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Oppo BDP-103 Darbee Edition Blu-ray player review: Oppo BDP-103 Darbee Edition Blu-ray player

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The Good First-class Blu-ray and DVD picture quality. Noticeable picture enhancements with "Darbee" processing. Excellent control over disc playback. Excellent network media performance.

The Bad Quite expensive.

The Bottom Line The Oppo BDP-103 Darbee Edition is about as good as it gets with disc playback and supports this with unusual "Darbee" picture enhancements and strong network media support.

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8.6 Overall

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Last year, we reviewed the Australian version of the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player. Now, while that one remains available, an enhanced version of it has been released, with the slightly strange "Darbee Edition" moniker.

I'll talk more about Darbee shortly. For now, just know that it is a unique video processor designed to enhance the viewing experience. And that, unlike so many overwrought claims for various signal processors, Darbee arguably does the trick.

The underlying player is pretty much identical — apart from the Darbee-associated processor — to the player previously reviewed. It is well equipped with connections: two HDMI outputs (which can help with compatibility with older equipment) and two HDMI inputs (so you can use the quality video circuitry within this unit with lesser source devices). The front-panel HDMI input supports MHL, so you can plug some Android phones into it to convey audio and video in high-definition digital.

There are also plenty of audio outputs: optical and coaxial digital, plus 7.1 channel analog.

Plus USB, front and (two here) back, and Ethernet at the back. A Wi-Fi dongle and a neat little stand for it are supplied. You don't need to plug in USB memory for things like BD-Live operation because 1GB of "persistent storage" is built in, but if you do, the provision of two USB sockets at the back means you can still happily use the Wi-Fi dongle in the rear USB socket and leave the front one free for ad hoc connection of USB sticks with multimedia files. Or for connecting a USB keyboard to enter text if you're using some of the internet capabilities.

Playing discs

This is a highly versatile, highly controllable player. In addition to CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs, it supports Super Audio CD and DVD Audio. It can decode the audio of both of these formats (Direct Stream Digital and the Dolby TrueHD-like Meridian Lossless Packing, respectively) and feed them out as full-resolution PCM. It can also stream DSD directly if your receiver/amplifier supports that. Or, of course, decode to analog.

The unit supports Blu-ray 3D and has the ability to scale up content to 4K.

One aspect of performance that did disappoint a little in last years Oppo was the conversion of Australian 576i50 DVDs and the occasional Australian 1080i50 Blu-ray to progressive scan format. This was fully automated and occasionally failed to use the appropriate film mode deinterlacing. However, Oppo is a company that is keen on improving its products. Since then, Oppo has added a manual mode so that you can force it into the Film or Video mode as appropriate (the former for most discs), making it always produce the very best picture quality. Since then, Oppo seems to have enhanced the automatic function as well, reducing the number of incorrect decisions it makes.

Now to Darbee. Darbee processing is actually available in a stand-alone product, called the "Darblet". An AU$400 stand-alone product, so the AU$220 premium you play for this player over the non-Darbee version is pretty good value for money. Especially since you can use it with other devices via the player's HDMI inputs.

Darbee processing performs two very clever functions. First, it identifies sharpish objects in the picture and enhances their sharpness. Second, it identifies objects in the picture and enhances their contrast levels locally.

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