The Oppo Blu-Ray Player and The Spears and Munsil Benchmark Disc - A First Look
I received a review sample of the new Oppo Universal Blu-Ray player about a week ago. It has the final production hardware, but the firmware is still in the beta stage and will probably get another update before regular production versions begin shipping.
This version will play Blu-Ray, SACDs, DVD-As, DVDs, CDs, and MP3 disks. The Oppo player has HDMI and component YCRB video outputs. Audio outputs include analog two-channel, analog 5.1/7.1, digital optical and coaxial, and HDMI. The rear panel also has a USB 2.0, Ethernet, and IR in and out connections. The front panel has an additional USB 2.0 port. The Ethernet connection allows the unit to perform automatic firmware updates via the Internet.
The Oppo Blu-Ray player came with a Spears and Munsil High Definition Benchmark Disc from Hand Forged Video, which I used to check my projector’s calibration before watching other discs. I was very impressed with the Spears and Munsil disc. It has a complete and user-friendly set of calibration and evaluation patterns. Each pattern is well documented so that even a novice user can quickly learn how to use each pattern. The disc has a great “race car clip” that allows users to check their player, scaler, and display devices’ source adaptive deinterlacing capabilities from film-based sources. The disc also has clips to check edge adaptive deinterlacing from video source material. In short this disc delivers everything you need to set up your video system and determine exactly how good it really is.
The first impressive performance feature of the new Oppo player is how fast it loads and plays Blu-Ray discs. It took less than 10 seconds for the initial title of the Spears and Munsil disc to begin playing. Its response to menu commands was spritely, with virtually no delays or hesitation.
The remote control for the New Oppo is equally impressive. It’s well laid out with all the controls in logical locations, has built-in backlighting for all of its buttons, and feels comfortable to use. It’s certainly a far cry better than Oppo’s first generation remotes.
Since Playback will soon be examining the Oppo’s video and audio performance in great detail, I’ll keep my initial thoughts on its performance brief. Its video performance on both Blu-Ray and standard DVDs easily bested my Sony BP-300 player. The images displayed less video noise, especially in the shadow areas.
I was extremely impressed by the Oppo’s analog audio output. SACDs sounded as good through the Oppo as they did through my longtime reference Lexicon RT-20. Blu-Ray movie soundtracks with the latest True-HD encoding actually sounded better through the Oppo’s analog outputs rather than through its digital connections routed directly into my Lexicon MC-12B HD (which does not support these latest formats.)
Although this was technically a pre-production sample, I haven’t discovered any of the operational or ergonomic glitches that usually plague prototypes. If this unit is any indication of the quality of the soon to be released production model, Oppo has a tremendous hit on their hands. Consumers’ biggest problem will be getting one.