I tested the BDP-83 with the supplied Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray Edition disk and found the player’s performance was excellent. On the Spears & Munsil demonstration materials picture quality was breathtaking—giving a noticeably smoother and more film-like presentation than I’ve observed from other Blu-ray players. Many Blu-ray players produce images that appear extremely sharp at first glance, but that seem to have an unnatural and subtly “edge-enhanced” quality when you take a closer look. But not so the Oppo; it produces images that have are smooth, naturally sharp, and three-dimensional—never looking artificially processed. This may be due to the Oppo’s superior ability to eliminate problems with jaggies—a capability the player demonstrated on the demanding Spears & Munsil jaggies tests.
One small Blu-ray anomaly I noted, though, is that when the Oppo is set for 1080i output (as you might do if you own an earlier generation HDTV), its performance on certain test patterns falls off a bit. For example, at 1080i resolution I noted some moiré flicker on the familiar test sequence where a camera pans to follow a racecar passing in front of empty grandstand seats. You might well ask if this isn’t a problem with the display rather than the player, and perhaps it is. However, when I tried the same racecar sequence using a benchmark DVD up-scaled for 1080i output, the moiré flickers went away. Nevertheless, on actual Blu-ray movie material the Oppo looked great at 1080i.
To summarize, the BDP-83 equals or betters the video performance of any Blu-ray player I’ve tested thus far.
Early on, I discovered the fundamental character of the BDP-83’s sound is markedly different from that of earlier Oppo players. In the past, Oppo players have been characterized by their slightly cooler-than-neutral tonal balance and an emphasis on definition and clarity. The BDP-83, however, introduces a noticeably warmer, fuller, and richer sound—one that reminds me in some respect of the sound of some of the expensive, high-end audio-only players I've tested. In contrast to the somewhat cool, lightly-balanced sound of earlier Oppos, the BDP-83 serves up full-bodied bass, luminous and well-defined midrange frequencies, and sweet highs free of edginess and glare.
Diehard audiophiles are bound to ask, “But how good is the Oppo in an absolute sense?” Let me try to answer that question by saying that I think the Oppo could hold its own in comparison with many of the $1000 “audiophile-grade” CD players I’ve heard and could perhaps compete even further up the audio food chain.
As an experiment I compared the BDP-83 to the NAD Masters Series M55 Universal Player ($1800) that Playback uses as its reference, and found that while the NAD clearly sounded better than the BDP-83, it did not beat it by large margins. Specifically, the NAD offered somewhat more refined bass, more revealing and open-sounding midrange and more transparent and focused rendering of treble details. But to add some perspective, bear in mind that the NAD, which cannot play Blu-ray discs, costs roughly 3.6 times what the Oppo does. My point: the Oppo offers exemplary sound quality at its price point and can only be outdone by substantially more expensive components.
When watching films, many enthusiasts believe optimal sound is achieved by running digital audio connections from their players to their AVRs or A/V controllers and then having the latter handle soundtrack decoding task. However, I found the BDP-83’s onboard Dolby and DTS decoders, DACs, and analog audio section sound so good that they just might change users mind. Listening to Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack, I found the analog sound of the Oppo more than completive with the decoded sound achieved by my Rotel RSX-1550 AVR.
On Letters From Iwo Jima [Dolby TrueHD], I listened carefully to a scene where American forces launch a pre-invasion airstrike against Japanese ground forces on the island and noted several key difference between the Oppo’s sound and the decoded output of the Rotel. First, the Oppo’s upper midrange and high frequencies were slightly clearer and more open than the Rotel’s and also noticeably smoother and less edgy. The scene begins with soft, earnest conversations between officers, then moves into the chaos of the attack, and concludes with the deathly quiet of soldiers surveying the wreckage and accounting for missing comrades. The Oppo’s smooth, unexaggerated highs make the scene’s many small, textural soundtrack details integrate better and feel more realistic. Second, the Oppo’s bass sounded tighter and deeper than the Rotel’s did, giving bomb blasts greater concussive impact. Finally, the Oppo rendered dynamic contrasts more effectively than the receiver did, making loud passages seem more frightening and quiet moments more somber.