It’s a rare event when Oppo updates its Blu-ray player line. Most companies add new models every year; Oppo does so only when necessary. With the company having just released its BDP-103 a little over a year ago, the arrival of the new BDP-103D ($599) comes as a surprise.
The main difference between the BDP-103 and the BDP-103D is the addition of Darbee processing on the latter. This would be a nice tweak for an average player, but the Oppo player’s dual HDMI inputs mean that Darbee processing can be applied two additional sources along with Blu-ray.
What makes the BDP-103D worth $600 when most players sell for closer to $100? First, you need to forget something that everyone believes about Blu-ray playback: that bits are bits. This is false. Video stored on a disc has to be converted to a format your TV can use before it leaves the player. Some players do this right, and some do it wrong.
The errors created by Blu-ray players from other makers can be incredibly slight, or they can cause a huge loss in contrast ratio as well as inaccurate color. But the image put out by Oppo models is bit-perfect for every pixel. Other players might do a good job handling films, but not concert videos, or foreign films. Players from Oppo handle all that material with ease.
While the BDP-103D has a limited selection of streaming apps compared with other players, it does offer content from Netflix, Vudu, Pandora and Cinema Now. And with an MHL input on the player’s front panel, you can always plug in a Roku stick to add more apps. All streamed content can benefit from the player’s Darbee processing as well as its superior noise reduction and video scaling.
Blu-ray images coming from the BDP-103D look pristine, with none of the artificial edge enhancement or haloes that other players often introduce. DVD images scaled to 1080p by the BDP-103D also look very good—not Blu-ray-quality but less noisy and artifact-laden than what you see with other players. And the Oppo’s built-in Darbee technology can further enhance DVDs and make them look better.
How do images look with Darbee processing applied? Run at a reasonable level, it helps to enhance contrast. Watching Kill Bill: Volume 2, the wrinkles on David Carradine’s forehead stood out a bit more and out-of-focus objects in the background looked a little darker compared with the bright sky, which increased clarity. (HD Guru’s recent DarbeeVision Darblet review goes into much more depth on what Darbee processing can do.) I found myself increasing the level for Netflix and other lower-resolution sources, but turning it down very low for Blu-ray viewing. I just can’t get past being a purist when it comes to video.
The BDP-103D is as versatile with audio as it is with video, handling all of your CD, DVD-Audio, and SACD discs and high-resolution digital downloads in all formats. The 192/24 FLAC and native DSD tracks I downloaded from HDtracks.com and Acoustic Sounds all played back perfectly. Unlike most other Blu-ray players, the Oppo also has 7.1-channel analog outputs to use with a non-HDMI receiver or a regular stereo system. Full bass-management and speaker delay settings mean that the BDP-103D can replace your preamp as well.
The high-resolution versions of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five that I listened to with the BDP-103D easily outclassed their CD-quality versions. And the differences were not small: Instruments sounded more natural and had better clarity. (Oppo provides samples of native DSD that you can download to compare with CD-quality versions of the same tracks.) While the BDP-103D lacks the high-end DACs found in Oppo’s BDP-105D ($1299), both will sound identical when you use an HDMI connection to transmit audio.
The BDP-103D is one of the speedier Blu-ray players on the market, powering up very fast and loading discs as quickly as any other player. You can set it up on a wireless network by plugging the included Wi-Fi dongle into one of the player’s two USB ports. (Unlike most other players which use a plastic case, the BDP-103D has a metal case that precludes the use of an internal Wi-Fi antenna.)
The BDP-103D also works well with unusual setups. A Subtitle Shift feature lets you adjust the position of subtitles when using a 21:9 TV or projection system. Support for a range of HDMI color spaces lets you pick the ideal one for your TV or use the player with a PC monitor. And the dual HDMI outputs allow it to work with external video scalers or older receivers that don’t support 3D or 4K. Also, you can easily find region-free modifications for Oppo players if you look around, which makes it easy to watch foreign discs. No matter how complex your system is, the BDP-103D can support it.
Oppo’s BDP-103D maintains the company’s reputation for pixel-perfect Blu-ray players while adding value via HDMI inputs, Darbee processing and 4K upscaling. More streaming options would be nice, but you can always plug a Roku stick into the player’s MHL port to expand your options. With built-in Darbee functionality supplementing the best video processing to be found in any player around, the BDP-103D has become the reference standard for Blu-ray playback.
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