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The Music: 16 bit/44kHz (Standard) CD’s
Keb Mo‘s 1996 release, Just Like You provided a good opportunity to see how well the Special Edition analog section performs. In “You Can Love Yourself,” a solo performance that allowed me to focus on the overall palpability of the recording. There was considerable detail and information in this cut. Keb’s Dobro had a good natural ring and provided plenty of transient information. I was impressed with how natural the BDP-83 Special Edition sounded. While auditioning the BDP-83 Special Edition, I had grand hopes for its analog prowess, one side of me hoped for the best, the other side prepared for the worst, yet it did not disappoint. In the cut “Oh Mama, Where’s Your Daddy,” Kebs gravelly voice had tremendous detail and produced a solid soundstage. When connected though the analog section, you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for an intermediate priced universal player, this is a solid solution.
I picked Robert Cray’s Time Will Tell DVD-Audio to test Oppo’s performance with yet another format from the doomed format wars of the 90’s, an era that left most alternate formats in carnage. Anyone remember HDCD? Although DVD-Audio was perhaps the best at the time, none of these new formats provided many titles to choose from. In “Back Door Slam, the drums were very powerful and abundant. It had my Martin Logan Summits singing at higher volumes. Those that have heard or referenced Martin-Logan speakers know that they are some of the finest speaker in the world, yet they are not the most forgiving. If you feed electrostatic speakers poor source quality, they will let you know. They can expose flaws like no other. There was hardly a sniff of grain or noise that accompanied the music and the mix was very clear, rich and involving. I found myself forgetting that I was reviewing and got lost in the music.
Yes Fragile DVD-Audio is in my opinion the best quality DVD-Audio I have experienced. It’s a good mix with gobs of detail and a killer 70’s vibe. I picked the ever popular “Roundabout” as my review reference. I first listened in 5.1 surround to see how well the Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition Universal DVD Player could handle all channels of the mix. This was an impressive demo in that I again had my system very loud without annoying distortions and clipped dynamic range. I quickly shifted to the 24 bit/196kHz setting to eek out as much detail in the two-channel mode as I could. This setting was slightly better than the multi-channel 24/96kHz with regards to clarity and detail but it was surprisingly close and since I prefer the multi-channel version anyway, this was a pleasant blessing.
“I experimented with many SACD’s centering on one of my favorites, Alice in Chains Greatest Hits (Sony Records). In the song “Rooster,” a cut well known for the magical voice and lyrics of the late and great Layne Staley, but also the swirling guitar of Jerry Cantrell, if found this cut particularly involving. I focused on the details surround Staley’s voice and actually hear additional details that I had not previously recognized. There was clarity to the vocals that immediately drew me in but what impressed me the most was the overall improved soundstage. With regards to producing a live sounding image, the Oppo Special Edition was a champion. Soundstage is the sum of abundant information and this player was clearly providing this. I felt that the bass notes were a bit tighter with Denon yet the overall presentation was more palpable and believable with the Oppo. This surprised me and was not exactly what I expected. Although this format is all but dead in most people eyes, the Oppo BDP-83 SE is the right player for milking the most from your treasured SACD collection.
A Universal player is traditionally defined as having an ability to play anything. This Oppo Blu-ray player can indeed play just about any format of digital music or video content, making it come alive with clarity. That said, the feature set of Blu-ray players of all price ranges is still being defined and improved upon. Budget Blu-ray players at under $300 possess interactiveness with incredibly popular internet media websites such as Netflix and Pandora radio. At nearly triple the cost of these budget players, it would seem logical to me that Oppo would want those features in a premium costing Blu-ray player. Outside the missing internet media features, the next item that comes to mind is the remote. If you intend on using the remote instead of programming it into a universal remote, be warned that the remote is made of very slippery plastic and is awkward and does not fit comfortably in your hand. The remote also has a difficult layout and makes figuring out which side is up harder to discern.
The Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition Universal DVD Player is one of the few intermediately priced universal players that can provide the quality needed to shake loose from your other players. The biggest concern with universal players is that they most often do things well but due to their limited budget, they can’t do all things well and many of us are afraid to cut loose with our high-quality music players in order to have a single box. For entertainment systems that fit in this price range, you would be hard pressed to do better. Overall, I was really impressed with this player for movies as well as music from a host of formats. It’s not perfect but then again it’s a great player at a price point considerably below its performance. The remote is functional but unimpressive overall. Why is a remote so important to me? Many of you are like myself and find yourself in a darkened theater room when operating your system. We rely heavily on the remote to make this easy on us. The Oppo remote is average at best but clearly gets the job done.
In an industry that tells us to either spend more or accept compromise, the Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition Universal DVD Player is a breath of fresh air. Its performance is well beyond the price and plays most everything. If this is your price range and you are considering other players, do yourself a favor and add this one to the list. Listen to it and you’ll likely buy it; it's just that good.