Oppo's new BDP-83 player spins just about every type of "silver" disc under the sun: CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and Blu-ray. Cool!
I brought a stack of SACDs and DVD-A discs to the CNET listening room to check out the BDP-83 with our Denon AVR-3808CI receiver and Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD 5.1 speaker/subwoofer system. I'll cover the high-resolution audio performance of the Oppo here, readfor the rest of the story.
"The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East," recorded on March 12 and 13, 1971, was a trip. Sure, the original mix was stereo, but I loved the way the SACD's 5.1 mix opened up and clarified the sound, especially the band's two drummers, Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks. The entire rhythm section's dynamics and pulse came alive on SACD, it's more in the background on CD.
On one hand the 5.1 mix is fairly subtle, but the sound's open quality and spaciousness was remarkable. The sense of being in the 2,000 seat concert hall was a thrill that you can't get with stereo. And no, you can't get there by playing stereo in Dolby Pro Logic II, a discrete 5.1 channel mix, if it's any good, will always sound better.
Led Zeppelin's "How the West Was Won" double DVD-A set was very different. How? The band's dynamic energy was even more present and the front three speakers soundstage depth and dimensionality were better than the Allman Brothers' disc. Too bad the bass was thicker and muddier, which was probably the way it sounded at the 1972 Zep shows. I didn't like the surround mix much, mostly because I couldn't understand why Jimmy Page's guitar was sometimes coming out of the surround speakers. Strange. But it's still the best sounding Zeppelin disc I own.
John Hiatt's "Bring the Family" SACD has an even more aggressive surround mix, but the clarity of the 1987 recording was impressive. The thing that stands out about the sound was how real it is, that is, less like a recording and more life-like.
It's also worth noting that the BDP-83 doesn't convert SACD's native DSD (Direct Stream Digital) codec to PCM (pulse-code modulation) digital to send it over HDMI to the Denon receiver the way many SACD players do; the DSD stays DSD. That's nice!
Pressing the BDP-83's "Pure Audio" button on the remote shuts off the player's video processing, but didn't improve or change the audio quality in any noticeable way.
SACD and DVD-As can sound pretty awesome, but if you ask me the reason they're all but dead is the record labels rarely released new music in 5.1. Radiohead would have been a natural for 5.1, or Moby or Coldplay or any one of a million other bands could have turned things around for the formats, but instead we mostly got old music, remastered for SACD and DVD-A.
There's still a lot of 5.1 discs in circulation and new classical titles are still coming out, so if you're looking for a highly-rated Blu-ray player that'll do SACD and DVD-A, check out Oppo's BDP-83.