Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Player Review 
Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players
Written by Thomas Spurlin   
Friday, 29 May 2009

Reputation often precedes any compliments that can be dished about OPPO as a company, largely in the realm of world cinema.  Their 970 and 980 lines of DVD players handle just about anything thrown at them, all while upscaling standard-definition discs to impeccable quality.  When word inked into the picture that OPPO would be releasing a “Universal” Blu-ray player, their BDP-83, many a mouth salivated.   However, a few breaks have to be slammed on this parade: region coding issues have locked its Blu-ray capacity to Region A, and its standard-definition player capacity has been relegated to Region 1/0 discs.  

OPPO’s BDP-83 has taken strong strides in surmounting these obstacles, decisions mostly dictated by restrictions out of their control.  Instead of trying to finagle malleable technology into their player like the Momitsu multi-region player on the market now, they seeped directly into refining everything underneath the hood.  Out cranks this fine player, which is a compelling and impressive infusion of technological prowess, limited yet impressive versatility, and overall exceptional rendering of both new and old home video formats.  “Universal” might be misleading for those familiar with OPPO’s lineage, but tunes will chance once they’ve wrapped their hands around this outstanding ~$500 unit.  

Out of the Box

Arriving in a surprisingly sturdy box with an array of packing materials inside, along with a nice sheet of glossy paper with the product printed on top, the experience in opening this OPPO player operates in much the same way that the company itself has established itself over the years – offering more within the box than the sticker price claims.  The player itself comes in a signature OPPO fabric shoulder bag, while all of the components sit safely in a sturdy, sharp-looking box with the company’s branding on the side.  It comes with run of the mill analog A/V cables and a weighty power supply cord.  OPPO has also included a rather tightly-assembled HDMI cable with this package, a thick-corded HDMI 1.3 cable with strong gold-plated connectors.

Oppo packaging

 At the front, a highly inconspicuous USB 2.0 drive is hidden by a sturdy silicone-like rectangular cover.  It’s the access point to load up firmware updates via flash/jump drive, as well as to play audio and video  video files – more on that later.  To the rear, one HDMI output is available to input into a desired source, running into an Onkyo SR605 for this review.  If HDMI audio isn’t a possibility, the player also contains 7.1 / 5.1 analog jacks, as well as optical / coaxial outputs for lower-resolution sound processing.  Furthermore, a second USB 2.0 port sits to the back if the front is currently occupied, along with a set of designated Stereo jacks.   

At first glace, it’s obvious that a lot of time has been put into ensuring satisfaction with OPPO’s aesthetic build.  Their BDP-83, measuring close to 17 inches wide, a hair over 13 inches deep, and roughly 3 inches tall, comes with a slick, semi-matte, black brushed metallic finish on the front end that adds to its simplistic yet elegant design.  Minimalist lighting gives it a very sleek look, one that sports a chic look for its traditional front-loaded design.  It’s somewhat bulky, stretching as far back as Toshiba’s HD-A2, and comparable in height to a standard Motorola cable box – maybe a half an inch taller.  Simplicity, however, definitely adds to the leanness of its appearance, along with counterbalancing its concentration on a substantial, protective build; with minimal busyness on the face, a slick Power On/Off button, and a very sharp circular skip design for the navigation bezel (maybe a hint of Apple influence, though not touch-based), it’s a practical and attractive unit that meets form and function head-on. 

Oppo packaging 2

oppo remoteAlso included in the box is OPPO’s moderately sturdy remote, one that obviously pays close attention to both home entertainment enthusiasts and more mainstream handlers in functionality. It’s a bit large, but the remote fits in one’s hand quite well.  Solidity of build, button size, and functionality make up for the size, as visibility on the buttons and the general interface chimes in by being very user-friendly.  Adorned with visible typography on both the remote chassis itself and the buttons, all of the functions clearly leap off of the unit.  Though the color of the light is a little glaring, it does have a bright orange-yellow backlight to assist with nighttime entertainment screening.  The layout might be simple, but it’s highly functional: along with the classic four-point directional navigation bezel at the center and the Top Menu, Pop Up Menu, Setup, and Return functions at its corners, the four-colored buttons follow underneath with the Stop, Play, and Pause Buttons – which are, all three, quality sizes.  

Along with the standard functions, the Remote also boasts a couple of strong additions to the standard roster.  Foremost, the OPPO has been built in with a Zoom function, a very helpful function that mostly assists with non-anamorphic DVDs and constant image height (CIH) setups.  Most modern televisions come with a built-in “aspect ratio” toggle that can combat letterbox / non-16x9 discs, but they oftentimes can’t get the screen positioning quite as accurate as an internal, incremental size toggle.  OPPO’s function is extremely able, taking the viewing angle in to 1.2x, 1.3x, 1.5x, 2x, as well as back to 1/2x if necessary, along with Stretch, Underscan, and a robust “Full” zoom that works nicely for non-anamorphic discs.  

