Oppo Digital UDP 205 Disc Player

The Oppo Digital UDP-205 is a universal disc player—it plays 4k, 3D and HD Blu-ray discs, DVDs, CDs, SACDs, DVD Audios, and various digital audio formats. Price: $1299. For more information about it features go to: https://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-udp-205/

Oppo Digital is one of my favorite companies. Oppo has consistently produced high quality components at reasonable prices. The reasons that sets them apart, from most player companies, is their ongoing emphasis on sound and build quality. I have been reviewing Oppo products since their first DVD player, and welcomed this new addition to their product line.

The Oppo 205 arrived in exceptional packing. The build quality was far above most players. Setup was fairly easy—the digital inputs (HDMI audio and video, USB audio and video, optical and coax digital audio and RS232C) allow for a great deal of flexibility for using the Oppo as a DAC or video up-sampler.

Of course, now for the acid test—how does it sound and look. The 4K native video is outstanding. The 4K up-sampling produces almost as good of a picture as native 4K. For testing, I played some 4K discs that came with a regular Blu-ray; on the Oppo 205 you could see a slightly better picture with the 4K disc. Up sampled DVDs can almost look HD. Some DVDs that I thought were unwatchable are now watchable. The Oppo 205 also supports HDR-10 and Dolby Video capability. This gives a viewer stronger color intensity and variety. The sound of the 205 is substantially better than my previous reference system, the Oppo 105D—Instruments are more clearly placed and defined; the whole image is more solid; there are greater and better dynamics. I was surprised by how much better the sound of the 205. While I did expect some differences, I definitely got more than expected. I hooked up my computer via HDMI, to enjoy streamed material from the internet, decoded by the Oppo.

While on the whole this is an impressive packaging of features, there are two omissions that were on pervious Oppo’s that are not on the 205. First there are no internet applications. Considering the usefulness of the 105s internet applications, this is not significant—probably done to keep the price down for the player. The addition of internet applications done right, might have cost several hundred dollars in the finished product. The second omission was far more serious. The new Oppo 205 doesn’t decode HDCD. I do not know why they did this. HDCDs played thru the 205 sounded dull. I called Oppo and asked about HDCD decoding, and they confirmed that the 205 does not include HDCD decoding. They do have a solution—if I wanted to decode HDCD, I could use a separate decoder. Although I was planning on selling my 105D, I have decided to use it as a HDCD decoder. I sent the digital audio signal from the 205 to the 105 via coax digital. With that, the magic was back for the HDCD recordings. I compared playing HDCDs thru the 105 directly, and with the 205 to the 105. The 205-105 combination was slightly better.

One thing I should mention is that listeners that have not listened to a five step treated disc, have no idea what their discs can sound like. An example of this is the new Vaughan Williams Symphonia Antarctica SACD published by Chandos. Out of the box it sounded good, but had something missing. After treating the disc, it sounded significantly better. Treating a disc can make a fair disc sound good, and a good disc sound great. To be fair, on Blu-rays there is only a small difference. People that tout the virtues of analog should listen to a CD or SACD that has had a good treatment

Are 4K and 3D really useful formats, at this time? To me 3D is just a gimmick and is already on its way out. 4k has tremendous promising format. I have to question the selection of movies put out in 4K. They are mainly super hero, inane comedies or cartoons. Modern movies are mostly darkly shot and CGI, which can’t use the full benefits of 4K. There are not many movies out that I consider achievable. The Planet Earth II probably is the best use of 4K technology out today. There is a fair amount of 4K material on the internet from YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix. To me, replacing a good quality Blu-ray with a 4K disc is little questionable.

The Oppo 205 is the best universal player out there at near the price. Its sound competes with CD and SACD players at many at many times the cost of the 205. Plus the Oppo 205 gives you multichannel, 3D, Blu-ray, and 4K. It can act as a high end DAC. I have definite fears about the future of optical discs. Already about two-thirds of the music is gone on disc or digital download. Storing digital downloads on your computer has risks; storing digital downloads in the cloud also has risks—although they are lower— and unfortunately there is the monthly fee to store your music. I question how much longer that some formats may be put on players, especially after the HDCD decoding has been eliminated from the Oppo. I feel that the music industry would like to go to a “pay to play” format. I have been collecting music and movies to have them in case this happens. Who knows when older formats will be eliminated on players?

For those who can’t use audiophile sound,  there is the Oppo 203—at $549.00, this may be the second best universal player.

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