Over the past several years, Oppo has steadily been carving out a healthy chunk of the disk player market and for all the right reasons. From day one, the firm has followed a singular vision that involves building versatile players that combine often shockingly high levels of performance and value in equal measure. As a result, Oppo’s disc players have in turn been winning friends, influencing people, and merrily re-writing the rulebooks that define exactly how much sound and picture quality one can reasonably expect for a given sum of money.
But one other aspect of Oppo that’s also deeply admirable is their practice of continuous product improvement. Let’s call this the “never-miss-an-opportunity-to-make-a-good-thing-better” impulse that, in my view, defines Oppo as a true high-end manufacturer (albeit one whose products are, by design, affordable). From year to year, the Oppo folks just keep on pressing forward—never resting on their laurels (of which they’ve garnered quite a bunch), so that each new Oppo model really is better than the last—and in genuinely meaningful ways.
Those of you who have followed Oppo since its inception know that the firm’s practice has been to produce really good, full-featured standard models, but then to offer somewhat more costly hot-rod models targeted specifically toward sound quality-conscious music lovers. This basic practice continues with the firm’s new second-generation Blu-ray/universal players, where Oppo’s BDP-93 ($499) serves as the standard model, while the just-released BDP-95 ($999) stands as the flagship, audiophile-grade model (and arguably as the finest player Oppo has yet produced).
In the past, Oppo’s flagship players were often “tuned to the nines” versions of its standard models, but that’s no longer the case here. Even a cursory glance at the chassis and rear panels of the two players will show that while the BDP-95 shares some features in common with the BDP-93, it is in fact an entirely different player in ways that run more than “skin deep.” Let me begin this review, then, by listing some of the BDP-95’s distinguishing features and characteristics.
Audio highlights: Apart from externally obvious differences, the BDP-95 differs from the BDP-93 (and from most other competing Blu-ray/universal players on the market), by providing a distinctive array of audio features, as highlighted below.
• Very high quality DACs: The BDP-95 uses two 8-channel, 32-bit ESS SABRE32 ES9018 Reference Audio DACs—one of the highest performance DACs in the entire ESS SABRE family. In fact, the ES9018 is similar to the DACs some high-end manufacturers use in multi-thousand-dollar, two-channel SACD players. ESS claims that the ES9018 “is the world’s best performing 32-bit audio DAC solution targeted for high-end consumer applications and professional studio equipment).”
• Dedicated stereo analog output: The BDP-95 offers a dedicated stereo analog output with “specially optimized ES9018 DAC and output driving stages.” Oppo adds that, “each output is driven by 4 DAC channels stacking together to achieve even higher performance.” The stereo output offers two sets of output connectors with different associated drive circuitry. One set provides XLR balanced connectors while the other provides RCA single-ended connectors. Oppo emphasizes, “the balanced output features a true differential signal path all the way from the DAC to the 3-pin XLR connector.” There are even setup options for running normal or inverted XLR pin-out polarity configurations. Frankly, these are the sorts of features you might expect to see in multi-thousand-dollar audio-only players, but that are more-or-less unheard of in universal players selling for under $1000.
• Multichannel analog output: The BDP-95 also offers a set of 7.1-channel analog outputs, which are driven by the second of the two ES9018 DACs.
• Substantial, low-noise power supply: The BDP-95 incorporates a toroidal power supply that, according to Oppo, is “custom designed and built by Rotel,” and that is said to offer “superior power efficiency and much lower exterior magnetic field over traditional laminated steel core transformers.”
• Coaxial and optical digital outputs: Recognizing that some owners will use their Oppo players as digital transports, the BDP-95 provides both coaxial and optical digital outputs. This also means the player can be used with pre-HDMI legacy A/V receivers and controllers.
• Rich disc/media format support: The BDP-95 is a true universal player that supports: Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Audio/Video, SACD, HDCD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, AVCHD, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC and WAV from recorded discs or, where feasible, from USB or eSATA drives.
• Direct DSD bitstream output: Though this may seem a small point, the BDP-95 is set up so that, when playing SACD discs, it can output direct DSD bitstreams (the native SACD data format) or convert SACD content into LPCM format.
• Dual HDMI outputs: The BDP-95 supports dual HDMI outputs and thus allows one system setup configuration most universal players cannot support: namely, a configuration where one HDMI output (potentially set up to provide video data only) feeds the display directly, while the other HDMI output is used purely to provide high resolution audio data to an A/V receiver or controller. One scenario where this could be particularly helpful is in using the BDP-95 to play 3D Blu-ray content to a 3D-capable display, while using an earlier generation, non-3D-capable A/V receiver or controller.
• Expanded bass management options: Unlike the earlier BDP-83-series players, the BDP-95 gives users an expanded range of subwoofer crossover options, including settings for: 40 Hz, 60 Hz, 80Hz, 90 Hz, 100 Hz, 110 Hz, 120 Hz, 150 Hz, 200 Hz, and 250 Hz.