Over recent years, Oppo Digital has followed a simple recipe for success: just build universal disc players that offer greater versatility, more audiophile-friendly features, and better all around sound and picture quality than your competitors, and then sell them for sensible prices. Naturally, this laudable goal is a lot easier to describe on paper than it is to achieve out in the real world, but Oppo has made good on its promises, year after year and player after player, in the process earning a reputation as the nearly automatic “go-to” source for players that will satisfy discerning music (and movie) lovers on a budget.
Historically, many of Oppo’s most popular players have sold for around £499—a relatively modest price point where Oppo has traditionally been a value-for-money leader. But never a company to rest on its laurels, however, Oppo has recently announced the BDP-105EU (£1,199)—a player that promises to do everything its predecessor could do and then some.
The BDP-105EU can handle virtually any format of audio or video disc you’d care to throw at it, including Blu-ray Video, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, HDCD, and more. But with the BDP-105EU the universality theme doesn’t end with disc playback because the new player is also designed to serve both as a network-streaming player and as a multi-input high resolution DAC (complete with asynchronous USB DAC functionality). Video mavens might also want to note that the BDP-105EU is capable of serving as a powerful, inline video processing engine/scaler for use with various outboard video source components.
To really “get” what the BDP-105EU is about, think of it not so much as a powerful multi-format disc player per se (although it is that and more), but rather as a multi-function digital media playback hub whose bag of tricks includes, but is in no way limited to, disc playback. In practical terms, this means the BDP-105EU neatly resolves debates about whether it is better to listen to discs, to stream content from the Internet, or to enjoying audio files stored on computers, because it can quite happily enable you to do all of the above.
The BDP-105EU comes housed in an all-new steel chassis said to be significantly more rigid than the chassis used in previous Oppo players, and it benefits from a fan- less architecture, meaning all internal components are convection cooled (most previous Oppos required fan-cooling). Do such seemingly small detail changes like a more rigid chassis or a fan-free design make for meaningful sonic improvements? My opinion (based on extensive comparisons between the BDP-105EU and its 95EU predecessor) is that they do. Specifically, the new player offers a noticeable more solid and “grounded” sound with quieter backgrounds, improved resolution of low-level transient and textural details, and superior three-dimensionality.
Moving on, the 105EU uses a beefy toroidal power supply and provides both 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs plus two separate sets of stereo analogue outputs (one single-ended and the other fully balanced). Interestingly, the BDP-105EU (like the BDP-95EU) features not one but rather two costly 8-channel ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, one used to feed the 7.1-channel outputs and the other used exclusively to feed the two sets of stereo outputs. What’s interesting is that ESS’s Sabre32 Reference DACs have seen use in some very expensive components, making it all the more impressive that Oppo fits two of the devices into its sub-£1200 player.
Another new touch is that the BDP-105EU provides a built-in headphone amp that runs straight off one of the player’s ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs. While I the headphone amp offer relatively modest output (at least on paper), it has the undeniable benefit of being fed directly from one of the Oppo’s ESS Sabre32 Reference DACs, so that it gives listeners an unusually pure, uncluttered, intimate, and up close perspective on the music (precisely what you would want for monitoring applications, for example). I found the Oppo headphone amp had more than enough output to drive moderately sensitive headphones such as the HiFiMAN HE-400s or PSB M4U1s, though it might not have sufficient “oomph” for some of today’s more power-hungry top-tier ‘phones (for instance, the HiFiMAN HE-6).
While the original BDP-95EU offered a reasonable range of Internet content options and could play digital audio files from USB storage devices or eSATA drives, it was never set up to function as multi-input playback device or as a high-resolution audio DAC (though many 95EU owners certainly wished for these capabilities). The 105EU changes all this by offering a greatly expanded ranges of general-purpose inputs, including two HDMI inputs (one that is faceplate accessible and MHL-compatible) and three USB 2.0 ports (one that is faceplate accessible). Moreover, the 105EU also provides three dedicated DAC inputs: two S/PDIF inputs (one coaxial, one optical), plus one asynchronous USB input. Finally, to complete the connectivity picture the new player provides both Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connections implemented, respectively, through a rear panel-mounted RJ-45 connector and a handy USB Wi-Fi dongle.