Occasionally a component comes along that resets the bar for what consumers can expect at a particular price. In the eight months since it’s release the $499 Oppo BDP-93 has become the de-facto standard for universal players. If it’s not cheaper with the same performance, or similarly priced with better performance, any new universal player is begging to be a non-starter.
For those who do want audio performance above and beyond the BDP-93, Oppo has the BDP-95 (click here to read The Perfect Vision review). In the conclusion to his TPV review, Editor Chris Martens notes, “The BDP-95 is by far the finest Blu-ray/universal disc player Oppo has yet produced. If you can afford one, then put the Oppo right at the top of your short list. If you can afford something more expensive, strongly consider buying the Oppo anyway. It’s that good.”
Given these two very attractive options, why would anyone bother to consider a third-party modification of an Oppo BDP-93? That question elbowed its way to the top of my mind as I began looking at the two modified Oppo BDP-93 players available from NuForce. Both NuForce versions replace the BDP-93’s stock analog board with a new one created by NuForce. Both upgrade boards claim to offer superior performance to the stock BDP-93. But how do they stack up against the Oppo BDP-95? Does NuForce really offer anything that isn’t already available on the Oppo BDP-95?
Overview: NuForce offers the BDP-93NE and BDP-93NEX either as fully finished players or as upgrade circuit boards that do-it-yourselfers can install in existing Oppo BDP-93 players.
Audio highlights: The $400 BDP-93NE board delivers eight channels of analog audio with advanced analog filters to reduce phase shift, onboard linear processing for regulated and filtered DC power for all the analog stages on the new board and elimination of the stock muting circuitry.
The $900 BDP-93 NXE board adds a sophisticated clocking scheme to reduce jitter and a Silicon Labs VCXO to generate an asynchronous clocking signal that claims a PCM jitter spec of < 3ps RMS.
Both boards were designed by Alex Dondysh and, according to NuForce’s Jason Lim, “The standard board's sonic goal was for 12AX7-type triode characteristics without tubes. Both boards take the BDP-93’s Cirrus Logic CS4382 DAC and alter it to run in single-ended mode, which changes the stock unit’s default cancellation of even-order harmonics.” But for the NXE Dondysh wanted a “more modern sound” with greater frequency extension, which he accomplished by using LME47960 op-amps instead of the OPA 2134 op-amps he used on the NE board.
Video highlights: The video features set of the NuForce BDP-93 NE and NXE are exactly the same as that of the BDP-93. Key features (shared, in this case, by both players) are as noted below.
• Up-to-the-minute, high-tech video processor: At the time of their release to the market, Oppo’s players have traditionally made a point of offering the very latest and most powerful onboard video processing devices, and the BDP-93 is no exception. It incorporates the second-generation Marvell Qdeo Kyoto G2 video processor, which provides:
o Video noise reduction.
o Compression artifact reduction.
o Intelligent color, contrast, detail, and edge enhancement.
o DVD (or other video format) upconversion to 1080p.
• Source Direct mode: As in the Audio discussion above, Oppo recognizes that some owners will want the BDP-93 to serve as a “digital transport” for use with external video processers. Accordingly, Oppo provides a “Source Direct” mode where the player outputs A/V data as read, with “no processing or alteration.”
• True 24p Video: The BDP-93 supports playback of video content captured at 24 fps, “the same frame rate as the original movie’s theatrical release.”
• Multiple Zoom Modes: According to Oppo, the BDP-93 supports “multiple levels of aspect ratio control and image zooming, including a vertical stretch mode for customers with a 2.35:1 CIH (Constant Image Height) display system.”
• Dual HDMI outputs: As mentioned under “Audio highlights,” above, the BDP-93 provides dual HDMI outputs, with separately configurable video settings for each (in fact, the HDMI 1 output can be configured to output video data only).