I first saw the Lexicon BD-30 universal Blu-ray player in the Harman International display booth at CEDIA 2009 where my initial impression was that it looked like a heavily overbuilt, upscale, Lexicon-themed interpretation of an Oppo BDP-83. The similarities were striking enough that I asked my booth tour guide if Lexicon had teamed with Oppo in developing the BD-30 and he replied (mistakenly as it turns out) that the BD-30 had been developed solely by Lexicon. On the basis of that information, I immediately requested a review sample.
Once my review sample of the BD-30 arrived (toward the end of 2009) and I got a chance to inspect the player closely and to put it through its paces. In the process, I became even more convinced that there must have been some collaboration between Oppo and Lexicon in creating the BD-30 (there are many physical similarities between the machines in terms of control and I/O layouts, and the user interfaces are similar, too). Accordingly, I asked again whether Oppo and Lexicon had worked on the BD-30 and learned that in fact they had. Marc Kellom, Harman International’s head of High Performance A/V products, indicated that the same supplier that builds the Oppo player in its entirety manufactures core elements of the BD-30 in China. Final assembly, firmware loading, and quality control testing for the BD-30, however, take place in Lexicon’s facility based in Elkhart, Indiana.
Kellom explained that during the development of both players, Lexicon had evaluated the then-current Oppo design and suggested some video-related changes—changes that were eventually incorporated in production versions of both players. Similarly, Lexicon bore the costs of having the Oppo design put through conformance testing relative to various worldwide consumer safety standards and to put it through THX qualification testing, again leading to changes that were incorporated into both players.
Knowing that it would sell its version of the player through its upscale, service-oriented retail dealer channel (where the standing expectation is that dealers will provide expert custom installation/integration services), Lexicon decided that its version of the player would need several changes vis-à-vis a standard Oppo player. First, it required a significant more beefy and elegant looking chassis (and one strong enough to support rack mounting), plus firmware modifications that would make the player easier for dealers to integrated with other Lexicon high-performance A/V products (e.g., the MC-12). Second, the player required formal THX certification—if only for the sake of consistency with other THX-certified Lexicon products. Third, the BD-30 would need to ship with somewhat different accessories than those that come with the standard Oppo player, including a set of rack-mounting “ears” plus a copy of the well-regarded Joe Kane Productions Digital Video Essentials HD Basics, Blu-ray Edition HD set-up toolkit disk.
The upshot, then, is that the BD-30 takes the core chassis, circuit boards, and drive mechanism of a standard Oppo BDP-83 universal Blu-ray player, and mounts them within a heavily built Lexicon enclosure, “re-flashes” the player’s firmware EPROMs with Lexicon-spec code, and then performs its own battery of final quality control tests in the US.
In practice this means the BD-30, like the Oppo upon which it is based, is an incredibly versatile, multi-format disk player that delivers exemplary video quality and very, very good (though definitely not state-of-the-art) sound quality. The BD-30 can handle Blu-ray, DVD-Video, SACD, HDCD, and CD disks without breaking a sweat. Interestingly, the BD-30’s manual indicates that the player cannot handle DVD-Audio disks, though in fact it can and does.
But there is an element of controversy surrounding the Lexicon BD-30, and it has to do with pricing. The BD-30, you see, sells for quite a lot more money than the Oppo: $3499 for the BD-30 vs. $499 for the BDP-83. At first blush, the extra $3000 seems a heavy price to pay for enhanced chassis casework, revised firmware, and a few extra accessories, leading some skeptical online A/V pundits and consumers/forum participants to cry “foul!” As it turns out, however, some of the Oppo’s most vociferous critics turn out to be “reviewer/journalists” who in fact work for organizations that are online resellers of the Oppo. So much for impartiality and fairness…
One key point I think many people miss (or simply choose to ignore) is that, with the Lexicon, you aren’t just buying the player, but also the highly-supportive expert dealer network that stands behind it—a factor that, in my experience, means much more to some prospective buyers than to others. Though consumers sometimes pretend otherwise, the fact is that the benefits of a good dealer network are tangible and, yes, costly. Bluntly, rock-solid dealer networks don’t come for free.