Oppo BDP 83 review - Nuforce Edition Blu Ray player (Region Free Modified Version)


Introduction

Oppo has been doing things little different, giving joy to many audiophiles And Videophile alike with their offerings. They have been a leader in bringing high quality technology to the masses at a price which has been surprisingly competitive.

The new Oppo BD 83 has set the home theatre world alight with a performance for video and in audio that has been well reviewed worldwide.

Differences

The key feature of the Oppo players has been giant slaying performance with a highly competitive price. However Oppo machines are not for everyone. Simply put, if all you desire is a machine which can play BR discs, and you don’t have a big projector setup, then many of the Sony, Philips and other brand offerings are much cheaper and give better value.



What the Oppo BDP 83 does, is that it is an all-in-one machine which can play music well, in all its various formats, even SACD, and has a very impressive ABT video chip which allows you to upscale those SD DVDs to almost as good as they can be, and at the end of the day, you still get a very responsive BR player.

However all this comes at a cost, and you will be looking at about USD 499 or just under 1k SING for a modified machine which plays all regions of BR and all codes of DVDs.

However, what if the standard BDP 83 isn’t good enough for your music system?

The MOD Squad:

The basic Oppo BDP 83 has some fine components, with a ABT video chip for upscaling, and a good analogue section.

There are a plethora of modifications out there, some done by small outfits, adding better clock chips, toroidal transformers etc and Oppo itself offers the SE version and of course Nuforce.

To understand what is in the Nuforce, you must first understand that it is based on the Oppo SE version, and Nuforce worked in tandem officially to use the Special Edition as a base to build upon.

The SE:

upgraded audio section:
  • a better power supply
    • The original BDP-83 has a single +14V rail that is shared by the analog audio section (+/-14V) and the BD loader (regulated to +12V). The SE now has a separate +12V rail for the BD loader, isolated from the dedicated +/-14V rail powering the analog audio section. The SE audio board also has additional linear regulators to further smooth out the power and to provide enough local reserve current for better bass, according to Oppo.
  • RS-232 support
  • upgraded DACs (ESS Technology ES9016 4 DACs per channel vs. Cirrus Logic CS4398 1 DAC per channel) and increased frequency response (up to 44kHz at +/-0.2dB)
  • dedicated stereo output uses another 8-channel Sabre32 Ultra (ES9016) DAC chip by stacking 4 DACs for each of the Left and Right channels to achieve even greater audio performance
This is a pretty serious upgrade and many have found the SE version to be worth the $500 or so outlay. We did a shootout, and we found a significant different between the standard 83 and the SE version, which had detail, clarity and yet remained smooth.

But for those looking for a little more, Nuforce has more tricks up their sleeve:

  • Replacing critical analog components with the high-grade equivalents NuForce uses in its high-end audio components
  • Superior high-speed power regulation on both DACs and all analog power rails.  Improved power supply regulation also applies to the 7.1 channels
  • High-performance parts and related circuits/component values replacing the stereo channels’ monolithic devices.
  • Bypass the Stereo and 7.1 channels’ output muting circuits.  The SE’s relays are better than the standard BDP-83’s muting transistors. Nevertheless, imposing as little as possible along critical signal paths is clearly preferable.


Features

The Oppo BDP 83 standard comes well specced, with a good DAC, Cirrus Logic CS4361, and the Mediatek System on a Chip (SOC) solution for audio and video, and a VRS chip from ABT for upscaling and processing. It also does DVD-A, SACD and can process lossless Tru-HD, DTS-MA or bitstream the signal. There are also 7.1 outputs, and dedicated stereo RCA jacks. Quality is good, all sockets are gold-plated and the player does have most of the heft of the BD 83, and the metal faceplate is a nice touch.

 The remote is backlit, the buttons are reaonsably responsive. At least the control pad on the front of the player offers you another option for disc menu navigation. The 2 usb ports are a nice benefit and enable you to play music or update the firmware, and this is very easy, as the player detects the presence of the USB drive if you place the update within a folder called “UPG”.

To ensure your system is properly calibrated, Oppo thoughtfully includes a couple of very useful Blu-ray discs. The first is the Spears & Muncil HD Benchmark Disc, which is perhaps the best disc available for calibrating your HD display. The second tool is the AIX Blu-Ray Sampler, which include not only HD Video of various performances, but HD Audio as well, to ensure proper musical performance.

Interface and usability

In the old days, the PS 3 was the fastest player around but the Oppo BD 83 and now the 80 have shown that you can make a fast player that is not a superlarge computer. The player comes to life within seconds but you cannot activate play without turning on the machine.

The menu is simple and easy to understand. There is a speaker adjustment area, and the option to go source direct if you are using this mainly as a digital BR transport, but this is not a substitute for a AV amp. Bass management is rudimentary.

But this review is about the Nuforce’s audio performance, so here goes….


Results

This review is a stereo one, when I decided to let my father have a really solid stereo system using a player that was simple and Also allowed him to play his movies, both DVD and BR all in a single device.

I had also wanted to get a good stereo amp for my B/W 805s for quite some time and this review also sheds light on the partnership of the 3.

