oppo bdp 83 audio review 


By Bill Kallay

Oppo's DVD players have been praised for their high-end quality. DVD players, in general, aren't very good devices for CD and SACD playback (if equipped). Oppo changed that perception by producing DVD players that could respectively play good quality audio.

Oppo developed the BDP-83 that would emphasize excellent Blu-ray picture quality with audiophile ambition. That's quite a big bone for a little dog like Oppo to chew. Yet the company has pleased customers and critics with its audio quality in regard to its DVD players. Will the Oppo BDP-83 carry on that tradition?

The wonderful Oppo manual is written so well that even technophobes can understand it. It diagrams all the options for audio set-up that makes using this player a joy.

Since the BDP-83 has numerous audio options, I tested the Oppo's sound through all of its audio capable jacks in the rear of the unit. I ran HDMI cable from the Oppo's HDMI jack straight into the HDMI jacks on my Denon receiver. I ran a coaxial digital cable from the Oppo into my Musical Fidelity V-DAC, which then runs two RCA analog cables to the Denon. Then I plugged in two RCA analog cables from the Oppo and into the Denon. All recordings were played back at the same comfortable level. To do A-B-C comparisons, I switched the inputs via the Denon's remote on the fly.

The Oppo also has a "Pure Audio" function that shuts down all video and display circuits. In my listening tests, I could hear no difference.

One of the first tests I tried on the BDP-83 was plugging in an external hard drive with my music WAV files into the Oppo's USB jack. Once plugged in, the Oppo immediately shook hands with my hard drive and said come on in. But there was a little issue. Though the BDP-83 plays nicely with hard drives and USB drives, it won't play WAV files. This is something Oppo has tried working out with their suppliers to no avail. No big deal. It will play MP3 files fine if you're into that sort of thing. I had one MP3 file on my hard drive and the Oppo loved it.

I listen mostly to CD and SACD. I never found the sound of DVD-Audio all that wonderful, so I don't have a disc to test here. The BDP-83 quickly cued my SACD of Getz/Gilberto (Verve). This has always been one of my favorite test discs to use on my Sony ES CD/SACD player. The recording is warm and immediate. Very analog, very smooth. It's one hell of a recording and will sound great even on a modest system. The BDP-83 plays it beautifully, presenting a nice soundstage in front of me. I can hear the saxophone player's breath hitting the reed clearly. Astrud Gilberto's seductive voice rings clear through my Vandersteen speakers. 

It's taken forever, but The Beatles catalog has been remastered. "Revolver" is one of the Fab Four's gems. I decided to use "Eleanor Rigby" to compare the new remastered fidelity to the 1987 CD and the 2000 "1" compilation. As played via the BDP-83 through its analog jacks, the 1987 CD actually doesn't sound too bad. George Martin knew how to produce a great recording. On "1," the fidelity gets kicked up quite a few notches. The vocals are more clear and focused, and you can feel the music. The 2009 remastered "Eleanor Rigby" sounds nearly identical to the 2000 remaster. I take it that each song from the Beatles catalog was painstakingly restored. I'll say that through the Oppo BDP-83, the 2009 version is a bit clearer. The Oppo presents this album with mostly hard left and hard right sound placement.

Now here's something interesting. I popped in the Rolling Stones' "Hot Rocks" SACD. Both the Beatles and Stones came out around the same time, using similar recording technology. The beauty of SACD is its ability to let the recording breathe. As rough as the early Stone's recordings were, they breathe life. As good as The Beatles remasters are, I think the CD format holds their fidelity back somewhat. They would sound even better on SACD (though Capitol doesn't support the niche format). Still, they're a remarkable improvement over the original CDs.


One of the pitfalls of reviewing a new piece of equipment is falling for a certain sound characteristic. Some machines blast the listener with "seductive" sound. But after listening for extended amounts of time, the listener ends up not enjoying the machine anymore. Some players instill their own sound instead of letting the music speak for itself.   

How does the BDP-83 compare to other players? I've owned a Sony C222ES CD/SACD for years now. It's a workhorse and plays CDs and SACDs with a nice and comfortable sound. To my ears, it presents the music without adding much of its own character to it. Bringing in the BDP-83 into the mix, I found they both sound similar on some levels. But the Oppo takes it a step further.

The BDP-83 sounds as though it squeezes more fidelity and clarity from CDs and SACDs than the Sony. At first this concerned me. Was I hearing things that weren't supposed to be there? I also played back WAV files from my computer to a Musical Fidelity V-DAC, which I raved about in a review here. I have decent sounding equipment. So how could a $499 do-everything machine sound better than the Sony and V-DAC?


After more extensive listening, I found the Oppo does a pretty darned good job in pulling out whatever is on a CD/SACD. It uses Cirrus-Logic digital-to-analog converters to play back music through its analog jacks. Depending on the recording and software, the BDP-83 tends to squeeze out as much resolution as it can, yet stays out of the way of music. The soundstage it presents is wide, but tight enough to focus in on the performance. The Sony does the same, but it sounds like it's at a lower volume and a little muffled.

Using the coaxial jack on the back of the BDP-83, then the same for the Sony, I plugged my digital cable into the Musical Fidelity V-DAC. This bypasses the DACs on either player and uses the V-DAC to convert CD sound to analog sound. This is where I shook my head in a bit of reviewer frustration.

After extensive listening of good sounding recordings like the perennial The Eagles "Hell Freezes Over" and Eric Clapton's "Unplugged," I discovered with gritted teeth that maybe I was hearing things I wasn't supposed to. Did the V-DAC filter out some of the music I wanted to hear, or did the Sony or Oppo emphasize parts of the recordings that weren't supposed to be emphasized?

The V-DAC tends to relax the music coming from either the Sony or Oppo or my computer WAV files. It presents a slightly veiled sound that's still quite good. Almost anyone walking into the room would find the V-DAC's sound very nice. It stages the instruments a bit differently than the Oppo or Sony via their analog jacks. The staging is also a bit wider than the Oppo or Sony.

The V-DAC uses Burr-Brown and Texas Instruments DACs, depending on if music is played through its USB or digital ports. These DACS are high end and are highly praised. My Denon receiver, which was used in this review, also uses Burr-Brown DACs. For fun, I plugged the Oppo's coaxial feed into the coaxial jack on the Denon. The sound was almost identical to the V-DAC! Laid back, warm sound. I was happy with the V-DAC, but soon discovered I couldn't enjoy the music as much as I did with my Sony. The music seemed filtered.

Using the Oppo's analog jacks, the sound opened up and sounded more natural to me. The crash of cymbals was well controlled and didn't sound "jittery" as it can on inferior DACs. Both the V-DAC and Oppo (via analog jacks) controlled jitter quite well. But on the Oppo, bass was more deep when it needed to be, and vocals were more clear. I felt myself getting into the music and not wanting to turn it off. Which approach is correct between both highly praised products? Depends on your listening tastes. On either piece of equipment, most listeners will be pleased.


Does the Oppo make every CD or SACD sound spectacular? It doesn't, and that's good. Some players can try to boost a terrible CD's audio to make it supposedly sound better. I had a much heralded Panasonic DVD player years ago that did this, only to discover it was manipulating the sound. Everything sounded "good." I want my equipment, within my budget, to try and stay out of the way of music as much as possible.

I've kept a vintage 1985 pressing of Heart's self-titled CD in my collection for years. Despite the critics hating it back then, I loved the original LP. Even on my crummy department store bought Sanyo rack system, it sounded pretty good to my teen ears. But the CD always sounded like the treble faders in the mastering stage were pushed all the way up. It's unbearable to listen to. I popped it into the BDP-83. To the Oppo's credit, it does control it a little bit, but the sonic wreck still comes through loud and clear.