On a different tangent, the remote has come with a Pure Audio function which blips off the television (and the player, momentarily) to allow for a seamless aural experience without the on-screen display.   Lastly, the OPPO BDP-83 has come with a Dimmer option to greatly tailor the brightness of the numerical display on the player – even though, at full blast, the numbers are at a very pleasing level.  Though a bit on the large side, this remote works hard to counterbalance the bulk by encompassing as much user-friendliness and firmness of design as possible.  

Setup:

When the Setup function is accessed on the player, a slightly dark yet attractive interface pops up that allows for the following access features: Playback Setup, Video Setup, Audio Setup, Audio Format Setup, Audio Processing, Device Setup, and Network Setup.  Playback allows for fine-tuning of the OPPO experience, ranging from SACD channel priority (DSD or PCM) to the Parental Controls, while the Device and Network Options cover most of the standard basis in those realms – dimmer control, firmware information, and IP configuration (which handles individual signals just fine on its own).  

Video Setup allows for a fairly dense Picture Adjustment which, when paired with any range of demo discs, makes for strong availability to fine tweak standard functions (Brightness, Contrast, Hue) and other earmark items (Noise Reduction, Border Level, Detail Enhancement).  On top of that, the Video also covers adjustments for the style of television (NTSC / PAL, 16x9 / 4:3), Output Resolution, along with 1080p24 Output and DVD 24P Conversion Toggles.  Under the HDMI Options, it also allows for a toggle in the De-interlacing spectrum, Color Space adjustment, and tailoring for HDMI Deep Color (set to 36) and A/V Sync.

For the Audio Format Setup and Processing, the OPPO addresses a more serviceable array of functions – including an HDMI Audio toggle, SACD toggle between DSD and PCM, Bitstream selection for Coaxial/Optical, and the PCM rate limit.  Audio Processing mostly covers the Speaker configuration for the listening space, addressing the number of speakers in the arena, and the capacity to Down Mix the signal to LT/RT, Stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 options that depend on the equipment being used.  Out of the box, the OPPO’s settings are rather solid – aside from standard adjustments in speaker size and distance, as well as tailoring the audio sync to the equipment’s needs. 

setup menu

Performance:

OPPO’s BDP-83 received a workout via several different styles of Blu-ray discs, ranging from state-of-the-art digital film technology to grainy low-grade quality, as well as from one of 2008’s brightest and most interestingly detailed computer-generated films.  In a nutshell, OPPO’s player certainly packs an extraordinary punch in both aural and visual specs in the technology – whether consideration is taken for its price tag or not.  Displaying splendid 1080p depth and sending through raw bitstream audio tracks from the discs (always refreshing to see the DTS HD Master Audio and TrueHD tokens crop up on a capable receiver – this one being Onkyo’s SR605), it’s a notably powerful, astonishingly quiet player with just a few operational caveats.   For reference, all of the discs were tested via HDMI through the designated receiver, outputting at 1080p.
 
As a give-in example to test its capacity to render one of the benchmark releases to date, the OPPO first got to taste a bit of Paramount / Criterion’s release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  As a warm-up, the OPPO was already looking rather striking in this reviewer’s eyes by rendering this beautiful 2.4:1 disc; composing detail, color contrast, and near-touchable textures, it made the beautiful, albeit digitally manipulated, New Orleans’ setting look stunning.  Color depth was staggering, rendering the beautiful range of cold blues in the hospital scenes to the warm yet under-saturated tones throughout all of Ben’s endeavors.  On the audio front, the disc offers a DTS HD Master Audio track – which streamed brilliantly.   Depth in vocal strength, musical accompaniment, and tight, throaty yet tailored bass levels highlighted this experience, one that was even better than the already high expectations.  

Next, it was time to test a slightly more complicated disc -- Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.  Shot with Super 16mm film, it doesn’t build into the most awe-inspiring of high-definition experiences.  However, added clarity and depth of color when rendering a tough source is still very important, something the OPPO BDP-83 handles splendidly.  It took a while for the OPPO to load the disc due to Fox’s lengthy boot times, but it was worth the wait.  Though grainy in its 2.35:1 image, there’s a lot of nice detail that pours through the lower-quality source in The Wrestler – wood grain, skin tones, and fabric texture on knee wraps and clothing.  Rendering the image’s noise in a solid fashion, all while bitstreaming the DTS HD Master Audio perfectly, the OPPO handles it by supporting the grain structure and building apt solidity where needed without any distortion.  

