Over recent years, Oppo Digital has followed a simple recipe for success: just build universal disc players that offer greater versatility, more audiophile-friendly features, and better all around sound and picture quality than your competitors, and then sell them for sensible prices. Naturally, this laudable goal is a lot easier to describe on paper than it is to achieve out in the real world, but Oppo has made good on its promises, year after year and player after player, in the process earning a reputation as the nearly automatic “go-to” source for players that will satisfy discerning music (and movie) lovers on a budget.
Historically, many of Oppo’s most popular players have sold for around £499—a relatively modest price point where Oppo has traditionally been a value-for-money leader. But never a company to rest on its laurels, however, Oppo has recently announced the BDP-105EU (£1,199)—a player that promises to do everything its predecessor could do and then some.
The BDP-105EU can handle virtually any format of audio or video disc you’d care to throw at it, including Blu-ray Video, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, HDCD, and more. But with the BDP-105EU the universality theme doesn’t end with disc playback because the new player is also designed to serve both as a network-streaming player and as a multi-input high resolution DAC (complete with asynchronous USB DAC functionality). Video mavens might also want to note that the BDP-105EU is capable of serving as a powerful, inline video processing engine/scaler for use with various outboard video source components.
To really “get” what the BDP-105EU is about, think of it not so much as a powerful multi-format disc player per se (although it is that and more), but rather as a multi-function digital media playback hub whose bag of tricks includes, but is in no way limited to, disc playback. In practical terms, this means the BDP-105EU neatly resolves debates about whether it is better to listen to discs, to stream content from the Internet, or to enjoying audio files stored on computers, because it can quite happily enable you to do all of the above.
The BDP-105EU comes housed in an all-new steel chassis said to be significantly more rigid than the chassis used in previous Oppo players, and it benefits from a fan- less architecture, meaning all internal components are convection cooled (most previous Oppos required fan-cooling). Do such seemingly small detail changes like a more rigid chassis or a fan-free design make for meaningful sonic improvements? My opinion (based on extensive comparisons between the BDP-105EU and its 95EU predecessor) is that they do. Specifically, the new player offers a noticeable more solid and “grounded” sound with quieter backgrounds, improved resolution of low-level transient and textural details, and superior three-dimensionality.
Moving on, the 105EU uses a beefy toroidal power supply and provides both 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs plus two separate sets of stereo analogue outputs (one single-ended and the other fully balanced). Interestingly, the BDP-105EU (like the BDP-95EU) features not one but rather two costly 8-channel ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, one used to feed the 7.1-channel outputs and the other used exclusively to feed the two sets of stereo outputs. What’s interesting is that ESS’s Sabre32 Reference DACs have seen use in some very expensive components, making it all the more impressive that Oppo fits two of the devices into its sub-£1200 player.
Another new touch is that the BDP-105EU provides a built-in headphone amp that runs straight off one of the player’s ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs. While I the headphone amp offer relatively modest output (at least on paper), it has the undeniable benefit of being fed directly from one of the Oppo’s ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, so that it gives listeners an unusually pure, uncluttered, intimate, and up close perspective on the music (precisely what you would want for monitoring applications, for example). I found the Oppo headphone amp had more than enough output to drive moderately sensitive headphones such as the HiFiMAN HE-400s or PSB M4U1s, though it might not have sufficient “oomph” for some of today’s more power-hungry top-tier ‘phones (for instance, the HiFiMAN HE-6).
While the original BDP-95EU offered a reasonable range of Internet content options and could play digital audio files from USB storage devices or eSATA drives, it was never set up to function as multi-input playback device or as a high-resolution audio DAC (though many 95EU owners certainly wished for these capabilities). The 105EU changes all this by offering a greatly expanded ranges of general-purpose inputs, including two HDMI inputs (one that is faceplate accessible and MHL-compatible) and three USB 2.0 ports (one that is faceplate accessible). Moreover, the 105EU also provides three dedicated DAC inputs: two S/PDIF inputs (one coaxial, one optical), plus one asynchronous USB input. Finally, to complete the connectivity picture the new player provides both Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connections implemented, respectively, through a rear panel-mounted RJ-45 connector and a handy USB Wi-Fi dongle.
