6 November 2013
If you're going to spend a thousand pounds on a Blu-Ray player, you're probably going to do so based on something more than a customer review on Amazon but, when you get around to checking around the internet, you will probably find one message coming across with a surprising degree of unanimity: Oppo make pretty much the best disc-spinners out there and the BDP-105 is (at time of writing) their flagship model. It's also rather more than a disc-spinner, which is an important element in understanding what is a complex and flexible product.
IT'S A TRANSPORT
The BDP-105 spins most formats of disc: CD, DVD-A, DVD-V Blu-Ray & 3D Blu-Ray etc. The centre-mounted disc tray slides in & out with a pleasing sense of weight, and it's the quietest transport I think I've ever known when it's playing, so in a quiet room you should not hear spinning or scanning. Another benefit is that the Oppo can read both the stereo and multi-channel tracks of an SACD for those rare cases where both are included: no more listening to the redbook layer of the CD whenever you want stereo.
Note that, out of the box, the BDP-105EU is not a multi-region player; I bought mine from a dealer and he was able to make it multi-region for DVD in a matter of seconds for no additional cost, and I understand that there are two ways to make it multi-region Blu-Ray for about £75. (I didn't do this but I was assured that neither way invalidates the warranty and I note that there is a separate Amazon listing of players that are presumably pre-modified.)
IT'S A DAC
The BDP-105 decodes most forms of audio & video, and its two DACs (digital-analogue converters) are audiophile quality. Obviously that applies to the discs that it is spinning, but it also has two HDMI inputs (one in front, one at the back) and multiple USB inputs. You can, for example, plug a Sky box or video console into the back and you will get the benefit of the Oppo's converters, as well as the convenience of being able to switch sources using the Oppo. You can also plug in a hard drive with music, photos and/or video on it and the BDP-105 will play that material, or use a USB stick. (As usual, the Oppo is pretty clumsy at navigating external drives and sticks via its on-screen menu, but at least the functionality is there.)
Rather impressively, the BDP-105 is immediately identified by a Mac as a sound output once connected by a suitable USB cable to the asynchronous USB port on the player, without requiring any additional drivers. This bypasses a lot of the problems with Airplaying if you want to use a computer as a stereo source, and ensures that you get the full benefit of the Oppo's DAC.
IT'S A NETWORK PLAYER
The BDP-105 comes with a wi-fi adaptor or you can connect it to your network directly via ethernet. Once you've done that it will do the standard tricks: look up which CD it's playing, connect to Blu-Ray Live, stream audio from your PC, play YouTube, Netflix, iPlayer, Picasa etc. (I think that several of the services with native support are actually US-only.) As far as I can see, though, it will *not* be recognised as an Airplay device for Apple devices, so it doesn't cover all the functions of an Apple TV, but if you don't already have these functions covered ten times elsewhere in your home you may find the BDP-105 useful for this.
IT'S A PRE-AMP
If the BDP-105 were simply a transport, you'd plug it into your AV amplifier via HDMI and all the work would be done by the AV amplifier. The BDP-105 can connect via HDMI, but it also has has proper hi-fi outputs: stereo XLR, stereo phono and multi-channel phono. This means that *in theory* you could have some very exotic system configurations that don't involve an AV amplifier at all: you could run the Oppo into active speakers or monobloc power amplifiers and change the volume with its own remote control. While it's unlikely that many people will build a multichannel system this way, the fact that you can run a high quality stereo signal to a music amplifier at the same time as running a multi-channel signal to an AV amplifier is a significant benefit of the Oppo. Because it has two DACs, one optimised for multi-channel and one optimised for stereo, it can legitimately be used as the centre of an audiophile music system at the same time as pulling duties in an AV setup.
IT'S A HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER
Thanks to its dedicated stereo DAC, the BDP-105 is a high quality headphone amplifier. Plug a decent pair of headphones into the front socket and it is a complete music system in itself, of a comparable standard to a dedicated headphone DAC/amp. The output level will support most headphones but if you are using high-impedance headphones (and trying to ruin your hearing) you should arrange to test the Oppo to find out whether it will drive loud enough for you. (In most cases the Oppo will comfortably drive headphones to sane volumes.)
The BDP-105 does a lot of things that very few users will actually need but the bottom line is this: if you want an audiophile-grade *stereo* system as well as a first-class *multi-channel* player, then the BDP-105 seems to be the one to get for price/performance. If you simply want a top-rated *multi-channel* player, the BDP-103EU lower in the range will do you just as well and save you a lot of money.
The BDP-105EU may seem at first like a very expensive option, but it's considered to be a bargain in audiophile circles because it does such a high-quality job with audio and video that it competes with products at *very* aspirational price-points. If you're running Blu-Ray into a very big screen, for example, having the additional visual fidelity (and the excellent upscaling on DVDs) makes a big difference, so the performance of your player will scale with any equipment that you pair it with.
I've been careful in this review to talk more about the player's feature set than to rave about how well it does it: eyes & ears vary and what knocks one viewer out may seem to another to be a very small (or even negligible) advantage. This player certainly delivers everything that I personally was looking for and I would encourage anyone to consider it, even if it initially seems out of their normal price range.