Oppo's new player not only sounds great; for some buyers it eliminates the need for an AV receiver.
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Even by Oppo's high standards the BDP-105 is an extraordinary Blu-ray player. Sure, it's loaded with up-to-the-second features -- 4K upscaling, 2D-to-3D conversion, and a high-quality USB 2.0 digital-to-analog converter -- but what really makes the Oppo special is the sound. Pop the cover and look inside and you'll see why. Most of the 17-pound component's chassis space is devoted to the audio circuitry. That's nice, but the audio advantages will be completely irrelevant if you connect the BDP-105 to your receiver with a HDMI cable (the digital-to-analog conversion would then be handled in the receiver). The 105 was designed for buyers still using older $1,000 or $2,000 receivers from the days before HDMI connectivity, that would like to hear the Blu-rays' high-resolution DTS Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD soundtracks at their best. Since the audio won't be transmitted over the HDMI cable, you would run audio cables between the 105's seven- or five-channel analog outputs and the AV receiver's analog inputs.
Or you could forgo the receiver entirely and hook up the BDP-105 directly to a five- or seven-channel power amplifier. That approach would produce better sound quality, but would lack the connectivity, flexibility, and convenience of today's better receivers. Still, the BDP-105/power amp combo would sound better and be more powerful than most top-of-the-line receivers. The 105's connectivity options won't match any decent receiver, but its connectivity suite is a lot more extensive than most Blu-ray players. The Oppo has two HDMI inputs, so you can connect external devices such as set-top boxes and network streaming devices, three USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical digital inputs for satellite boxes, televisions, video-game consoles, etc., and there's a built-in headphone amplifier. The BDP-105's extensive bass management options are on par with a lot of AV receivers. The player's digital volume control is easy to use.
For my listening tests, I hooked up the BDP-105 ($1,199) with an assortment of self-powered Audioengine and Emotiva monitor speakers, and a Hsu subwoofer. With this setup I didn't need to use an AV receiver or separate power amp, but the Raconteurs' "Live at Montreux" Blu-ray was vivid and very live sounding. The system's freewheeling dynamics were really impressive, and the surround mix on King Crimson's "Red" DVD-A projected a remarkably seamless wrap-around soundstage. Each instrument was precisely focused in a near 360-degree sound environment.
Classical music on SACD was just as impressive, the front three speakers produced a three-dimensional soundstage with lots of depth, and string tone was top notch. Dramatic movies on Blu-ray and DVD sounded great. I plugged headphones into the BDP-105, but the sound wasn't special, Schiit Audio's $99 Magni headphone amp was a lot better.
The $499 Oppo BDP-103 shares most of the BDP-105's features, but lacks the upgraded digital-to-analog converters, so if you're planning on using HDMI to connect the player to your receiver, buy the 103, and save $700. You can use the 103's 7.1 analog outputs with an old high-end receiver lacking HDMI connectivity, but the 103's digital converters are a step down from the ones in the 105.
The BDP-105 is an update of the Oppo BDP-95, and the new one has lots of features the old player lacks, but the two players sound about the same. Oppo still has 95s in stock and sells them for $799.
Oppo sells direct and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and the return shipping is free.