Digital set the bar high last year with the release of their highly regarded BDP-83 universal Blu-ray player we reviewed back in August 2009. Consumers and the press alike, agreed that the BDP-83 ($499) offered the best bang for the buck with excellent performance, fast access times, and impressive build quality for a Blu-ray player at this amazing price point. The company has built a strong reputation
among audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts over the years with their product line and continues to provide excellent
customer service. OPPO has taken their popular BDP-83 to a new level with the introduction of the BDP-83SE (Special Edition) by improving the analog audio performance. Changes to the baseline design include an upgraded audio processing board with ESS DACs and an improved power supply design. The benefits of the BDP-83SE ($899) does not affect the HDMI audio, so there is no compelling reason to upgrade to this model if you do not benefit from the analog connections.
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Like the original BDP-83 model, the BDP-83SE Special Edition supports
Blu-ray, DVD Video, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD (SACD), CD (including HDCD),
and AVCHD (HD camcorder) discs. The BDP-83SE offers the latest Blu-ray
features including support for BD-Live (BD-ROM version 2, profile 2) for
full interactivity. BonusView (BD-ROM version 2, Profile 1 version 1.1/Final
Standard Profile) allows Virtual packages or Picture-in-Picture functions. Rather than cover the same features we reviewed on the original BDP-83, we will try and focus on the differences between the two units.
The BDP-83SE has the same interfaces found on the back of the baseline design with the addition of the RS232 port, something that is optional on the baseline BDP-83. HDMI, component
and composite video connections are provided along with an ethernet port for handling Blu-ray's BD-Live and BonusView interactivity as well as firmware updates.
The USB port can also be used for updating the unit as well as an interface for media. Both coaxial and optical
(toslink) digital outputs are provided along with a set of IR input and output jacks. The 7.1 and stereo analog
outputs are where the improvements have been made on the Special Edition unit. Unfortunately, OPPO did not upgrade the connectors for the 7.1 and stereo output connections on the BDP-83SE. Since this model is geared more for audiophiles who use heavy interconnects such as our Ultralink Ultima MkII cables, some may expect to see stronger RCA connector jacks.
The BDP-83SE looks similar to the original design, but does show significant differences on the power supply and audio DAC boards. This concurs with OPPO's description of the upgrades made to the latest BDP-83SE model. When OPPO developed the original BDP-83, the focus was on making a high performance Blu-ray player while keeping the cost reasonable for most home theater enthusiasts. While almost everyone agrees that they have been very successful in doing this, some audiophiles wanted even more from the unit. After all, the player is one of the few that supports so many high-resolution (niche) formats and still remains at an affordable $499. OPPO answered the audiophile call and rolled out improvements in the analog domain. Simply changing parts (DACs) alone in the unit was not enough for OPPO. Instead, the power supply was redesigned as well as the audio DAC board. The basic topology remains the same, but the improvements require a complete re-spin of both the power supply and audio printed circuit boards. The photos of the inside of both units reveal the slight differences in the two models with the audio board having more obvious changes from the earlier design.
Power Supply Upgrade
The updated power supply design in the BDP-83SE is similar to the original design and still occupies the same real estate on the right side of the chassis. The updated design still works worldwide by accepting voltages from 100-240VAC at 50/60
Hz. All switching power supplies have more EMI (electro magnetic interference) than their linear counterparts, so OPPO made sure that the sensitive low level audio circuits are kept away from the noisy power forms. OPPO has accomplished this by placing the quieter (secondary) linear power supplies on the audio board away from the noisier switching supplies on the main power supply board. The result is an audio module with quiet power rails for optimal audio performance.
The audio processing board in the new BDP-83SE has significant changes from the audio board used in the original BDP-83. The Cirrus Logic
8-Channel D/A Converter (CS4382A) has been replaced with an ESS Technology (ES9006) Sabre Premier DAC. The Cirrus Logic CS4398 dual channel DAC has been replaced with an ESS Technology ES9016 SABRE32 Ultra 8-channel DAC featuring 32-bit resolution. The stereo outputs have four stacked DACs per channel for improved signal-to-noise performance. Both DACS use ESS' patented Hyperstream™ architecture that is said to provide unprecedented dynamic range and low distortion. They also include patent-pending Time Domain Jitter Reduction technology designed to minimize clock jitter, thereby simplifying the system design and layout. The new audio board in the BDP-83SE also has about twice the number of 5532A dual opamps along with substantially more audio-grade signal capacitors. There is also a pair of 2C Form relays on the new design that were not present on the original BDP-83 model. The relays can be heard when the mute is enabled or disabled. Many audio components simply use a transistor to mute the audio signal to ground. While this works, many higher end designs including the BDP-83SE incorporate relays to minimize signal degradation in the audio path.
