Oppo BDP-105D: Audiophile Blu-ray Player

The Oppo BDP-105D is one of the biggest, heaviest, most expensive Blu-ray players you can buy, but with a quality and feature list to match – including audiophile stereo reproduction. I recently got one of those to replace my PS3 and assorted other players, so here’s a mostly enthusiastic review with a brief description of my remaining AV setup to put things into context. The BDP-105 has the obligatory current and future-proofing capabilities, from 4K upscaling and 3D material to connectivity with home networks and various streaming services, but I’ll skip those here and focus on the noteworthy parts.

Player & Television

Virtually all disk formats other than DVD-RAM and HD-DVD are supported, in particular audio formats: CD (I own a lot), SACD (I own a few), HDCD, and DVD Audio. The BD-105 employs the ES9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC for audio conversion – indeed two of them, one for 7.1 surround sound and one for dedicated stereo outputs! And sure enough, that stereo sound is easily a match for my old Linn Ikemi, a pure CD player that had actually been more expensive despite lacking any video capabilities. (Today, Linn has dropped all digital disk players from its product lineup, focusing on its venerable analog turntables and digital streaming sources instead.) Befitting an audiophile device, the BDP-105 is passively cooled which is partly responsible for its bulk and weight.

Some more weight is due to the built-in headphone amplifier, a sadly half-baked feature of very limited use. Following purist doctrine, the BD-105 contains no tone controls whatsoever, meaning I can’t get the bass boost I consider necessary to recreate natural-sounding bass with most sources and headphones. Worse, there is no Dolby Headphone or other virtual surround processor of any kind, meaning the headphone outlet is perfectly useless for most movies. (If you doubt that, try listening to a modern movie with a good Dolby Headphone amplifier just once. I found it impossible to go back.) Rounding out the list of deficiencies, the output level is not great despite the dedicated amplifier. Hitting the volume limit is a distinct possibility with high-end headphones. The sound reproduction itself is flawless to be sure, but that’s little use unless you only listen to stereo sources, don’t want a strong bass, and have unusually efficient headphones for a high-end setup.

Fortunately, that’s the only disappointment. The BDP-105’s video section is as impressive as its audio decoder. HDMI Deep Color is supported for future sources and TVs, but more relevant right now is the excellent Y’CbCr 4:4:4 output with proper 1080p/24 cadence for movies. On my beloved Sony KDL-40W4000, a discontinued LCD TV with deep blacks and CRT-level response times, I could use “Cinema” mode with “Color Space: Wide” and otherwise almost entirely neutral settings to obtain a great-looking and well-calibrated picture. (On my old PS3, “Color Space: Standard” and a warmer tint looked best but inferior to the Oppo.) Calibration was handled by the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark (2nd ed.), a very thorough test that the good folks at vendor JvB Digital threw in with my purchase. JvB also offer DVD and Blu-ray region unlocking for Oppos and many other players, essential to anyone not living in America and reason enough for me to pay for shipping from the Netherlands.

Lastly, the BDP-105D includes two noteworthy video goodies. One is sharpening and anti-aliasing courtesy of VRS ClearView. Here I must say I didn’t notice much positive effect with my sources and display, so I left it off. Not so with the other technology, Darbee Visual Presence which distinguishes the BDP-105D model from the plain BDP-105. This adaptive contrast enhancement slightly deepens shadows already existing in the image, emphasizing structures and contours without affecting the overall brightness or color balance. I found that very high settings could cause flickering artifacts, but at 60% (out of 120%) Darbee adds a stunning yet completely natural-looking extra bit of clarity that brings out the fine details in HD images. Absolutely worth the extra price.

Speakers & Headphones

My speaker setup is driven by an old stereo workhorse, the NAD C 372 integrated amplifier with 150 continuous watts per channel. I’m bypassing its simple tone controls entirely, and instead rely on an unusual feature for tone adjustment: the NAD’s pre-amp section is routed externally into the power-amp section. The two pairs of standard cinch connections are normally bridged, but you can remove the bridge and insert any sound processor you like, allowing that processor to operate on any selected input source. I’m adding bass amplification with the Nubert ATM 102, a module that’s designed to precisely match the acoustic properties of my nuLine 102 speakers (discontinued, but like the nuLine 84 with one more chassis). This combination sounds as clean and precise as any high-end speakers I’ve heard, yet produces rich deep bass comparable to live concerts. AV receivers generally don’t offer this kind of external processing option, which is one reason why I’m still sticking with my old stereo brick. Nubert is a German mail-order loudspeaker specialist, by the way, and definitely worth considering if you’re in Central Europe.

My headphone setup is based on the Philips SBC HD1500U. Sadly it’s no longer in production either, but here’s the PDF manual with specifications. This set was marketed for its wireless headphones (fairly decent though heavy), but its real attraction is the powerful amplifier with Dolby Headphone capability. I found it handles even demanding high-end headphones with aplomb, such as my current AKG K701 (also out of production, see the similar successor model) that’s a bit much for the Oppo. Most importantly, the surround processor splendidly reproduces the expansive space of cinema soundtracks in multi-channel Dolby Digital or DTS formats. The only drawback are the now-outdated digital inputs (S/PDIF and optical), meaning you only get basic DD/DTS from high-bandwidth formats such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio that require HDMI for their extra bits. I’m still looking for a good replacement headphone amplifier that supports Dolby Headphone and all HDMI formats – though maybe I should check out some of Yamaha’s copious Silent Cinema products, too.

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