OPPO's latest BDP-103 universal Blu-ray player is a tough product to beat, but who better to take on the challenge than Oppo themselves. The company has recently introduced the new BDP-105, which takes all of the great features offered on the BDP-103 Blu-ray player with an improved analog audio section for picky audiophiles. Quite frankly, the analog audio performance on the BDP-103 was better than average from our testing, but the new BDP-105 takes it to a whole new level.
Oppo's BDP-103/105 are just a handful of Blu-ray players that can play virtually any 5-inch (12 cm) disc, whether it's BD-Video, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video,
DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL,
BD-R/RE. That is in addition to a whole lot of other multimedia formats that can be accessed over your home network as well as streamed from subscription-based services such as Netflix and VUDU. The new BDP-105 feels very solid and weighs 17.3 pounds; over a pound more than its predecessor (the BDP-95). Since we already covered the BDP-103 in a previous review, we will focus on the differences between the BDP-103 the BDP-105, particularly related to the improvements made to the analog audio section.
New Front Panel
The BDP-105 has the same base dimensions as the previous flagship unit (BDP-95), but sits almost an inch taller. It's also 1.8-inches taller than the BDP-103. The front panel has been redesigned and now includes the HDMI/MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) input and a headphone jack. The headphone volume is digitally controlled using the remote. The USB port still remains on the front panel. The main power button (with the Oppo name) is accompanied by five capacitive-touch, backlit buttons. The Open/Close button found next to the tray remains the same.
Unpacking the BDP-105
Like all of Oppo's products, the BDP-105 comes well packed with plenty of foam to prevent shipping damage. The accessories are contained in a separate box to prevent items from moving around. The shipping box was substantial in size and weighed about 26 pounds, so we were glad that Oppo placed importance on getting their products to customers without damage. Shipping damage happens all too often and can be avoided with good packing.
The back of the BDP-105 has many of the same features found on the BDP-103, but also includes a pair of balanced (XLR) outputs and as well as a pair of unbalanced (RCA) connections. All multi-channel RCA output jacks are spaced further apart, making it easier to connect high-end cabling. In addition, each RCA audio connector has a dedicated mounting screw, giving the connector even more strength when using heavier cabling typically found with audiophile cables. Oppo has removed the fan on the BDP-105, allowing it to operate ultra quietly. Oppo has also included a set of digital inputs on this design.
XLR versus Analog Outputs
The XLR balanced outputs on the BDP-105 can provide sonic benefits to users. Balanced audio interfaces provide better noise immunity particularly with longer cable runs and by separating the shield/chassis from the signal return, balanced interfaces have the ability to mitigate ground loop problems as long as the signal stays within the common mode operating range of the differential receiver. Unlike unbalanced RCA interfaces, noise currents induced into a balanced audio shield will not directly modulate onto the audio signal. That is why audio purists prefer balanced XLR interfaces.
Inside the BDP-105
The BDP-105 has been redesigned from the earlier BDP-95. The analog section of the BDP-105 is not just a simple board replacement, but a well thought out audiophile Blu-ray player. Instead of one large audio board (BDP-95 topology) for both 8-channel audio and 2-channel audio, the boards are now separate, each having their own ES9018 DAC chip. The 2-channel board also has the linear power supply electronics. The main switching power converter used for the A/V board, which is common to both the BDP-103 and this unit, is shielded in this unit to help prevent EMI (electro-magnetic interference) from making its way into the high performance audio circuits. While the main A/V board remains largely the same, the switching power supply adds an AC connector to provide power to the toroidal transformer used for the linear power supply.
Linear Power Supply
The BDP-105 uses a linear power supply design for the analog audio circuits. This prevents noise, from the switching supply used for the main A/V board, from making its way into the analog audio signal. The design uses a toroidal power transformer and has two secondary outputs that get rectified and filtered on this board. Two high grade (low ESR) ELNA 6800uF/35V capacitors are used for bulk filtration before feeding a set of positive and negative 15V low-dropout linear voltage regulators. There is about a 5V drop across these regulator, offering plenty of headroom. As a result, these regulators get pretty warm. In fact, it exceeded my pain threshold. These appear to be the warmest components in the chassis from what I can tell.