To take full advantage of these network-connection options, the BDP- 105EU offers DLNA compatibility, complete with support for DMP (Digital Media Player) and DMR (Digital Media Renderer) protocols. In practice, the means the BDP-105EU can access audio, picture, and video files stored on DLNA-compatible digital media servers (that is, personal computers or network attached storage devices) that share a common network with the Oppo within your home.
Video enthusiasts will want to know that the BDP-105EU sports a powerful Marvell Qdeo Kyoto-G2 video-processing engine that can be used either by the Oppo itself, or by outboard video sources whose signals are routed through the Oppo. The Marvell engine offers picture adjustments (brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, color enhancement, and contrast enhancement), provides upscaling to “4K” (that is, 3840 x 2160) resolution, and can convert 2D material for 3D playback (the latter two being features the BDP-95EU did not support).
From this technical overview, you can see that the BDP-105EU is an extraordinarily flexible source component, but for most audiophiles the key question is, and always will be, “How does it sound?” Let’s focus on that question next.
From the outset, the BDP-105EU struck me as being a very high- resolution player—one that made child’s play of digging way down deep within recordings to retrieve small, essential pieces of musical information that helped convey a sense of realism. To hear what I mean, try the track “O Vazio” from the Jim Brock Ensemble as captured on Jazz Kaleidoscope—a sampler disc (in HDCD format) from Reference Recordings. Throughout this track the Oppo did a stunning job of rendering the distinctive attack and action of each of the instruments in the ensemble (accordion, bass, drum kit, guitar, trumpet, winds, and other more exotic percussion instruments), giving them a commanding sense of presence with precisely focused placement within a wide, deep, three-dimensional soundstage. In particular, the105EU showed terrific speed and agility on the leading edges of notes (especially on the drums), rendering them with the sort of surefooted clarity and convincing impact that reminded me of the sound of far more costly players.
But another song from Jazz Kaleidoscope, “Jordan” from the Brock/ Manakas Ensemble, contains a brief, quiet passage that reveals another important aspect of the BDP-105EU: namely, its impressive ability to maintain focus and resolution even when playing at very low- levels. After the introduction of the song, which lasts about 35 seconds, the music comes to a dramatic pause that eventually is broken by the extremely faint sound of a cymbal (or small gong?) gently introducing the rhythmic pulse that will supply a heartbeat for the rest of the song. At first, the cymbal is heard so softly that its sound barely rises above the noise floor, yet even so the Oppo gets the sound of the instrument right, preserving all the essential elements of attack, timbre, and decay. This uncanny ability to resolve very low-level musical information enables the BDP-105EU to flesh out soundstages in a delightfully coherent and believable three- dimensional way, enabling listeners to here all the little interactions between instruments and the acoustic spaces in which they are playing. While the original BDP-95EU did a fine job in this respect, I would say the BDP-105EU sounds better still.
The voicing of the BDP-105EU is generally neutral, with taut, deep, and well-controlled bass, transparent mids, and revealing, extended highs (though this is a player that tends to expose mediocre recording for what they are). Pleasing though the Oppo can be, some might find it a bit lean sounding or austere compared to some of the more deliberately warm-sounding offerings on the market. If you prefer components that give a voluptuous musical presentation then the Oppo might not be your cup of tea, but if sonic honesty and neutrality are your things you should get on very well with this player indeed.
Let me expand on my voicing comments by pointing out that the BDP- 105EU needs a lot of run-in time to sound its best (some say as much as 200 hours or more). As playing time accumulates, sonic traces of leanness and austerity gradually melt away, thus enabling the player to reveal a smoother, more full-bodied, and more forgiving sonic persona.
