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Oppo BDP-95 Review

oppo bdp 95 review front
Oppo BDP-95
“The BDP-95's audio performance earns its asking price all on its own. Toss in the fact that you get an outstanding Blu-ray machine with streaming ability and what you get is a terrifically nimble universal player with sky-high value.”
Pros
  • Superb sound quality
  • Excellent video quality
  • Ruggedly built
  • Backlit remote
  • Dual HDMI outputs
  • Balanced XLR outputs
  • Audiophile stereo output
Cons
  • Wi-Fi requires large USB dongle
  • DLNA is buggy
  • No Internet audio via analog audio outputs

Oppo may not yet be a household name in consumer electronics, but the company has come a long way in just a few short years. Because it has managed to issue one top-notch product after another, Oppo has earned some hearty recognition and respect from A/V reviewers, industry pros and dedicated fans alike. Now, Oppo enjoys a special sort of brand recognitionamongst the tech-savvy –one that can only be achieved by consistently offering products with extremely disproportionate price-to-performance ratios.

We’re not privy to Oppo’s actual mission statement, but we’re willing to bet that it reads something like, “Do one thing and do it well.” Oppo makes universal disc players and that’s it. The Chinese company started out with upscaling DVD players that also played CDs, SACDs, DVD-Audio discs and just about every disc under the sun. Now that includes Blu-ray as well.

The BDP-95 Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray disc player is Oppo’s most recent and most expensive player. Some might initially balk at the $1,000 price point, particularly since network Blu-ray player prices plummeted below $100 this past holiday season. What needs to be understood, however, is that the BDP-95 is so much more than just a Blu-ray player. It plays almost anything and promises to sound better and look better doing it than its competition.

In our review of the Oppo BDP-95, we dig into what makes this player special, cover what it can (and the few things it can’t) play and rank its performance amongst the competition.

Out of the box

Yeah, we’re still on our soap box preaching about the importance of the out-of-box experience, because that first few seconds of exposure to a new product can really set the tone for the years of use to come. It’s all about feel-good-factor these days, and if you aren’t on board with that as a CE company, you’re lost.

Oppo gave us a great out-of-box experience with the BDP-95. Straight away, you get a sense that your money was well spent. Included in the box with the well-protected BDP-95 was a carrying satchel, a separate box containing a USB Wi-Fi dongle, a USB extension cable for easy rear-panel USB access, a power cable and the unit’s remote control. The player’s RCA jacks were even covered with protective plastic caps. Nice touch, Oppo.

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The BDP-95’s heft offers a tactile confirmation of its superb build quality. Its heavy-gauge steel chassis and aluminum faceplate combine with a toroidal power supply and other high-quality parts to rack up an impressive 16 pounds.

All those premium components take up space, so the BDP-95 is a decidedly non-slim piece of gear. According to Oppo, the unit measures 16-7/8 x 12-1/4 x 4 inches.

Features and Design

We’ll do our best not to go overboard here, but the BDP-95 does so much stuff–almost all of it worth covering–that it’s going to take a little more page space than usual to fit it all in. Here we go.

The BDP-95 lives up to its name as a “universal” player. It plays Blu-ray, DVD, SACD, DVD-Audio, HDCD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, DivX, DivX plus HD and just about any burned CD or DVD you can create, though Oppo does say it can’t account for all hardware and software factors involved in burned discs.

That covers the physical media, but this player can also handle all sorts of digital media through some clever connectivity. The BDP-95 sports two USB 2.0 inputs (one front, one back) and an eSATA port for connection of external hard drives or thumb drives. Any of these connections will allow the player to stream high-resolution photos, music and video with support of most major file types; that list includes FLAC and WAV music files,plus AVCHD and MP4 video files. The advantage to the eSATA port is speed. Using it, navigating a large catalog of hi-res music files is a snap; way better than DLNA.

An Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi adapter offer access to content stored on a local network, as well as multiple video and audio-on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu HD, Blockbuster on Demand, Pandora, YouTube…the list goes on and will likely grow as future firmware updates expand app availability.

