Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray & 3D Universal Disc Player

by | May 29, 2011 | Component Reviews | 0 comments

Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray & 3D Universal Disc Player
SRP: $999

Supports: Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD multichannel, HDCD, CD, Kodak picture CD, AVCHD, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC, WAV, and some from USB or eSATA drives
Audio via HDMI support: DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD Hi-Res Audio, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, SACD via either pure DSD or conversion to LPCM, LPCM 2-channel, 5.1 & 7.1 channel
Outputs: 1080p at 24Hz, 50Hz or 60Hz
Video Out: 2 HDMI ports (both v1.4 and 3D-compatible), one component video, one composite video
Digital Audio Out: 1 7.1 out, 2 digital (coax & optical) with 4 stacked DAC channels on each stereo output
Analog Audio Out: 1 7.1 out, 2 stereo outs (one RCAs & one balanced XLRs)
Freq. response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz at -.3 dB, to 96kHz at -.2.5 dB
Signal to Noise: >130 dB A-weighted, mute; >115 dB A-weighted, unmute
Other features: Both Ethernet and wireless Internet connections, 2 USB ports (from & back) for playback from USB drives, eSATA port, IR in & out & optional RS-232 for custom installations
Weight: 15.4 lbs.
Dimensions: 4” H x 16.8” W x 12.25” D
One year parts & labor warranty

Oppo Digital Inc.

2629 Terminal Blvd., Suite B
Mountain View, CA 949043

Oppo has become an audiophile favorite for their play-everything disc players which have steadfastly achieved excellent performance at very reasonable price levels. Though their super-reasonable first entry-level model was very good, each one that has come out since has improved in various ways on the first. Their second-generation standard Blu-ray/universal player, the model BDP-93 at $499, has garnered rave reviews, but now Oppo has added their new flagship high-end model, the BDP-95, built on a different chassis, at double the price. As we’ll discover, some of it is similar to the BDP-93, but it has quite a different “build” with many new features – plus even more coming in future firmware updates. There are also several customizing companies offering highly-modified upgrades of most of the Oppo decks, often at more than twice the cost of the originals. There is also someone offering an otherwise identical DBP-95 at Amazon, evidently with circuit changes that allow it to play both PAL or NTSC DVDs, at an increased price of $1450. This universal feature may also be offered in a future Oppo upgrade.
Overall Features
The DACs used in the BDP-95 are one of the highest-performance in the highly-regarded ESS SABRE family. They are 8-channel, 32-bit ES9018 Hyperstream Reference Audio DACs, and a stack of 4 are in each channel of the analog stereo output stage. There are two sets of output connectors, with the XLR balanced outputs featuring true differential signal paths all the way from the DAC to the 3-pin XLR female jacks.  You can even invert the polarity configuration of the XLRs if you wish. (Oppo’s XLR connectors are obviously not just an audiophile gimmick; if my Sunfire preamp had XLR stereo inputs I would switch from the RCAs for sure.) There is a full set of 7.1-channel analog outputs, including ES9018 DACs even for the two center back channels.  The toroidal power supply in the model 95 comes from Rotel and is custom-designed.
As with most highest-end decks, there are both coaxial and optical digital outputs for those who either have no HDMI audio capability or don’t want to use it if they do. The unusual dual HDMI outputs would allow using one to feed a 3DTV display with the first, while the second one feeds the multichannel audio to an AV receiver or preamp. The Setup Menu also includes optional Consumer Electronics Control (CEC). This is a mode allowing a single remote to be used to control a variety of devices using HDMI connections. There are two HDMI ports on the deck, each with both a full and a limited setting. The Limited setting will only respond to playback commands – not on/off or input selection.
The bass management of the 95 is also extensive, allowing for a large variety of subwoofer crossover options, going from 40 Hz in ten steps all the way up to 250 Hz (that would be for one heck of a sub!). In connecting the BDP-95, I used an Ethernet cable running from my home office modem to the deck.  Oppo thoughtfully furnishes a small wireless adaptor which plugs into the rear USB port. It works with most home networks but requires some configuration in the Network Setup portion of the deck’s display. But Oppo suggests using the Ethernet network hookup if possible for greater reliability – a good rule of thumb.
Video Features
The video processor in the unit is the same as used in the BDP-93: the Marvell Qdeo Kyoto G2, which has video noise reduction, reduction of compression artifacts, intelligent contrast, color, detail and edge enhancement, and conversion of standard DVDs to 1080p. It also supports video content captured at 24 fps instead of 30 fps, to provide the same frame rates as the movies in theatrical release.
There are USB 2.0 ports on both the front and rear of the BDP-95. They can read audio, video or still photo data from USB drives, such as thumb drives. However not all file formats can be read at the moment, but a coming firmware update should improve that situation. The USB source as well as many other special sources are reached by pressing the Home button on the 95’s remote. This brings up a screen full of options, including audio, video or still photos, Netflix and Blockbuster-On-Demand movies (with free trial membership in both included with the player), ability to play either NTSC or PAL discs (though this may have some restrictions), and something called “My Network,” which is a function allowing content to be streamed from media servers on the home wireless network. You can use it to access music files on your computer or music server.
The buttons on the remote are similar to  the other Oppo remotes; I was even surprised to see a Home button on the remote for the BDP-83SE, though I don’t recall using it. Neither did I ever use its Resolution button at the bottom, which I think may come in handy to change the resolution on the run with the BDP-95. A very useful feature of the new remote is a small 3-way remote code switch at the base of the battery compartment. In case you have another Oppo component in your system, you reach in with the point of a ball pen and change the switch to position 2 or 3 so that the remote’s signals won’t operate both your Oppo devices simultaneously.
Video Quality
I watched several Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray test discs, switching my HDMI connector (used for the video only) between my present Oppo BDP-83SE player and the BDP-95.  Although the 95 has a more advanced video processor than the 83SE, I could see very little difference between the two.  I finally settled on a seeing a very slight improvement in resolution and detail with the 95, but extremely subtle. The soundtracks were handled just about the same on the two players, with the uncompressed all-PCM 5.1 track on the original Terminator Blu-ray quite the demo quality, shaking up the room. I didn’t check the 3D Blu-ray playback because I don’t yet have a compatible display.