Associated equipment:

Musical Fidelity A 5.5 stereo amplifier
Anti-cables
Oyaide 750 interconnects and power cable
Belkin Pure Audio PF 50 conditioner, PS Audio Juicebar; Xindak, Power Cables, Jumper cables


Sound

The 805s has been in my AV amp (Marant SR 12) based system for a few months, and has settled in nicely, it gives pretty impressive bass, and has a smooth warm nature, which partners most equipment well, but I would give it breathing space, and also avoid overly warm equipment.

I decided that a better amp which was capable of gripping the 805s, and giving them even more current than what my THX Ultra II capable SR 12 (120w per channel) could do, so it was time to scour around for stereo amps beyond the usual NAD, Rotel or even Marantz, and that meant much more money, so it took me a long time to find something that could match up, tighten the bass whilst getting more out of the 805s.

Brands like Krell, Musical Fidelity, Arcam, Classe and even more expensive stuff were considered, but I managed to find the MF A 5.5, which is a upgrade to the original MF A5. The blurb on the differences from MF:

“The A5.5 integrated amplifier has been designed to offer improved sonic performance and give extra facilities which were not generally available five years ago when the original A5 was designed.

As well as the USB connector, those extra facilities include a rear-panel socket for remote control, allowing external control systems to access the amp's control system using either modulated or unmodulated RC5 code.

New output devices ( 4 new SANKEN transistors per Channel delivering a 250 Watts at 8Ohm ) are also used for better linearity and current delivery, boosting detail, and the super-fast optical feedback protection circuitry gives a better sound, while at the same time increasing protection from short-circuit and overdrive conditions. It also allows greater peak current to be delivered.

A new configuration for the volume control also delivers better channel-matching at extremely low levels, and the amp has an improved cosmetic design, with a soft curve to the front-panel and restyled volume control.”

Essentially this was a 250 W/ 8 ohms with 400W/ 4 ohms times two stereo amp, with a HT bypass, remote, and a cute USB DAC.  I also found that many MF users partner their amps with the 8 series B/Ws.

Using it with my 805s allowed a clearer soundstage, tight bass and detail, but gave me the kind of sonic signature that I enjoyed with the SR12. You can easily fill the room with music with the amp ticking over at 9 o’clock on the volume dial. There was no stress and if you had the guts to turn it even louder, there was no strain, hardening and it just gave you more of the same.

I had used this with my Modified SA 8003 and it was pretty good, apart from the fact that the 8003 liked to be kept on for the best sound. From cold, it could be lifeless, and lacked bass, but once it was warmed up, you have depth, detail and plenty of mids too.

Now as I mentioned, I was looking for a one stop solution for my dad, which allowed him to enjoy good music plus play all his video discs as well, and I can imagine that this could also be what some of us are looking for.

For close to SING$ 2000, the Nuforce is not a player for everyone. But if you want to eke out every last ounce from your Oppo 83, then this will help and it does not shame itself with the above partnering equipment.

What the Oppo Nuforce brings to the MF amp and B/W 805s is more clarity, detail, and control. You still get the depth in the bass, but there is very little sibilance compared to before, and details are easily picked up. Yet even though the detail is there, you won’t find the sound fatiguing, which is the interesting aspect, as you can hear all kinds of detail in all the frequencies, and yet it is a ‘disc friendly’ system.

No longer do you need to restrict yourself to good recordings, or feed it only with those high-pitched lady voices which dominate many demo sessions, but even the average pop CD fares well and benefits from this setup. I would be exaggerating if I said MP3 recordings were awesome, but the beauty of the system was that even such compressed material was listenable. You can tell the difference of course, but with better recordings, SACDs etc, you simply get more.

You get a nice soundstage and actually instead of peppering you with many nice terms magazines like What Lo fi likes to do, essentially, it is a nice complete sound, and you stop thinking about the speakers, and just listen to the voice of the singers, which sound really live and right in front of you. The soundstage in my untreated living room which measures about 5 by 10 m, is wide, and with my speakers about 2.5m apart and about 3m from my listening position, slightly toed in, you get a nice listening experience.

All in all, money well spent.

Discussion

So who should buy this? This player is in a slight awkward position. There are scores of cheaper BR players around, some of which are less than a tenth the price of this baby. The difference for video performance for BR discs is not significantly better than the cheaper players if you have a small screen (read – less than 50”).  The money goes towards the sound so this one is for  the discerning audiophile who wants better video performance.

It caters to a certain market, the person who wants everything is one of them, he is not sure if SACD, DVD-A are what he wants, and wants a finger in each pie for not too much.  It is an expensive all in one solution for a beginner, but this player will not need to be upgraded for a while, even in the home of a discerning audiophile.

What about 3D and HDMI 1.4?

Right now, Oppo has no plans and no upgrade path for this player or other versions of the BDP 83. So you should get this based on what you want: a solid and musical player, which does everything pretty decently.



The Modification for Region Free Playback
I bought a player which came pre-mod with the hardware for Region Free playback. DVD playback does not need any extra action, but for BR region changes, you need to do this:

When the player is in standby, you press the blue button on the remote, until the unit beeps. Then you press either 1 (region A), 2 (region B), 3 (Region C). There are a series of bleeps to confirm the action depending on the option, and then you take the player out of standby.




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