Oppo has been a leader in bringing high quality technology to the masses at a price which has been surprisingly competitive. I remember the first time I introduced it to an audiophile used to paying a few thousand for his CD players and I challenged him when I suggested he buy the 980 for his DVDs. I mentioned, that the cost of the player was a mere fraction of the cost of his cable and thus if it was a wrong investment, he would not fret. He still uses the player daily for his video needs.
The key feature of the Oppo players has been giant slaying performance with a highly competitive price. However the last 2 machines, the DVD only 983 and the BD 83, although very competent machines, have pushed Oppo prices to just beyond cheap. That meant that despite their ABT chips and impressive picture quality, they were slipping out of the cheap and good range. This left room for the introduction of an Oppo Lite, which had the speed of use of the Oppo BD 83 whilst being significantly cheaper than the rest.
So the Oppo BD 80 was born, using an old 980 chassis, which was slimmer, it also used the same DAC, Cirrus Logic CS4361, and the Mediatek System on a Chip (SOC) solution for audio and video, instead of the ABT video chip in the more expensive BD 83. However it retains, DVD-A, SACD and can process lossless Tru-HD, DTS-MA or bitstream the signal. There are also 7.1 outputs, but no dedicated stereo RCA jacks. Quality is retained, all sockets are gold-plated and the player does have most of the heft of the BD 83, although it is much lighter than the Denon 4010.
The remote is the bad part, it is not backlit, the buttons are not very responsive and despite having the luminous buttons, it is better to remember where the key buttons are by feel or get the extra lit remote for another 15-20 dollars. At least the control pad on the front of the player offers you another option for disc menu navigation. The 2 usb ports are a nice benefit and enable you to play music or update the firmware, and this is very easy, as the player detects the presence of the USB drive if you place the update within a folder called “UPG”.
Interface and usability
In the old days, the PS 3 was the fastest player around and it is still way faster than many 3rd or 4th generation players out there. But the Oppo BD 83 and now the 80 have shown that you can make a fast player that is not a superlarge computer. The player comes to life within seconds but you cannot activate play without turning on the machine.
The menu is simple and easy to understand. Remember the buyer of the BD 80 could be a newbie and would want to have a smooth entry into Hi Def.
There is a speaker adjustment area, and the option to go source direct if you are using this mainly as a digital BR transport, but this is not a substitute for a AV amp.
So how does it look and sound?
It has been mentioned that this player is meant for “smaller screens”, so I tried to use it in this context.
Pioneer Kuro KRP 500a
Sony PS 3;Toshiba XE1; Oppo BD 80;
Monitor Audio GS 10 & LCR; PSB 10s bipoles, Mission 30i rear backs;
SVS PB 12+; Velodyne MiniVee
Denon AVR 2809;
QED XT 300 tube cables front / micro Rears
PS Audio; Xindak XF 1000 power conditioner, Power Cables, Coxial Cables, Jumper cables
Monoprice HDMI cables, RCA cables; Anti-cables; Audioquest subwoofer cable.
Now this was done on a 50” plasma, albeit the best one you can buy last year. We used DVDs, BR and compared it to the HD DVDs too on my Toshiba XE1 which has a Reon video chip. We also did real world test, on movie discs and not just test discs.
For Hi Def viewing:
There is some rather small differences in picture quality, but I can tell you, unless you place the images side by side, it will not make you lose any sleep. This was something which I showed in a video shootout test of other BR players. Using it as a digital transport passing through 1080p 24 fps BR discs, there was not much between this and the PS 3, although it might be slightly sharper.
For DVDs, this is where the differences lie. The PS 3 actually does very very well, losing out to the Reon based XE1 but the Oppo was the worst and it was quite obvious. Even sending a 480i signal to the Pioneer proved better. If you do not have any basis for comparing, it will probably not bother you, but you will need a better video chip in the chain if you are going for a large screen. Oppo was being frank: don’t use this for a projector.
In HT, bitstream allowed you to see that blue “High Definition Sound” logo light on your amp, and it was marginally better than the LPCM signal. But IMO the Denon AVR 2809 is an excellent machine and that is why I feel little need to upgrade it for a while. Its twin DSP Sharc chips, allow it to keep up with most of what is available out there and you get very clear sound effects, and with a well calibrated and setup system, you can get a nice setup for less than 10 000, cables and even TV included. Difference with the PS3, not a large gulf, but there is again better definition and clarity. Plus the fact that it is quite in operation, meant that I can place the Oppo next to my seat on my rack without hearing the disturbing fan noises.
As for its audio performance, if you have a budget system consisting of an AV amp, and a modest set of speakers which have a HT slant, this is the kind of player which does everything and won’t sound too shabby. There is a “Pure Audio” mode which switches off the display, and the internal DACs are pretty alright.
The sonic signature is neutral to a slight treble bias, which is fine for HT, and for a short session with violins, but you may want a more neutral sound if the treble bothers you. Avoid pairing with amps and speakers that are already bright.
Comparing this to a dedicated CD player, the treble is more splashy, there is more sibilance and generally it is a colder sound, but that requires a setup of greater cost to discern. Budget buyers will be pretty happy with what is now the CHEAPEST universal player on this planet.
It really players everything, and I prefer a DSD signal to my amp to decode for SACDs, but it offers a lot for not much.
So who should buy this? This player is in a slight awkward position. There are scores of cheaper BR players around, that are half the price of this baby. It is significantly worse in the video section than the bigger brother. Sound wise the discerning audiophile will want better audio performance.
It caters to a certain market, the person who wants everything is one of them, he is not sure if SACD, DVD-A are what he wants, and wants a finger in each pie for not too much.
It also allows seasoned hobbyist to acquire a second player for the smaller room, or get a digital transport to feed a projector with a better video chip. Yet this can be done by a lesser player costing half the price.
Finally it can be a player which allows a new entrant into Hi Def a player which gives a buyer ease of mind. One who is not too fussed about spending USD 289 for a player that is reliable, comes with well-regarded customer support, and can play most formats he needs, and do it with quiet efficiency, and the owner never needs to feel angry that the player is slow or cannot play certain discs.
The market for this player lies in a middle zone, more than the budget stuff, but less than its more capable brother the Oppo BD 83.
The Modification for Region Free Playback
I bought a player which came pre-mod with the hardware for Region Free playback. DVD playback does not need any extra action, but for BR region changes, you need to do this:
When the player is in standby, you press the blue button on the remote, until the unit beeps. Then you press either 1 (region A), 2 (region B), 3 (Region C). There are a series of bleeps to confirm the action depending on the option, and then you take the player out of standby.
I paid USD 420 for this, before shipping and tax, from Audio Iconic, Adelphi, Singapore. You can order the mod separately, or get it together and I also get 1 year’s warranty.
That makes this machine twice or almost thrice the price of some really basic ones in USA like the Panasonic or Sony offerings. But these machines do not allow SACD and DVD-A playback.
So if you take a USD 120 machine, add SACD and DVD-A playback for another USD 150, add the region free mod for another 100, that’s the cost of the Oppo BD 80. So if the latter 2 do not matter to you, then a basic BR player will do most of what the Oppo can achieve and you pay less, a lot less.
If you want something which can do almost everything (even VCDs…) then the Oppo fits and it is a useful USD 200 or so less than the Oppo BD 83 which is the next cheapest universal player, and that is another USD 2-300 less than the SE…. Oppo now has a smart marketing department which gives step ups…
Who knows? Maybe the Oppo BD 80 can also be modified to an SE model in future.