I have only two nits to pick about the Oppo’s various menu options, and both have to do with the way the player’s Speaker Configuration controls work.
First, I wish that Oppo instead gave users the ability to specify subwoofer crossover frequencies on a channel-by-channel basis. At present, your only setting options are to select Large, Small, or None, where small speakers are automatically assigned a 100Hz crossover frequency. But the reality is that a 100Hz crossover setting isn’t what necessarily works best for all systems. It would be nice to have more options.
Second, I wish Oppo allowed users to specify exact speaker distance settings on a channel-by-channel basis. At present, distance settings for the L/R main speakers are ganged (when you change left speaker settings the right speaker settings automatically change with them, and vice versa), as are distance settings for the L/R surround speakers. What is more, distance settings for the Subwoofer and Center channel are constrained so that they can never be greater than settings for the Left/Right main speakers. This is simply unrealistic, given the fact that in many home theaters the sub and center channel will wind up being placed behind the L/R main speakers.
With the two menu tweaks I’ve proposed above, I think this already flexible player would become even more versatile, and more finely attuned to audiophile’s needs.
The BDP-83SE uses the same backlit remote that comes with the standard BDP-83, which feature soft orange control buttons, which illuminate whenever any control is pressed. There is also a backup light switch.
Like the BDP-83, the Special Edition provides variable analog outputs that can be controlled from the remote, meaning that you could conceivably run the SE directly into a power amplifier (though for best sonic results I would again recommend running the volume control full up, and then adjusting volume levels via an A/V controller, AVR, integrated amplifier, or preamp). The remote provides a Pure Audio button, which shuts down the player’s video circuitry to improve overall sound quality, plus a Resolution button that lets you toggle through the player’s many upscaling/down-conversion options.
The video performance of the BDP-83SE is identical to that of the standard BDP-83, which is to say that it is simply exemplary. Rather than providing an elaborate re-hash, let me instead supply a link to my original BDP-83 review for those who wish to learn more about the player’s video performance.
The short form result is that the BDP-83SE, like the original BDP-83, delivers video performance as good if not better than that of any other Blu-ray player I have seen or tested.
After I published my initial review of the BDP-83, many readers said they wished I had tested the player as a digital transport that could be used to feed a high quality outboard DAC. With readers’ requests in mind, I took the Oppo Special Edition home and installed it in my reference high-end audio system, where I was able to compare its capabilities as a transport versus those of my reference Musical Fidelity kW SACD player. For purposes of my tests, I first connected the digital outputs of the Musical Fidelity player, and then those of the BDP-83SE, to the superb DAC section of a Peachtree Audio iDecco, which in turn fed my reference preamp and amplifier.
As I did my series of back-and-forth listening comparisons, it found that the sonic qualities of the two transports were very similar, though not—in a strict sense—absolutely identical. The Musical Fidelity transport enabled the Peachtree DAC to capture soundstages that sounded very slightly deeper, wider and more cohesive than those I heard when the Oppo was used to play the same material. On the other hand, the Oppo enabled the Peachtree DAC to render certain kinds of transient sounds with just a hair more energy and “pop” than I heard with the Musical Fidelity in play. In any event, these differences were small and subtle enough that I could live quite happily with either player as a digital transport in a high-end audio context.
Like the BDP-83, the BDP-83SE offers a noticeably warmer, richer and more full-bodied sound than earlier generations did. But where the Special Edition steps ahead and stays ahead of its lower-priced sibling is in its handling of all kinds of low-level transient and textural details in the music. It’s almost as if BDP-83SE removes a subtle sonic filter from the signal path, giving you a much more direct and immediate connection, and letting you explore every little twist, turn, nook and cranny the music has to offer. A visual analogy might fit, too, at least for those of you who happen to wear glasses. The sonic impact of stepping up to the Special Edition player is not unlike that delicious moment when the ophthalmologist finds your just-right prescription and everything in your visual field goes from “almost in focus” to “well and truly sharply focused.”