More so than most players, the DV-983H shows how a good upscaling player can give DVDs a new lease on life—not quite elevating them to the level of Blu-ray discs, of course, but making them look better than we might ever have thought possible.
The Oppo is also one of the two or three best sounding players in our survey thanks to its uncanny combination of resolution, rich tonal colors, and overarching three-dimensionality. While some might find the player’s tonal balance exhibits faint traces of brightness (at least for CD playback), the richness of the player’s tonal colors tends to offset any tendency toward an edgy or “cold” sound. And, as you shift toward higher resolution DVD-Audio and SACD material, the player sounds even better—most notably by producing huge, wide-open, holographic soundstages.
Finally, the Oppo stands as a sonic “gift that keeps on giving,” because it can decode HDCD discs. You may be surprised to discover that certain ostensibly “standard” CDs have, in fact, been HDCD encoded, and once you hear the heightened resolution that HDCD encoding offers, you’ll appreciate the Oppo’s decoding capabilities even more.
As I played the track “Timeless” from Larry Coryell, Badi Assad, and John Abercrombie’s Three Guitars [Telarc, multichannel SACD], I sat back and marveled at the huge sound the Oppo produced. On the track I’ve referenced, Coryell is seated at the left, Abercrombie on the right, and Assad in the center of a wide stage. As the song unfolds, the instrumentalists take turns soloing while their compatriots contribute atmospheric textures and phrases. The effect is not unlike finding yourself seated front row, center seat, at a magical concert performed just for you. While all of the players in this survey sounded good on this track, the Oppo helped it expand to fill a huge, yet quite believable, 3D space that I personally found enchanting.
Similarly, the Oppo sounded remarkably detailed and spacious on the Goodwin/Minnesota performance of Tavener’s Icons of Eros from the Reference Recordings 30th Anniversary Sampler disc—an HDCD-encoded recording. The piece is an unusual one, juxtaposing angular string passages with a rhythmic percussion motif that builds in intensity until it climaxes with a choral shout that seems to reverberate forever in the cathedral-like recording space. The DV-983H did an unexpectedly fine job of conveying the sense of “air” in the recording, letting you feel as much as hear the acoustics of the space.
In many ways the Oppo sounds more like a pricey high-end player than it does a unit priced under $400. True, this mean the player sometimes exposes the flaws in so-so recordings, but that’s a tradeoff that—in the Oppo’s case—we can live with (remember, the DV-983H isn’t so much “unforgiving” as it is honest).
Oppo’s flagship DV-983H is, by any standard, an outstanding DVD player, and a very fine audio player, too. If you’d like to get a good, big taste of what pricey high-end players are like, yet without breaking the bank, look no further. Oh, and did we mention that the Oppo even comes with a free HDMI cable? Cool, no?