OPPO Digital BDP-93 Universal Blu-ray Player Review
OPPO Digital is perhaps the most beloved Manufacturer of Digital Media Players extant. This is all the more impressive considering OPPO is primarily Internet Direct in respect to distribution. Moreover, the percentage of Bose owners who own an OPPO Product is probably in the low single digits. That is, OPPO is not a Company well known by the mainstream, but with each new product released it seems only a matter of time before they are.
The reason for this is that OPPO works fervently to give their customers exactly what they want. For years OPPO manufactured DVD Players that provided textbook bench tests. Name an esoteric video pattern or image, and it nailed it. One look at Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity's stringent "DVD Benchmark" will show a pattern of quite modestly priced DVD Players that vastly outperformed some others that cost literally multiples of OPPO's cost of admission. To this day, OPPO DVD Players still sell often for as much as the initial purchase price. Part of this is due to the fact that OPPO's DVD Players offered NTSC-PAL conversion with multiregion capability after a few buttons on the Remote Control being pressed.
Last year, OPPO made the move to Blu-ray first with the BDP-83 followed later by the more modestly priced BDP-80. The buildup to the Release of the BDP-83 was unlike any AV Component I have ever known. The beta testers and early release owners wore their ownership as a badge of honor. This went as far as owners differentiating whether they were part of the first 50 or the later 250. Upon General Release, the OPPO BDP-83 received universal praise from Professional Reviewers the world over and scores of satisfied customers. Several months later OPPO took this Blu-ray Player to another level with the release of the BDP-83 SE.
The BDP-83 SE addressed the analog stage of the BDP-83 through replacement of the 83's Cirrus CS4398 DAC's with ESS Technologies Sabre ES9006 DAC's (8 for the 7.1 Analog Outputs and 4 Per Channel for the dedicated left and right channels in a dual differential implementation), an upgraded power transformer, standard RS-232 Port (optional on the BDP-83), and a sticker for units that began life as a standard BDP-83. While these upgrades are certainly substantial, only when using the analog outputs were these upgrades discernible. That is if using only HDMI you would not benefit from these changes. Even OPPO themselves recommended the SE Upgrade for those who intended to use the analog outputs.
Going the opposite direction, OPPO's next Release was the BDP-80 which brought OPPO Blu-ray Players to a lower price point of $289 Dollars. This was accomplished through the deletion of the BDP-83's Anchor Bay ABT-2010 deinterlacing solution, no longer offering a dedicated 2 Channel Output, smaller Remote Control (the larger RC from the 83 was available as an option), and the deletion of the RS-232 Port. The biggest disadvantage of the BDP-80 compared to the 83 was with DVDs as it lacked Anchor Bay's superb ABT-2010 chip. However, for Blu-ray playback it offered near identical performance.
This brings us to OPPO's newest offering, the BDP-93. Along with a beautiful new industrial design it includes Qdeo (2nd Generation) video processing by Marvell, 3D playback, Netflix, Blockbuster and VUDU HD video streaming, Pandora Internet Radio, SACD, DVD-A and support for HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, AVCHD, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC, WAV and other audio/video/picture files on recorded discs, as well as USB and eSATA drive compatibility. In addition, OPPO spent a great deal of time working with Tohei Group of Japan on a new custom built loader with the goal being a more stable transport than earlier OPPO BDPs. The laser pickup is still sourced from Sony. A Universal 3D Networked BDP if you will. All of this for the same $499 price as the BDP-83 is quite an astonishing thing.
As with all OPPO players, unboxing the BDP-93 is a beautiful thing with excellent packaging, a supplied HDMI Cable, a very well written Owners Manual, Wifi Dongle with support for Wireless N, and a 6 Foot USB extension. One thing lacking with the BDP-93 is the inclusion of the Spears and Munsil and AIX Calibration Discs. The Spears and Munsil video calibration disc is available from OPPO for an additional 25 Dollars. These discs were included for free on the BDP-83 and BDP-83 SE
The BDP-93 offers Dual HDMI outputs with the Marvell Qdeo processing available via HDMI 1, while HDMI 2 uses the same Mediatek SOC that also powers the component outputs. For this review, HDMI 1 is connected directly to a Sony KDS-55A3000 (ISF Calibrated) and HDMI 2 to an Onkyo TX-NR3007 for audio decoding. Audioquest HDMI X Cables were used for both HDMI connections and Kimber Kable Silver Streak interconnects were used for the multichannel analog outputs.
