Oppo Digital is slowly but surely earning a reputation for building products that, in car enthusiasts’ parlance, are sleepers: that is, components that appear to be modest in price and appearance, but in fact turn out to be giant killers. I can think of no better example than Oppo’s slim, $149 DV- 970HD universal player, which supports DVD-Audio/Video, SACD, HDCD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, and DivX discs, and provides HDMI outputs with 720p/1080i upconversion. What really makes the Oppo special, though, is its core sound and video image quality, which are unexpectedly good—not just “for the money” but in a broader sense.
Easy to Use
The DV-970HD’s remote control and user interface proved easy to understand and use. In particular, I appreciated the way the Oppo lets me make on-the-fly audio and video adjustments during playback—a thoughtful touch.
The only areas that need further refinement are the Oppo’s unorthodox procedures for setting speaker distances and for controlling SACD playback. Strangely, when SACDs are first loaded into the player, traditional Rev/Fwd and Skip Back/Fwd track controls remain inoperative until after disc playback has been initiated. To select and play a specific SACD track, then, you would first hit Play, and then use the Skip Back/Fwd controls to advance to the track you wish to hear. This isn’t a problem in home theater systems with displays that facilitate track-totrack navigation, but it can make for counterintuitive operations when the player is used in audio systems without displays.
The Oppo acquitted itself well with DVD-Audio, SACD, and CD material, delivering well-balanced performance across all three formats—though DVDAudio discs typically sounded the best of all. The DV-970HD sounded terrific on “Sunshine of Your Love” from Cream bassist Jack Bruce’s Shadows in the Air [Silverline, DVD-A]. What wowed me was the way the Oppo caught the crying sound of guest artist Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster guitar, as well as the deep, throaty snarl of Bruce’s fretless Warwick Thumb bass guitar (I’ve never heard that instrument more convincingly rendered).