Voltage applied to the main filter capacitors are much lower than their rating, so the design has good margin. All too often we see manufacturers run the operating voltage too close to the rated value, which decreases reliability. Several other linear regulation stages are on this board, all of which produce quiet DC for the analog circuits. Secondary voltages produced from this board also feeds the 8-channel board as well. The Sabre
DAC operates from nominally 3.3v for its analog section and
nominally 1.2v for its digital section. These lower voltages are produced by additional linear regulators.
2-Channel XLR and RCA Outputs
The ESS Technology ESS9018 SABRE32 Reference 8-channel digital to analog
converter (DAC) with each channel capable of performing with a DNR
of >127dB and a THD of less than 0.0001%
(-120dB). This 8-channel DAC is used for the two RCA and two XLR outputs as well as the headphone output. The eight internal DACs are partitioned as follows: 1 pair for the RCA outputs, 1 pair for the XLR outputs, and 2 pairs stacked for the headphone output. The previous Oppo design (BDP-95) stacked four DACs on each of the 2-channel outputs, which is a common topology for many audiophile products. However Oppo has decided to depart from this topology on the BDP-105. The company claims that improvements made to the board layout and power supply have increased performance enough to still achieve audiophile performance from a single pair of ESS DACs. Each unbalanced (RCA) channel is driven with a LM4562 opamp. The balanced (XLR) outputs use a fully differential audio amplifier LME49724 for maximum performance. Both sets of outputs use relays to minimize leakage paths that can affect sound quality. The headphone DACs feed a pair of LM4562 opamps and then drive a TI TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier that uses a current-feedback architecture. The entire signal path from the DACs to the headphone output has no AC (capacitive) coupling in the signal path. Two DACs per channel are needed because of the heavy loading on the I/V stages.
Signal Path Capacitors
Oppo uses WIMA film audio capacitors in the analog signal path on both audio boards for better sound quality. The outputs on the 7.1 channels as well as the 2-channel XLR and RCA outputs are AC-coupled. These outputs use ELNA's SILMIC series capacitors, which are their highest grade audio capacitors and are known to exhibit superior acoustic characteristics.
7.1 Channel Audio Board
The 7.1 audio board in the BDP-105 uses a second ESS ESS9018 DAC, which offers significant performance improvements over the Cirrus CS4382A 8-channel DAC used in the BDP-103. Each channel is neatly layed out with the DAC centered between the post-DAC filter and drive circuits. Each channel of the DAC provides one of the 7.1 output channels and is driven using LM4562 opamps. The main left and right channels use relays to mute the outputs while the other six channels use transistors to mute.
Digital Audio Inputs
Buried beneath the 7.1 audio board lies a dedicated digital audio board with an XMOS xCORE 32-bit multicore processor designed to accept three types of digital audio inputs (optical, coaxial, and USB). Customers now have an easy way to connect their digital audio sources to the unit. We tested both the toslink (optical) and the coaxial inputs using the Sonos music system. Both worked flawlessly during our review. We didn't get a chance to test the USB input (complies with USB Audio 2.0 standard) using a digital audio source. Oppo provides a link to the software driver for Windows. This input provides 16-bit or 24-bit resolution with sample rates ranging from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz.
The Audio Processing menu on the BDP-105 includes the new configuration settings for Headphone Volume (0-100), XLR Terminal Polarity (Normal or Inverted), and the Stereo Signal (Down-mixed Stereo or Front Left/Right). The headphone volume is also controlled by the remote using the Volume "+" and "-" buttons when the headphones are plugged in.
The Input button on the remote is something new to both the BDP-103 and BDP-105 players. This was added to handle the new HDMI inputs (front and back) as well as the Audio Return Channel (ARC) on the two HDMI outputs. The BDP-105 also includes additional selections for the new digital inputs (optical, coaxial, and USB audio) on the back of the unit.
