Back in November, 2009, I did a news piece announcing the imminent arrival of Oppo’s new BDP-83SE “Special Edition” Blu-ray player, priced at $899. For those who may have missed that article, let me recap the key points.
How does the BDP-83SE differ from the original BDP-83? There are two main changes involve an improved power supply circuit board and a substantially revised audio circuit board, plus subtle changes to the player’s rear I/O panel. The video section of the player remains unchanged.
The audio board of the BDP-83SE will feature the combination of the new ESS Technology Sabre32 Ultra DAC (ES9016) and the ESS Sabre Premier 8-channel DAC (ES9006), with the Sabre Premier used to power the player’s 7.1-channel analog audio outputs. Oppo CTO and VP of Product Development Jason Liao says the ESS DACs deliver “an unparalled sound stage and incredible fidelity in both 7.1-channel and stereo modes,” providing “an exciting upgrade to the original BDP-83 for the discerning audio enthusiast.”
A related press release from Fremont, CA-based ESS Technology, Inc. explains that the Sabre32 Ultra DAC differs from conventional sigma-delta DACs in that it “incorporates innovative patented circuits to deliver spectacular music with an unsurpassed sound stage, with up to 128 dB dynamic range and 0.0003% (-110 dB) total harmonic distortion.” ESS explains that the Sabre32 Ultra DAC specifically includes three patented circuits: the 32-bit HyperStream modulator, the Revolver Dynamic Element Matching circuit, and the Time Domain Jitter Eliminator circuit, which is designed “to remove the digital jitter that causes distortion.”
Not long after I published my news article on the BD-83SE, I received a very, very early sample of the player for review and began listening to it immediately. How did it fare? The short answer actually isn’t short, in that it depends on whether you do or don’t come from the dyed-in-the-wool audiophile camp. If you are a consumer who appreciates getting better-than-expected performance at a bargain price, my thought is that you might well be complete satisfied (indeed, overjoyed) by the results you’ll achieve with the box-stock Oppo BDP-83. If you are an audiophile, however, and one steeped in the tradition of paying close attention to small but significant differences in sound quality (small differences that cumulatively add up to big differences), then I think you will absolutely, positively, unequivocally want to step up to the BDP-83SE. Here’s why.
The standard BDP-83 is a very, very good player and a bargain at its price. As I commented in my Playback review of the standard player, “I think the Oppo could hold its own in comparison with many of the $1000 ‘audiophile-grade’ CD players I’ve heard and could perhaps compete even further up the audio food chain.” But that said, the fact is that there were and are sub-$2000 multi-format player that can and do decisively outperform the standard BDP-83 (e.g., NAD’s Masters Series M55 DVD/universal player)—at least in terms of sound quality.
There are some reviewers who claim the standard BDP-83 is the greatest thing since sliced bread and that its sonic qualities can literally take on all comers, but while I appreciate their enthusiasm (and share it to some degree), the fact is that they’re wrong. There are better-sounding multi-format players out there, provided you’re willing to pay for them.