Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition Blu-ray Player Review 
Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players
Written by Matt Evert   
Monday, 20 September 2010

The universal player market has long been dominated by a couple different categories.  A good percentage of the universal players are entry level and reside in our home computers.  Then there are the reference players like the Lexicon BD-30 and the Denon DVD-A1UDCI at $3500 and $4500 respectfully. The industry has long needed a high performing intermediate line for those of us that have nice theater systems but find $3500 for a universal player excessive.   For this reason, I was anxious to see if the Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition could fit this bill.

At $899, the Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition is the big brother to the BDP-83 and possesses higher performance features.  Among other features, the Special Edition comes with a completely new analog stage which provides better analog audio performance.  Additionally the Special Edition has a much improved power supply stage for lower distortions, improved color and both white and black limits.  The Special Edition also has improved DAC’s for better quality digital sound.

Control Panel

The Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition will play all of the common media formats including SACD, DVD-Audio, and of course, the high definition Blu-ray format that has captured the imagination of the world with 1080P resolution.   The Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition Universal DVD Player has all the necessary connections including one HDMI 1.3 output, one Toslink, one Coax DigitalAudio output, an Ethernet 10/100 for networking and a RS 232 serial port for Creston remotes and other automation.  

The Movies

Having had referenced many Sony players of the past with varying performances, I was intrigued with what Oppo was doing with this player.  It is atmpting to provide features that address many of our concerns with previous players.  We want a player that is good for our movies with quality DSP and DAC’s, but also addresses the common downside of universal players; poor analog audio performance.  For those like me that value and appreciate analog performance for our music, this is the feature that the intermediately priced market has longed for.  So let’s get this ride started.

I loaded up the Blu-ray version of A Bugs Life (Disney/Pixar) in an attempt to expose any weaknesses in the color saturation and to look for possible noise and motion artifacts.  From the opening scene the colors were a vast improvement over the Blu-ray drive in my Media Center PC.  The Oppo BDP-83 Special Edition provided excellent color details and was surprisingly void of excessive video noise that many sub $1k players often possess.  I was actually surprised that the colors were as rich as they were. Having seen the delicious color detail in the Denon DVD-A1UDCI, I was intrigued that they were reaching a high level of the Denon’s performance at a fraction of the price.  The sound was solid and very involving but did have a degree of grain that the Denon did not. But again, were comparing the Oppo to a player costing five times more - this is getting interesting.

Rear Panel left

The movie Gladiator (Dreamworks) has always served me well as a reference for both video and sound evaluations.  There are plenty of lush and detailed cinematography scenes for me to compare.  Also, having seen this movie in the theater back in 2000 when the movie was originally released, I can evaluate the reproduction of many aspects of the DVD.  In one of the closing scenes where Russell Crowe’s character has just been defeated by Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and Maximus’s girlfriend Lucilla is hovering over him with sadness, I focused particularly on the flowing hair of her character as it meets the clear blue sky.  The strands are very thin which yields a very clean delineation between the two contrasting colors.  With the Oppo player, her hair was perfectly defined without the faintest of stair-stepping, even at diagonal angles.  This was particularly impressive for me.  As I toggled back and forth between my reference, the Denon DV-5900, I saw a slightly better detail with the BDP-83.  This was surprising to me as I have long felt that the DV-5900 was my clear leader in the bang-for-the-buck category.  I actually preferred the picture from the Oppo.  When it came to sound, I rifled through this movie, playing varies chapters and felt that the Oppo did an exceptional job.  There were a couple areas where I felt there was sonic congestion at higher volumes that I didn’t hear from the Denon but for overall excitement, the Oppo BDP-83 was my clear favorite.

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.

DVD Audio

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.  

Rear Right side

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.

SACD

“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.

Front Readout


Downsides

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.   

Conclusion

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.

Front view





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