Oppo rear

Somewhere in between, Tartan’s Blu-ray presentation of Park Chan-wook’s comedy I’m a Cyborg displayed an equally impressive experience.  Differing a bit from the director’s normal 2.35:1 framing, this disc carries a 1.78:1 aspect ratio – brightly colored, richly detailed, and exquisite in many ways.  From the slick, pastel-heavy visual design to the tight attention to little mechanical details like metallic weave on a radio, OPPO’s player lends a natural air about even more highly unnatural elements.  This disc comes with both DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD tracks, both of which streamed into the receiver and popped up with the proper labeling on the display.  Though this disc is region-free for the film itself, the special features are encoded in PAL and, therefore, cannot be played in many players in the United States.  The OPPO, in a slightly stunning move, have enabled the BDP-83 to play PAL special features – activating the SD Making-of featurette and others available for screening.  They might not have been able to make their player region-free for Blu-rays, but making these otherwise unwatchable special features helps to ease the blow.

Finally, it was time to give animation a go on OPPO’s diligent machine in the form of Dreamworks / Paramount’s Kung Fu Panda, an excellent release in its own right.  Ranging from compelling hand-drawn attractiveness in its first few minutes to exquisitely built 3D animation, OPPO’s player handled both the richness of color and the attention to detail in compelling ways.  Po’s stumble around the noodle house showcases the player’s capacity to render extraordinarily minute details, slick color gradation, and an immensely potent sound design with the Dolby TrueHD track.  

Accessing BD-Live was successful via the Ethernet port to the rear of the unit, though it took a while to access and boot up Sony’s BD-Live site for The Da Vinci Code.  However, once it connected and started to navigate through, the player’s software supported the experience well.  It allowed for connection with Sony’s site to redeem a movie ticket for Angels and Demons, connecting to an e-mail account without any stumbles.  Profile 1.1 content, however, was a bit finicky.    Out of the box, it would load the PiP at the lower extremities of the screen for several discs (Angels and Demons, Kung Fu Panda) – but wouldn’t attach the sound files to the secondary picture.  With the latest firmware file (BDP83-22-0430) loaded onto the machine, it has some difficulties; hopefully, with further updates, the BD-Java will run a bit smoother.  

To test the region-coding status of the OPPO BDP-83, a copy of Fox’s Region B-locked The Fountain was given a spin – which, sadly, was rejected due to region status.  Fox’s statement popped on the screen, along with a slight wave of disappointment in this reviewer’s eyes.  It’s an expected rejection, but it’s still a mild deterrent from the player.



Standard Definition DVD:

Next, it was time to enter OPPO’s safety zone in the standard definition realm.  By comparison to several other up-scaling machines – including OPPO’s older models – the BDP-83’s Anchor Bay VSR de-interlacer / scaler handles up-conversion to 1080p signals exceedingly well.   Though locked to Region 1/0, tested by attempting to play the Edko Region 3 copy of House of Flying Daggers to no avail, it does play Region Free PAL DVDs.  Though a very pleasant surprise, it’s also a curious decision.  With the processor inside to handle PAL DVDs, it’s odd for the now-famous brand of versatile players to limit their capacity to handle multi-region discs since the equipment’s there.   Still, as seen through giving the Region Free PAL copy of A Bittersweet Life a go, it spins both the film and the special features with exceptional quality.

Along the way, several other discs were tested: Disney’s DVD (and Blu-ray) of Pinocchio, Paramount’s Sunset Boulevard Centennial Collection – a test for grayscale, 1.33 images – and Universal’s DTS edition of Jurassic Park to give the legacy higher-resolution track a run around the track.  Of course, the quality of the image largely depends on the transfer itself; however, OPPO’s BDP-83 delivers a sharp, fluid upscale experience with practically anything thrown at it.  Black contrast levels looked outstanding in Billy Wilder’s film, handling the limited Stereo / Mono track with strong buoyancy, while the hand-drawn image from Pinocchio holds up comparably to its Blu-ray counterpart.  Jurassic Park delivered a very pleasing aural experience, exercised primarily during the iconic “tyrannosaurus” sequence at the heart of the film.  When compared to some of the modern tracks, this DTS option might seem a little on the “rumbling” side by today’s standard.  OPPO’s audio processing, however, helped the bass sound tighter than with previous screenings.  To match that, Universal’s video transfer is relatively dated as well – but the BDP-83 helped it feel fairly solid, wrangling some of the flatness and lackluster digital quality of its age into an impressive screening.  

