California-based electronics company Oppo has done a fine job of producing high quality HiFi products in the last few years. The companies’ last iteration of the Blu-ray/CD/SACD player was welcomed with favorable reviews and did what very few other components have done, it straddled the invisible line between the moderately priced sub-$1000 components and the beginnings of the truly high-end source category. In short, many felt it was a great value for the money, even though the price point is beginning to stray away from the affordable. With the BDP-105 ($1200) Oppo has decided to take this idea even a bit further, the new player is accompanied by a higher price and even more hi-end features.
Like the previous generation, the 105 has a half-priced sibling (BDP-103) that shares the same video processing. The real improvements for the 105 are generated in the audio section, so if you are going to connect your player to your stereo via HDMI, you are probably better off going with the 103. The Oppo 105 whips up its auditory magic though two separate ESS SABRE 32 Reference ES9018 DAC chips. One is utilized for the surround sound output and the other is for the dedicated stereo analog outs, which come in both balanced and unbalanced flavors. In addition to stereo output, full 7.1 analog output is available along with your standard Blu-ray player fare of optical and coaxial outputs and HD-surround audio codec support. 4k resolution video output is also featured for those TVs that can support the new ultra-HD standard. But ironically, what’s truly new on the 105 isn’t necessarily all about the output. The new Oppo contains more than a few inputs to dazzle and amaze, enough to merit its own menu and input button on the remote. Those looking to simplify their two-channel setup may rejoice, while others may see this as slightly redundant, but if you are looking to take full advantage of all the processing the 105 has to offer Oppo has clearly opened every door. Two HDMI inputs allow access to the latest-gen Qdeo video processing, and for the first time in this price point, full access to the SABRE DACs via optical, coaxial and USB support. You can even charge your cell phone from the unit through the front panel MHL/HDMI port. It takes an extra adapter to get my Galaxy III phone to pass any media through this port, but player on board my phone streamed wifi audio with ease straight out of the box. This is by no means the path for the highest quality audio, but it is extremely convenient and a great alternative to Apple’s Airplay.
Like the 95, the BDP 105 is both goliath and monolith-like in its appearance. The 105 is in fact, even taller than it’s predecessor. I found the simplistic and unobtrusive ascetics very appealing. I did find that the glossy surface that covers the touch capacitive buttons on the front is prone to fingerprints however, but just a minor quibble really. The overall feel of the unit is quite solid (and heavy) when you pick it up. When you set it down you may notice the attention that Oppo gives to suspension and vibration reduction. I still wouldn’t mind seeing a fancier loading tray assembly, but I haven’t run into any issues with the standard CD slide out tray the 105 employs for loading it’s physical media. The fanless design is completely silent and a definite upgrade over the 95. Not that the 95 is loud by any means, but this new player doesn’t even let out a peep. Like the 95, the 105 also boasts a toroidal power supply. The on board display is a single line dot matrix variety that gets the job done, but for full functionality you will want to connect to a TV. Gracenote will download all the track information (including cover art), but it’s only accessible via a full display, the Oppo BDP-105 display includes only track numbers. The supplied cables are extremely beefy and all ports, connections and casing exude Oppo’s attention to detail on their flagship model.
The remote control that comes with the 105 is fairly large and includes a dedicated Netflix and Vudu button. A downloadable app is currently available for Android phones and one is on the way for the iOS platform (according to Oppo’s website). The Andriod app mimicks the physical remote for the most part. It would be great to see a more robust media management app for the device like they currently have available for the Logitech Squeezebox, considering all the varying media streaming/playing capabilities the unit can deliver. Any options where I don’t have to turn on the TV to listen to music is a big plus for me. As with all modern connected devices, the Oppo BDP-105 is quite a bit more than just a Blu-ray player. Audio options include Pandora and music streaming from both home networks and connected drives. Video streaming options include the aforementioned Netflix and Vudu as well as a YouTube player. No doubt more options will become available with future firmware releases.
I was hugely impressed with the performance of the original BDP-95, especially when it came to vocal clarity. The 95 pushed vocals through the cloudiness and sat them on your lap. I experienced similar clarity across the board from the 105. The SACD of Billy Joel’s The Stranger overall dynamics and clarity trumped many of the computer/DAC/amp combinations I put together for comparison. The most obvious jump in sound quality was reflected in the lossless file converted from the companion CD, the likes of which are akin to a switch from AM to FM radio. The vocal track on Vienna from the SACD really puts you right in the recording booth with Mr. Joel. Listening to the Doors’ Riders on the Storm I noticed outstanding realism in the drums and a newfound texture to the organ sounds during the extended jam section. This same delightful surprise became apparent during Ben Gibbard’s subtle preeminent breathing on the Death Cab for Cutie Into the Dark acoustic track. Vocals have a lifelike presentation without being artificially pushed forward in the mix. Even during critical listening, I found the 105’s reproduction to be very natural and organic. It does its job and lets you sit back and enjoy the music.
For a more personal listening experience the Oppo BDP-105 includes a headphone output located on the front panel. The volume control located on the remote can be locked off for a fixed output during normal play, but when you insert a headphone into the front jack, the volume control is moved over and the rest of the outputs are muted. The volume control is segmented on a scale up to 100. My normal IEM listening volumes came in around 50, which is a little higher than I expected. My pair of Audeze LCD-3 headphones played at normal listening levels at the max of 100. I would recommend pairing the Oppo with a dedicated headphone amplifier to get the most out of your headphone experience. I found the ALO Pan Am headphone amplifier exuded a livelier sound when connected to the 105’s dedicated analog stereo outputs than the front headphone output.
The internal DAC allows asynchronous USB connectivity up to 24/192kHz and 24/96kHz for the optical and coaxial digital inputs. I suffered no computer setup issues with the USB connection, it was completely plug and play as any external DAC I have tested recently. Running the latest version of Audirvana Plus on my MacBook Air, I found USB connection to be quite satisfying. It kept up with the Oppo CD player on all counts with no hint of sound degradation. I also ran some comparisons using digital coaxial output from CypherLab’s Algorhythm Solo -dB portable DAC to the 105’s internal DAC and found the results to be much of the same, no major issues here. When I compared the internal DAC of the Oppo 105 to the DAC section of ALO Pan Am ($600) the Oppo still had the edge on clarity. Listening to the 24/96 flac version of Fleetwook Mac’s Gold Dust Women I found the Oppo USB DAC to added a three dimensional quality to the percussion, Stevie Nick’s smoky vocals and even the occasional bass fills that pepper the song.
The Oppo BDP-105 continues to fill the sweet spot between audiophile affordable and extravagant high-end players. While some may balk at its $1,200 price tag, compared to many other components on the market the 105 does continue to represent value to those looking for a solid player with plenty of useful tricks under the hood. The addition of USB DAC connectivity is a big plus in my book and shouldn’t be overlooked. Outstanding craftsmanship, highly recommended.
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