If you buy the notion that some source components try for a softer, smoother, and thus ostensibly “musical” presentation while others aim for maximum musical information retrieval, then I would say the Oppo falls squarely in the information retrieval camp (as do a great many other high-performance solid-state players). Thus, tonal colors are rendered vividly through the Oppo, but without any exaggeration or oversaturation, so that there is nothing artificially sweetened, enriched, or “glowing” about the 105EU’s sound (you would never mistake it for a typical tube-based player). Instead, the Oppo is one of those rare “what you hear is what you get” sorts of players whose primary mission is to tell you how your discs or digital music files actually sound, which in my book can be a beautiful thing.
As a disc player, the BDP-105EU is more than good enough to show in palpable ways how well recorded SACDs really do sound better than their equivalent CDs (there’s greater smoothness and ease with SACDs, and simply more “there” there, so to speak). But as a DAC, the Oppo really comes into own, sounding much like it does when playing discs, but with subtly heightened levels of tonal saturation and warmth that make the music seem more engaging and intense, yet without seeming overblown in any way.
Are there caveats? Apart from the extensive run-in requirements noted above, I can think of only a few. First, the BDP-105EU is an inherently complex product that—at the end of the day—is simpler to navigate and control use when it is connected to a display screen, which might be off-putting to audio puritans purists. Second, the player’s sound is so unashamedly refined and sophisticated that you may feel inspired (if not compelled) to use top-tier interconnect cables that—no joke—will wind up costing more than the player does. But trust us on this one: the Oppo’s worth it.
If ever a product deserved to be considered the Swiss Army knife of digital media playback, the BDP-105EU is the one. Whether you choose it for multi- format disc playback, for network streaming capabilities, or to use as a DAC at the heart of a computer audio system, the BDP-105EU will consistently serve up levels of sonic refinement and sophistication the belie its modest price. Enthusiastically recommended.
Disc Types: BD-Video, Blu-ray 3D, DVD- Video, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE
BD Profile: BD-ROM Version 2.5 Profile 5
Internal Storage: 1GB
Supported Internet Streaming Content applications: Netflix, YouTube Leanback, and Picasa. A BBC iPlayer application is also under development.
Inputs: Two S/PDIF inputs (one coaxial, one optical), three USB 2.0 inputs, two HDMI inputs, three dedicated DAC inputs (one coaxial, one optical, and one asynchronous USB), one Ethernet port (RJ-45), one Wi-Fi port (via USB dongle).
Outputs: One 7.1-channel analogue audio output, two stereo analogue audio outputs (one set balanced via XLRs, one set single-ended via RCA jacks), two digital audio outputs (one coaxial, one optical), two HDMI outputs
Frequency response: (RCA) 20Hz – 20kHz: ± 0.2dB, 20Hz – 96kHz: -1.5dB; (XLR) 20Hz – 20kHz: ±0.3dB, 20Hz – 96kHz: -1.5dB; (Headphone Amp) 20Hz – 20kHz: ± 0.3dB
THD + Noise: <0.0003% (1kHz at 48k/24b, 0dBFS, 20kHz LPF), <0.0017% (1kHz at 44.1k/16b, 0dBFS, 20kHz LPF, <0.01% into 600 Ohms (1kHz at 48k/24b, 0dBFS, 20kHz LPF, Headphone Amplifier)
Headphone Amplifier Output: 17mW @ 600 Ohms, 34mW @300 Ohms, 63mW @ 150 Ohms, 77mW @ 120 Ohms, 120mW @ 60 Ohms, 187mW @ 32 Ohms
DAC Resolution: (USB Audio) 2 channels @ 192k/24b PCM, (Coaxial/Optical) 2 channels @ 96k/24b
Dimensions (H x W x D): 12.3x43x31.1cm Mass: 7.9 kg
Distributed by: Oppo BD UK, Ltd.