Oppo's flagship BD player has got Richard Stevenson wondering if he should just do away with his AVR altogether...
A grand for a Blu-ray player in a home cinema market heading uncertainly towards download content? That may seem like a big ask, but manufacturer Oppo has a history of delivering the goods – so much so that other kit-makers have been using Oppo’s core BD player architecture as the basis for their own machines. The BDP-105EU is the latest flagship player from the brand, adding a bunch of audiophile loveliness to the stellar picture processing already raved about in our previous review of the BDP-103EU.
The beating audio heart of the BDP-105EU has evolved from its BDP-95EU predecessor. This means not one but two 32bit, 8-channel Sabre DACs from ESS. One shunts decoded bitstream and PCM signals to the player’s 7.1-channel analogue outputs, the other is dedicated to decoding two-channel stereo audio in balanced configuration and outputting the result to a pair of balanced XLR connections. Just to put that asking price into perspective, there are several dedicated hi-fi DACs on the market that use just one Sabre DAC and cost twice as much as the Oppo. And don't spin Blu-rays either.
Where the BDP-105EU stands above its predecessor is that you can now access all this lush digital decoding technology with external sources. Yes, the BDP-105EU has inputs – and lots of them. High-res audio buffs get a true asynchronous USB input, which allows you to feed audio files up to 192kHz/24-bit directly from your PC, almost jitter-free. In addition, the BDP-105EU offers coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, two HDMI inputs, standard USB jacks and a host of networking features that make it a cutting-edge streamer.
I'd go as far as saying that the BDP-105EU is the most significant evolution of the Blu-ray player since the format was developed. Why? The Oppo has numerous inputs, can play almost every disc available, decode almost every significant audio format on the planet and offers variable output-level control via the handset's ‘volume’ keys to all its analogue outputs. You could therefore argue that with the BDP-105EU on the rack you don’t need an AVR or AV processor at all. Just hook up the BDP-105EU straight to a multichannel power amp and away you go. Even those with old, non-HDMI AVRs can benefit, too. As long as your receiver has 7.1 multichannel inputs then you can leverage the Oppo’s features and HDMI switching/routing and simply use your AVR as speaker-driving muscle.
The BDP-105EU isn't just about filling the technology tick boxes, though. Oppo has also focused on construction, bringing in a revised chassis and passive cooling instead of the rather noisy fan of its previous players. The connection terminals, meanwhile, boast more chunky gold bling than a West Coast rapper.
In use, it's an absolute knockout. The player's Qdeo video chipset offers stunning picture performance in both 2D and 3D and it can scale any input to 4K resolution. Colours are rich yet natural, contrast is fabulous with great shadow detailing, and difficult diagonal pans pose no problem at all. If there are BD players out there that deliver a better picture than this, I am yet to test them.
Elsewhere, disc loading is quick, the menus are clear and concise and its ability to run dual displays simultaneously will appeal to those with a TV and projector in the same room. And in split A/V mode, the full performance of the Qdeo processor is used to drive the primary HDMI output for direct connection to a display while the other output is dedicated to delivering audio straight to your AVR.
Using the Oppo as a processor connected directly to a power amplifier is a revelation. The setup for speaker size and distance is straightforward and the result is a crisp, precise sound with breathtaking dynamics. Soundtracks soar out of the speakers, clean and polished with fabulous detailing. The noise-floor is ridiculously low, making swells from quiet to loud simply stunning. The original ...Terminator movie sounds like it has been given a thorough makeover, with effects and dialogue stepping out of the mix even in the heat of the '80s action.
Switch to stereo sources and the BDP-105EU makes for a fabulous music player. Whether you are spinning up CDs and SACDs, leveraging high-res audio over the asynchronous USB input or streaming music over a network, the Oppo is clean and polished. Imagery is presented a mile wide and bass comes at you fast and tight. This is no chill-out session player, but if you like music presented with detail, passion and insight you would have to spend many multiples of the asking price of a dedicated CD player to match it.
Okay, when using the BDP-105EU as a processor you do forego some of the niceties of a dedicated AVR – such as RoomEQ and height/width channels – but that is about the only compromise. The only other minor niggle is the bonkers lack of an iOS remote control app, although there is a basic Android one. Oppo has told us that the iOS app is at the Apple approval stage right now, so may even be available by the time you read this.
In short, the BDP-105EU is an absolutely stunning machine from end to end, and one that evolves the BD player genre into a dedicated hub of digital entertainment
Price: £1,000 Approx
Highs: Incredible flexibility and features; cutting-edge networking; stunning video and audio performance
Lows: No iOS remote app (as yet); no RoomEQ or height/width processing in analogue output mode
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