Our review system consisted of an Anthem AVR 50v 3D preamp/processor mated to a Parasound HCA-2205AT five channel amplifier. Speakers included a trio of M&K S-150THX speakers across the front and a pair of M&K SS-250 Tripole® surrounds for the rear channels. The THX crossover
set at 80 Hz works well with our speaker configuration. The subwoofers consisted of four new Ken Kreisel DX12012 subs stacked four high (called the Quattro). We connected the BDP-105 HDMI 1 output directly to the projector and HDMI 2 to the Anthem A/V unit. Both analog (XLR and RCA) outputs were connected to the Anthem A/V unit to test these interfaces.
Something new to the Oppo BDP-105 is the headphone jack. The headphone amplifier in the BDP-105 is connected directly to the I/V stage of the ESS SABRE32 Reference (32-bit) Hyperstream DAC with a fixed level. The output level is digitally controlled through the remote using a digital volume control with access to the DAC's internal data path. Since the DAC's data word is large (32-bits), it behaves just like the analog attenuator until it reaches the noise floor of the analog components of the DAC, which is around -130dB. ESS has a great presentation about how the volume control works in this device.
We were very curious about how this output sounded, so we connected our Sennheiser HD600 headphones fitted with a Cardas Quadlink Silent Terminators cable. Since these headphones have a way of revealing a lot of detail, we ran the performance of the BDP-105 against a dedicated headphone amplifier we had from Headroom. The built-in headphone amplifier produced excellent sound quality with good drive capability. It was not ear bleeding loud, but certainly loud enough to make me want to back off the level from the non-clipping 100% setting. Oppo did a great job on the headphone amplifier design.
Something we noticed when a set of headphones are plugged into the jack is that the audio through both the analog and digital outputs is muted. In addition, the audio level to the headphones ramps up from a lower level to the preset level rather than running full-tilt when the headphone plug is initially inserted. This was an nice feature.
Among the large number of formats supported by the BDP-105, my favorite recordings reside on high resolution DVD-Audio discs. Listening to Brazilian Romance on DVD-Audio reveals just how good this player sounds when using the balanced XLR outputs to the Anthem AVM 50v preamp. It is not completely clear whether the sonic differences with our XLR tests were due to the BDP-105 or the Anthem AVM-50v. Regardless, there was a clear difference when using the XLR interface compared to the unbalanced RCA connections. Levels were matched to eliminate perceived differences due to loudness, yet the XLR interface exhibited a more pronounced midrange with a larger and more dramatic soundstage. It was as if the vocals pushed through the haze and emerged with precise imaging. In fact, I had to get up and verify the center channel was not active because it sounded like vocals were emanating from there.
Chesky offers some of the best two-channel recordings, many of which can help reveal subtle differences in the signal path of the electronics. Livingston Taylor's Ink DVD - Isn't She Lovely is a great example of clean acoustic guitar layered with superb vocals that have excellent resolution and great dynamic range. The singer's deep vocals along with his fine acoustic guitar textures provided a great experience. The sounds of the acoustic strings being plucked and the harmonics were complex, but reproduced very nicely by this configuration. Other acoustic performances such as Diana Krall's All or Nothing at All track on her Love Scenes DTS disc reproduced extraordinary detail.
We also ran several tests using the RCA outputs for our 5.1 system. Other lossless formats such as Dolby's TrueHD or DTS' Master Audio achieve incredible levels of resolution and dynamic range. My hope is that more multi-channel performances that provide the sense of "being there" will be released in the future. John Mayer's Where The Light Is is a good example of excellent music reproduction from a live concert recorded at the Nokia Theatre in 2007.
As a hardware engineer, I am thoroughly impressed with the way Oppo has layed out the electronics in the BDP-105 while balancing cost-effective commonality with the BDP-103, and maximizing performance of the analog audio. The design includes a clean power supply topology, state of the art DACs with optimal board layouts, and attention paid to the signal path to avoid audio degradation. The performance of the BDP-105 is excellent especially considering the price of $1199. This price is not unreasonable given the capabilities of this unit and the fact that it plays virtually all audiophile formats. We just found our new reference Blu-ray player.