Audio Quality

For the audio comparisons I purchased a simple Radio Shack composite video switcher with remote control, and used the six RCA jacks for each of 3 inputs: 3 for component video, 2 for stereo analog audio, and 1 for the subwoofer signal. I used these six channels to switch the 6-channel audio outs from the two players to my Sunfire multichannel preamp, and sat back with the remote to compare the two players.  There was some difficulty matching levels because the center channel on my 83 was much lower level then that on the new 95 and I had to keep adjusting the levels to match.
I have a few duplicate SACDs for such test purposes, and used a Non-Profit Music SACD of two-piano works by Nikolai Kapustin, as well as the initial track from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet’s “Guitar Heroes” Telarc SACD, plus the same track which happens to be the first one on Telarc’s “SACD Sound & Vision Sampler.”  I tried both switching between the two players with the two SACDs in exact sync with one another, as well as letting one get abut :30 behind the other so I could listen to the same passage twice in succession on the two different decks. Again I heard very little difference between the two, both offering an excellent surround clarity and wide range sonics. When I have the 95 hooked up directly with a single 6-channel cable and I’ll have to check out a greater variety of SACDs and DVD-As with attention to the lower noise floor and decreased distortion promised by the 95’s advanced engineering.
For the two-channel tests I used both the digital out feeding my Benchmark DAC1 as well as the straight analog stereo out jacks on the backs of the BDP-83SE and 95. I used a QED two-channel switch to switch between the two players’ stereo analog out jacks and the inputs on my Sunfire preamp, and listened with my Grado headphones since I had no remote for this switch.  I had two copies of “John Hicks, Trio + Strings” on  Mapleshade CDs. I also used some full orchestra duplicate CDs in the comparisons.
What I heard was a definite enhancement of the sonics with the 95 vs. the 83SE analog stereo outs. While the 83SE produced a smooth-sounding and very detailed sonic, the 95 bettered that with more focus and support, especially in the bass end. The string bass on the Hicks CD came thru with more oomph and realism, and the various instruments were more easily identified on the orchestral CDs. I haven’t before heard quite as involving and smoothly detailed sound from CDs on my system. When I tried some of the 96K/24 bit audio DVDs in my collection, the enhancement over most standard 44.1K/16 bit CDs was even greater – with a super-rich and detailed sonic the equal of most two-channel SACDs and DVD-As.
Using the coaxial digital out to my Benchmark DAC1 processor vs. the analog stereo out of the two players was something of a surprise. I had noticed that on many recordings there was little difference between the analog out of the 83SE and feeding the digital signal to my Benchmark DAC1.  Yet on other CDs the Benchmark did offer an enhanced and cleaner audio quality. With the BSP-95, its analog stereo outs alone usually surpassed the quality with the DAC1 in the circuit.  With such sonic magic from the model 95, it is understandable that some users are complaining online that Oppo hasn’t provided an option to use the player’s advanced DAC as a standalone unit with other source components. Perhaps that will come in a future upgrade or a new model.