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That covers how content goes into the player; now let’s dive into how it comes out. We can start with the dual HDMI outputs, which have a few potential uses. For those without a 3D-compliant A/V receiver, having two HDMI outputs allows for 3D video enjoyment without necessarily having to miss out on the best available surround sound. Just run one cable to the TV and another off to a receiver. Also, dual HDMI outputs allow the player to serve up a TV in another room without necessarily relying on an A/V receiver’s multi-zone complexities.

For additional audio options, Oppo has built in coaxial and optical digital audio outs and provides a full 7.1 set of pre-outs with all decoding and digital-to-analog conversion done on board.

Now for a little surprise: Oppo’s BDP-93, which costs $500 less than the BDP-95, offers every single one of the features we’ve listed so far. That begs the question: what does the other $500 go into?

oppo-bdp-95-review-toroidal-power-hrTo cut right to it, the additional $500 goes toward all the parts and connections necessary to make an “audiophile” component out of the BDP-93 design. We suspect a big chunk of change is going to the massive Rotel toroidal power supply that Oppo uses in the BDP-95, but we know there’s more to it than that.

In addition to that toroidal transformer from Rotel, Oppo uses a very high-quality DAC chip (SABRE32 Reference ES9018) for a dedicated stereo audio signal that comes as an addition to the front left and right outputs that are part of the 7.1 pre-out section. This special output can be tapped by way of a pair of RCA jacks or a pair of balanced XLR connections (AKA microphone cables).

If $500 seems like a lot of bread for what sounds like some simple modifications, consider that competing manufacturers such as Cambridge, Denon and Marantz charge anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 for high-end universal players, and that’s just scratching the surface. McIntosh, for example, makes one that goes for $8,000.

We’re running out of space here and we haven’t even touched on the BDP-95’s killer backlit remote, its excellent Qdeo video processors or its PAL/NTSC conversion capability! For a more detailed list of specs, be sure to visit Oppo’s website.

Performance

Our test bench of equipment for this Oppo BDP-95 review included the Anthem Integrated 225, Marantz SR6005 receiver, Marantz SR6006 receiver and Aperion Audio’s Verus Grand speakers connected by way of Kimber Kable pbj and Monster XPHP speaker wire alternatively.

Before we get going here, we should mention that we did have a look at Oppo’s video output–both Blu-ray and unconverted DVD looked outstanding, by the way–but our real interest in this player was for its audio capabilities and that’s where we focused for most of our evaluation time. It does, after all, have the word “audiophile” in it, right?

Readers of either our Anthem Integrated 225 or Aperion Verus Grand reviews already know that the Oppo BDP-95 is an integral part of what we’ve decided to call our “audio triad of badassitude.” The three components together run $4,300 retail which, admittedly, is no small sum. Consider, however, that one pair of Focal Chorus 836v speakers will cost more than the entire aforementioned system, which as we’ll soon discuss, serves up some seriously majestic sound.

The Oppo doesn’t have to be paired with a 225 watt-per-channel amplifier to sound incredible, though. We connected it to the 7.1 pre-amp inputs of our SR6005 receiver and the difference it made to the Marantz’s performance was remarkable.

In our Marantz SR6005 review, we commented that we didn’t feel the receiver’s sound performance matched up with what we heard from the preceding SR6004 model. At the time we, theorized that the difference in sound was probably due to Marantz switching up the DACs (digital to analog converters) from the prior year. What we heard when we bypassed the Marantz’s digital processing in favor of the Oppo’s seems to confirm our suspicions. Our receiver instantly sounded considerably better.

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The thing about the BDP-95 that first jumped out at us as we made our equipment comparisons was its significant improvement of bass response. As we listened to some of the surround music selections found on our 2012 DTS demo disc, we flipped back and forth between our receiver’s HDMI input (and its on-board processing) and its 7.1 inputs, which played back the audio as decoded by the BDP-95’s 7.1-channel DAC. The difference was stark. With all other factors being equal, the Oppo’s rendering of the soundtracks clearly sounded better than the Marantz receiver’s version, exhibiting more tightly controlled and punchier bass, which started and stopped with lightning-quick speed.

Of course, big improvements were made to the treble and midrange regions as well. We got vocals that bore a more distinguished presence, more accurate tonal quality, better definition of overtones and harmonics and gobs of well-exposed detail.