Audio:

Along with the BDP-83’s home entertainment capacities, it boasts the “universal” moniker largely due to its ability to handle audio devices as well – including files via USB drive.  As a media device, OPPO’s player has impressed once again.  When tapping into the flash drive to access MP3 files, it loads an intuitive interface that automatically finds designated files of that format.  Playing Enigma’s Sitting on the Moon was a strong sounding experience, resonating to all of the channels in surprisingly clear fashion.  It didn’t, however, register MP4 files, so accessing those will require conversion from MP4 to MP3 before carrying them over.  The interface, when given the proper files, even contains the capacity to build a “Playlist” among the options – a show of real concentration in engineering from OPPO on the software side of things.  Moreover, after popping the jump drive into the player’s front-loaded USB, the data loads fast.
 
In addition, the OPPO player also navigates well through SACD and DVD-Audio files – tested extensively here with The Nordic Sound 2L Audiophile reference disc for SACD.  Starting at the top of the SACD disc included in the two-piece package (Blu-ray being the other), Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major sounded astounding, sending violin flutters across the 5-channel sound stage in scintillating fashion.  Nordheim: Colorazione (excerpt) takes things into a more abstract direction, showcasing the mid-range pitches and lower-extremity capacity of the disc nicely – all while exercising the upper shelf with chimes, drum taps, and sweeping sound effects aplenty.  The sound level pinches ever so slightly in higher-range elements with the electronic portions, but that’s only with heavy concentration on individual points; processing the higher-resolution audio files from the SACD proved to be quite a sweeping experience.  The Gregorian Chant – Crux Fidelis, however, can really knock a few socks off.  The echoic properties of the singers swooning through the soundstage proved to be a near-perfect listening experience, handling mid-range, subtle bass effects sumptuously with no distortion.  

CD Playback, however, has a few issues.  First, the sound quality was very strong with few audio issues; bass rumbles a little harder than expected, especially during rock riffs from the likes of the Across the Universe soundtrack, but vocal clarity and mid-range quality were very satisfactory.  Issues exist with fast-forwarding and rewinding, of all things.  When going forward and back along an audio track, the fluidness and timeliness to move across points are both erratic.  Progressions from track to track works just fine, but skipping to particular points in lengthier tracks – which some lengthier concerts and such could carry – might be rather unnerving on the senses.

Impressions Round-up:

OPPO’s BDP-83 has three big factors working in its favor: it’s versatile, it’s quiet, and it’s outstanding at displaying the aural and visual properties of the Blu-ray technology.  Stepping forward and investing $500 into the high-definition home video market is still taking a sharp shot – especially considering the large, jet black elephant in the room, fondly referred to as the Playstation 3.  No matter the type of Blu-ray discs that it’ll be purchased for, whether it’s high-impact action flicks or world cinema, it’s capable at displaying a crisp, properly saturated image with plenty of “pop” in all the right places.  But it’s most impressive in, interestingly, the DTS HD Master Audio / Dolby TrueHD audio department, taking this reviewer aback more than once with the capacity to sound off with some incredibly natural, echoic, starkly dimensional blasts of sound from several discs.  Simply, it’s a stellar Blu-ray player when screening films -- even if it has a trek ahead in refining its firmware, particularly the issue with PiP hiccups.
 
Cascading off of that notion, The BDP-83 also stands out impressively as an upscaling DVD player, helping to ease the high-definition fiscal blow by keeping standard-definition DVDs looking and sounding stellar.  As most audio/video people know, it won’t make them look exactly like Blu-ray discs – but it will flex its muscle enough to make them feel somewhat comparable.  Plus, it’s just sound thought that some discs won’t require a supplemental (or introductory) purchase in native 1080p resolution, let alone the concept that more obscure discs might not receive a boost into the high-definition arena.  For that, the upconversion becomes another integral part to consider in a purchase – and this OPPO, of course, acknowledges that whole-heartedly, all within packing in its Anchor Bay VSR scaling chip currently available in its current 983 model DVD player.  On top of that, the OPPO earns some of the “universal” marker on its marketing by handling a broad range of audio and video files – including SACD, DVD-Audio, and doing a strong job with MP3 files via its USB hub to the front – with barely a stumble to dwell on.  

All points considering – the limited verbose behind its “universal” playability claim, the earmarks implemented to compensate, and its overall prowess with handling its core function as a Blu-ray player – the OPPO BDP-83 earns easy acknowledgement as a stellar machine within the high-definition home video front.    It fights to earn its price tag by offering a sublime Blu-ray and DVD experience, along with supporting several other audio components as well.  Though it’s a bit pricier than some of the other models on the market, the nudge in price positively echoes in both technical and tangible quality.  OPPO’s introductory Blu-ray player hits the nail on the head in cinematic quality, which helps in justifying a purchase for this substantial, exciting piece of Blu-ray equipment that needs just a hair or two of additional refinement on the software side of things.  In short, OPPO has done an impressive job with their preliminary Blu-ray player, one that delivers the high-definition goods to pleasing degrees.






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