We connected the BDP-83SE to our Denon AVR-5308CI A/V receiver using
the HDMI cable to carry full bandwidth audio and video. This connection relies on the Denon receiver to decode the bitstream and perform the D/A conversion on each channel. We also
connected the 7.1 and stereo analog outputs on the BDP-83SE to Denon's external analog inputs to test OPPO's new audio DAC board.
AVR-5308CI A/V receiver is mated to a Parasound HCA-2205AT five channel amplifier
to drive our M&K S-150THX 5.1 speaker system. The AVR-5308CI uses a THX crossover
set at 80 Hz that works well with our speaker configuration. We compared the analog audio performance of the two OPPO units (BDP-83SE and BDP-83), but we also listened to the HDMI input using the DACs in our Denon receiver for another data point. We tried to match levels as best we could between the two inputs for a fair comparison.
BDP-83SE versus BDP-83 Audio Performance
John Mayer's Heavier Things on SACD is one of my favorite and familiar recordings that often gets played on any review system. Compared to our reference BDP-83, the BDP-83SE offered an improved level of transparency when using the analog outputs in my opinion. Since the analog path of the A/V processor or receiver in the system along with the speakers play a big role in the overall sonic experience, it is important to remember that this new BDP-83SE only really benefits when using the analog audio outputs. If you plan to have your front-end component perform the D/A conversion using HDMI or the digital audio connections (coax or toslink), then it is recommended you stay with the original BDP-83 and save your money. Even OPPO recommends this to their customers on their website. We find the sound quality of the analog outputs on the BDP-83SE similar in character to the DACs in our Denon AVR-5308CI receiver and maybe even better on some material.
DTS 5.1, CD & DVD-Audio
When comparing the BDP-83SE to the BDP-83, female vocals such as Bonnie Raitt's Road Tested in DTS 5.1 exhibited a smoother upper midrange at high volumes resulting in less fatigue during longer listening sessions. We noticed similar attributes with Rebecca Pidgeon's Spanish Harlem on Chesky Record's CD; her voice actually sounded better defined using the analog inputs versus Denon's internal DACs. The bass extension was tight and articulate on both OPPO units in our listening tests. Fleetwood Mac's Rumors on the DVD-Audio format had a sound that was reminiscent of a good vinyl system. Stevie Nicks' voice in Dreams (track 2) was reproduced amazingly well without any edginess found in some recordings of this song. Based on all of our listening tests, we were convinced that the analog output stages on the new OPPO BDP-83SE improved the sound quality of our source material, whether it came from SACD, DVD-Audio, or standard CD formats.
For those looking to decide between the original Oppo BDP-83 and the Special Edition BDP-83SE (audiophile version), it really comes down to whether you plan to use the analog outputs on the back of this unit or not. Our $5500 Denon A/V receiver does a great job decoding and converting to the analog domain. However, the sonic quality of the new OPPO BDP-83SE is so good that I would easily switch to using the analog inputs on the receiver to benefit from the BDP-83SE's sonic character. In fact, many audio purists may prefer to keep the audio analog through the front-end electronics and will certainly benefit from OPPO's attention to detail with the new ESS DACs and supporting electronics.
Since this review only focused mainly on the difference between the standard and Special Edition BDP-83, we recommend you read our review of the original BDP-83 player first. Features common to both units are covered in that review. We can easily recommend the new OPPO BDP-83SE to audiophiles wanting a universal player that has high performance analog audio outputs. The audio quality is remarkable and worth the extra cost in my opinion if you have a high performance audio system. However, those planning to only use the digital interfaces will not hear any advantage on the BDP-83SE over the original BDP-83 and will save the extra cost of $400.