The Home Functions

There is a sort of joystick control area flush with the sleek front panel of the BDP-95, but it only has the usual play/stop/move forward or back a track etc. controls. There is also the button to open or close the disc tray. The remote has the full complement of buttons. Pressing the Home button accesses all the different options there, a couple of which are not active as yet. My Network is one of those, the feature allowing streaming of AV and photos from servers on your home network.  Music, Photo and Movie options access the USB drives you have plugged into either the front or back ports of the 95. (The 95 also accepts e-SATA drives with their external power supply, at the port on the rear next to the USB port, but they should only be plugged in or removed when the deck is off.) I put a variety of photo, video and audio files on my thumb drive on my iMac and inserted it into the 95.  I found that it doesn’t yet support all formats.  It was able to handle jpeg and gif graphic and photo files, m4a files, FLAC and WAV files, but not AIFF audio files. It also would not play QuickTime or .mov movie files but did handle WMV movies. I am told that a future firmware update will expand the variety of file formats supported.
I had not before tried downloading any movies from the online services since I had struggled some years ago with BitTorrent and gave up on it. I was impressed how easy it was to access the variety of movies available at both Netflix and Blockbuster. They each have their own separate icon on the Home Menu and there is also a shortcut called Internet which goes to both of them.  (I’m told Vudu will be added in the next firmware update.) They have very clear and simple layout of the films offered, with images of the outer boxes, and good categories so that you can go thru the choices, such as Family Films, Action Films, Foreign Films, Animation, etc. I was also surprised how quickly the downloads of the films were accomplished. The thermometer at the bottom of the screen moved very rapidly on each. I especially liked the wide offerings of TV series, and immediately enjoyed a test episode of Futurama which was a pleasure, running only 22 minutes without the commercials. There is also a Home Menu icon labeled Setup Menu, which merely takes you back to the player’s original Setup Menu. In that latter menu you can turn on the BD-Live option offered on many Blu-rays.
There is a small bug in the operation of audio in the Home section. There is no audio at all unless you power-cycle the 95.  Oppo told me to just turn the unit off and then back on, but I discovered the only way to get audio on the video streaming or USB material was to completely unplug the player for 30 seconds and then plug it back in. While Blockbuster doesn’t offer 5.1 surround on movies that have it, Netflix does, but the present firmware of the BDP-95 doesn’t support it just yet. This will be remedied with the next firmware update of the user interface, along with adding Vudu.
All in all, Oppo has a real winner in the BDP-95, even if you’re not into some of its extras such as 3D, SACD, movie downloads and AV files on USB drives.  If high-end stereo audio from standard CDs is not your main interest, you’d like to play multichannel SACDs, you have a separate DAC, and you don’t care about 3D or playing movie downloads, you might be better off at half the price with the Oppo BDP-93.  But to provide in the BDP-95 a true reference-quality audiophile universal player at $1000 is an achievement that’s worth anyone’s attention.
— John Sunier

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