As with all OPPO players I have encountered, disc loading is rapid for all manner of digital media. Even the Java heavy Blu-rays that would take close to 5 minutes to load were playing in well under a minute. HDMI 1 was used for all viewing and the picture quality is fantastic. If your television supports 1080p/24, you will need to select this from OPPO's setup menu as the default is 1080p/60. Note 1080p/24 DVD Playback is not supported via the BDP-93 as it is on the BDP-83. According to OPPO this is addition by subtraction as they noted abnormalities when DVD's were configured to 1080p/24 during development. All the same, if you still want this option, you can set the OPPO to Source Direct and if you have a Video Processor either in your AVR/SSP or standalone video processor which upsamples to 1080p/24 you are set. The Onkyo used in this review offers this via the Reon processing chip. While I did try it, I did not notice any meaningful difference when doing so.
When it comes to Blu-ray playback, the differences between a $5000 BDP and a $100 BDP is not very large. The same cannot be said for DVD playback and for video streaming, and it is here where the OPPO shines. I did a great deal of comparisons watching Netflix streaming content from both the BDP-93 and a Sony PS3, and I came away shocked at just how much better Netflix looked on the OPPO. While doing these comparisons, I disconnected the PS3 from the Onkyo and connected it directly to the television to make sure the Reon processing was completely out of the loop, though setting the Onkyo to pass-through might have been sufficient.
DVDs look excellent when set to 1080p. Again, the BDP-93 does not offer native 1080p/24 DVD playback like the BDP-83 and BDP-83 SE. As with Blu-rays, the loading times are astonishingly fast.
SACD and DVD-A Playback is excellent as well. For review purposes, I connected the multichannel analog outputs to get a feel of how the OPPO sounds when playing these discs. When set to bitstream it is the AVR/SSP that dictates the sound quality. Both formats sound quite good when having the OPPO do the heavy lifting. That being said, I use the HDMI output when playing these discs. Thanks to the most recent firmware update, multichannel SACD works perfectly with the Onkyo TX-NR3007. Previously, only 2 channel playback of SACDs was possible. OPPO is one of a few manufacturers that offers DSD bitstream without PCM conversion via HDMI. However, when bass management is called for, PCM conversion is required. Thankfully I have speakers that are capable of not needing a subwoofer to get close to full range reproduction. For all SACDs I enabled the Pure Direct setting on the Onkyo so there was no PCM conversion.
Like all OPPO players before it, the BDP-93 offers NTSC-PAL conversion and will playback Region 0 PAL DVDs and Blu-rays without a hitch. Unlike OPPO's DVD Players, the BDP-93 does not offer native multi-region playback of region encoded DVDs and Blu-rays via a simple remote control sequence. The BDP-83, BDP-83 SE, and BDP-80 were identical in this regard. However, there is a thriving aftermarket for making these Players multi-region. Note if choosing to go this route the warranty is voided.
The BDP-93 also does an excellent job of interfacing with a PC and allowing remote playback of stored music. There is even a nifty playback screen depicting a turntable with track information. If using an older Plasma panel, exercise caution as this is a static image and has the potential of causing burn in. Most newer Plasma TV's have features you can enable to prevent burn in.
To sum up, I absolutely adore this Blu-ray player. In truth, I also own a BDP-83 that I never appreciated the way I do the 93. The new industrial design which I find to be stunning combined with a much higher quality transport over the BDP-83 has made this my new reference BDP. I really think the new casework is as good or better than Lexicon's $3500 BD-30. The fact that the BD-30 is simply a repackaged BDP-83 has engendered a great deal of controversy as Lexicon saw fit to add $3000 to the BDP-83 for new casework. I also greatly appreciate that unlike the BDP-83, the BDP-93 performs flawlessly without a fan. Of all the things I never thought I would have much use for, Netflix streaming has become a staple of my viewing regiment. The Marvell Qdeo processor really does make the picture quality quite good. I look forward to the day when it offers Dolby Digital Plus playback which is currently a PS3 exclusive. Regardless, the combination of universal playback, network capability, rapid loading times of all media, beautiful industrial design, near silent operation, 3D ready, and reasonable price... has me hooked. Please see the OPPO BDP-93: Official Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments