Sound Advice: Oppo players excellent, but worth extra $400?
June 16, 2013 4:00 AM
The Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player has great picture quality.
By Don Lindich
Question: We are putting together an entertainment system with the Marantz NR1403 receiver you have suggested, along with a GoldenEar Soundbar and Panasonic ST-series plasma. The dealer is heavily pushing an Oppo Blu-ray player over the Panasonic player we had chosen, saying Oppo is much higher quality. This supposedly higher quality comes with a much higher price: $500 instead of about $100. We are not electronics buffs; we just want to have a system that looks and sounds very good. Do you think the Oppo is worth the extra investment?
DON AND HOLLY MAIER River Falls, Wis.
Answer: What makes the Oppo different and better than other players is the premium quality video and audio circuitry, advanced features, and its ability to play a wide variety of disc and digital formats. The model you are referring to is the BDP-103 and it can be seen at www.oppodigital.com.
Oppo's video processing is some of the best in the business and does a wonderful job of upconverting DVDs to high definition resolution. It's a difference you will be able to see, and I consider the great DVD picture quality one of the biggest advantages to the player. It's a great fit for those with large DVD collections or a video projector. Oppo's audiophile quality audio section produces outstanding sound quality when using the player's analog outputs. If you use the digital connection, you bypass this circuitry, so you need to have a receiver with multichannel audio inputs to get the benefits from its superior design.
Whether this translates into noticeable, real-world differences worth the extra cost depends on the application and the individual consumer.
If you use the HDMI connection for audio, your receiver will be responsible for the sound quality, not the disc player. In your case, there is zero advantage to the Oppo here because the Marantz does not have multichannel analog inputs, forcing you to use the HDMI connection. Compared to a $100 Panasonic, the video performance will be better with the Oppo, particularly with DVDs. Most any Blu-ray player produces a stunning picture with Blu-ray discs. The DVD picture quality is where many Blu-ray players fall down, and here, Oppo excels.
Panasonic's Blu-ray players happen to have very good DVD picture quality, too, which is one of the big reasons I recommend them. The Oppo would be better, but an affordable Panasonic player is not likely to disappoint you.
Most likely, when you use your player, you are going to put a Blu-ray disc, DVD or CD in it, press play, sit back and enjoy the show. Check out the features list for the BDP-103 at www.oppodigital.com and see if you even know what a lot of them mean. If you do, you may be a good candidate for it. If not, a more modest player will likely be all you need.
This isn't meant to be a no-vote for Oppo players in general. Far from it! I think they are the best digital players on the market and worth the investment for enthusiasts, those with video projectors and anyone who knows how to take advantage of its advanced capabilities. Based on what you had to say in your email, I don't think you are one of those people and the extra $400 would be better saved or spent elsewhere.