The BDP-105D is OPPO Digital’s flagship universal disc player. BDP = Blu-Ray Disc Player. D = Darbee video processing chip. AU = Australia. Aside from enforcing DVD and Blu-Ray region restrictions, differences to the US and UK versions are minor and from hereon in this OPPO unit will be referred to as the BDP-105 because what follows pertains to all versions, Darbee or no Darbee, American, British or Australian.
All localised versions of the BDP-105 can play Blu-Ray discs, SACDs, DVDs and CDs but they’re also equipped to stream digital audio from local drives, network shares and the cloud. The proverbial Swiss Army knife then. Yours for US$1299/AU$1899. Strike one for value for money (VFM) on features.
VFM strikes a second time from popping the lid and observing a full house: toroidal power supply, disc read mechanism, 7.1 surround processing and stereo processing boards, each of which come loaded with a 32bit ESS Sabre 9018 Reference chip. (Note: this is not the cheaper mobile-friendly K2M version).
The stereo board’s chip ultimately feeds three different outputs: 1) a pair of balanced XLRs; 2) a pair of single-ended RCAs; and 3) a front panel 6.4mm headphone socket which offers more than enough juice for the likes of Master&Dynamic’s MH40 or OPPO’s own PM-3, but gets found out when called upon to drive a pair of 600 Ohm Beyerdynamic T1 with which it sounds thin and undernourished – not at all uncommon with unified solutions like this.
A third VFM hit comes from lifting the unit from its box and out of the ‘recycled shopping bag’ sleeve. Internal steel plates top and bottom ensure the OPPO tips the scales at a hefty 8kg.
As can be seen at some OPPO dealers and at audio shows, a perspex-lidded version exposes the same.
During my visit to OPPO’s Dongguan-based factory in March of this year, I witnessed a run of the lower-specc’d BDP-103 come into being on a meticulously structured production line which specified multiple levels of testing and QC.
OPPO aren’t a company afraid to move with the times. Firmware updates, installable from the settings panel via USB or direct from the Internet, have steadily piled on the features since the BDP-105 first arrived in late 2012. The company’s California office helps facilitate close liaison with nearby chip manufacturers and software companies: ESS, Marvell, Dolby Labs, YouTube and Google.
In 2015, the BDP-105’s home screen gives region-dependent access to BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport, Vudu, CinemaNow, Rhapsody, Berliner Philharmoniker, Google Picasa, Pandora, Netflix and YouTube.
Mercifully obviating OPPO’s in-app virtual keyboard, remote control of YouTube can be handed off to any LAN-connected smart device. Think: Google Chromecast-type control that makes search a whole lot easier.
Of course, the digital audio landscape has changed quite a bit since OPPO launched the BDP-105 some three years ago. Streaming is slowly supplanting optical discs as the digital audio medium of choice.
Handily, the OPPO can playback content from hard drives connected to its front and back USB ports as well as folders shared via DLNA or SMB (for which Mac OS X users are advised to install SMBUp).
OPPO filters the content of local and network drives three ways – ‘music’, ‘photo’ and ‘movie’ – with distinct menu routing for each. This takes a little getting used to and makes me wonder: why not have all media types accessible from a single menu starting point?
Alternatively, the OPPO can be bowel-fed via toslink, coaxial or asynchronous USB (which happens to do DSD) by third party devices like the Sonos Connect, AURALiC Aries Mini, Mac or PC.
When it comes to lossy-level cloud services, there’s no Spotify on offer here and OPPO’s own coding of Pandora is limited to the playback of existing stations and thumbs up/down on each song. New stations must created/edited elsewhere.
In September OPPO added Tidal functionality via a beta firmware release which has since been given official sign-off. Tidal is accessible only via OPPO’s MediaControl iOS/Android app. I was pleasantly surprised to see music start up faster than it does via Google Chrome or Tidal’s own OS X app running on a 2014 Mac Mini.
Across three screens, the MediaControl app additionally emulates the hardware remote’s layout. And via its folder/file navigation system, the app occasionally gives the end user access to minor features not available through the TV’s UI. This occasionally leads to some idiosyncratic behaviour.
Case in point: a 2014 firmware update made gapless playback of .wav and FLAC files possible (at last!) but only by navigating to an album, pressing the ‘OPTION’ button (on the hardware remote) and selecting gapless playback from the resulting pop-up menu. That’s for USB connected drives.
However, this same method applied to streaming audio from a SMB share over the network doesn’t work. Here we defer to the MediaControl app: a long press of a FLAC file brings up a context menu offering a gapless playback option…but only (seemingly) on the iOS 4.0 version. The gapless context menu doesn’t appear on MediaControl 4.01 for Android running on a Google Nexus 5.
Bypassing these interstitial tricks altogether and hitting play directly on any track within a SMB- or USB-hosted folder will see its contents play out just fine but with the BDP-105 inserting gaps between tracks.
