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Blu-ray players, like big-screen televisions, are no longer the premium devices they used to be. You can buy a 50-inch TV and a Blu-ray player for well under a grand now. Heck, a Blu-ray player is only worth AU$100, so why would you pay any more?
Until only very recently, home theatre entertainment had escaped the price erosion that has been a well-worn part of the computer industry. Now, both screens and components are commodities, and in turn this has caused high-profile products such as the Pioneer Kuro to dip out.
Regardless of this trend, a select few companies are still recognised for providing performance gear — and Oppo is one of them. Two years on, the BDP-83 remains one of the best Blu-ray players ever produced. But with the advent of 3D, and the explosion of streaming services — admittedly in the US only — the company felt the need to produce a new version.
The BDP-93 is a 3D-capable Blu-ray player, which carries all of the goodness of the previous version including universal disc playback with both DVD-Audio and SACD included. Of course, the audiophile world has moved on and digital downloads are now the format of choice, and the BDP-93 now includes a basic file browser out of the box. It supports DVD, audio CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, AVCHD, MP4, DivX, DivX Plus HD, MKV, MP3, FLAC(!) and WAV.
The video circuitry has had a bit of tweaking since the first model with the Anchor Bay's Video Reference Series (VRS) swapping out for Marvell's Qdeo image processor. Qdeo handles per-pixel noise reduction, de-interlacing and edge enhancement, and is particularly useful at upscaling DVD and web-based content. Like Panasonic's 3D Blu-ray player, the BDP-93 now includes two HDMI outputs — one for connecting to your screen, and, if required, one for connecting to a non-3D compliant receiver.
Some of the other features of the Oppo aren't as useful to us Australians as they include streaming services not available here yet. While Netflix is rumoured to be coming to this country, Blockbuster is unlikely to ever make it here, as for Hulu ... who knows?.
The cosmetics of this Oppo have been given a look that's now less "hodge-podge DVD player" and more "high-end HTPC". The fascia is sophisticated with a thick, black slab of brushed aluminium and a smaller readout.
Local distributor Merlin Audio is offering two versions of the player; however, both feature modifications make them a little more expensive than the model you can import from the United States (US$499). The "standard" version (AU$850) has a zone-unlock feature but it's a little convoluted, and while the "pro" includes a straightforward region change mechanism it's more problematic to upgrade. Check Merlin's site before you upgrade the firmware as it may not be compatible with your modded hardware.
Apart from the dual-HDMI outputs, the player now includes an eSATA port for fast connections to external drives, a wireless-n adapter, integrated LAN, a 7.1-channel analog output for connection to older receivers, a digital and coaxial audio port and component output.
As you'd expect for a premium Blu-ray player, the Oppo performs at the top of the pack in video terms, even if it's not designed to be the last word in audio fidelity — but then you have the BDP-95 for that.
Loading a disc into the BDP-93 you'll find it surprisingly zippy, as it's able to load up the Vantage Point test disc in just 29.67 seconds. This puts it ahead of most of the 2010 pack, and it's twice as fast as the PlayStation 3.
Image quality was excellent, whether it was an upscaled DVD or Blu-ray the Oppo was able to unearth plenty of detail without resorting to all-out noise. When it was fed a Blu-ray diet of Tom Cruise, the BDP-93 spat out only smooth visuals with a lack of moire effects on Mission Impossible III. Colour and black levels were also fine, and when pushed with our synthetic tests the player demonstrated an ability to handle a wide variety of sources with panache.
Following on with the 3D disc, Monsters vs. Aliens, we couldn't see any artefacts, such as ghosting, introduced by the player and motion was handled well.
While the Oppo does well with HD sources, many a lesser machine falls down when asked to handle DVDs. Not so the BDP-83, with the device doing an excellent job cleaning a noisy European copy of the Wim Wenders classic Wings of Desire. While the player wasn't able to handle the moire in the opening shots of Seabiscuit, nothing we've seen yet can.
As we mentioned previously, audio isn't the main focus of this player, and if you have a decent receiver/DAC we'd use that instead. When used as a network device (in the vein of the Cambridge Audio NP30) we found that the player wasn't as easy to use and that music had a mid-range-like hash that the dedicated system didn't exhibit. Bass was well controlled, however.
Surround sound quality was good, though the on-board doesn't have the sparkle of a decent receiver, and the rear channels were a little reticent. We also found that vocals were a tad nasally, but still comprehensible.
When it arrived on the scene, the BDP-83 was a premium player, but offered a lot of performance in a field of similarly priced machines. But time has passed, other players have dipped below AU$200 while the Oppo has stayed at the same price.
Yes, it offers a different feature set than the Sonys and LGs of this world, but, unfortunately, some of them simply aren't accessible by Australians. If you are looking for image quality, however, and when seeking a Blu-ray player you definitely should, then the Oppo BDP-93 still does a superb job. In this market, though, it's just not the superstar its predecessor was.