieter than via bitstreaming, but again exhibited no other audible difference, and is the configuration of choice for listeners with older pre-1.3 specification HDMI receivers.

It is only when using the analogue audio connections that the player's sonic characteristics become apparent, with the Oppo acquitting itself well with SACD and HD audio from Blu-ray, with very neutral reproduction. There is no obvious low or high frequency emphasis to speak of, which some regard as adding character ('warmth' or 'airiness'), and I was able to happily sit for several hours without listener fatigue. CD playback is also excellent, if slightly disappointing when immediately following a well-recorded SACD or movie soundtrack. 

Video Performance
Despite the player's expansive audio support, video quality has not been overlooked. The Oppo possesses a solid video pedigree thanks to onboard VRS video processing courtesy of Anchor Bay's ABT2010 scaler/deinterlacer processor. Running through the usual array of test sequences and patterns the de-interlacer managed to quickly lock on to even the most unusual cadences and editing anomalies, producing excellent results from everything thrown at it. The Oppo's scaling is equally capable, producing strong 1080p images from DVD with no artificial ringing or stair-stepping, and without sacrificing sharpness for smoothness.

Anchor Bay VRS ABT2010 Processor
Anchor Bay ABT2010

Unusually, the player is also capable of converting HD video between 60Hz and 50Hz. This may be a useful feature for those with equipment that does not support 50Hz PAL, SECAM or HD sources, but in my tests the results weren't ideal with jerky pans and what looked like dropped frames. Other useful features include a common height zoom for those using anamorphic projection lenses, and an underscan 'zoom' for those using monitors that cut off the edges of the active picture area. These are both unusual features, but extremely important for a small segment of buyers, and demonstrate a pleasing consideration for potential users from Oppo's engineers.

Viewed at 100 inches through a suitably calibrated Panasonic 1080p LCD projector, 1080/24p Blu-ray playback was excellent, with strong colour reproduction, excellent detail and a smooth, artefact-free image that easily matches or betters that of any other player I have seen regardless of price. The BDP-83 presented my first opportunity to test 24p playback from DVD (NTSC discs only). This feature is also found on some of Panasonic's newer Blu-ray players and Toshiba's discontinued HD DVD machines, and requires a compatible display. The removal of 3:2 pulldown from DVD, with its associated image judder, combined with excellent 1080p scaling is a compelling combination and brings new life to old DVDs. With previous Blu-ray players, viewing DVDs has largely been a chore with less than satisfactory picture quality requiring a dedicated DVD player, but with the Oppo it was a pleasure and demonstrated there is still performance to be squeezed out of the format. Blu-ray playback from the Oppo is undoubtedly stellar, but it is perhaps this finesse with DVD that is its greatest revelation.

The BDP-83 offers fantastic picture quality from Blu-ray and, more impressively, superb DVD picture quality. It is also a superior all-round audio player with the ability to replace several different audio and video components in one fell swoop, and features best-of-class features and speed. Paradoxically, however, it may be most suited for those with an eye on the past thanks to its ability to bring new life to the venerable DVD format.

It's impossible not to be impressed with this machine. Given its price, capabilities and polished performance it could well be the best value Blu-ray player on the market today. If you're thinking of buying a new Blu-ray player, or upgrading your current player, the Oppo BDP-83 should be somewhere on your shortlist, if not at the very top.



All material in this site copyright Adam Barratt

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