This begs the question: why isn’t gapless the default playback action? Or perhaps it begs the question: is gapless playback an essential feature? Neither Jeff Dorgay nor Chris Martens gave mention to its absence in their respective reviews for TONEAudio and TAS and yet a Google search exposes considerable gapless desire among end users taking to forums.
Ponder this: Is gapless playback not more essential than DSD decoding? I believe so.
For those sensitive to gaps, those who listen to DJ mixes, live albums, opera, classical pieces, numerous Pink Floyd albums, the OPPO player can also be repurposed as a DLNA renderer with the gapless control handled by the corresponding server software. JRiver is one way to go here. As is adding Bubble UPnP to one’s existing DLNA software. (The specifics of each are beyond the scope of this review).
With the OPPO’s flexibility come corresponding layers of complexity – this won’t be to everyone’s liking. For example, the BDP-105 makes for a tricky proposition when considering a leap from a Sonos Connect (US$349). OPPO’s user interface lacks the overall coherence of Sonos’. And then there’s Sonos’ gapless playback, enabled by default on (almost) all cloud streaming fronts.
However, the OPPO’s D/A conversion digs far deeper into the mix than its less costly streaming-only rival. The BDP-105’s ESS Sabre 9018 implementation is comparatively more front foot with transient attack, particularly noticeable in the low end, and is less focussed on communicating instrumental decay. The OPPO better separates players and their layers and is easily the most incisive – and satisfying – of the two. That’s the way I hear it with the Vinnie Rossi LIO playing pre-amplifier duty to a pair of Adam Tensor Delta loudspeakers.
The BDP-105D’s digital domain volume attenuation means it can also fire directly into active loudspeakers or a power amplifier, thus bypassing the additional expense of a pre-amplifier, but for this review at least that remains a theoretical proposition.
Anyone upgrading from an older Cambridge DacMagic or the original Rega DAC will likely find themselves bowled over by the OPPO DAC’s greater bombast and wider, taller imaging.
That said, the 105’s presentation is surpassed on overall repose and finesse by newcomers like the Chord Mojo and Schiit Audio’s Multibit Gungnir. Thankfully, the OPPO player’s coaxial and toslink digital outputs will accommodate an outboard DAC upgrade (such as the Schiit or the Chord) as budget allows.
AURALiC’s Aries streamer (US$999) goes toe-to-toe with the OPPO box on USB drive hosting, LAN streaming and Tidal streaming, all with automagical gapless playback, but then comes up short on disc playback and (balanced) D/A conversion. US$2300 gets you the two together – the best of both worlds – but only you can decide if that makes financial sense. For me it does not.
What about the Sonos Connect with the OPPO? It’s a better fiscal fit but the Connect’s digital output doesn’t play in the same league as the Aries’. Moreover, my preference is for the Connect’s Toslink output, which doesn’t sound as edgy or as strident as the neighbouring coaxial.
In the world of digital audio streamers, a properly cash copacetic match comes from Cupertino. The 4th gen Apple TV 4 lands with internal storage – US$149 for 32Gb, US$199 for twice that – and the all-new tvOS interface that’s light years ahead of OPPO’s. Dropping in on the new version too is a dedicated app store that hits the ground running with Apple Music’s (lossy) streaming.
A run through the robust tech-trance of L.S.G. Volume 2 followed by (the more audiophile-approved) Dark Side Of The Moon confirmed Apple Music’s tvOS app defaults to gapless playback, zero user intervention required.
How long before we see similar apps from Spotify, Pandora, Deezer and Tidal? Spotify runs on Ogg Vorbis and Tidal on FLAC; both are natively gapless formats. Any in-house coded apps will (more likely than not) see the problematic inter-track stop-start banished to oblivion from day dot. We only have to look to each company’s iOS- and OS-X-store sourced apps to see gapless ready to rock out of the box.
But there’s a big ole gotcha lurking in the wings. In moving from 3rd to 4th generation Apple TV, we bid farewell to its Toslink output. Gen 4 effectively locks out 99% of the world’s standalone D/A converters.
OPPO BDP-105, come on down! An ability to de-embed and/or decode tvOS’ digital audio stream via either of its two HDMI inputs – one up front, one out back – puts the Chinese device inside of Apple’s newly formed exclusion zone. How’s that for fortune smiling? For twice the cookie, the Apple box also enjoys the benefits of OPPO’s own video processing. (Similar HDMI connectivity/processing is also possible from a 3rd Gen Apple TV but there’s no tvOS and therefore no app store).
For a product that began life as a universal disc player with streaming audio extras, three years on it looks like those extras have become the OPPO BDP-105’s bigger selling points: Tidal, LAN streaming, D/A conversion and, via a happy Apple accident, (close to) exclusivity with standalone Apple TV A/V processing.
A foothold in the future of Apple’s streaming ecosystem is both a beautiful and ironic stroke of luck, don’t you think?