Our experience listening to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon SACD provided plenty of opportunities to hear the BDP-95’s superior rendering. We queued up the multi-channel version of the fourth track, “Time” and sat back as the faint pandemonium of noisily ticking clocks slowly crescendoed into a disconcerting din of gongs, chimes and rings. With our receiver’s on-board decoding, we were able to hear each of the clocks sitting in a specific place within a 360 degree sound field, but with the BDP-95 we could pick out individual, dissonant notes within each of the clocks’ distinctive chimes. To be sure, the BDP-95 made what we heard more realistic and engaging.

oppo-bdp-95-chipUp until this point, we’ve been commenting on the BDP-95’s 7.1 pre-out stage. But what about the dedicated two-channel output for which this model charges an extra $500? Would this audiophile output stage provide performance that was substantially better than the already great-sounding 7.1 outputs that can be had an in Oppo’s BDP-93? We put the two in a head-to-head competition expecting to have to listen closely to subtle queues for signs of improvement. Instead, we were shocked by how obvious the differences were.

We pulled out Jamie Cullum’s TwentySomething SACD and zeroed in on “Singin’ in the Rain” to pit the BDP-95’s two different stereo outputs against each other. This track has plenty of fun stuff to listen to; textured brush work on the drums, a woody upright bass, congas laying down percussion and some muted guitar picking make this one of our go-to tracks for tough A/B tests. In the end, though, it was Cullum’s voice that told us just how different the BDP-95’s dedicated stereo output sounded.

While the standard stereo out had a more three-dimensional quality to it with the conga drums sounding well outside of the edges of the speakers, the special stereo output took Cullum’s vocal (and all of the other instruments as well) and snapped them in to focus, adding more body and depth. The output of each speaker was better paced as well. Timing was more accurate and the imaging much tighter, with Cullum’s vocal blasting from dead center between our speakers.

The BDP-95 is darn close to perfection but, like most things, has its weaknesses too. For instance, Internet media sources such as Netflix and Pandora can only be listened to via the BDP-95’s digital audio outputs. Also, we wish Wi-Fi didn’t require a dongle, let alone such a large one and, finally, we had no luck getting the player to stream media from any of our three readily available Windows 7 PCs. Granted, we’re not huge on DLNA anyway, but we expected the BDP-95 to find all three of our available media servers and successfully stream from at least one of them. Every other DLNA compliant device we’ve tested in the last two years had no problem with this. While it is possible some help from Oppo’s tech support stream might have yielded some results, the low return on investment kept us from digging deeper.

We did, however, have success streaming FLAC files from a USB thumb drive and found the BDP-95’s playback of these high-resolution audio files to be excellent. Navigating the different folders of music was zippy and we particularly liked the ability to create playlists easily through the simple but straightforward user interface. Assuming the experience playing music back from a networked attached storage device would feel similar, we have to say that the BDP-95 offers better a better network media interface than any other A/V device we’ve tested.

Conclusion

Through our review of the Oppo BDP-95 we came to learn that the company’s less expensive BDP-93 is an absolutely outstanding universal disc player in its own right. Taking that into consideration, as we progressed through our evaluations, we realized that the real question at hand was “are the BDP-95’s audiophile features worth the added cost?”

Having thoroughly tested the BDP-95, we can say with certainty that music-listening enthusiasts (be they self-proclaimed audiophiles or not) will find the return on their investment to be very handsome indeed. This piece’s audio performance earns its asking price all on its own. Toss in the fact that you get an outstanding Blu-ray machine with the ability to stream Internet media as well, and what you get is a terrifically nimble universal player with sky-high value. We highly recommend the BDP-95 (and BDP-93, for that matter) and bestow it with our Editor’s Choice award. 

Highs

  • Superb sound quality
  • Excellent video quality
  • Ruggedly built
  • Backlit remote
  • Dual HDMI outputs
  • Balanced XLR outputs
  • Audiophile stereo output

 Lows

  • Wi-Fi requires large USB dongle
  • DLNA is buggy
  • No Internet audio via analog audio outputs

Editors' Recommendations