Journey's SACD, "Escape," is also a head scratcher. It's not a very powerful sounding SACD and I don't know how this was remastered for the higher fidelity format. It just doesn't sound right to me. I tend to remember this album sounding very dynamic. The BDP-83 plays it better than my Sony ES. About the only song where Steve Perry's vocals come ringing through is on "Open Arms." Again, not sure if the recording was really this flat, or that this remastering/duplication to SACD sucked some life out of it.


One of the BDP-83 highlights is its ability to pass SACD's DSD signal via HDMI to a compatible receiver or processor. My Denon has the capability to accept DSD and play it back. DSD (Direct Stream Digital) is the format on which SACD is based.

Upon first listen, playing SACD through the Oppo with "DSD" engaged in its menu, I thought the sound quality was listenable. I could sit there and enjoy the music, but only for a short time. After some thought, it became clear that the music via HDMI sounded dead. The highs and lows in certain recordings were muted and flat. The soundstage collapsed into one dimension instead of three. It was as if someone put an equalizer in my sound system and tweaked the sound to sound lifeless.

I checked off "LPCM" choice in the Oppo's menu to see if there was a difference in sound quality. There wasn't any that I could hear. It was the same sound quality through HDMI.

I'm not quite sure as I write this review why the sound via HDMI is so lifeless. I don't think it's an issue with the BDP-83, per se. My best guess may be that because SACDs are copy protected, there may be some kind of filter instilled upon playback quality via HDMI. Possibly, the DSD decoder in my Denon may not be pulling out all the audio information on an SACD, either. There is a possibility that HDMI, at least on a product at this price point, isn't audiophile ready. All I know is that I didn't like listening to SACDs or CDs this way.

My recommendation is to run HDMI for movies (which sound great, by the way on the BDP-83), and analog for CDs and SACDs. If you have a good DAC, run a digital cable from the BDP-83 to it for CD playback. Otherwise, the Cirrus-Logic DACs on the Oppo sound very good and shows that the Oppo can rock.


The BDP-83 excels on so many levels, it makes me feel bad to nit pick any minor flaws. The unit is speedy in loading CDs and SACDs. But here's where the Oppo could use some tweaking. As good as the remote is, I found when pressing to the next track, there is a millisecond delay. My Sony ES and Playstation 3 immediately go to the next song. It isn't life or death to access "Carry That Weight" faster than a speeding bullet, but I do prefer no delay.

The BDP-83 also doesn't allow you to access the first track of a disc when the last track is finished. In other words, when The Beatles "Help!" ends on track 14, I can't simply go to track 1 by pressing the "next" key on the remote. I have to back step by pressing the reverse key on the remote. This isn't earth shattering, but it would be nice not to have to back peddle.   


How does the Oppo compare to high end audio players? There are players by Wadia, Ayre and Denon that offer higher resolution. I've heard a Wadia CD player and it sounded wonderful. But these machines are also more expensive and in some cases, built in limited quantities.

The friendly Oppo runs with the pack with respect and dignity. You can sit and listen to it without wanting to get up and go outside. The audio quality, especially through its analog jacks, is highly seductive and transparent sounding for most listeners. Even those with high end components will be pleased by BDP-83. It may not be the pack leader among the top high-end audio dogs, but it'll most likely smoke most players in its price range, and maybe above. When all is said and done, the Oppo BDP-83 will bring a huge smile to those looking for a reliable audio companion.


Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Jason Liao

Photos: © 2009 Oppo Digital. All rights reserved.


Speakers: Vandersteen Model 2 Signature II
HDTV: Panasonic Viera 50-inch
Amplification: Denon 2808CI receiver
Blu-ray/DVD: Sony Playstation 3
CD/SACD: Sony C222ES
Digital-to-analog converter (DAC): Musical Fidelity V-DAC (computer WAV files only)
Cables: Monster Cable and hand soldered speaker cable, bi-wired

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