Free DSD Firmware Update for Oppo 103 & 105 Universal Disc Players

by | Mar 29, 2013 | Component Reviews







(BDP-103 SRP: $499).  Full specifications:

Oppo Digital
2629 Terminal Blvd., Suite B
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 961-1118


Associated equipment:

My listening room is equipped with an Emotiva UMC-200 processor, an Emotiva XPA-2 power amp, delivering 500 watts at 4 ohms into my Magnepan 3.6r speakers. Surrounds are Aperion Zona’s. Subwoofer is a Polk PSW505.

A beta firmware release this week has given the two most recent Oppo universal disc players the ability to play DSD files, which are becoming all the rage among some audiophiles.  I had looked into getting something that allowed playback of Direct Stream Digital (DSD) files, but was reluctant to invest in the hardware. Now, Oppo owners get that ability for free.

My own player is a BDP-103, so I took the plunge and installed the beta firmware. After restoring my player settings, I was off to find some DSD files. I started online.  Channel Classics produces some superb recording that we have praised in this space before. I downloaded a free demo. It was a Haydn Quartet, and it sounded sublime. I wanted to hear a larger orchestra and some vocals, so I bought a Britten collection. It was a long download via DSL, about 3 hours. The file was just a bit over 8 GB. I unzipped the file, dragged it to a thumb drive and inserted it into the front panel USB slot on the Oppo. The files appeared so I listened for more than an hour. The strings were absolutely beautiful, transients and attacks were sharp, voices were natural, and the totality of the experience was musical and satisfying in every way. The DSD files are multichannel, and the recording was excellent in every parameter. The same performance is available on an SACD disc from Channel classics, and we have reviewed it favorably. I wish I could compare the DSD files with the SACD, but I had to make do with only the DSD presentation. Frankly, I can’t imagine recorded music sounding much better.

Music in the home has had an interesting journey over the last couple of decades. CDs (mostly) replaced phono discs, and we’ve seen DVD-A and SACD improve on the limits of CD sound. At the same time, we’ve had the rise of downloadable music, which has been a step down in quality. Now, at least among audiophiles, we are seeing the rise of high quality downloads from companies like HD Tracks and others. That brings us to today, where, albeit slowly, we are seeing formats claiming even higher fidelity from Channel Classics and companies like Blue Coast Records.

I can’t swear that these DSD files are the holy grail of audio quality. I’m going to have to listen a lot more, and compare. I can say that Oppo Digital is to be congratulated for letting this superbly musical disc player evolve at no cost so we can sample these newer formats and decide their merits for ourselves.

—Mel Martin

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